Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

kansas 055 We ended up spending 3 nights in Lakin, Kansas. If ever there was a family that could meander about Kansas, we must be it. Jamie was certain that the fishing lake we stayed at just south of Lakin (which Don Wright’s book reported to be a “beautiful place”) would be the glory spot for the rest of the country. Once we got out of the Colorado mountains Jamie figured the camping would be quite awful and figured we were in the glory spot for the rest of the midwest. The fees were lovely; $5 for water and electric and the kharma must have been flowing liberally (but NOT Liberal, Kansas) because when Jamie got the generator out of the back of the van to drive himself into deep frustration ‘fixing” it THE DAMN THING STARTED!!! He then ran a bottle of carburator cleaner through it and it has started each and every time since. We are thinking it was an issue with altitude (as we never tried to use it under 6000ft) but last year we had no problem using it at altitude.

The kids had a lovely time at the very lovely Lakin library and Jesse has added yet another temporary card to his collection. He took out about 3000 books and Pikey took out 2 Snickett books on tape and both managed to almost finish their selections by the next day.

We left rather late yesterday and managed to get about 75 miles down the road from Lakin to Dodge City before giving up for the night. We had a trailer tire blow itself to smitherenes but the trailer is so steady the only way I could tell was the smell of burning rubber and the sight of smoke behind me. We really had no place to pull over, other than the shoulder but when your vehicle is as large as ours, the shoulder doesn’t give you much. I would have loved to pull off into the grass but the slope was quite severe for the trailer. I had been looking for the Holcomb grain elevator to signal us the best preserved wagon wheel ruts from the Santa Fe Trail, but the exploding tire completely distracted me. I think we must have pulled over and changed the tire just before the elevator and by the time I was thinking again, we’d long past it. We’ve been following highway 50 (The Lonliest Highway) since we crossed the pass in Colorado which, in eastern Colorado and all of Kansas, follows the Santa Fe Trail.

kansas 018 Last night we stayed at (yet another) fishing lake outside Dodge City (where we stopped to replace the shredded tire) and the kids covered themselves with mozzy bites. I was astonished not only at the incredible coulds of mozzys but at the kids’ staying power out in the clouds. We left at the crack of dawn this morning; about 11:30 and the next traveling day, I think I’m going to insist on an earlier start. We stopped in Kinsley, the midpoint of the railway (1561 miles to New York and 1561 miles to San Francisco) and found an absolutely fascinating museum. There was a locomotive, a church which had been moved from a couple towns and a sod house. I expected the kids to play on the locomotive the whole time but they were just as interested in the museum as I was. We’ve been listening to “Little House on the Prarie” for many miles and were able to see much of what we’ve had described to us in the book. It was an amazing collection of Kansas memorabilia.

We kept to highway 50 today and NOTHING BROKE DOWN! At Kinsely, highway 56 follows the Santa Fe trail but we stuck to highway 50 so we could visit the Tallgrass Prarie National Preserve, but by the time we’d gone grocery shopping in Newton (it must be the largest town we’ve hit since Santa Fe, it was almost evening. We had been bypassing town after small town on highway 50 and just outside Newton, Jamie called over the radio that we’d stop in Newton. It looked to be a very large town (by comparison to all the towns we’ve hit since Santa Fe) and I stopped at the very first store. It advertised its recent opening and we were all astonished to find The Most Incredible prices anywhere. It seemed to be a dented can store run by Mennonites and everything was incredibly cheap. We stocked up on canned tomatoes (15 cans?), 10lb of apples, 6lb of potatoes, sunscreen; you name it. Even Jamie stocked up on 3 boxes of PopTarts.

We found yet another fishing lake here between Cottonwood Falls and Elmsomethingorother. It is an absolutely lovely site and we’ll probably stay here a couple days. We’re camped on a beautiful beach that the kids enjoyed until dark.

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