On Monday, October 9, we got on the road by 8 AM, heading east on US-50, then turning south on US-287 at Lamar. To be in a relatively empty area of the country, the road was REALLY busy, particularly with truck traffic. We turned east on CO-116 towards Two Buttes, which was much more desolate and enjoyable. The actual buttes jut up 400′ out of the plains. They served as a landmark for settlers and a gathering place for Native Americans and settlers alike. (If you are a silent movie trivia buff, you might know that film star Tom Mix was the Sheriff in Two Buttes, Colorado, Montgomery County, Kansas, and Washington County, Oklahoma. His experiences were played out in his movies later. The Tom Mix Museum is in Dewey, Oklahoma. We tried to see that on our first big RV trip, but it was closed that day.) Southeast Colorado is very flat and wide open, just like you picture neighboring Kansas. (Although I will say, there are parts of Kansas that are very rolling and craggy.) Crop fields and cattle pastures seem to go on forever, and you see lots of pronghorn. Occasionally you can spot coyote and fox, too, but we didn’t on this drive. We did see a couple of Northern Harriers on the hunt, which I have never noticed before. They migrate south this time of year and are dark brown with a white stripe across the upper part of their tail feathers. We crossed into Kansas on W Road 12 and stopped at Wholly Cow Market in Johnson for lunch. (Their burgers are hand patties from grass-fed beef raised on their ranch, and you could definitely tell. MW had the club sandwich, which was different because they used Texas toast. Both were delicious.) Back on the road we continued east on US-160, which turned south along with US-83 for a bit, then east again over to Plains, Kansas. From there it was a zig-zag southeast down to Meade State Park where we found an almost empty campground and a beautiful site right on the lake. We relaxed outside for a little bit, but the warm weather has brought out the flies, which eventually drove us in.
Tuesday morning I was up at 6 AM. We had gotten used to the nightly coyote serenade at the last campground, and I missed that, but MW did hear a few in the wee hours. We were also treated to owl song for a while. I tried to get a little work done, but the internet was slow as molasses despite the AT&T phone showing several bars of signal. Finally frustrated, I packed up and headed into town to find someplace to work, ending up at the Chuckwagon Restaurant. They let me sit in the back corner all afternoon, which helped with my backlog.
Wednesday we headed over to Liberal, Kansas, to check out the Mid-America Air Museum. You know if there are a bunch of old planes around to look at, we’ll find them! This museum began in 1986 at an old Beechcraft plant at the airport. In the beginning, they only had a few planes. Then retired Air Force Colonel Tom A. Thomas, Jr., gave them a call. He had a bunch of planes to donate. Who has 53 planes just sitting around??!! From there the museum has expanded to become the largest aviation museum in the state. There are 109 planes including those on loan, and you can get a guided tour or wander around on your own. Most are stored inside, but a few are sitting out on the tarmac. The facility also includes a nice gift shop. Liberal also has a bunch of Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) statues around town, and one is located on their front patio. After taking it all in, we were pointed to Brick House BBQ for lunch. (Seriously delicious!)
Next we went back to Meade to check out a house. Built by John N. Whipple in 1887, it is a tiny place perched on top of a hill. When built, it was well outside of town, but today is just on the southern edge. His bride, Eva, had nine brothers and two sisters. Prior to marrying John, a respected merchant, Eva relocated from Coffeyville to Meade to open a shop. Brother Emmett attended the wedding in 1887, and other siblings arrived soon after. Several of her brothers began their careers as lawmen, including Bob as a U. S. Deputy Marshall and policeman in the Osage Nation, Grat as U. S. Deputy Marshall, and Emmett as a prison guard. (Brother Frank, also a U. S. Deputy Marshall, was killed in 1887 while carrying out his duties.) Somewhere along the way, Bob, Grat, and Emmett decided that there were easier ways to make a buck, and began their life of crime. It was fairly short-lived, with the first robbery attributed to them occurring in February 1891 and the last in October 1892. During that brief period, though, the Dalton Gang (which included a few other folks) became national news. Although they were never seen in town after they became criminals, the town gossip mill speculated that Eva was in on it. Life became untenable, and the Whipple’s quietly slipped out of town in 1892, abandoning their home. After their departure, a 95-foot-long tunnel was discovered that ran from the house to the barn. That would have made it easy for the boys to hideout there, undetected. Was Eva involved? Probably not with planning robberies, but definitely in hiding her brothers from the law. We’ll talk more about the boys in the next post, but Eva and John ended up in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. John lived until 1932, and after his death, Eva moved to Kingfisher, Oklahoma, where she lived until her death in 1939. Today the tunnel has been shored up and made passable for tourists. The Dalton Gang Hideout also includes a little store and museum in the barn. It costs $5 each to get in, and we thought it was interesting. The guy running the place seemed to have a lot of information about old west characters, too. Our last stop of the day was at Meade Locker & Processing for some steaks.
Meade State Park is nice. Spread out around the shore of the 80-acre Meade State Fishing Lake, it sits in the High Plains in southwest Kansas, about 15 minutes from Meade. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and enjoying the fire are the main activities. Amenities include a store/office, playgrounds, picnic areas, covered pavilions, a 9-hole disk golf course, archery range, horseshoe pit, swimming beach, boat ramp and dock, fishing dock, trails, bathhouse, and RV dump station. The campground is divided into eight areas, some with 50/30/20-amp electric and water, and others that were primitive, but all with picnic tables and fire rings. Sites are spread out nicely, graveled, and mostly level. While the the AT&T phone showed several bars of signal, data was very slow. Verizon had minimal signal, but text worked fine. We really liked this park, and would definitely stay again, especially in the off season when it is very quiet. For this stay in October, 2023, we paid $80.75 for 3 nights, which included daily fees that totaled $15.00.
Thursday it was, once again, time to hit the road. The route was easy…US-160 east all the way. In Medicine Lodge we stopped at Rattlers Bar & Grill for lunch. This area is where representatives of the Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, Plains Apache, and Cheyenne tribes met with government and military leaders in 1867. With as many as 15,000 Native Americans from all five tribes camped nearby, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was hammered out. Sadly, it did little good. The Indians agreed to cede the land from the Platte to the Arkansas rivers, relocate to reservations in present day Oklahoma, and stop opposing railroad construction. Both sides failed in their promises. Some of the Indians ventured out from the reservations. Government shipments in goods and food were delayed, stolen, or just too small for the tribes. In turn, more Indians left the reservations to hunt and raid, both for food and to oppose the Government that was not holding up their side of the bargain. The one thing the treaty did was help with the building of railroads, which brought more settlement.
Past Winfield, we turned north and headed up to Winfield City Lake Campground. The day had been mostly cloudy and cool, and we were looking forward to the chilly temps and rain that was forecast. I can’t remember when we had more than just a few sprinkles. Winds of 25 mph or so were forecast for the foreseeable future, and the buffeting broad-side kept me awake for a good part of the night.
Friday I headed into Winfield to knock out the weekly laundry at Holiday Laundry. There were only a couple of folks there, so I was done in about two hours. Then I headed over to Braum’s for lunch and writing time. It was one of my favorite places way back in Oklahoma City while I was in Air Traffic Control School. The food is good, but the ice cream is better, and yes, I did partake. It was still pretty blustery out, but the temps were warming up, unfortunately. I picked up pizza from Gambino’s Pizza on the way home to feed MW, and that was about it for the day.
On the way out of town Friday I saw a used bookstore on Main Street, then found another on the map. So, Saturday I took MW back to town for a little browsing. Both Moonshadow Books and Walnut Valley Books were excellent, and the owner at the latter was super interesting. We chatted for quite a while. He had been out to Booked Up, my favorite writer Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in Archer City, Texas, which I loved. After we said our goodbyes, MW and I headed over to Shindigs Bar & Grill for lunch. The food was excellent and all homemade. I don’t share food pics with you often, but you deserve to see this stuff. The carrots had some type of savory seasoning and no sweetness added. Yum!!
Sunday we drove over to Burden, Kansas, to the First Baptist Church for services. The people were so nice and I lost count of how many stopped to talk to us afterwards. We ended up being the last to leave the parking lot! For lunch we headed back over to Winfield to Luigi’s for some delicious Italian food. Back at Petunia, I worked in an afternoon nap later.
Winfield City Lake is a city-owned park located about 15 minutes from the town of Winfield in southern Kansas. Amenities include lots of picnic areas, a fishing dock, boat ramp and dock, marina, dump stations, and swimming beach. Camping options are first-come, first-served and spread around the north and south sides of the lake, and there are full hook-ups, electric and water only, and primitive sites. Cell signals were moderate and there was plenty of over-the-air tv. The plusses to this park include a lot of open space around City Lake, lots of Hawks, Osprey, Pelicans, and other water fowl to watch, and plenty of walking/biking roads. That’s pretty much it. Sites are minimally gravelled and not level, and the layout is odd in some areas. Ours appeared to be designed as a back-in, but you would be pushing up a grass and rock hill to accomplish it. We pulled-through instead. Another section had opposing back-in sites that backed right up into each other. It was relatively empty when we were there, but with a full compliment, it would be odd. The weirdest thing about the place, though, was the bathhouse. On the north side of the lake there is at least one actual, enclosed bathhouse. We were on the south side, though, where the “bathhouse” is an open air structure with the toilets covered by a pavilion, but the showers were out in the open sky with just walls. MW said they would be alright in warm weather, but at 40 degrees with a 25 mph wind, they were a no go. Plus, there were no doors, so privacy could be an issue, and the men’s side didn’t even have a sink. There is a lot to be desired with those things. Although we enjoyed seeing so many osprey, this place isn’t anything special to return to. For this stay in October, 2023, we paid $80.00 for 4 nights with 50-amp electric and water.
Another week gone. Next up…Into the Ozarks, Jesus, and a Battlefield. See you on the path!
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