We’ve circled back around to laundry day, so that was the chore for this morning. MW took a walk while I was getting ready to go. When I walked outside, it was very cloudy and sprinkling occasionally. The sun was peaking through one tiny opening in the clouds. It looked like a spaceship beaming something up! We headed into Walsenburg to the Kwik Wash, which didn’t look like too much from the outside, but was the only option. It wasn’t much on the inside either…no heat (and it is pretty darned cold outside), a giant hole in the wall in the back, and just rickety wood benches to sit on. The machines were clean and functional, though, and that is all that is really required. We got almost everything started and realized we needed more quarters, so MW went to the bank down the street to get them. That is one thing I don’t think about after not having used a laundromat for years. Some of them have machines or attendants who can make change, but others, like this one, have nothing. Although I’m not a big fan of laundromats, it is nice to get six loads done and folded in two hours!
We’ve discussed whether or not we need a washer and dryer in the fifth wheel we are considering. They don’t come in the shorter length trailers that we are looking at, so it would be something we would need to install (and would be added to the cargo weight, which is limited). After doing a little research and spending some time at the laundromat, I’m thinking we are okay without it. We should be able to spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks doing chores, and that beats spending a day or two hanging around the RV moving them through. Plus, it costs us about $20 to do all of our stuff, and from the prices I’ve seen, it would take a LOT of laundromat visits to cover the cost of RV units.
With the chore completed, we headed over to George’s Drive-In for lunch. It was packed and several folks were waiting for tables, but we stuck it out, and it was worth it. Just diner fare, but very good. After lunch we headed back to Penelope to make up the bed, put away clothes, and do a little cleaning. (The cleaning chores come with you on these trips, unlike when you stay at a hotel.) We planned to go for a bike ride round the lake, but it was 42 degrees and very windy and grey. Instead, MW went for a walk, and I did a little work.
Tonight we fixed breakfast for supper…grits with eggs and sausage mixed in, and watched a Tommy Lee Jones movie called Three Burials (not very good). After cleaning up from dinner, it was time to turn in.
We awoke to find it still cloudy and VERY cold. (MW actually had to scrape the truck windows before we could leave!) As we were driving out of the park, there was a huge herd of mule deer across the road. They weren’t too skittish, and we passed very close. One even crossed the road right in front of Brutus as if to say “I know you won’t hit me.”.
We headed out on CO-10 and could see a whopper of a storm in the distance. One of the things about a flat area is that you can see the storms coming for a LONG way. Somewhere along the way we passed a flock of at least a couple dozen turkeys in a field. That was the most I have ever seen in one place. The rain finally caught us at La Junta, where we stopped at Safeway to walk a bit and get a few supplies. Then we popped into Daylight Donuts before getting back on the road.
The rain continued intermittently, and it was in the upper 40s and windy…a good day to just stay in Brutus and go. The flat plains continued with lots of ranches and cattle. Just before Lamar we saw, then quickly smelled, the largest stock/feed yard we have ever seen. It was huge and had hundreds, or maybe thousands of cattle. The feed yards are where they are sent to fatten up just prior to going to market. Let me just say, unless you have been in the vicinity of a feed yard, you just cannot possibly imagine the smell. It wasn’t just a manure smell, but an eye-burning, keep your mouth closed so it doesn’t touch your tongue, ODOR! Unfortunately, the area of the smell was too large to hold your breath without passing out. Somewhere along the route we saw a HUGE flock of small, black birds. There were thousands of them flying together and shifting directions, looking like a large ribbon floating across the sky.
At lunch time it wasn’t raining too much, so we found a rest area near the Kansas state line and made sandwiches and ate in Penelope. Thankfully, no feed yards near there, but we passed a LOT more along the way. They also appear to take all of the manure and pile it up in giant mounds, then cover it. I think it perks for a bit, then maybe they process it to make it into fertilizer. Honestly, if I could stand the smell, I would go to one and take a tour to find out more.
We crossed into the Central time zone and stopped for the night at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City, which was basically an electrical hookup at the edge of the parking lot near their administrative building. They have a lot of events, and I understand that there is actually a huge parking lot somewhere on the grounds with lots of hookups. For us it was easy to get into and cheap ($20), which makes it perfect for a quick overnight. MW wasn’t thrilled at having to use the she-shower, though.
It was still raining when we got settled, so we hung out in Penelope for a bit. Later we headed into town to the Garden City Steakhouse. Since cattle seems to be the thing for the area, we decided a good steak dinner was called for. This place serves local beef, and the food was great. We almost didn’t stay when we walked in, though. There were a couple of guys in the back corner that were just starting a sports broadcast for a local radio station. The show was fine, but we initially heard a terrible echo whenever they spoke. It was very bad, but the manager talked to them when they took their first break, and they seemed to fix the problem. They are just two average Joe’s who talk sports and interview folks. (I think their advertisement says “two guys who were always last to be picked for teams in high school” or something like that.) For the entire show, one of them was also trying to keep a toddler in a high chair happy. He would be in mid-conversation, on air, when the baby would whine. Dad would then reach into his pile of finger food and give the child something to chew on. It was really funny, and you know he was stressing.
After dinner we took a little town drive-through, then went back to Penelope to catch up on my journal and watch a little TV.
Making up for yesterday:
This morning the rain was gone, but it was still cold and very windy. We left the fairgrounds around 8 AM. Just before Dodge City we stopped at an overlook along the road where you can still see the ruts from the Santa Fe trail. Neither of us were aware that the trail was mostly for commerce, unlike the Oregon or other trails which were mostly the paths of settlers heading west. I also didn’t know that the wagons mostly traveled side-by-side in pairs, which is why there are two areas of worn down dirt. It was still VERY windy, and as we stood out on the end of the path looking out over a sea of grass, we tried to imagine people traversing it in wagons. That had to have been harsh! Soule’s Canal is also there. It was hand-dug to irrigate the area with water from the Arkansas River. Wow!
We pointed Brutus to Dodge City to see if we can find Matt and Miss Kitty. We did find Matt in the form of a bronze statue of James Arness. No Miss Kitty, though. We went to the Boot Hill Museum and the replica of the old Front Street where they have people dressed in period clothing working. Back then Dodge City was a convergence of five different trails used to transport goods, cattle, and settlers. That is the reason that so many people came through and why it was well-known. Later the railroad stop brought even more people.
Boot Hill got it’s name because a lot of folks, some known and some unknown, were taken up there after being shot in the street and buried in shallow graves. The joke was that you could still see the tips of their boots. They assume that there are still some bodies up on what was actually Boot Hill, but most of the known graves were moved when the town established a regular cemetery later.
In the 1950s they made a replica of the original Front Street, and they moved a few of the original buildings that were still standing to this area. The real Front Street now is a row of shopping and dining places, with none of the flavor of the old west. It was neat to stand in that area and think about Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp both serving as lawmen there. Doc Holiday was also in Dodge, having come back with Wyatt. There is a statue of Doc Holliday sitting at a table playing cards, and one of Wyatt on the other end of Front Street (this one I didn’t know was there until we passed it on the way out of town). There is also a life-sized longhorn statue.
Back on the road we found Davis Park in Greensburg and had a picnic lunch in the sunshine. It was a little breezy, but nice. (This park apparently had a swimming pool that was built in the 1940s, but it was filled in with concrete.) After a quick lunch, we were back on the road where we saw (and smelled) a LOT more feed yards. Some of the grain elevators in this area are the size of large hotels! They will have a central lift location and several rows of connected silos. I guess they need a lot of grain to feed all of those cows.
At Pratt we headed northeast on KS-61 to Hutchinson and the Sand Hills State Park, which will be home for the next couple of nights. The check-in process was arduous because the camp host didn’t know how to do the annual pass in her system. She finally figured it out with a little assistance from her husband, and she was easy about letting us go ahead and get set up while she worked on it. While we were dumping the tanks in on the way in a couple stopped to ask where we were from. They weren’t staying at the campground, but live in the area and were just driving through (although they do stay here regularly). They filled us in on things to see in the area and chatted for quite a while.
This campground is about three years old and has a small lake with lots of geese, riding trails, and level, graveled sites. It is really well-maintained and will be very nice when the trees they’ve planted get a little larger. We chose a site with water and electric on the opposite side of the lake from almost everyone else, so we didn’t have neighbors and were facing a field and woods. They also had full-hookup sites and some sites with pens for your horses. The fees were okay at $22.50 per night, but you also had to pay $5 per day for the state park pass (or get one for $25 that covers the calendar year). It had the newer restroom facility, which has separate rooms with toilet, sink, and shower for more privacy. While you could still hear traffic on the highway, it was relatively quiet. There are several things to see in Hutchinson (we will cover a few), and this park is very close in but feels like it is in the country.
We relaxed in the breeze for a while, then watched TV and had leftovers for dinner.
More pics from today: