May 6, 2005

Route 50 Road Trip: Day 6, Kansas to Colorado

I'm not sure what day it is. Counting back tells me it's Friday, but it feels like Saturday. I'm tired and disoriented, but isn't that what a road trip is all about?

Another symptom of being saddle-sore: I've developed a blister at the base of my left index finger from gripping the steering wheel so many hours a day.

An overcast morning in Hutchinson, KS, reveals more evidence of what seems to be a fairly artsy community. In hunting down a spot for breakfast, I've seen an art center, a music store, a big street-corner wall mural, and wind-blown leaves painted on the garage door of a building across from Jeannette's Cafe.





I also noticed a big bike shop (bi-, not motor-) and a bike trail down at Carey Park. Oh, and Hutchinson is also home to the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Museum, which apparently rivals the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. Personally, I'm more interested in the bike path.

A word or two about Jeannette's Cafe are in order: As I was leaving after breakfast, I commented on the beautiful Art Deco fireplace along the wall and asked what the building had originally been used for. Jeannette (I think) told me that downstairs had been a bar, which made sense, considering the old wood counter and mirrors on the wall behind.



Upstairs, though, had been one of three brothels in Hutchinson that were referred to as the "Three Queens". If she hadn't been minding the shop alone, she would have taken me upstairs to see: a long hallway lined on one side with doors, with a window in each door. Apparently, a cashier sat at the top of the stairs, taking "admission", and the customer would then peruse the "entertainment" in each window. Upon making his choice, he'd enter that room, pull the curtain on the door/window, and... conduct his business. This is the kind of quirky history I was hoping to find in these small towns.

Swung up off of 50 west of town to check out Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, established to protect the salt marsh of Kansas. No hiking trails to speak of, but I drove around a bit and enjoyed the scenery.



Observation: Kansas does not believe in paved roads. I had noticed yesterday that most of the roads bisecting 50 were dirt, then today I got to cruise along 8 miles of dirt & gravel to get to Quivira. The Pony needs a bath now. Speaking of the Pony, on the way back to 50 from Quivira, it was almost sideswiped by a pheasant. I slowed down when I saw the bird, with it's long, colorful tail, strolling out of a field, but then it took off into the road towards the car, startling the crap out of me before veering away right next to the passenger window. If the car had been sitting still, I might have enjoyed the sight of a huge pheasant with outspread wings just a bit better.

I think Kansas is going to wear me out. It's taking me two days to get across the width of it, and now I'm having to fight to keep the wheel straight through some hellatious wind gusts. That and watching the Pony's hood quiver every time an eighteen wheeler roared by made me pull over for a break at Kinsley, KS, the "Midway of the US".

Duh... I was miles down the road before it dawned on me that I should have taken a photo of the Kinsley sign. I was so braindead, I saw that one half of it pointed west and said "San Francisco 1571 miles", but didn't read the other side. I can only assume the other half said Ocean City and the same mileage. Would have been a great trip photo.

Did the tourist thing in Dodge City, KS, land of Wyatt Earp. Admission to the museum and what's left of Boot Hill Cemetery was 7 dollars and it took me about that many minutes to walk through it. It was so cheesy and tourist-ified that I didn't even bother turning the camera on. Now I'm waiting for lunch in a real "West-arn"-style restaurant and listening to the young guys at the next table discuss the consequences of one of them getting his girlfriend knocked up. God Bless America!

Despite trying to maintain my sense of wonder and curiosity, and the genuinely cool things that I have seen in Kansas, I'm looking forward to "getting out of Dodge" (ha-ha) and heading to Colorado.

So far, western KS has been my least favorite part of the trip. If it hadn't been for the stanky cattle feedlots everywhere and being paranoid of some huge truck blowing the hood off the car, I probably would have gotten more out of it. I certainly did get a kick out of trying to figure out how far I could see to the horizon. Of note along the way:

- The type of roadkill has been quite different in western KS. Through the eastern states, it was mostly possum, raccoon and the occasional whitetail deer, which is what I'm familiar with from back home. Out here, it's been hawks and pheasant and, thanks to some careless driver, I've now seen my first (dead) coyote in the wild.

- Passed by Holcomb, KS, on the way to the border of CO. If you want to know why that's significant, go read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (or find the movie, starring a young Robert Blake. Hmmm, interesting that Blake starred in that movie, then recently ended up on trial for the death of his wife... Life imitates art imitating life?)

Made it across the border into Colorado and headed straight toward a storm-front. Puffy white clouds to the north of 50, puffy white clouds to the south of 50. Directly to the west, in front of me, a wall of grey and the occasional lightning strike. Ended up not driving far enough to hit rain, though. Stopped at the Best Western in Lamar.



After dinner in the hotel I stood along the edge of the parking lot, overlooking a stretch of cow field. The wind was literally howling through the electrical wires running overhead and making the wires whip around in an alarming way. It almost sounded as if the prairie might be trying to blow the town away. I kept looking for a crotchety old woman dressed in black to ride a bicycle across the sky.

Wal-Mart count as of Lamar, CO= 12, plus 2 distro centers.

Today's distance= 305 miles.

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