Home on the range

After departing the Hocking Hills I decided, probably similar to a lot of people driving across the country, to put in some heavy miles through the heartland. The interstate and flatness of Indiana and Illinois encourage you to keep driving. I found a spot to stay for the night for a whopping $5 in Montrose, IL.

When I was about 30 minutes from Montrose, some dark clouds appeared on the horizon and lightning began to flash in the distance. I arrived just as the wind was picking up and rain was looming. After parking, I immediately jumped out of my car to hastily set up my tent in an attempt to beat the rain. There was a family occupying one of the sites in their pop-up VW van and they asked if I needed help setting up. As politely as I could (while running back and forth between the ends of my car), I told them I didn’t need any help. I was able to set up and get everything I needed inside just as the rain came down. What a storm! I wish I could have recorded a good video of the thunder and lightning, but the wind was blowing so hard and the rain was so heavy, it would have been an ordeal.

The next morning I set out early. My car’s clock said it was 8am, BUT OH WAIT, I’m in the central time zone now! That extra hour takes the edge off when you are driving west. It’s like daylight savings time; you get an extra hour of sleep.

What’s the matter with Kansas?

I drove, and I drove. That was about it for the day. Half of southern Illinois, Missouri, and most of Kansas. Kansas is surprisingly not as flat as I have come to understand. The Flint Hills region reminded me of Scotland with green sloping hills. There is enough scenery to keep the drive interesting, as long as you like farms! The only problem I had with Kansas was the wind. Typically the wind comes out of the west, and that’s exactly what happened for over 300 miles. No wonder there are so many windmills in this state. The speed limit is 75, but I typically kept it at 65. The wind was hitting my car and the roof top tent creates a huge drag in heavy winds. I was averaging 28 miles/gallon until I stopped for gas outside of Ellsworth. For the reminder of the day, I got 22 miles/gallon due to the wind.

I was being passed by tractor trailers which was perfectly fine with me. I don’t know how they can drive those big things in the wind. In both Missouri and Kansas, there were slowdowns on the highway due to overturned trucks on the side of the road (and one blocking the road). On multiple occasions, I saw the trucks struggle to stay straight and the wind would sometimes push the trailers sideways and cause the trucks to “fishtail” for a second. I-70 is a little scary.

I eventually got into western Kansas where the land does become very flat. I made a quick stop in Oakley to see the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. I know nothing about Buffalo Bill and I’m sure he was a wonderful guy, but I just took a picture of the statue and left. Kansas has a lot of museums and zoos in odd places along I-70 (tourist traps I suppose). Sometimes the sign on the road simply says “Museum”. I don’t know if that is supposed to attact tourists or not, but I wasn’t making any unnecessary stops. It was over 100 degrees! I arrived to my destination for the night in western Kansas about 30 minutes past Oakley. It’s is a free campsite in what Google Maps calls Logan County State Park. It’s a small wildlife area between two pastures.

Buffalo Bill. It’s a cool statue. Not sure how many visitors come by.
Temperature in Oakley, probably helped by the sun. It cooled down at night.

As I drove down the gravel road to the park, a dust trail appeared about a quarter mile in front of me, I assumed from a farmer crossing from field to field on his tractor. As I continued to follow the dust trail I eventually caught up to an RV that was also searching for the park. The RV stopped right at the sign that gives you the rules of the site. The sign states to only park in designated campsites. Unfortunately there were no other signs that actually designate the campsites, so me and my new RV pals determined that the best campsite was right next to the sign.

View from above my car. Who says Kansas is flat?

My RV camp-mates for the night were Wendy, Toby, and daughter Brianna (not sure if I spelled those right). They were heading home to Sedona, AZ (on my list of places to see) after spending several weeks in Nebraska. We talked and enjoyed the temperature cooling down as the sun set. I then attempted to cook dinner on my camp stove but the wind was not helping. Wendy and Toby offered to let me cook in their RV, but I didn’t want to intrude. They were gracious enough to pull out a crate with bricks on top to provide a flat surface for my stove and put a piece of their countertop (to be replaced) sideways to block the wind for me. I also moved my cook location behind their RV for an extra windshield. What a luxury!

The campsite was great. It’s surrounded by hilly green pastures with an occasional tree. If you still think Kansas is boring, check out this sunset:

Kansas sunset with my RV pals parked next-door

I awoke to an alarm clock composed of hundreds of mooing cows. As soon as the sun comes up, they start making noise. The cows were about a quarter mile away. I’m not sure if they woke up, or if the ranchers were up early to move them across the road. I had never seen a cattle drive, you don’t get that on the east coast.

On a sour note, my tent appears to be letting smaller insects in through the mesh. When I settled down for the night, I still had a light on, which attracts the insects. I could hear large numbers of flies buzzing around outside, I assume due to the prevelance of cow manure in the pastures. I held my light up to the mesh and saw dozens of insects trying to get into my tent. Yuck! Lesson learned. If the insects are out, lights off after sundown, or at least put the sunshades down.

On another sour note (ok last one) driving the next morning through the backroads of Kansas and Colorado, I passed by two, let’s call them meat consolidation locations. Thousands of bovines all packed into a small area of land. It’s one of the worst things I have ever smelled, but also made me question the food supply.

Onward!

I am in Colorado as I’m writing this, but I’m only a day behind now. I am not driving as much each day and I should have enough time to see the sights and write about them as they are fresh in my mind.

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