Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Road Trip 3 - Meeting Wyatt Earp

from: Dodge City, KS, USA
The legend of Wyatt Earp begins in Dodge City, which is in south-central Kansas. The "Queen of the Cow Towns," Dodge City was a nexus for enormous cattle drives heading to markets like Chicago. Earp's history before then was rather speckled and inglorious, but in Dodge he started to make a name for himself, and the city celebrates that.

The first time I drove through Dodge City was in a truck. I happened upon a pull-over next to a huge cattleyard, so I stopped and took some pictures. Seemed to me, both while I was there and after I drove past the bypass, that there was nothing much to see in Dodge except a fancy town sign, that cattleyard, and a bunch of cattle-carriers filling the lot of a local truckstop which, at the time, served large, locally grown steaks. But later, I had another chance to go through town and discovered I'd been deceived. There's a whole, thriving, modern town to be found, not to mention a tourist trap around the original Boot Hill! I couldn't stop then, but some day, I could come back. That day was today. (You know what I mean.)

We departed Oklahoma City bright and early and made our way northwest into Kansas. That part of the country is largely cornfields and rolling hills, with the occasional gully thrown in for good measure. I grew up in the flattest part of Indiana, and here in Florida it's at least as flat, so when people tell me states like Kansas and Iowa are flat, I just laugh and think they have no idea what flat is.

Miles and miles of miles and miles is pretty if you haven't seen them in a while; there's a lot of forest and swamp in Florida, not a whole lot of cornfields and such, and the grass is a different color than I'm used to, so it's pretty for the first couple hours. But eventually, one patch of ground looks like another, and road-hypnosis gets you where you're going.

We came in from the south, from where you can tell there's at least some kind of town. We stopped at the truckstop, which has since been bought up by Flying J (which itself has since been taken over by Pilot) hoping to get one of those big steaks I had the first time I came to town. But such was not to be, so we lunched over at the cattleyard and watched that for a while. It's not as boring as you'd think, unless you've never sat down in your life. Fortunately the wind was to our backs too.

Then we went back into town, and lo and behold, it was still a thriving town. When I'd driven through in a truck, I hadn't had the chance to get a good look. I just knew there was some kind of information center and some kind of special building to look at, and the town's style is very quaint on the main street. But now that we had a chance to stop, we discovered it was a full-blown tourist trap! I wanted t take a ride on the tour bus, which would've given us a one hour tour of the most important things to see in the town, but someone was afraid we wouldn't be able to drive 300 miles in under 8 hours on a high speed road, so the most we did was tromp around the area and take some pictures.

We couldn't stay long, so we headed out after almost an hour of looking around. I'll definitely come back one day and ride that tour bus and take my time seeing the town. Who's with me?

There were enough roadside historical markers between Dodge and Pueblo that we would've been stopping every 5-15 minutes most of the time, so since we were in a hurry, we had to pick and choose which ones were worth the stop. For instance, the Santa Fe Trail crossing was very informative.

Every time I come up on the mountains from the east (like what we were doing), I try to challenge myself to figure out from how far away I can spot them. And every time, I don't see them until I'm a lot closer than I think I should be, like about 30 miles away. Before that point, they are just dark shapes on the horizon easily dismissed as being part of the sky. Any snow on the mountains is dismissed as being clouds. For whatever reason, my mind simply can't see them until they're high enough to cause the sun to set an hour early. It's possible that the time of day has something to do with this. It's always the afternoon when I first come upon them, and that means the sun is on the other side, so it's not illuminating the near face any more. That keeps them darker, more sky-like. At least, that's the story I tell everyone who asks, which so far is just you guys.

Finally we made it to Pueblo, Colorado, where we could jump on I-25 and skip on up to Colorado Springs. Unsurprisingly, Sam and Dad had no difficulty figuring out which mountain was Pike's Peak. It was the big one, with the snow on it.

I'll tell you more about it next week.

And if you missed it, here's the start of our journey.


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