Ready, Set, Go
I was nervous the night before that the weather would be poor, making the first day of my trip (a five hour ride) unpleasant and grueling. Fortunately, and to my surprise, I woke up Wednesday morning to grey skies and no rain. The roads were dry and the forecast promised that even the skies would clear.
I loaded everything up, packed my lunch, double checked my equipment and gave my wife a hug goodbye.
Nevertheless, after a few photos on my Honda CB650R, I departed home, destination: Colorado.
After edging my way through the morning traffic of Bentonville, the road opened up to the west towards Oklahoma. I opened up the throttle, twisted through the curves of the road, and enjoyed the views of some grand houses and farms on the outskirts of Bentonville.
Once in Oklahoma the road straightened and the skies cleared blue with big white fluffy clouds. Oklahoma is quite flat, but that doesn’t mean the scenery was dull. As I worked my way northwest, the scenery reminded me vaguely of Tuscany: gentle hills with few trees. In this case, many cows were enjoying the pasture.
I stopped briefly along the route. Once, on a side road to eat some hard boiled eggs I’d made the night before. A second time to fill up on gas, and then a third time to read a historical plaque about a natural gas spring that had been discovered which turned out to include about 2% helium, thus providing a valuable source of the inert gas in the early 20th century.
My fourth stop was in Coffeyville, Kansas. I knew nothing of Coffeyville beforehand, other than that it looked reasonably sized and thus would make for a good prolonged lunch stop and opportunity to stretch my legs. As it turns out, Coffeyville is famous for an attempted bank robbery in 1892. The Dalton Gang got it in their head that they could get rich if they robbed two banks (across the street from each other) at the same time. The town would never expect it!
Though they were right, the town didn’t expect it, the gang failed to account for the townsfolk who were not about to let such a crime take place without a fight. As the gang split up and each half entered one bank to rob it, the townsfolk took note of the armed men entering two banks and several of them went to the hardware store next door to get guns (the owner was happy to oblige). A shootout started, and the crime was not only halted, but the gang was completely eliminated. Only one member made it out of the town alive, but he died on his horse about two miles away due to gunshot wounds. Several people from the town also died and more were wounded. All this for $20,000 from the bank’s vault (about $590,000 today).
Coffeyville did a nice job of restoring the buildings (including one of the banks), marking the body outlines on the pavement where the gang members had fallen after being shot, and providing various audio-visual guides.
I continued down the road, stopping only briefly for gas, before eventually ending up in Wichita. As a medium sized city, Wichita has everything you would expect: a downtown area, strip malls, cheap motels, eateries, etc. I stayed in the cheapest place I will be in the whole trip and I hope it’s also the worst. It wasn’t actually all that bad, but it had clearly seen better days. Some of the quirks were that there was no chair in the room, no facial tissues, a showerhead that was stuck in a very unusual setting, and a TV mounted on the wall permanently tilted such that the top right side was about 4 inches lower than the left.
Wichita downtown was actually much nicer than I anticipated. The “Old Town” is full of restaurants, shops and patios for enjoying the weather and a beer (which I definitely did), and there’s a well-manicured riverside park featuring several walking paths on both sides. After dinner I spent quite a bit of time just walking down the river and enjoying the warm weather.