Crossing Kansas

I woke up this morning to the disappointing sound of heavy rain outside my window. The good news though is that my motorcycle hadn’t been stolen in the night. Perhaps it was dramatic of me to think it might happen, but in my defence my hotel was obviously very shady. 

As I dressed and cleaned up, fortunately the rain started to let up. I checked the radar and it looked like all I had to do was get out of Wichita and then the skies would clear. I left the hotel, determined to never return, in full rain gear and made my way north through the city. 

The further north I go, the larger the houses and more manicured the lawns. Seeing the name Koch on several buildings also made me realize that the infamous Koch brothers and their company, Koch Industries, were home in Wichita. That explains how the city was able to afford such an enjoyable riverfront park. 

I started heading west and the skies started to clear slightly. I have to admit, of my entire itinerary, I was most apprehensive about today’s journey. Per the map, my route took me directly west across Kansas. No variations, turns, very few towns. Just a straight line from Wichita to Colorado. Many have said that Kansas is very flat and boring, and I worried about a five hour ride without distractions. It also seemed that much of it would be a four Lane freeway, the worst type of road for a road trip. 

I’ll cut to the chase: I loved Kansas. Beautiful green fields of wheat in every direction, gently waving like an ocean in the wind. As I got to the central part of the state, suddenly a massive wind farm dotted the landscape in every direction. I took the opportunity to drive up to one of these monstrous mechanical marvels and feel the pulsating blades cutting through the air. 

In the western part of the state, the wheat fields gave way to short grasslands and grazing cattle. Few trees allowed me to see miles in every direction. 

I had one main stop in Dodge City (which officially is named, rather redundantly, “the City of Dodge City”). The city is famous as a former trading post of Buffalo hides and later, cattle. The wealth quickly brought it a reputation for lawlessness and indeed in the early days there literally was no law. There was no sheriff, no codes, and lots of men with money. Many a gunfight ended in death, and those that died were hurried at Boot Hill. Today there is now the Boot Hill Museum which has exhibits from the lawless era, as well as a replication Main Street. During the summer they have costumed actors playing out gunfights. 

The whole area seemed like a certain tourist trap so I declined to pay the $15 entry and decided instead to walk around downtown. I stumbled upon a new taco food truck and had some excellent tacos in a nearby park, before taking a short self-guided tour in the municipal zoo. Though apparently there was a tiger, it was not in the mood for socializing and hid out of sight. Instead I got to view a smattering of more common animals including goats, ducks, geese, various birds, foxes and a parrot. Though they were well cared for they seemed not amused with their current predicament. 

Continuing west, I stopped to see the wagon ruts from 150 years ago on the Santa Fe wagon trail and I made one final short gas stop before crossing the state border and arriving in my destination for the day: Holly, Colorado. Of all the towns I will be staying in, I looked forward to Holly most of all. The reason is because no one would ever have any good reason to be in Holly. It’s a dot on the map, has no notable industry or attractions, and no clear historical significance. It’s the kind of place you pass through without a thought. This is exactly why I wanted to stay, however, because towns like these have a gentle appeal that is often overlooked. Since they don’t get many tourists, the locals are super friendly, there’s no gaudy tourist traps, and you can walk around it without being accosted. The hotel I’m staying in (the only hotel, mind you) has been beautifully restored on the second floor, and the proprietor is working on restoring the soda fountain restaurant on the ground floor. It’s a shame that towns like these can’t draw people into their downtown like they used to. 

I spent some time just walking around the town and taking pictures of old and derelict buildings. At its height, it’s clear that this was an bustling town. Dinner was a choice between Subway, gas station pizza (which will always feel wrong to me) or a hamburger at the only restaurant in town. I opted for the hamburger.

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