I started my big 17 day road trip a couple days ago and overall, it’s been a much better experience than last year. Well, 95%, but that 5% is story for later in the post. The first day was 9 hours of driving across Texas, so not much to write about, but after that I have been taking it slower, driving less per day and taking more time to stop, see and relax. I have finally gotten things in the teardrop organized the right way so that each stop is fast and easy. I learned a lot from my last long trip and also made sure somethings were more easy to access on one night stops. The addition of the small cargo nets helped but leaving the folding table up during travel has also been a huge help. It has allowed me to have a place to put my shoes, under it, and still get to them without having to move everything every time. Before I was leaving it folded on the bed to travel but with the port a potty I had no good place for it on one night stops.
My first night I stayed at a RV park in Amarillo called the Overnight RV Park. I highly recommend it and it was a great find for just driving along looking for a place. They have pull through sites with a lot of trees and shrubbery for privacy as well as covered picnic tables. The bathrooms and showers were also very clean and well maintained.
Since we passed through Amarillo in a rush on our trip back from the Grand canyon, I never made it to Cadillac Ranch. So before heading north the second day, we went out to check it out. We got there fairly early and it made for some amazing pictures. I have been working on learning the settings on this new camera and this gave me a great opportunity to work on settings for bright days. I’m particularly proud of the one I took of the field where I was able to capture the slight impression of the moon still visible.
Once we got into Kansas, the first stop was Dorothy’s house and Land of Oz in Liberal Kansas. In retrospect, maybe that was not the way to set the mood for trip, but more on that later. Spoiler alert, it is not actually Dorothy’s house from the movie. There was no actual, full size house used in the movie. The idea behind this attraction came when a Liberal resident went to California and talked to someone about Kansas. He asked what you would expect to see in Kansas and someone answered “Dorothy’s house.” He went back to the town and presented the idea to build a house and attraction.
The idea took shape more when someone knew of a house that looked similar to Dorothy’s house in another town. Volunteers moved it to Liberal and the Governor of Kansas declared it the official home of Dorothy Gale. The path to the house and Land of Oz out back is of course a yellow brick road with the names of people who donated money to make the whole idea take shape. To help make sure they got the correct look for the house MGM donated a picture of Dorothy’s bedroom from the set as well as the original, doll sized house used for the scenes of it falling in the movie.
No exhibit about the Dorothy would complete without the Land of Oz. Behind the house they have a museum set up where you can walk through the different scenes from the movie, including sound and special effects. All of this is of course, hosted by Dorothy, but Toto was not around for the tour.
The second stop in Kansas was the Dalton Gang Hideout. It’s a house and barn where the Dalton gang built an underground tunnel between the two, to hideout when the law was looking for them. There’s a museum with a lot of history of the Dalton family and the town. They also have an old west town set up where they put on melodramas of old west scenes during the summer. They did not have any going on right now.
Kansas has a very large number of wind farms and they are much closer to the road than the ones I passed through in West Texas. They also offered opportunities to work with lighting and backgrounds with the new camera.
We stayed our second night in Dodge City Kansas. Yes, the Dodge City from all the westerns. I must say they have worked hard to preserve that old west feeling in the town, right down to the city signs.
There is a lot to see just walking around the main strip which is aptly named Wyatt Earp Boulevard. There are statues of Wyatt, Matt Dillion, Doc Holiday and El Capitan, the longhorn. There is still an element of lawlessness in the fact that many intersections have no stop signs. I still have no idea who had the right of way at any time. I guess you just wish for the best?
Along the strip there is also Boot Hill, which is a museum that has a replica of an old town square. They have re-enactments of gun fights and shows on this street. I do not have any pictures inside this because while the town was cool to see, it was very much of a tourist trap. I had planned to get there early enough for the gunfight at sundown show, however I was not pay $35 for a 20 minute show, in the last hour the museum was open for the day.
The original train station still stands on the main strip along with the train named the “Boot Hill Special.” A Baldwin Locomotive built in 1903.
We stayed at the Gunsmoke RV Park right out of Dodge City, five minutes from the visitor center. It has a very cute country store front and is surround by beautiful fields with horses. There were also many rabbits around the park that Bella was fascinated with. I captured a beautiful sunset that evening of the sun coming through clouds, that I know was indictive of the “real” Wizard of OZ experience we would have that night.
At 1:30 in the morning I was woke up to the camper shaking and Bella crying and trying to get my attention. It was wind like I have only heard during hurricanes and was so bad all my baskets hanging from the ceiling fell. I checked the radar and saw what you never want to see in Kansas, severe storms coming right for Dodge City. When I first looked there was a large section of purple indicating hail and the weather alert said there were 70 mph winds so I had my true Wizard of Oz experience. Running for the bathroom at the campground carrying Bella.
After about 45 minutes the worst of it passed and the severe weather warning expired. We went back to the camper but the wind was still too rough for comfort in a tiny teardrop trailer. After a while the rain at least let up and the wind calmed enough for me to get some sleep. Oh, but wait, we’re not done. I got woke up again around 3:30 to a very loud, very close whistle and since the weather had been bad and the staff at the campground had said there was a storm siren and shelter, I thought it was warning of a tornado. There was also a very loud, “train like” sound as they say a tornado sounds like. So here we went again, I jumped out of the camper and grabbed my purse, got Bella and took off running in flip flops, got to the building, soaking wet and I realized it was an actual train.
So after spending just one night in Kansas and dealing with that stress and uncertainty one time I came to the conclusion Dorothy made the wrong choice. She should have stay in Oz. But I must say that Bella was very good through it all and even though she can be a stubborn little heifer, she does listen when it counts. Earlier in the day she had hid behind the baskets to keep from getting out of the camper after we visited Dorothy’s house and she is not a fan of rain or being picked up but both times when I said “we have to go!” she came straight to me and put her paws on my shoulders and let me pick her up like a child, without fussing or complaining.
After only getting a few hours of sleep, I was still determined to make the most of the day. I was able to get up just in time to get dressed, go by McDonald’s and make it to the 9:00 trolley tour of the city. One of the most shocking things on the tour was the volume of cattle living right outside the city. I have never seen so many cattle gathered in one place. The tour guide said they are the largest supplier of beef in the US. I did some research and I can’t find anything to definitively confirm that, but they are definitely in the top four. Oh, and they have a couple buffalo as well, you know to make it a true western town.
Of course, no trip to Kansas would be complete without a trip to Cawker City to see the world’s largest ball of twine. I mean if it was important to Michael, it’s worth seeing. Oh, but is it a trek to get there. It is in the middle of nowhere, through many small towns with 20 mph speed limits. Totally worth it though. The people in the city truly make the most of it and make it an experience. When you go you an add to the ball, to keep it’s size increasing.
After Cawker City it was time to head north. It was perfect timing because as I could see the clouds forming and storms coming that I had been told were coming through Dodge City again. So I very glad to be on our way to the next adventure and not have that one again.