Day 7 - Driving
|Monday, April 27, 2020: We were on the road by 7:00 AM ...
|... and headed to the local McDonald's. It was becoming a familiar sight by now to see sheets of paper taped to the doors of businesses.
|But this was new: seeing items on the McDonald's electronic menu board that were either crossed out (Big Breakfast!) or grayed out with a note that they would be back soon.
|Here's a closer look. Be well until we meet again, beloved Bacon Egg & Cheese McGriddle.
|This locomotive had a plaque that read (paraphrased), "Engine No. 1129. The engine was built for the Santa Fe Railroad Co. by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1902 and used in regular service on the Santa Fe Railroad in New Mexico for 51 years. As a gift from Santa Fe, it was brought to Las Vegas in 1956 by rail. It now stands on the track of one of the shortest railroads in the world."
|More pretty scenery.
|Those are some odd little hills. See those mountains in the background? Those are the very last ones of the trip. Nothing but flatland here on out.
|We had opted to take back roads to get to Hays, Kansas, so we drove through several small towns along the way.
|These little mini-canyons carved by small streams might turn into the Grand Canyon someday if they stay in school and really apply themselves.
|We were on the Santa Fe Trail. For real.
|We passed lots and lots of pronghorn, ...
|... but they are tricky to photograph.
|Meanwhile, Doug and Susan were working their way north through Utah and passed Sigurd, Utah, which just happens to be the first name of Debbie and Doug's maternal grandfather.
|Now THIS is a crossing sign!
|Here's a mural in the small town of Clayton, New Mexico ...
|... near the border of Oklahoma. The Texas border was just a mile or two south of us.
|You know those large green circles you see down below from your airplane window seat? This is how they are made. Seriously, we've seen these a lot, but it was nice to see a perfectly formed green circle being actively watered while we watched.
|See this nice little picnic area? It might have been a great stop for a quick bathroom break if that truck hadn't just pulled in before us.
|Here's the Kansas border.
|We drove through the town of Hugoton, home of the best-named farm supply store ever: Flatlanders.
|The local high school stadium had a huge sign signed by the high school seniors, whose senior year had been majorly messed up by the pandemic.
|The Hugoton Public Schools electronic billboard encouraged students to keep working hard on their academics, ...
|... and to stay 6ft away from others!
|It also noted the hours that school lunches would be available for pickup each day. We happened to be here during that time and saw several cars stopping by to pick up lunches, which warmed our hearts.
|Here's a cotton field.
|We followed US-56 as it cut a diagonal path across Kansas, passing through one identical small town ...
|... after another. Each town had at least one cafe that was open for take out.
|All of the town roads were laid out on a north-south-east-west grid, ending at the diagonal path of US-56. Most of the town streets were gravel.
|This little wayside stop was charming but offered no bathroom options.
|After holding it for hours, it was a great relief to reach Dodge City ...
|... and stop for gas, rest rooms, ...
|... and treats. Debbie couldn't believe her good fortune to find her favorite Hostess treats, Snoballs, and one of her favorite candy bars, Rocky Road, in the same small store.
|The main drag in Dodge City is named, of course, Wyatt Earp Boulevard, ...
|... and it is a magical road filled with fast food options.
|Burger King was the lucky vendor that got our tourist dollars.
|Of course, there were printed sheets of paper taped to the window, ...
|... one of which explained that the dining room was closed due to COVID-19.
|We drove through the Boot Hill tourist attraction complex.
|With everything closed, it was completely deserted.
|We later learned that this was Santa Fe Engine No. 1139, nicknamed the "Boot Hill Special," and it was built in 1903 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Like Engine No. 1129 we had seen in Santa Fe, it was a gift from the Santa Fe Railroad to Dodge City in 1954.
|Nearby was a sculpture of John Henry "Doc" Holliday, part of the Dodge City Trail of Fame.
|Further down the block was a statue of James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon of "Gunsmoke."
|Here's a huge mural on a nearby building.
|This sculpture of a Texas Longhorn, titled "El Capitan," noted that it was these that gave Dodge City its place in history as "Queen of the Cowtowns."
|Here's the sculpture we came to see: Wyatt Earp. He was surrounded by a sprinkler system that kept him shiny and clean.
|Here's the detail on the front of the sculpture.
|How's this for a dramatic city sign?
|Just outside of town, a scenic waypoint sign led us to this overlook, which consisted of a vast cattle yard filled with livestock.
|In Kinsley, Kansas, we passed another Santa Fe Railway engine. This is No. 3424 which is a 3400 Pacific, build by the Baldwin Locomotive Works sometime between 1919 and 1924. Like the two we had already seen, this was likely retired in the 1950s and given away.
|Whoa! Non-prairie scenery! Quick! Get a picture!
|We saw a small prop airplane fly low over the fields.
|When we reached Hays, Kansas, we passed the first of two miniature Statue of Liberty replicas we saw on our trip. It is one of dozens that were placed in the 1950s to celebrate 40 years of Boy Scouts of America.
|Hey, there's Al's Chickenette! We had dinner here in 2017. It had closed the previous year, so we were fortunate to visit it when we did.
|At 3:45 PM, we arrived at our destination, Kansas Merci Boxcar & Veterans Memorial Park.
|Kansas' Merci Train Boxcar was in beautiful shape. It was restored in 1986 and is well-maintained.
|Here's the reverse side.
|A rabbit was relaxing under the boxcar when we showed up, so he decided to move on.
|A glassed-in box on one end of the boxcar was noted as being for 30 Day Mourning, and the name of a friend of the boxcar who had recently passed away was displayed.
|Here's a look at the rest of the park.
|We stopped at Casey's for a minute to admire the gas prices ...
|... and to quickly use their windshield washer equipment, because Kansas has a lot of bugs.
|A local hospital had a display out front: "An amazing team works here." No doubt!
|Oh, look at that beautiful stretch of freeway. We couldn't wait to get off the backroads.
|We said goodbye to Hays and its funny bird sculpture next to the on-ramp.
|The Kansas highway signs asked us to Stay Healthy.
|Debbie had her trusty Roadside America app and was already planning to make this brief stop when we saw this billboard.
|We drove a couple of miles to Wilson, Kansas, billed as the Czech Capital of Kansas.
|Sure enough, they have a really, really big Czech egg. It was worth a quick stop to see.
|At a rest area, we saw this cool map, just like one we had seen at a different rest area in 2017.
|Now that's adorable!
|Helicopters overhead mean that we must be getting close to ...
|... Marshall Army Airfield.
|The Kansas Highway Department had more messages for us: "When fever strikes, stay home."
|"Stay home order extended to May 3rd."
|"Social distancing saves lives."
|When we drove through Topeka, we got off the freeway for a minute for a quick drive around the state capitol.
|This is where we saw the second of two miniature Statue of Liberty replicas, placed in the 1950s to celebrate 40 years of Boy Scouts of America.
|Here's a funny little sculpture. He is one of the "Ichabods Around Town" statues created in 2015.
|This is a sculpture of civil rights activist McKinley Burnett (1897-1968).
|The Topeka Performing Arts Center sign had a message for health care providers: ...
|... "You are our heroes!!"
|At the Kansas Turnpike, the Kansas Highway Department had even more messages: "Thank you truckers, med staff."
|"1st responders, stay safe."
|We were thrilled to see this sign noting that restrooms, food pick-up, and fuel were available at the turnpike stop ahead.
|When we arrived, we went inside McDonald's to use the restroom before getting back into our car to use the drive-thru.
|All tables were roped off as a reminder that there was no seated eating in this place.
|While heading to the McDonald's drive-thru, we spotted this Kansas Jayhawk statue which was part of the Jayhawks on Parade event from 2003.
|Here is Kansas City.
|It features plenty of virus-specific billboards like this one, ...
|... and this one, ...
|... and this one, ...
|... (not this one), ...
|... and this one, ...
|... and this one.
|There's Kansas City at our back with a lovely sunset silhouette.
|It was getting close to 9:00 PM Central time when we stopped to get some gas and switch drivers. We couldn't believe we were seeing gas for $1.03 ...
|... then we pulled into Casey's where it was a penny cheaper per gallon.
|Yes, you're reading that right: 18.8 gallons of gas for $19.36. Is it 1980 again?
|We set up a very comfortable bed in the passenger seat with a combination of a rolled up sleeping bag and a comfy blanket and pillows we brought back with us from Mesa, and Tom slept while Debbie drove for the next four-plus hours.
|Tom took over around 2:15 AM, ...
|... and we arrived home at 4:30 AM. Total trip mileage: 3697.
** THE END **
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy