Don’t let anyone tell you Kansas is flat! Outside of the Rockies, the road to Kansas City had some of the steepest hills I’ve seen. Thankfully, after rush hour, I made it though the roller coaster, also known as the Kansas City highway. We’re definitely near Missouri hill country: north of the Ozarks, but not by much!
Because I was worried about the Kansas City traffic, I planned a short drive day. So after one and a half quick hours, we settled down at Wallace State Park. The road into the park is wholly enveloped by trees, which gives this location an other worldly feeling. We are in deep woods, and the world drops away. Ironically, I had a strong cellphone connection and, for the first time, electricity! Add to that a dump station, clean water, and finally, a squeaky-clean shower house. I could have stayed all summer in the refreshing greenery that surrounded my site.
There comes a time in every trip where you just want to drive and drive and drive. This hit me in Kansas, so I’m afraid I don’t have any photos. But I do have memories.
The first memory is the wind which continued from Flagler throughout about two thirds of the state of Kansas. I now know why Dorothy’s home was in Kansas. Nowhere else could have as believable tornado as this state – and this is coming from someone who has lived through a typhoon on Guam!
The fight against the crosswind was so challenging that I thought I had done something to my alignment when I hit the cage in the gas station. The second half of the trip, though, had me fighting from the other direction, so just like when you are doing your yoga stretches, both sides came out even. I could tell it wasn’t just me, either – even the highway lines had evidence of high winds:
The Kansas Welcome Center folks were happy to see me drop by and cheefully informed me that in Kansas, it’s against the law for any business to require you to wear a mask. I still wore my mask.
Night One: Shiloh Vineyard, just before WaKeeney KS. What a cute place. Dave, my wine tender(?) told me the story while I sipped semi-sweet Brianna: Treva and Kirk, the owners, bought this from Kirk’s uncle when he was ready to retire. It was a working farm, with cattle, so they were really starting from scratch to make this sweet little resting spot. The tasting room is the old chicken coop, with a delightful patio – a perfect spot to sip while you read a good book, which I did. Dave told me that before the pandemic hit, that they would have 3 or 4 Harvest Host visits a week, and now it was more like 3 or 4 a night. And sure enough, I was later joined by two other parties, with LOTS of children and lots of gusto!
Night Two: Wilson State Park. What a change from Arizona! I actually had three trees and grass in my campsite.
I was SO looking forward to a shower, but the shower house was locked tight, with some construction-looking stuff around the building. So no go on this trip. Fortunately, Loki and Molly like it better when I DON’T smell too fresh.
The fridge! Putting ice in the produce bins did not work. The milk that was right next to the ice is curdled. And what could go wrong with the cooler I bought back in Colorado? Why was it marked down from $65 to $15? I don’t know if that plug on the bottom leaks or not, and why invite trouble? Thankfully, Salina Kansas is big enough for a Target store, and I bought a cooler without a plug in the bottom. That first one was too big, anyway. How can one person fill 50 quarts with perishable food?
Night 3: Z & M Twisted Vines just north of Leavenworth, near Kansas City. Another delight, this time for their imaginative wines and delightful staff. Every wine at Z&M has a meaning. Seasons of Aspen, a semi-sweet white, is named after their daughter. St. Vincent, a red with cranberry notes, after their church. And there is the unforgettable Hellfire, named after the missles launched by the Army veteran owner when he served. Hellfire, by the way, is a tasty dry red, with jalapenos – and it’s GOOD!
A quiet reservoir with free camping. I’m the only one here that I can see. It’s VERY windy, and there is not much water in the reservoir, but very peaceful. This site is on the Colorado Birding Trail Now that dusk is approaching, Molly, Loki, and I are watching and listening to Western Meadowlarks. I’m looking forward to the dawn chorus!
Ludlow is a ghost town just north of Trinidad, CO, on I-25. I made a stop to honor fallen mine workers at the Ludlow Monument, commemorating the Ludlow Massacre in 1914.
The Rockefeller – owned Colorado Fuel and Iron mines were known for their poor and dangerous working conditions. Collier deaths were 3 times what they were in other mines around the country; accidents in 1910 further raised the death rate, as well as the high rate of deaths from typhoid. In 1913, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), organized a strike, and in retaliation, the mine evicted the striking workers from their company – owned houses, forcing the miners to build a tent city. The Colorado National Guard was called in, and on April 20, 1914, the guardsmen fired on workers, killing 20, including women and children. This sparked the Colorado Coalfield War, which lasted until President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to end the fighting.
Many notable leaders in the labor movement came to Colorado to march and support the mineworkers, including Mother Jones.
Although the monument is a simple effigy to the victims of the massacre, it is easy to see the honor and regard that is still implanted on the site; fresh flowers and other items, including children’s toys are arranged at its base.
A sweet little RV park in the San Isabel National Forest, the Stonewall Lodge and RV park has 16 RV spots, cabins, and rooms in the lodge. Larry, the owner, is an Army vet, and if you are also a vet, he’ll give you a discount (even if you are a Navy vet, like me). Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to spend, but that didn’t stop him from bringing by 6 fresh eggs, which were delicious, with deep yellow yolks that you don’t see in grocery store eggs at all. Thank you, Larry and “Da – Neice”!
I came back from hiking to a HUGE puddle of water on the floor, and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from for a while. But I was able to trace it back to the fridge! The darned thing had the “check” light turned on, and had completely shut off. That’s a ton of food wasted, but better than risking salmonella or E. Coli. I turned it on, and the check light came on again, so I just turned it off (and the propane off) for the night. The next morning, I turned it back on and it has been fine, but since I’m near my first long stop, I won’t be buying or eating any perishables today, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.
Instead, lunch was just a PBJ, at this spot:
A perfect spot for a relaxing lunch, some yoga, and a nap! The rest of the trip to my evening stop followed the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway, and was one piece of eye candy after another – good thing you can’t get a stomach ache from it, because I certainly would have! Windy roads led up to the Cucharas Pass (9941 ft). I’m still up high after that. If I had to do it over again, I would have stopped for a rest at Monument Lake; the best view of the trip. Growing up in the Midwest, I was certain that natural water was brown, and that “swimming pool blue” was just a fake out. I know better now, but I’m still breathless at seeing views like this icy mountain behind a blue, blue lake.
I’m not stopping in towns on this trip; instead, I’m trying to stay at small places in between cities, or on the outskirts of towns, and spending the time in between with hiking and relaxing in beautiful spots. One of those spots is the Black Mesa Winery, on NM highway 68 between Santa Fe and Taos. A sweet and rejuvenating spot for an afternoon happy hour, with a bonus: a small petroglyph trail behind the winery that ends in a labyrinth. I crossed paths with bird tracks and something fur bearing – coyote tracks?
I spent the afternoon with a Blood Orange Cider (one was enough to relax anyone at this altitude, and it made this lightweight downright loopy), and watched the hummingbirds. Five level sites for Harvest Host members; five stars (and two thumbs up) from this girl.
It’s night two and I’m in the parking lot of an actual junkyard! The Route 66 Junkyard Brewery is in the site of a salvage yard, on the outskirts of Grants NM. The owner bought it 10 years ago, and as a teetotaler, he somehow decided to learn how to brew beer and turn it into a taproom – at the advice of his then 13 year old daughter.
Chicken and waffles were delicious, but the real hit is the brewery itself, and its fruits. I had the Watermelon Cider, which was unexpectedly tart, but grows on you with each sip. If you’re ever traveling through Northern New Mexico, check it out – you’ll be glad you did. Thanks to Harvest Hosts for recommending this little known treasure.
An added bonus – it’s supposed to get down to 36 degrees tonight! 🙂
We’re off! We hit triple digits in Phoenix on Tuesday, and it was good to be in the RV, heading for cooler weather. Molly and Loki were terrified, as always, when I run the RV, and hid under the sofa for the entire trip.
We landed in Homolovi State Park for our first night, just East of Winslow, AZ. Yes, THAT Winslow. But I didn’t stop to check out the corner. Instead, I had stopped at Walnut Canyon earlier. Walnut Canyon was the site of a large Native American Pueblo, and there are vestiges of that civilization in the area.
One interesting thing about the geography that came out is the biodiversity present. The canyon runs roughly north south. See the difference between the vegetation on the East side, and the lusher West side?
It was dusk when I reached Homolovi, and the campground hosts had retired for the night. It was easy to find my campground and settle in. I chose a primitive site, but still paved, with picnic table, a space to set up a tent (large eyelets around the edge of the trim – what a great idea!) and running water.
I was very pleased to see that it was 61 degrees when I woke up this morning.
Homolovi itself is another site of Native ruins, and still considered sacred land by the Hopi nation. The literature says that ruins were discovered by someone working for the Arizona Parks, has been the site of architectural digs, which brings up a lot of questions: Who “discovered” this site? If it’s sacred to the Hopis, wouldn’t they know about it already? Has it been continuously visited by the Hopis? Is it actively being dug? I saw no evidence of that while I was there, but the park is quite large. And how are the needs of the rightful inhabitants of the land balanced with the desire to excavate?