TO THE LAND OF OZ: Part One – The Santa Fe Trail

imageHopefully  by now you have read my brother’s fabulous account of his trip to the dark continent.  While you were reading about his encounters with wild animals, smiling people and beautiful sites, my husband and I, along with our faithful dog Dash, were about to embark on a trip to the dark continent of …..Kansas.

Earlier this year our daughter and family moved to Leawood, Kansas, which we thought was somewhere close to Antarctica.  We envisioned flat terrain and not a Starbucks in sight.  But, longing to see our grandsons, we decided to pack the dog in the car and drive the 1200 miles to their new home.  We are always up for a driving adventure and since we had not seen this part of the country we decided to make the most of all the sights along the way.

The first day we got as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We have only been there once before and found it to be a charming city.  On that trip we walked the Square, bought art on Canyon Drive and ate at Geronimo’s and The Compound.  At night we returned to a lovely resort.  We found out the hard way that none of those things are possible when you travel with a dog.  This time we stayed at a LaQuinta Inn near the freeway.  Not even a new LQI.  This one closely resembled the Bates Motel.  And we soon discovered that finding a place to eat dinner with a dog in tow is tantamount to finding the Holy Grail. We consulted our “Traveling with Fido” resources but they offered imagesuch gourmet delights as McDonalds and Sonic Burger.  My husband batted his baby blue eyes at the hostess at the Olive Garden and she let us take the dog out to the patio to eat with us.  In 30 MPH winds.  And, sadly, we were thrilled.

The next morning we set out for the wide open spaces, with a goal to reach Hays, Kansas by nightfall.  We were excited to get off the interstate at Trinidad, CO. and begin to see the “real” countryside via “blue highways”. We talked about seeing the original Santa Fe Trail – Dodge City! – and reliving some of the scenes we saw on all those Westerns on TV in the 50’s.  We lasted 10 miles.

After numerous potholes, uneven pavement and several near-miss side-swipes, we decided that maybe our kidneys (and nerves) were too old for this trip.  I’m not certain, but I would almost swear that the dog whispered into my husband’s ear “Please get us back to an interstate”.  So after 75 miles heading east on the Santa Fe Trail, we made a sharp left turn and high-tailed it up towards Interstate 70.

We followed State Route 71 in Colorado through farmlands and small towns.  When one thinks of Colorado one normally thinks of mountain peaks and snow.  John Denver made a lot of money singing about that image“Rocky Mountain High”.  However, eastern Colorado looks a lot like the midwest.  Wheat and grain fields dot the country side.  You can see from the picture (right) that there is not a hill in sight.  I think Sara Palin can see her house from here.  We drove through lots of small towns along the way and we both felt as if we had been transported back to our childhoods, where Main Street was filled with small shops, a gas station and one market.  Most of the towns had one store where its citizens buy everything from a bow tie to shoes, from cradle to grave.  I’m quite sure the locals haven’t ever seen a J. Crew or Banana Republic and they appear to be getting along just fine.

Finally, blessedly, we reached Interstate 70 at Limon, CO.  Another McDonald’s and a gas station were the highlights but it looked like an oasis to us.   We continued east at 80 MPH and entered Kansas.

Our first clue that Kansas might be a bit boring was when we saw signs offering free coffee at the border station.  I suspect, now that I’ve driven through the state, that the wise officials in Kansas knew that without caffeine the countryside would lull drivers to sleep at the most inconvenient times – like when driving in the fast lane.  The only exciting “attraction” along the Interstate were the billboards every 10 miles touting the museum in Colby that housed rattlesnakes, coyotes and a five-legged cow.  Rattlesnakes and coyotes are a dime a dozen where we come from, but a five-legged cow?  Now THAT’S an attraction.  Unfortunately, we were at the end of our day, not to mention our wits, so a detour to Colby was out of the question,   But it did capture my interest so I looked it up when we got to our hotel and, sure enough, someone had posted a picture of it online.  So in the interest of satisfying everyone’s curiosity I’m re-posting it here.  imageWho would have guessed that the extra leg would be protruding from its neck?

I think I’m glad I didn’t see it in person.


Next time:  Kansas City, the Paris of the Plains.  Honest.