Up early after a windy night, the temp down to 41 degrees, we quickly got dressed, drove to dump wastewater and hooked up the Jeep. The dunes were highlighted by the sun but the backdrop was pretty ominous. The wind was whipping the sand off the tops of the dunes, not a good day to be climbing.
Already the mountain peaks had disappeared as dark clouds drooped over them and tentacles of precipitation (looked like snow) reached downward. Good thing we were headed south, ahead of the incoming cold front, as a wintry mix chased us to our next thrill – a 9,000 ft mountain peak that should finally be our last climb.
Before we started to climb, we unhooked the Jeep at the chain station (emergency brake fully engaged this time) and Jackie drove to the other side where we connected back again. Not nearly as tough as we expected.
We now drove straight and flat across the grasslands to Lamar on a 2-lane road with no shoulders at all. Saw a few pronghorn, but little else. We were pretty much alone, except then an 18-wheeler pulling half a house “wide load” came toward us. Nowhere to go except the white line to the right and “whooosh” it zoomed past, probably with only inches to spare. At 65+ mph. Sigh… until the other half came barrelling down the road toward us. A repeat of the “whooosh” as we white-knuckled it past, holding our breath as if that would help.
But we were soon in Lamar (home to a pretty large cattle feed lot), getting gas and making a quick stop at Walmart (yippee!) for some fresh food. The campsite was nearby and what a cool spot. At Sundance-High Plains RV Park we were given a “deluxe” spot along the grassland, facing the western sunset. Wonderful. Electric and water with a nice shower facility. We are told that pronghorn might be in the grassland along with quail and roadrunners, who apparently eat the quail. Only one night to show yourself, roadrunner! Whoops, just as I am writing this a covey of quail ran across in front of the motorhome… let’s see if I can get a shot. Yep, but they are fast runners.
Since we also have great wifi here, I was able to upload two posts to the blog! And saw a news report that the cold front we were out-running had dropped major snow in Monarch Pass – where we drove through just two days ago, Sunday. An overnight Monday photo was posted, and as you can see, we would NOT have made it through that pass in that condition. Yikes.
The overnight temps only got down to low 40’s, but we had some pretty strong gusty winds to start off the evening. This area, due to their drought, has a red flag warning, which means a high risk of wildfires. Since we got up early, we both had a chance to use the showers at Sundance High Plains before heading east toward Wichita, Kansas.
The drive was straight and mostly flat, as you would expect, and very gusty and windy. We were driving a nice 2-lane highway, which gave you a good look at local life. The dry, scrub pastures and high plains of eastern Colorado gave way to irrigated fields of hay, alfalfa and sorghum. It was harvest time for all of that and we saw loads of hay bales in the fields and on trucks, plus sorghum being cut, trucked and massed into huge piles. Trucks of livestock, hay and grains would rush past (speed limit is 65) the motorhome and those with sorghum would splash a blast of grains on the windshield as they passed, quite a jolt. You got a good sense of the scale of work involved in making the harvest of all these crops.
We also passed many feed yards of cattle and a couple of processing plants in towns like Garden City and the outskirts of Dodge City, which explained all of the livestock trailers. We drove through micro-towns like Cimmaron and Ingalls, Ford and Mullinville. So many have the remnants of 1950’s storefronts, motels and gas stations long abandoned. One of the little towns had a crazy display of metal folk art that was spinning in the breeze. Quite the installation, along with some commentary.
Always a Story …
We kept driving east until Wichita, where Jackie called in a reservation inside the city limits at Air Capital RV Park. This was a well-developed spot, all concrete drives with patches of lush green grass between the slips. We asked for a back-in site and at the front office we disconnected the Jeep, ready to follow Melvin in his golf cart. Except that the Jeep would not start again. Tried the instant jump, no good – several times. Took out the jumper cables and hooked to the generator to jump it, not working. By this time we had Melvin looking on, another helpful resident who wanted to jump it from his semi, but it was all to no avail. Battery was dead beyond reviving.
Well, what do you do? Melvin said it was fine to leave the Jeep parked where it was, but we still needed a replacement battery. Two blocks away there was an O’Reilly Auto Parts shop, we were told, so we drove the motorhome there, parked in the next door Dillon’s lot (one of the Kroger stores) and I went over to the auto parts store with a picture of the battery. Hmm, well they had a battery that was recommended for the Rubicon but which was stronger and slightly longer than the one I had. But it was at their other location. Could they get it here today? Yep, would be on the truck and here by 5:30 (it was like 3:30 now). Ok, so you will call me when it comes in? Yep.
Back to RV park, slipped into our spot but only plugged in electric. I went over to unhook the battery, while Melvin looked on, got a call the new battery was ready, Melvin drive his golf cart with me and battery to RV so we could return it for the core refund. Unhooked electric, drove over to O’Reilly’s and swapped batteries. Back to park, dropped battery at Jeep, parked motorhome in site, hooked up electric, leveled and put out slides. Then I went to Jeep to lift and insert the new, slightly longer, slightly heavier battery. A passing dog-walker stopped to help me negotiate the battery into place, I clamped it all down and connected terminals and accidentally set off the car alarm. Ok, it works. Started up, drove to the slip and collapsed on the couch. Maybe we finally solved the battery problem.
Not for long, though, as we had plans to find breweries in Wichita. Not hard, as we have driven through here before. We went back to River City Brewing in Old Town and soon ordered up Mediterranean Pizza and something I loved before: BBQ Mac ‘n Cheese. Yummy, creamy, smoky flavor that went great with a house Dunkel. Jackie ordered a strawberry kolsch but promptly swapped beers for the Dunkel (which really was good). We later walked a few blocks to Third Place Brewing and had one more beer each. We sampled several they had and then Jackie had a gose she liked and I tried their Red Truck IPA. Good conversation with the bartender (we were the ONLY folks in there) who was a theater major teaching special ed. The stories, the stories … Oh to be retired – we love it!
Back in minutes to our motorhome in a Jeep that runs and we are set for the night. Tomorrow we head to Springfield, Missouri to find an easy spot for the night.
Yes, we drove eastward toward Missouri on the continuation of the 2-lane road from the day before. Early start, but since we are now on Central time, we lost an hour to start with. Pretty much the same flat fields to start with, more hawk sightings on fence posts, electric wires and low flying – I think they were mostly rough-legged hawks. The fields gradually turned to rolling tree covered hills as we traveled eastern Kansas toward Missouri. It began to remind me of northern New Jersey with juniper, oaks and sumac.
Our stop for the night was at Missouri RV Park in Mountain Grove, Missouri just east of Springfield. Actually, for an older park just off the highway it was quite nice. Heck, all we need is a level spot with electric and water, but this had grass and trees and room between sites. Kodi enjoyed some “fetch” for a while and I had time to fix a bucket of soapy water and washed down the Jeep, plus cleaned the bugs off the motorhome windshield. Losing some of the Utah and Colorado dust that is pretty persistent. And Kodi is happy not to be picking up burrs or spikes on his feet. Speaking of dogs and cats, both Kodi and Merlin have been wonderful on the trip. Merlin soaks up the sun on the dashboard (parked) and while on the road, Kodi is great about getting in his crate on the couch and curling up.
Get up, drive, stop, sleep, repeat. This last run home is kind of like that. Our next day goal is just east of Memphis. The drive in Missouri took us through rolling fields and pastures with plenty of green trees and then across the Ozarks in Arkansas. Some uphill climbs, but nothing like the Rockies. Then the drive drops down to the Mississippi River valley and there are plenty of fields being harvested. Mostly cotton, but also soybeans and some hay. The drive was pretty easy and soon we were crossing the Mississippi and circling to the south of Memphis. We were soon in Mississippi heading toward with a couple of good prospects for camping. We stretched the drive to reach beyond Tupelo to stay at Tombigbee State Park. Not far off I-22, but the final 5 miles or so were a narrow, curving squiggle of a road to the park. An absolutely delightful spot in the trees with plenty of room and full hookups, so no complaints at all. Kodi got some fetch time in the playground, which helped get the kinks out from the drive.
This should be our last night in camp, as home is supposed to be four and a half hours away. I know that by the time we reach Birmingham I will want to just press on until we are in the driveway. Then comes the task of unpacking the laundry, the fridge, the bathroom — but it will be just fine, considering the trip we have had. A couple of soapy washings of the Jeep and motorhome and maybe the blower to get the Utah red dust out of the Jeep.
So by the time you read this we will be stretching out at home, not banging into things, taking at least one or two nice long hot showers in something bigger than a phone booth and thinking back to the many hikes, 4WD trails, jaw-dropping scenery, small towns, breweries and just a few minor “learning opportunities” with overheating engines and battery life.
I really do enjoy posting the pictures and stories and hope you enjoy them as well. So, until our next adventure . . .