Ian and Margaret's RV Adventures travel blog

A brilliant double rainbow over the farmland of central Kansas.

Max and Titus snuggle up to get warm in Nebraska.

We blew out of Liberal after only one night, having had enough of the wind (it was still blowing around 20 mph when we left – thank goodness for the strong campground wi-fi, since we didn’t want to risk our rooftop internet satellite in the high winds) and headed northeast to McPherson, Kansas. For a good portion of our route we stayed with Highway 54, which is an historic old highway through the heartland of Kansas. But at some point we had to head northward, so we turned left at Pratt.

Before we got to Pratt, however, we went through Greensburg. Margaret’s father, who had driven this route many times between Missouri and the Southwest, always remembered Greensburg as “The Home of the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well”, and Margaret passed through (and actually stayed a couple of times) on the way from Arizona to Missouri or back again. But you may remember that in May 2007 Greensburg was hit by a devastating tornado (one of the strongest in recorded history) that wiped out something like 90% of the town. Since that time the town has gained some national attention for its determination to rebuild and for the decision to do so using a maximum of “green” building techniques. There’s even a TV show (of which we’ve watched a bit but not all the episodes)recording their progress. We were interested to see the current state of affairs in Greensburg since we hadn’t been through there since late in 2006, before the tornado.

Although we expected changes, we were somewhat shocked not to recognize any part of the former downtown area. Never that big, it had been a somewhat typical Kansas town of its size, with a row of older buildings on either side of the highway for several blocks either side of an obvious main cross-street. In fact, we had passed nearly through town before we realized it – Main Street (the typical cross-street) is completely torn up and, although obviously being re-built, has no buildings for several blocks either side of the highway. Along the highway are only building pads waiting for new buildings to be built. There are a couple of clearly new buildings finished (including a grocery store) or nearly finished, but there is still a very long way to go. We saw houses that looked sufficiently old to have sustained minimal if any damage from the tornado, so it appears that residents’ homes may have had priority in assignment of rebuilding resources, but one has to wonder what all these people do to make a living, since there appear to be few buildings housing businesses that could provide employment.

We had thought we might stop in Greensburg and walk around a bit, even taking some pictures of the rebuilding effort. But, aside from the fact that we were through town before we knew we were even really there, it would have seemed voyeuristic and somehow inappropriate, so we didn’t stop. In fact, I’m sure that a town that has a “reality TV” crew filming its rebuilding efforts isn’t terribly sensitive about a couple of amateur photographers wandering around, but it just didn’t feel right. So we kept going, awestruck by the enormity of what we had seen. It makes our recent home-damage experiences seem so much less important.

We arrived in McPherson in fairly good time (although without the strong tailwind we had enjoyed the day before) and set up at the McPherson RV Park and Horse Motel. We didn’t actually see where the Horse Motel part was, but we enjoyed this small and very basic park. We had a site that was long enough for us, with good utility hook-ups, and it was quiet and peaceful. We had already decided that, if we liked the look of the place, we would spend an additional day there, just to give ourselves a chance to rest and do some needed maintenance and cleaning. And, other than a humdinger of a thunderstorm, complete with hail along with the thunder and lightning, in the middle of the night, we had a restful stay there. We did have to drive into Hutchinson, about 25 miles away, to find a Walgreen’s to get a prescription refilled (the Walgreen’s in McPherson was still under construction and not yet open), but we were able to grocery shop in McPherson and that was our only outing.

This morning we left McPherson early, hoping to avoid at least some of the predicted strong thunderstorms, and headed straight north on I-135/US 81 through mostly flat farmlands and lush grazing fields. We saw horses, cattle, goats, mules and even a couple of buffalo. There were a couple of towns of some size but mostly it was open farm land. About 40 miles out of McPherson, however, the skies opened up, the lightning flashed and (we assume, since we couldn’t hear anything over the thundering of rain on the truck rooftop) thunder boomed. We turned on the Weather Channel on our CB Radio to hear that the counties into which we were headed were under a severe thunderstorm watch for the next several hours. Well, we could have told them that! Even though our visibility at times was severely reduced, we figured since we were on a flat, straight highway without a lot of traffic, we would just continue on, although we had to reduce our speed quite a bit for much of the time. But, since the storm track was reported to be north-northeast and we were headed dead north, we figured we’d run out of the storm area sooner or later and so we did. About the time we crossed into Nebraska, the rain abated – even stopped completely for a while – and we were able to continue our route without much trouble.

We’d traveled through a good bit of Nebraska in 2007 but hadn’t been in this area. Nonetheless, it looked pretty much like the parts we remembered. Even if the weather had been conducive to stopping to sightsee, there wasn’t much that looked interesting. So we pulled into our designated stopping place around noon (again in pouring rain) and got set up (with minimal hook-ups until the rain stopped later and we were able to finish the setting-up routine). We all sort of hunkered down, with the furnace providing needed warmth, for a couple of hours until things calmed down and we could open the door and look around at our surroundings, which are lovely (there’s a golf course right next door, which Margaret likes, and which reminds us of Smithers BC, where we spent more time than we expected to almost exactly a year ago, but which also had a golf course to provide great views and some entertainment).

So, after a quiet but nice birthday celebration for Margaret (and lots of long-distance birthday wishes via Facebook and e-mail), we will move on tomorrow into Iowa, just two stops from our ultimate destination for this stretch, Spring Green WI.

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