|We drove yesterday from Dalhart to Garden City KS. So we could go through Boise City OK (another town hit hard by the Dust Bowl) we took a secondary (or maybe even tertiary) US highway, which was actually one of the best roads we've been on, as long as we were in Texas. As soon as we crossed the Oklahoma state line, the road became very bumpy and narrow. Fortunately it was not far across the Oklahoma panhandle (otherwise known as "No Man's Land), so it was a minor delay. Boise City actually looks reasonably healthy, if small, contrary to Timothy Egan's assertion in "The Worst Hard Time" that it's virtually a ghost town. We saw neat houses, with healthy looking yards, and businesses that were clearly in business, although it's hard to tell how healthy they are. None of these towns, however, have terribly healthy-looking business districts. One wonders where people shop, since there are no good grocery stores or department stores within anything like a reasonable driving distance.
We picked up Highway 56, which we've driven many times, and followed it until it intersected with Highway 83 to go north. Along 56 there are numerous very small towns, with the grain elevator being the major landmark and perhaps the only real business in the town, Lots of junked cars, farm machinery and unidentifiable parts of things and buildings, including houses, that have been abandoned for some time, it appears. Between the towns there are endless fields of corn, sorghum (I think) and other crops that I don't know enough to identify. My father would have known and I clearly didn't listen hard enough when we traveled as children! We wonder how many of these fields would have been planted in corn before the ethanol "craze". All is irrigated, usually with the mammoth rolling arms that create a circular pattern of planting - seems like they waste the corners of the fields, but maybe if they can't be planted at all absent the irrigation, it's not a waste. We're city people, what do we know!!
As we turned north on Highway 83, we saw more endless fields of corn, interspersed occasionally with fields of grazing cattle. Corn and beef - cornerstones of the Midwest economy!! There was supposed to be a national buffalo preserve south of Garden City, but we didn't see any buffalo.
Garden City Kansas is located at the intersection of Highway 50 (the "Loneliest Highway" and Highway 83 (the "Highway to Nowhere"), and is surrounded by feedlots, which can be smelled from miles away. Not what I think of as a garden spot, but maybe the town was named in a hopeful spirit!
Today we drove north from Garden City, in search of a couple of attractions mentioned in my new favorite travel guide "Road Trip USA", by Jamie Jensen. One is Monument Rocks, or the "Kansas Pyramids", in the middle of the Smoky Hills. The whole area was once a huge sea and when it dried up, several large rocks, composed of layers of ancient seabed, were left in the middle of otherwise mostly flat and featureless countryside. They are amazing to see and totally unexpected.
We stopped at the Keystone Gallery, self-described as "conveniently located in the middle of nowhere", just because it was there and sounded interesting. It was, in fact, fascinating. Chuck Bonner, the primary mover behind the gallery is a painter and fossil hunter. He has some very large fossils on the wall that he found himself or with his father, together with a great collection of art objects made from a variety of natural materials (bought mostly from other countries, not made locally). We spent quite a while visiting with him and were fascinated.
We asked Chuck about ownership of some clearly abandoned houses down the road that we were interested in photographing (some of them were faced with the local stone that is disappearing, even from the houses, because it's so soft). He said they'd been abandoned for years and he had the key to the gate but he wouldn't advise going in there because there was a herd of buffalo grazing on the property! When we drove by there on our way back we were able to get some pictures from the road but, try as we might, we never saw any buffalo. We'll take Chuck's word for it, however!
We then took a loop through Lake Scott State Park, which is a very nice park around a reservoir. There is an RV campground there; we got information that we might use on a future visit. It seems like a very nice, peaceful place.
Within the boundaries of the park there is a reconstruction of an Indian pueblo, the only one in Kansas. It was settled in the 1660s by Taos, and later Picuris, Indians driven from their homes in New Mexico by the Spanish. Later occupants included various Plains Indians and, in an historical irony, Spanish soldiers. Not much there, but an interesting historical tidbit.
Off tomorrow to Nebraska.