Jan and Fred's Newest Adventure...May 2009 travel blog

Sunday was a driving day from Tulsa to Dodge City. It remained quite cool and rainy most of the day. On the way into town, we passed by a large monument called Coronado's Cross, which commemorates the site where Coronado camped as he traveled north while unsuccessfully searching for cities of gold. We also went by the Cargill Meat Packing Plant, the largest of its kind in the nation. A hub for the cattle industry, Dodge City is "home" to about 175,000 head of cattle every day. We set up camp at Gunsmoke RV Park outside of the town. Our neighbors had the same toy hauler we do, so we toured each other’s rigs and each couple got ideas on how to do some more personalization for our own RVs. They did not use the back room as a hauler, but turned it into a sewing room for Susie; Vince had built shelves in one corner, and moved the drop down shelf to the kitchen. We liked that idea a lot, so Fred may do that alteration when we get home in June. How many of you remember watching cowboy shows on television when you were young, like Wyatt Earp, Gunsmoke, Palladin? We were back in those times on Monday when we toured the Dodge City area. First we drove west of town to see where the Santa Fe Trail ruts, from many years of Conestoga wagons traveling by, are so deep that they still can be seen today. It was cool and windy today (we found out later that Dodge City is one of the 3 windiest cities in the US, and I certainly believe it after today!) but still it was fun to walk around and see evidence of the 19th century trail. There are many places in this part of Kansas where several different trails still have ruts able to be seen and touched. The Santa Fe Trail was used from 1821-1872 in the Dodge City region until the railroad arrived in town, but in some other parts of the country, the trail continued to be used until 1880. We learned that during this time period, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and other Plains tribes inhabited the region and wild game was abundant, including huge herds of bison. Fort Dodge was established in 1865, midway between two major Indian crossings of the trail near the Arkansas River, serving as an important outpost on the western frontier, offering protection to wagon trains and serving as a supply base for troops engaged in the Plains Indian wars. The fort administrators did not permit the sale of liquor however, so Dodge City was established five miles west of the fort in 1872, the same year that the railroad arrived; it grew into a “rough and tumble” western town, providing a trade center for travelers and buffalo hunters. Hunters were encouraged to hunt the bison, and more than 3 million were killed from 1872-1875, causing most of the Indians to leave the area. Since by 1875 the buffalo were gone as a source of revenue, longhorn cattle from south TX took their place, and the trail driving cowboys helped the town develop its reputation as the wildest town in the frontier. We took a walking tour of the town, visited what is left of Boot Hill Cemetery where many in the lawless town were buried, and also toured the Boot Hill Museum, a western history showcase, complete with a saloon, school, several shops, and blacksmith. Here we learned more about the true stories of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and other western personalities. The museum exhibits helped separate facts from the fiction of the western TV shows that helped make Dodge City even more famous. The third place we visited was the small town of Kinsley, located about 40 miles from Dodge City. On the way we passed a huge wind farm, with multiple rows of gigantic windmills. When we arrived in Kinsley, we were surprised to see a huge sign that stated that New York City and San Francisco are both 1561 miles from the town! The local museum housed a reconstructed sod home built by three long time residents who had all grown up in sod houses. Fred and I both enjoyed learning how the homes were built using a sod cutter, since neither of us had ever seen a real sod house before. The museum also had exhibits of Victorian era rooms, vintage clothing, tools, farm machinery and much more – too much to see in one visit, but that is all the time we had. We may have to come back to this area again because we didn’t have time to go to the town of Keane to see the hideout of the Dalton gang or to some of the other area attractions we didn’t even know existed until today. It just goes to prove that “you don’t know what you don’t know, until you learn you don’t know it” (from A View from Saturday, by E L Konigsburg).

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