But we were, and managed to visit the third big thing we wanted to do on the way to Alaska. In fact it’s one of Eight Wonders of Kansas. But first things first – getting to and driving in Kansas.
Holding It In The Road
To get into and across Kansas, we had two and a half tough driving days. Truly you had to have both hands on the wheel and brace yourself for gusts over 30 mph. The day I took a turn was on a two-lane road meeting semis. Those two things together made for a tense drive. The gusts were so bad that the windshield wiper blade kept getting blown out of the track.
So what do you do if there is incessant, maddening wind all day long? Harness it with giant windmills. These suckers are huge and apparently one of them can power over 300 households for an entire year. We considered flying our kite, but think it was TOO windy.
Biggest Little City
For our Wonder of Kansas stop, we stayed at a campground in Halstead. A sleepy little Kansas town for sure with ‘no J-turn’ signs in the downtown area. Of course U-turns are allowed right in the middle of some of those same intersections. We even found a restaurant that specializes in Sloppy Joes. Twisted Joe’s had at least 6 different kinds and the regular original sandwich was delicious.
Halstead with it’s grain elevator, railroad tracks and sign boasting “The Biggest Little City in Kansas”. Friendly people and a beautiful Catholic church, too, just right for Palm Sunday.
The campground was an odd mix of sites and people. We never really met anyone here, but it was so darn windy. We didn’t do a lot of social sitting if you know what I mean. The dog walks must go on, however, so we did explore around the campground. There was a huge dog park for ball chasing, but my favorite past times were blowing what dandelions were left and chasing the frogs. There were several ponds and the frogs were singing quite loudly. If you walked close to the edge of the pond, they started jumping in. Little ones, medium sized ones, and whoa buddy big daddies! Jackson even did a little frog scaring himself.
This guy was just under the edge of the RV, so I managed to sidle up for a few pictures. He’s giving me the evil eye though. I swear, some of them were as big as salad plates.
A few shots from our Kansas-style “hikes”. Walking down farm roads and admiring the young crops.
I believe this is baby wheat although the only crops I can truly identify are corn & cotton and only when corn & cotton are visible. Otherwise, we just use generic “crops” for any other green fields.
The geese on the campground pond made for a nice shot. Not sure what to make of the gnome collection in the Cypress knees. Unique for sure.
Strataca Salt Mine
You guessed it – Strataca Salt Mine is one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas and our destination for this stop. We read about this and just had to come for a tour. 650 feet below the surface and still an active salt mine.
I tried to get Pat to agree to the special, extra charge, Safari tour. That one goes behind the scenes further into the mine and you get more free salt chunks. Nah, we don’t need that he says. But when we get there and the ticket lady suggests it, we’re all in and get special yellow hard hats. So we do the train ride, dark ride AND safari – a total of three hours down in the mine! We had the 3:30 tour booked and Pat is pretty excited. Behind him is the “hoist” that took us down, down, down. They turn out the lights at one point and if your eyes are open or closed, it is exactly the same. Pitch black, total darkness, not one photon of light! The hoist is the only place that claustrophobics would have trouble, since it is very open in the mine itself due to the thick stratum of salt.
Here I am with a giant salt chunk. Also an old truck from the 50s. What goes down in the mine stays down apparently. Well, except for the people. Also, the conditions are a constant 60 degrees and completely dry due to the salt sucking the moisture out of the air. For those reasons, they use the mine for storage. Official copies of all your favorite movies are down here along with lots of other important documents. My attempt at a shot with Pat looking out into the mine, and he takes a turn at the pick ax. Well, not really. It was bolted to the wall.
Apparently, the mining operations are very similar to that of coal mining since coal and salt are both soft materials and don’t require water to cool the drill bits. I’m sure we’ll never have the opportunity to tour an active mine again and totally confident we wouldn’t be going down into a coal mine. Those are much more closed in with low ceilings, and also not the best air quality I’m guessing. The other guests had white hard hats and asked if we were the canaries with our yellow ones.
Finally, my favorite picture of the day from the ladies’ room…
When they put in the bathrooms for us tourists, they utilized the mine walls. The texture and salt veins were beautiful. I told the tour guy this would be the first bathroom shot for my blog. I won’t say the last since you just never know. This mine produces solely road salt and we were told “no licking”!
At the beginning of the tour, they had lots of quotes on the wall pertaining to salt. Everything from the Bible to famous contemporary people. My favorite –
“Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other tastes salt.” -Anonymous
That I-70s Show
Next stop, WaKeeney, Kansas at the KOA right off I-70.
We’re breaking up the Kansas drive in weenie chunks and stopped here for 2 nights for laundry, coach maintenance, and crafting. I made 19 cards. Notice the semi and green sign in the background. That is I-70 – right there! We called it “That I-70s Show”. Not a lot going for this place except easy on, easy off the highway. But we were rewarded the first night.
The full moon rose right outside the dash window. Pat said the big expansive sky reminded him of his childhood in North Dakota. No pesky trees, tall buildings or anything else for that matter to get in the way of that huge sky.
One Complaint & A Little Ingenuity
So, we’ve been at this full-time RV thing for three and a half months. We are still loving it and that is the good news. We’re still learning, and sometimes the hard way, but getting into a nice routine for set-up, bug-out and a mix of relaxing and touring days. Our one complaint is the shower temp. One word for you – cold! I am a hot-as-you-can-stand-it gal, so less than impressed with lukewarm and even cold showers. We bought some insulation at one stop and Pat did a good job of making it better, but still not good. I steel myself for the invigoration every morning and no amount of mind games makes it feel warm. Anyway, we think we’ve identified the problem and have a new shower faucet on order. Hopefully it is already in Cheyenne waiting for us at that stop.
Also, the moving and grooving in the RV jostles everything around. We have things strategically stowed to minimize the chaos, but you do have to watch it when you open any of the cabinet drawers after a drive. Things definitely have shifted in flight. We did come up with one ingenious idea though.
Pat cut up a swim noodle so we can keep all the things in the fridge from shifting all about. You still have to open carefully that first time, but it really helps.
The Family Furby
Last but not least, Pat’s family has a Furby that travels. His name is Poop, and he gets passed between the siblings for travel photo ops. He was last with us for Ethan’s high school graduation and Bahamas cruise in 2012. We picked up Poop from Pat’s sister Dee when we were in Springfield, and will be taking him to Alaska.
For now, he’s sleeping on the dash as we roll. He wasn’t too impressed with Kansas. I, on the other hand, appreciate that this part of the country feeds the world. There may not be mountains, forests and lakes, but there are those amber waves of grain. A different kind of beauty.
Here’s my shot from the passenger window that says Kansas to me. Two-toned fields, rail cars, towering grain silos and endless blue sky.
And that’s the way it was in Kansas! We’re now at the feet of the Rockies and ready to enjoy some more family time with Pat’s brother and family, two nephews and his mom. There might be a lag before the next post, but I’ll catch you up eventually. See you on the way!