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"There's no place like home."
Or was it 3 times? Anyhow, I'm in Kansas now.
I had been warned by friends that Dodge City was kind of a cross between a theme park and any number of towns in the Rio Grande Valley. That's not far wrong. I arrived late, and after trolling through town I knew I wasn't staying. There's a lot of history here, but it's way too late and too hot to dig down through the kitsch and find it. So after a visit to the Dodge City Public Library to straighten out an email problem, I high-tailed it out of Dodge.
Speaking of which,I'd appreciate it if those who have been emailing me would send it text only. Apparently, in marginal areas, where I am wont to be, my cell-phone connection chokes on pictures and attached graphics. When that happens, I can't get anything until I get on the web and delete a lot of it.
It's sort of like what happens to the black tank, when you don't use enough water. 'Nuff said.
I arrived Wednesday night at Cedar Bluff Reservoir, on the Smoky Hill River, after a 7 mile winding trip down a dirt road in the dark. There was a fortunate full moon. $11.50 for a site on the water, no hookups. About 85 degrees at 9 PM, though it cooled down to 70 by morning. Cool breeze off the water, and birds calling each other out there. There are advantages to opening the windows and turning off the AC. You can hear things.
In the morning I went on up to Ellis, which is a nice little town, the sort of place where you can get a really good hamburger at the bowling alley, which I did. This used to be a railroad maintenance center, and there is a museum, with a huge RO gauge diorama, a lot of authentic tools and memorabilia. A fella in a striped cap, who used to work telegraph for the Union Pacific, showed me an area he had built to mimic his old office. He demonstrated what was meant by a "fist" - a particular rhythm by which you could recognize the individual telegrapher sending a message.
Upstairs is the Doll Museum, with over 1600 dolls. For some reason I didn't get around to that.
Ellis was founded by immigrants from Bakovina, Austria. They stepped off the train here in 1886, and built the place from scratch. One of their number was Samuel Chrysler, the father of Walter Chrysler of auto fame. His boyhood home is a museum now. I didn't go in. In the RR museum, they showed me a pay sheet signed by Samuel in 1892- his weekly pay was $128. Twenty years later his son was making that much every 5 minutes or so. But it must have been good wages at the time. I noticed only two other guys made as much on that sheet.
You can camp in Ellis under the trees along Big Creek for $15.
The Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays is a must if you have young kids. It celebrates an earlier era in Kansas history - about 80 million years ago, when all this area was the bottom of a sea. Even now it is nothing unusual for the bones of giant fish to turn up in quarries, and even Mammoth at higher elevations.
I'm having trouble making progress to the North. Every 30 miles or so it seems there is another adventure waiting, whether pioneer museums, mammoth bones, or just a waitress with a tale of woe. As I'm not a farmer, the land itself isn't too interesting to me, but the 2 legged critters on top of it sure are.
I am writing this last from the shores of Lake McConaughy. All along Hwy 30, I wondered what turned the mighty Platte into an irrigation canal, and this lake is most of the answer. There's terrific lightning to the north, and the wind is shaking the trailer. I've got to go lower the bathroom vent before it is torn off. Then I'm going to bed and listen to it rain.
See you later.
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