Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 06

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote: to travel is to live.” ~Hans Christian Anderson

We had breakfast in our room (Post Honey Bunches of Oats and RBTT) and were on the road by 8:04 back to Highway 50 after a short stint on I-25.

At Rocky Ford, Colorado they were celebrating National Back to School Day and a sign wished good luck to The Rocky Ford Meloneers (ever heard of a melon as a high school mascot?). We have noticed lots of signs showing many kinds of melons for sale during the last few days.

After getting coffee at Dog House Espresso in La Junta we decided to find Bent's Old Fort. Note to Mileage Madness gamers – add 14 miles for the extra miles spent on Colorado 194 roundtrip to Old Fort.

Bent's Old Fort was one of the most significant centers of the fur trade on the Santa Fe Trail, influencing economies around the world. It was opened in 1833 and became one of the pillars of the Western fur industry in the 1830s and 1840s. The fort was located on the Arkansas River, the international boundary between Mexico on the south and the United States on the north. The post played a major role in U.S. Expansion into the Southwest leading to the establishment of the present-day United States boundaries.

On one of the display boards was the following poem:

Buffalo fresh, buffalo dried,
Roasted, boiled, stewed or fried,
Buffalo serves in every stead
For poultry and pastry,
for meat and for bread.

(Doesn't this remind you of Bubba's ode to shrimp in Forest Gump?)

The old buzzards were very impressed by the detail with which the fort gives visitors a view of what life was like for residents of the fort. There is everything from chickens to a functioning blacksmith's shop. There is a complete kitchen of the era with ingredients that would been used in their meals. There are living quarters, a dining room, stored provisions, furs spread out to dry, a trade room, a carpenter's shop, a well room and many other features. Each is very complete with furniture as well as small items. And the really fantastic feature is that you can walk through the rooms. The entrances aren't roped off as they are in many historic sites.
They have farm animals like the fort residents had....sheep, chickens, horses, mules, steers, cows, peacocks and pea hens. The docent brought in about a dozen eggs she had just collected from the hens. Two pea fowl graced the courtyard of the fort. Back in the day, if you owned a pea fowl, you were considered to dwell in the "upper" class.

There were living quarters and a billiards room (men only allowed) where it is reported that strip billiards was played for male entertainment and some of the losers would inevitably end up nearly naked. There were also games of cards, backgammon, chess and checkers.

The docents and rangers were all very friendly and helpful, making our visit even more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Fannie was welcomed in all areas so all three of us got some well-needed exercise as the fort was a little of a hike from the parking lot. John figures about a mile, round trip, plus what we walked in the Fort.

And on our way back onto Highway 50 we stopped on Colorado 194 for photos at a few oddities we had noticed on our seven miles of backtracking. In today's photo gallery you will see a John Deer mailbox, some old buildings and a modern looking home with sod covering as a big part of its structure. It looked like it would be very well insulated. It was so tempting to go knock on their door and ask for a tour. Maybe next time . . .

We stopped in Lamar, Colorado for lunch at 12:25. Using Wilma's GPS, John found nice shady Willow Creek Park. It was just a few blocks off the main drag. Linda had a boiled egg, whole wheat Pringles and Tarvin tomatoes. John had a La Quinta banana and a rice cake smeared with a little peanut butter.

Linda took over as driver at 12:50 as we departed Lamar. Some quirky business names viewed as we made our way back to Highway 50 were Thoughts in Bloom (a florist) and Check Inn (a motel)

We try to photo the welcome signs at the state lines but they are sometimes hard to see in time but we did get welcomed into Kansas at 1:30 by a sign. However, it was fully 50 minutes later before we saw a trace of a sunflower. Actually, so far we have seen more sunflowers in Colorado than in Kansas. We did not pass the line for a time change until about 20 miles into Kansas. That is because the four counties in northwest Kansas are on Mountain Time and the rest are on Central Time. That must get confusing at “times” for people doing business in both zones.

At Cimarron, Kansas, the Lazy Blue Jays were being congratulated on a sign for being State 3A Champs. Maybe the team isn't as lazy as the name of their mascot. Moments That Matter is the name of a photography studio seen as we went through Cimarron.

No state seems to have a franchise on road work. There are lots of jobs provided all along our route so far. When we were on the last leg of our trip we came to a full stop near the main drag of a tiny town. We had to wait for the flagmen to let us go on the one lane that was in use. We watched a cute little old man toddle from the corner grocery with his just-purchased cold drink. He came across the street to the Post Office and stood there watching the stopped traffic. A postal employee noticed him and thoughtfully brought out a chair for him so he could relax and enjoy the view. We then noticed that lots of other folks (mostly older) were viewing the stopped traffic from the corner store. We decided that they must be pretty hard up for entertainment. Either that or they are very easily entertained. Glad to help.

We had intended to stop near Garden City at a bison preserve but learned that reservations for a tour are necessary. Apparently the buffalo have to get all spruced up for guests. How would you like to give a mani-pedi to a 2000 pound buffalo?

The crops in Kansas seem a lot healthier in general than many we saw in Colorado. Lots of corn and grains looked to be sadly lacking for moisture and may not even be worth harvesting. John noticed several corn fields with signs at the end of rows of corn indicated $0.40 less per gallon than unleaded regular.

We got into Dodge City at 5:15 and went to check in to America's Best Value Inn. They had sent us a welcoming email a couple of days ago about our reservation and how they were looking forward to having us stay with them. However, apparently they have recently changed their pet friendly policy so that if you have a pet you must stay in a room that is a smoking room. That didn't sound appealing so we went down the road a bit and found a very nice La Quinta where our room is on the second floor. Fannie hates elevators with a capital H so it is good that we are not on their fourth floor. The good news is that she does love stairs and we can all use the exercise.

The La Quinta staff recommended a place called The Bad Habit as a good place for John to find some Kansas beef. It was quite nice and John thoroughly enjoyed his filet mignon, salad, cottage cheese and Texas toast (just half a piece). Linda had an excellent Southwest chicken salad with a glass of moose drool from Missoula, Montana. She was surprised by what had been described as corn chips on the menu. They were Fritos which John pointed out ARE corn chips. And, they were good in the salad.

Okay, then, our 50 photos from Bent's Fort and along the farm road are posted in today's photo gallery. You can view them by clicking here.
Good night all! Happy Trails!

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