The High Plains-Nebraska to Oklahoma to Texas and New Mexico
The realisation that each passer-by is living a life as complex as your own.
They do seem to go on forever, these midwest plains.
The endless fields of dead and drying corn, waiting to be harvested and the sorghum fields, almost as if someone has forgotten them. As we followed the railways South on small state roads, the 80 South to the 281 and then the 30 we passed grain storage areas, some old, some new, all seemed to need paint or just something to say there was some pride here.
I always try to see the beauty around me but with the gloom I struggled to find it. The cold temperatures and gray skies didn’t help. Looking for a glimmer of light here and there dancing off the fields took my mind off the endless grain silos. Like concrete and sheet metal monsters beside the roads they seemed ominous and one after the other after the other. A statement to what the life here revolves around, farming. At a small gas station where we stopped to refill our diesel there was more Spanish being spoken in the convenience store than English. Sonder, whether it is a word or not, it’s meaning and concept seems wonderful.
Could I live here? No, without a seconds hesitation. There is an air of depression to many of the small towns we passed through. The gas stations boarded up, the old cafes long closed, the signs were falling down and everything seemed to need a coat of paint, not every town, there were some that had an air of pride to them but so many did not. I have an admiration for those that do live here.
Maybe it was just that Fall feeling but it goes deeper than that I think. After the town of Grand Island we found a small state park, sadly right beside the Interstate 80 with all its traffic noise but a spacious area along the Platte River. A place to walk in the sunshine as it finally peeked out from behind the dismal grey clouds. A wonderful but still very cold feeling. There was electric in the park but the water and bathroom/showers were closed for the season, Mormon Island State Recreation Area.
The Platte River runs behind this park, an old slow-moving river that eventually runs into the Missouri, that eventually runs into the Mississippi…winding it’s way across the country. The banks show scars of floods and erosion.
We stayed two nights, time to get the front alignment done on the truck, something Discount Tire in Sioux City couldn’t do. The garage was on the outskirts of Big Island, dealing in tractor tires and big rigs mostly but the gentlemen were helpful and friendly as well as the other clients. Not much in the way of reading materials;) but better conversation with an older trucker than glossy pages. Filled us in on the area and farming he’d done, rigs he’d driven from milk trucks to his own. I thought he was in his late seventies. When he left the man behind the counter, a chatty fellow said, no, 89. The company he worked for gave him the easy routes and looked after him. He was going to retire but his grandchild died in an accident and then his daughter went off the deep end and had to be institutionalized, it was a sad tale. He kept driving the man behind the counter said so he didn’t have to sit and think about it…Sonder:)
From Grand Island we were on the Interstate a few miles to Kearny, then another small state road going South towards Kansas, the 183. We’d hoped to chase some warmth but a massive cold front kept pushing itself further South and the warmer temperatures and sunshine never materialized. We stopped at a small RV park in the town of Kinsley-in the middle of America, literally. Friendly people and a nice little pull through with grass behind and a nature path for Groot and Gamora to frolic in, as well as a friendly older cat, Groot was not impressed at all, I forget how few cats he has encountered in his life, this was a very friendly one at least:)
Kinsley has a museum, we stopped, and a sod house, it was closed, lots of stores were closed. Saturdays in a small town:) The sign was great. We found some diesel on the far edge of town before we headed out the next day to..Dodge, visions of gunslingers and banditos squaring off with the law…bad TV Westerns and dusty streets.
…for the life of me I can’t remember why, oh, that’s right, we had to refill the propane tank, nowhere in Kinsley to do that. Driving along the 50 through Spearville they had a “scenic stop” and information board there, pointing at the massive wind generators, mmm…not my version of scenic but I’m sure they are proud of it, and onto Dodge City where the “scenic outlook” looks out over a massive feedlot…no ground chicken in this town…lots of beef, and man, that feedlot WAS not scenic at all…we got the hell out of Dodge, always wanted to truthfully say that, it is my go to saying to skedaddle when we don’t like a place…ditto.
We had a few glimpses of sunshine the next day and headed South and West again, through small towns along the 54 to the 56 into Oklahoma. The countryside had started to change, from corn to more sorghum and small hills started to appear.
Although out of our way slightly, our goal was Black Mesa State Park and Nature Reserve and nearby Kenton where the Okie-Tex Star Party is held yearly in a truly black zone sky.
This was a beautiful stop, the morning after we arrived everyone pulled up and left us with the park to ourselves:) My kind of place. Lots of grassy areas to walk the cats and so much wildlife. Deer wandered a few feet away from the trailer early in the morning and we could hear birds again! The sun had appeared in the late afternoon and the lawns were covered in Painted Lady butterflies and Clouded Sulphers. What a delight!
Sadly in the evenings the fog descended, no night viewing the skies:( Bummer. It didn’t clear until later in the day. We took a drive towards the very small town of Kenton, and then back to the highest point in Oklahoma 4973 feet above sea level and to the dinosaur tracks:) That is what I wanted to see! In the dry bed of Carrizo Creek. A series of tracks reveal where a dinosaur slipped and caught itself before continuing on. The tracks are not marked from the road as they are on private land that allows people to view them during the day. There is a map at the park that shows the road.
The klutzy dinosaur was a theropod. Theropods are a group that includ such recognizable meat-eating wonders as T. rex and Deinonychus…0_0…the big boys!
A short nature path leads up onto the bluff overlooking the park. By late in the day the sun had started to shine only to disappear into the fog as the sun set again! Can’t catch a star gazing break! The early morning rush hour for the deer traffic kept the cats thoroughly amused looking at them through the windows as they wandered from campsite to campsite, along the river and up onto a small bluff where we watched from the windows…awesomness! But that weather!
Once again we headed South this time straight through the Westernmost part of Texas on the 385 to the 60 and finally into New Mexico…the SW…Oasis State Park is located South of Clovis, just North of Portales. It is an odd little park with a small fishing lake and views of the high plains. Not really much else up here. The park is undergoing renovations, no dump station but the outbuildings and pull through looked brand new.
An interesting stop, quails scurried everywhere followed by rabbits, Finches and Pine Siskins filled the bushes. The cats were not good helpers here for a photographer;) I was excited to see dozens of scaled quails, but they were very shy and flew off as soon as I approached. The Ladder Backed Woodpecker was quite co-operative as he flew from agave seed stalk to agave seed stock. Pecking at them furiously as the seeds flew out in all directions. The Finches were busy cleaning up after him:) The cats ran from window to window watching the rabbits. A pair of Coopers Hawks had a favourite spot in a dead tree, surveying their domain from the upper branches. Behind the park several nature paths wandered through sand dunes. We startled a Great Blue Heron as it hunted lizards, it left it’s tracks in the sand.
Our next jump was a short one…Roswell, New Mexico, it’s been on our list for a long time so we were excited to go. But that is another story. We want to believe;) 👽
Saludos amigos and stay tuned for more of New Mexico:)