Thursday, 29 October 2009

Kansas U turn..

In the Great Plains areas of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas I was constantly reminded of all the old movies about the American West that aired on British TV in the 70s. Cowboy hats everywhere, thousands of cattle in huge flat fields, painted ponies, palominos, mustangs, Broken Arrow, Dodge City, Shawnee, Cherokee and Cheyenne.

The Great Plains states are where a lot of this history unfolded and it is still cattle country. It is also where many of the Indian reservations are which means you will occasionally see Vegas style casinos which are technically illegal in these states but legal inside the reservations.
You also see a lot of small oil pumps dotted along the road from Oklahoma and throughout the fields that dominate Kansas. Huge open spaces interspersed with tiny towns whose power stations loom out the distance like huge battery packs. The only other things that appear with any regularity are gas stations and truck stops and I still haven't been able to make a decision on the trucker's choice.

The drive from OK took us quite a long way into Kansas. As far as the town of Hutchinson to be exact. We then checked into a cosy and friendly motel where we did our huge pile of laundry for the absolute bargain price of $2. Down the road at the excellent Lone Star restaurant (with a great modern country music soundtrack) we had a steak and a beer. Suddenly we realised that in the tired haste of the previous day’s decision to head north we had completely forgotten the fact that we had both really wanted to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Looking at the map we realised that we couldn’t be in a better place to change our minds. Route 54 from Hutchinson took us almost directly to Albuquerque passing back through a sliver of Oklahoma and the North West corner of Texas. So the following morning we turned back and headed south west.

For the first time so far in this trip we hit a bad weather front but not the worst part of it. Also it was moving in the opposite direction to us so in the end we had just under 2 hours driving in heavy rain. On such flat ground there was an amazing 360 degree view of the whole weather system we were under and I will never look at clouds in quite the same way again. Being able to judge the speed, height and density of every layer of cloud so closely meant you could see everything that was coming from a great distance. When a thin but consistent, line of light finally appeared on the horizon we knew we would soon be driving out of it.

It was truly awesome and just this taste of it convinced me that I would possibly have become one of those mad storm and twister chaser people had I been born in Kansas. Talking of twisters we came out from under the cloud in the town of Liberal, Kansas where we found this….

.... and apparently the Land of Oz itself is just to the left of this sign. I may not have got to Oz but I was definitely in Kansas so why T-Mobile kept sending me text messages saying ‘Welcome to the Isle of Man’ I will never know….

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