Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CROSSING KANSAS

"With a sky of blue and a cold ground
And a windmill stalled in mid air.
We head across Kansas
On our way home
Colorado, thank you good bye

Kansas you fooler you're making me smile
Cause I never seen you this way before.
You sure do look better
When it's this way we're headed
Home sure will feel good to me."

Excerpt from "Kansas You Fooler"
Larry Lee/Ozark Mountain Daredevils 1974

We had been on the road over two weeks on our trip around the northwest United States and now my sister and I began our last day of the journey.  The day that would take us back to Missouri.  We had spent a few days at Linda and John's in Fort Collins.  Now we had driven south to Denver to Interstate 70 then turned towards the east and into Kansas.

Western Kansas is as desolate as a desert only with grass, farms and an occasional tree.  It is flat allowing you to see the weather at least fifty miles ahead.  There would not be any thunder storms sneaking up on us.  The road does not rise or fall or curve.  You point the car towards Kansas City and let it go.  You can make pretty good time out there on the prarie as long as your sister remains asleep in the seat next to you.  Whenever she would awake from her nap we would lose a little time but she was not awake for a lot of the trip across the flat lands.

Elaine had decided that she was no longer interested in adventure but I still had a taste for it.  Trouble is that out in western Kansas there isn't a lot of adventure to be found and so I drove along while Elaine snoozed on and off during the morning hours.

It was during one of her awake times that I saw the first sign.  "COME SEE THE TWO HEADED CALF" it begged us and carried a cute little painting of a small calf with an extra head sprouting from its neck.  I immediately took the bait and told Elaine that we needed one more adventure and this just might be the way to end the trip.  She did not agree.  According to her we were not going to stop and go out of our way and slow down the arrival in Missouri to see a freak of nature that may or may not actually be there.  They might just have photo's of the thing instead of the actual thing but I figured that they at least had a stuffed version of the two headed calf.  No matter we were not going to stop to see it.  We were going to get home.

As I drove along the signs became more frequent the closer we got to the exit for the two headed calf.  Each time we came upon a sign I would carry out my duty by waking her up to tell her how many miles we had left to make a decision on the two headed calf adventure.  Each time she would give me a look that seemed to ask the question "Are you insane?" which I probably could honestly answer to a certain degree in the positive but it was her way of say that we would not be stopping.  Still I continued to wake her each time a new sign came up.

We finally came to the last sign. "COME SEE THE TWO HEADED CALF-THIS EXIT!!!" and there was that cute little painting again.  I woke Elaine for the last time saying it was time to make a decision.  According to her the decision was made earlier that morning.  We would not b stopping to see a two headed calf.    She seemed rather agitated and pretty stern about her decision so I decided not to push it and to start looking for another adventure that we might take out in the middle of Kansas.

The new adventure eventually presented itself in the form of a Stuckeys sign.  I had taken many trips with my parents and on my own or with Barb and had seen Stuckey signs every where we went but I had never actually stopped at a Stuckeys.  I looked over and found my sister to be asleep once again.  I began to debate in my mind whether a trip to a Stuckeys would count as an adventure or not.  On the one side it was a place to eat.  Not exactly an adventurous type destination.  On the other hand it was a destination that I had been deprived of for years upon years.

What was this Stuckeys like?  I wondered about that and then I started calculating time by how far we were from the Stuckeys and came to the conclusion that we would be hitting it just about at lunch time.  I decided to give it some more thought and proceeded down the highway.  While I was thinking about the Suckeys dilemma I would keep my eye out for other possible adventures that may present themselves to us.

I came to find out that adventures in western Kansas along the I-70 corridor were few and far between.  After we had left the signs for the two headed calf behind us it seemed the only sign I could find were those Stuckey signs and we were getting close to it.  A decision would have to be made before too long.  I glanced over at Elaine and finding her napping once again decided to think about the situation on my own for awhile longer.  No sense in involving her in a decision excersize when we still had a ways to go until the decision would absolutely have to be made.

Before I realized it The last Stuckey sign showed demanded exit at the next ramp.  I could see the ramp miles ahead and started arguing with myself one last time.  I finally made up my mind that Stuckeys indeed did qualify as an adventure as we were starting to pass the exit ramp.  I turned the wheel hard to the right throwing Elaine into the car Window and out of her sleep as we raced up the ramp that would be our door to adventure.  Elaine was not amused at having be woken up so suddenly.  Believing that my decision on Stuckeys being an adventure that we should take would calm her down and she would see the logic in my thinking I began to explain all the arguments I had been having with myself leading up to the final decision.

She was not amused.  She did not agree with me.  You might even say she was a little angry or at least a little perturbed about the manner inwhich I had awoken her from her nap time.  That being said, while she could have protested the adventure and stayed in the car, she decided not to and followed me into my very first Stuckeys.

Stuckeys, it turns out, was not much when it came to being an adventure.  The closest way it was to being an adventure was that it was putting me in a place that had been off limits to me my whole life until that very day.  The Stuckeys was a cheap fast food place.  That is the best way that I can describe it.  Hamburgers and hot dogs, maybe some eggs and bacon.  Basically it was set up as a place for the truckers to take a break and get some cheap food.  That was half the store.  The other half of the store was filled as a souvenir shop mixed with a Quick Trip.  They were set up to sell cheap gifts to weary travelers with small children.  These parents would be needing a rest from the long straight stretch of highway.  You do tend to get tired driving in a flat straight line so I could understand parents needing to get out of the car and stretch for a bit.  As for myself, I have to admit the trip to Stuckeys was a bust as far as an adventure is concerned.  It wasn't without its value though.  I found out what the elusive Stuckeys was about and now that a trip to Stuckeys is out of my system, I won't be tempted to stop in the future if the opportunity ever presented itself to me again.

As for Elaine and myself, the rest of the trip would be pretty much uneventful.  We would arrive in Kansas City and stop by mom and dad's.  Then would drive out to the ball park where Brett was playing a game and check in with him and Barb.  Following that we would drive up to the airport to turn in our rental car before heading back to mom and dads so Elaine could rest before she headed home in a day or so.

The trip had been great.  It had been full of adventures including some that we weren't expecting to find.  We started with the adventure to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and ended with the adventure to a Stuckeys somewhere in the middle of Kansas.  It was a beginning to remember and certainly an ending that I am sure Elaine will never forget.  I know I won't forget the last adventure.

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