Friday, June 1, 2012

2012-16 Laverne Oklahoma to Dodge City Kansas


Laverne Oklahoma

Dodge City Kansas

Campground:  Sunrise Rv Park.  Passport America rate: $10.  $2 extra for 50amp.  Full hookups.  13 campsites, all pull-thrus.  Real basic campground on the edge of town.  But it works for an overnight stop.

Campground:  Hawleywood RV Ranch, 11347 East Wyatt Earp Boulevard  Dodge City KS 67801.  An Rv sales store w/small repair shop.  I asked if I could stay overnight for two nights after the repairs were done to my camper.  Cost $8 per night, Electric only.  Cheaper than staying at one of the two campgrounds in Dodge City ($30+).


Since I was heading west anyway, I thought, why not see what this panhandle area of Oklahoma is all about.  It’s just a strip of land sitting above the panhandle of Texas after all.  The drive from Bartlesville was a long one all along those secondary roads, most with paved shoulders and occasionally not.  I prefer having that extra strip of concrete there, especially when big ole trucks come barreling down in the opposite direction.  The scenery changed from  those scraggly stunted oak trees to wide open gently rolling prairie land.   Large tracts of grazing lands and cattle.  Half were rich green in color and then there were the wheat fields already golden colored and ready to harvest.  The change was so sudden it was like entering a whole new country.  These are the wide open spaces and huge blue skies I so enjoy, though I’ll be a bit sad to leave all those thick forests behind.  Miles down the road and the prairie is suddenly dotted with sage brush quickly overtaking all the grasslands.  It’s pretty but useless to farm or graze cattle on.

I finally arrive in Laverne Oklahoma.  A dusty little town (pop 1344).   Home of Jayne Jayro 1967 Miss America.  They even renamed main street after her.  I just report the facts folks and that’s pretty much the extent of Laverne Oklahoma.

I ended up here  because it’s on my way out west and it has a small Passport America campground, but not much else.  Though it does have the very basics, a grocery store, two restaurants, gas stations, a post office and a drug store.  I arrived over the Memorial Day weekend, away from the state park campgrounds which are always filled over the major holidays.  After setting up and thinking this could be a really nice experience staying in small town America, things quickly changed when I realized that my toilet, after flushing it, would not stop running.  Ekk!  It could have quickly overflowed, but I ran outside and turned off the main water spigot.  Now here I am out in the middle of no-where and not an RV repair shop within a hundred miles and it’s a major holiday and the closest Rv repair shops have closed for the long 4 day weekend.  What do I do?  Well, it’s not the most elegant solution but I bring in a bucket of water at a time to fill the sink, wash dishes with, flush the toilet when needed and will take a sponge bath this evening, splish splash havin a bucket bath in the shower stall.  And that’s how one rolls with what one is given along the back roads sometimes.

With a windy evening is in store, I’ve battened down the hatches and am in for the evening.

On another note, I was wandering around a Wal-Mart the other day (in another town) and happened to go down their discount isle.  I usually don’t see anything I need even with the additional discounted markdowns, but this time I found a small terabyte backup disk drive.  It’s about the size of a wallet and cost, $90.  It’s designed to only do backups and restore files.  No software to load or setup, just plug in the USB connection and it starts pretty much by itself.  So now, every time I attach it to my computer, it looks for new files and backs them up.  Great safety net for the next time the computer should crash, or I decide to upgrade to a newer computer.

30 miles down the road just as straight as it could be as it rolls over the high prairie country side I‘m in search of history.  Vast ranches with oil rigs on every one of them,  I’ve arrived at Shattuck on this fine sunny Memorial Day.  There’s not too much to see in this small town with 90% of the store fronts empty along the broad main street in town but I have found the Shattuck Windmill Museum and Park.  It’s a tribute to the windmills that first made living in this remote part of the country possible. Pumping up water to feed small gardens,  provide drinking water for the people and cattle that graze on the high country pastures.  The names of the windmills range from the small 5ft Star Zephyr to the big 18ft Railroad Eclipse.  Two of the last windmills to be manufactured were the Kerkwood Steel Mill and the Dempster.  Only one windmill manufacturer remains and the parts to fix so many out of production models still out in the fields are getting harder to come by.  I talked to a handsome young man with his wife and two kids as they toured the windmills as well.  He fixes many of the windmills but says they are being replaced by solar generated pumps these days.  Efficient for sure as they gradually replace those symbols of the old west.  I learned that the size and height of the windmills was determined by the depth the pipe had to be drilled into the ground.  The deeper it had to go, usually between 200 and 300 feet,  meant that a larger diameter pipe would be required to deliver the water to the surface.  Making a larger windmill necessary to do the job of pumping the water from those deeper depths.

The Windmill Museum also has a one and a half story 1900 farm house and a 1904 small half-dugout soddy.  The soddy would have been the first home to most pioneers out here.  This one, built into the side of a hill has caliche rock walls and sod roof.  After the pioneer was able to build an above ground home the soddy would often be used as a cattle barn.  The small house which had a tiny living room, kitchen and parents bedroom on the fist floor and the half story attic with it’s narrow steep steps is where the 3 boys and one girl slept.  Occasionally during the winter months the school teacher also slept in the attic.

A pleasant drive on a mild sunny Memorial Day weekend.

Unit Drilling Rig #311
Speaking of living arrangements, much of the work out here is either on those large ranches or working for the oil wells dotted all across Oklahoma.  My next door neighbors are in “unit drilling rig #311”.  It’s similar to a single wide mobile home, except that it only has two windows and a door.  I’ve noticed that three guys go off to work in the evening and that a larger crew with about 4 or 5 vehicles arrive after the evening crew has left for work.  Rotating shifts and filling up what I can only imagine is a dorm type setting inside the trailer.

Dodge City, Kansas

It’s Tuesday and it must be time to move on up the road.  I’m heading to Dodge City Kansas because it’s the closest I could find for RV repairs.  A short 80 mile drive.  I arrived at Hawly-wood Rv Center and they were able get me in ahead of a quickly mounting list of appointments for service.  Less than two hours later, they were able to complete the work on the errant water closet problems and I had them add a shut off valve, so if I ever have any problems in the future, I’ll be able to quickly shut off water to the toilet.

One of the many grain elevators, often called The Cathedrals of the West

Dodge City has had quite a history and as you know, I enjoy learning something new every day.  Back in the mid 1800’s a number of forts were constructed to protect the wagon trains of pioneers from the nomad Indians as they went west along the Santa Fe Trail.

The Government then thought, how do we get rid of these Indians as they seem to be much better fighters than the Army sent out to protect and defend this new territory.  Ah-ha, lets kill all the buffalo so the Cherokee and other tribes won’t have any food and will have to move on.  Before the mass slaughter began, there were over six million buffalo on the open plains and prairies. The first year it was advertised that hunters could kill as many buffalo as they wanted too, 2,000 hunters arrived in the Dodge City area to begin the slaughter.  By 1889 there were 549 buffalo remaining of the original 6,000,000.

The second phase of Dodge Cities growth came when the Texas longhorn were carrying a deadly tick disease called splenic fever.  Kansas kept moving the cattle drive further west to protect it‘s own cattle, finally landing in Dodge City where the cattle would then be loaded on to railcars for transport to eastern cities.  Dodge City is still a cattle town and rail center today.

Of course we all know Dodge City through all the westerns and Tv shows about this famous town.  With all it’s outlaws, bandits and robbers.  Along with the wild drinking, gambling halls and brothels and partying going on back then in the 1800s.  The good guys, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman along with others cleaned up the town.  An interesting note is that Boot Hill, where there’s now a complete recreation of the original towns Front Street, never had any famous gun slingers buried there.  It was an unofficial grave site and those who got killed we poor and destitute type folks and were buried here on Boot hill.  Although the remake of the old town is ok and contains many historical artifacts, the shootout which occurs a few times a day is the highlight both for kids as well as all us adults.  One interesting note is that the last Marshall to hold office in Dodge City met John F Kennedy while he was traveling through the state on his campaign trail for president.  The Marshall gave J. F. K a cowboy hat in honor of his visit and when he became president, he invited the Marshall and his horse riders to be a part of the presidential parade.  Bringing history right up to the modern day present… well for some of us.  How many years ago was J.F.K president?  It doesn’t seem all that long ago does it?

Bessy, maybe your next hamburger or steak?

The next day I took the Trolley tour which was pretty cool as the trolley was not only air-conditioned, but it also had nicely tinted windows to ward off those bright blue sunny skies.  Giving a bit of history via a well recorded presentation, overall a pretty good presentation.  Great way to get to know a town quickly and determine if there is anything one wants to go back and visit with more detail.  The area is still a major center for processing beef.  Yup, this where ole Bessie is fattened up from around 600 lbs up to 1,000 lbs before she becomes that burger your going to have tonight.  The Excel Company has over 2,500 employees and processes 6,000 head of cattle each day.  Another factory in town does about half that.  Moooo, Ekk, Yum… ?  Passed by the large Train Depot that once housed the Harvey Girls Dinner.  A popular stopping place all along the Santa Fe and Topeka line.  It’s currently not in use as there is a ton of black mold and no one wants to take over the place and go through the expense of cleaning it up.  Bummer…

On my own I drove a short distance out of town to see the ruts created by those wagon trains that passed through this way along the Santa Fe Trail.  Even though it was early morning, it wasn’t early enough to see the subtle tracks created by those wagons.  But what the heck, the expansive scenery of the plains more than made up for it.

A stormy night.

A severe storm was predicted for most all of Kansas tonight, so I took precautions as best I could and found out that NOWA was right across the street at the Dodge City Airport.  They have a safe room in case of a tornado.  The storm kept coming closer and  closer and of course I was watching it on the news minute by minute as well as my cell phone.  I went out in the calm before the storm and took a few shots of the darkening clouds then ran inside as the wind picked up very quickly.  Almost blowing me away.  With the winds continuing to pick up, the rain starting to come down and the sky turning pitch black, except for an ominous cloud that was a deep red and looked like sheets of rain touching the ground, I ran to the truck, hopped in and quickly drove across the highway to the airport directly into the wind.  The rain coming down now in sheets, I drove into the parking lot of the NOAA offices with the huge white radar bubble just behind building and looming overhead.   I had to ring a bell to get into the building and after a breathless explanation of where I was staying (in a trailer across the street from them), they let me inside to wait out the storm.  It was over relatively quickly only lasting about 35 minutes.  I thanked them profusely for letting me stay until the storm blew over.  Or the worst of it anyway.  What an exciting evening not soon to be forgotten.  My heart is still racing a little faster than normal as I drove back to the camper.  The sun coming out only for a few minutes and producing a huge rainbow.  The sky then turn black once again, lighting flashed across the sky followed by huge crashing booms and the city lights twinkled off in the  distance.

Thanks Guys for letting me stay here until the storm was over with
More photos on Picasa

1 comment:

keyward9 said...

Hey Doug...sounds like quite an adventure! I love a good storm, although haven't had the opportunity to try one out in the RV.