Saturday, May 11, 2013



        The weather channel on TV provided us encouragement before we packed gear into the car. The sky looked promising, a thin high overcast with a few cotton-clouds allowed the sun to warm my skin.

        We pulled away from the motel in search of a breakfast for me. Dr. Bobo skipped the opportunity while I enjoyed a fresh, home-style donut washed down by a cup of coffee.

        We looked to the horizon north and west.

        "The report this morning is a lot better than what I got from the Internet last night," Dr. Bobo said.

        "I don't see a bad cloud in the sky," I said, wondered what we'd encounter nearer the Rocky Mountains.

        Flat and gentle rolling hills spread to the horizon in every direction over grassy fields cordoned off by rows of trees or fences. Light traffic shared the smooth two-lane roads with us on our journey to Coffeeville, Kansas.

        Vinita, Nowata, Opossum Creek flew by. Primate listened to the whine of our car tires, paid attention to passing semi-trucks, WOOSH!

        WELCOME TO KANSAS indicated we were close to our next low point. We searched for the owner of the property on the east bank of the Verdigris River without success. The west side approach looked to be an easy amble across a flat, untended field with an open gate. We chose the field on the west side.

        Shallow standing water in low spots across the field, and spots of soft mud, necessitated we pay attention. A narrow band of trees with moderate undergrowth about twenty yards from the bank slowed us.

        "Poison," Primate said.

        "That looks like poison ivy," I told Dr. Bobo, worked my way around and through suspicious looking plants.

        The muddy bank required our care to descend and a well-positioned tree and fallen branch at water's edge helped us prevent an unwanted swim. We each touched the river with one foot for a photo at the Kansas low point on the Verdigris River at 679 feet.
Connard  Avoids Falling Into KS Low Point.

        To wash off possible poison ivy residue, I rinsed my arms with puddle water in the field, and again with soap at the car. Good enough? We'll see.

        We continued towards Wichita, through Wichita, left Wichita behind. Pavement stretched ahead, cobbler-crust flat, light green and dark green fields flanked both sides. Blue sky, white clouds, warm sun above, the road stretched ahead. Highway overpasses allowed us panoramic views. Somewhere beyond the horizon lay the Oklahoma panhandle and our next high point.

        "Flat, flat ... flat, flat, flat." Primate interrupted his boredom with an adopted mantra.
        The road stretched ahead. The air grew thicker with haze. The clouds spread wider, shielded more of the land from the sun. Rays of faint milky sunlight touched the earth in the distance ahead and we crossed the Cimarron National Grassland.

        "This still looks like a dust bowl," Dr. Bobo said.

        No mountains to see, no waters to fish, small towns separated by miles of flat, dry, scrubland, connected by straight roads with little traffic. I couldn't imagine living here in the 1930s. I couldn't imagine living here now. We couldn't arrive at our campsite for tonight soon enough.

        We chose a tent site in Cottonwood Campground within Black Mesa State Park, an idyllic setting to daydream of the old west and American Plains Indians, retreated into the car to escape the cold wind and eat our meal of canned-chili with instant rice and spicy peppers in peace. An after dinner appertif of cherry brandy highlighted a near encounter with a group of eight deer that browsed past us.

        We covered 559 miles today.

        Low points - seventeen; high points - eleven.

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