Sunday, May 23rd – Fort Smith, AR to Garden City, KS
Today was the ride across the Oklahoma and Kansas prairie. The first couple of hours ride were spent on Interstate 40 and a turnpike to Tulsa. The northeastern portion of Oklahoma was beautiful -- rolling, wooded hills. While on the turnpike, I experienced the first of today's two close encounters with birds. The first was the most exciting. A buzzard in the median decided to take off toward the opposite lanes, only to decide he did not like the track-trailer truck approaching from the opposite direction. The buzzard made an abrupt U-turn. Suddenly all could see was this large bird, his wings fully outstretched and oriented vertically, only 20 feet or so in front of me (and I was approaching at the speed limit of 75 mph). I instinctively ducked -- we could not have missed each other by more than a couple of feet. This encounter was far too exciting!
After clearing Tulsa, I began zig-zagging my way northwestward across the Oklahoma prairie toward Kansas. The countryside changed over to rolling open prairie, gradually with fewer and fewer trees.
The wind beginning to pick up, which become even more a factor for me later in the day. As I reached the Oklahoma-Kansas state line near Kiowa, I encountered two separate thunderstorm cells. In the Midwest, it is amazing how these storms mange to form separately, yet fairly close together. The lightning was amazing to watch -- a large flash that then seemed to immediately trigger several other flashes with the initial lightning strike. The flat terrain affords incredible views of these storms. I was fortunate that my route took me close to, but around the periphery of these two storms.
After stopping for lunch in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, I proceed north toward Pratt. Along the way, I spotted a number of wind turbines. These were a new addition that were not there when I passed along this route two years ago.
Pratt was an interesting town. The city streets were all paved with bricks.
There was also a wonderful, old architecture movie theater that I spotted. I decided to stop and take a couple of pictures of the theater. That building was wonderfully restored, and the theater was showing current run movies!
From Pratt, I turned westward on US 400. By this time, the wind had become quite strong and was coming out of the south-southeast. I was constantly being blown from the left tire track over to the right tire track, in my lane. I had also become hot -- about 90 degrees. About 30 miles later, I drove through Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg was the town that was devastated by a tornado back in 2007. This was my second trip through Greensburg since the tornado, and they are continuing to work hard to rebuild the downtown area of the city. New since my last trip through here was a new hospital, complete with its own wind-powered electric generator.
I planned the Day 3 ride route so I could also pass again through the town of Mullinville, Kansas, which is home to the amazing metal sculpture of M.T. Liggett. A Google search of M. T. Liggett will find several web sources discussing him and his work. I discovered these sculptures while reading an article in the BMW Owners News magazine, prior to coming out for the 2008 BMW MOA National Rally in Gillette, Wyoming. I was not the only person to stopping here to admire the artwork.
While there, I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with a fellow from Topeka, Kansas, who stopped with his wide and kids to also view the artwork. Here are some pictures of Liggett's sculptures. There must be at least a thousand on display along the roadside.
Next stop was Dodge City and the Boot Hill Museum. The museum was very interesting, filled with many fascinating relics from the 1800s west. It had the unusual tourist-trap stuff, including the original jail, cemetery, a recreation of the the downtown storefronts, the Union Church, and preserved/partially restored Victorian home. It was late in the day, and the re-enactors were not yet ready to put on another show, so I decided to get back on the road.
After a quick fill-up, I pushed on to Garden City, Kansas. The wind continued blowing strongly, and string thunderstorm cells could be seen ahead of me. Fortunately I reached Garden City, Kansas, shortly after one of the thunderstorm cells had just passed through. After checking in, I learned the area was under a wind advisory (it was bowing around 28 mph, with gusts to 37 mph). I later heard that the thunderstorm cell that passed through Garden City developed a tornado as it moved northward around Goodland. I had seen enough for one day and had no desire to be close to a tornado.
All told, another great day's ride. Another 499 miles. Tomorrow, a half day's ride to Denver, Colorado, and a visit with my good friends, John and Betsy Dietrich.