It’s been an interesting few days. We’ve been chasing rain the whole time – sometimes ahead of it, sometimes behind, sometimes in it. Our fourth day out, we arrived in Laramie, Wyoming. Generally, Laramie has over 300 sunny days a year. We arrived under dark clouds with light rain, windy of course. We had coffee with a young man I knew when I lived there. He has finally been able to begin living authentically and is much happier than I remember him. And in the evening we had supper with four very dear friends – lots of conversation and laughter and love. During dinner, the rain came, hard, but it stopped before we left their house for our motel.
We stayed near the university. Since the university is mostly empty this time of year, the motel upgraded us and put us in a two-room suite. The living room had a half bath, and the bedroom had a full bath with both a walk-in shower and jetted tub. It may have been the nicest motel room we ever stayed in, and it was quite a bit cheaper than the rather seedy place we’d stayed in western Wyoming. We were tempted to stay a week, so we could enjoy the room, but we set off again the next morning.
From Laramie we continued east on I-80, over the summit east of Laramie that is the highest point on the highway between New Jersey and San Francisco (8,640 feet), and then down the long slope into Nebraska. From Sidney, we headed south to switch from I-80 to I-70. We trust the car’s navigation system, but it does mislead us at times. The road from Nebraska to Kansas followed the eastern Colorado border, more or less, on all back roads. Sometimes there was a centerline and sometimes not.
And for four miles or so, it wasn’t even paved. But the roads were pretty empty and we didn’t meet anyone on the unpaved portion.
We stayed overnight in Goodland, Kansas. Our motel had quite a few people who were there for their high school reunion. Lots of good energy and happy talk. I thought that many were about my age until I learned that a fair contingent had graduated high school eleven years after I did.
I like western Kansas. It is open land, either grass or crops, flat or with a little roll, sparsely populated. This time of year it is very green, with a huge sky above it. Many of the western fields are irrigated, but we saw fewer irrigation pivots until by mid-state there didn’t appear to be any. We headed south at Salina, which is about halfway across the state.
As luck would have it, a friend from church in Portland had just moved to a small town in Kansas to be near her daughter. Looking at the map, we discovered we would pass right past her new home, so Andrea called her and we made a short detour to visit with her. She just got there four days before and has to wait another week for her furniture, but we had a warm visit. It was an unexpected delight.
Motels are sparse between Wichita and Oklahoma City. I had selected one in Mulvane, Kansas. The motel is huge. The desk clerk told us it is the largest Hampton Inn in the US, and the third largest in the world. I didn’t ask where the other two were. When I had made the reservation, I was offered either a smoking or nonsmoking room. I thought that was odd, but it was Kansas. Well, it offers smoking because it is at a casino. We went into our nonsmoking room and it smelled, faintly, as if someone had been smoking there. But the smell wasn’t bad, and I figured I’d get used to it. But before a half hour was up, my sinuses were closing up and I was developing a sharp pain under my eyes. I asked for another room. They confirmed that this was a nonsmoking room, but evidently someone had cheated. They gave us a different room – one on a nonsmoking floor.
The casino and motel are not near anything else, so we ate supper in the casino. The finer dining room is nonsmoking and isolated from the room with all the slots and other games of chance. The meal was delicious.
At Wichita we hit our first toll road. We traveled toll roads in both Kansas and Oklahoma. For some of them we needed exact change to go through the gate. I don’t know what would happen if you didn’t have change – there was no capability to take a charge card and no human toll taker. It whittled down my stash of quarters I keep for doing laundry on the road. And the toll roads aren’t very welcoming to visitors. The people with transponders zoom through the gate while us out-of-staters wait in a queue. I hate toll roads.
In Oklahoma we stopped to charge the car at the Hard Rock Casino in Catoosa, just east of Tulsa. We had lunch in the casino diner while it was charging. Fortunately we decided to share a sandwich, because the portions were huge, and half of one was plenty.
And then we headed into the Ozark Mountains.