Adventures in Kansas

Well…she dun did it. Connie promised Neil an adventure yesterday…she advertised it as “the adventure portion of the cruise”…and darned if she didn’t come through as it turned into a 4WD required adventure and then eventually a “we’re turning around and not trying to take a $100K truck and bed over that obstruction because there ain’t any phone signal out here” adventure.

But I digress…let me go back to the beginning.

We arrived here Tuesday afternoon after a 280 mile drive from Junction City…pulled into the Goodland KOA, checked in, and proceeded to our nice pull through FHU site #62…which strangely enough is the same site we were in back in 2013 when we were here the first time.

After setting up we decided to head over to the Crazy R Bar and Grill on Main Street about a mile or so away and have a couple of brews and dinner. The brews were less than fully satisfactory…Bud Lite was the best thing they had going…so we ordered a couple of tall ones and after checking out the menu Connie ordered Fish and Chips and Neil a Crazy R burger which had bacon, pepper jack cheese, and grilled onions with fries on the side. The fish was pretty tasty but the burger was actually pretty outstanding as well…it had that nice greasy spoon crispy burnt goodness ‘round the edges of the patty and was actually still pink as requested. After dinner we headed home for TV and bed. Here’s a shot of the neat bar back in the Crazy R (which actually has the R upside down on the sign). Notice the tricycles, farm implements and other stuff hanging from the ceiling and there are dozens to hundreds of old road signs, advertising signs and other signs hanging on the walls as well.

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Wednesday we did absolutely nothing…we were tired from the sitting around and making decisions stuff over at Camp Horizons so we stayed in and vegetated. Dinner was left over meatloaf and mashed taters that Neil had made on Memorial Day. We did get a huge thunderstorm with 60 mile an hour winds and pretty darned torrential rain for 30 or 40 minutes right before dark…even got a few hailstones landing on the roof. Weather radio going off with flash flood warnings…but there aren’t any creeks or streams near us so it was mostly a wind and rain show for us.

Thursday was our first Fun Stuff© day…the plan was to go up and see the Akikaree Breaks in NW Kansas which are some Badlands in NW Kansas and eastern Colorado. They were formed about 10,000 years ago by blowing sand which then got concreted into something the geologists call loess. The Breaks are in between the high plains of western KS and the high plains in eastern CO…no idea why the loess formed there but it’s been sculpted by water over the past 10,000 years into the rugged Badlands type topography we have today. Connie found a pdf file on the interwebs that laid out how to go on the driving tour to see them…but let’s just say that this particular set of directions were not done by the National Park Service. Don’t know who did them…but they must be southern in heritage as the directions were really of the “go down yonder aways and turn right at the big rock” and “it’s just past the old Miller place (no matter that the Millers owned it 3 owners ago and it’s been abandoned for the past 25 years)”. Sure…there were signs…when they hadn’t fallen off of the post or been turned around the wrong way…and sure, there were distances specified…but in this case 2 miles really meant somewhere between 1 and 3 miles.

Anyways…we left Goodland about 1000 with a picnic lunch in the cooler and set off for St Francis KS up KS 27 and KS 36 but shortly after we started the driving tour at the bridge over the Republican River…which turned out to be about 6 feet wide and Neil could have leapt over it pretty easily…the road turned to dirt/gravel and we began the Adventure Portion of the Tour©. Mostly…the road was pretty good…dirt and gravel but dry and reasonably well graded. 

Our first couple of stops were at 2 of the only 4 springs in the entire Breaks area which is about 30 miles north/south and 4-5 miles wide. Following along with the tour directions we had…we were on the lookout for these red signs about a foot square on the side of the road to match up with the numbers on the tour guide…at least they were usually small red signs but not always as will be seen. 

Here’s the first spring followed by the second one…I guess the water was flowing in them but that doesn’t look like a whole lot of water to support crops or cattle…luckily in later years the settlers dug wells…as neither of these was more than 4 feet wide and maybe 6 inches deep.

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We did see some wildlife along the way…this gopher snake was out in the middle of the road and only grudgingly crawled to the side. It’s the largest snake in Kansas growing up to 7+ feet long…this specimen of which you can see the whole length was 5-6 feet and maybe 3-4 inches in diameter. Although Neil and Connie are firm believers that the only good snake is a dead snake…he decided that the rule didn’t apply as long as we were in the truck and it was out side so we let it live.

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Our next stop…which included the first 2 of our many “where are we supposed to go now” ponderings…was the Horse Thief Cave…which back in the day was a large cave down in a gully used to corral stolen horses but today everything but the entrance has collapsed. We headed off the main tour route the specified 2 miles…and when we didn’t find it by 4 miles turned around and headed back. When we got to what we knew was the 2 mile point we found that the little red sign had been nailed to a post but the top nail had come out and the sign was upside down and low enough so it was almost hidden in the grass. We were also tricked by the description of the turn as a “winding, narrow road”…this turned out to be true about 2 miles down the narrow winding road but at the intersection with the other road it was straight and wide, it didn’t get winding and narrow until it went down into the gully. We went down…and then up the other side with no sign of the red sign for the cave site. At one point we passed a mailbox sitting by itself right alongside the road…but it had a name on it so we just asked ourselves “who lives out here, there ain’t a sign of civilization in sight” and went on. Again…turned around after another mile or so and headed back. Lo and behold…on the side of the mailbox away from the direction you came from it said Horse Thief Cave…and up on the top of the roadside bluff there was a round white sign that said Horse Thief Cave…again on the wrong side so that neither sign was visible as you came in following the directions. We dutifully got out and got some photos…but didn’t enter the cave area as it was fenced off. I’m guessing that we’re looking from what used to be the back of the cave and the collapsed roof is what you can see…as the view out the entrance hole appears to open onto a flat area.

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Here’s a shot of the yucca plant which besides the grass is the predominant plant life out here…they happen to be in bloom this week. Very similar to a lot of the palmetto palm and similar that we see down in Florida…would not have expected to see them out here in a pretty dry landscape.

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We headed back to the main tour route and continued along. We started to see the actual Breaks…this gully is probably 200 feet deep from the road.

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And you can start to see the rolling Badlands terrain in this one…easy to see how you could be just a couple hundred yards from somebody and never know they were there.

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Some more of the local wildlife…hey, you take what you can get. We saw these birds which we could identify as swallows based on their flight but none of the pesky things would stay still long enough for a photo. From our very abbreviated glimpses of them we think they were either Bank Swallows or Norther Rough Winged Swallows but didn’t get a good enough look to identify the key characteristics for either one.

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We continued on up the tour taking pictures as we went…stopping finally at the “highlight” of the tour according to the tour guide…a place named Devil’s Gap.

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I left this one with Big Red in it in just for scale and to show a better representation for what the terrain looks like…the gully in the shot above is probably 60 feet deep, 200 wide, and the far end of it where it goes around behind the tan rock you can see just to right of center is probably 300 or 400 yards from where Neil was standing.

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You know what this is…right? Why it’s the little house on the prairie of course…and while it isn’t The Little House on the Prairie of Laura Ingalls Wilder fame…it is a lower case little house on the prairie. Abandoned of course…must have been because THERE”S NO WATER HERE.

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After Devil’s Gap…the last stop on the tour was at place named 3 Corners. What’s 3 Corners you ask? Why…it’s just like 4 Corners except it only has 3 instead of 4 corners. It’s actually the spot where the states of KS, CO, and NE come together. Anyways…according to the tour guide we had to proceed across privately owned land and we should be super careful to not damage anything, don’t kill any cattle, and stay on the road so that the state didn’t lose the permission of the landowner to go there. And this was where the really Adventure Portion of the Tour started. We turned in across a cattle guard and…according to the tour guide…it was 3.5 miles to the marker for 3 Corners. What the guide didn’t tell you was that the darned road forked with no indication of which way to go. We got to the fork and after a couple minutes deliberation and looking at the GPS app on our phone to see what direction the corner was in decided to go left…with the proviso that if we were wrong we could just go the other way as we were already 2+ miles into the private land portion of the road. We headed ‘round the ridge that was in front of the fork…and the road…if you can call it a road…got really muddy. So bad in fact that not only did we end up in 4WD with Big Red but were actually in 4WD Locked for maximum power. We made it through the mud but then got into a section where the road was sort of sunk between two banks on either side and was barely 2 pickup trucks wide. Nonetheless; we continued until we ran into the aforementioned obstacle. It actually wasn’t that bad and if we had a jeep we would have continued. The road was angling up from the muddy spot and we were on a grade of probably 5% or 6% but the last 4 feet before a cattle guard was probably 30% and then when you got to the guard itself the road surface had sort of washed away so there was a foot high concrete block to get up and over to get the wheels onto the cattle guard. On the other side it sloped back down and Neil decided it was too likely that we would end up high pointed on the cattle guard with the wheels up in the air…and by this point the cell signal was pretty much nonexistent so we decided that discretion was the better part of valor (not to mention the really expensive truck we might break).

The only problems were that (a) we weren’t sure we had taken the right fork anyway and (b) the road was too narrow to turn around in. Neil could have…maybe…done a 27 point turn to eventually get turned around but we decided to backup until we found a wider spot…he remember seeing a turnout into a cattle watering tank area about a quarter mile back down the hill just after the muddy spot. As we backed down…we spotted an F150 coming up…but he had a raised suspension and those knobby off road tires on his truck. We let him pass and he got over the cattle guard fine…but then he was narrower and was able to get way to the right side where the concrete block to climb wasn’t quite as tall.

After they passed…and we did verify that we were on the right fork…we backed up, got turned around, put the 4WD back on for the muddy spot and made our way back to the public but unpaved road we had spent most of the day on and headed home. Pro tip though…when we got to the last puddle before getting back to the public road Neil lost sync and failed to slow down so we went through the mud puddle at 15 miles an hour…consequently he will be heading over to wash Big Red over the weekend.

We got home and had a chicken dish with rice on the side for dinner…he made a cream sauce seasoned with the last of our fresh basil from the notary down in Fort Myers, some pizza sauce, and parmesan cheese…it was really tasty and we’ve got leftovers.

Today (Friday) we went out for our second tourist thing to do in Goodland Kansas.

They actually have what is billed as the World’s Largest Van Gogh painting here in a city park…here it is.

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It’s 24×32 feet in size and is a reproduction of a Van Gogh painting named Three Sunflowers in a Vase. Just to prove that it really is the world’s largest…here’s another shot showing the whole thing…that little speck in the blue shirt down by the right hand leg of the easel is our own Connie.

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From there we headed over to the High Plains Museum…the only other tourist attraction in town. A small museum that’s currently under remodeling but it’s still open so we wandered through for a half hour or so.

Here’s an old photo of Main Street in Goodland from the ‘30s…I can tell you it hasn’t changed much. In fact, the low building second from the left is actually the building that has the Crazy R Bar and Grill in it.

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Finally for the Fun Stuff© portion of the post…here’s a couple of shots for our friend Bill Napier who…as you know…is a plane guy. It’s actually the first patented and working helicopter. It was named a gyrocopter by it’s inventors William J Purvis and Charles A Wilson…who were granted US Patent 1,028,781 back in 1912 for it. Unfortunately…they were actually not very good inventors as they hadn’t solved the torque problem and it was underpowered and basically uncontrollable. Their company…the Kansas Aircraft Company…dissolved shortly after the patent was granted and the two partners left town separately and were never heard from again. Since they were based in Goodland…the city fathers had a replica built from their patent in the early 1990s.

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OK, on to interesting stuff found on the net…but in view of the fact that this is already a long post I’ll be brief.

First up…an old work buddy of Neil’s named Keith Meidling sent him this picture with a note that basically said “saw this and thought of you since you were in submarines”.

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Here are some North Korean Generals…

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Childhood photo of the actor Morgan Freeman.

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And finally…shooting a bear doesn’t make you a badass. Feeding a polar bear while her cub humps your leg makes you a badass.

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Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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8 Responses to Adventures in Kansas

  1. Cat White says:

    OK. Kansas badlands checked off the list of places to go. Good luck with getting the mud off Big Red.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      It was actually a pretty decent drive…with the exception of the 3 Corners portion of the trip. The rest of it was pretty nice…dirt road but graded and pretty much dry so we didn’t get too dusty from that. We would have actually not gotten dirty at all even on the muddy road if I hadn’t forgotten to slow down for the big puddle right before we got off the private land. It was just a puddle, not a serious mud hole…I crept through the first time since I wasn’t sure how deep it was but just forgot to do it again on the way back out.

      >

  2. Joodie says:

    Just popping in to say I really enjoy your blog particularly because of the humor. Thank your for sharing your journeys and the laughs along the way!

  3. Barb Pollock says:

    Hi, Loved the pictures of the badlands, they are not has craggy as the North Dakota badlands but still beautiful. I don’t know if Tom would take the little Chevy truck out there but I will put this place on our list of possibles.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      I would not have taken anything but a high clearance vehicle over that cattle guard…being at the top of the hill and then on the little ridge on top of that with downslopes on both sides I would have been afraid to be sitting on it with no wheels on the ground. They were also sort of different looking badlands than those up in the Dakotas…those had the high bumps closer together than these generally did…instead of just being gullies in between the hills like in Dakotas it was almost like small valleys that you could build a homestead or small field in.

  4. I love your travel tales and the humor that comes with it. Sure wish I could do something like this but all Joe wants to do is Golf and drink beer. ya think my next life would do it? I do.

    Enjoy, enjoy , enjoy. I know you are.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      We are enjoying ourselves…after getting the rig fixed we spent the last week just chillin’ out in Goodland Kansas as you saw from the post…heading further west tomorrow with Fun Stuff© scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

      Glad you enjoy the posts…I try to keep it mostly G or PG rated…although I’m certainly not adverse to innuendo:-)

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