Mazda Westward! Pt. 2

I left St. Louis at around 8 with plans to make it to Kansas City for lunch. The drive though Missouri wasn’t too bad. It’s much more interesting than the drive through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, since at least there are rolling hills throughout the state. I stopped about halfway there and found a huge memorial for firefighters and some much needed internet access. I perused various reviews of Kansas City Barbeque. The results varied, but most at least admitted that Arthur Bryant’s was a Kansas City classic. I also remembered seeing the restaurant during some Travel Channel special or something, so I pretty much HAD to go. Two hours later I arrived. The line was literally out of the door. I thought about leaving, but Bruce Willis’ photograph up on the wall begged me to stay. So Bruce and I waited in line, and 30 minutes later I had a delicious open-faced pulled pork sandwich triple wrapped in butcher paper and was on my way again.

I drove about 20 minutes South, sandwich in tow, to Watts’ Mill, site of Missouri’s first geocache. I found the nearly 10 year old ammo can hidden down the creek, then downed my sandwich with envious fishermen looking on. I couldn’t finish it. I thought about asking the old fishermen if they wanted the remains, but I couldn’t decide if they’d be delighted or offended at my offering.

My detour put me 15 miles South of I-70. I decided it’d be faster to cross the border and take Kansas Route 10 through Lawrence instead of backtracking. For those first 40 miles of Kansas countryside, it was not at all what I had envisioned. For some reason I had imagined that crossing the state line would magically turn the landscape into a flat and barren land. Instead, there are rolling hills and plenty of trees. I passed the University of Kansas just before returning to I-70. There was a geocache just before the highway, which I foolishly decided to attempt. It was titled “If You Really Want To,” which should have been a warning. I walked through knee high poison ivy, only to find a creek with a 20 ft cliff separating me and the coordinates. I managed to work my way down into the creek, but as soon as I stepped in I began to sink. And sink. And sink. I couldn’t pull my foot and sandal up together, so I had to abandon the shoe, I managed to reach into the mud elbow deep and retrieve the sandal, caked in mud and sand. I tried to wash off in the creek but just started sinking again. Oh well, my car wasn’t going to be new forever.

I pressed Westward, returning to I-70. It’s a tollway for part of Kansas, apparently. It wasn’t so bad, though, since I had skipped most of the tolls by taking Route 10. The landscape slowly turned into the stereotypical Kansas, endless prairie occasionally broken up by ranks of wind turbines or oddly gigantic churches. Even the highway seemed oddly empty. Many of the gas stations don’t even have an attendant or convenience store. They’re credit card only. I finally got off I-70 for the day at the lovely Ogallah exit, on my way to Cedar Bluff reservoir, where I would camp for the night. A pair of Dutch people with New York plates asked for my help in understanding the camping permit system as I was scouting out camp sites. I eventually chose a primitive site on the south side of the lake, with an awesome view of the sunset. I chowed down a couple more granola bars for dinner and read some more mandatory reading by headlamp. I kept the rainfly off so I could stare at the stars. The sky was one of the brightest I’ve seen, since there weren’t any real towns within at least 50 miles. I fell asleep listening to the grasshoppers climbing up the tent and falling back down again.