Spending time with my extended family in Kansas turned out to be a blessing. My grandparents drove me to Wamego, where we reviewed family history. I looked out the window as my grandmother narrated the tour; she pointed out the house where my grandmother was raised and the small building that was her schoolhouse.
The most exciting new development is that I have a new road partner – a reliable, adventurous gal I’ve christened: Carol the Corolla. When we took off Monday morning from Topeka, my heart filled with joy. Finally, freedom on the open road …in a climate-controlled vehicle, where snacks and drinks are at my fingertips, and storage space is plentiful. Sorry Ol Dusty, but after three months of riding 2 up through all elements, I have a new appreciation for cars.
I grew up in California, but being in Kansas I feel a sense of nostalgia for simpler times I never knew. The roadside views in Kansas are classic Midwest. Hay bales and crop fields neglected for the winter. I drove through the flint hills to Wichita which were covered in dry stubby, gold grass for as far as the eye could see.
In Witchita, I stopped to see my aunt Katie and uncle Dave. It was lovely to catch up and meet their precious dogs. We took a quick tour of the city, which included an unexpected luminary show at The Keeper of the Plains monument. Katie treated me to a delicious sushi dinner, and a new cold-weather sweater from the local goodwill. It is very warm and cozy, in fact, I am wearing it right now.
I left Wichita early the next morning with a plan to be in Austin, TX before dark. I ended up getting stuck in traffic through Dallas and Austin which delayed my ETA, I totaled 8.5 hours on the road. In Austin, the visited McKinney falls state park and my dear friend Kaitlin. Kaitlin is a fantastic woman who’s support has gotten me through rough times. We went out for tacos and scored some of the best I’ve ever had from a truck. I’d like to back to Austin for a longer visit and check out the music and art scene once COVID becomes less of a concern.
My drive south out of Austin was incredible. I took a scenic route on the 207 which took past vineyards, ranches, and wineries. Johnsonville and Fredricksburg were adorable historic towns worth stopping in.
After a couple more hours of driving miles of well-paved winding desert roads, I ended up at Governor’s campground outside of Del Rio in South Tx. I found a campsite with a view of the river and waited a few minutes before I was reunited with Johnny and Dusty! My spirits lifted at his meeting his eyes, It was wonderful to each other again. The 4 of us are a complete blended family.
The next morning we headed for Big bend, caravan style. We lucked out on the weather, It was cool air and hot sun all the way. I was stunned by the beautiful vastness of Big bend. It is packed with nature that leaves me in awe of our planet! Big Bend has incredible diversity for a desert: rock formations, mountains, forest, and the river marsh, all have variations in their ecosystems.
We stayed at Rio Grande village on the first night. I cooked up beans, veggies, and rice for dinner. We set up a picnic on a crest with an epic view of the sun setting over the mountains. Hitting the southwest feels like a pre-homecoming. It is familiar and safe to me. The desert has a magical quality to it, like time gets lost here. The low brush makes it easy to see far out over the landscape. The sunsets are long and fill the sky while mountains and rock formations cast shadows on the plain. In the dim orange light and the warm blowing wind, I stripped off my clothes and danced on the rocks. This is my version of heaven, nothing feels more natural.
The next day we drove to the Chisos mountains. Which were an Oasis of green trees and beautiful views. Afterward, we took the scenic route through the Catalon ruins of past agriculture, military, and homestead setups. We stop at Santa Elena valley overlook, thought of the time millions of years ago when water cut through the landscape shaping this valley.
It took a 17-mile bumpy journey on a dirt road to get to our resting place: Biker haven club. It’s a very basic campsite outmoded the park, run by a very friendly dedicated local. He welcomed us to the “club”.
The next day we explored the town of Terlingua. It has a rich history of culture. Mining put it on the map, but that dried up. People stayed for its rough beauty and isolation. The town is small and a portion of it features abandoned stone buildings built by hand. We visited the cemetery in Terlingua which is historic; some occupants are very old and have graves marked by a mere cross over a pile of rubble. Others have artistic decorations and personalized offerings. I walked this graveyard with reverence and curiosity. Everyone is a special person to someone. I can feel love, and heartache in this unique resting place.
3 thoughts on “We’re not in Kansas Anymore”
Wichita is our favorite small city. You mentioning it and the Flint Hills triggered lots of great memories!
Thank you so much for taking us along on this great road trip. I too like visiting old graveyards out of curiosity. Great post.
Thank you for reading!
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