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Published: March 29th 2019
We headed east out of Taos, on another winding mountain road, but this time knowing both the winding and the mountains would soon be at an end. It was a pretty busy road, and, unfortunately for those stuck behind us, there were no passing lanes. So we led a frustration parade, and I thought about how I used to feel about old farts towing trailers on good "sports car roads". Yes, now I am "that guy".
We drove down into a beautiful high valley and passed the "Angel Fire" ski resort. We had heard that they had closed for the season, and we saw no one on the slopes even though the snow looked great to us. Past Eagle Nest Lake we climbed a low pass and entered into the gorgeous Cimarron Canyon. This was the way of the old Cimarron Pass section of the Santa Fe trail, a lot of Conestoga wagons must have climbed up through here. This was also very near the Boy Scouts Philmont Ranch, and we were surprised to see that there were large areas burned off here. We both hoped that it was not from those Scouts being careless with their campfires.
enough, as we came into the famous old west town of Cimarron the skyline to the east opened up. There were still a few buttes and low peaks to be seen, but we were clearly heading onto the high plains now. We had resolved eschew the interstates and to stick to the old Federal highways as long as possible, so we stayed on US 64 out into the open lands. No real mountains here, but the occasional elevation sign showed that we were still over 6000' -- hence, the "high plains".
As we left New Mexico and entered into the Oklahoma Panhandle, we began to parallel the Santa Fe RR line. We had been trying this whole trip to get an engineer blow his airhorn for us. This involves waving and making the hand-jerk gesture, but to this point we had been unsuccessful. Now a west-bound mixed freight was coming close-by on my side, so I rolled down my window and gave it one more try. Success! We were rewarded with a most satisfying long, loud blast. Better still, his load included one of the most interesting cargoes we've ever seen. On long flatbed cars they were carrying four
jetliner fuselages, brand new, still bare aluminum. I did a little research later and found that Boeing builds their 737 airframes in Wichita, then ships them to Renton WA for final assembly. So those are certainly the new "Max" series planes that are now so much in the news for all the wrong reasons -- interesting.
We kept on with the easting, diagonally across the Panhandle, and then into Kansas, a state that neither Cathy or I had ever visited before. Now all the dramatic landscape features were gone, and we kept noticeably going downhill. I could tell, because between that and the modest western tailwind we had, our ScanGauge was showing over 18 mpg -- I only wish we could do that all the time. Every town we passed was exactly the same, rail line to the north, then grain elevator, then highway, then town to south. Every one was spaced out about 10 miles apart, how do the folks here tell them apart? Our objective for the night was the famous old western railhead, Dodge City, and as hoped, we reached there before dark.
I thought it would be appropriate to give our faithful old truck, Moby Dodge, a look at his namesake city. I was surprised though to find that it is located in Ford County, that just doesn't seem right! Cathy got us a spot at a little Mom&Pop RV park, it wasn't much to look at, but it was fine. I wanted to relax and get a sit-down dinner, but there was nothing within walking range, so we unhitched and drove downtown. We did have a nice light meal and a beer, and we enjoyed watching all the trains, Dodge City is still very much a railroad town.
The next day it was more open road cruising, and I enjoyed it. We only go 62 mph, that is my self-imposed V-max when towing, so I honestly believe we make just as good time on these roads as we would on the busy interstates. Eastern Kansas became quite hilly as we approached Missouri. We crossed into the Show-Me State and began to climb up into the Ozarks. We got a spot at another non-de script RV park near Lake of the Ozarks. It was early enough that I could spend a little time before dark fussing with the trailer lights, some day I'm going to fix those properly!
We (or at least I) were in full "Head for the Barn!" mode now. So I thought we could be home in 2 days from here. We had to admit defeat and get on to the Superslabs now. There are a limited number of places where you can cross the Mississippi, and here the "back" roads are no longer fast and clear. So we headed out again the next morning for St Louis, then across the big river into Illinois. As soon as we crossed, I started to see eastern white pines along the hills, that makes me feel like I'm already home.
Into Indiana we went, the roads there are still terrible, I don't know how they stand it. Pushing on, it was Ohio next, around Dayton and then through Columbus. It was getting late and after dark now, cold too. So we decided to get a motel room to get a good sleep for the next days final push. I felt a bit bad to be abandoning Fred for the night, but our first real bed in 5 weeks felt pretty good.
The next morning it was up to Cleveland and onto I-90, not much navigation required now. East to Erie, then Buffalo, past Rochester, hang a left in Syracuse and head for the River. We rolled into our yard at about 7 PM on Wednesday, having left Taos at 11AM on Sunday. That's a pretty quick trip, we don't drive fast, but we drive long.
All in all it was a great adventure, and we had a wonderful time. I want to thank my co-pilot and navigator, she did a great job, and I really wouldn't want to do it without her. No certain plans yet, but there is talk of a Baja trip next year, how much farther afield can we wanderers roam?
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