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November 25th 2014
Published: December 5th 2014
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KansasKansasKansas

Endless driving
This is it, our little road trip came to an end and we are relaxing in College Station (well we still have to bring our car back to Houston tomorrow so knock on wood). We have been here for a couple of days with my friend crashing on my couch, trying to relax before he takes the long way back to Italy and I take a totally unknown way down to Mexico. I left you with the news that we were leaving for Kansas and Oklahoma, and indeed our trip took us through Wichita in Kansas, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma (dah!) and a short ebola stopover in Dallas.

So, first things first, we left New Amsterdam in Colorado heading East, towards the "Heart of America", also known as the corn and sunflower basked of the United States. Of course in these cold months we could not see either, but we did get a good stereotypical impression of the state. Coming from Denver and heading east, one goes further away from the Rocky Mountains and more towards the flat and extremely rural center of the US. In fact, Kansas is the geographical center of the country, although it is far from
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Corn
being the economic or political one. Originally we were planned to head to Kansas City in the extreme east of the state. But as mentioned many times before, distances in America are something else and driving takes you hours and hours of passing beautiful landscapes, nothingness and fastfood joints on the way.

So a quick look on the map and we decided to stop somewhere in the middle of Kansas, from where we could turn down south, heading back towards Texas by crossing Oklahoma. There was a dot on the map at this crossroad and the name of the city is Wichita (a name we both never heard before). As Kansas City is technically only half in the state of Kansas, Wichita is officially its largest city with about 380.000 inhabitants. Not much to mention about it, except that the aircraft production centers in the city have branded Wichita the "Aircraft Capital of the World" and the small place has several airports to prove it.

We arrived in Wichita at dawn, after driving through the endless wintery orange-brown cornfields of Kansas and stopping for an Arby's Burger in the middle of nowhere (I don't remember the name of
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It's a long road
the village but there was a creepy clown museum pretty close-by). We booked our usual motel somewhere in the suburbs and, at least in our first impression, we ran into a pretty generic American middle-sized city. Same motel, same room, same furniture, same sink, same McDonald's sign up the street, same Walmart on the other side of the road. Tired but not tired enough, we took our car and drove a little up-town towards the city center, which in Wichita is not really the usual high-rise downtown but something like an "old city", with a couple of streets preserved for pedestrians. Unfortunately, there was nobody except a couple of cars we crossed on the way so we decided to head back. The apparent emptiness of American cities in comparison with European an particularly Asian places is something I want to discuss in one of my next entries.

After our little ride in the town we decided to call it a day, shower, a little TV and back to our motel beds. Next morning we woke up shrouded in heavy mist. Believe me, I lived in the North Italian plains for quite some years and I have seen quite some
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A typical American highway scene
fog... in this case Kansas brought back some nostalgia. We drove back up to the old city for lunch (a burger of course), had a little walk, but the chilly temperatures soon convinced us to wave Wichita goodbye. We tried to pass by a native American statue called "the keeper of the plains" but we could not find any nearby place to park our car and it started raining so we were quite happy to head south towards Oklahoma.

Now, something you should know is that some small parts of the US obscurely ask you to pay toll for their highways. So far we only have encountered it in parts of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. This would not be the main issue but often you can't pay it directly on the streets and have to get the tag somewhere else (we never really figured how it works). Easy way out, we told our GPS to avoid toll ways and lead us through the toll-free streets to Oklahoma City. Easy beasy.

So after leaving Wichita our GPS immediately directed us out of the highway and towards smaller streets in the countryside. As soon as we left the urban area
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And more corn
we were surprised by even thicker fog and I mean fog that really blinds you up to the shortest distances. For about an hour we followed the GPS south, in the direction of Oklahoma passing only small houses, trailers parked in front yards (again), tractors and endless corn fields hidden in the mist. After some time our GPS obviously made us turn the wrong way and we decided to go on by ourselves, trusing in our maps and spider sense...

Meanwhile the mist got thicker and thicker and our mood visibly heavier. At some point we reached the border with Oklahoma and stopped for some fast food (oh America you never disappoint). As soon as we went a little deeper into Oklahoma the weather visibly changed and by the evenig it almost looked clear.

Next day we woke up with another surprise: heavy rain pouring from grey Oklahoma slies. We eventually made a short visit to another abandoned downtown in Oklahoma City, had an icecream in a mall and took off direction Dallas. At this point the mood was "lets get back to TX as soon as possible" and lets not die on the road doing so.
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Downtown

Things got worse when on the highway righeg in front of us a car lost control, went off the street, flipped over several times and eventually hit a mountain. Scary stuff. When we finally reached Dallas we were visibly nervous but relieved in our motel. But the best was yet to come.

After about half an hour of relax we heard a big bang and the room was shaking for a couple of seconds, like a bomb went off. We could also see all kind of people running towards the streets and shouting in confusion. Eventually we saw in tv that there had been an earthquake and our hotel was 4 miles from it! Daaaarn, what a blast!

Next day we finally left for College Station in splendid weather where we stayed for another 3 nights of sweet doing nothing. Today Kauf left back to Italy with a long road behind and for sure more to come. Now its thanksgiving and where am I heading for? Mexico here I come! Stay tuned people!


Additional photos below
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Kansas

Welcome to Kansas
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Wichita

Another motel
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On the phone...
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Wichita

Inviting?
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Wichita

Weather turns worse..
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Old Town Market
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Wichita

Old town
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Old town as empty as ever
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And weather gets even worse...
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Crossing into Oklahoma
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The Joker hangs on
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Wichita to Oklahoma City

If you are bored on the highway, this is what you do
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Wichita to Oklahoma City

Oklahoma landscape


7th December 2014

"Distances in America are something else"
it is difficult to explain to people how big the country is. Everyone always thinks they get it but until they've driven across as you have it is hard to understand. Glad you made it back to Texas safely. You'll love Mexico! Eager for the next blogs.

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