Sunday, November 10, 2019

Road trip, Day Five

Groan. We drove 540+ miles today. We're pooped.

We left Topeka early -- on the road by 8:30 am, each with a Starbucks eggnog chai tea latte in hand.

The terrain was a bit more hilly than I thought it would be (the Flint Hills). Some areas were cultivated, some were not.

But the loooooong stretches of road were forbidding and rather intimidating.

The road cuts had interesting geology. If I recall, this might be the part of the country that received lots of ash debris when the Yellowstone supervolcano blew however long ago.

But midway through the morning, we came to some parts with a family connection. Salina, Kansas is where Don's father was born.

More specifically, Don wanted us to visit the tiny town of Lucas, where his mother was born and raised, so Older Daughter could see where her grandmother originated. (Both Don's parents passed away before we met.)

Lucas is about 15 miles north of Hwy. 70. The landscape was mostly treeless and somewhat harsh.

But as we progressed further from the highway, things became more agricultural, which always appeals to me. It was another looooong vista of road.

Here we are.

The community was tidy and quiet on this Sunday morning.

I don't know what house Don's mother grew up in -- I don't know if he knows either -- but Don specifically wanted us to see Lucas's only tourist attraction, the Garden of Eden (a finalist for the Eight Wonders of Kansas). This turned out to be a pretty limestone house surrounded by whimsical, fantastical concrete structures, the loving creation of an eccentric artist named Samuel Dinsmoor in the early part of the century.

Unfortunately the attraction was keeping winter hours, which meant it didn't open until 1 pm on Sundays (we arrived around 10:45 am)... we had to content ourselves with photographing the house and sculptures from outside the fence.

Not bad, for being hand-crafted from concrete about 100 years ago.

Right across from the Garden of Eden was a fenced-off area with some decorative mounds of different kind of rock, as well as some miniature building structures made of rock.

I thought this was rather sweet that this tiny town of less than 400 people had two modest tourist attractions.

Back on Hwy. 70, gigantic wind turbines loomed on the horizon.

We ended up seeing thousands. They did, as Older Daughter observe, add some interest to an otherwise flat and featureless landscape.

Passing the tiny town of Victoria, we impulsively turned south to see the Cathedral of the Plains (which did make one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas).

This is a huge and magnificent sandstone Catholic church which apparently can seat up to 1000, nearly the entire population of the town.

It's hard to grasp the scale from the street. It would have been something to see the inside.

A couple blocks away, the church had its own huge cemetery.

Then it was off once again to get in some serious driving time.

We passed these silo-like structures and gaped at how the taller one was buckled over. We speculated perhaps a tornado slammed a log into it or something.

Kansas also had many widely scattered oil rigs.

Western Kansas and eastern Colorado were mind-numbingly huge and flat. We wondered when we would finally see the crest of the Rockies peeking over the horizon. Older Daughter spied them first.

We thought we'd spend the night in Limon, about 75 miles east of Denver, because we figured the motel rates would be cheaper. We pulled into a gas station literally as the car's low-gas light went on. While I filled up the car, Older Daughter used her smart phone to check rates in both Limon and Denver, and found the rates were actually better in Denver. Since it wasn't terribly late, we decided to press on for Denver. Besides, an overnight storm system will be dumping snow on the region, and if we're going to get snowed in for a day, we thought we'd rather be snowed in in Denver than Limon.

So off we went toward Denver. The setting sun brought pretty shadows to the landscape.

We also started seeing patches of snow along the lee of hills and cuttings. This kinda surprised us, since the day had been so mild -- in the 50s.

By the way, we realized we'd climbed nearly 4000 feet in elevation since leaving Topeka this morning -- and were entirely unaware of it.

The sky turned beautiful at sunset.

But of course all those pretty clouds meant incoming snow. If there's one city that knows how to handle snow, it's Denver.

Right now we're holed up in a motel and will wait to see what the weather brings. We're perfectly fine leaving later tomorrow or even spending another night here. The landscape should be transformed in the morning!


  1. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. (I'm actually looking forward to some snowy landscape photos.)

  2. The blue Harveststore silos are collapsed by air pressure during a tornado. I've seen it several times and it was explained by the local TV weatherman.

  3. I know by the time you read this, Denver will be in the distance behind you, but I hope your short stay near where I call home was pleasant.

  4. Thank you for sharing details of your trip. I feel like I'm taking a tour myself, with all your pictures and descriptions!

  5. Love the daily reports on your trip.
    Be safe. Don't take chances.
    I lived in Colorado.
    Snow today, tomorrow 70's.
    No kidding.

    1. Awe yes, Colorado does have "bi-polar" weather. I am stuck in the city (just outside of Denver), but would head for more rural digs if I could afford it. But, at least I escaped California.

  6. Welcome, Teri! My husband will be tickled you know Lucas so well.

    - Patrice