US Hwy 160 east-west
« on: August 17, 2008, 07:01:12 PM »
Sometimes my most memorable impression of a state is a certain stretch of road.
A day spent crossing southern Kansas painted some of my most vivid memories without much in the way of particular populated places to distinguish the trek.
Matter of fact, trying to sort out just which road I'd travelled those 15 or more years ago, I only had one waypoint to go by... The Carry A. Nation house, which I didn't visit, but recall distinctly for the flavor of Americana just seeing the billboard left me with, along with the fact that it was so perfectly smack dab in the middle of nowhere.
Carry, with one of the most naturally perfect crusading names in history, was the lady who wielded a hatchet and chopped up kegs of whiskey, becoming poster-child for the temperance movement.
Turns out it was Medicine Lodge I'd been passing through, and so I was able to retrace the miles through a very useful feature of wikipedia... the fact that once you find a wikipedia entry for a town you can link to the main routes which cut through whatever spot on the map.
Check out the Kansas section of this entry for specifics:
We happened onto this route while driving north along I-35 toward Wichita. In the spirit of any good road trip, the driver tossed me the road atlas and said, "Find us a good backroad headed west."
About an hour off the interstate, as evening approached, I remember stopping by a field. This locale was about as perfect a slice of what the pioneers must have felt as I can imagine. A creek twisted along a ditch with yellowed grass spreading up the ridge and over rolling hills as far as the eye could see. A gentle breeze enhanced a serene setting which made me wish I could live in that moment forever.
Just before dark we rolled through a small town with a Hardee's. We asked the girl how long it would take to make it into Dodge City. Even though she was just a teenager, one would think she might know something about the next patch of so-called civilization. The puzzled look on her face left me with the feeling she'd never left town. Sure, she knew about Dodge City... but how far? It might as well have been Paris, France. "2 hours? 3 and a half hours?" she shrugged.
Wikipedia informs me that Hwy 283 took us there:
"US-283 enters from Oklahoma south of Englewood in Clark County, and passes through largely unpopulated areas of the county until joining up for a brief concurrency with U.S. Route 160. Following the split, US-283 continues north through Minneola before making its way into Dodge City, the only town with a population of more than 3,300 the highway passes through in the Sunflower State."
Somewhere about the point these two remote stretches of highway run together darkness caught us. I was treated to one of the most amazing electrical displays ever. The road stretched ahead for miles, winding its way across the prairie. Where the road disappeared into distant sky, storm clouds rolled and shot bolts of lightning between them illuminating pale grass with breath-taking hues of blue and purple and every shade between. This sky show was one for the books. I don't know if these sort of electrical storms are characteristic of that area, but, if they are something that happens with any regularity, I would spend a month driving back and forth across that grand expanse in hopes of seeing such a thing again.
Alas, we're not in Kansas anymore...