The Long Unwinding Road

Sunday, October 28, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Dodge City, KS to Colby, KS
Since we arrived too late to see any of Dodge City last night, we had to explore a bit this morning.  Would Miss Kitty be in the Long Branch on a Sunday morning?  Was Marshal Dillon patrolling the streets?  We headed down to Front Street (pictured above) to check out what was going on.

We found the Long Branch, but it was locked up tight, so Miss Kitty must take Sundays off.  Nor did we see anyone else, including the marshal.  It was a little early but maybe church services had already started and everyone was off hearing what the local preacher had in store.

Finding none of Dodge City's celebrities, we moseyed over to Wright Park to search for a letterbox that was planted along the banks of a river.  No one had reported finding it since 2007, so we thought it might have floated away.  Our concern was misplaced.  There was nothing in danger of floating away in the Arkansas River in Dodge, not in its current condition.  (Yes, of course, the pun's intended.)
Arkansas River bed in Dodge City
We found the letterbox hidden under a rock below one of the metal cross posts, exactly as the clue described.  All the contents were in perfect condition, and after logging in and returning it, we took off across the Kansas prairies to search for another lonely letterbox.  This second one was planted in 2006, and no find had ever been reported on the letterbox.  Buoyed by our luck in Dodge City, we were optimistic about our chances of being the first to record a find on the box.
The long, straight KS-23

Unlike some of the willy-nilly arrangements one encounters in eastern states, roads in states like Kansas follow an orderly grid pattern.  They were laid out in parallel lines, one mile apart, running north to south and east to west.  Occasionally a road will stray off the grid to bypass a natural barrier such as a river, but inevitably it makes its way back to the framework. Some of the roads on the grid are paved, and some are not, but they all follow the grid.

Alongside some of these long, straight stretches of road in western Kansas today, we saw enormous fields.  Most summer crops have already been harvested, so many of the fields were at rest, but sorghum harvesting is just underway.  Kansas produces more grain sorghum than all other states combined.  Today we saw oceans of sorghum stretching as far as the eye could see.
Sorghum Sea
Unfortunately we were lulled into inattention by the monotony of the landscape and missed one turn and then another.  Our GPS struggled with our desire to drive into the middle of nowhere and kept trying to redirect us to main roads.  Unpaved roads were the only way for us to reach our destination, and these confused the GPS mightily.  Maybe it was the dust.
One of Kansas' many unpaved roads
The site we were seeking is called Castle Rock, a large limestone pillar located in rural Gove County.  Although it is located within the bounds of a large ranch, the property owners provide for public access to this unusual formation, which has been named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.  Thanks to the GPS leading us astray to a dead end a couple of times, we spent 3.5 hours driving through 60 miles of unpaved roads by the time we located the castle and returned to a main road.  Was it worth it?
Castle Rock
We thought so.  This 70-ft. remnant of deposits from an ancient sea rises dramatically from the surrounding prairie.  And there was a letterbox planted nearby.  What happened to that box, we have no idea.  It still remains unfound, but as with so many letterboxes we seek, we enjoyed the journey and the destination.  The box would have been a bonus.

Continuing west, we stopped for the night in Colby, Kansas, just 50 miles from Colorado.  Tomorrow we still need to find a place to hide our Kansas letterbox before heading north to Nebraska, our next state.
  • Miles driven: 233
  • Letterboxes: F 1, P 0
  • Weather: Sunny, 25° to 60° 
  • States: 1 (KS) 
  • Sorghum plants:  83,475,102
  • Curves in the road:  0
  • Coyotes:  2
  • Hawks perched near roads:  27
  • Cows:  254
  • Thickness of dust layers coating our car:  1.64"
  • Gas (premium):  $3.79, in Dodge City
  • Miles driven: 2,158 
  • Gallons of gas: 96
  • Letterboxes: F 13, P 3
  • States: 8 (GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, IL, MO, KS)
  • Coldest temp:  25°, Topeka, October 27
  • Hottest temp:    80°, Gaffney, SC, October 22
  • Gas price extremes: $3.30 in Topeka to $3.95 in Lincolnton, NC
  • National battlefields: 3 
  • National historic sites:  3
  • State capitols:  1
  • State parks: 3
  • State historic sites:  1