Bent out of Shape

Sunday, November 10, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Dodge City, KS to Colorado Springs, CO

Without really planning to, we got off to an early start today leaving the hotel at 7:30, driving west on US-50 from Dodge City.  Once we passed Cimarron, we were on new ground.  Unfortunately, we were passing through an area with one massive cattle feedlot after another (like the one pictured above).  Thousands of wretched cows are jammed into dismal pens carpeted in excrement and fed unhealthy diets designed for maximum weight gain in minimum time.  If you ever wondered why today's children enter puberty before they begin losing their teeth?  Consider that these beef cattle are pumped full of growth hormones.Think about that before you order your next hamburger.
Another large-scale operation was underway in Garden City, KS.  On a 50-acre property adjacent to US-50, Transportation Partners and Logistics (TP&L) unloads, stores and transfers components for wind-generated energy installations.  Most of the equipment is transported by rail to this distribution center, offloaded, and shipped by truck to wind farm projects within a 1,000-mile radius. 
Wind turbine components waiting for shipment (photo from Garden City Telegram)
From the Kansas flatlands, we entered Colorado flatlands.  Finally on the high plains near La Junta, CO, we stopped to visit Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site.  Charles and William Bent, sons of a St. Louis judge, became fur traders as young men.  As the West opened to settlement, they moved to the area that would become Colorado, where they founded a trading enterprise known as Bent, St. Vrain and Company.
Bent's Old Fort (reconstructed in 1976)
In 1833, the brothers and their partner built an adobe trading fort.  At the time it was built, the fort stood very close to the Mexican border, which was then the Arkansas River, so the Bents' Mexican trade grew rapidly.  Later, trade with the local Arapaho and Cheyenne became a business mainstay as the Indians traded buffalo and other hides for blankets and tools.
Trading room
 Rooms at the reconstructed fort are furnished with reproductions of period pieces based on detailed descriptions of the fort by contemporaries, drawings, and archaeological findings.  Recreated spaces include trappers and hunters' quarters, kitchen, dining room, warehouses, blacksmith shop, and—the one where I ran into trouble—a carpenter's shop.  Taking me back to a memorable childhood incident when I set off an alarm in a museum, this time my disturbance was accidental.  Inside the carpentry shop, I took one step backward to gain a better angle for a photo.  My foot encountered a wood pile which had been set up beside the fireplace with no posts to support the pile.  Friction and gravity were meant to do the job, and they did—until my foot came along.
Scene of the fall
As I jumped aside, down came half the wood pile with a loud clatter that could be heard all over the fort.  Deja vu!  Except this time I didn't run and hide as I did 50 years earlier on the USS Alabama.  I tracked down the interpreter in period costume and offered up my confession.  He chuckled and acknowledged that the woodpile had been a bit precarious.  You think?
Flatness ending ahead
 Leaving the fort, we drove north on CO-71 through the high desert to a tiny dot on the map called Punkin Center, where we turned west on CO-94 toward Colorado Springs.  Both roads ran through long stretches of fenced land covered with sand, grass and low brown scrub as far as the eye could see.  The scenery finally changed about 50 miles east of Colorado Springs on 94 when we began to see Pikes Peak in the distance—just a hint of things to come.

Company store