Friday, September 17

mile 1666 - 2325

On Friday morning Nancy and I set out for Denver. We had done some research and since the drive was going to be a pretty long one, decided to stick with the major highways, but make it worth every mile.

The trip began before sunrise, as it often does, and we pointed north toward Kansas, where apparently the cops are real speed sticklers. (That statement is not relevant to any other part of this story, but if you plan to drive through Kansas some day, might be good to remember.

I think Kansas is under-rated as far as the scenery it has to offer, especially the eastern side of the state. The fields stretch to the horizon and they range in colors from green, to your classic amber, yellow, and a really rich red. I was a little disappointed because there were giant patches of sunflowers that you could tell had just started to fade, with their heads starting to bald and look at the ground. I should have stopped anyway, but instead I took note of their precise location and will go back in the future when it is earlier in the summer and they are more ready for me.

Our first mini-destination was Mushroom Rock State Park off Exit 225.

One of the great things about taking these detours was that when you got off the highway, you were driving on a two-lane, no-one-else-around-but-cows road. The sign for the park pointed left down a dirt road. We took it. (Inner dialogue. Good thing Nancy came along. I am not a ninny, but I don't know if I would have gone down that road alone.) The park was a little ways down, and again, when I say the only other breathing souls for miles were cows, I mean it. And then we found our rock. It's kind of like the STLB of the geology world, but reverse. Shorter on bottom and longer on top.

Anyway, it makes for a pretty incredible site. And the road to get there made it that much more fun. I would not recommend seeking it out after heavy rains. That mud would suck your tires down before you even knew what was happening.

We left Mushroom Rock feeling like we'd seen something that probably few have and kept on.

Exit 206 wasn't too much farther and there they have the Garden of Eden. Lucas is a little town with a lot of art. We didn't have time to explore nearly enough of it, but it's the sort of place where you are greeted with a giant dinner plate-looking sign that is painted with bright colors and different designs greeting you and people's mailboxes are sculptures.
The Garden of Eden is a house and the whole thing is a piece of art.

"Abel was a shepherd and he raised he raised sheep. He is offering a dandy little buck-merino. Got hold of the horn pulling it up. The Lord like good mutton, so Abel has a crown on his shepherd hook. Now this made Cain mad at Able, because Abel's good mutton was more acceptable to God, than his old rotten pumpkin, and he killed him."
—S. P. Dinsmoor, the cooky man who built this place and his explanation/description of one of the sculptures

On the way back to 71, we stopped for a picnic lunch in a dam pavilion overlooking Wilson Lake.

Wilson Lake Happy utensils to eat with

In Victoria, KS, there is a place called Cathedral of the Plains. It is a cathedral and it is in the plains. It is about a mile off the highway, but you can see it's twin 141-foot rock towers as you drive by. Officially named St. Fidelis Church, it was built by the Germans in 1911 with native Kansas stone.

Once inside, you could easily forget where you are.

Fast forward about 200 miles, and we've entered Colorado and are gearing up what is likely to be the most wacky of the roadside attractions.

It's advertised like the freak show at the carnival: two-headed calves, an eight-legged pig, 75,000-year-old skeleton of a mammoth, 20 rooms, and more old stuff than you could shake a stick at.

To cap the experience off, there's a tight staircase that leads to the top of a tower with views of six states! How you know you are looking at six different states is beyond me. I get a vision of the future where there will be floating graphics of state lines in the sky, with arrows pointing down from the name of the state. But for now, I guess we just have to trust Old Man River who runs the place.

a couple of the six states

This is the second time that I was incredibly thankful for a companion. First of all, we drove through the most run-down and deserted town to get to this "Wonder Tower", and secondly, we discussed our good fortune at escaping alive after we left. The possibilities for a horror movie turned real seemed too high. This should not dissuade you if you are ever passing through Genoa with someone else, but your creeped-out sense should be strong enough for you to not knock on that door if you are alone.

More than happy to be back on the road, lives in tact and no missing persons reports to be filed, we pedaled to the metal for Pam's House, Denver. The best part of that drive was how Justin sounded drunk when he said,
"Turn right on Colorado Avenue."

For more pictures, click here.

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