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Across the High Plains we go

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 09:16 AM

We left Denver yesterday a little after 9 AM. The intention was to get an earlier start, but when I stepped outside at 6:30 AM to find it raining and a lot colder, the motivation to get moving dropped a little. By the time we rolled out of the Marriott parking lot, the rain had stopped and the Denver Monday morning rush hour had started to wane.

The weather is just about the only thing worth mentioning about today's leg taking us into Kansas. First, outside of Denver the wind picked up strongly, blowing straight from the north at 40-50 MPH. Since we were headed due east, that meant it was hitting the drivers sides of our cars. For the VW chase car, no problem. For the Model A, you could definitely feel it want to move the car around but the recent chassis work done at Bert's made it relatively easy to keep the car headed where I wanted it to go.

This is the same issue I faced on the day I picked up the car from McMinnville, OR, to drive the 25 miles down to Salem, OR, to Jairus' place. Then, there was 1/3 to 1/2 turn of slop in the steering wheel and the wind moved the car in great lunges toward oncoming traffic and the shoulder drop-offs, making for a miserable and white-knuckled drive absolutely requiring both hands firmly on the wheel.

This time battling the high winds was almost easy and could be done with a single hand. What a difference!

Another concern was the electronic billboard across the highway warning of snow and icy road aheads about 30 miles outside or Denver, but this never panned out. We did see some minimal snow accumulations on cars and in a few fields, but nothing more. Based on the cloud formations, the precipitation must have passed north of our route, which gradually turned south of due east as we got further into Kansas.

I didn't take a single picture today, as there wasn't much to see other than brown and occasionally green fields stretching out toward the horizon, with a slight hill to climb every now and then. Maybe today's run will feature some more interesting scenery.

The winds did allow me to see something I've never observed until today: tumbleweeds. Didn't see a lot of them on the roll, maybe a couple of dozen rolling across the field and sometimes across I-70, but the low fences that are a feature of this area were clogged with accumulated tumbleweeds in some places. At least now I have a mental image to bring up when I hear the phrase "tumbling tumbleweeds."

I've been bidding on Priceline for lodging for most of the trip and the pickings for western Kansas were pretty slim around Colby, KS, where we planned to stop. Mostly I've been sticking with two-star and above places, but in this area they were a little pricey. So I clicked to select one-star accommodations and scored the Annie Oakley Motel, in Oakley, KS, a town of 2,083 (according to the 2013 census) about 25 miles beyond Colby. It's clearly an older motel, about four miles from the interstate near the town's downtown. The room, while clearly showing its age, we more than acceptable: clean and well-equipped and the three separate wi-fi networks were as speedy as any we'd encountered.

Geoff was taken with the color scheme of the bathroom and shower. Take a look:



The "AO" decoration in the tile wall testifies that this motel has been called the Annie Oakley for quite some time, as does the green color scheme. I can't recall ever before seeing a green tub anywhere in my life. Notice also the toilet paper dispenser in the corner of the tub. Surely this is a remnant from an earlier bathroom arrangement. If not, I have no explanation for it...

As an aside, does anyone know how people from India, very often named Patel, have come to dominate the hotel/motel business in this country? This is not a racist reference in any way, just a question based on long observation. The Annie Oakley is now owned by an Indian family FWIW.

We've used the internet to search for places to eat while on our journey and have made some terrific finds, as the goal is to avoid as much as possible the familiar and near ubiquitous chain restaurants during the trip. My technique is to search on the string "best restaurants city state" and the most dependable results come from TripAdvisor, who rates the town's best eating places as 1, 2, 3, etc., based on independent reviewers.

In Oakley, the number one restaurant (out of just fifteen restaurants in the town) was Cap'n Jack's Pub, located within an RV resort park right at the interstate exit for Oakley. Wasn't much to look at, being a square rough wood barn-like structure, but it was a nice place with decent food. Geoff liked the pirate-themed decor, too.

Menu was your typical burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and appetizers but they had a nice selection of beers and mixed drinks as well. Had to educate the kid that a Cuba Libre was just a fancy name for a rum and coke; even at 34 they don't know it all... LOL!

For an appetizer, we considered ordering our standby fried calamari, a favorite, but noticed that escargot in garlic butter sauce was also on the menu. On reflection, perhaps high plains Kansas was not the place to go for the snails. We decided on a basket of fried pickles and they came as battered and fried spears, rather than the coin-like pickle chips one normally gets. It was a nice original touch and perhaps an improvement over the norm with the smaller amount of breading.

He ordered an Oakley cheesesteak sandwich, basically a Philly with some sort of sauce. And I selected a named house special sandwich of pastrami, swiss, and sauerkraut on rye swirl bread. Both sandwiches were accompanied with skin-on fries cut from spuds as they are ordered.

As I told the waitress, "I've always wanted to have a Tavern Wench," which is what my sandwich was called. LOL!

Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap

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