Friday, September 11, 2015

If It's Thursday, It Must Be Kansas ... I Think.

Sep 11, 2015 Kansas is big. Kansas is wide. Kansas is flat. Kansas has big skies and wide open spaces. You could say that driving in a straight line for hundreds of miles is boring. I  actually found it exhilarating and awesome in its vast emptiness.

You can see a thousand miles or so it seems, right out to the distant horizon. Grasslands with farms that seem to be the size of some states. Here and there tiny oases with clumps of trees to shelter a house and other out buildings. Or, way in the distance, a grain elevators or storage cylinders. And gas wells everywhere, pumping, pumping. Kansas -- big blue skies punctuated with brilliant white clouds.

But, perhaps the most impressive thing about Kansas was the thousands upon thousands of wind turbines that have been, and are now being, installed on the plains and prairies of Kansas. It's a beautiful sight, one that makes your heart sing because it's the right road to travel as opposed to more gas and more oil taken from the bowels of the earth and which are wreaking such havoc with our climate and our futures. Traveling to our destination in Ellis, Kansas (in the middle of nowhere), a black cloud, v-shaped, formed in front of our car, blocking the setting of the sun. But where the legs of the "V" reached up to the heavens, it left two immense areas of clear sky, left and right of us. The sun turned these clear patches a brilliant orange and then crimson. There, the spinning turbines were set off against this fiery red sky. "What a photo," I said to Stacey. But the interstate was two lanes here with a shoulder that could barely fit our car (let alone an 18-wheeler) and the trucks were speeding on by. I didn't try and get that photo which I regret because it was quite a magical sight.

We had dinner in Hayes, Kansas, just a few minutes before our final motel destination in neighboring Ellis. Hays is a college town with a tiny downtown. And here's a cool and hip little street, with a few nice restaurants and bars: night life out on the great plains.

Kansas, Interstate 70. You can see forever.

Thousands of wind turbines have been installed in Kansas.
Silently spinning, they're producing energy without producing climate change.

We woke up Friday and continued our trek. Before we knew it, there was the sign: "Welcome to Colorado." Already? It took us by surprise. But this part of Colorado was very much the same as the Kansas we just left: wide open, spread out, large vistas. Soon, though, it the topography started to change. Here and there some buttes and undulating hills and gullies and we were gently ascending. We stopped for coffee in Arriba (pronounced "AIR-uh-buh") and instead of getting back on the Interstate, took a ride around town. Jody, the proprietor of an antiques store in town told us that the town has a population of 168, "including people, dogs and cats." Jody didn't have much to say in favor of her home town. "Too small," she said and "too many gossips. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing." I asked her about the wind turbines that surrounded the outskirts of town. She liked them but said she wished the electricity they produced were available to her town and not sent back to Denver far removed from its origin.

Kansas gave way to Colorado. 

Interstate 70 at the Kansas border.

Grain elevator in Arriba, Colorado.

We decided to get a closeup of those turbines. We drove out of Arriba on a paved road that soon turned into unpaved.  These are enormous towers, so big that they appear closer than they are. We had to drive several miles to reach them. Earlier, at a rest stop, there were several giant rigs, each carryng a a blade (there are three on each turbine) that must have been 100 yards long.

Two blades on giant rigs in a rest stop on I-70. T
hese are about  to be installed, adding to the thousands we saw out on the prairie in Kansas
and Colorado.

Outside of the tiny town of Arriba, Colorado, these turbines. They
appeared much closer than they are. We had to drive several
miles to get close to them.

We continued through Colorado for many more miles (there are always many more miles in every day of our trip so far). The road turned north from the usual westbound as it head up toward Denver. And then we saw them: the Rockies. Far in the distance but not a mirage. We were looking to the south end, toward Colorado Springs. Road signs pointed the way to Pikes Peak but we were heading further north on the range, to Loveland. We'd spend the night and tomorrow would explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Looking forward to that.

- Matt


  1. Having only been to Fort Leavenworth, I can understand why you would want to drive `straight' through Kansas. Any deviation and you would never find your way out.
    Good images. Bruce