4/17 Update

3-4 Apr 04, Sat-Sun: Hidden Valley RV Resort, Albuquerque, NM

The first part of our day was quite fine as we left Arizona and entered New Mexico, crossed the Continental Divide, and were quite impressed with Lava Land. At first we couldn't figure out what that black stuff piled randomly over the fields was.

In early afternoon we got the message via CB radio that there was a significant traffic delay ahead of us so we detoured south from I-40 over Rt 6 and Rt 25 through Los Lumas – we got a kick out of being on Old Route 66. Then we returned to I-40 in Albuquerque, to the tune of heavy rain and wind with fog thrown in for good measure. Thus, we missed those beautiful, high mountains north of the city.

We were quite happy to leave the busy highway and wind up the dirt road behind a gas station to this Hidden Valley Resort. Cal completed the usual connections as quickly as possible in the cold wind and rain and we were all cozy for the night.

The reason we didn't hear rain all night is that, before we awakened on Sunday morning, large snowflakes had taken over covering our Honda and were still falling. The decision to sign up for another night was an easy one. A major plus for the day was catching up with family news via the cell phone – we'd been out of Sprint range for several days.

5 Apr 04, Mon: Mountain Rd RV P, Tucumcari, NM (pronounced (to-come-carry)

A check of the weather revealed that we should continue our journey on I-40, and that has proved to be a good decision. Truck traffic was light today, road surface good, sun shone this afternoon, and this is a fine park. What more could we ask for? 156 miles and that's very comfortable for us.

6 Apr 04, Tue: A-OK RV P, Amarillo, TX

Most of our 120 miles today on I-40 were through farmland with a few grain elevators along the way. After the first hour, we were dealing with fog and rain, heavy at times. We stopped at WalMart in Amarillo so our recent film could be developed while we ate lunch.

Back in the 70's Stan and Cal flew to Amarillo, Texas, for the purpose of delivering a CAP airplane back to New Hampshire. Their contact at Amarillo was Fred Chesser, the Manager of the CAP Supply Depot here. In a conversation with the Park Manager where we are parked tonight, Cal learned that this gentleman formerly dated one of Fred Chesser's daughters. As they say, 'it's a small world'. Cal decided to call Fred and renew aquaintances.

7-9 Apr 04, Wed-Fri: Foss Lake State Park, Foss, OK

Cal and Fred enjoyed reminiscing on the phone last night, and Fred suggested he'd like to stop by for a visit this morning. After rehashing more old times, many of which included airplanes, we were off on I-40 again.

We like crossing Texas up here – 177 miles on I-40 through Amarillo versus 7-8 days down south on I-10 and/or Rt 90 on previous trips. And here we are in Oklahoma, a first for Connie.

Yesterday when we were planning our next stop and noted the Foss Lake State Park in Foss, The Foss name really got our attention (Connie's maiden name is Foss and Cal is a Foss descendant.) We signed in for a couple of nights and selected a site a few yards from the Lake.

Thursday morning we drove east to Clinton where there's a laundry and the Route 66 Museum. We've been noting with interest all the references to Historic Route 66 as we've been retracing much of the Route ever since leaving the Petrified Forest in Arizona.

Route 66, America's Main Street, established in 1926, was 2200 miles long, and ran through eight states from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Travel reached its peak in the 1950's, but then in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, major interstates put a sizable dent in Route 66 traffic. Today there's a growing movement to recapture the travelers and restore its glory.

The Route 66 Museum presents a marvelous history, decade by decade, of all that was involved in building the road, its rise in popularity and its eventual decline.

We had hoped to find a book in the Museum that would furnish info regarding the naming of the Foss town and lake. We learned only that the town was named for J. M. Foss of Cordell (most likely not related.) On our way back to Foss Lake, we stopped in Foss, walked through the Foss cemetery and found that not a single Foss is buried there.

We love it here at the Foss Lake State Park so decided to add another night. In spite of weather reports of much rain to our east in Oklahoma City, it's been just glorious here all day.

Friday afternoon we drove north over the 3-mile long, earthen dam which created the lake and was completed in 1962. There are seven campgrounds around the lake and many day-use areas for picnicking and fishing; the latter seem to be free which is unusual for a State Park. We checked out many of them, and are very impressed with the beauty of the immense lake (8800 surface acres).

10 Apr 04, Sat: Canton Lake COE Park, Canton, OK

Last night about 7 p.m. The wind suddenly became ferocious; the extreme velocity continued all night and is still going strong this morning. That's making it easy to move on from Foss.

It was only 70 miles to Canton Lake via routes 183, 33, and 58. Skies have been solid gray, but our day was brightened by vast, rolling, bright green fields with a few herds of grazing cattle. Most trees are sporting new, spring green leaves and the red bud is in full bloom.

This COE park compares very favorably with the other Corps of Engineers Parks we've visited – trees everywhere and widely-spaced, spiffy sites. We selected a sheltered spot on the outside of the Park away from the Lake and were able to get the satellite signal through the trees with no problem. We're enjoying the catalytic heater as the high is 43 degrees.

11 Apr 04, Sunday: Great Salt Plains State Park, Jet, OK

Another 70 miles today continuing north via routes 58, 60, and 8 and then east on 64, north on 38 to another super state park. We were soon to learn that Great Salt Plains is perhaps the most unique of all Oklahoma's State Parks.

The Great Salt Plains Lake and Dam, completed by the Corps of Engineers in 1941, has 9300 surface acres. Even though the lake has an average depth of only four feet and is 1/3 as salty as the ocean, it still offers some great fishing and sail-boarding opportunities.

While discussing the campground, receiving maps, etc., the Park host started talking about the Great Salt Plains and that we could go there to dig for crystals. You may be sure this required more explanation!

It seems that the Salt Plains are a flat expanse of mud, completely devoid of vegetation, that borders the Reservoir built by the COE. The name, Salt Plains, is derived from the thin layer of salt that covers the flats. One theory states the flats represent the remains of a prehistoric sea. Whether this theory is right or wrong, Great Salt Plains takes advantage of this natural phenomenon—Selenite Crystals.

“Selenite is a crystallized form of gypsum. Gypsum is a common mineral that takes on a great variety of crystal forms and shapes. On the Salt Plains, the crystals are formed just below the salt encrusted surface—seldom deeper than two feet....Because these crystals form in wet soil, sand and clay particles are included within the crystal. These particles often form an “hourglass� shape that is found only in this area.

One of our brochures advised that we needed a spade or garden trowel to dig for the crystals The closest we could come was a putty knife, so armed with that and a cup to put the crystals in, off we drove to the Salt Plains about eight miles away.

The Plains are seven miles long, three miles wide, very flat and very white so quite a sight as we turned down the road and the flat lay before us. The area where autos can drive is clearly indicated as are the sections where digging is allowed. It takes the crystals seven years to form so they rotate the area where digging is permitted.

We proceeded along the designated auto road until we saw some parked vehicles. . We approached a family busily digging away and learned they were having a wonderful time. This was their first experience, and they were finding crystals just a few inches down. They showed us their treasures. and offered us the use of their digging tools. As Connie was walking back to the car for our cup, she spotted a little clump of crystals poking up out of the sand. There was a good variety of sizes and even a couple of clusters which are special so we picked them up and went away happy with a new experience added to the list.

The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is on the other side of the campground from the Salt Plains so we returned to our campsite. Cal washed the salt and mud off the Honda, and then we drove to the Eagle Roost Nature Trail in the Refuge taking the auto tour through woods, by marshes and ponds. We saw lots of ducks and a number of deer, three of which splashed across the shallow river when we startled them.

12 Apr 04, Mon: Blasi Campground, Wichita, KS

Another pleasant day on very acceptable secondary highways, E on 11, N on 132 and 179, E on 42 and 54. This is the third day traveling through the country where vast expanses of green or recently plowed ranges are the norm. Immense grain elevators indicate the main crop. We've seen a few oil well pumps, most of them inactive.

This morning we said 'farewell' to Oklahoma and 'hello' to Kansas. This campground behind a tire store on the outskirts of Wichita was selected as it's handy to Garland Street where Lois Marler lives. Lois and Connie worked together for twenty years at Dartmouth College. Lois returned to Wichita to be with family in 1993. so we had a lot of catching up to do this afternoon. Sure was great to see her and reminisce.

13 Apr 04, Tue: Emporia RV P and CG, Emporia, KS

Our 100 miles of travel today was on I-35.. In El Dorado we noted a sign for the Kansas Oil Museum but had zipped past the exit before we could stop so got off at the next exit, and took Rt 77 south to town. With some difficulty following obscure signs, we arrived at the Museum. Imagine our disappointment to learn that the Museum and grounds were closed for renovations.

We're listening to trucks and trains tonight as this campground is just off the interstate, but it's very convenient and a good half-way point to our next destination.

14-15 Apr 04, Wed-Thu: Jack and Betty Bernritter's home, Havensville, KS

Another 100-mile day continuing on I-35 to Routes 99, 24, and 63.

We'd been looking for a barber shop as we cruised through little towns after leaving the interstate and spotted one in Wamego. While Cal was getting a new look, Connie decided to check out the Dutch windmill just down the street.

We had just happened to stop in a town surrounded with reminders of the past on the Oregon Trail, and this windmill is Kansas' only operating stone Dutch Mill located in a beautiful City park. The park is complete with a pretty little pond arched by a bridge, large beds of tulips in full bloom as were the red bud trees. We moved to the park for lunch, wandered around taking pictures, and then were anxious to continue on to Havensville.

Remember Jack and Betty whom we met at Caballo Loco Ranch which is off the beaten path south of Tucson? They're the ones with the Eagle bus. And then we were in Quartzsite at the same time so had lunch in nearby Brenda. They invited us to visit them in Kansas and they'd take us on an Oregon Trail tour.

So here we are. After relaxing and visiting with a cold drink, we were off in Jack and Betty's van for a mini tour of the area to see their pond where the family gathers for picnics, and to property where Jack's father used to live but now their daughter and family have a lovely home, complete with a pond. Granddaughters Keely and Katelynn joined us after school so we all enjoyed Betty's delicious roast beef dinner together.

Thursday: This is Oregon Trail Tour Day.

First on the list was picking up our mail which we requested be forwarded to Havensville.

East of Wamego is the KPL Oregon Nature Park where, on a silo, a local artist has painted pioneer scenes. Every inch of the silo has been painted with four scenes which include Indians on horses, a prairie wagon with a family heading west, many animals – it's just a fantastic work of art, and we had the pleasure of meeting the artist later today.

Behind the silo is the Louis Vieux Cemetery – Louis was a Pottawatomie Indian who operated the first ferry across the Vermillion River on the Oregon Trail near here.

We visited the Kansas National Forest where stands an elm which in 1997 was the second largest elm in the United States. Yup, that's right, a single tree in this National Forest.

We returned to Wamego and the Friendship House for lunch – what a treat – the restaurant/house is beautifully decorated, service and food superb.

We stopped in at the Oz Museum gift shop as our granddaughter, Sarah, has played the part of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and we wanted a memento for her.

Just down the street is the Columbian Theater with an Opera House which exhibits six rare paintings from the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

We drove around the campus of St. Mary's College in the town of the same name.

Another point of interest as we traced the Oregon Trail was the Jeffrey Energy Center where incidentally, Betty worked as office manager for 18 years.

We drove by the Wayne Duraton Ranch who was the Marlboro Man – remember those ads years ago?

Also saw the birthplace of H. P. Chrysler.

In Westmoreland we stopped at the Oregon Trail Park at Scott Springs. There's a covered wagon and life-size team of bronze oxen. The park was once a camp site for travelers on the Oregon Trail.

At one point Jack pointed out and Cal photographed actual ruts of the Oregon Trail.

Also in Westmoreland, we saw a hand-dug well, at one time the city water supply, reputed to be the second-largest open hand-dug well in the world.

At Tuttle Creek we noted the earth fault beside the creek and drove through the RV park nearby.

In Manhattan we admired the Kansas State University and drove around the campus a bit. Our hosts selected the Gold Fork, restaurant, and that was another winner. We enjoyed an exceptionally delicious dinner on the patio.

Manhattan is an hour SW of Havensville and our last point of interest on the way home was the Vermillion Creek Tributary Stone Arch Bridge.

Jack's vocation was Grading Contractor so, as we traveled about on our eleven-hour tour today, he pointed out some of the 47 bridges in Pottawatomie County for which he did the earth-work approaches and some of the roads he had constructed.

What a perfect day with our special friends.

16 Apr 04, Fri: Interstate RV Park, Higginsville, MO

We bid Jack and Betty a fond farewell, all hoping that our paths will cross again soon, maybe in Arizona next winter.

Our Kansas routes were E on 16, 116, and 59 to Atchison; then into Missouri on 59, S on 273, E on 92, S 69, E 10, and S 13 to Higginsville.

17 Apr 04, Sat: Lazy Day Campground, Montgomery City, MO

We rolled 122 miles on I-70 today and stopped early – one reason is that campgrounds are not too plentiful in these parts so planning is necessary. Decided we'd make a short run so we'd have time to get this update completed and shipped. The next travelogue will be sent from Strafford,