June 12: Back in time and 100 degrees again

Sigh. Today I drove from Caňon City almost immediately into the flatlands before I ever reached Pueblo, which is the big city of southeast Colorado. Gas was cheap there, and I topped off the tank before heading out onto the plains.

I have learned to appreciate plains and prairies after 23 years in forested, mountainous western Washington. I wouldn’t want to live here, mind, but it’s wonderful to see wide open spaces where it looks like the horizon has to be more than 180 degrees and you swear you can see the curvature of the earth.

Except when I look up at all that sky and all of sudden want to beg something not to step on me like a bug, because that’s how small I feel.

Nothing but sky.  Although this is still Colorado, not Kansas yet.
Nothing but sky. Although this is still Colorado, not Kansas yet.  BTW, that thing on the left? is a bug on the windshield, not a baby tornado.  Sorry.

There’s only two towns of any size between Pueblo and the Kansas border, and one historic site. U.S. 50 follows part of the old Santa Fe trail at this point, and Bent’s Fort National Historic Site is not far off the highway just east of the town of La Junta (Spanish for the junction).

The exterior of Bent's Fort from the path.
The exterior of Bent’s Fort from the path.

Bent’s Fort is sort of the Santa Fe Trail’s version of Fort Union, North Dakota, which I visited four years ago. It’s not a military fort, but a trading post, privately owned, where people traveling from St. Louis to Santa Fe could stop and buy goods and rest. It’s made of thick adobe, and the interior rooms are much cooler than the outdoors, which was a terrific thing on a 100dF afternoon. The park service did its usual excellent job interpreting the site, and there were some small living history demonstrations as well.

A view from the second floor of bent's Fort, down into the courtyard.
A view from the second floor of Bent’s Fort, down into the courtyard.
The store room, full of trade goods.
The store room, full of trade goods.
The owner's room, which was much more elegant inside than the rest of the place.
The owner’s room, which was much more elegant inside than the rest of the place.
The carpentry shop.  It looks like my dad's garage used to, only he had power tools, and no chandelier.
The carpentry shop. It looks like my dad’s garage used to, only he had power tools, and no chandelier.

I do have to say that a couple of things were rather disconcerting. First was the extremely sturdily built, partly underground, bunker-style restroom next to the parking area, with a tornado shelter sign above the doors. The second was the two donkeys, who I first saw ambling along the quarter mile path from the parking area to the fort itself (a reconstruction – the original was destroyed in 1849), and then, when I returned, wisely taking advantage of the shade of the pergola by the parking area. I wonder if they found the exhibit panels as interesting as I did <g>.

Calling Dorothy...
Calling Dorothy…
Donkeys at Bent's Fort.
Donkeys at Bent’s Fort.
Donkey's enjoying the exhibits, er, the shade of the pergola.
Donkeys enjoying the exhibits, er, the shade of the pergola.

Once I left Bent’s Fort, I started thinking about where I would stop for the night. I really had intended to camp somewhere, and I actually did find a place in a hamlet just before the Kansas state line – but it was still 100dF outside according to Merlin’s thermometer, and getting more humid by the mile. So reluctantly I decided to look for an air-conditioned motel.

A pretty classic Kansas view -- big round hay bales and a grain elevator, somewhere between the border and Garden City.
A pretty classic Kansas view — big round hay bales and a grain elevator, somewhere between the border and Garden City.

I didn’t intend to drive 60 miles into Kansas – my first “I’ve never been to this state before!” state for this trip! – before I found one, but that’s what happened. I’m in Garden City, Kansas, which is nice, and I’m sure some people here have nice gardens, but I think the name is a bit hyperbolic.

It’s probably just as well that I’m indoors. There’s an 80% chance of thunderstorms tonight, and that’s not my favorite camping weather at all. Maybe (she says hopefully) it’ll cool off a bit after this front pushes through.

I wish that saying that my thoughts are with those poor people in Orlando actually did some good.