We decided randomly, in the last couple months sometime, that we wanted to try the snowy cabin thing again. We decided, or I suggested, Wyoming, since we spent plenty of time in the South/Appalachians/Smokys in the last year already and were itching to get out of the midwest, east and south, and back to places where the air is dry and coffee good.
We left Carbondale, a surprisingly cool little Illinois town, with a somewhat set plan to make several 2 week and 1 week jumps through Missouri, Kansas, Colorado then finally Jackson. I even made a google map and planned the towns and RV parks we would probably stay at but as is our nature, a night or 2 before we left, we decided Kansas City had little to offer in Green areas (google maps state parks and national forests) and what it did have to offer had no water or sewer hookups.
We changed our plans and decided to spend the weekend driving to Dodge City, Kansas, crossing almost 2 states.
It may have been under 700 miles but it’s tough on the truck, animals and us to go that far – and who knows how Susa manages not to pee all over the truck when we make jumps like that. We have a catbox in the back of the truck but she hates the thing and just sleeps next to Chena (usually after a 20 minute meow-fest when we leave a place) and just holds it the entire time, snacking on treats here and there and sleeping in strange positions. Much of our time is lost when We have to stop every 70 miles or so for drinks, gas and to let Chena out to pee.
On the way to Dodge City, while finding out things about the town, I saw that Willie Nelson would be playing at the Dodge City amphitheater. I grew up on his voice and have over the years grown to appreciate his music, as well as many other ‘original’ country artist (like Dolly and Hank Williams), so I bought us some tickets for what would be the first live music we’ve seen in the 2 years on the road, minus the brithday party at Smokey Bear Campground in Gatlinburg for the owner, Chong, where our neighbor, a guy from the Tonuenes, and the guy who wrote the King of the Hill song played a couple sets.
Minus the concert, which was pretty great and opened by Junior Brown, a country rock master of a custom steel guitar, the first week in Dodge City was all work, warm days and cool nights. The park, Gunsmoke RV Park, was a bit of a gravel pit but had some serious southwest/high plains charm that we had missed over the last 18 months or so. Wagon wheels, cowboy cutouts, false front buildings, horses and even cactus were somewhat evenly placed around the scrubby campground. Dodge City itself overall wasn’t quite as cool but definitely was holding onto its historic roots as a town of gunslingers and lawmen like Wyatt Earp. The downtown and Boot Hill made up for the highway full of fast food, motels, and coffee shops that charge way too much for coffee and vegetables on a bagel.
We again changed our plans and decided to leave Saturday rather than spend our usual 2 weeks, partly because of the lack of nearby hiking or outdoor actifities, but also because of our rush to get to a cabin. As far as things to do in town, there is basically the Boot Hill Museum and little more. The museum is basically an entire small western town with cemetery, jail, church, school house – and a working bar and restaurant. There was almost no one else in the Museum and no guides which was great. You were just left to your own devices to wander around, poke at exhibits and artifacts, and even, yes, get a beer (piano player and all). It was 94 degrees on that last day in Dodge City and the last bit of real heat we will see for a long while.
I always try to picture myself living many of the places we stay, thinking I could make the best of even the smallest and least cultureless towns, and although Dodge City wasn’t very modern, it had internet, coffee and an awesome, though short lived, history that they’re proud of (the 1870s made it famous basically), I can imagine making an effort at helping that place into the 21st century, without it turning into some horrible place like Gatlinburg or Virginia Beach – places where any sense of culture and history has been replaced by novelty mugs and “authentic local art” (soullessly manufactured by some poor artist, strictly to appeal to tourists so they can make it through another off season).
Although Iv’e heard Kansas referred to as a “fly over state/drive by state”, I liked it. It disturbs me that nearly all of the state is privately owned by farmers and ranchers and not a single wild bison roams free anywhere where there used to be millions, but it still brought up thoughts of western films and old west history, and somehow kept me from cringing too much. Plus it reminds me of eastern Montana where I lived for a few years and my sister’s family is from. A flat golden place where the skyline goes on for miles and miles (hence the Big Sky State), the sunsets are always inspiring and the terrain will surprise you with canyons, cactus and rattle snakes.
But we left the high plains Sunday morning, and were on our way to Colorado anyway. Again I spent much of the drive looking for RV parks or campgrounds, with all the same issues lately, no running water (what?) and no sewer (not that odd), or places that were booked solid or even closed for the season already (its still 80 in Denver so that was odd). After spending more time staring at my phone screen than I like to during a drive (a time where I’d rather be staring outside and pointing at cragly trees in fields of cows and looking for antelope) I gave up on finding something near Denver and we opted for Tiger Run RV Resort in Breckenridge, a place far up in the mountains west of Denver 80 miles. Inconvenient because we wanted to look for a new truck in Denver, but convenient because of the price and its great distance from the massive amounts of people in Denver. We called ahead and got our spot, knowing it would be late when we arrived, and made our once reasonable day trip into one around 470 miles.
The truck nearly choked and died on the way up the mountains and is now leaking oil. It took a beating while climbing upwards of 10k feet, making 6 degree descents and climbs, one for 6 miles straight – probably working harder than the truck has ever had to work. We arrived around 11pm, having seen none of our mountainous trip, worn out as ever and worried about the truck. We spent a while setting up, the weather significantly colder than Denver already, and went to bed curious about our new 2 week home.
Luckily, we woke up to this and there were no more regrets about finding a place so far from Denver and our Jackson Wyoming route (try to ignore the RV in the picture, this place has a large number of owned spots with stored RV’s and empty Chalet’s).
So here we are, and basically everywhere you look looks like this or closer (in proximity). From downtown you can see the ski runs and Breckenridge offers more to do, and more vegetarian options than any town I can remember since maybe Asheville, NC. Thank you Western U.S.!!! So, since we like it so much.. we’ve been looking for cabins here and should have a code tomorrow to go inside one highest up on the list. We may not make it to Jackson (or probably Victor Idaho area) after all, but who cares. Apparently there is almost no cell reception for Verizon there and we have 2 verizon phones and 2 mifi units, which cost us enough every month that it would be a waste to pay for them and not be able to use them just for cheaper rent. Plus when you can take a bus to town year round, get 11mb internet (and probably higher but that’s what the cafe we go to gets)… great views..less gas costs because everything is close.. why go to East Idaho. Wish us luck that this place is awesome tomorrow.