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The Road to Kansas Starring Me, George R.R. Stephen Boucher and Janice Gelb

Last week I went crazy.  I was supposed to fly out to Kansas City for their terrific convention, Conquest.  Meanwhile George and Parris and Stephen Boucher and Janice Gelb were planning a road trip stopping at funky little roadside attractions.  Unfortunately Parris came down with a bug so rather than a caravan George was riding with Stephen and Janice.  Over breakfast they offered me the change to ride along.  And I decided to do it.  I raced home, packed, printed out my story to read, grabbed a few supplies — coke, freshly baked cookies, bananas, and waited for my ride.

It was 11:00 before we hit the road, heading north on I-25 and turn off east and north on smaller two lane roads.   We stopped for lunch at an old hotel in Springer.  All around stores were shut, and windows boarded up, it was a theme we were to see repeated through so many small towns as the young people migrate to the bright lights and big cities.

Next stop was Clayton N.M.  George had printed out some information on roadside attractions.  There were supposed to be dinosaur footprints in Clayton.  We stopped at the tourist information which had a plaque about the Santa Fe Trail, and a pair of plaster dinos.  The triceritops had lost all his horns to vandals.  No footprints.  We asked for directions.  Turned out to be 15 miles out of town in a state park.  The footprints had been discovered when they were bulldozing to build the spillway for a small man made lake.

I really wanted to see this so we drove off into the rolling green hills.  Clearly Clayton had been getting a lot of rain because it was so lush and green, the pastures filled with grazing cattle and splashed by wild flowers in blue, purple and yellow.

We found the lake and the trail to the footprints.  It was a gorgeous walk along the edge of the lake, and then we found them.  There was an information shack with plaques about the area 100 million years ago, and how this was the best preserved and most extensive dino tracksites in the U.S.  You then took steps down to see the prints. 

They were amazing, and there was helpful information to interpret what you were seeing.  In one place a dinosaur apparently lost it’s balance, and kept stepping forward and backward.  As Janice said it sounded like he was doing the hokey pokey.  In another place you could see the tail marks which the experts think the tail was being used for balance in the slippery mud.

In another section you saw not only the fossilized ripples from this vast ancient sea, but also drying mud cracks.  I’d seen ripples before but the mud cracks were utterly unique.  By now I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera.  

As we walked back the wind played tag with the water, stirring up silver ripples, then raced into the trees and played them like harps.  Song birds rode the air currents, and gave an occasional cry.  We all kept pausing just to listen and look.

Then it was back in the car and on the road heading for Oklahoma and more attractions.  Which turned out to be a gigantic metal sculpture of a dinosaur in Boise City OK.   Since we’d seen tracks we went to see the art work.  The other thing of note was that Boise was the only American city to be bombed during WWII — by… us.

Turns out a training flight got confused, and dropped six bombs on the town rather than the target.  To commemorate this they had a “replica crater”.  We wanted to see it.  So we drove around and around the town square to no avail.  Finally George checked the printout “By the caboose” was what it said.  So we parked and walked toward the caboose.
I spotted the “crater” first.  It was about the size of a toilet bowl though now as deep and embedded in the center was a tiny bomb.  It looked like something the Coyote would have rigged up to try and stop the Road Runner.  I lost it.  I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.

Having exhausted Boise City we headed farther east.  By now it was 7:00 pm and we were hungry.  We decided to search for food using the Babe in a Box, the Garmen George had brought along.  Unfortunately the software hadn’t been updated for four years, and we learned one things — restaurants disappear with depressing regularity.  We tried two places only to find them gone, and ended up at a local chain called Cacktus Jack.  There’s a reason it’s a local chain — it was awful.  

I had this childhood memory of chicken fried steak in Oklahoma from when my mom would drive us out to visit my grandmother.  I remembered it being good.  This wasn’t.  It was thick and tough and terribly salty with enough breading to plug the B.P. Deep Horizon well.
We wanted to spend the night in Liberal Kansas so we drove on pausing briefly in Hooker Oklahoma whose sole business seems to be selling tee shirts that say “All My Friends are Hookers”, or “I’m a Hooker”.  Nothing jumped out, so to speak, so we drove on and then began the search for a hotel in Liberal.  More about that anon.

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