Gettin’ the Heck Out of Dodge and Ending Up in a Salt Mine

KOAs are great ... or at least the ones at which I’ve ended up are great! Clean, nice facilities, friendly people. And the KOA in Dodge City is walking distance to Boot Hill and downtown, and has lovely hot showers. I enjoyed my ablutions this morning. Scrubbed my hair.... Because this would be my last shower till Tuesday. I’d be dry camping the next three nights. (The terrestrial equivalent of anchoring out in a boat.) No hookups, which in The Pryde means “sponge baths.” But I’m okay with that. I think my outlaw name in the Old West would have been “Dirty” something because I don’t need a shower daily! 😜

Anyway, this morning’s shower felt good. I’d stayed up late for work stuff. In his Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, A Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World, about his year birding around the globe, Noah Strycker tries to show some of the fatigue that comes with keeping up with work while on the road. But that kind of thing never really comes across in books or on television. The adventure overshadows it all. Last night, though, the “adventure” decidedly did not overshadow my need to hit the laptop.

Then again, getting up to Boot Hill and getting a selfie with Doc Holliday was worth it. After the last few weeks of reading James Reasoner’s Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West (a good intro to the Wild West, its gunfights, and its characters, but a bit repetitive), and Mary Doria Russell’s Doc (The Bosun and I are still working on it, but it’s good so far!), I marveled at the fact I’d made a trek from Texas to Dodge City similar to that made by so many of the Old West’s figures. This journey dovetailed perfectly with Tombstone and New Mexico from a couple weeks ago. The stories of the West came to life for me—in the trail here, and the artifacts, and the pleasant breeze, and the railroad tracks, and the sunset.

Heading out of Dodge just continued the connection, while widening the net of stories. I passed Fort Dodge. Then I stopped at a monument marking a place at which Coronado and his men had rested after crossing the Arkansas River in 1541. A historical marker alerted me to stop at the scene of a battle between US and Apache troops in 1848; an Apache woman seems to have served as a leader and directed aid to her tribe’s wounded.

Then just outside Hutchinson, Kansas, I found my Harvest Hosts stop for the night: Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. If you find yourself in the area, go! This place offers tours some 650 feet below the earth’s surface, introducing visitors to a salt mine that has seen service since the 1920s. Graffiti, work marks, and trash my tour group saw showed dates from the 1940s and 1950s. We learned about mining logistics (very similar to what visitors to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry hear about coal mining). Old mining equipment and short, snappy videos gave us a feel for mining over the decades. Tours by train and people-mover cars took us through tunnels, past roof cave-ins and floor ruptures, and beside scars of a fire.

In one area, we learned the mine offers commercial storage for materials that owners want to save from atmospheric elements that can cause deterioration. Hollywood and the government, apparently, favor underground storage for preservation purposes.

The whole thing provided a memorable afternoon. Then it was back to the trailer for a slice of chocolate cake I’d saved from a lunch stop ... and boat pictures from The Bosun that made me homesick.

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