Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore

Greeting from Estes Park, Colorado.

Yesterday, we had one of our longest days of driving ahead of us, so we tried to get an early start. Breakfast of fruit, cold cereals, breads, cheese, and coffee. Still, it took us about an hour and a half from the time we woke up at 6:00 a.m. until the time we drove "Monty" out of the campground.

Our route across Kansas and Eastern Colorado required barely a turn—I-70 the entire way. With a low-hanging blanket of clouds overhead, we pressed westward with our sights on the horizon, stopping only briefly to top off Monty's 40+ gallon gas tank.

After a few hours we came to Abilene, Kansas, the birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower. This seemed like an interesting spot for an extended break, so we freshened up and took ourselves on our own 20-minute tour. We saw the visitor's center, his childhood home, the Victory Garden, the chapel/sanctuary-thingy, the presidential library—click, click, back aboard Monty, pedal to the metal, our sights on the Colorado border.

Pulled over at the exit for Hays, Kansas to make our lunch. Parked in an IHOP parking lot and found an open wifi network. Updated the blog.

The landscape really started to flatten west of Hays. Also, I noticed that we were beginning to drive ever-so-slightly uphill and the clouds started to break up allowing some blue sky to peak through here and there. Around Ellsworth, Kansas we found ourselves driving alongside a wind farm. It was an awesome sight to see these towering white structures standing on the almost featureless landscape. Their long arms gracefully spinning around their hubs like giant flower pedals. We pulled over to get a closer look and watched them perform their silent, hypnotic dance like giant ballerinas, snap, snap, back aboard Monty, pedal to the metal, our sights on the Colorado border.

Finally, we crossed the Colorado state line. Everyone said in unison, "We're not in Kansas anymore!" The clouds were like big fluffy pancakes floating in a pool of azure—strangely all equal in size and equidistant from one another. The outside air became much cooler and drier. The air conditioning was turned off and windows were opened. Then we began to see some bluish-gray sage brush and creamy white flower spikes of yuccas. At that point we all had a spike in energy and we were really getting excited to see Denver and the Rocky Mountains rise above the horizon—but not before one more thrill.

The once innocent looking clouds gathered together on the horizon where all of our attention had been focused and formed an ominous blue-black beast of a storm. "Looks like some rain ahead." Closer and closer we came to one another, flashes of lighting streaked across the sky. Closer still, swirling, boiling, bubbling clouds overhead. More lightning, growling, the smell of ozone. I began to get a little nervous at this point, but I kept it to myself. We prepared for what might lay ahead, closing the windows and battening down the hatches. "Places everyone!"

The storm had long massive arms that wrapped around either side of us before even the first drip of rain hit the windshield. First just a drop or two, and then an explosion of giant splatters of rain and slushy ice loogies. Visibility was never too bad and traffic only slowed to about 40 MPH or so. It turned out not to be as bad as I thought it would be. On the other side of the storm it looked like it had snowed. An inch or two of hail had accumulated on the shoulders of the road. We had dodged the worse of of it. Whew! More miles, more coffee, more volume on the stereo, pedal to the metal, our sights on the the Rockies.

Across the prairie we finally saw the mountains rise behind the Denver skyline. More "ooos" and "aaahs." By the time we got our first good look that them it was rush hour in Denver. We made it through without missing an exit and without much delay. Only 30 more miles or so and we could rest for the night. I had started feeling a little delirious by then.

The last few miles from Boulder to Estes Park were amazing! The sun was getting low and golden light made the orange and red rocks of the mountain sides glow like amber. We followed the curves of a rushing mountain river for much of the way. Monty chugged along slowly but surely, and I could tell that he was as anxious to get to Estes Park as I was.

Our view from our RV site blew us away when we first saw it. Tall peaks covered in snow. Oh, and cool, dry air. Shorts changed to pants, t-shirts changed to sweaters.What a relief from the sticky heat we had endured in St. Louis yesterday. We've really come a long way.