September 2, 2010

Stumpin' Across Kansas (And Missouri and Colorado)

Because Tim could not take any more time off from work, I flew back to St. Louis with my friend Linda to finalize the purchase of the Free Spirit and drive it back to Colorado.  We decided to take our time and make an adventure of the trip.

I signed the papers and became the proud new owner of a Leisure Travel Vans Free Spirit.  Whoever would have thought that I would say such a thing?  John had removed most of the decals at our request and the rig looked beautiful.  John then gave us a complete walkthrough of all of the systems in preparation for our drive home.

Signing My Life Away
The Free Spirit Is Ready for Me at Van City RV

Explain That To Me That Again
By the time we learned everything we could think of and stocked up on supplies, it was late afternoon, so I braved rush hour traffic and headed to Babler Memorial State Park.  What a nice campground.  We spent the evening repacking the RV and ate dinner before it started to rain.  We only had to call John once when we forgot his instructions on how to turn the microwave on.  Silly, it has a separate switch.

We followed a scenic byway along the Missouri River the next morning and stopped in Hermann, Missouri, a charming town known for its wine.  Of course we had to purchase a few bottles for that evening.

Driving the RV was much easier than I had even hoped it might be.  I tested it on back roads, state highways, interstates and even dirt roads.  Wind didn’t seem to affect the stability, which was a huge relief.  Sitting up so high was also lots of fun.  I never quite mastered the art of backing up, although that’s not a surprise.  I don’t even like to back up my Subaru.

Linda found another wonderful campground at Knob Noster State Park, and we camped without hookups.  We quickly settled into a routine in the RV and at campgrounds, and we each assumed responsibilities for the duties that had to be done.  We developed checklists so that we would not forget anything important.

Linda at Knob Noster State Park
Our Moose PJs
We crossed into Kansas the next morning and headed for the Flint Hills and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  On the way, we stopped in Council Grove, where we looked at one historic tree stump after another.  I appreciate that important events took place under each tree, but what remains of the trees is really sad.  We quickly dubbed our trip “Stumpin’ Through Kansas.”

Stumpy, the Treaty Oak, in Council Grove, Kansas
We learned several lessons on our journey.  Probably the most important is to fill up with diesel before the tank gets too low.  We had to drive 30 miles out of our way to find a gas station with diesel.  Diesel is not always available in more remote areas, even on main highways.  I also learned the value of traveling with a smartphone.  After seeing field after field of a distinctive brownish crop, Linda decided to search for it on her iPhone.  She quickly determined that our mystery crop was sorghum.
Sarah in Tall Sorghum
I introduced Linda to the “Passport to Your National Parks” program, and she quickly became a convert.  Visiting national parks is one of my favorite activities, and I will stop if a park, or other unit of the National Park Service, is anywhere near my route.  I collect National Park passport stamps as a record of my travels.  As a result, we stopped at Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas and Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites in Colorado.

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
We arrived back in Estes Park without incident.  I’m going to love driving and traveling in the Free Spirit.

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