Toto, are we in Kansas? Part Four

Toto, are we in Kansas?  Part Three, continued:

I disentangled myself from the assorted weaponry, not wanting to appear as if I was frightened to stay alone or something, and hopped out to help Doug feed our tank.  My heart warmed with restored faith in the goodness of others as we chatted with the nice Kansas farmer.  Not only did our Good Samaritan refuse to take any payment, he also insisted on waiting with us to make sure Honey Badger’s engine would start.  So we proudly dubbed him a member of “Team Honey Badger”.

Doug had previously purchased stickers for our trip – large round ones for ‘members’ of our team, and smaller ones that just said “Honey Badger”.  Doug used them throughout our trip to tag things like the pole at the Continental Divide and sometimes other vehicles in our off-roading group.  It was like a game, saying Honey Badger was here.  And make no mistake, it’s an honor to be inducted into Team Honey Badger; not everyone gets a sticker.

We were delighted when the farmer got a laugh from being presented with a Team Honey Badger sticker, saying he would duly tag his truck back at the farm, and we all headed up the road together.  As we safely pulled into a very busy Conoco, we waved goodbye to our new friend, and waited for our turn at the pump behind a gorgeous, gleaming — Porsche.

Yeah, you heard right – a Porsche, out in the middle of no-man’s land, next to the beat up pickup trucks and folks in overalls.  It just seemed a tad out of place, especially after we noticed the MS-13 look-alikes sitting cockeyed in the plush, leather seats.  Hmmm, I figured it was high time to ‘get out of Dodge’, quick.

Since the pumps were of the ‘pay first’ variety, Doug waited at the pump while I went inside.  The young man who answered the phone earlier wasn’t kidding.  He was the only attendant working behind the counter, and he did appear very new to the job based on the confused chaos of customer back-up at the register.  I felt sorry for the kid and was so glad that I remained polite during my fruitless phone call.

Once it became my turn, I tried handing him my credit card for the pump in question, but he just stood there and stammered a little…my gas was already paid for, wasn’t it?  He held up a credit card that apparently had been left behind by the MS-13 thug-a-likes.  In horror, I ran to the door to make sure Doug hadn’t started pumping yet – but he looked at me like I was crazy and informed me that he was already done.  There was no sign of the Porsche.

I nervously went back to the counter, wondering if the kid knew how to separate the charges and refund the card.  The last thing I needed was to be gunned down over a few measly gallons of gas.  But it turned out he was mistaken and the other card was not charged for our gas after all.  I wasted no more time.  Visions of the long, sought-after, Interstate danced in my head.

Interstate Fantasies
Interstate Fantasies

We soon reached the reasonably priced gas station in Larned, and after topping the tank, we briefly let Honey Badger cool her heels in the shade of a nearby tree.  It was so hot; the gas in her tank was bubbling and leaking streams of gas from around the sealed cap, down her side panel, before evaporating onto her oversized, rubber tire.

We gave it the span of a cigar break, and found the day was still too hot to cool anything.  We apologized to Honey Badger for pushing her so hard in that heat; but she merely shrugged it off, reminding us she had seen worse temperatures in the desert, not to worry, this was a piece of cake.

The sun was sinking ever lower on the long and exhausting day; however, we were so happy to be ‘on the road again’, we decided to not stop for the night until we reached the Interstate.  It was with a joyous heart that we watched our shadow in the passing wheat fields.

Honey Badger's Shadow
Honey Badger’s Shadow

We drove for untold miles, passing so much look-alike scenery, I wondered if we were, in truth, standing still.  This in turn prompted me to think about the lack of habitat for the local wildlife.  Where would the migratory birds find refuge, if there were no trees or bushes to temporarily harbor their flight?  What about the deer and foxes and smaller game too?

Outside of harvest-time combines keeping some populations in check, it would be hard to play out Nature’s course when all the land was seized by man, churned into neatly furrowed rows growing the same single crop, acre upon acre.  I suspected none of the indigenous plants were allowed to survive either, along with beneficial insects, all killed off by the same noxious poisons in the quest for cookie-cutter produce.  I felt sad for the wild things of our planet.

I thought about our nicely, manicured lawns back home, one subdivision after another, and newly constructed municipal buildings that tore down the surrounding countryside in an effort to tame Mother Nature into complacent subjugation.  Where would the wild things go?

And just when I worked myself into a proper state of despair, a wonderful thing happened.  We suddenly entered a patch of road where, on both sides, for miles and as far out as we could see, beautiful – gorgeous – wise Kansonians – designated a land reclamation area.  Trees, bushes, and other plant life teemed with birds and buzzing insects; my heart burst open with happiness.  All those migrating species would now find respite in their age-old journey across the land.

It seemed to me a wonderful compromise.  I fully understand our farmers need to tame the land so they can grow crops that sustain the human race – but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a patch of land be kept in its natural state either.  It reminded me to give thanks, to applaud President Theodore Roosevelt’s long-sighted wisdom and his subsequent creation our National Park system – for all to enjoy.

I was once again captivated by the surrounding beauty, further adorned by the setting sun.

Kansas Sunset
Kansas Sunset

By sunset, I could see windmills, far in the distance, which signaled we would soon reach the Interstate.  I checked our map and GPS, estimated another hour’s drive on I-70 (at least…Honey Badger was still chugging along at record low speeds), and asked Doug if he was up to making an extremely long day a little bit longer.

Not surprisingly, Doug met the challenge with good cheer so I plugged in our route to the Best Western Plus in Salina, Kansas.  Before long, we reached the land where windmills were farmed instead of wheat, and with weary bones, entered the fast paced world of the modern Interstate.

By the time we reached Salina, we felt “rode hard and put up wet”.  Poor Doug was so stressed out by the lack of Honey Badger’s speed, I wasn’t sure how we were going to survive the next 2 – 3 day journey home.  But I needn’t have worried long.  Little did I know, Kansas wasn’t done with us yet.

But that’s another story.


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