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A long day's drive


September 11, 2009—I used to drive from New Jersey to my grandparents' (and later my father's) house in Pittsburgh, a distance of 380 miles, about once a year. It was tiring, but not exhausting. But I don't have the endurance I once did. Today's drive of 210 miles left me feeling wrung out... too tired to do much more than pull into the first available site here at Kanopolis State Park.

I can't complain about the difficulty of the drive. After two days on state higheways and a few county roads, I got onto I-70 today and sailed across the landscape for most of the afternoon with very little to do except listen to an audiobook: Daniel M. Pinkwater's "The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror." This, along with its predecessor "The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death," is one of my favorite books, and great for keeping me entertained and alert while driving. I really ought to buy more of Pinkwater's audiobooks; he has a great voice, and the stories are funny, fascinating, and quirky. I have a couple dozen of his books, mostly in paperback, back in my New Jersey storage room, including stories such as "The Big Orange Splot," "The Wuggie Norple Story," "Lizard Music," "Fat Men From Space," and "The Muffin Fiend." Most of them were illustrated by Pinkwater or his wife Jill. I miss those books a lot.

60 mph

Even with the audiobook to listen to, driving across the flat Kansas terrain under gray skies was boring enough that I pushed my speed up to 60 mph instead of my usual 55–57. The effect on my driving time was insignificant, but psychologically it just felt better to be traveling a mile a minute. I wondered what the early settlers would have thought about that. They were probably lucky to make forty or fifty miles in a day, and I was doing sixty in an hour.

Late in the morning I stopped at a truckstop to top off my gas tank. I wasn't really hungry, but I knew I'd be wanting lunch pretty soon. I've had this happen before: I tell myself "I'm not hungry yet"... I get back on the road... and within twenty minutes I can't think of anything but food. Then I have to drive for an hour to reach the next rest stop. So I decided to nip the whole business in the bud by eating then and there. I picked out something described as a hot pancake, egg, and sausage sandwich wrapped in foil, and took it back to Skylark to eat. It turned out to be a soggy affair, with something vaguely pancake-like, but in the shape of English muffins, enclosing a sausage patty and a small round of scrambled eggs. The whole thing was slightly dampened with undoubtedly synthetic maple syrup. I loved it.

The most interesting thing I saw all day was in the later afternoon, when I encountered a wind farm. Well, it's the perfect terrain for it... the wind must blow steadily across these prairies for much of the year. I remember reading about a Kansas boy who launched a kite, tied the string to a fencepost, and it was still flying a week later.

Kansas wind farm

Late in the day I pulled into Kanopolis State Park, Kansas's first state park and one of its largest. the signage was poor, and my GPS didn't help by taking me over six or eight miles of unpaved county roads (quite unnecessarily, I'm sure) before I got to the park entrance. Even then I wasn't sure of what I was doing, because there are housing developments scattered around the park, and every time I'd come upon one, I'd think I was on the wrong road. I was too tired to think straight by this time, so I just kept going until I found a small, out of the way campsite in the woods by the lakeside. I pulled in and didn't even bother to level—too tired to care.

Kanopolis panorama

I had a light supper and then tackled the day's accumulated emails, and started writing this page.

Kanopolis sunset

I did spend a little time on the beach behind my campsite—my own little private stretch of sand—enjoying the sunset over the lake, or reservoir, or whatever it is. It's really a lovely spot, except that it's full of flies and the humidity is 62%.

You midwesterners and easterners can laugh, but I've spent the last four years in New Mexico's delightfully (to me) dry climate, and any humidity over 35% feels like a steambath to me now. I knew I'd have to deal with this once I traveled east of the Rockies, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Yes, I grew up in New Jersey, and yes, it's humid there most of the time... and I hated every muggy day and sweaty, sleepless night there. That's one major reason I beelined it for the southwest once I retired. I hate humidity. I'll try not to complain too much about it in this journal, though.

Well, it's time to get online and figure out where I'm going to be tomorrow night. Somewhere in Missouri, I suppose... I'll have to see what looks promising in the way of state parks.

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