Kansas Visitor Center

Kansas Visitor Center on the I-35.

It was a beautiful morning—seventy degrees and sunny, when we pulled out of the Dennys in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A motorcycle driver and his sidecar passenger ahead of us still wore their leathers—their license plates said they’d come from Alaska. Like us, they’d no doubt left snow banks at home.

The I-25 took us from Wyoming over the border into Colorado, with the Roosevelt National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park almost mirages along the Eastern horizon, until our highway change in Denver.

Traffic rolling into Denver was heavy, bumper-to-bumper for thirty or more miles. As navigator, I made the logical decision and plugged in the GPS, selected most freeways from the options, and sat back to give David driving instructions.

At the warning that we were entering a Toll Highway, I pulled out my coin purse, ready to pay. I learned long ago to carry U.S. change for just such a situation as Canadian coins don’t have the same weights and don’t work well.

Much to my surprise, the tolls were all at the off ramps into suburbia. Signs advised us that users could be billed by their license plates, so they didn’t have to carry change. In the end we didn’t pay at all.

Changing to I-70, we headed off to Burlington, then on into Kansas. While the temperature climbed to nearly 80 degrees, it was easy to see summer hadn’t arrived yet those first miles. The ground laid barren, corn stubble in some fields, grass nibbled down to the dirt in others.

Wind farm in Kansas

Wind farm in Kansas near Russell.

A tumbleweed flew from left to right across the highway in front of us, followed by another one blowing from right to left. What was with that? Then, of course, I realized we were in Kansas, the state that Dorothy had been swirled away from by a tornado to meet the Wizard of Oz.

While I’m always up for adventure, I hoped tornadoes and the Wizard weren’t among them on this trip.

About 80 miles into Kansas, I noticed the first hints of green in the fields. The corn stubble, though, still stood crinkly and brown, with no signs of farmers out ready to cultivate it into the fields and seed a new crop.

We drove and drove and drove, happy to have a 75 mph speed limit, reminded of the horizon that stretches out forever back home around Winnipeg, in Manitoba.

There was no missing the Cathedral of the Plains, a massive church near Hays, which we could see for miles south of the Interstate. Another day we might have stopped, but with 550 miles already behind us for the day we were ready for a hotel.

At Russell, Kansas, we took the off-ramp and selected one—a Day’s Inn. The king-sized bed really was king-size, and better yet had a pillow top, so provided an excellent night’s sleep.

The next morning, Sunday, we set out once again after grabbing coffee and a banana from the Continental breakfast. Fifteen minutes down the Interstate we came upon the largest wind farm I’ve ever seen!

Miles and miles of wind turbines stood planted between the now-green fields, their blades swiping the light mist that hovered around them. Spinning counter-clockwise, they sliced the morning wind.

I had no navigation duties until Wichita, and even without the GPS they would have been easy. We just turned onto the Kansas Turnpike Toll Road, I-35, and headed south. At the Toll Plaza we were handed a punch card—no money yet—and set off down the no-access highway.

The only available stop in the 30 or so miles on the Turnpike was a Service Area that provided a gas station and McDonald’s. At the South end of the Turnpike we checked out, paid our $2, and continued on to Oklahoma.