19th - 20th June 2008

We arrived in Kansas late afternoon and although we couldn't quite place it ,Kansas just felt somehow different to all the other states we'd visited so far.     The landscape had changed to rolling hills, often bare prairie or corn fields, the road signs looked different, it all just seemed more rural and a little more exotic.    We got the feeling we'd truly arrived in the mid west plains.
We'd spotted a state park on our road map and as it was getting late, decided to head there and try to find a campsite for the night.    Turning off the main highway following the signs, we found ourselves on an unsurfaced road.   As we ventured further from the main highway, the condition of the road became worse, until we finally arrived at the state fishing lake, where there was alleged to be a campground.    

The lake was pretty remote and there was nobody anywhere about.   With dark storm clouds gathering overhead, the whole place seemed even more eerie.  We decided to head back to civilisation in search of a more accommodating spot to spend the night.

With no other state parks within a close radius, we headed on to the town of Hiawatha and dug out our commercial campground guide.    Spotting a listing we made our way there.   After several wrong turns and finally getting directions from helpful locals, we arrived.     The campground was not in the least appealing even to weary travellers and we decided that we'd probably have a more comfortable, not to mention cheaper night at the nearby Wal-mart supercentre we'd just passed.    We enquired at customer services if overnight camping was permitted in their lot and were welcomed with open arms.    

Scenic view from our Hiawatha campsite

Not so scenic view but who's complaining for the price?

Now we'd already provisioned earlier in the day at a Wal-mart in Missouri but still managed to find a thing or two we couldn't live without before settling down for dinner.     After dinner with a lack of entertainment on TV, what could we do for entertainment?   Yes, a third trip of the day to Wal-mart for more absolute essentials.    In hindsight it was probably cheaper to stay in a campground, but who is complaining.     

We left the store to make our long trip home, only to discover that the sky had turned a menacing shade of black and the apocalypse seemed imminent.     We just made it back to Harvey before the storm began, the parking lot became a river and lightning was hitting the ground all around us.    The wind picked up to maybe 50 knots in no time at all and poor Harvey began to rock a little with the force.    We contemplated a sprint back to the store for protection and sought out the VHF weather radio we'd brought with us from the boat.    Apparently there were no tornado warnings issued and the risk of getting struck by lightning, not to mention soaked to the skin, kept us aboard our beloved Harvey.    Eventually the storm abated somewhat and we turned in for the night to the sweet lullaby of more distant thunder.    

Next morning we were tired after the disturbed night and decided to make a short day of it.    We headed out on route 36 which headed directly west.     Directly west in this case meaning not a bend, not a turn, just straight across the state with only the slight undulations of the rolling hills for variety.

We were following the beginning of the route of the Pony Express riders and regularly passed historic sites, locations of former Pony Express stations.

We spotted a sign leading us on a detour off route 36 to the geographic centre of the United States and turned off, ready for some excitement.     After heading down long straight back roads for several miles we finally arrived!     Despite being in the centre of things, the monument seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and we had only crickets and wild flowers for company.

Back on route 36 we turned into the Prairie Dog State Park of Kansas.    The landscape wasn't very inspiring as we'd approached but the park itself turned out to be very pretty.     We found a mixture of rolling prairie land, fishing lake and needless to say Prairie Dog town to visit.     

Phil decided it was time to break out his new fly-fishing rod and bought himself a license to fish in the state.    His fishing adventure had to be delayed until we'd visited the Prairie Dogs in their town, the technical term for a collection of burrows, close together, inhabited by the very vocal little critters.    They were fairly small but we spotted them easily with the help of their noisy chatter.

Prairie Dog Town House

Park view with bunnies

We headed down to the lake and Phil tried his luck with the new fishing rod.     Big fish could be seen lurking nearby but none wanted to take the bait.    We did managed to annoy the local feathered residents, who let it be known with their shrill cries that we were in their territory.

We returned to Harvey empty-handed for dinner (lucky we'd done all that stocking up at Wal-mart!).    After dinner we enjoyed another wild thunderstorm, the second of that day.    It was nothing against Kansas but we decided not to hang around in the plains, the weather was too scary! 

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