July 21-24, 2002 ..... Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore .....
And such were the thoughts that emerged when Tim Edwards of Topeka, and myself ... Roger Baugh of Wichita, arrived upon the Arickaree Breaks in Cheyenne County, Kansas.
I had ridden in from Wichita (390 miles) to the northwestern-most county in the state on Sunday. Tim joined up early Monday morning after spending time with family in Goodland the night before. After a hearty breakfast at the "Dusty Farmer Restaurant" in St. Francis, KS, we headed out north to the "Breaks".
We were struck by the effects of severe drought in the region. Where there should have been around 12 inches of rain up to this point in the year, the area has received only 2-4 inches since Fall of 2001. The grasslands have gone dormant, and many grain crops have failed ... meaning that many ranchers will have to sell off herds at a loss, and farmers will have to wait until next year in hopes of recouping this year's lack of production.
Along the way into the Breaks, we came upon a couple of vultures feasting upon a snake .... it turned out to be a prairie rattlesnake of 5-6 years age (if each button on the rattler is a good indicator of age). The dead snake reminded us to walk with heavy footsteps when venturing off the roadbed!
After crisscrossing "The Breaks", we then headed to the three corner region .... where the state lines of Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas converge. It was here that we encountered the "sugar bowls" ..... areas where the road would collapse under your wheels in deep sugar sand and dirt resembling talcum powder. Disconcerting when not expected!
On Tuesday, we decided to visit the site of the Beecher's Island Battle a few miles west into Colorado, as it was so closely tied with Kansas history. In 1878, a militia force of 25 settlers were pinned down at this location for nine days against an estimated force of 700 Cheyenne. As with all conflicts, the story is both heroic and tragic.
We then rode north to Wray, Colorado, a beautiful town in the "butte country" of Colorado. From Wray, we rode to Nebraska's picturesque Rock Creek State Park and fishery northeast of Haigler.
From Nebraska, we rode to Bird City, Kansas. Tim and I enjoyed a good lunch at the "Blue Bird Cafe". Tim made the ride back to St. Francis to pick up and load his KLR onto his trailer, while I proceeded east to Hill City. We had dinner in Plainville ... then headed our separate ways home. I enjoyed two good roads riding from Colby to Wichita ... K-18 to Lincoln, K-14 Arlington. Light to no traffic, good changes of scenery.
A great couple of days exploring a little more of what Kansas has to offer!
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