We had an extremely fulfilling day today, and made it to our destination of Elizabethtown, New Mexico. I knew that I was going to have a great day when first thing this morning, I found my missing wallet in my toiletry bag. I had “lost” my wallet three weeks ago on a campout with Miles. Sure, I had to already replace my drivers license and debit card, but I was glad to reclaim the wallet.
We enjoyed our continental breakfast at the Liberal Days Inn. It included a “make your own waffle” station, which is a big hit with our kids. We departed the hotel at 8:05 and our first stop was the International Pancake Day Hall of Fame! Liberal, Kansas is known as the Pancake Hub of the Universe. That is quite a claim. Their reason for this claim is that since 1950, the citizens of Liberal have engaged in a transcontinental pancake race with the citizens of Olney, England. Through some turn of good fortune, Liberal was able to grab the “Pancake Hub of the Universe” title. I have no idea what Olney, England got out of the deal.
We also located the official Starting Line for the Pancake Race, which is located on Kansas Avenue, right in front of the of the Memorial Library. The start line stretches across the street in the form of a yard-wide row of bricks, built into the street, a la “The Brickyard” at Indianapolis.
When checking into the hotel last night, we were discussing the pancake heritage of the town, and the clerk told me that her cousin participated in the very first pancake race, and won! HOWEVER, at the Hall of Fame, they listed the winners of each of the Pancake Races, including their winning times. We were shocked to see that Olney won the first two Pancake Races, so we think that the clerk may have been telling us a story. We didn’t see how long the race is, but the fastest time we saw documented was 58 seconds.
After we had enough pancake-related activities, we had to hit the Liberal Wal-Mart because the matriarch of the family had forgotten her curling iron. At last, we left Liberal at 9:05 and the next destination was some land that Mom and Dad own in Colorado, right past the state line. KK’s Uncle Pete had purchased the land a LONG time ago, and it has stayed in the family to this day.
When you cross into Colorado from Kansas, the paved road actually ends, and it turns into a gravel road. We drove on the gravel road for 5 miles or so, and we came upon Hutches Farms. Linda and Preston Hutches farm the land for Mom and Dad, so we stopped for a bit and visited with Linda. We conducted our visit in the front yard while Mallory and Marissa played with their dog, Candy. Next we drove down the road for a mile or two and found Preston working in the field. He pulled his tractor up next to us and we visited in the field for a while. A person was limited by how long he could stand outside, by his ability to withstand the biting flies. The flies were awful. As Preston put it, everybody in the area was getting rid of their cattle, because they couldn’t afford them (due to the significant drought). So, the flies found us instead.
As we left the farmland, we opted to take the county roads west across Colorado. The county roads are strictly gravel roads. We drove about 80 miles on gravel roads, and I’m not sure we saw a single vehicle the entire time! Another note about the gravel roads is that they were quite smooth. In fact, it is easy to say that these gravel roads were much smoother than the roads we have back in Tulsa.
We eventually dumped out at a point where Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma connect. We affectionately referred to this as “Three Corners”, but not everybody (Miles) would go along with this, since it does not technically touch a corner of each state. After a few photos at the tri-state marker (which was very nice), we made our way to Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma. I expected this to be in the form of a mountain peak, but that’s not truly what it looks like. It is more of a high plateau that just so happens to be at a higher elevation than the rest of the state. (Scott pointed out to me that for some reason, the point known as Black Mesa is not actually inside Black Mesa State Park.)
After leaving Black Mesa, we checked out a few of the “famous” rock formations in the area, such as “the wedding party” and “the old maid”. We ended our tour of the extreme northwest Oklahoma panhandle, by visiting the Kenton Mercantile in downtown Kenton, Oklahoma. The Mercantile has the catchy slogan of “The Panhandle’s Last Resort”, or “If yer headn’ east, it’s yer first!”. Kenton is the only town in Oklahoma that is on Mountain Time. To be extremely kind, I will say that our visit to “the Merc” had mixed emotions in our group. There were 1 or 2 who thought it was an interesting place to take a load off, and look around. I was not one of that group. I think they engaged in false & misleading advertising by saying on their website, “The coldest soft service ice cream you will ever have the pleasure of.” The kids were very excited for most of the day about the promise of plenty of cold ice cream in Kenton. However, when we got there, all the ice cream they had to offer was a selection of Schwan’s pre-packaged ice cream. When the owner was asked about the whereabouts of the soft service ice cream, we were told they couldn’t sell it anymore “because it was a liability issue”. The kids had all taken their money inside to buy some souvenirs, but there were only a few dusty pieces of junk for them to look at. It also turned out that the owner was an Oklahoma Sooner fan, and they had (we thought quite appropriately) placed an OU sticker on the lid of the toilet seat in the bathroom at the Merc. With that being said, one interesting historical note about the Mercantile was that it was built in 1898 by Drew Barnum, who was a nephew of P.T. Barnum.
After we left Kenton, two minutes later we were in New Mexico. It would not be safe to gauge the population of New Mexico by counting the number of other cars on the highway we saw during our first hour and a half in New Mexico. I would be shocked if we saw 5 cars. Desolation! The drive between Clayton and Springer was particularly desolate, but the advantage to not having any residents in that part of the state was that the wildlife was plentiful. We saw antelope practically continuously between the two towns. We easily saw several hundred antelope.
Outside Springer, New Mexico, we saw a Bison ranch owned by Ted Turner. He had particularly tall barbed wire fences, as well as an electric fence in place. We were lucky enough to spot the Bison at one point as we drove down the highway.
The drive up into the mountains was great, and it was fun to watch the temperature (on the van’s thermometer) drop like a rock as we climbed in elevation. We arrived at the Mutz Ranch at 6:45. (The temperature was about 60 degrees.) We divided up the duties to increase efficiency. This was accomplished by Miles and I immediately getting the grill fired up, and we started grilling bratwurst. The rest of the travel party unloaded both vehicles and we also received our room assignments.
We enjoyed our dinner on the front porch with a great view of the mountains. After dinner, KK spotted four elk with his binoculars on the mountain across the road. A card game of Phase 10 also broke out, which was a great way to bring our two days of travel to an end.