We went to bed last night with the thunderstorm’s light show to the north. By 2:00am, the storm hit the Goodland Kansas KOA hot & heavy. It rained and thundered and lightning all night long.
We had planned to get up at 6:00am in order to leave by 8:00am. It was raining at 6:00, so we snoozed until 6:30. Still raining. We finally got up at 7:30. It was still raining, but we couldn’t wait any longer.
We broke down the entire campsite during a light drizzle. Any enthusiasm about camping at this point is forced. (Who’s idea was this?)
I visited with the KOA owners while getting our morning coffee in the office. He told me that Goodland had not had any rain in several months, and this rainstorm had produced 1.5 inches. Well, good for Goodland!
We finally pulled out of the KOA at 10:45am. But in an impressive fashion, everybody is in good spirits and we have decided to have a great day. Fortunately for us, our first stop of the day is less than a mile down the road – the giant Van Gogh Sunflower painting!
This painting is 24 feet x 32 feet and stands on an easel 80 feet tall. Goodland is fortunate to host this reproduction. The artist who created it is devoted to placing a reproduction of each of Van Gogh’s seven sunflower paintings on seven different continents.
After a Walmart stop (you find out real quick what you forgot when it rains continually on your first night out), we hit the road. The family was amused that the Goodland Walmart was a metal shed.
Driving down the Interstate, Marissa decided we needed an official vacation song. She quickly shot down my suggestion with “No, that won’t do” and got creative herself. She wanted to know each state we were traveling through and what letter the state started with. When we got to “Wyoming”, Stephanie yelled out “Y!”. Oh my, we gave her a hard time for that.
Our next stop was in Strasburg, Colorado. There is a memorial just a few miles out of town that honors the ten men who died in a plane crash as the Oklahoma State basketball team was flying from Boulder, Colorado to Stillwater, Oklahoma in 2001.
We were impressed by the official looking signs that we followed in town once we got off the Interstate. We had no problem finding it.
It is a small memorial carved out of a pasture. The fence that lined the memorial was dotted with items that visitors have left in tribute. The main memorial, which features pictures of all ten men and a few words about each, is an exact replica of one that is located inside Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.
There are several markers thanking various individuals and organizations for their assistance during the accident and in the creation of the memorial. The memorial is touching and does a tremendous job of honoring the victims.
The actual site of the crash is located about 1,000 feet west of the memorial. There is a paved path available to walk to the site.
We visited the site and the total isolation you feel at that spot seems to add somehow to the tragedy. It is hard to explain.
During our walk, we came upon a horned toad. The kids had never seen one before and had to ask us what it was. It was a nice distraction for a few minutes.
We got on the road and skirted Denver on our way to Estes Park. We may or may not have got slightly lost in Denver. But if we had, the upside was that we got to drive through the very swanky town of Westminster.
We drove straight through Estes Park, unlike the what-had-to-be thousand pedestrians we saw walking up and down their streets. This place was hopping and folks seemed to be enjoying the temps in the 70s. Every other person was eating an ice cream cone. (Odds are we will visit one of these shops tomorrow.)
Unlike some other stops on this trip, the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) was open and invited us in. We stopped at the Beaver Meadow Visitor Center to put a stamp on our National Parks Passport and get a sticker for our Rocketbox. (The Rocketbox is a coffin-shaped storage unit we strap to the top of our van so that we can haul the maximum amount of gear around with us.)
The Visitor Center is actually a National Historic Landmark, as it was designed by the architecture firm started by Frank Lloyd Wright. It blends in seamlessly with the environment and looks great.
We pulled into our campsite at Moraine Park and once again, rain was falling. The ranger had been telling us just how bad the forest fires have been in the Estes Park area – over 20 homes destroyed in the last few weeks.
Well, it seems that any part of the country experiencing a drought, might want to invite the Traveling Kings and our tent to their area to spend the night. We are more reliable than any raindance.
Of course, we saw the humor in the fact that we are putting the tent up in the rain our first two days. We learned a lot from the first day’s experience. We were much more efficient today and everybody seemed to know what to do to help out.
In just one hour, we had our tent, our tailgating tent, and our kitchen area completely set up! We were pretty pleased with ourselves!
While setting up camp, a Park Ranger who was a bear biologist stopped by our campsite to check out the bear box that we would use. Turns out there is a black bear that has been visiting various campsites at 3:00am looking for food. The Ranger gave us some tips, including to cover up our ice chests. He said that the bears recognize the white lids and colored chests as something that will contain tasty food for them. How about that!
We assured us the bear was no danger to us. In fact he used the words “sweet bear” while describing her. This sounds like a man who is not sleeping in a tent 30 feet from a bear box.
Immediately east of our campsite is an enormous boulder. It is hands down the best climbing rock in the entire campsite. There were people from all over visiting it tonight. We also found a few minutes to climb it.
A fire ban in the park forced us to change our dinner plans. We couldn’t break out the charcoal for the dutch oven so it was chicken salad instead.
Originally, our big plan for RMNP was to take a drive on Trail Ridge Road. It is an extremely scenic drive that had been highly recommended. However, due to our issues getting out of Goodland, we decided it wasn’t so important that we had to break our neck trying to do it. This turned out to be a great decision because we had a very relaxed and fun evening at our campsite.
After dinner, Miles took Mallory, Marissa and I on a trail hike that he had explored earlier in the evening.
For reasons only a 14-year-old could understand, Miles has an alias. He likes to refer to himself as “Randy Shackleford”. As we started our hike, he addressed us and welcomed us to “Randy Shackleford’s Trails of Wonder Expedition”.
“Randy” ended up taking us on a hike about 2/3 of a mile, and most of it was straight up the mountain and straight down. Marissa fell down a handful of times. Toward the end of the hike, I overheard Marissa tell Mallory, “I have more scars than you do! On this very hike!” Oh, sibling rivalry…
Mallory and Marissa both crossed a log we found in a wetlands. “Randy” promised anyone to cross the log an invisible certificate. Don’t laugh – he issued two certificates.
By the time we got back from our hike, Stephanie had cleaned up the dinner mess and the place looked spic-and-span. Not very welcoming to bears if you ask me.
Tomorrow, we drive on to Idaho where we will be staying the night. The potatoes will enjoy the rain.