Not much to note along that leg of the trip, except a general observation: There’s no way in even Al Gore’s most fevered nightmares that this country could ever conceivably become overpopulated! The phrase “wide open spaces” is a pale cliche in comparison to the reality that is Kansas.
Pulled into Dodge City after dark (there’s an evocative phrase!). Proceeded to get lost, and ended up going back around once before getting straightened out and finding my hotel. There’s a difference between “50” and “Business 50”, the latter being the one you go on if you want to actually see Dodge City! At any rate, followed the neon and other lights of civilization, and saw that Historic Dodge City is cheek by jowl with Commercial Dodge City. The McDonald’s advertises itself as being “Across from Boot Hill.” And along Rte 50, AKA “Wyatt Earp Avenue”, there is a “Doc Holliday’s Liquors”, with a sign proudly saying “Doc Says 10% off” some brand of beer. With that percolating through my now oxygenated brain, I drifted off to sleep!
My friend John bemoans such commercialization, but Thursday, when I took a short tour through the Boot Hill Museum and Dodge City recreation, it struck me that in reality, there is no real distinction between Historic and Commercial Dodge City, and in fact, that commercial drive is a basic part of American character. From the early traders who traveled the Santa Fe trail, to the railroad men who laid the tracks across Front Street from Atchison to Topeka, to Santa Fe, to the cowboys, gamblers, saloonkeepers, and the “soiled dove” saloon girls of the Old West, right down through to today, Dodge City was created and sustained by commerce. When the Old West of their early days faded, it was recreated by publicity, made new in the imaginations of people around the world who read of the exploits of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, of the stories of fortunes made and lost. Dodge City traded on the image, and still does. The spirit of the men and women who first settled the American West is still there in the neon-lit fast-food restaurants, the drive to “make a living” out of anything and everything they see around them, and to create what they need if it’s not there. That’s the American Spirit! Far from being something alien to be denigrated, it’s a thing to be celebrated, and lived!
Funniest sight: Giant statue of a brontosaurus on top of a Texas hill, looking out over the plains.
Most unexpectedly beautiful sight: driving through the middle of a field of giant electricity-generating windmills in the middle of Kansas farm country, while listening to classical music on the radio. It was such a juxtaposition, listening to 18th Century music in an area mostly unchanged through the 19th and 20th centuries, right in the middle of a touch of 21st Century technology.
Most unexpected emotion: On east-bound highway 287, feeling a bit down as the sun set to my back, feeling like I needed to keep going west.
Nicest experience: Meeting a distant cousin, someone with the same rare last name, and making a personal connection between long-separated branches of the Diseker family tree.
Coming up: Dallas!