Not that Kansas isn’t an exciting place. In fact, Mark and I have probably come closer to disaster in this state than in any other. But, after living in Colorado for a few years, it’s easy to become a little elitist about adventures and vacations. After all, don’t most people come to my town on their vacations? Doesn’t it seem like the tourists from the midwest are the ones getting themselves into trouble in the mountains? (Actually, thinking about it, most of the people I read about dying in horrible accidents are Coloradoans).
So, when Mark and I decided to scrub our trip to the Tetons, and cancel our climbing plans up the iconic alpine test-piece that is the Grand Teton, we didn’t say it, but we were a little disappointed. After all, we exist in a world of adventure and excitement, surely a trip to the midwest would be, comparatively, dull.
We left Colorado on Saturday morning with the Prius packed full of camping gear and CSA veggies. We drove east at a leisurely pace, stopping to talk to motorcyclists and having picnics outside of Arby’s. At about 2pm, we were driving along the country side when our last bar on the electronic gas gauge started blinking. The computer screen on the Prius warned us “Refuel now!” Mark and I started discussing where we should stop for gas. After all, our tank has an 11 gallon capacity, and we had gone 450 miles at an average 51 mpg, so we should have only burnt 9 gallons of fuel. A minute later the Check Engine light came on, the computer screen blinked the word “Problem” and the car lost power rapidly.
Mark and I pulled over, and after calling Toyota and panicking for several minutes, we determined we had just run out of gas. In our Prius. Obviously, expensive technology cannot save us from ourselves. Mark had only been able to put in 9 gallons of gas the day before, which had been enough to read “full” on the gauge. And get us 450 miles across Colorado and Kansas before running out.
We were able to drive the last mile to a gas station on battery alone, where we topped off the tank with a full 10.5 gallons, and headed out to find a campsite for the night.
After our adventure in bad math, we were near our originally planned campsite in Kanopolis. It was early in the evening, so we decided to keep going the next park was outside Manhattan, Kansas, home to KSU, and was hosting a HUGE country music festival on Saturday night. We were stuck in traffic for an hour and never got a site. We finally found ourselves at Lake Perry State park, north of Topeka, at sunset. We got a primitive site on the edge of a huge lake, and had a great night of camping.
Camping in the midwest was full of wonderful surprises. There were lightening bugs everywhere! I had forgotten how wonderful and magical lightening bugs were. We saw huge deer, a skunk, beavers, and HUGE wild turkey’s in the forest around the lake. We slept in the warm, still, night air, not worried about wind or bears for the first time in a long while.
At sunrise, we were woken up at dawn by a giant cricket under our tent. Mark helped me with some yoga shots on the banks of the fantastic lake, and then we packed up and finished our drive to St. Louis.
I suppose it’s only fitting that the adventure and beauty of a place are indirectly proportional to the amount of time you spend there. Mark and I have started to find camping in Rocky Mountain national park tedious and crowded, if you can believe that! But our one quiet night on the banks of a midwestern lake made me remember that there are plenty of beautiful spots east of the Front Range too.