September 17 - 23, 2017
After spending a couple of nights in Carbondale, CO, we were rested up and ready to begin the next leg of our journey, which would take us to Kentucky to visit relatives. With that in mind, we drove East through the Rockies on I-70, just like thousands and thousands of our new best friends. Turns out, Sunday is not a good day to drive East into Denver from the Rockies, because the entire city seems to evacuate West into the mountains on Friday and then back again on Sunday. So, note to ourselves: "never ever drive east into Denver from the Rockies on a Sunday."
After making it through the traffic jams into Denver, we headed east, thinking we had a reservation at the East Denver KOA. Nope, we had a reservation at the West Denver KOA, and the East Denver KOA was completely jammed. A few phone calls later, the good folks at West Denver KOA refunded our money (thank you!), and we continued east to the KOA Journey in Goodland, KS, which had good availability.
Goodland is a cute little town on the high plains, very proud of their sunflowers. So proud, in fact, that they've adopted Vincent Van Gogh's sunflower paintings and put up a huge easel with a copy of one of his works. The other cool thing in town is the post office, believe it or not. It's a classic bit of architecture, and has an excellent example of paintings done by folks working for the WPA during the Great Depression.
They also had a house next to this KOA that looked exactly like the house in Andrew Wyeth's paintings. No signs for that house, it must be just what some older houses look like out here.
Anyway, we had a lovely overnight stay there before continuing East across Kansas.
Along the way, we found a Blue Beacon truck / RV wash and got the rig spiffed up. Key for Airstreams using such a wash: (1) No acid because that stuff wrecks aluminum, and (2) Keep those spray wands well back from the trailer to avoid damaging seals.
We took another hop east across Kansas, landing this time at the small town of Ellis, which operates a small campground called Ellis Lakeside Campground. This is a strictly 1st-come-1st-served campground, but given the time of year and the fact that this isn't a major tourist destination, we felt confident.
Sure enough, we found a nice site there, and spent a couple of nights, relaxing beside their small lake and checking out the local attractions which included a small railroad / doll museum and some tasty BBQ in the next town, Hays, KS. There are several places in Hays worth trying, though we stopped at TK's Smokehaus & Bar. It was thoroughly delicious!
Shawnee Lake in Topeka, Kansas
For our next step across Kansas, we decided to stop in Topeka and camp at the city-operated campground on Shawnee Lake. The campground is fairly large, though sites in most of the campground are very close together.
Due to the season we were fortunate enough to have our choice of multiple campsites with plenty of empty campsites between campers. We chose a very nice location under a beautiful old spreading oak tree. In a fairy tale the land under this tree would have been the perfect place to find a village smithy, or something like that.
Also of note: plenty of poison ivy in this campground, so be cautious. "Leaflets three, let it be."
Shawnee Lake has a wonderful bike trail, and so we rode our bikes all the way around the lake while there. It was so warm that at one point we stopped at a nearby Sonic Drive-in for a cold drink. Food at Sonic is consistently horrendous, but they haven't yet figured out how to ruin a cold drink, so that was a good call. Later, we also found a decent grocery store not too far away. Overall, this was a great stop, but at the height of summer with all campsites occupied, this campground would feel very cramped and crowded indeed.