(Read part 1 of this post here)
Day #5: I pride myself on being a pretty good vacation planner, but the logistics of this portion of our cross-country trip completely slipped through the cracks. I’d done my best to divide up the driving into relatively equal amounts – about 8 hours – each day. But in the process, I’d forgotten to take into account that we wouldn’t actually be leaving Mammoth Caves until after our tour. Plus, we wanted to stop and see the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis.
By the time we also stopped for gas and lunch and bathroom breaks and dinner, we found ourselves rolling into Lake of the Ozarks at dusk. There were deer all along the road, our site was way at the end of this maze of a campground, we had to pretty much set up in the dark, and we didn’t have a campground map to direct us to the bathrooms. Plus, I’d scored us a lakefront campsite that we really didn’t get to enjoy at all. So that was a bit of a bummer.
But we did get to fall asleep listening to a chorus of frogs, so that was pretty nice.
Day #6: Lake of the Ozarks to Manhattan, Kansas
Unless you’re from the area or are a Kansas State fan, chances are you’ve never heard of Manhattan, Kansas. I only knew of its existence because my mom used to live there.
Up until this trip, Kansas and Nebraska were 2 of the 7 states I’d yet to visit. Coming from Kentucky, Kansas made the most sense. If we were going to be in the state, I figured we might as well see my mom’s former home.
After finding her old house (and probably creeping out the locals as we drove slowly up the road and stopped to take a photo), we sampled some Kansas beer at Tallgrass Brewery. Of the Manhattan breweries I could find with a quick internet search, this one had the highest rating and a rooftop patio, so it seemed like the obvious choice. The beer was, in fact, pretty tasty.
After enjoying the beer and the view, it was time to head up to Tuttle Creek Cove campground for the night. We had a lakefront campsite and there were very few people around to disrupt our enjoyment of the place. Unfortunately, this is when our day began its drastic downhill slide.
First, we opened the cooler to find that our unopened bag of tortillas had somehow gotten water inside of it and our bag of grated cheese was moldy. What was supposed to be a delicious dinner of bean, rice, and cheese burritos ended up being cheeseless burritos on half-sized tortillas after we tore off the soggy parts and managed to salvage the rest.
Next came the tent-related issues. We’d awoken that morning in Missouri to a mostly flat air mattress so we’d purchased a new one at the Manhattan Walmart that was the same size as our old one. Supposedly. But when we put up the tent and inflated the mattress, one look told me it wasn’t going to fit.
A thunderstorm was clearly approaching, so we quickly threw on the rainfly before heading back into town to try again. New, correctly-sized mattress in hand, we were heading back to our campsite when the thunderstorm finally made its presence known. But this wasn’t just any old thunderstorm. This one came with gusts of wind strong enough to throw the car while we were driving. We were so focused on staying on the road that it wasn’t until the storm was passing and we were pulling into the campground that we realized our tent had just been exposed to those same wind gusts.
Sure enough, we got back to our site to find the tent completely flattened on one side. The wind had also managed to lift up the edge of the rainfly – which comes down to the ground all the way around – enough to allow a puddle of rain to accumulate inside.
(Right about then, I was feeling thankful we hadn’t put our sleeping bags inside it yet.)
I was far from pleased by the situation but figured we could just flip everything back out and sop up the puddle and brush all the dirt off the tent and we’d be fine.
Not so much, as it turned out.
The poles weren’t overly willing to be put back into position, and when we finally managed to wrangle them there it immediately became clear that one of them was bent. Pretty severely. In fact, what was supposed to be straight was now curved at a 45°+ angle (photo below). So that was less than ideal.
And, as we took the rainfly off to further assess the damage, Pat pulled up one of the stakes to find it bent at an almost 90° angle.
Needless to say, we were not amused.
The tent still stood okay despite the bent pole, and we had some spare stakes, and we could’ve dried out the inside without too much trouble, but there was another thunderstorm rolling in the distance and we really just didn’t want to risk it. Long story short, we ended up spending the night at the Super 8 in Manhattan with camping gear strewn all across our room in an attempt to dry it out.
Overall, Kansas did not leave a very good impression.
Day #7: Kansas to Denver
The one saving grace of eastern Kansas was that it wasn’t as flat as I’d always assumed it was. Between the rivers and lakes and rolling hills, it was actually kind of pretty.
The same cannot be said about western Kansas. Or eastern Colorado, for that matter. The only way I can really describe the next five hours of our road trip is hot, windy, and flatter than I’ve ever seen. But eventually, nearly 2400 miles (1490 km) after leaving Connecticut, the Rocky Mountain front finally came into view and we caught the first glimpses of our soon-to-be home!
By the time you’re reading this post, we’ve been in Denver for over a year and we absolutely love it! It’s so lovely to be back in the west, not to mention the fact that the Rocky Mountains of Colorado never disappoint. For the foreseeable future, most of my posts will be devoted to Colorado, so prepare yourselves to be inundated with lots of gorgeous mountain photos.
I hope you all enjoy reading about our Colorado adventures!