Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Riding along the Santa Fe Trail


While driving down some of the steep passes in Colorado, I noticed that my toad brakes didn’t seem to be coming on unless I really stepped firmly on the motorhome brakes.   The ReadyBrake system is a mechanical surge brake, so it should certainly be activating automatically when descending a steep hill (similar to how the surge brake on my T@B trailer did).

I noticed ReadyBrake was located in Kansas and called to see if they might be able to inspect and adjust my setup and they were more than willing to.  So, I planned my return route home through Kansas and thought I’d try staying off the Interstates and seeing some more backroad scenery.

I’d driven a short bit of the Old Santa Fe trail while in Santa Fe, and thought it might be fun to take that route from New Mexico into Kansas and set my first day’s destination for the old Wild West town of Dodge City.

To get there, I first needed to cross over one last range of mountains via the curvy downhill turns of Highway 64 east of Taos.  The drive was relatively uneventful up to the town of Eagle Nest, but skies were growing darker..


Still, it wasn’t raining so we continued eastward into the final range of mountains.


As the road became curvy again, it began following a mountain stream that looked like it might make a pretty lunch spot.  By the time I found an area to pull off, the skies were now getting pretty dark. I went back to start making my lunch, and not two minutes later the skies opened up and it began hailing and raining something fierce!  Now, other cars were pulling off the highway as well.  I was SO thankful I had pulled over when I did!

It poured for nearly half an hour before we could safely get on the road again.  Fortunately, nothing got damaged, and we stayed inside the RV and dry the whole time.  By the time we reached Cimarron, it had stopped raining entirely and never rained again on us the rest of the day.

I had thought the town of Cimarron would be more touristy as it was an important historical town along the Santa Fe trail, but other than a few large commemorative signs of the famous cowboys such as Kit Carson, there was really nothing at all to see—the town was run-down with no real businesses or attractions.

As we got past Springer, NM, the landscape really began to open up.  Mountains were now behind us and nothing but 500 miles of prairie ahead of us.  I can’t imagine what the pioneer wagon train families must have gone through to drive this trail.  But I was sure glad my little Conestoga wagon had air conditioning, a fridge, a potty, running water, and could travel this route in hours rather than days!

There were still some signs along the New Mexico portion of the trail, that the landscape had not changed much since the wagon train days:

There were still a few real live cowboys (galloping along on horses rather than ATVs no less!)

and a few old buildings that looked authentic:

and cows roaming home on the range.

As we crossed into Kansas, we drove through countless small dilapidated towns that seemed to be hanging on by a thread:

But nearly every one of them had a large grain elevator:

And miles of grain growing in the fields surrounding each town..

The evening skies of Western Kansas weren’t quite as dramatic as Taos, but they were pretty close!


We rolled into Dodge City just after nightfall and made our way to the Wal-Mart where we spent a hot but uneventful night.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reminder of what rain looks like. I'm not missing it. We've gone over a month here in Seattle without rain and I'm loving it. I love the clouds in your last picture. Good luck with getting your ReadyBrake system back to the way it's supposed to be.


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