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Roadtrip USA week 2 of 6 months on the road
Our first stage of the journey around the U.S.A. took us from Woodward, Oklahoma to Kansas City. Travelling north from Woodward we passed through mixed farming country, with grain and cattle looking in great condition in spite of reports in the local press about a time of drought. In times past Kansas City was the railroad centre for transport of cattle from the south to the large population areas in the North East. It now is the home of Boeing Aircraft Manufacturing and also happens to be the geographical centre of the U.S.A. Every town in the U.S.A. has some claim to fame, be it that Miss. U.S.A. 1957 was born there or that the local school football team were regional or perhaps even national champions in some time in the past. This information is proudly posted on a large bill-board next to the road as you enter the town. During our trip we read about many claims to fame including the longest beach in the world, the winner of the best State Park in a year, to the birth place of a variety of famous people.
One thing about Americans that we noticed on our visit was their pride about their country and also their home town. Coming from a country like South Africa were often the dinner conversation was dominated by a discussion about moving to some other country (Australia, New Zealand or England to mention just a few places) we never heard an American talking about moving to another country. In fact one of the huge problems faced by the country is that of what to do with the many people from other countries who are trying, often illegally, to get into the country.
The American flag flies proudly outside public buildings and private homes. The American Anthem is sung with pride at sporting events and by the local service groups such as Rotary. Every American seems to be proud to be American and also keen to present the local attraction of the area to visitors. ‘You must go and see……..’ was a constant refrain from anyone we met and who realized that we were visitors.
The reason we started our trip with a stop in Kansas City was firstly that we wanted to do some shopping at Best Buy, and also wanted to visit our first birding ‘hot spot’, the wetland area known as Cheyenne Bottoms. Yes, you guessed it, the largest inland wetland in the U.S.A. and a great birding spot. According to the birding handbook that we purchased, this is one of the top 20 birding venues in the U.S.A.
In a State Park on a lake just outside Kansas City, strategically near to the wetland we planned to visit, we paid or very reasonable fee, chose our camp site, and pitched our tent. All was rosy and beautiful in the land of the free. Being also the 4th of July week end it was rather crowded and many loud explosions reminded us of the love for fireworks by the local folks. After getting our shopping done we returned to our campsite to enjoy our first evening dinner on the road. Not being converted totally to the fast food, take away, life style, we cooked our meat and vegetables on an open fire and enjoyed some fine Kansas beef.
Little did we realize that the storm clouds gathering on the horizon was going to demonstrate to us dramatically the extreme weather conditions that are often experienced in this large country. That night my love for a quiet evening in a tent under a starry sky was going to be tested. As a youngster growing up in Pretoria my first visit to a drive inn theatre at the age of about 10 was to see The Wizard of Oz and so I should have been forewarned. After dinner we packed away out cooking equipment and turned out the torches for a good night sleep in out tent. We did see an occasional flash of lightning in the distance between the fireworks on display, but this did not really seem to be a reason to be concerned.
Then the storm broke and everything went crazy. Gale force wind accompanied with driving rain, thunder and lightning hit the camp ground. Every where children were screaming and adults were shouting as tents were being ripped apart. This was a storm of considerable force and flimsy camping equipment was no match. For a few minutes we debated what we should do. Try to ride out the storm in our tent that seemed to be holding together or try to take it down and escape into the protection of Matilda. As the tent pegs began to be ripped out of the ground common sense (Audrey’s advice) prevailed, and with a huge effort and much shouting we managed to get the tent down and pile everything into our vehicle. Matilda was being rocked from side to side in the gale force winds and the driving rain was beating against the windows. This was a storm of great magnitude even by standards of two people who grew up on the high veldt of South Africa where in summer huge thunderstorms were almost a daily occurrence.
Cars with shell shocked families were leaving the State Park and so we followed not quite knowing what else to do. The nearby lake was possibly a danger that we were not aware of. We made it into a nearby town (Greensborough) where we parked in the main street for a few hours until the worst of the storm had passed and then moved on to the Walmart parking area for the rest of the night. Welcome to 6 months of tent camping U.S.A.!