Boot Hill and the Ramp to the Rockies (Days 42-44, Oct 12-14)

PlainsWell, this is going to be flat. But at least we’ll have a room right next door to Boot Hill!

That was my thinking. At this latitude, there’s no way to return west on a cross-country trip without the nothing that comes between the Ozarks and the Rockies. But legendary Dodge City and Boot Hill! The rich history of lawmen and outlaws!

I pictured driving up on US50, pulling into a decent hotel in the dusk of day one, and seeing the actual hill, the legendary Front Street, the saloons and general store, probably restored, where I can imagine all the cowboy movies of my youth.

The glow of neon from the property, as we turned in, was my first clue to this lesson in assumptions.

Casino

Not the real Boot Hill…

But the room was great!

But the room was great!

This Boot Hill is a casino. It was not, as I imagined, an outdoor museum on Dodge’s wild west past. Instead it was a park-ing lot and a neon-bright sanctuary to modern gambling, a bit of Vegas deposited on the west side of Dodge City, KS. The folks there looked like a mix of ag and townies, all busy with the one-armed bandits. Well, OK, let’s just regard this as the modern version of Front Street saloons and poker games.

The real Boot Hill is behind front street, pictured here

The real Boot Hill is behind front street, pictured here

If only I had done my research, beyond the hotel listing that said “next door to Boot Hill!” Ah, well. The hotel was nice, and the casino had sandwiches. We saw the real Boot Hill the next day.

It was not an unpleasant surprise, just another illustration of how my assumptions can lead me astray. I had also anticipated that the whole drive before and after Dodge would be nothing but the seemingly interminable flat, more to be endured than enjoyed. Assumption again! We were surprised at the variety in the Plains: bluffs, shallow valleys, trees and meadows, farms and cities. I confess that if we are spoiled by 14k peaks, our threshold for amazement gets too high and we can miss the subtle variations.

Borders

On the second day, western Kansas into Colorado, we could not help but notice how the land ramped upward. It is not just flat, and then the Rockies come. It’s more like an incline plane. There was a slight “up” to even the most flat-appearing sections–I could hear it in the engine, downshifting to 4th often on barely detectable grade.

These two travel days brought us to Colorado Springs. This city is different from Denver where the city lies on the flat up to the point where the range rises abruptly to the west. In the Springs, clumps of mountain and forest have strayed from the range into the city, offering a preview of what’s up in the mountains. From Monument and Black Forest southward, this city enjoys a bit of Rockies spilled onto the plains.

Old pals. Evan (r) and Cal

Old pals. Evan (r) and Cal

With home beckoning us soon, we took a day to visit friends here before determining to cross the peaks. Evan, a refreshed and valued relationship from decades ago, met with us for an afternoon of catching up. Paul, a much more recent friend, offered his home, some good laughs, a building friendship and Monday Night Football!

Colorado Springs, with weather festering over nearby Pikes Peak

Colorado Springs, with weather festering over nearby Pikes Peak

A to B: Day 42 (Oct 12), Branson, MO to Dodge City, KS, 473 mi, 18.1 mpg, 11 hrs (w 2 hrs stop in Pittsburgh, KS) B to C: Day 43 (Oct 13), Dodge City to Colorado Springs, 332 (7458 total route), 18.4 mpg, 8 hrs Days 44 (Oct 14): Around Colorado Springs, 13 mi, 16.1 mpg

A to B: Day 42 (Oct 12), Branson, MO to Dodge City, KS, 473 mi, 18.1 mpg, 11 hrs (w 2 hrs stop in Pittsburgh, KS)
B to C: Day 43 (Oct 13), Dodge City to Colorado Springs, 332 (7458 total route), 18.4 mpg, 8 hrs
Days 44 (Oct 14): Around Colorado Springs, 13 mi, 16.1 mpg

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About Cal Stevens

Learning professional, a training manager, speaker, writer; two careers in helping others succeed. Travel writer for the common road trip.
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