2014 Summer




TO SUMMER 2014 Trail Hit the Travel Kansas’ National Historic Trail








TRAVEL 8  Wisconsin's Summer Getaway

GOOD SAM AND CAMPING WORLD CHAIRMAN AND CEO MARCUS LEMONIS marcusvip@goodsamfamily.com COAST TO COAST PRESIDENT BRUCE HOSTER bhoster@goodsamfamily.com MEMBER SERVICES 64 Inverness Drive E. Englewood, Colorado 80112 800-368-5721 writetous@coast-coast.com

Relax in Door County, one of Wisconsin’s most popular summer retreats. Once connected to the peninsula by a sliver of land, a canal dug near the ship-building town of Sturgeon Bay in 1881 made northern Door County an island. BY RICHARD VARR 14  Crossing Kansas  The road undulates up and down, with each green hill rising higher than the next. There are moments when you feel like you can reach for the sky on the Santa Fe Trail. BY RON AND EVA STOB DEPARTMENTS 3 From the President

COAST TO COAST WEBSITE coastresorts.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR DEE REED editor@coastresorts.com


DESTINATIONS 6 Maple Grove Resort RANDLE, WASHINGTON 7 Colorado Heights Camping Resort MONUMENT, COLORADO 20 Side Trip MITCHELL, SOUTH DAKOTA 22 Lost Valley Lake Resort OWENSVILLE, MISSOURI

Volume 33, Number 3. Coast to Coast (ISSN 1093-3581) is published quarterly for $14 per year as part of annual membership fees, by Coast to Coast Resorts, 64 Inverness Drive E., Englewood, Colorado 80112. Periodical postage paid at Englewood, Colorado, and additional mailing offices. Registration Number 558028. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40012332. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to P.O. Box 875, Station A, Windsor, Ontario N92 6P2. U.S. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Coast to Coast Resorts, P.O. Box 7028, Englewood, CO 80155-7028. Coast to Coast Resorts assumes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any method without prior written consent of the pub- lisher. Copyright © 2014 by Coast to Coast Resorts. PRINTED IN THE USA COVER PHOTO: Spring Hill Ranch Headquarters on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve north of Strong City, Kansas. Photographer is Eva Stob. CTC31469 0514

4 Member Matters 5 Resort Updates 5 You’re the Experts 20 Side Trip 22 Resort Report




I I saw something the other day that really sums up the scale of changes we’re seeing in this digital age. Someone had posted a Radio Shack advertisement from the 1990s that featured a dozen different audio and communication devices. The caption next to the posting read, “I now have one device that does all the things that these 12 different devices did in the ‘90s.” Funny — but very telling. The digital age is having a dramatic impact on how we communicate, how (and how quickly) we find answers to questions, how we enjoy home entertainment, how we find directions, how we store and access our music, how we take and store photography, and many other aspects of our lives. Often the biggest challenge is staying up to date with the technology, which continues to advance at a dizzying pace. Change is good... Keeping Pace in the Digital Age


this project is taking. If you want to be one of the first to know when our web site changes go live, I rec- ommend that you sign up for our new Coast to Coast Insider Enewslet- ter. We publish this bi- monthly and focus each issue on two or three


stories highlighting “new news,” such as new resorts or new membership benefits. Because the enewsletter is our most timely publication, this will likely be the first place we will announce updates to our web site. To sign up for our new Coast to Coast Insider Enewsletter and keep up with all the breaking news at Coast to Coast, simply visit our web site at CoastResorts.com and look for the sign-up box on the home page. Another way Coast is using today’s technology to better serve our members is through a new online Coast to Coast Member Forum. Our parent company, Good Sam Enter- prises, hosts a number of forums on the portal web site, RV.Net. To access the Coast Forum go to www.RV.Net, click on the “RV Forums” link at the top of the home page, and it will take you to a wide range of member forum topics. The first list of forum topics, titled “Dear Marcus” (for Good Sam Enterprises chairman Marcus Lemonis), includes the Coast to Coast forum. In addition to posting forum questions for fellow Coast members, there are forums for a wide range of topics from RVs to camping to technical resources to loca- tions. Next time you’re looking for advice from fellow RVers about your RV or your travel plans, post your question on the appropriate forum and take advantage of the collective knowledge of millions of RVers in finding an answer. There is no greater knowledge base in RVing that the RV.Net Forums, and I think you’ll find it’s a great resource for you. Summer is here, and time for many of you to enjoy camp- ing and traveling in your RV. We wish you safe travels, and please let us know how we can help you get the most from your Coast to Coast membership during your travels.

Look for our new Coast to Coast Resorts website by the end of the year.

Coast to Coast has had our own challenges keeping up to date with technology changes. Our web site has needed an update for a while, and we receive regular feedback from members asking for maps on our web site as well as for a mobile app. In response to your feedback, I’m happy to report that we’re currently in the process of updating our member web site. While I don’t have a definite completion date, our target is to have all the upgrades completed this year. Included in this project are plans for adding interactive maps to the web site as well as designing the site to be more mobile-device friendly. This past month we’ve seen some initial designs from our online group, and we’re very excited at the direction


BRUCE HOSTER President Coast to Coast Resorts bhoster@goodsamfamily.com

Good Sam and Camping World marcusvip@goodsamfamily.com



Hopaway Holiday Hopaway Holiday is a provider of vacation and leisure services for Coast to Coast Premier and Deluxe members. The key to the success of Hopaway Holiday is the qual- ity level of customer service and support that it offers. The knowledgeable and experienced agents at Hopaway Holiday assist in making member vacations as effortless as possible so members can enjoy a multitude of superi- or quality vacation experiences. As a member you have opportunities to experience new and exciting destinations close to home, across the country or around the world. A condo vacation with Hopaway Holiday can save up to 50% and more at thousands of resorts worldwide. Book studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom accommodations. Choose from hundreds of vacation condominiums locat- ed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Australia, and Europe. • When you get a sudden urge to just get away from it all, choose a Hopaway Fun Week for $299. • Hopaway Saver Weeks, at $399, include specially priced weeks that may be booked months in advance. • For $699, enjoy a Hopaway Premium Week where reservations may be made up to one year in advance. The selection of the best vacation condominiums available can take you around the world for less. Log in to CoastResorts.com and click on Hopaway Holiday Condo Vacations. Once there, click on the Member Flipbook link in upper right corner to peruse your options. Then call 800-380-8939 to book your vaca- tion. You may even want to book two or three.

Coast Travel Services Coast to Coast offers members access to top-ranked out- door resorts by providing an internationally known network of beautiful properties that cater to every type of traveler. We have taken service to the next level by providing mem- bers with a value-added travel benefit program that offers the best deals on flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages. This program is the perfect complement to the many valuable benefits offered by Coast to Coast. Coast Travel Services is powered by Montrose Travel — one of America's Top 50 Travel Management Companies that has remained a respected leader in the travel industry since 1956. With Coast Travel Services, you’ll receive the following: • Big Savings with their 100% Lowest Price Guarantee • Discounts and bonus amenities you can’t find any- where else •  A stress-free and convenient way to travel — let them do the work for you •  Personal Vacation Planners with years of destination knowledge and travel experience •  24/7 Assistance — agents are on-call to assist you 24 hours a day • FREE Flight Insurance — $100,000 • And much more! Log in to CoastResorts.com and click on Coast Travel Services to book online, or call 800-722-1410 to speak directly with a Personal Vacation Planner.


MEMBER matters

YOU’RE THE EXPERTS LIGHT THE WAY Solar lights can be al- tered to become carriage lights attached to your motorhome’s mirrors. All you need is the type of light that has the leg that unscrews. We bought 9/16-inch stainless nuts and 5/8-inch stainless washers. Remove the leg



The 2014 Coast to Coast Resort Directory is packed with everything you need to navigate the network of Coast to Coast Resorts and Good Neighbor Parks. To keep members

current, each issue of the magazine includes updates to the directory’s resort and park listings. For easy reference, these changes are noted below with page numbers from the directory. COAST TO COAST RESORTS COAST CLASSIC CHANGES CALIFORNIA The Lakes RV and Golf Resort, Chowchilla Pop-up units not accepted. All units must be 26 feet to 35 feet in length and 10 years or newer (page 96)

from the solar lights and place the washers and the nut onto the bolt stem, sandwich the washers on the lip of the mirror, and hand tighten. The light holds even in strong wind. We didn’t want to mar our mirror, so we glued a piece of inner tube to one side of each washer. Be sure to put it on your list of things to remove when breaking camp.


UTAH Antelope Valley RV Park, Delta Reservation Telephone: (800) 430-0022 (page 158)

OPEN AND SHUT When the refrigerator door handle in our rig was damaged and we couldn’t open the door to get into the refrigerator side, my husband discovered a temporary fix. He used a sturdy strap and the origi- nal screws to make a han- dle. It worked well until we were able to purchase a replacement handle six months later.

St George / Hurricane KOA, Hurricane Check-in: 1:00 PM - 9:00 PM (page 160)

As you travel to Coast to Coast Resorts and Good Neighbor Parks, if you discover any inaccuracies in the 2014 Resort Directory, please let us know at info@coastresorts.com.

— Better than Facebook

Millions of people connect on social media to keep up with friends and family. But where do you go to contact with people who have the same hobbies and lifestyle as you do? If you’re an RVer, there’s no better place to go than RV.net — especially if you have questions. Of course there are books that can answer most questions, but books don’t often answer follow-up questions you may have. In addition to a forum just for Coast to Coast members, you can also access forums that cover all types of recreational vehicles, full-time RVing, RVing with pets, RV cooking, RVing with disabilities and there’s a half- dozen forums about technical issues. According to Lynn and Carol from Fieldon, Illinois, they continue to be members for the following reasons: “The ability to get RV questions expertly answered. Great idea for upgrades. Route travel information. The various forums available. A lot of great folks here!!” Or, CB from Appleton, Wisconsin, had this to say: “Where else can you get 100,000 experts to answer your question for free?” Type in RV.net in your browser and begin your journey.

LEONA DOHERTY Redwood Trails, Orick, California

SHARE YOUR RV KNOW-HOW You’re the experts on RV travel, and we’d like to hear from you. Please email your tips and accompanying photos or sketches to editor@coastresorts.com. Make sure to include your name, the name of your Coast to Coast home resort and your mailing address. If your tip is selected for publication, you’ll receive $25.



MEMBER matters

It’s more than a grove of maples — it’s beautiful country living Maple Grove Resort

V isitors to Maple Grove Resort in Randle, Washington, are struck by the maple tree-lined entry boulevard. But after a few hours, they’ll begin to notice the uncompromising attention to detail that’s evident in every part of the resort. Before designing Maple Grove, the creators determined the most import- ant considerations RV enthusiasts look for in RV sites. Look around and you’ll see large concrete parking pads, well landscaped sites, room for triple slide-outs and awnings, a variety of utilities (20-, 30-, and 50-amp power, AT&T cable TV, telephone, water and sewer), spacious car parking within each site and a high level of security. There are also three site configurations

including pull-through sites, perime- ter sites (back-in), and split sites for medium-size rigs. “I think people are drawn by the beauty of the valley,” says Vice Pres- ident Kevin McLeod of K/M Resorts. “The resort sits right on the Cowlitz River and you feel like you’re out in the country. It’s a beautiful park with a nice big clubhouse.” Don’t forget to bring your fishing gear because the resort sits alongside more than 1,400 feet of the Cowlitz River. With two fish hatcheries on the river, you’ll be sure to catch the “big one.” The Cowlitz River consistently ranks as one of the state’s top ten steel- head and salmon producers. Fishing trips can be arranged through several

RESORT TYPE: Coast Deluxe LOCATION: Randle, Washington SEASON: Year-round WEBSITE: kmresorts.com GOOD SAM RATING: 7.5/6.5/8.5

local fishing guides. Nearby you can visit Mount St. Hel- ens, notorious for its May 18, 1980, vol- canic eruption. Since then, numerous viewpoints and miles of trails have been created for visitors to explore by car and foot. Mount Rainier, also nearby, stands as an icon in the Washington landscape and is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous USA. There are many water- ways for fishing, boating and hiking.


Come for the view; stay for the fun Colorado Heights Camping Resort

P ikes Peak or bust! has been a popular saying for a century, but why bother making the arduous trek up the more than 14,000-foot-high mountain when you can stay at Col- orado Heights Camping Resort and gaze at it from your RV site in Monu- ment, Colorado? Gazing isn’t the only thing you can do while at the resort, says Owner/ Manager Richard Biggs. He and his wife Stacey and their staff of 10 plan non-stop fun from Memorial Day through Labor Day. “We get pretty extravagant activi- ties going throughout the summer,” he says. “Every weekend is a different theme. We do Christmas in July, Hal- loween in July, Redneck Weekend, ‘50s Weekend and many more.”

In addition to the swimming pool and hot tub, visitors can choose from a variety of on-site amenities includ- ing miniature golf, basketball, volley- ball, shuffleboard, and horseshoes. Try your hand at fishing for rain- bow trout in not just one, but two fishing ponds. If you didn’t bring your equipment, don’t worry, there’s an onsite fishing store. Relax at the club- house, adult lounge or recreation hall. “Members love our activities but we get a lot of comments about how clean our resort is,” says Biggs. “We clean three to four times a day — bathrooms and everything else.” If you choose to go out of the re- sort, within an hour you can drive to the top of a Pikes Peak. In 45 minutes drive to Denver and about 30 minutes

RESORT TYPE: Coast Premier LOCATION: Monument, Colorado SEASON: Year-round WEBSITE: coloradoheights.com GOOD SAM RATING: 7.5/8 H /9

to Colorado Springs and the United States Air Force Academy. The 18,000-plus acres of the United States Air Force Academy are located 55 miles south of Denver and eight miles north of Colorado Springs. Visit the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center to find out more about the beautiful and his- toric academy and get a map to take a self-guided tour.



Summer Getaway


In addition to water and stone, there’s retail in Door County like this restaurant at an intersection in Egg Harbor. There are great views like the Cana Island Lighthouse and plenty of plac- es to view the sunset on Green Bay

r C r


A thick haze clouds the horizon as crimson and orange hues streak across the water. The sunbeams clearly outline the silhouettes of a couple and, oddly enough, a dog sitting on a surfboard awaiting another late summer sunset. As a lone kayaker joins them, the scene reminds me of the glow of dusk from Pacific Ocean shores. But I soon snap back to reality. The sun is, in fact, setting over Upper Michigan and the view before me is actually Green Bay.


From dolostone on Washington Island’s School House Beach, hiking on Rock Island, to strolling along the Sturgeon Bay waterfront, Door County has it all.

M y vantage point is from a treed shoreline along Sister Bay, one of the many scenic coves carved into the 75-mile-long peninsula, which is a county within itself — Door County, one of Wisconsin’s most popular sum- mer retreats. This stretch of land with its cherry farms, forested bluffs and string of scenic coastal towns brings to mind the summer vacation hotspots of my youth — New Hampshire with its warm days and refreshing nights, but without the mountains; Cape Cod with- out the clambakes; and the Jersey Shore minus the boardwalks and perhaps the saltwater taffy. “When you look at the shoreline and the cliffs and the water around you, you soon realize Door County is all about two things — water and stone,” says tour guide Tom Blackwood. “Or maybe three things — retail,” he adds with a chuckle. Yes, the water is all around us and stone too because of the smooth white do- lostone rocks, a mixture of dolomite and limestone, found along many Door

County beaches. The peninsula and its 400-million-year-old dolostone bluffs are part of the 650-mile Niagara Escarpment stretching from Niagara Falls through southern Canada and to Wisconsin. As for retail, well that’s because of the many boutiques, restaurants, and soda shop-like eateries within the quaint towns along Highway 42. Fine art galler- ies, studios, and theater performances, for example, add to the bustle of Fish Creek. Founded by a Moravian settler, Ephraim has one of Wisconsin’s oldest active churches and, dating back to 1906, the iconic Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor with its red- and white- striped awnings. Park benches offer splendid views over the sailboat-filled marina of Egg Harbor, a town named shortly after — as one tale tells it – dueling boat captains hurled their cargoes of eggs to settle a dispute in 1825. And I would go out of my way to see the goats grazing on the sod roof of Al John- son’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. The cherry-topped pancakes with Swedish

meatballs are worth the stop as well. Once connected to the peninsula by a sliver of land, a canal dug near the ship- building town of Sturgeon Bay in 1881 made northern Door County an island within itself. Beyond its uppermost tip sits Washington Island, its 35 square miles crisscrossed with country roads and flanked by grassy and rocky shores. And farther north is Rock Island, a state park where you’ll find forested trails but no cars. I spend a full day on an island-hop- ping adventure, taking the vehicle ferry from the Northport Ferry Terminal to arrive within Washington Island’s Detroit Harbor. It’s during the 30-minute ferry ride when I feel the undulations of Door County’s namesake, “Death’s Door,” the six-mile-wide splashy channel where the powerful currents of Green Bay and Lake Michigan merge. Fueled by storms, the treacherous waters wreaked havoc throughout the centuries on Potawatomi and other Na- tive American canoes, followed by some


Door County offers variety like this shoreline as seen from Peninsula State Park, cheese tasting at Renard’s Cheese, views of Egg Harbor Marina, and tours of the Farm Museum on Washington Island.

200 shipwrecks between the islands. Arriving French traders named it Port des Morts , translated later as Death’s Door. It has also been said that the French, not wanting the English to establish fur trade routes to Wisconsin and other surrounding areas, named the passage to discourage and scare sailors from sailing through the strait. I find the ferry ride, nonetheless, a windblown, short-burst travel journey. On Washington Island, I board the “Cherry Train” narrated tour. We stop at the Farm Museum highlighting the is- land’s strong Scandinavian and Icelandic cultures, taking root from 19th-century settlers like Christian Olsen and Oddur Magnusson. Along with antique potato planters and threshers sit original farm buildings moved here from other island locations. Another tour highlight, the pointed and multi-tiered Stavekirke, has the classical design of a Norwegian me- dieval church. It was built in the 1990s using heavy-beamed Viking shipbuild- ing techniques.

My favorite stop is School House Beach, where there’s no sand but in- stead smoothly-worn dolostone rocks reminding me of the stone beaches of Nice, France. “This is one of five glacially-cre-

and set low down in their body — in their butt, and that’s why we call them lawyer fish,” explains Moore. At Jackson Harbor, I hop on the pe- destrian ferry for the 10-minute ride to the 912-acre Rock Island State Park, once home to the first European settlement in Door County. It later became the summer estate of wealthy industrialist Chester Thordarson, who built the impressive Vi- king Hall Boat House that remains today. I hear the trees flitter from winds off Lake Michigan as I hike uphill for just over a mile to the 1836 Potawatomie Lighthouse, Wisconsin’s oldest, built atop the lighthouse keeper’s modest house. The structure’s original French-made Fresnel lens, now worth maybe a couple of million dollars, is cloaked in mystery. “When it was decommissioned in 1946, they crated it up and put it in the cellar,” says docent Jim Johnston. “When they opened the crate, it was missing.” The next morning, I head over to Door County’s Lake Michigan side — to more dramatic ocean-like waves and

ated limestone beaches in the world,” says Cherry Train guide Terri Moore.

“When you look at the shoreline and the cliffs and the water around you, you soon realize Door County is all about two things – water and stone... or maybe three things – retail.”

We soon pass a restaurant with a sign reading, “Fresh Lawyers,” a ref-

erence to the cod-like freshwater burbot caught locally. “The heart is rather small


In addition to fine campsites, join a fish boil at Rowley’s Bay Resort, go wine tasting at the many area vineyards or tour the Potawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island.

to significantly cooler temperatures. It’s a chilly 62 degrees when I arrive along the pristine beaches of Whitefish Dunes State Park — perhaps ten or more degrees colder than the peninsu- la’s Green Bay side. The fine sand and bushy dune grass reminds me of a New England beach. “Lake Michigan is pretty much a nat-

tions from 100 BC to the late 1800s. Ca- noes found nearby in the lake date back 400-500 years, and maritime history includes 14 shipwrecks in and around Whitefish Bay. The cool morning mist has finally subsided as I head north along Highway 57 for about 15 miles, skirting Lake Michigan’s heavily treed shoreline, until

est Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin. “If you take a shovel and dig down, you would hit sand very quickly,” explains Rock. “The sand is actually a gift from the glaciers from 10,000 years ago.” The park’s largest dune, Old Baldy, elevates 93 feet above the lake level and can be reached

“Whether it’s lighthouses or shipbuilding,” explains Jon Gast, volunteer coordinator,” we’re trying to preserve maritime interest and tell that story because that’s what this peninsula is all about.”

ural air-conditioner since it’s a large body of water, and it takes a lot to cool it down or warm

I reach the Cana Island Light- house. I cross a causeway on foot to reach Cana Island

it up,” says Carolyn Rock, the park’s Natural Resource Educator. “In the

and climb the light- house’s 102-step circular stairwell to the top. The

springtime we’re definitely 15 to 20 degrees cooler. People come here and notice the temperature gauge in their cars dropping as they come down.” We hike along paths in what looks like a forested area. But in reality, we’re walking on rolling sand dunes covered with thin layers of three to six inches of topsoil. The park includes the 230-acre Whitefish Dunes Natural Area, the larg-

structure turned 145 years old in 2014, and its beacon has helped sailors maneuver around crippling reefs where many wood-hulled schooners lay wrecked. “In the old days, the lake was like a highway. The roads were very poor, yet trade was very high,” says lighthouse guide Dave Anderson. “There was a lot of lumber and other building materials

by climbing fewer than 100 steps to an observation platform. Alongside the pathways are replicas of Native American birch-bark wigwams with maple-sapling frames. Archeological digs in 1986 and 1992 revealed the park was once home to eight different occupa-


Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim is the perfect stop on your way to Stavekirke on Washington Island or to explore the tugboat John Purves.

leaving Door County and heading toward Milwaukee or Chicago. The lakes were the only way to get around.” The lighthouse still has its original third-order Fresnel lens made in France. “Nowadays it uses an electric light,” ex- plains Anderson. “It’s a light bulb the size of your little finger and only 250 watts, but on a clear night — because of the efficiency of this lens — you can see the light 18 miles out on the lake.” Before electricity, kerosene, mineral oil, and lard fueled the light. “Lard oil was troublesome because it’s solid at room temperature,” Anderson contin- ues. “They had to melt it on the kitchen stove and then climb the tower and pour it into the light. And they’d have to do that every two or two-and-a-half hours throughout the night.” While there are no clambakes, Door County does have its popular fish boils, created years ago as an economical way to feed hungry lumberjacks. The recipe includes adding potatoes and onions to a boiling cauldron over a wood fire and,

when cooked, adding chunks of Great Lakes whitefish. The final step results in a dramatic fire flash when kerosene is poured onto the fire to burn off fish oils surfacing to the top. I join the fish boil at the Rowley’s Bay Resort off Lake Michigan, which includes an actor portraying the area’s early settler and namesake, Peter Rowley, who recounts the bay’s history. “We’re talking about the early Jesuit missionaries called black robes trying to convert the Potawatomie to Christianity,” says resort owner Jewel Ouradnik. In the cheesehead state, there’s cer- tainly no shortage of Door County cheese, cherries, and wine tastings, with all three products from local suppliers. On the mainland part of the peninsula, I stop in Renard’s Cheese, a company that ages tangy cheddar for up to 14 years and sells more than 70 varieties — stringy mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and apple and cheddar with cinnamon, to name a few. “We have cheddar made with Door County cherries,” says manager

Carissa Neinas. Most popular are the small cheese curds made fresh every day — popular, because they squeak when chewed. “If you find a cheese curd that’s squeaky, then it’s fresh,” says Neinas. The area’s shipbuilding heritage comes to life at the Door County Maritime Mu- seum in downtown Sturgeon Bay, near the scenic bridges connecting northern Door County to the mainland. Exhibi- tions feature model boats, lighthouses and more. Visitors can also explore the crews’ quarters and twin diesel engines of the restored 1960s-era tugboat, the John Purves . “Whether it’s lighthouses or shipbuilding,” explains Jon Gast, volunteer coordinator,” we’re trying to preserve maritime interest and tell that story because that’s what this peninsula is all about.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION Door County, Wisconsin Doorcounty.com


Don’t miss the good stuff as you speed through the Sunflower State crossing kansas



story and photography by ron and eva stob

For years we’ve been traveling from Tennessee to Colorado to visit our kids and grandkids, covering Kansas from border to border in the style of the old Pontiac hood ornament—nose to the wind, hair swept back—flying across I-70 with nary a glance right or left until we had the state in our rearview mirror.


The Santa Fe Trail stairsteps through Kansas.

Our truck and trailer at the 1857 Hays House Restaurant on Main Street in Council Grove. This restaurant is the oldest operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River.


A s the years passed, we began to succumb to those familiar signs designating historic sites and scenic places. Clearly, we were missing the good stuff. As if to prove that, Kansas set up the Santa Fe Trail Yellow Brick Road Trip from Kansas City to Dodge City and beyond. We began our tour in the yard of the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site at Olathe, south of Kansas City. This was the first stop on the Santa Fe Trail west of Kansas City in the 1860s when more than 500 wagons a year made the pil- grimage. The Mahaffie house was the Cracker Barrel of its time, a family-owned business that catered to the trail trade, provid- ing food and acting as a gathering place for travelers. Most of the folks that came through weren’t your histo- ry-book pioneers — farmers with helpless children and bon- neted women in Conestoga wagons squinting into the sun. These were profiteers, business people establishing and perpet- uating commercial traffic between Santa Fe (the newly inde- pendent Mexico’s northernmost province) and Independence, Missouri. When Mexico overthrew its Spanish colonial masters, William Becknell and his companions became the new gov- ernment’s first trade partners. Becknell’s success created a rush of two-way traffic to and from Santa Fe, using heavy wagons called freighters. Going to Santa Fe were guns, textiles, and manufactured goods. Coming from Santa Fe were gold, silver and livestock. For 25 years, the more direct way — the “Dry” or Cimarron Route — was the primary one taken. It extended for 800 miles through woods and prairies and windswept landscapes where buffalo roamed and Plains Indian tribes, the Kaw (or Kansa) and Osage, exercised territorial rights. By the 1840s, another route — the “Wet” or Mountain Route — 45 miles longer, fol- lowed the Arkansas River, providing a predictable water source. Kansas has designated a historic Santa Fe Trail Yellow Brick Road Trip (travelks.com), directing travelers to significant points of interest: river crossings, cemeteries, federal forts and prominent landmarks. From Olathe, we picked up State High- way 56 and began our trek across the tall-grass prairie, running through communities plain and unassuming, with water towers as prominent as monuments. The road undulates up and down, with each green hill rising higher than the next. There were moments when we literally reached for the sky. In a magazine article titled “Lost Horizon,” Wayne Fields observed that “The prairie ... makes pointless a rush to somewhere else and creates an overwhelming suspicion that there is nowhere else.” Our goal for the first day was Council Grove in the Flint Hills, a place replete with Santa Fe Trail landmarks and the site where surveyor George Sibley counseled with the Osage Indi- ans in 1825 for safe passage for travelers. Council Grove was a trading center, watering hole, the last chance for lumber to repair wagons, a place where animals could be shod or stabled, a general meeting spot and a service center. Large trees became meeting points, mail drops and centers of activity. Caravans were reconstituted for the next leg of the trip with wagons running four abreast to ward off hostile Indians and allow for quicker circling in case of attack. We roamed the city in our own covered wagon, a 32-foot

eggshell trailer pulled by 275 horses marshaled under the hood of a Ford pickup. We stopped at the Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum, built in 1851 by the Methodist–Episcopal Church for boys from the Kaw American Indian tribe. Kaw was an early name of the native people, which translates to People of the South Wind. The museum holds various items such as beads, blankets and clothing and is a good place to learn of other Council Grove sites, such as the Last Chance Store (circa 1863), the old- est commercial building in town that served as a supply depot to early travelers. The Hays House (circa 1857), a restaurant and former mail-distribution point, district court, church and newspaper-publication site, is one of the oldest eateries west of the Mississippi. At the end of Main Street stands a sign marking the crossing of the freight wagons at Neosho River. Water crossings were a big deal for wagoners because the rivers often ran swift, animals were fearful, and heavy freighters sank into the mud. A shallow crossing on a gravel riverbed was preferred. Eighteen-year-old pioneer Susan Shelby Magoffin noted in her journal in 1846, “It is amusing to hear the shouting of the wagoners to their animals, hooting and hollering, the cracking of whips almost deafening.”

“The prairie ... makes pointless a rush to some- where else and creates an overwhelming suspicion that there is nowhere else.”

Highway 177 runs south out of Council Grove and is a sce- nic route to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Along many Kansas two-lane highways, we came across steel silhouettes of cattle, covered wagons and cowboys or Indians on horseback. Situated on the crest of hills set against the cumulus-clouded Kansas sky, this prairie art is both fetching and fleeting. At the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, we stepped inside the great stone barn of the historic Z-Bar (Spring Hill) Ranch where two national park rangers gave us introductions to the exhibits. Earlier in the spring, various tracts had been burned to renew the prairie and, as a result, only the first growth was visible in May. The anticipation of walking through grasses as tall as an elephant’s eye had to be put off until we visited in late summer or fall. The 10,894-acre ranch became a unit of the U.S. National Park System in 1996 along with its 11-room native limestone home. Of the 140 million acres of tall-grass prairie that once flourished in North America, only 4 percent remains, found mostly in Kansas and Oklahoma. We walked the trails, observing recovering forbs and


The Neosho River Crossing in Council Grove is the most documented river crossing on the Santa Fe Trail.

Vetch grows on the Southwind Nature Trail at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.


grasses. The land was rock-strewn as if the underlying lime- stone was rising through the top layer of the soil. The only sound was the wind brushing plant against plant and the war- bling song of the meadowlark. Pulling into nearby Strong City, we found nothing but the vitals: a church, a grocery store, a hardware store and a Santa Fe Railroad depot. A few miles further south is Cottonwood Falls, the county seat. Along its brick-paved Main Street is the impos- ing Chase County Courthouse, a matron smothered in makeup compared to the plain Janes that line the business street. Camping facilities in these parts are as scarce as sushi bars, but on our maps there appeared a symbol designating camping a few miles west. We jumped onto the county road and made our way toward the Chase State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area. We pulled onto a gravel road that wound around a hill, then traversed the edge of a small lake. Along the water’s edge we found a picnic pavilion and lakeside campsites with ample room for our truck and fifth-wheel. Even large motorhomes wouldn’t have difficulty negotiating the hills and turns. We set up and prepared dinner while a mated pair of Canada geese with their goslings made the last round of the day before disappearing from view. The evening concerto of redwing black- birds, cardinals, bullfrogs, and tree frogs ushered in the still of the night. In the morning, the drakes were out with their mates and babies, and the choir of songbirds piped a gentle wakeup call. We motored to Elmdale and Highway 150, which caught up to Highway 56, the route that we began near Kansas City. As we drove, the Flint Hill tallgrass prairie dissolved into me- dium-grass landscape near Great Bend. Checking the maps, we noticed that at the beginning of our trek near Kansas City we were at an elevation of 900 feet, and we’d reach 3,000 feet above sea level by the time we crossed the state border.

a fine repository of historic artifacts, along with a collection of vintage buildings. Along the way toward Dodge City stands Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, a mega block of Dakota sandstone where on July 8, 1846, Private Jacob Robinson wrote these impressions from atop Pawnee Rock: “Far over the plain to the north and west was one vast herd of buffalo, some in columns marching in their trails, others carelessly grazing, every acre covered until in the dim distance the prairie became one black mass extending to the horizon.” Alas, they weren’t out to play when we were there. In the 1860s, the trail ran 200 yards south of here, the halfway point to Santa Fe. Further south is Fort Larned National Historic Site, a fine national park reconstruction. Built in 1859, the federal fort stood for 19 years. An African-American regiment, nicknamed “buffalo soldiers” by the Native Americans, served here. This site and the museum are a preeminent source for infor- mation on the Santa Fe Trail. Numerous exhibits and a lecture series provide the traveler with obscure and fascinating infor- mation. A yearly rendezvous features various aspects of trail life and bus tours from the fort to Dodge City. As we approached Dodge City, we got a whiff of what drives and has driven Dodge — cattle. Hundreds of thousands of cat- tle spend their last days in and around Dodge, getting fat and making Dodge the manure capital of Kansas. Fort Dodge (circa 1865) was constructed before Dodge was incorporated as a city. It was designed to protect travelers during the Indian wars. When Dodge became a city in 1872, it was the center of the buffalo trade. A hunter could make $100 a day killing and skinning buffalo. This unregulated slaughter guaranteed the near extinction of the high plains’ most pro- ductive food source and the principle food of the native people. One hunter with three skinners could kill 3,000 animals in a month’s time. A prominent hill in the city became the first burial ground for infamous gangsters and gunmen such as Black Jack, who was shot by a gambler named Denver and buried with his boots. In all, 32 people of ill repute or folks without money or title were interred here until 1878 when they were moved to the Prairie Grove Cemetery. Today Boot Hill is more an amusement park than an au- thentic historic site. Although the faux village has a backyard cemetery with stick grave markers for Jack and the others, it’s pure theater. We camped that night on the outskirts of town. Numerous restaurants give you a place to order —what else? — beef steak. The next morning, we stopped at a historic marker desig- nating wagon ruts from the 1870s. We marveled at the open expanse of land and sky and the hardship and adventure of our brothers and sisters from another century. Next time you’re traveling through Kansas, take our lead and get off the mostly featureless interstate to discover the unexpected pleasures of the state’s blue highways and the Santa Fe Trail. For More Information Kansas Tourism Division travelks.com

The evening concerto of redwing blackbirds, cardinals, bullfrogs, and tree frogs ushered in the still of the night.

The Arkansas River takes a turn at the city of Great Bend, where we found short-lived Fort Zarah (circa 1864), now mostly gone. The remains are on private property, and appar- ently most of the fort’s sandstone blocks were recycled into town buildings. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Great Bend in 1872 and pretty much ended com- merce on the old wagon thoroughfare. A couple of nice rope swings hang in the cottonwoods at the Barton County Museum, a welcome ride after a day on the road. Eva swung like a kid, and this was my chance to push m’lady to where the sun shines and robins sing. The museum is



Mitchell, where corn is king Come for the corn; be delighted by the history By Neala Schwartzberg McCarten M itchell has long been famous for its Corn Palace, which is a venue famous political figure and has history that goes back centuries.

covers the open archaeology dig in the prehistoric Indian village. The real highlight of a visit to the Boehnen Memorial Museum offers a fascinating recreation of the interior of one of the roughly 80 lodges that once dotted the area and sheltered an extended family. The museum offers a short and infor- mative video starting with the discussion of the history of the residents. Those fascinated by archeology will definitely enjoy the description of the process of archeology and how the site is worked. Dakota Discovery Museum In between prehistory and modern day, the Mitchell Dakota Discovery Museum focuses on life on the prairie covering the time period from 1600 to 1939. Visit the Oscar Howe Art Center, named after the famous Native American artist born in South Dakota. There’s also a one-room schoolhouse, a train depot, a country church, and the Italianate-style home of Louis Beck- with, co-founder of the Corn Palace. For More Information: Mitchell, South Dakota, Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitmitchell.com

for concerts, sports events, and exhib- its. Built in 1892, the building is much more than a multi-purpose facility — it’s also celebrated as a work of art. The tradition started when the peo- ple of Mitchell wanted to attract new farmers. What better way to demon- strate the agricultural richness of the area then to use those agricultural products to decorate an actual building. The medium was truly the message, and each year the art changes. The 2014 theme is “Remember When.” Not only do the murals grace the outside walls, they are inside as well, the quasi-permanent creations by famous local artists Oscar Howe and Cal Schultz. The designs have been the same since 1989, although they have been refreshed with new materials every 10 or 12 years. The Corn Palace is open all year, but there’s a yearly Corn Palace Festi- val held in August, which just adds to the fun of a visit. For 2014 it’s sched- uled August 19 to 24. Most people who have heard of Mitchell, South Dakota, know of it because of the Corn Palace. But this small community of 15,000 people has more. It’s also the birthplace of a

McGovern Legacy Museum Outside of South Dakota, George McGovern may be best remembered as the anti-Vietnam War candidate who lost to Richard Nixon in the 1972 election. But the people of South Da- kota know McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012) was far more than that. He was a military hero and a statesman. During World War II he was a B-24 Liberator pilot who flew 35 missions over German-occupied Eu- rope. He received a Ph.D. from Dakota Wesleyan University and Northwest- ern University. On August 9, 2000, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor. Today visitors can take a self-guided tour and explore the lives and legacy of George and Eleanor McGovern at the McGovern Legacy Museum. Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village A compact six-acre site that over- looks the west bank of Lake Mitchell, Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village holds dual status as a National Register and National Historic Landmark site. The Thomsen Center Archeodome


Photography courtesy of Rich Stedman, Neala Schwartzberg McCarten, Mitchell Convention & Visitors Bureau & SD Dept. of Tourism



Lost Valley Lake Resort

Lose Yourself in Missouri’s Coast Premier Resort

ball and basketball, ballroom, shuffle- board, and movie theater. And that’s just what’s inside. Outside, enjoy the junior Olym- pic-size swimming pool, kiddie pool, hot tub, basketball and tennis courts, softball field, shuffleboard, horseshoe pits and more. Anglers of all skill levels can fish in one of three fishing ponds and two lakes — or experience all five. There’s 537 acres of outdoor adventure just waiting to be explored. But not everyone chooses to be active. As Developer Rich- ard Gentry says, “Crazy enough, some [members] just relax at their site.” Gentry continues to improve and expand all areas of the resort, but the most recent addition is the Riata Ranch development, which really sets it apart. “It’s our step into the future at of- fering our owners a unique lifestyle of living with access to their resort year- round in the comfort of their own RV or custom-built home,” says Gentry.

“From trophy fishing to trail rides, a pet park to pedicures, and everything in between, we want Lost Valley Lake Resort to be the outdoor experience each person desires.” If you do choose to leave this des- tination resort, nestled in the majestic rolling hills of central Missouri, there are many wineries and wine trails, antique shops and golf courses nearby. Within an hour drive is St. Louis, the Gateway Arch and Six Flags. "When our members and guests leave, the most treasured things they take with them are not always tangible or expected. It may be their new found love of fishing at dawn, memories of swimming in the lake with their kids, the rousing game of Bingo with their grandchildren, or the smell on their clothes of roasting marshmallows over an open campfire with friends. Lost Valley Lake Resort offers opportunities for every season," says Gentry.

RESORT TYPE: Coast Premier LOCATION: Owensville, Missouri SEASON: Year-round WEBSITE: lostvalleylake.com GOOD SAM RATING: 9.5/10 H /9.5

B eing lost isn’t usually an experience you’ll want to repeat, but after a visit to Lost Valley Lake Resort in Owensvlle, Missouri, you’ll want to do it again and again. Imagine immersing yourself in all that’s made the resort so popular. Amazing amenities include the 44,000-square-foot Lake Expo — an indoor recreation facility that gives members access to a day spa, arcade, adult lounge, mini-golf, indoor volley-


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