Day 30: Beginnings, endings, spirals

Perry, UT to Jerome, ID

I broke camp.

Golden Spike National Historical Park

Saw a highway sign for Golden Spike National Historical Park (GSNHP) and on the spur of the moment, I decided to go there. I’ve been interested in that place for a long time. It’s in a very isolated spot, Promontory Summit, on the northern side of the Great Salt Lake. When I got there at about 8 AM, I could see for miles and miles and I couldn’t see another person or car. And there was no sound except a little wind.

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The Golden Spike park and Spiral Jetty are both in very isolated locations.
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Near where the railroads met, Promontory Summit, Utah
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Both railroads prepared this site for tracks. The Central Pacific by filling it in (crescent of dirt) and the Union Pacific by creating a trestle over it. The UP got the segment.

The golden-spike driving ceremony in 1869 that completed the first transcontinental railroad was planned by the two railroads, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, like a modern media event.

They left a short gap between the two track segments to prepare for the ceremony. Locomotives were prepared. Dignitaries were invited and came. A photographer was on the scene, and telegraph operators were ready to transmit the news coast to coast.

At the ceremony, railroad executives drove the four precious metal spikes (two gold, one silver, and one gold-silver-iron) into a special laurel-wood tie. Immediately afterwards, the precious metal spikes and laurel tie were removed and replaced with regular iron spikes and a normal tie.

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A replica tie and spike in the actual spot

A nation went wild.

In city after city, church bells rang, trains hooted, fire engines howled, gongs clanged, and cannons thundered. Citizens thronged the streets. (NPS wall text)

The original laurel tie was displayed in San Francisco until destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

Two of the original precious metal spikes are now at the Stanford University Museum. One belongs to the Museum of the City of New York, and the fourth’s whereabouts are unknown, so let me know if you find it.

The Visitor Center is on the site of the old railroad station. And it’s made to look like a station.

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Golden Spike National Historical Park Visitor Center
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Golden Spike National Historical Park Visitor Center, interior, with mock railroad ticket windows

Rail passengers going through this point had to change from one railroad to the other. Sometimes they had to wait a couple of days. (I guess they had to wait that long because there was only a single track!) Some thought that this place, dubbed Promontory, would become a big railroad hub. But there’s no water there to support a town. So the Southern Pacific (the Central Pacific’s heir) bought the track rights as far as Ogden in 1870. Ogden became the hub.

Outside, there were plaques to the Irish (Union Pacific) and Chinese (Central Pacific) workers who built the railroad.

The NPS has had replicas of the two locomotives made. (Great use of tax dollars in my opinion!) They were reverse-engineered from photographs. They stage ceremonies where the two replicas meet at the real meeting point.

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“Jupiter,” Central Pacific locomotive (replica). The colors are accurate.

Those first tracks are long gone now.

A causeway across the Great Salt Lake for the railroad was built in 1903. In 1938, the track north of the Salt Lake was abandoned. In 1942, wartime, iron was desperately needed so they tore up all the tracks and ties and melted down the tracks. In the 1960s, NPS constructed a little piece of track (1.7 miles) on the original roadbed at the meeting place.

The causeway line is now used, but only for freight. Amtrak passenger service goes on the south side of the Great Salt Lake.

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is a site-specific artwork created by Robert Smithson (1938-1973) in 1970. It’s an example, maybe the best known one, of Earth Art. The work is currently owned by the Dia Art Foundation.

When I found out it’s relatively near GSNHP, it became a must-visit. It’s actually a 40-minute drive from GSNHP each way over dirt roads.

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At Spiral Jetty
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The Great Salt Lake at Spiral Jetty
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The Great Salt Lake at Spiral Jetty

To create it, Smithson hired a contractor and crew with dump trucks, a tractor, and a front loader.

It’s amazing to think of the work that had to be done, including selecting the site, planning the work, getting permission, and executing the work.

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As seen from the beginning of the path

A Dia brochure said the work is intended to be walked on, so I did. I walked from the beginning all the way to the center, about a ten-minute walk. The black basalt rocks have many interesting holes and striations in them. Some look like animal skulls.

My impressions – this is a marvelous work, fully deserving its iconic status. The site is so remote, strange, and haunting. You can take its theme as “man meets nature” if you want to. The work requires something of the viewer — minimum 1 hour driving, walking down and up a rocky slope, plus 20 minutes walking. As an experiential work, it fits into the 1970s when it was made.

No one else was at Spiral Jetty while I was there.

On to Idaho!

In the afternoon I crossed into Idaho. State #22 for the trip. There were very strong winds when I got to my hotel in Jerome.

Day 29: This unsung hero

Green River, WY to Perry, UT

Overheard at McDonald’s in Green River (one female staff member to another): “Don’t call me bro!” Left Green River, past more splendid rock formations. And taking I-80, the actual direct route between NYC and San Francisco.

At Fort Bridger State Historic Site

Went to the Fort Bridger State Historic Site. Jim Bridger (1804-1881), the mountain man and explorer, established the “fort” (really, a private trading post) in 1843, to earn some money from his knowledge of the wilderness. He put it (in his words) “in the road of the emigrants.”

A little model of Bridger’s original fort (no longer extant)

The location proved to be one of the main hubs of westward expansion used by mountain men, Indians, emigrants and Mormon Pioneers, the U.S. Army, Pony Express, Overland Stage and Union Pacific Railroad. Even during the 1900s The Lincoln Highway, Highway 30 and Interstate 80 crossed in or near Fort Bridger.

Wyoming Parks site brochure


Crossed into Utah, a state not on my original itinerary. Stopped at the Echo Canyon Rest Area and State Welcome Center on I-80.

I-80 and the railroad go side by side through Echo Canyon
Red cliffs, Echo, UT

A statue and tribute to the ox. From a sign: “Listen if you will, to the melodic plodding of the oxen as they methodically pull the immigrants and their dreams across the landscape of this canyon… He stands alone once more, this unsung hero.”

Ox statue and wagon, Echo rest area, Echo, UT

Henefer & Ogden

Like many people, I am fascinated with the story of the Donner Party, their mistakes, their tragedy, their dead and their survivors.

Stopped in Henefer, UT where there’s some Donner-iana.

Plaque, Broad Hollow, Wasatch Range, near Henefer, UT

Took a little car tour of Ogden.

Union Station, Ogden (also a statue of a horse)


About 4 o’clock I got to the KOA campground in Perry. It’s a luxurious campground, with a shower, laundry machines, restrooms, a store, a pool, free wifi, and a dumpster. My spot was really nice, tree-shaded with a mountain view.

My campsite, Perry, UT
Sky, Perry, UT

I charcoal grilled hamburgers for dinner and then toasted marshmallows, just like the family used to do in the backyard when I was a kid. It was great.

Camping was a lot better than a hotel, except for the sleeping part. Sleeping on the ground with a pile of clothes for a pillow wasn’t that comfortable.

What a lived-in car looks like

Day 28: Trail landmarks part two

Casper, WY to Green River, WY

Went to downtown Casper. It’s chock-full of great vernacular architecture like gas stations.

Gas station, Casper, WY

Went for breakfast at Sherrie’s Place in downtown Casper. Full of locals. Food and service were top notch. Overheard: Lots of houses in Rock Springs have abandoned coal mines in their basements.

The historic trails fascinate me because they are a mixture of history and geography, and are so important to the story of America. People uprooted their lives and risked everything to go to places they had never seen, and suffered great hardships on the way. Some died on the way.

Over to Independence Rock, a trail landmark just outside Casper. It’s wonderful to think that the emigrants saw (and scratched their names on) the same rock.

Panorama: Independence Rock
Independence Rock

I climbed up a little way and then came down — it’s a lot easier going up. I crawled down facing the rock. Didn’t see any genuine 19th century inscriptions.

Soon after leaving Independence Rock, I crossed the Sweetwater River. It had water in it, but it is much narrower than the North Platte.

Stopped at Devil’s Gate, a gorge cut by the Sweetwater.

Devil’s Gate

I took a detour dirt road through Atlantic City and South Pass City – once mining towns, now just barely populated.

The Carissa Mine, South Pass City, WY. A former gold mine, now a historic site

Got to the Continental Divide!

At the Continental Divide. (South Pass, but not the same location as the historic South Pass).

I am in the Pacific zone now. or as one of the emigrants said – “the other side of the world.”

The low point in the saddle is the South Pass of the historic trails.

Original South Pass, near South Pass City, WY

A couple of miles past South Pass is the spot called “Parting of the Ways.” It’s one of the places where the California and Oregon trails diverged. (Both trails had variations in their routes.)

To my motel in Green River, a pleasant town.

Rock formation, Green River, WY

Just when I got there – thunder and rain, which was over quickly. After that it was pleasant and cool.

Day 27: Trail landmarks part one

Cheyenne, WY to Casper, WY

My first stop was the Fort Laramie National Historic Site. The grass really smelled sweet there. Of course, I hit the visitor center and watched a great NPS video.

Significant trail spots in Wyoming

Fort Laramie was established at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers. It was a rest and provisioning stop for tens of thousands of emigrants enroute to Oregon, California, and the Salt Lake Valley. It also was significant in the fur trade and in negotiations and conflicts with Native Americans. It started as a private trading post, then was acquired by the US Army in 1849.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site
Wagon, Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Historic object? Fake? I don’t know

This covered wagon looked small to me, but the park ranger said it was the size of some of the actual wagons. Some were bigger.

Had a picnic in the tree-shaded picnic area, with historic fort buildings in view. Lots of birds.

The next stop was close by. Two trail landmarks in Guernsey, Wyoming – Register Cliff and the Guernsey Wagon Ruts.

Inscriptions, Register Cliff, Guernsey, WY
Register Cliff

Sadly, there are so many recent inscriptions I couldn’t see any definite emigrant inscriptions. I had the place to myself most of the time I was there. Register Cliff is very near the North Platte River (no accident, the trail followed the river). I shot a short video.

Twenty seconds of North Platte River serenity, recorded by your diarist

I went to the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site. The ruts resulted from years of wear (in the sandstone) by iron wagon-wheel tires, and from intentional cutting by emigrants attempting to ease the grade up from the level of the river nearby. Source. The emigrants considered it safer to struggle up the slope than to cross the river.

Trails map & info
Wagon ruts, Guernsey, WY

The wagon ruts were strangely compelling. I didn’t want to leave the ruts I had come so far to see, but it started to rain, and thunder sounded threatening.

Got to Casper. A huge rainstorm broke out just as I got to the hotel.

Day 26: Built by the railroad

Silverthorne, CO to Cheyenne, WY

Father’s Day. Left a Happy Father’s Day to my Dad on Facebook. In the elevator I saw a dad with two adorable boys and wished him happy Father’s Day.

Sweatshirt weather. Loving it.

Left Silverthorne. Went through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which takes I-70 under the Continental Divide. (I was recrossing the Divide here from West to East.)

In Denver, I did what I did in Philadelphia and Atlanta – passed through without stopping.

Stopped in Welby at Mr. Egg for an early lunch. Waited outside for a while for a table. The food was fantastic. I had a vegetable omelet that came with pancakes.

The very northern part of Colorado is different — it’s rolling grasslands.

Crossed into Wyoming and went to the state welcome center. Got out of the car and was hit with a pleasant smell of grass. The Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center is a lavish building. Clearly no expense was spared. It’s a postmodernist building with a cantilevered prow built in 2012. The architect was Anderson Mason Dale Architects.

Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, outside Cheyenne. I couldn’t get far enough away to get the whole building in the frame.

It sits on 26.2 acres of grassland, donated to the state by Neil McMurry, with a huge bowl of sky above it.

Sky at the Welcome Center

After checking in to my hotel, I drove to downtown Cheyenne. True to form, there was no one on the streets. This happened in many cities but it was way creepier here. My outlook on cities is all wrong. I live in the city that never sleeps, but other cities sleep.

They have bike share, but you have to call up and give them your credit card. There is no app.

The railroad was important to the town’s history and it’s very prominent in town — runs right through the center.

Freight train, downtown Cheyenne

The lovely Union Pacific depot, built in 1886, is now a museum. The architect was Henry Van Brunt and the style is identified by a sign as Richardson Romanesque.

Former Union Pacific Depot (now Depot Museum), Cheyenne
Wyoming State Capitol, Cheyenne

Most of downtown Cheyenne’s buildings are undistinguished.

Day 25: The world’s highest Starbucks

Buena Vista, CO to Silverthorne, CO

A sunny and cold morning. 42°!

At Twin Lakes, CO

Drove to Leadville, the highest city in Colorado at 10,151 ft. Took a walk down the main drag, Harrison Ave. Families with little kids, runners from a race, tourists like me, and maybe a few locals. Sat on a bench and watched the world go by.

Leadville, CO
Leadville, CO

Without being aware of it, I crossed the Continental Divide here from “East” to “West.” Here, the Divide itself goes east/west, so the crossing is south to north. I went over Fremont Pass, 11,318 feet. There was a sign identifying Fremont Pass, but it didn’t say it was on the Continental Divide. 

After Fremont Pass, I stopped at a field of snow. It once was a valley that contained three mining towns. When the mining industry went bust after the Second World War, the towns were abandoned and the valley was filled with mine tailings (the waste portion of ore produced by mining). Then they created a meadow on top. They call it the Valley of Ghosts.

Snow at the “Valley of Ghosts,” near Leadville

One of my bucket list items on this trip was visiting the world’s highest Starbucks (9,600 ft.) in Breckenridge. When I got to Breck I immediately went there. It’s in a little yellow house and it is really cute.

I asked a manager-looking guy if this is the world’s highest Starbucks. He immediately said there is some dispute about that, because there is one in Taiwan on the 35th floor of a building, and there is one on a mountain in Utah, but it’s not a freestanding Starbucks, it’s a restaurant that serves Starbucks coffee. So if you only count “real” Starbucks this is the one. I’m so happy someone who works there knows about it. I ordered a tall caramel macchiato.

At the world’s highest Starbucks, Breckenridge, CO
At the world’s highest Starbucks, Breckenridge, CO

Took a walk around Breckenridge.

Main St., Breckenridge
The Blue River, Breckenridge

Drove to Silverthorne, to my hotel. For dinner I went to Cheba Hut Toasted Subs, a sandwich chain only in the West. I had a fantastic sandwich, and they have a fun attitude. Also a full bar. Wish they’d come to New York.

Clouds, Silverthorne

Day 24: A New Urbanist vision

Pueblo, CO to Buena Vista, CO

Left my hotel in Pueblo a little later than normal.

Thought about what Blake said about kissing the joy as it flies. I am feeling joy, but I know it’s not going to last forever. I can’t hold onto it, so I kiss it as it flies.

I listened to the Gram Parsons song “Return of the Grievous Angel.” Emmylou Harris and Gram’s voices sound sublime in harmony.

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels
And a good saloon in every single town

‘Cause I headed West to grow up with the country
Across those prairies with those waves of grain
And I saw my devil, and I saw my deep blue sea
And I thought about a calico bonnet from Cheyenne to Tennessee

Went to Royal Gorge Bridge. I didn’t know before that the bridge was a tourist attraction not used for actual transportation. I quickly realized as much when I got there and found out you couldn’t even see the bridge without paying $28. I used the men’s room for $0 and left.

Going west on US 50, the road is right alongside the upper Arkansas River. The river has white water, and I saw some people rafting.

Upper Arkansas River, near US 50

Stopped at the Cotopaxi general store. I love the cowboy West. It’s so relaxed.

Cotopaxi Store, Cotopaxi, CO
Mountains near Salida, CO

Got to my hotel, the Surf Hotel in Buena Vista (alt. 7,965).

I didn’t know any of this when I booked, but the hotel is in a new part of town called South Main that was designed according to New Urbanist principles.

The site is a one-time garbage dump that had sat vacant for years. It came up for sale about a decade ago.

The developers, Jed Selby (a world-class kayaker) and his sister Katie, called in a team of architects and planners and invited the community to be involved in the planning process. They established key principles including:

Maintaining public access to the river; creating a high-quality riverfront space; establishing visual and physical connections with Main Street and downtown Buena Vista including a dramatic view of a historic cupola with background mountains; and creating a walkable neighborhood through a mixture of uses, network of pedestrian connections, and human-scale streets.

Congress for the New Urbanism web site

As I arrived I noticed that the neighborhood was unusual. My first thought was “Disney World.” And indeed, it has elements of a stage set.

South Main, Buena Vista, CO

The Surf Hotel building is one year old, but it’s very skillfully made to look like an old building that’s been renovated.

Distressed boards on the floor of the elevator, Surf Hotel, Buena Vista, CO

I later found out that the neighborhood consciously takes inspiration from Buena Vista’s historic downtown.

The developers gave three riverfront acres to the city for a park, in accordance with their principle of free public access to the river.

The origin story

There were people playing frisbee and throwing footballs on the green.

The green and some outdoor living-room furniture, South Main, Buena Vista, CO

The streets are woonerfs – spaces shared between slow-moving cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

This is really beautiful, I am privileged to be here. And it’s by chance. So it isn’t Disney World, it’s more like… Celebration, without Celebration’s problems.

The hotel is right next to the Arkansas River, and you can hear the loud sound of the rushing water. Its façade is made out of different size rocks.

Surf Hotel, Buena Vista, CO. My room fronted on one of those continuous balconies.

It’s a super-hipster boutique hotel. I like it. I wonder if Mary Beth would like it or if she would see it as too precious.

Lobby bar, Surf Hotel, Buena Vista, CO

In my room, the bathroom is gorgeous – marble sink and a stall shower. Instead of plastic or coated paper cups in the guest rooms, they have enamelware cups. And a metal ice bucket.

I went to the real downtown of Buena Vista and it’s adorable. I see what they mean when they said they were inspired by downtown to build South Main.

Thinking back, like to Virginia and North Carolina, I’m already feeling nostalgic for the early part of this trip. It has truly been an epic journey, a voyage of discovery. And it’s not over.

Day 23: Coal wars, steel mills

Clayton, NM to Pueblo, CO

In the morning in Clayton (alt. 5,056), 51 degrees and breezy! Loving it! A beautiful day.

Sunrise, Clayton, NM
Morning, Clayton, NM

Back to Oklahoma and visited Kenton, the westernmost town in that state. Tidy little town with one store (the Kenton Merc) that was closed, and three B&Bs.

I drove to Black Mesa Nature Preserve, to the trailhead for the highest point (4,973 feet) of Oklahoma. It’s a four-hour round trip hike to the summit, which I skipped. Beautiful spot. Hilly, unlike most of the Panhandle.

Panorama: Black Mesa, OK. It’s a lot bigger than this makes it look.

I decided my tribute to Black Mesa would be having a picnic lunch there.

Later, great fun bombing down a two lane road with beautiful scenery all around, and no one else on it. The radio had a report on corn, wheat, and cattle futures.

Got out at a Santa Fe Trail historical marker – the wind was something fierce. The historic trails are very important here and they are commemorated by signs, markers, and street names. The Santa Fe Trail was used for trade (before the Mexican War, between the U.S. and Mexico) and was a two-way trail, unlike the emigrant trails (the Oregon, the California) which saw one-way traffic.

Santa Fe Trail marker, Oklahoma Panhandle

I continued west, then turned north. My route is taking a big S-curve because I’ve been to New Mexico and Arizona, and I want to visit Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. Got my first exciting sight of snow-topped mountains, then entered Colorado.

Some Colorado facts I find interesting: That state, formerly reliably Republican in presidential voting, has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections (Obama twice, Hillary). The highest city in the state is Leadville at 10,200 feet; highest town is Montezuma at 10,335 feet.

Trinidad, Colorado is a charming town with some historic buildings. I saw about eight marijuana shops (probably because it’s so near the state line). I’m not planning to use any cannabis on this trip (or at any other time).

Saw a sign on the highway for the Ludlow Massacre memorial. The Ludlow Massacre took place on April 20, 1914, when the Colorado National Guard fired machine guns into a tent colony of striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. 21 were killed. It was part of what’s called the Colorado Coal Wars. The workers’ demands were for an eight-hour day and for the company to follow mining regulations. At that time, the local legal and political systems were under the control of the mine owners.

Arrived in Pueblo (alt. 4,692). On the side of I-25 in Pueblo, I saw what looked like a huge disused factory. Turns out it is in use. It’s the Pueblo Steel Mill, built in 1881, owned since 2007 by Evraz Group of Russia.

By chance, this is my fourth stop on the Arkansas River! Little Rock, Fort Smith, Tulsa, Pueblo. I may yet see more of the Arkansas River.

I’m struck by how nice everyone’s been on my trip. Americans are great. They are an open, friendly, helpful people.

Had a great veggie burrito for dinner at a place called Habanero’s. Zero atmosphere and great food.

Perfect night out.

Nightfall, Pueblo, CO

Day 22: Heaped on high horizons

Liberal, KS to Clayton, NM

Loving the freedom of this trip. The freedom to go wherever I want.

In the OK Panhandle
Grain elevator, Guymon, OK

Back in Oklahoma, stopped at a coffee shop, Urban Bru, in the tiny Panhandle town of Goodwell. When I got there, there were a few young men customers, one wearing a cowboy hat. The barista was really nice and let me stay a long time and use the wifi to do yesterday’s post.

Went to the No Man’s Land Historical Museum, also in Goodwell. Beautiful and tranquil outside. Seth Hammond, a docent, gave me a long disquisition on the history of the area.

Facts about the Oklahoma Panhandle I got from wall text:

The Panhandle is semi-arid. Despite looking flat, it slopes upward from 2,000 feet to almost 5,000 feet from east to west. Its land area is 8% of Oklahoma’s area but it has less than 1% of the state’s population. Mainstays of the Panhandle economy are agriculture, stockraising, and oil and gas production. Its population was 30,000 in 1980. Population density of the entire state is 44 people per square mile, while density of the Panhandle counties is: Beaver Co. 4, Texas Co. 9, Cimarron Co. 2. Annual rainfall is 15-20 inches, most in late spring and summer.

The museum is basically a storehouse of stuff of varying interest. I love railroad history and there was some of that.

I drove to the CO-KS-OK tripoint. Some of that time, I was driving on a dirt road following the KS-OK state line. The last 8 miles were dirt road.

I was excited to find the tripoint marker. It’s a small black disk set right into the road. Paved here, so no one steals it.

Marker at the CO-KS-OK tripoint
My car, Large Marge, parked at the tripoint (I named her that because her license plate is P56 LGE)

The tripoint was great, but it was after that my troubles began. I could have just backtracked the 8 miles but instead I foolishly let Google route me. It led me on a merry way onto one dirt road after another. Finally, it led me to one that was so bad and so uneven and went through a farmer’s field that I couldn’t take it and I had to backtrack. Then my phone fell under the driver’s seat and I had to look for it. Luckily I had a pen light. Then, just using GPS and the map, I found my way back to a paved road. Whew! When something goes wrong on a trip I call it a “travel story” and this definitely was one. Lesson learned: Always check the directions before starting. And for Pete’s sake do what makes sense.

On emerging from that nightmare, I drove to Boise City, OK (without Google navigation).

A “car wash” in these parts isn’t the same as one where I live. Here, it’s self-service. You put four quarters in, and use a powerful wand to first soap, then rinse, your car. Then you just drive it into the sun to dry it. You can buy a cloth for more quarters. I gamely did it.

Visited the Cimarron County courthouse.

Clouds, Boise City, OK
First State Bank, Boise City, OK
Cimarron County Courthouse (built 1928), Boise City, OK

Entered New Mexico, state #18 for the trip. (I went there due to the lack of hotels in the OK Panhandle.)

Motel painted turquoise. Because we are in New Mexico!

I crossed into Mountain Time and gained another hour. Drove to my hotel in Clayton.

The title of today’s post is a quote from “The Idea of Order at Key West” by Wallace Stevens.

Day 21: No man’s land

Enid, OK to Liberal, KS

Finally a beautiful day. It is 75° with humidity 40%. I am out of the punishing heat of the South.

CVS has made this trip a lot easier by being everywhere and having everything.

Still in Enid, I went to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. The Cherokee Strip, officially the Cherokee Outlet, was a large area of land in present-day Oklahoma that the US Government obliged the Cherokee Indians to take in exchange for their lands in the Southeast. They were permitted to use the land but not to live there (they lived nearby).

As often happened during the settling of the United States, there arose pressure from whites to settle the land. The Cherokees were forced to sell, and in 1893 there was an enormous land run to allow whites to settle there. Enid itself sits in what was the Cherokee Strip.

First I looked at their awesome exhibition of political posters.

Poster for Wendell Willkie, 1940
Poster for William McKinley, 1900

The museum’s permanent exhibition is a lavish and extensive history of the Cherokee Strip and Enid.

Sometimes people ask me, like they did at the museum, where I’m from. When I tell them, they ask what I’m doing here. So I told them about my trip and they loved it. They introduced me several times as the person from New York. Their archivist, Aaron, gave me a special tour of the historic buildings on the site, including the original Enid land office from the 1890s.

Land office, 1890s

Goodbye, Enid, lovely city where people are so nice. Pushed further west.

Grain elevators, sometimes called “cathedrals of the plains.” They are by far the tallest structures in the Oklahoma Panhandle
Abandoned gas station

Passed through Gloss Mountains, red mesas that suddenly stick up from the prairie floor.

In the Gloss Mountains
The road

Finally, I entered the Oklahoma Panhandle, one of the main destinations on this trip, and a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. There’s a little monument on US 64 at the Panhandle’s boundary. (Before Oklahoma statehood, the Panhandle was known as No Man’s Land.)

No Man’s Land monument
Text: The 37th Parallel was chosen as the southern boundary of Colorado and Kansas. New Mexico’s eastern boundary was the 103rd Meridian by the Missouri Compromise. Texas came into the Union with 36° 30′ Parallel as their northern boundary. This northern boundary of Texas is the only state boundary in the Union set by the Missouri Compromise (Mason – Dixon). The Cherokee Outlet stopped at the 100th Meridian. This left a strip of land 34 miles wide and 167 miles long without any form of government. Congress called it the Public Land Strip, but it became known as No Man’s Land, being outside any jurisdiction or any form of government. It became the home of outlaws, cowboys, and settlers. Beaver City was the largest town in the area. By the Organic Act of 1890 Congress attached this unclaimed land to the newly-organized Oklahoma Territory with Beaver City as the county seat. It continued thus until Oklahoma was admitted to the Union Sat. Nov. 14, 1907. Three counties were formed out of the Panhandle – Beaver, Texas, and Cimarron.

For comparison, Long Island is 118 miles by 23 miles maximum.

I arrived in Gate, Oklahoma. Stopped there mainly because of its name.

The Panhandle is flat and beautiful and mostly empty.

In the Panhandle

I entered a surprise new state, Kansas. I went there because the Panhandle is a little short on hotels.

Internet in my room wasn’t working, so I called the front desk and was told the whole town’s internet was down. What, no redundant connection? It was still down when I left in the morning.