Tag Archives: Kansas

Migrations Home 2018 – Sabetha Kansas

Life throws you curves sometimes but an unexpected curve can lead to interesting and rewarding experiences. Our unexpected adventure began when we stopped for gas at a station south of Sabetha, Kansas. The wind was horrible and the trailer and truck were bucking and vibrating. We turned around in the gas station being buffeted by wind and filled up with gas. And the truck died. No power. It was just gasping and clunking and shaking like nothing we had ever experienced before. There is no more sickening feeling than having your truck die miles from home. I resisted the urge to cry and we shut the truck down and left it to sit for a few minutes. I said a few prayers. I started it again and it fired up like nothing had happened. We gingerly began our trip again and then just a few kilometres down the road the check engine light came on. I plugged in a search for FORD and the Aberle dealership popped up 16 km away in Sabetha. We rolled into the Sabetha at noon and the nice folks at Aberle promised to look our truck over at 1:00pm when everyone came back from lunch.

Sabetha Map

While we waited we decided to walk around the town and have a look. I have a special soft spot for small midwestern towns and Sabetha did not disappoint. The first thing that attracted us was a role call honouring all the veterans from the area going all the way back to the civil war. Midwest towns tend to produce far more than their fair share of soldiers and Sabetha was no exception.

After we had our first stroll about town we headed back to the Ford dealership. The mechanic and parts person told us the truck had checked out as perfectly fine. They guessed it had probably got a dose of bad gas. It might be fine once the crappy gas had worked its way through. However, they showed us a technical bulletin on a valve that sometimes goes on trucks of our type and year that results in the truck “having a hissy fit” (so technical a term!) each time you fill it with gas. They said the truck would probably be fine. They could clear the check engine light warning and we could go on our way. However, if the light came on again we should get the valve replaced.

I asked if they could just take care of the valve now. They said they would have to order the part. They could have it delivered the next morning. They opened at 7:00am and they could have the truck fixed by 8:00am. I asked if we could boondock overnight beside their garage. They seemed a bit surprised but immediately agreed. They even said they could run an extension cord from the garage to the trailer. We decided to stay and get the new valve, just in case. They were so nice. You don’t get that kind of service in a big city. They made sure we were safely parked, hooked to power and had WIFI and offered us a vehicle in case we needed it. We declined that. They told us all the good places to eat nearby. We settled in for an unexpected night in Sabetha. Because of Misty we ended up taking several walks. We met many of the townsfolk. Everyone was interested in us and why we were stopping in Sabetha. It was like being back home in Alonsa.

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We had a very pleasant evening taking long walks, a fine dinner at the Downtown Coffee restaurant and we settled in early. True to their word, by 8:00am we were back on the road and on our way to Sioux City with a new valve for under $175. The mechanic warned us again that if bad gas was involved we might have the engine light come on again and then we should stop and get the truck checked. This unexpected side trip turned out to be a wonderful learning experience meeting very nice people. Sabetha is a great little town well worth a visit. I hope we get back some day.

 

 

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Migration Home 2018 – Big Hill Lake near Cherryvale Kansas

Big Hill Lake an Army Corps of Engineer campground that is one of the few campgrounds that is open year round this far north. The locals in the area came in and enhanced the campground by putting in sewer in about half the sites. The other thing the community did was add some lovely playground structure and a pavillion to enhance bird watching. The campground is on a major flyway north and teems with migrating birds of many species. We saw the rare and lovely red headed woodpecker, both blue and gray jays, numerous small sparrows and all night long we heard the hoot hoot of owls. On the drive into the campground the fields had large flocks of snow geese taking a break before heading north.

We had two days of peace and quiet. There were a few showers and the weather was cold and windy but it was still nice. Our neighbours told us the night before we arrived the temperature went from t-shirt weather to this heavy jacket cold overnight with severe storms and massive piles of hail. No surprise there. It is Kansas after all.

We had the nicest site up on a hill overlooking the lake. Our site was also specious with a big distance to the next campsite. There was no sign of spring blooming yet. They had done a lot of burning before our arrival so the whole place had a vague burnt smell. There is a really nice well marked path that follows the lake edge below the campsite. We enjoyed the exceptionally lovely early spring environs on the path. The trees are mixed oak, walnut and pine trees. I wish we could have been there in summer when the trees were green and full. Being an national site hubby dearest Passport America card meant we paid only $11/night. We stayed two nights. The day we left is was supposed to get warm and potentially stormy again so we moved north towards Nebraska.

We also explored the docks at the lake edge designed to make fishing easy. Dick and Misty were both fascinated by the fancy brickwork on the edge of the lake designed to reduce wave action damage.

 

Cherryvale Map

Migration Home Tenth Stop Topeka, Kansas

Topekaa

We left Cherryvale and headed north hoping to get to our next stop before any of the predicted severe weather started. During our discussions with the electrician who came to fix our site’s broken 30amp connection, we got a recommendation to check out Kansas RV Centre in Canute. We were promised lots of parts at reasonable prices. That’s what we found. In spite of impending stormy weather we ended up spending an hour checking out stuff and, to our delight, we found replacement covers for our RV light covers that had cracked, larger size chocks, and a new housing for our truck’s electrical receiver. We couldn’t resist having a look at some of the newer RVs even though we are not ready for a new one. Still it was a treat. We headed north with the sky turning an ominous churning grey.

We pulled into the the Topeka Kansas KOA with no small amount of relief. The owner was on duty and he welcomed us warmly and soon we were set up in a site with directions for what to do if we needed to be safe from severe weather. People from Oklahoma and Kansas do not fool around with severe weather. The campground has a big barn with a shelter in the basement. We didn’t do much in Topeka. It rained and rained and rained almost from when we got set up until we left.

One thing we found really frustrating was that it was cool but when we tried to start our furnace it wouldn’t fire up. Fortunately we had our electric blanket and electric oil filled space heaters. I made a loaf of bread and the little stove top electric oven also provides a lot of heat. Redundancy paid off again. We had cable at the KOA so I left it on the Weather Channel while I tried to figure out what the problem was. Getting at the furnace was tricky. I hadn’t ever tried it before because gas stuff is scary. The furnace was hidden under the fridge area. I found a great video that showed me how to get at my furnace. I was able to see by the trouble shooting lights the problem was air access. I also found layers and layers of dust and dog fur. It was almost like a mat of felt it was so thick. Ugh! I diligently and carefully cleaned and vacuumed and held my breath and tried the furnace….and nothing happened. ARRG!! We called a couple of repair places and it looked like this was going to be a major job costing major bucks. Since we had electric back up, we decided to leave it until we were home at our own dealer we trust. I took advantage of my frustration to do a whole bunch of long overdue cleaning elsewhere in the trailer.

As it turned out we did not need to test the KOA’s storm shelter. There were warnings about severe weather west, east, and south of us but nothing closer than a couple of miles away. I was very glad we had decided to move here. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt really hemmed in. After all the long lazy days in national forest, state parks, and army corp campsites the close proximity of spaces in the KOA felt claustrophobic, a feeling enhanced by pouring rain.

The second morning we packed up and left for our next stop in South Dakota. To our astonishment and delight, on arrival in South Dakota the furnace cheerful fired up working beautifully as if nothing had happened. I have no explanation. I will guess it was clogged with dust and dog hair and that blocked the intake and it remained blocked until another road trip knocked stuff around and it unstuck. It may be the furnace has some kind of reset that needed to occur by going off shore power and then going back on. Whatever the reason, we were delighted to have our furnace working and I leaned over and I apologized for neglecting it and promised the furnace that from now on, I would be cleaning the cabinet of all dust and dog hair on a regular basis.

This is my review of the Topeka City KOA

We stayed here two days during a period of foul weather, severe storms nearby, high winds and rain all day. This KOA has a big red barn with a basement severe storm shelter which is why we picked it. There is a row of permanent residents but those campers are well kept and seemed to consist of young families with school age children. It felt very park like and safe. The office is only open 3:00 to 8:00 pm but the fellow was there was nice and helpful. WIFI was excellent although it would stop and restart every couple of hours. Campground layout was pleasing and well thought out. There was no mud in spite of all the rain we had due to nice grass and gravel/sand on our sites. There is a very nice children’s park and fishing ponds. Our site was fine but a bit short. It is set in a place between two interstates so there was some traffic noise but not too bad. A nicer than average KOA. We will stop again, especially if we need a place to sit out storms.

TenthCorrected

Migration Home Ninth Stop: Cherryvale Big Hill Lake, Kansas

Cherryvale

I was sad to leave beautiful Oklahoma but the forecast was for storms to the south and the calendar was creeping up on. We had to be over the border back to Canada because our travel insurance ran out for March 31st. We also had a planned stop in Sisseton, South Dakota to speak to a group of high school students March 29th. As soon as we got north of Tulsa the rolling hills started to smooth out and we were back on open prairie. I am a prairie girl and I love the variety mountains bring but once I am back under the big skies I immediately feel like I am back at home. I had not been in Kansas for at least a decade. It hadn’t changed much. flat magnificent open prairie stretched as far as the eye could see with gently rolling hills. We pulled into Coffeyville, which turned out to be a surprisingly large town complete with a Macdonald’s with WIFI to check email.

Dick only needs about four hours of sleep a night and he often writes while I sleep. As usual, Dick’s mail program picked up lots of interlibrary loans of PDFs of papers he had ordered. He enjoys editing scientific books which are collections of articles by various authors in fields he is interested in. Each article comprises a chapter. He currently has three books and a special issue of a journal going. They are Habitability of the Universe Before Earth (Elsevier), Diatoms: Fundamentals and Applications, Theology and Science (Whiley-Scrivener), and Discussions About Faith and Facts (World Scientific Publishing), and the special issue is Embryogenesis (for the journal Biology). He sent the latest batch of partly finished manuscripts he had edited while we were at Cherokee Landing back to the assorted authors. More manuscripts came in for his attention.

We drove towards Cherryvale and the next planned stop, an Army Corps of Engineers campsite on Big Hill Lake. I noticed two things. As is so often the case, there were no signs designed to draw in casual tourists to visit the park. If you didn’t know it was there, you would never guess from the highway. This park was also one of those adopted by the locals and diligently spruced up and enhanced to better suit their own needs. This park was laid out like the standard Corps campground with great big spacious lots. However about half its sites had full hookups. Most of the park was closed but one section is open year round. And with our senior pass it was only $12/night. We paid for two nights. It was only after we got settled in that we noticed that 30amp electric was broken so that it only worked intermittently. We were tired and the last thing we wanted to do was pack up and move again. I pulled out the 50amp to 30amp adapter we had purchased for $75 a long time ago and had only used once. Dick commented on how we had every possible adapter to allow us to get power from every possible source. Redundancy is the secret to happy migration with a travel trailer because you just never know what might happen. This got him thinking and he expended some creative energy writing about bungee cords.

We stopped by the ranger station in the morning to report the broken 30amp. To our delight, a fellow came by almost immediately and while he changed the plug we had a nice chat about electrical work. He admired our solar panel set up and I learned a couple of new tricks with connectors. I have always found electricity fascinating and if I had taken up a trade it would have been electrician. I love it when tradesmen are chatty and delighted about sharing their special information. He commented it is always nice to meet people who don’t take his work for granted. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the park. The full out spring eruption of birds we saw in Cherokee Landing had apparently moved north with us and the area teemed with birds. Near the dam was a large peninsula that features two nice group gathering places and a park dedicated to bird lovers run by the local Audubon society with illustrations and information about native birds. We went for a bike ride and two long walks and we followed a trail along the lake into the woods. We ran into our electrician acquaintance with his daughters on the trail, a pleasant surprise. The park has the best disc golf or “golf with frisbees” courses I have ever seen. I had played disc golf at a Normandy Farms Campground near Boston a number of years before when Dick was doing a visiting professorship at MIT. This one was even nicer and very challenging going up and down hills, in the brush, along the trail and out in open fields. After he commented about the weird looking chain nets on post everywhere, I explained to Dick how it worked. He said we should dig out our frisbees. It was getting late and the sun was about to set. We were having such a nice time that we got out the calendar and counted the days before we had to be anywhere at a specified time and decided to stay on for two more days. We were able to pick up a local Joplin TV station and when we got up the weather lady was reporting the predicted storms were going to be further north than originally forecast and Big Hill Lake was in the bullseyes for later that afternoon. We decided to return to our original plan and pack up head north.

Here is my review:

Cherryvale Big Hill Lake Army Corps of Engineers

One of the nicest Army Corp of Engineers campground we have been to, this park is lovely and has lots to do for families side from fishing. It is obvious the local community has adopted this park and made it much better. We were in Cherryvale which is the only one open year round. Like all Corp sites, the campsites are widely spaced and long. Unlike most corp sites, about half have sewer outlets. In addition, there is that frisbee golf game with the chain “holes” you shoot for, an Audubon bird lovers meeting spot, two really nice playgrounds, a basketball court, group sites for day visits and camping sites, horse trails, and multiple boat launches. There are several sections of campsites on both sides of the lake. Our campsite was treed by old oaks and was high up on a ridge overlooked the  lake. On the down side, there was no grass and the ground was hard packed dirt. The drive was paved and there was a paved patio with cement picnic table. At the end of the drive and between the patio they used large white gravel full of white caked dust that got wet and then hardened into ruts but that is our only complaint.

Our next stop was a KOA near Kansas city that boasted severe weather shelter. Beyond Cherryvale almost no government related campsites are open in March and so we were back to using private campgrounds. The Kansas city campground not only had a big storm shelter in the basement of an old barn, it was just north of the predicted area for severe weather. I do want to get back to Big Hill Lake someday.

Ninethday