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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

LONG BEACH TO ANNAPOLIS AND BACK! Day 3: 540 miles, 9 hrs

Denver to Topeka.

Monday morning we awoke...well, that's not quite right. We'd been up practically all night as a result of facing a commuter rail line that apparently runs overnight. Every half hour or so our sleep was disturbed by the passing of the one the trains, which, as a result of it crossing a major intersection, blew its horn repeatedly.

Exhausted, we packed our gear and headed down to the lobby with the expectation of hitting the road and getting some breakfast once we were out of town. The desk agent at the Doubletree was upset to hear of our night, explaining that the hotel had repeatedly complained to the transit agency, but apparently to no avail.

She offered extra Hilton points and a free breakfast at the restaurant as a gesture of concern. Not being completely asleep we gratefully accepted both. It doesn't make up for the lost sleep, but Hilton responsiveness once again proved why they're one of my favorite chains.

We hit the road around 8:30 - later than planned, but without the need for a stop to eat - and immediately encountered Denver Monday morning traffic. Our hope had been to be far enough east of the city proper to escape it, but best laid plans and all that...

Within  a few miles the traffic thinned and we were off across a soggy and flat landscape. Nothing ahead of us but miles as they say. Eastern Colorado and western Kansas are, indeed, as flat as their reputations suggest. And, unlike Utah, which still gets extra brownie points from me for having an 80 mile per hour speed limit - you're restricted to 75 mph. Cheating you can get that up to 79 or so without getting the attention of the local highway patrol.

The miles rolled by and other than a handful of stops at various rest areas not a lot happened. The rain became intense for ten minutes or so, recalling a few other drives through Tornado Alley. I kept my eyes on the road AND the horizon, figuring the other drivers would probably alert me to any problems through their own actions. (Having California plates on our car I figured NOBODY would look to me for help spotting a tornado...)

The miles curled by and gradually the rain lessened until stopping altogether. Passing into Kansas

was uneventful. The road meandered over the landscape slightly, though the majority of the time it was straight. We attracted the attention of a highway patrolman who - likely seeing the Cal plates - paced us for a mile or so in my blind spot. Apparently unhappy we were obeying the laws he gunned his engine and roared ahead to ostensibly handle something down the road. Sorry to have disappointed you, officer.

(As much as I hate to say it, in certain states having California plates is a liability. They can get you unwanted attention if you do something to bring attention to yourself. I have stories but will save those for another time.)

We stopped in Hayes, Kansas for lunch at a terrific place called Thirsty's Brew Pub and Grill. It's massive inside, divided up into a variety of areas - sports bar, restaurant, exhibition room, event rooms and main stage. Despite its size, it being Monday we at one point were the sole customers in the place. Disconcerting but the very, very nice waitress (Mackenzie) told us the evenings and weekends it was wall-to-wall bodies. We were attracted to the formal stage in the middle room - yes, there were several large rooms in this place - with a piano and sign that read "The Jazz Cafe". But overall we were truly enjoying the ambience, Mackenzie's friendliness, and the food.

She filled us in on the history of the place and some of the new owner's plans for the future. It's a very cool spot and great for live music. Plus, our sandwiches were good enough we both decided they were the best meal of the trip so far.

Leaving Hayes we poured it on. The lunch was a late one, and we still had some three hours to get to Topeka for the evening. In Salina we switched driving, with my wife taking the wheel. This enabled me to rest, and make a series of posts to Instagram and Facebook. The countryside became less flat and more lightly rolling hills, getting greener and more forested along the way.

Topeka eventually arrived, and we piled out of the car, exhausted. The hotel, a Ramada, is quite nice and the staff quite friendly. The room is comfortable, but we both noticed the sound of a train horn...this...may be a problem...

(More tomorrow.)

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