Thursday, October 3, 2013

Through the Nebraska Sandhills to "Hutch"

We left Custer on Wednesday of last week ago and made our way south.  Our first stop was J&C RV Park in Alliance, Nebraska.  This is a lovely, small family-owned campground right off Highway 385.  The people are very nice (“Office at Back Door of Residence”) and there was plenty of grass and a good area for throwing balls.

From Alliance we took Nebraska Highway 2, through the Nebraska Sandhills.  Covering some 19,000 square miles of Northwest Nebraska, they are said to be the largest tract of stabilized sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere.  In a breeze, the rolling hills covered with waving grasses resembles the sea.  

Then, every so often there is a small jewel of a lake nestled between the dunes.   

One such wetlands area was identified as Avocet Wildlife Management Area.  As we approached, we saw flocks of large white birds circling overhead or floating on the water.  As we got closer, we could see that they were American White Pelicans.  (If the sand hadn't been covered by grass, the setting could have been the Texas coast.)  We stopped for several minutes to watch them as they moved from one area of the lake to another, or spiraled overhead.

They are beautiful birds, but we wondered what they found to eat in such a small pond!

Much of Hwy 385 runs alongside the railroad tracks.  However, not nearly so many trains were running this trip.  When we traveled through the Sandhills in 2010, trains of more than 100 cars were traveling in both directions, either carrying coal, or on their way to pick up a load.  The trains were often separated by only 10 minutes or so.  This year, we saw only a few, including this one.

We had intended to spend Thursday night at Victoria Springs State Recreation Area near Anselmo.  John was concerned, however, because the RV sites there are on grass and rain was predicted.  (If a rig as heavy as ours is parked on something other than gravel or another hard surface in wet weather, it could easily get stuck...not a pleasant prospect!)  We called the park to see if they had upgraded any of their sites, and found that they had not.  In addition, the park staffer we talked to said they expected to be "pretty busy" for the next few days because there would be a “100-mile garage sale” going on.  We weren’t quite sure what that would entail, but it sounded pretty scary!  So, instead of going to Anselmo, we turned south and made our way to North Platte instead.  Holiday RV Park there is a good place to overnight, and besides, the Bark Park in North Platte is a great dog park.

When we arrived in North Platte, we had another surprise waiting for us.  We crossed the North Platte River on the north side of town, and the stream flow was not much more than a trickle.  However, when we crossed the South Platte on the south side of town, it was running high and fast and was out of its banks in several places.  Several homes near the river had sandbags in place, and people were preparing for a flood in spite of the fact that there was hardly a cloud in the sky.  We were puzzled, and pulled out our map to see why that might be happening.  Easy answer -- the North Platte comes from Wyoming down through the middle of Nebraska.  The South Platte comes in from Colorado, which this year has experienced disastrous flooding.  East of the city where the two rivers meet to become the Platte, there was still a lot of water rushing down the channel.

On Friday, we continued through Nebraska and into Kansas where we spent the night at a lovely little RV park in Concordia.  Known as the Airport RV Park, it is run by the City of Concordia, and is a real gem of a park.  It has only 17 RV spaces, but the sites are level concrete pads with lots of nice green grass.  Only water and electric service is available, but the price is right....people are only asked to make a donation in exchange for their stay.

We spent the morning enjoying Concordia’s Fall Fest parade, watching the cars of our youth roll past, along with an assortment of wagons, bands and riding groups.

We also treated ourselves to a “Cheeto Pie,” which must be the Kansas version of that old Texas favorite, the “Frito Chili Pie.”  It was good, but we decided that Texas has the better pie!

When we pulled into the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas, (known to most as “Hutch”) we found several heavy-duty trucks and fifth wheels already there.  The “Pre-HDT Rally” is now in full swing.  

Happy hour is being observed regularly, trucks are being repaired, polished and admired, and we look forward to seeing the rest of our friends as they arrive for next week’s activities.

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