4/22/2011 – Day 16 – Great Salt Plains State Park, OK to Lindsborg, KS – 227.5 Miles

After a restful night (sans rain) we were up fairly early, enjoying bird songs and ample hot water.  Diana was anxious to check out because she had an appointment with, um, nature, more accurately geological nature.  She will now enlighten you:

Marge in Guthrie sold me some of the Selenite crystals that I could dig up on the salt plains.  I had seen them before in stores.  The ones from Oklahoma are unique, though.  They have an hourglass brown color in the middle.  It isn’t found anywhere else in the world.  So Steve took me out on my muddy, salty adventure.   On the way we stopped in Jett, a little town to pick up plastic gloves, water etc.  The last pair of plastic gloves were gone so the lady at the quick stop gave me a pair.  The people at the market were so nice .  Two teenage boys behind the counter called me “Mam” more times than I could count.

I had to change into my grubbiest clothes because the dirt may not come out of the clothes.  About 10 miles outside Jett, down 4 miles of dirt road and another mile of dirt and salt, we got to the digging area.  Oklahoma lets people dig for free in different areas.  Water coming in and reacting with the soil replenishes the fragile crystals.  I had a trowel to dig with.  The holes need to be about 6 inches to a foot deep.  Then the crystals are revealed when water is splashed on.  The best time to dig is when the crystals have time to dry out so that they come out of the dirt as big pieces.  I didn’t have that much time, so I only got small crystals in the 2 hours I gave myself.  Since I love rocks, shiny things and playing in the mud,  I had a blast. Steve even got dirty helping me!  That’s love!

Now Steve will tell the saga of how we got back to civilization–and after 3 possible camping sites–another motel.

After playing in the mud we decided to head north as quickly as possible because we want to spend time looking for my Swedish ancestors the weekend.  I plugged Wichita into our GPS and off we went.  For a while things seemed to be going well, although some of the turns and roads Ms. Garmin directed us to seemed odd.  Finally though, we were well and truly headed north down a straight road through lovely alfalfa fields, herds of well-fed cattle and occasional clouds of birds in flight.

Then, in the distance I spied something troubling.  The road looked unusual.  Sort of reddish brown.  And as we drew closer we saw two things: a “Welcome to Kansas” sign, and the end of the paved road.

The dirt road ahead of us didn’t look that well-maintained and there was no signal on my iPhone so I couldn’t use it to give us an alternate route.  I did the only thing I could.  I turned around.

We backtracked several miles to what looked like a promising road to the east which became more worn and potholed.  We saw a man standing by his big rig with the hood up.  When I stopped by him, he assured us that while he didn’t know what was wrong with his truck, help was on the way.  I asked him how to get to Wichita and he said he was pretty sure if I continued on this road I would run into another road and that one should take us to “some town” that would lead us to our desired destination.

Proceeding with less than absolute confidence I finally turned off the stupid Garmin lady who insisted that we turn down every dirt road we passed even though I had programmed the GPS to avoid dirt roads.

Our road never quite turned into dirt, but there were more potholes than pavement by the time we reached the promised road.  It was better paved and took us to the city of Manchester (not the one in England!).  We drove into the main street and parked across the street from the post office so Diana could mail a post card to her dad.  As we were parked there, a gentleman drove up and asked if we were interested in the bar.  Not sure if he wondered if we needed a drink or wanted to buy the place, we asked him how to get to Wichita.  He proceeded to give us detailed directions which included turning left at a church, right at a McDonalds and left again at a Chrysler dealership.  Not completely sure I could remember everything he told us, I once again fired up the GPS and we took off.

Many turns, road construction delays, and a stop for gas at (honestly) “The Anthony Farmer’s Cooperative Elevator Company” (I have the receipt to prove it!), we actually did stagger into the Wichita area.

After another stop for gas and food, we started driving north again.  We were both rather tired by this time and when we saw a billboard promising a campground in the country just a few thousand feet off the highway we decided to take a look.  We took the off-ramp and turned into a dismal hovel of old trailers, all of them with tired skirts or tethered dogs barking as we approached.  Deciding this was NOT tonight’s resting place, we hit the road again.

We started seeing signs for Lindsborg — “Little Sweden USA” and it sounded nice, so off the freeway we turned again and drove 4 or 5 miles into a truly beautiful little town with cobblestone streets and rows of stores named Anderson or Peterson and festive little painted artwork horses on every street corner.  We went to the Mill Park and found campsites there for $10 a night, but pit toilets and a lot of flying bugs discouraged us from staying there.

We ended up at the “Viking Motel” and were greeted at the front desk by a very friendly Indian woman (from India!) who welcomed us.  Feeling like we were in the Twilight Zone, we thanked her, took our key, and collapsed in our room.

Tomorrow, if we’re lucky and the GPS doesn’t lead us to Cuba, we will enter Clay City, the location where my maternal grandfather and grandmother were married and started their life together.  Wish us luck!

The Great Salt Plains Crystal Digging Expedition

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2 Responses to 4/22/2011 – Day 16 – Great Salt Plains State Park, OK to Lindsborg, KS – 227.5 Miles

  1. kit says:

    The bumpy roads are the fun ones! And pit toilets turned you away? Gee whiz guys, I thought you were looking for adventure! 😉

  2. chppio says:

    Not THAT kind of adventure, thank you! I do demand a certain minimum level of civilization in the facilities I use. As if you didn’t know… ;-D

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