I’ve never quite understood the bad rep that Kansas gets as “boring” or “flat.” Just yesterday as I drove through the Sunflower State, I was listening to one of my favorite Podcasts, Radiolab, when the host Jad Abumrad told a joke about how driving through Kansas is like some never-ending hell (I paraphrased here). Personally, I find the open landscape simple and beautiful. And it’s really quite diverse – eastern Kansas is full of long, steep climbs and descents, the center of the state is packed with rolling hills, and western Kansas is where you’ll find that beautiful, flat horizon.
But really, what I think draws me to Kansas most is the people. I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout the U.S., and Kansans are some of the friendliest, most helpful folks. I first noticed this when I bicycled the Transamerica – all throughout Kansas, people were notably kind and laid back. The state just sort of has this chilled out vibe that I find incredibly refreshing. No pretenses. I could set up a home base here eventually, if a home base ever appeals to me again…
I boondocked in another Walmart parking lot last night in Goodland Kansas, just 17 miles from the Colorado state line. There was a motorhome and 4 semis here with me. Yesterday morning I left Booneville, MO with the plan of getting through the rest of Missouri and most of Kansas – an easy 500 miles. But once I got to Kansas City, I found myself in the middle of a total downpour. I’m talking a whiteout that slowed interstate traffic to 25 mph. I could only see a few feet in front of me so I decided to exit, and got off at the first chance. I couldn’t read the exit sign, but in that moment, I didn’t really care. It was an exit. I needed an exit.
The car in front of me had the same idea and we soon found ourselves down a winding, one-way, single lane road that ran along railroad tracks. My GPS indicated I was on a “railroad access road.” I didn’t really care that I didn’t know where I was, or how I would maneuver out at that moment – my only focus was finding a place to park and let the monsoon pass. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to pull over and I found myself sort of stuck. The car in front of me stopped and turned around, rolled down his window and shouted, “It gets worse ahead!” – referring to the flooding on the access road. He was in a small SUV and was able turn around and squeeze back past me. Realizing that it wasn’t safe to keep driving without knowing how deep the flooding was just ahead, I pulled my trailer over as close to the side of this “road” as I could, put on my emergency flashers, shut off the engine, and waited. When I pulled up the radar, I realized I could be waiting for a while. The rain was not letting up at all, which concerned me because the water on the road ahead was rising. To my right, a drainage ditch was quickly filling up, and to the left, was a drop off to the railroad tracks. I decided to study the map to look at my options for getting out of this little situation once the rain let up.
The map indicated that I was indeed on a one-way road, and the only way out was to continue ahead through the flooded access road. It went on for about 1.5 miles and would take me back out to I-70 west. Option B was to turn the truck around, go back out the way I came in and pray no other cars were coming my way. The one-way split off about a mile back and would take me back out to I-70 east, so I would have to get off at some point and turn myself back around to head west.
After about 30 minutes, the rain began to subside. I saw a semi approaching me from the distance (going against the one-way, coming through the flooded area), so I watched to gauge how high the water was. My concerns were warranted, because the water came up to the top of the semi’s tires in some areas of the road. As I watched, I realized that the water was significantly deeper in some parts of the road than others. Because I didn’t know the road, I really felt my only option was to attempt to turn around.
This was unfortunate because, as I mentioned in the previous post, me backing up is a shitshow. I didn’t even know if turning around was possible, given the narrowness of the road and the steep ditches on either side. I figured I might get to try out my truck’s four wheel drive. Worst case scenario, I call for help (who? No idea. But there’s always help somewhere, right?). In retrospect, I really wish I had taken a video of the situation to share with you guys so you could really appreciate just how fucked I seemed to be.
I said a prayer to my angels to help guide me out, put the truck in drive, and inched forward. As I did, I saw a white truck approach from behind. I stopped so he could pass before I began to attempt whatever I thought I was going to accomplish. I didn’t need anyone to witness this inherent disaster. The guy pulled up next to me, rolled down his window and shouted, “are you lost?” It was still raining. I rolled down my window, nodded my head and shouted back, explaining what had happened. “Where you trying to go?” he asked.
I will not mention how handsome this guy was because it’s totally irrelevant (or is it?). “Back to I-70 west,” I said. “I think I can get out if I go straight ahead, but I’m concerned about the flooded road,” I said.
“I know the road,” he said. “I’ll lead you out.”
And just like that, my little prayer was answered. I followed the guy as we creaped along the road. The water came up past his running boards, and I was sure to follow his track closely as he navigated along what appeared to be the least flooded sections. Within a couple minutes, we were out. He drove me up to the interstate, rolled down his window and pointed to the turn off. I thanked him and off I went.
He had a Kansas plate.
The lesson for the day? You’re never really alone. And there are a lot of good people out there to help when you need it. Especially Kansans.