Day 17 (7/30/16)

We decided we better get on our horses and take advantage of the KGO arena…needed to get them exercised before reaching Wyoming!  Fortunately, the storms had passed the night before and weather looked fine for traveling.  We said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts and set off for Douglas, Wyoming–a relatively short 190 miles away.  Just one state between us and Montana, couldn’t quite believe it, so much had transpired, so many miles, so many lessons learned, but these two states are so big, what was in store for us ahead?

We arrived around 6 p.m. as we got a late start from KGO, not being in that much of a hurry.  The Douglas KOA facility just off I-25, east of Casper was amazing!  The RV park was clean and offered horse corrals right next to our hook-up site, free WIFI, clean restrooms and a much needed laundry room.  We were invited to grab a BBQ sandwich and then visited with our neighbors who were headed to Cody, Wyoming.  The horses seemed to be fine, glad to finally be out of the brutal heat.

 

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Wide open spaces of Wyoming….were were getting closer.

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Our hook-up spot at the Douglas KOA, was perfect.

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Why can’t I be in the shade?  Not fair.

 

 

 

 

Day 16 (7/29/16)

We left KGO Ranch and drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming to go to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo!  We had purchased our tickets months in advance–this being the “Granddaddy” of all rodeos in the world!  After the rodeo, as we were leaving, we stopped into the boot barn tent to get Jane a new cowboy hat.  We had noticed as we were leaving the viewing stands that storm clouds were forming and though they looked a bit ominous, we were not that worried, after all, we were not in Kansas and had left tornado alley, right?  Wrong again!  Anyway, back in the boot barn, all of a sudden there was a clash of thunder and a fierce hail storm hit.  Everyone was cramming into the concession tent to avoid golf ball size hail.  Some of the smaller tents were collapsing under their weight.  People around us were checking their cell phones and someone yelled that a tornado had touched down close by.  Then, a security guard came into the tent and yelled, “Everyone to the entry tunnel, hurry, get out of here….”, “another tornado is headed this way”.  So we all ran out of the tent and through the pounding hail and rain to seek shelter from the tornado.  Jane turned around and saw Dennis running behind and being squeezed by even more people.  As we approached the concrete tunnel there were people huddled inside who had gotten there before us.  In a matter of minutes, there were hundreds of people, women, children, etc. all crammed into this underpass tunnel, but once we were inside, we noticed that water was beginning to rise in the tunnel and the drains could not handle the the rushing flow of water.  Children were crying and one lady was having  what seemed to be an asthma attack, another was panicking as she had lost her sister.  After about 15 minutes another security guard announced that the tornado threat was over but the hail was expected to continue–we were free to leave at our own risk–which we did.  We made it back to where our truck was parked–only to discover to our utter dismay that the hail had NOT missed pounding the top surfaces of our brand new 2015 F350 Crew Cab!  Major bummer but we were safe and just glad to be out of that mess.

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Cheyenne Frontier Rodeo Days–we didn’t pay attention to those clouds…but their color should have been a warning.

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This guy really held on….

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Steer wrestling…..gives “digging in your heels” a whole new meaning doesn’t it?

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Good thing this guy was wearing a helmet!  And good thing the clown was there!

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Dennis’ favorite!  Calf roping.

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Jane “interviewed” a team of cowboys in the wild horse race event.

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The is the hat Dennis wanted me to replace–a bit tattered and bent up wouldn’t you say?

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In the concrete tunnel waiting for the tornado warning to pass.

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The water was pooling from the entrance ramp and filling the tunnel.

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This is what we saw as we were rushing out of the tunnel and to our truck on a side street outside the fairgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15 (7/28/16)

Colby, Kansas to Greeley, Colorado–263 miles.  We missed the storm by about an hour to spare and arrived safely at KGO Ranch and Tack Shop, in the small town of Gill, outside of Greeley.  We were met by George who helped us pull into our hookup site and get the horses unloaded.  We were so impressed with the immaculate stalls, barn, bathroom facility and guest lounge.  It was fantastic!  So well organized and clean.  It was late so we decided to go into town for groceries and then had dinner in town with the owners of KGO.

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Sly Enterprise seems to really like her stall at KGO.

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We really enjoyed getting to know Olivia, George and Kim–they were exceptional and made us feel right at home.  Of all the places we have stayed thus far, this had it all!

 

 

Day 14 (7/27/16)

We left the rodeo grounds of Strong City around 9:30 a.m., anticipating a 300 mile drive West to Colby, Kansas, close to the Colorado border.  The drive was smooth and uneventful–grateful for slightly cooler temps.  We arrived around 3 p.m. at “Home on the Range–Tin Acres Quarter Horse Farm”.  Nobody seemed to be around so we made ourselves at home, put the horses in the stalls, set up the R.V, then drove into Colby to find a laundry, fuel up and buy some ice.  Dennis got a much needed haircut while waiting for the clothes to dry.  The lady who cut his hair in casual conversation said she had never seen a tornado in the 12 years she has lived here.  We were curious about this as we knew we were smack dab in the middle of tornado alley and though earlier it was clear, heavy clouds started gathering, the sky was beginning to turn dark, the wind was picking up and it looked like quite a storm was coming.   Upon returning to the ranch we met two nice young ladies, Cathy and Laurie.  We complemented them on the facilities and the beautiful indoor covered arena–to which they replied, “Oh, it was completely rebuilt about 4 years ago after a TORNADO completely destroyed the previous one!  After turning in for the night, a very heavy thunderstorm hit and we were quite worried that the trailer might turn over in the ferocious winds–we were being rocked back and forth but this certainly wasn’t putting us to sleep.  It felt like we were on a boat.  Well, we survived the night but were anxious to get out of Kansas and tornado alley.  The next morning, we heard reports that a tornado could touch down, so we rushed to get the horses loaded and on our way West.  As we got on the interstate, we could see behind us the gathering storm and learned later that we got out in the nick of time as a tornado did touch down in that area.

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Day 13 (7/26/16)

This was the day we were so anticipating…..we fed the horses early at the rodeo grounds and had a knock on our door at 7:45 a.m.  It was Rex Buchman, who wanted to invite us to the local 4H show he was judging–which we did go to, met some very smart and clever young people and their parents and then we went to lunch with Rex and Teresa before heading to the Bar U Ranch for our long anticipated adventure.  Fortunately, it was not too hot and we were able to ride for several hours into the early evening.  The pictures speak a thousand words.

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A young 4H competitor showing off her prize sheep.

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Our Flint Hills host, Rex Buchman, such a gentleman.

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“My pig is going to win!  I just have that feeling.”

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“You see, he is very smart!”

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“And this is mine!”–the youngest to show!

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Stonehouse B and B, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

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The Stone Barn built by German immigrants in 1907, Bar U Ranch, Flint Hills, Kansas

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I wanted to take this youngster home with us….

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It was a good thing we were on Rex’s stock, as beneath the tall grass prairie are rocks of all shapes and sizes.  Such a beguiling terrain and so unforgiving for less sure footed beasts….it was difficult to even walk on the ground.

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See those rocks?  They were everywhere right below the grass!

 

 

Day 12 (7/25/16)

We got a good night’s sleep, broke camp and got the horses loaded easily.  This was going to be a long day, heading north up to Kansas.  Our destination is Strong City, in the heart of the Flint Hills.  The distance, 333 miles.  Close to 8 hours away.  Fortunately, the temperature improved as we drove north and it was a comfortable 82 degrees when we pulled up to the Flint Hills Rodeo Arena, where our host had arranged us to stay.  There was no rodeo going on, so it was empty and we had our choice of stalls and were able to hook up next to the arena.  This was a PRCA arena grounds which was pretty cool!  We had it all to ourselves.  Riding in an actual rodeo arena seemed like a great idea, so as the sun was beginning to set, we quickly saddled up and rode around–that was fun!

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So, why did we route our journey west by going north to the Flint Hills of Kansas?  The Flint Hills of Southeast Kansas are the some of the last remaining natural tall grass prairie in the U.S.  Much of the Flint Hills are privately owned, with the exception of the Tall Grass National Prairie Preserve.  Having the opportunity to be taken on a horse ride on privately owned ranch land was a very unique opportunity.  Through a bit of digging and research, we heard about Rex Buchman and he offered to take us on a ride on the Flint Hills–on his family’s 2400 acre cattle ranch.  Rex and his wife welcomed us warmly and we also had the honor of meeting his parents who have been ranching this land all their lives.  Rex had spent many years in New Mexico, coaching horsemanship with a university agricultural extension program.  He became the “county agent” and initiated the idea for a “Billy the Kid” ride which was featured in Western Horseman Magazine.  As the years passed he wanted to return to his family ranch in the Flint Hills.  He explained that the minimum size of a thriving cattle ranch is 300 head and each head requires approximately 8-14 acres of open range land.  Therefore, 2400 acres is not enough and to augment income provided by their 160 head, he decided to focus on ecotourism and take tourists like us on Flint Hills trail rides.  They also own a beautiful turn of the century stone home which they have turned into a thriving Bed and Breakfast Inn appropriately named “Stonehouse B and B” in Cottonwood Falls.  He also takes people on cattle drives–“Cowgirl Day Camp”–also featured in magazines.

The Buchman family settled in the Flint Hills as immigrants from Germany.  The old stone barn, beautifully cared for, was built in 1907 and the Sears and Roebuck house built in 1933 a testament to fortitude and dedication to the land…The Bar U Ranch, is one of the largest in the Hills and it was an honor to meet Mrs. Mary Buchman who was an infant during the very difficult “dust bowl” years of the 30s.  She recalled her mother having to cover her crib with wet towels to keep the dust off of her, and she was 10 years old when the locusts descended on them and devoured everything in sight.   Her bright eyes reflected the setting sun as she recalled these early memories and her final words to me were “I’m so pleased you could ride on these beautiful hills….nothing more beautiful than what you see all around us.”  I could not disagree.  Another “Unforgettable Character” for sure.

Day 11 (7/24/16)

It was another hot morning and obviously way too hot to ride.  Instead, to stretch our horses legs and ours, we walked them around the camp area.  We realized that this would be an ideal place to ride as we were surrounded by national forest land and many miles of horse trails.  Riding here would be terrific, but during a cooler time of year.  Maybe we will be back, but we have many miles ahead of us now, our focus is to get to Kansas tomorrow.  We returned to the Rock House Restaurant for those delicious crab cakes and fetuccini alfredo—and said our goodbyes to the friendly staff.