Day 18 was all about putting pavement behind us and making solid progress towards home. Driving east away from the Rockies, the Dumb and Dumber quotes flowed naturally. Unlike Harry and Lloyd, east was our intention and we drove halfway across the country in the right direction!
The boys played on the World’s Most Scenic Playground again before leaving Dillon on I-70. This stretch of the interstate to Denver is surrounded by even more picturesque snow-capped Rocky Mountains so our day began with some of the most gorgeous interstate scenery in the country.
We planned a few points of interest along the way on this day of solid driving. First up was the Eisenhower Tunnel which brings I-70 underneath the Continental Divide. It is the longest and highest (at over 11,000 feet) tunnel on the interstate system. We had wanted to drive up to the Divide through Loveland Pass, but the mountain road was too icy so we chose this noteworthy tunnel instead as it was one of the last pieces of the original Interstate Highway to be completed in the late 1970’s.
Heading down the Rockies towards Denver, we encountered some of the heaviest fog I’ve ever driven through and unfortunately had to cut another small excursion from our itinerary – the Buffalo Herd Overlook. We could barely see the vehicles in front of us so we knew it was pointless to stop for a field of buffalo!
As soon as we reached Denver, the mountains were behind us and we crossed flat, brown plains until reaching the Kansas border. Aside from the mountain scenery, the most memorable moment of this day was seeing the Dominator tornado-chasing vehicle driving west on I-70 near Limone, Colorado. Sure enough, we were driving just ahead of a band of severe storms that would bring many tornados to the plains later than day and the next. Just hours after we passed the Dominator, its storm chasing team captured an impressive video of a tornado in Wray, Colorado, just one county north of where we had been just hours earlier.
Wind turbine blades on a train (above) and some typical scenes in the car (below): playing with Legos and snake-sitting for Jasper.
At the Kansas border, we stopped the visitor center to eat our packed picnic lunch. The scenery was everything we imagined Kansas to be: flat, grassy fields spotted with barns, and grain silos. We bought this lunch the day before at Whole Foods, which proved to be a reliable place to restock our food supply every few days throughout these three weeks as we left behind the land of Harris Teeter and Publix way back on day 1. We don’t eat out much and eating restaurant food for three weeks would have gotten old fast so this was the best way for us to enjoy healthy meals that remotely resembled home cooking while on the road with absolutely no cooking gear!
For several more hours, we passed wind turbines and pump jacks through the plains, heading for our next expected break at a playground in Hays, Kansas. Like our other planned stops, we had to scratch this one as well as thunderstorms were gathering in the distance and lightning was striking closer as we neared the town. Fortunately, the boys were happy to get McDonald’s milkshakes instead.
As we entered the eastern half of Kansas, the landscape became hilly, grass became greener, and more trees sprouted up. While western Kansas covered in the flat fields of grain for miles on end that we imagined, eastern Kansas was much more green with varying terrain.
In Abilene, we stopped for dinner – more packed food for Mom and Dad and another McDonald’s treat for the boys. We pushed through Kansas City and stopped for the night several miles into Missouri in the far east suburbs.
For being a full day of driving without much to break up the monotony of pavement passing underneath us, this was a surprisingly enjoyable day. Truth be told, this was the day I expected to be the most boring and uneventful of the trip. However, after days of red rocks and desert, the green plains for as far as the eye can see were a beautiful sight and it was a lovely, relaxing day!