Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dodge City - Queen of the Cowtowns

"It's nice to have some good weather", I said to my son, Cav at mid day.  "Yeah we didn't have to dodge any twisters today", was his response.  We're in Dodge City, Kansas and last night was a little scarier than the prior nights with severe storm warnings.  Tornado warnings came out at 4:30 pm with reports of golf ball sized hail and 80 mph winds just a couple of towns away.  NOAA was telling people in mobile homes to seek shelter.  The wind came up and the trees were leaning sideways.  I got the bug out bag ready.

A very low green gray fast moving shelf cloud came down the road near the RV park going about 30 mph.  A shelf cloud is a low wedge shaped cloud that plows thru the air and the eddy's formed in its wake are what help form tornado's.  Seeing that cloud was enough to send Cav running to the camp office for shelter (said he was responsible for preserving the family name as a lone survivor).  I hung with the camper, rain coat on and ready to bolt, looking for a funnel cloud.  Luckily it did not happen and the storm passed in about 15 mins.  But it was enough to make a soul need a drink to calm the nerves.

Tail end of the shelf cloud
I'm now making a mental note for the future - try to avoid Missouri and Kansas in the summer.

Dodge City got its reputation as a cow town in the 1870's and its still a cow town but in a different way.  It used to be a place where the trail bosses drove their cattle up from Texas plains so they could be loaded onto trains and taken to the slaughter houses in Kansas City.  Now, as Cav calls it, its a cow death town.  Its home to some major feed lots, slaughter houses, and meet packing plants.

A small portion of the Excel feed lots

Right outside of town is the Excel Corp feed lots and just down the street is the National Beef packing plant.  Together they "process" (a nice word for what they really do the cattle) almost 10,000 head of cattle a day.  That's a lot of beef and it gets shipped all over the country.

We spent a day checking out the town known for is rowdy ways in the 1870's.  A cattle drive up from Texas took 2-3 months.  When it ended in Dodge City, the cowboys liked to come into town and spend their wages in the saloons, gaming halls, and brothels. Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were the law men in town before they moved onto Tombstone.  Dodge City was also a major place where buffalo hunters came in and traded their hides.  At one point over 850,000 buffalo hides came thru Dodge City

Compared to the surrounding small towns, it a "megatropolis" of 28,000 people.  But, its pretty sedate with a large Hispanic population working in the meet packing plants.  The main drag (Wyatt Earp Blvd) has numerous fast food places, restaurants, car dealerships, and hotels.  There's several historic buildings, but gone are Miss Kitty and the Long Branch Saloon.  There is a nice casino (Boot Hill Casino) and performance arena on the edge of town but that's it for gaming.  As western towns go, Dodge City has a good historical reputation as a cowboy town, but I'd rate Cody, WY or Jackson, WY as much better cowboy towns.

For us, it was a good place to spend an extra day off the road doing laundry, re-suppling food, and recovering frayed nerves from the night before.  We stayed at the Gunsmoke RV Park, which was very nice and reasonably priced at $34/night.  After two days, it was time to Get Outta Dodge.  Here are some pictures of our stay.

Dennis Weaver's (aka Chester in Gunsmoke) "star" on Wyatt Earp Blvd

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