Chuck Mack: Heading east, playing on the dunes

Chuck and Alberta Mack moved from their Colorado home to their Oklahoma home in October. Chuck chronicled their trip for the Daily Press.

Part 1 of 3

By CHUCK MACK

Special to the Daily Press

Everything went even better than we were hoping for. We got everything loaded stored away and ready to roll early in the afternoon of Oct. 14.

That evening, Nathaniel and his parents came to visit, and we certainly were glad to see them. We had seen hardly anything of Nathaniel except for the three days we kept him after school started; then, we only got to see him in the morning before we took him to school and again in the evening for a while before bedtime. It was sad to say goodbye, but then we had to leave for Oklahoma, where we also have a home. There's no use letting it go to waste.

With all the hassle of getting ready to go, it seems like Alberta and I had gotten hardly any sleep for the past couple of weeks. Our last night in Colorado was no exception, and I woke up about 3 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. Finally, I nudged Alberta and said, "Let's get up and have breakfast and get started."

So by 5 a.m., we were on the road.

We drove east on Highway 40 to just past Hayden, where we turned off on the 20 Mile Road and followed it to Oak Creek where we connected with Colorado Highway 131. We followed 131 across to Walcott Junction, where we connected with Interstate 70. We went east on I-70 just a few miles before coming to Highway 24, where we turned off. This route took us up through Leadville and lots of beautiful country.

We continued on down Highway 24 until we reached a place called Johnson Village, where we got on Highway 291. This took us to Poncha Springs and Highway 50. This is designated as a scenic route - and it is scenic.

It follows along the Arkansas River, and in most places, the cottonwoods were in a beautiful golden state of autumn color.

Actually, we weren't far from Leadville when we first encountered the Arkansas River. We followed Highway 50 and the Arkansas River until we nearly reached Syracuse, Kan. Well, about 3 p.m., or something like that, we saw a roadside campground, and I was tired of driving, so I pulled in, and we spent the night. After we had paid for our space and were leveling the camper, I asked someone how far it was to Syracuse. We were only 60 miles away, and we could have easily made it. However, we spent the night in the campground we had paid for.

By golly, Alberta and I got a good night's sleep, and the next morning, we were on our way to Syracuse.

Here, we turned off on Highway 27, and within a couple of miles, we pulled into the big parking lot at Syracuse Dunes Park and were getting Red Ryder, our all-terain-vehicle, off of the pickup when a Park Ranger showed up. He was a really nice gentleman, and we found out we could leave the camper in the parking lot for $5 a night, and it would cost just an additional $5 to ride the dunes. So we just leveled the trailer in the spot it was sitting and took off for the dunes.

It was kind of cloudy and cool in the morning, but in the afternoon, it warmed up. So except for taking time out for lunch, the whole day was spent in the dunes.

About the first big dune we tried to climb, we didn't have enough momentum and Red Ryder spun out just on top. In less than a heartbeat, it had dug holes and left the machine sitting there with all four wheels with nothing but air underneath them. So there I was, lying on my side digging sand out from under the machine with nothing but my hands.

Just as I finished getting all the sand out from under the machine and the wheels once again sitting on sand, a young man came riding up. With him and Alberta giving a little helping push, we soon were out of the sand trap. We hit the rest of the dunes full force and haven't gotten stuck again. And believe me, Red Ryder will go over the steepest dunes with enough momentum that it is airborne going over the top.

We only spent one day and night at Syracuse. We left the morning of Oct. 17 driving south until we reached Johnson City. Then, we changed roads and continued driving until we reached Liberal, Kan. In Liberal, the highway connects with another that took us to Beaver Dunes State Park in Oklahoma.

We backed the trailer into the same camping spot we had one year ago. I had gotten the trailer leveled up, the electricity plugged in and things like that and was unloading Red Ryder off of Humdinger when the Park Ranger showed up. So we paid for two days of camping and riding the dunes. Most of the day was spent out in the dunes.

And that is the end of this traveling tale for now.

Next week: Our journey continues:

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