Sunday, May 25, 2008

The trip to Dodge City

Greetings from the Silver Spur Travelodge in Dodge City, Kansas, which commands a nice view of the O'Reilly Auto Parts store across the street. We traveled here yesterday because it is the Memorial Day weekend, and as Americans it is unthinkable that we should remain in our relatively comfortable home during the high holy day for road trips. We have come here because we felt like being someplace we'd never been before. In the case of Dodge City, apparently we are the only ones to have felt this way. We expected a line going out the door at the Teachers Hall of Fame, but in fact it was eerily empty, save for a shadowy figure behind the counter. We decided to catch it another day.

Dodge City looks nothing like the town I grew to love on Gunsmoke, although the city has made a game effort in one fenced-off city block that is lined with false-fronted buildings, all facing one direction. This is the city's frontier past, relocated and reimagined and rebuilt to the standards of the modern half-assed tourist draw. Inside, there are as many people dressed in Western regalia as there are tourists -- which is to say, about eight. From outside the fence separating those who wish to fork over $7 and those who don't, there isn't a lot to see.

About Dodge City, I can say this: It is a town, smaller than Wichita. And less flat, somehow. The people seem friendly enough. There are feedlots around here, and grain elevators, and more taquerias and Hispanic-themed discos than you can shake a stick at. There is a Long John Silver's, in keeping with the city's nautical heritage, and a Wal-Mart, and a La Quinta Inn, and new Burger King going in. There's a nice fitness trail out by the community college. If you come here during Memorial Day weekend, you'll not lack for fast food, nor be troubled by holiday crowds.

This morning we travel on to Liberal, home of the International Pancake Race. Which is scheduled about nine months from now.

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