Day 4 – Running on Empty

"Red Rock and the Valley Below" - While this still needs some finishing touches, it is my first plain air painting of Red Rock Park in Morison Colorado.

I had hoped to write more, but painting is the first order of business and yesterday I completed a 16″ x 20″ piece. I say completed, but I like to live with a painting in my studio a while and make some finishing touches before it merits a frame and a spot on my web site. Truth is not all paintings get that far, but this one will. I painted at Red Rock Park, home of the Red Rock Amphitheater in Morison, Colorado. It was a magnificent place. So much so that I may go back there. It’s only about 15 minutes away from my hotel so I’m trying to convince myself it’s not just because of convenience. 

Today though, I’m heading up to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s the longest distance from my hotel so I want to get there before I run out of steam. The weather is good and I’m motivated, so today’s the day. Filling up he truck with gas has become a new very high priority before I go anywhere now. Therein lies the lesson from my first day in Colorado.

There were uniforms for people to put on in at the Fort Hays, I couldn't; resist.

I had anticipated the drive from my stay outside of St. Louis to Hays, Kansas to be a dreary one, but I found Kansas to be a very nice place. It was flat in parts but there were also rolling hills and fields with different colors, hailing the onset of Autumn. Not the brilliant colors that New England displays but soft, warm hues that were beautiful. Before racing to Colorado, I went to Fort Hays in Kansas, the reason I chose to stay in Hays. 

Guard House at Fort Hays, later made into the headquarters.

Forts Hays was active from 1865-1889. It was the fort on which the movie “Dances with Wolves” was based. It didn’t have walls around it like most forts both because it was easy to see a long distance across the plains and because of the lack of trees. The lack of trees is due to the dry climate, something I didn’t know before. With so many trees in New Hampshire, I guess I took their presence for granted. I love trees but I never saw them as precious before. I visited the officers quarters, the jail (the jailed soldier in there was an Irishman who’d been in a fight, imagine that), and the guard house which was turned into the headquarters. It was a nice little break before beginning the last leg of my trip, I grabbed a few postcards at the gift shop and headed out.

Mr. Grumpypants didn't want me to take his picture.

But, not so fast, across the divided highway was a herd of buffalo. Now, that’s a photo-op. The females and the young were all bunched together while the male was off to the side. I went to take his picture up close (there was a sturdy fence and a good amount of space between us) but he kept moving away. He was an ornery fellow but I managed to get the best of him. Not sure  if it was his best side however. Time was starting to fly by so I settled for what pictures I had and hoped in the truck to continue on to Colorado. It wouldn’t be long now!

Welcome to Colorado

Thinking I had enough pictures of Kansas I decided I wasn’t going to stop until I reached Colorado. Lunch did beckon before I got there but besides that I was not to be deterred. As I neared the Colorado border I saw I would be needing to gas up again. I figured I’d get more gas in Colorado, getting there was the prime objective. Crossing the border may seem uneventful to most, but for me it was a real milestone. I stopped at the Visitor Center, grabbed a few maps and brochures and continued on my way, smiling to myself and thinking, I made it! Well into Colorado, I noticed a light on the dashboard, yup, it was the gas light. In my excitement, I’d forgotten to gas up and now I was in the middle of nowhere.

The next exit didn’t have any signs for gas, or anything except it was the scenic route to Denver. I figured a scenic route had to have gas at some point. I pulled off the interstate and saw a man in a pick-up truck and asked where I could get gas. He pointed behind himself and said it’s eight miles to Limon. Apparently he meant back on the Interstate, I though he meant back down the road that the exit lead to. So off I went, hearing Rick’s voice in my head, “There’s always more gas than the needle says”. After miles and miles of road and prayers promising I’d never do anything wrong again in my life and with nothing even remotely looking like a town in sight a beaming orange triangle came into site, Road Construction Ahead. There was a state utility truck and 2 men. I pulled over to ask about gas, by now the needle was below the empty line.

Kiowa, Colorado - home of my favorite gas station

“How much do you have left” he asked. I told him it said empty, “Pull farther off the road, people come flying over this hill”, he said, “We’ll need to figure out some kind of funnel”. I watched him go back to his truck and talk to his companion.  He then pulled out a big gas can from the back of their truck. His fellow road worker walked over rolling a piece of paper into a funnel. He was tall with a full beard wearing overalls. “I hope you don’t mind gas getting on your truck”, “that’s quite alright” I said. Along with a hearty “Thank you so much”. My feeble “I didn’t realize how far it would be between towns”, was met with a knowing grin. The first man told me how far to the next gas station and told me I could stay on this road and it would take me to where I was going. So, my first experience in Colorado was an act of kindness and generosity. The rest of the drive was like an answered prayer.

4 thoughts on “Day 4 – Running on Empty

  1. Ted

    One of these days I’ll get to CO – I have family in Ft Collins and I have never been there to visit; sadly, the only time we seem to see each other is funerals…


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