The road north curves and winds through the valleys of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just as the summer breeze cuts through the New Mexico maple and pine trees that line the luscious terrain. This hidden highway is quickly transformed into desolate plains as it reaches the Oklahoma panhandle. Mountain ridges soon fade into the distance as they are replaced by the forgotten farmland of the breadbasket state. The Kansas wheat and cornfields are bland and boring. The road is strait and flat which promotes easy sleep for the rest of the journey.
I awake to the sound of 70s music and a road sign ahead stating “Harper County Limits.” I knew we made it once again and we would soon be surrounded by family members and good food. The Fourth of July is only two days away and the family house will be quickly filled with laughs and memories and stories shared. Before the big reunion, my dad and I always take a day to travel another hour north to Wichita. As it’s my dad’s home town he knows all the back streets and as we drive around he tells me stories of his high school days and all the good times they had. The streets are lined with tall trees and houses from the early 20th century along with new department stores just established.
A trip to Wichita wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Rock’s Dugout, one of the last remaining sports card shops in Wichita. As we walk though the linked bowling alley our eyes search for the open door that reads “Rock’s Dugout Memorabilia and Sports Cards,” in hope that the big chain stores of today have not forced them out of business. But we are reassured as we see the open door and people walking from and to it. We are greeted by a friendly voice and gaze upon the signed pictures of the world’s greatest athletes and team banners that cover the walls. Miscellaneous sports cards from the 1920’s to the 2014 rookies from all teams and sports cover the counter tops. We spend awhile digging through the boxes for our favorite team players cards, but the afternoon comes quick and our hunger grows.
There is one place that our whole family eats at and loves. An endangered restaurant known as Dog N’ Shake makes the whole trip worth it. The locally famous restaurant has onion rings that taste as if they were sent from heaven! Their deep fried and crispy crusts cover the sweet onion that seems to melt in your mouth. Nowhere else in the world has been able to master the succulent taste of these onion rings straight out of Wichita, Kansas!
After we return to Harper, the next few days are filled with family golf and poker tournaments and capped off with a huge fireworks display on the fourth. The sparks of our nation’s independence light the sky as we share this time with our friends and family. The night ends and the dawn of the next day comes quick as we say goodbye to everyone and get back on the road towards home. As we leave I look back through all the memories; one that holds a high place is that short trip to Wichita and our stops at Rock’s Dugout and Dog N’ Shake. Although it will be some time before we can share laughs with our family and our friends at Rock’s Dugout and taste those unbelievable onion rings again, I am not sad that it is over, because I am happy that it happened.
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