Monday, November 22, 2010

"Thunder Road" on a Sunday Morining

You might think the name "Thunder Road" would conjure up images of a Friday night where a '69 Camaro convertible might line up against a Ford Mustang, or maybe a Pontiac GTO 'Judge' against a Dodge Challenger. The girls would be in the passenger seats waving at their friends. The guys would serious have looks on their faces. The presence of beer might be there, but no cell phones in sight. This road between Wichita and Augusta Kansas. just about 25 miles in distance, has that kind of reputation. I am sure lots of memories of vehicle races, boys and girls, beer, and maybe a fight or two are present in the minds of a lot of people who grew up in Wichita and many of the small towns close to this area such as Andover, Derby, Mulvane, Augusta, Towanda, Rose Hill and many others. The road is listed as one of the favorite motorcycle roads in Kansas. Here's a link:
Can I really afford this scootering stuff?
I topped off my tank before I left town, camera in tow, on a relatively warm November day. Not much traffic on a Sunday at 9:00 am, probably most people on the roads are on their way to or from church.
A suburban church on my way out of town, with lots of cars.
I first pass through Andover Kansas, about 10 miles east of Wichita. My plan was to ride to Augusta, Kansas first and then take "Thunder Road" back toward home. You can easily do the ride in the other direction, or ride there and back on "Thunder Road". I pass by this ranch and stopped to take a picture. The airplane contrails in the sky were very noticeable. I haven't a clue why this rancher has 'metal' palm trees at the entrance to the ranch. Maybe they think they look "cool". To me, they don't quite fit in Kansas.
The entrance to the ranch
A little further down the road between Andover and Augusta there was a small quarry. I wasn't able to get a closer picture. Not even sure what they produce there.
A quarry and some now dormant wildflowers.
Not far away there is a nice view of a valley just before arriving on the north side of Augusta, Kansas.
Max in the morning sunlight looking over the valley. The bridge in the distance goes over a river that passes on the west side of Augusta. There is another river on the east side of Augusta, while the city itself is mostly on a nice hill.
I arrive in Augusta and stop for a few minutes. Across the street I see a house with Christmas decorations ready to go. I decorate a tree in my yard each year, but for me, it just doesn't seem right to do it before Thanksgiving. I'll wait to do some decorating until next weekend.
Ahhh, Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier each year.
Every town like this has a Wal Mart, or so it seems. My personal opinion is that the existence of a Wal Mart drives some local businesses out of business because they cannot compete with the prices. But that's just my opinion.
There's a pharmacy there too.
I ride around the town a bit. Some of the streets are brick and have probably been in place for many years. A few people were out mowing their lawns or raking leaves. It was a nice weekend to get outside activities done. Much colder weather is expected soon.
Brick streets in an older neighborhood in Augusta, Kansas.
I ride south a few blocks to get a picture of the downtown area, fairly typical of a lot of towns like this.
More brick streets in downtown Augusta
It would seem that the side of a building can be much like a billboard, with advertisements for various businesses. Apparently this is the "Red Brick District".
CPA's can even advertise here apparently.
From downtown, I spied the road that leads to "Thunder Road". It's easy to miss this street, and I have mised it before. There is no sign that identifies it as "Thunder Road". But now I know whre it is.
The entrance to "Thunder Road" from downtown Augusta.
Just down the road a ways would be a sign like this. The speed limit is generally 55mph, but some curves are less than that. I wouldn't call them real twisties, but they are fun and the scenery is a bit different in some areas.
Even the sign is bent.
Near the road was this oil well. After all, this is Butler County and there is a significant amount of oil production here. Some wells have been producing since the 1920's.
"Black Gold, Texas Tea"
Knowing how some bloggers are interested in railroads, I stop a few miles away to get another picture or two.
Is there an East Augusta?
When I took this shot, I didn't see the approaching train. I didn't even take my helmet off to take the picture. It was hard to read the display on my camera, but on the other side of the road I noticed some birds.
The next thing I experienced was the sound of a very loud train whistle.
I turned around and there the train was. No danger, but I would not have parked so close to the track, had I known the train was coming.
Max stood his ground.
I ride a little further down the road after the train passed by.
The train carried mostly containers of who knows what.
A few miles down the road I stopped at another intersection and took this shot of the trees, now without leaves.
Another curve
A few miles more brought me to another railroad crossing, and surprisingly, the gates were coming down for another approaching train. It seemed like less than 15 minutes since the last train had passed. I barely had time to stop, get the camera out and, without benefit of even looking at the camera display, I got this shot. I was sure at the time that it would not turn out.
Another train, more airplane contrails too.
Patiently waiting at the crossing
There are lots of ranches along the way. Some buildings and homes looked new, others a bit tired.
A nice looking ranch area.
I am getting closer to Wichita now.
Wichita is a straight shot west from here
A little further along I see a display of old farm equipment along the side of the road. I had to stop, if for no other reason than, you don't see this kind of thing everyday.
Old farm implements all lined up.
A couple of others And yet another combine of some sort
A little closer to Wichita, I spy a pond that looks sort of typical for Kansas. You can tell from the grasses that it was a bit breezy this day.
The water in the pond looks a bit down. Not surprising. We had a wet spring, but summer and fall have been dry.
Here is the intersection marking the other end of "Thunder Road" near the east side of Wichita.
47th Street South and Andover Road
A final shot near Wichita and typical of the clash of farming and real estate development. Suburban homes fighting with farmland for space here on the planet.
The ride was about 55 miles in total. It was a beautiful if breezy day. There are lots of stories about "Thunder Road", probably a lot of those stories are not true or highly embellished. I didn't take many pictures of the road itself, partly because the ride is so much fun and I didn't want to stop. I have actually ridden on the route 3-4 times, and this is the first time I ever took any pictures. It's not spectacular, but it doesn't need to be. It's just fun!


  1. The tin palms are because he can't grow real ones silly billy. they die if they freeze. They are his symbol of wanting more of reaching for the stars and not quite grasping the moon. Secretly he wants to move south but his family won't let him and his friendship with Joe is all he can nurture even as he lies awake at night dreaming of warm tropical nights.
    Not everyone loves Kansas like you do.

  2. cpa3485:

    that rancher is from Key West, Florida and the original palm trees died from the cold, thus he made metal ones. It makes you feel warmer just looking at them, plus they are tornado proof

    Just thought you wanted to know the real story

    Wet Coast Scootin

  3. You daredevil accountants! Riding through old towns like a gunslinger. Dodging trains. Terrorizing Thunder Road on a scooter.

    By the way. That picture of the trees that you said were now without leaves. Did they have leaves before the train came by? :)

  4. I try to support local businesses whenever possible, but so many local businesspeople are their own worst enemies (especially scooter dealers).

    I have lost count of how many times I've been looking for something and not finding it, and being told by the shopkeeper or store employee to "try Walmart." Sure enough, Walmart has what I'm looking for.

    And given my present financial condition, the only other places I can afford to shop are thrift stores...

    Scootin' Old Skool

  5. Conch,
    I did think of you when I took the picture. I found out later that the rancher makes those palm trees for other people if they want one. Can't imagine that there is much demand for them, but what do I know.


  6. Bobskoot,
    Thanks for the info. I kind of doubt the accuracy of what you say though. I think a tornado would tear them up pretty good. At least bend them.
    But thanks for the visit.


  7. Dan,
    Yes the trees once had leaves, and that is actually a pretty spot on the road if it were green. As to being a daredevil, well I was lost one day trying to find the road, and a lady on a Honda helped me out. She was barely able to keep up with Max that day.
    But the morning dew was pretty thick that day. The roads were actually very wet until I got to Thunder Road. There were still shadier spots that were wet, so I didn't go blasting through the turns like I otherwise might have. Well, maybe that's not right either, my kids accuse me of driving like a grandpa, and I'm not even a grandpa yet, like some people I know.

    Thanks for poppin' by, always good to be berated by you, (grin)


  8. Orin,
    In past days (before Wal Mart), I suppose if the local store didn't have it, then you were told to go to the Sears catalog. A lot of these towns had a Sears catalog outlet, but few do these days. I really have nothing against Wal Mart, 'cept everything they sell is made in China, and I am not sure in the long run that is a good idea.

    Thanks for coming by,


  9. Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

    I lived one twon over from the only municipality that successfully kept Wal-Mart out: Lake Placid, NY. They maintained their small-town, Main Street image, and kept the local hardware stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies in business too. I haven't been inside a K-Mart in 20 years.

    I liked you ride story and your pictures. There are many days when a straight road is like heaven to me. I look forward to riding with you some day, and drinking your liquor and eating your barbecue. Have a great thanksgiving.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  10. Jim,

    Thanks for taking me along on the Thunder Road. I'll look for the palm trees here in St. Louis. If someone makes them, I suspect someone here has one in their yard. The big thing here lately is bottle trees.

    I liked the leisurely pace of your ride. I'd intended that for my ride last Saturday, but then ended up with a "destination" instead of just an idea of where I wanted to do. I'm learning there is a definite difference.

    +1 with Jack--"Have a great Thanksgiving."


  11. Jack,
    The road is not entirely straight, but might appear that way because of my pictures. There are not many curves, but the ones that exist can be described as long and lazy with 45mph signs as opposed to the general 55mph speed limit.
    That said, these turns can be real fun on a motorcycle as it is easy to take a few of them at well over 45mph (maybe 55 to 60 even). Don't tell Irondad though that I may have done a little of that, he might s&%t a brick.
    The only bad thing is that some development of real estate is moving this direction and parts of the road are losing a bit of their "flavor".
    It's still a lot of fun in some spots and much prettier in spring or summer.

    I have visions of someone back in the 60's or 70's in a hot car on the east side of Wichita, saying to a friend in another hot car, "I can beat you to the Dairy Queen in Augusta" and the response would be, "You're On".

    I have ridden on this road on a bicycle, too and noticed a few places where cars would leave "scratch marks" on the road from a previous race or display of power. Around here, the police would render a ticket for what is known as "Exhibition of Speed".

    And a Happy Holiday back at you,


  12. Keith,
    You're gonna have to tell me what a bottle tree is, but maybe I don't want to know.

    It was great to get out and ride for a purpose of taking a few pics and enjoying myself with the ride. So much of my riding for the past few weeks has just been commuting.

    My lovely wife was cooking a roast for lunch that day, and I didn't want to be gone all morning. So many times when I stopped to get a picture, I left Max running, didn't take off the helmet, took very quick shots, and hopped back on the scooter. I am pleased with how most of them turned out though.

    Hope your holiday is great as well.


  13. Looks like a great, relaxing ride. I remember riding around northwest MO when I lived out east of KC. There are some beautiful riding spots out there.

    We're a little short on tin palms trees here in Tucson, but there are many steel cacti. I'm not sure why there's the discrimination.


  14. Iron Butt Howard,
    The country along this road is not necessarily real spectacular, and the road itself is not extremely twisty, but I think the appeal for scooters and motorcycles is the combination of road and scenery. Maybe the reputation is part of it also. You are so right about the country just outside of KC. I used to live in Lawrence and the country there is similar, and much different than the Wichita area.

    Steel Cacti?, Now there's a thought! LOL

    Always good to hear from you,