Archives For June 2009

Trip Log – Last Entry

June 28, 2009

We left Kansas yesterday and made a dash for home.  I guess we were just getting too antsy to get back to our home digs and out of the daily hotel-to-hotel mode.  We made it back last night and now have Beulah, our Bassett hound home. It was a great trip, maybe the best we have taken.  We certainly saw a lot of the country this time (about 7,000 miles of it).

Because of the trip I now have RVs on my mind. I am dreaming of retrofitting an old one or maybe some other vehicle for the road. This may quickly pass (at least Yvonne probably wishes it would :) ) but who knows. Maybe next year we will do this again except this time we will take our home, and probably our dog, with us!

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We started off today with our usual trip the the State capital. Of course, for Kansas that was Topeka. It turned out that the capital looked more like the Addamm’s Family home than the capital. The outside of the building was encased in scaffolding and the inside was dark and dreary in almost every hall. I admit that the picture above was not typical but it was there.  About the only people we say were some fat guys laughing and joking in the Governor’s outer office.  I would guess they were “fat cats” :)

After the capital we went to the site of the Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuit. Of course Brown vs. was the beginning of the civil rights movement.  The displays there were very good in showing the times and what the case meant. They also showed displays about discrimination against the handicapped, the Japanese during WWII, and native Americans.  It was very tastefully done, even for us white folks (although I am handicapped and 1/6 native American so maybe I am a bit swayed).  They had several of the classic photos of that period that showed the intense hate that some southerners had for desegregation issues. It is scary to see such hate on a person’s face. Almost like looking into the eyes of the devil. I often wonder if we went back to those people today what would they say now about that period and the photo of them?

We then had a late lunch and hit the road again. Unfortunately that put us into rush hour in Kansas City. But we landed in our hotel about midway between KC and St. Louis about 7PM.  We will likely make a dash for home tomorrow as we are both now anxious to get back and pick up our dog Beulah from the kennel on Sunday morning. I hope she remembers who we are!

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Ok, after today here is my short description of Kansas: hot cows, wind farms, oil,  amber waves of grain and………Ike.

 Until now I have always thought of Kansas as the State where you get across it as fast as possible. Yvonne told me to treat it like a Sunday drive in the country. That took some creative thought but I think I got it done.   Ok, here it is. 

It reached 102 degrees today on our trek across Kansas. Yvonne kept looking to take picture of the cows standing in water and managed to get a few; including the one above. We then came upon probably the largest wind farm I have seen on this trip. Washington and Oregon had quite a few and California, Nevada,  and Utah had none to be found. This one in central Kansas probably stretched 20 miles or so and I would guess there were at least 600 units involved.  It was surprising that we found none of them in Nevada where they would be their most efficient. Ok, now on to my list.  Another suprise was the number of small oil pumping rigs there were in central Kansas. We probably drove by a couple hundred of them. I’m sure they weren’t any of the big producers like found in Texas but together they probably amounted to quite a bit of oil. Amber waves of grain is something that was totally expected of Kansas and we were fortunate enough to be here when they were harvesting that grain. It was a beautiful site to see. 

The final item is Ike and that is for President Eisenhower. He grew up in Abilene Kansas and that is where his presidential museum and library. We visited there today. Living up to his generally thought of presidency, his museum was probably the most austere of any we have visited. It was nice but it didn’t have the aura of importance of most of the others. But, then again, neither did his presidency. A lot of opportunities were presented to Ike during his time in office  and he didn’t seem to respond to many of them. McCarthy was running around calling everyone Communist and yet failed to prosecute anyone. In the museum it was mentioned that Ike did not like McCarthy but didn’t do anything to stop him or to voice his dislike. The beginning of the Civil Rights movement happened during Ike’s watch but then again he basically ignored it. I was a pretty young man when he was president but all I seem to remember about him was that he played golf a lot! He didn’t seem to do much but maybe that was the best thing to do at the time. I don’t know.

PS…. I know this isn’t on my list but I am going to add it anyway.  It’s my blog and I can do whatever I want :) Across from the Ike buildings was a small house called  The Americal Indian Art Center.  We reluctantly stopped by there and were totally surprised as the what we found.  Patt Murphy “Ich^e Pi” (his Indian name) has collected 3500 books about native Americans and also sells crafts made the local tribes.  When I told him about my native American roots he immediately went to a book to show me where the Shawnee migrated and how they were among those who were shipped off to Oklahoma during the “final solution”.  I bought the book so I can study this some more.  Patt was a fascinating person to talk with. I got his email address and expect to correspond with him about my questions in the area in the future. He welcomed my future correspondance.

So, there are things happening in Kansas that are worth the stop. I might not have discovered them hadn’t we been trying to live in the slow lane. :) Tomorrow we will be heading into Topeka to visit the capital and to the Brown vs Board of Education museum there. After that who know what pleasant surprises Kansas has in store for us!

I have been thinking about how to summarize our visit to Colorado and here it is.   Colorado is probably the most diverse State we have been to in several different aspects. Of course the terrain is diverse. There are the Rockies in the middle part of the State and then there are the plains in the eastern part. Even the towns in the Rockies are somewhat diverse. Ouray is much different than Durango even though they share pretty much the same geography. I think Ouray is going to top out my list for favorite towns during this trip. It has just kept it’s flavor in spite of being on the very well traveled tourist route. We spent 5 days in Colorado and talked with several different kinds of people. They all seem to be very well grounded in their existance.

Of course nothing is much like I remember it from my trip through here 33 years ago. I remember Cortez as being a sleepy hollow and today it is pretty much a 4 mile strip mall with a WalMart SuperStore in the middle. Even Durango has changed so much in character that I hardly recognize it.  I guess nothing is as good as it was in the “good old days” :)  .

The housing in Colorado is somewhat lower than in California. That is if you stay away from the high end places like Vale. The typical house in Colorado seems to cost about twice as much as one in the Midwest whereas California is at least three times as much and often time more.   In short, I like Colorado; it will also probably top out my list of all those we have visited.

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As I mentioned last night we found a reconstructed fort in eastern Colorado to visit today.  I have been looking for a plains fort like this for the whole trip and am I glad we found this one.  After an archaeological exploration the fort was rebuilt on the same footprint as the original.  Fort Bent was a commercial fort not a military one.  It was used for trading with the Indians in the area as well as supplying trappers etc.  We were told that all the shooting at the “Fort Zent” from the mini-series “Centennial” was filmed here and a good bit of Levi Zent’s life in the show was based on Robert Bent’s past.  Of course Robert Bent was an actual person and Levi Zent was a make believe character.  Anyway there was a Calvary officer who spent several months at the fort while he was recovering from an illness. He was fascinated with the fort and proceeded to make detailed drawings of the fort with a lot of detail about it.  Fortunately the drawings survived and were used to reconstruct the fort.  The  reconstructed fort was meticulously made and it was amazing how real it looked.  Every room was detailed out according to the drawings and other surviving documents. Fort Bent was one of the most delightful parts, if not the most delightful, of our entire vacation for me. I got a couple of books about the fort and plan on studying them further we we get home.

After Fort Bent we headed north about 100 miles to catch I70.  We made it just across the Kansas State line before we stopped for the night. We did manage to get to the Kansas welcome center before it closed and picked up quite a bit of literature to study tonight for what we will see in Kansas.  One of the top priorities for me is the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene Kansas.  More about our Kansas adventures tomorrow.

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After looking over all the literature we had collected at the Colorado visitor’s center I did find a reconstructed plains fort. It is located near La Junta Colorado which is in the far southeastern part of the State. We started for there this morning but got sidetracked by the Chimney Rock Archaeological site.  Our tour guide was a retired archaeologist from the University of Denver so he was quite knowledgeable on the site. There are several of the Chivos found at the site and it is an active dig.  There is a whole village there but only about six of the structures have been excavated so far. The native Americans who built the structures inhabited the area for a couple hundred years beginning around 900 AD. Why they were there is speculated to be associated with a spiritual purpose surround the chimney rocks and the solar/lunar calendars.  Kind of like Stonehenge I guess? Why they left is very uncertain but many believe they simply ran out of resources and moved on. They burned their homes before they left which hampered but does not impact the research too much. We spent about 2 hours at the sites and then started heading east again. 

We made it to within about 60 miles of the fort before stopping for the night. Tomorrow morning we will see the fort and then head up to I70 and towards home.