Trip Log – Last Entry

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!

Trip Log – KS Capital, Brown vs… ,KC

SL Topeka 3

SL Topeka 2

SL Topeka 1

SL Topeka 4

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!

Trip Log – What about Kansas??

 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!

Trip Log – Thoughts of Colorado

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.

Fort Bent and Kansas….

SL Ft Bent 2

SL Ft Bent 1     SL Kansas Sign

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.

Trip Log – Found a fort and a chimney

SL Chimney Rock 2

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.

Trip Log – Mesa Verde National Park

SL Mesa Verde 1   SL Mesa Verde 2

SL Mesa Verde 3

We spent today in Mesa Verde National Park.  That is the park in SW Colorado where the indian cliff dwellers once lived.  They lived there about 1000 AD so it was many years before the white man came and took everything away.  The park was really neat. It tooks us about 50 miles to see all the cliff dwelling and most of this was on very curvey roads. The dwellings had a surreal feeling about them.  During this trip I have been trying to connect with my native American roots. My great grandmother was as Shawnee squaw.  This was probably the closest I have come to feeling spiritually part of the native American culture. The museum in the part did a great job of showing how they lived and survived.  I couldn’t, however, find why they left or were annihilated? I guess I will have to study up on that some. Being close to the dwellings gave me a somewhat spiritual feeling.  I definitely want to come back here someday and spend a lot more time here just taking in the sites and culture.

Tomorrow we will be packing it in and starting to head home.  We may stop along the way to see whatever interests us but this was the last “official” stop on the trip. I am still searching for a recreated plains fort but haven’t found one yet.

Trip Log – Ouray Colorado!!


SL Ouray CO Mtns

Boy did I misjudge the trip today when I was planning it yesterday. It turned out the Durango was still 110 miles away, not the 50 I estimated! And much of those 110 miles were very steep and somewhat narrow two lane roads up and down mountain sides with too many cutbacks to even remember. Instead of taking an hour as I first thought it took us almost 4 hours. But, being in the slow lane I tried not to be too impatient. We peeked out at about 11,000 feet where the temperature dropped to 36 degrees and was a  pretty heavy snowstorm. It was about 70 degrees when we started this trip!  About half way through the trip we landed in Ouray Colorado. The picture of it is above. It is a very picturesque town and had a lot of quaint stores with high quality goods.  We ended up having lunch there and bought some mementos of for out trip.

We finally ended up in Durango about 3:30PM and found our hotel for the next three days. After a rest we ventured down to the town center where they were having some sort of kids festival. They had main street blocked off for about 4 blocks. We found the train station and got a hard copy of our tickets so we are ready to go for tomorrow. I was here about 33 years ago with a buddy of mine. Of course, there is almost nothing that is the same except for the mountains; of course they never change.

We will go on our all day train ride tomorrow and then to Mese Verde National Park on Monday.

Trip Log – Colorful Colorado

SL Moms Cafe     SL Castle ValleySL Colorado Sign

We left Salina Utah this morning but not before we went back and got a picture of Mom’s Cafe and downtown Salina (all 12 buildings). 🙂  We then hopped onto I70 for our trip across southern Utah.  This part of the trip had absolutely amazing scenery! It was hard to pick just one picture for this post but I managed to pick one from Castle Valley. I think we stopped at every “Vista site” on the highway and there were several of them.

We hit the Colorado line around noon and of course got our sign picture.  I had never heard them call Colorado colorful before but it is that.  We soon got off I70 for our 100 mile trek to Durango where we will go on an all day train ride through some of the most beautiful parts of the Rockies.  We stopped short of Durango and are staying the night  in Montrose. We will go the rest of the way tomorrow.  Just to be safe I booked our hotel and train ride on-line just a few minutes ago. It is a good thing I did as about 80% of the hotels are already books up and the train ride just had a few seats left for any of the days we will be there.   We will stay three days in Durango to do the train, see the sites, and go to Mesa Verde National Park.

Trip Log – Utah (ugh salty!!)

SL Morman Temple When we stopped last night at the Nevada/Utah border it turns out that the west part of town was in Nevada and the east part in Utah. Of course, as you can imagine the western part had about 8 large casinos while the eastern half was small motels and food places.  We landed there somewhat late and tried to eat at one of the buffets at a casino but found out that it closed in fifteen minutes.  It was only 8:45PM.  So I guess although the casinos were big they must cater to the Utahians ( or whatever they are called) and they must go to bed early during the week 🙂 . So Las Vegas it wasn’t. To answer a logical question about today, no we have not seen a single casino in Utah. Good for them!

Anyway, getting on to today. We left the hotel room and soon were at the western side of the Great Salt Desert. This was an area about 50 miles wide where nothing was growing!  The road was perfectly, and I mean perfectly, straight the whole distance.  After that we got to the Great Salt Lake ( picture above). There is about 1/4 mile of salt beach before the lake. We hiked it and then of course had to taste the water and it is SALTY!

After the lake we headed into Salt Lake City for our usual visit to the State Capital building. It is a very big complex. I would guess about 3 times the size of the Indianapolis facilities.  Utah has about 1/3 of the population of Indiana so I guess just about everyone must work for the State here.  After the capital building visit we headed down to the Temple Square which is greatly expanded since the last time I was here (about 30 years ago) and all of the expansion is almost totally owned by the Mormons.   They are probably second only to the Catholic church in the wealth they have accumulated.

I got a little different story about how Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon than what I had previously remembered. They claim that the Apostles John, Matthew and Paul (I think) appeared to Joseph Smith to personally give him the original texts of the Bible. So therefore they claim that the Book of Mormon is the most accurate translation of the Bible since it was given directly to Joseph Smith instead of being based on copies of copies as most of the other Christian Bibles are. (The original texts were lost before the modern day versions were written.)  I haven’t studied a direct refuting of this by any Christian theologians so that will be an interesting study when we return from vacation.

Anyway, here I am sitting on our second floor walkway waiting for the sun to go down over the southern Utah mountains . Yvonne insists on seeing it.  After that we will head to Mom’s Cafe  in town for dinner.  We are told mom stays open until 10PM so we should have plenty of time. I hope she has plenty of food left when we get there as I am pretty hungry.  Tomorrow will be mainly a driving day toward Durango Colorado. Again we will be getting off the Interstates to take some State roads there.

PS…. Well we are back from dinner and it seems that Mom’s Cafe is world famous. It was written up in National Geographic some years ago.  I don’t know about then but the food tonight was very good.