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.

Trip Log – California dreaming….

SL California ShoreHere is my synopsis of California as I promised yesterday.  California is indeed a very beautiful State and the weather is great.  The great redwoods in the northern part of the State are awesome along with mile after mile of pristine shoreline.

But I think just way too many people have  “discovered” California.  30 million people; wow! After seeing the local news for almost 4 days I have come to a couple of conclusions:  They can’t see the forest for the trees; even those in the northern part of the State 🙂 .  They seem to want to vote on just about everything. In that respect it is quite impossible to have any overall plans or objectives for the State.  The California government is in an impossible situation because of such short sightnedness. The voters want it all but don’t want to have to pay for it. They micromanage everything thing including their 9.25% sales tax with a complicated number of exemptions.

The other thing I noticed is that for some reason they all seem to think that the speed limit signs must be “average” speed. They spend hours and hours every week in traffic jams  and then go 100 mph to make up for the creeping.  And they are probably the least courteous bunch on the highways that I have ever encountered and I have been in the NYC and Boston traffic! If you come here don’t dare use your turn signals to show a lane change; you are just asking to be cut off.  And “keep right except to pass”; forget it; it doesn’t exist. Their road signs in a word suck.  If you don’t know that xyz “street” is actually a highway that  goes to a particular city then you are certain to get lost because they never show you that.

But, when Californians get out of their beloved cars they are a friendly enough bunch. We struck up conversations with several of them during our stay there. Mostly to ask for directions . That was Yvonne asking not me of course 🙂 .  The final mention on this topic is that they have a great  mass transit system around San Francisco but almost no one has “discovered” it yet I guess. So, overall, California is a great place with WAY WAY too many people who WAY WAY love their cars TOO TOO much. One thing that could help most of the above problems would be for a very brave governor and legislature to add a $3/gallon gasoline tax. But of course no one is that brave in California.

PS………  One thing I forgot to note on this post was the ethnic diversity of California. Around San Francisco there are people from all around the world.  Part of that is due to being close to Stanford, CalTech, and the other high profile schools. There is also a very high percentage of Hispanic origin even in northern California. It was not unusual to be someplace as a white Anglo and be in the minority. That almost never happens to us in the Midwest. At lease for those living outside the major cities.  It would be nice to have that kind of diversity where we live.

Even in northern California the housing prices are simply sky high. A small shack of 700 square feet costs about $500,000.  How can lower class and lower middle class even live here? I suspect the average monthly mortgage is over $2500 per month. The cost of everything seems to be higher (for instance a hamburger outside the fast food places is typically $8.50) but housing, even after the bust, is out of reach. The final post observation is that I was surprised at how the average towns seem to mimic those of  Mexico in there makeup and appearance.  I know that of the Hispanic origins but I was just surprised how strong it still is.

Trip Log – The Nevada Two Step….

SL Nevada Sign   SL Nevada Mtns

We did a dance with Nevada today and made it across the State in one day (about 420 miles) as well as the last 80 miles of California. That makes today #2 in our day trip distance. And at that we also lost an hour as we ended up in Mountain time.

What can I say about Nevada. I think two words can pretty much wrap up my synopsis of the State: Casinos & Desert. If either of those are not your thing then Nevada doesn’t have much for you.  We stayed on Interstate 80 the whole way and discoverd about 1/3 of the distance covered with highway barrels/cones but only saw one actual crew working  in the entire distance. By Midwest standards I80 is in excellent shape; hardly a crack or bump anywhere. So I caught myself asking why all these construction cones? Then I remembered that the Nevada Senator is the chief honcho in the Senate now so I guess Obama had to promise to “top off” all the roads here to get what he wants passed in the congress!   It is a shame that the money couldn’t be spent on roads that actually need fixing but I guess that is politics for you.  If the money had to be spent in Senator Reid’s province I think it would have been better spent on solar panels and wind turbines as I didn’t see any in the State.

We are now one mile inside of Utah and looking at the Great Salt Lake from our hotel room window.  We may make the short trip to the Bonneville Salt flats if there is anything to see there. Otherwise it is on to Salt Lake City for the day tomorrow.

SL Salt Lake

Trip Log – Veggies, veggies, veggies (in search of Garlic)

SL Salinas Veggies

SL Salinas Gilroy

We started our day with a quick stroll back to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the Aquarium there.  Quick that is considering all the walking we did yesterday (ha).  The aquarium was outstanding.  The first picture above was of some Luner Jellyfish. They looked unreal but they were indeed real.  We then walked through over 100 feet of clear tubes where the SF Bay water was all around us.  It was amazing all the different types of fish and such that they collected there.

After the aquarium we checked out of our hotel and headed south to Salinas. That is where most of the countries veggies are now grown. That is those not being now imported. We first ran across about 20,000 acres of artichokes.  There were just huge huge fields of them in various stages of development. Following that was lettuce, brussel sprouts, and a couple of fields we couldn’t identify.  We also make a stop at a cherry stand in Gilroy California.  Some of you may know that Gilroy supplies over 90% of all the Garlic consumed in the U.S. !  We bought some cherries and asked the young lady there where the fields of garlic are. Of course being a local she didn’t know 🙂 .  We looked around some but didn’t find them. Maybe they are planning on having a garlic shortage this year.

Anyway with all the veggie sighting under our belt we decided to make our official turn around on our vacation and start heading home.  We got back to  west of San Jose about 5:30PM; just in time for the Silicon Valley rush hour.  And believe me when I say I don’t understand why they call it rush hour when all we did was creep along with 12 other lanes of traffic.  We ended up stopping at a Denny’s resturant for about an hour to let it subside some.  It did reduce some but was still very heavy even at 7PM. I will do an overall thoughts of California tomorrow and will discuss this more then.  We decided to try and get around Sacramento and therefore most of the rush hour traffic tonight instead of facing another traffic jam tomorrow.  So, as a result we landed in our hotel around 9:30PM.  Tomorrow will be mainly a travel day to Salt Lake City.

Trip Log – San Francisco

SL SF 2 SL SF 3

SL SF 1

If it’s Monday this must be San Francisco 🙂  .  We got here about 10AM and to our surprise we got into our room right away.  We are about 3 blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf so we headed right to there and our first view of Alkatraz.  It is much closer to San Francisco than I had imagined. I could see why many of the prisoners thought they could swim the distance to freedom. But, of course none of the were known to have made it.  After having lunch at the Wharf we headed on a walking tour of China Town, Nobb Hill, and the surrounding area. Yes SF is primarily made up up pretty steep hills.  We ended up walking about 2 miles and Yvonne was ready to give it up.  We waited at a stop for a trolly for about one half hour and then decided to just walk back to our hotel. As you can see from the picture Yvonne had a hard time but she did make it.   Tonight we will likely head by to the Wharf for dinner and then a very leisurely and SHORT strole after that. Tomorrow will may just take one of those tour buses around the rest if the sites instead of walking.   I’m sure my better half will insist on that.

Trip Log – Sanoma

SL Winery   SL Winery Flowers

Today was a restful day as all Sundays should be. We slept in, had breakfast at our Inn and then headed for the wineries. The one we stopped at was the Benzinger Winery.  They are one of the few family winery’s still left. As is usual with farming Corporate wineries are taking over the family ones by leaps and bounds. Benzinger  is what is called biodynamic vineyard.  It is a several steps above being organic. It is a beautiful place that includes obviously grapes but also many flowers (one shown above) and veggies. Of course we got the full tour along with the obligatory wine tasting at the end. We bought a bottle to take into San Francisco but more on that later.  After the winery we stopped off at Jack London Village.  This is a place that Jack London frequented and is now mostly owned by his family. For those of you who may have forgotten, Jack London was a popular author in the mid 1900’s. I literally devoured his books “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” as a boy. His books are one of the reasons I become an avid reader.  We had lunch there and it reminded me of our time in Mexico as we ate outside among many flowers and plants. We did manage to make it back to the room about 3PM and therefore in plenty of time for a Sunday nap. This has been a truly restful day in Sonoma California.

This morning I made reservations for our San Francisco visit.  We will be staying at a hotel about a block away from Fisherman’s Wharf. We are going to trust OnStar to get us there and parked and then we will be doing our touring on foot tomorrow and via a tour bus and ferry on Tuesday.  After that we will head to Salinas California to see exactly where all our veggies are grown and of course is the home of another famous California author John Steinbeck. I’m pretty sure I read all his many books as a boy.