Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014-24 Manhattan to Abilene to Hillsboro Kansas


waiting for a train to go by, the graffiti is wonderful on some of the cars

Manhattan Kansas, continued
Abilene Kansas

Marion County, Kansas

Campground:  Hillsboro Cove, Hillsboro Kansas.  An Army Corp park.  30 amp electric at site.  Water and dump station available. $8.50 senior rate.

Except for the heat, it’s been a nice stay in the Manhattan area.  The town is a modern University town.  Not too large, but just about right I’d say.  The older part of town is so well preserved and active with all the college town shops and restaurants, you’d think they built it recently and just made it look like older buildings.  It’s only about a 15 minute drive into town from my campsite at Tuttle creek Lake, the perfect distance from my way of thinking.  Out in the country, yet close to town.

just outside of the laundromat
It’s raining this morning so I have time to start writing this report.  The laundry will just have to wait till it clears up later in the morning.  Yesterday I drove about 45 minutes west of here to the town of Abilene Arkansas to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  With dark morning thunder clouds flashing lighting off in the distance, I arrived in this small prairie town where Ike grew up.  The original square house that he lived in in right on the library and museum grounds.  For being a relatively small house, it really was quite charming for a family of four young boys, Mom and Dad and Grandpa.

Eisenhower family home where Ike grew up

Touring the museum started out with a large special exhibit on WWII in which Eisenhower was a general  serving in Europe before becoming president after the war.  To me the large display looked as if it had been thrown together, but I think that was part of the intent.  The atmosphere was heavy as people silently stood in front of displays, looking at images and reading the commentary.  No videos, music or audio.  It was not easy to go through as the horrors of war were so apparent at each turn and another display unfolded and revealed the enormous scope of it all .  I concentrated on some exhibits on the war in Africa and Italy as that is where my father served time in the army.  It must have been so hard for all the soldiers, I know my father had nightmares for years after the war and we were not allowed to talk about it or ask any questions about the war.  I won’t say any more as it truly was a real downer as they would say in today’s vernacular.

Eisenhower Museum

the WWII exhibit

it really was a world war

Eisenhower viewing an overturned tank

The second half of the museum covered Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential years and included Mamie Eisenhower as she was so much more than just his wife.  They had no overall film on Ike’s life and career as one would expect but rather videos of family member discussing he and Mamie’s life together and the direction Eisenhower was able to lead the country after the war was over.  Later, I would find out there was a good film on his life and career at the visitor center, but I had not been informed of it.

Mamie's hats

1954:  Began construction on the St Laurence Seaway, opening up the Great Lakes to the sea.

1956:  The National Defense Interstate Highway System.  Yes Ike implemented one of the largest projects in the U.S.  developing the Interstate Highway System that we all use today.

1956:  The National Park Service started the “Mission 66” program.  Spending over one billion dollars over 10 years adding 78 new parks, building 100 new visitor centers to handle the ever increasing numbers of vacationing visitors that the new highways were bringing to the National parks.  America was on the move.

1958:  Ike urged congress to create NASA as an independent organization from the military after Russia launched Sputnik into space.  And the space race was underway.

Those are some pretty big accomplishments for any president and I’m sure there were many more, but those were the ones that stand out in my mind as I went through the museum.  The town of Abilene has a couple other nice museums including a Greyhound museum, Telephone museum and an original carousel on display.  A nice little town to explore if you have the extra time.

ghosts from the past

ghosts of WWII
  Life is not all play.  Over the past couple of days I’ve been able to wash my truck and camper roof right at my campsite.  This is not something we campers are permitted to do at many campgrounds.  But since I’m at an Army Corp campground, with no huge list of “camping rules” to follow and usually only one staff person on duty, I was able to accomplish these tasks.  My PVC roof on the camper is a breeze to clean with just a little soap and water.  Now that I’m heading out west the roof should remain clean for quite some time.  No trees out west means clean camper roof.   Those heavily shaded campsites in the east and mid-west often add up to lots of dirt and grime on the roof.

So today I went onto the Kansas State University to check out the Beach Museum of Art.  It’s main collection centers around regional art and was very nicely done.  I was particularly impressed with a special photography exhibit by a Chicago photographer.  He took pairs of adults who lived in the same area but would not probably ever interact with each other and then had them sit for a photo shoot.  Each face could tell such a story.  It was mesmerizing.  Another series concentrated on the youth of the city as he interviewed them and had them write something about themselves.  Each photo with story really told a story.

art, a real toy?

a superb photography exhibit

a series of photos with two people who lived
in the same area, but would not normally have met each other

While ordering lunch, the cashier, one of many college students working part time in town along with going to school, rang my order up.  It was $9.02.  I gave her  $20.00 and 2 cents.  As she punched in the amount on the cash register,  incorrectly, she froze.  Since the cash register wouldn't tell her how much change to give back, she stood there for a couple minutes not knowing what to do.  Finally she explained that she was a science major at the university, but her brain couldn’t figure out basic math without the computer.  Said she just wasn’t used to doing math in her head.  She finally handed me back $10.00.  I told her she still owed me a dollar.

Distance traveled:  83 miles.

I was lucky to find a good campsite for the Labor Day weekend so the short trip of 83 miles was well worth the effort.  Hillsboro Cove is on a lake and I’m a short distance from the town of Hillsboro.  It’s a real rural area.  No Wal-Mart’s or commercial places on the menu here.

I have what I consider an ideal campsite.  Close enough that I get some water views, the site is at the end of a peninsula and my site faces the gravel road as it curves around.  What’s so great about that?  Well, my patio/sitting area and picnic table give me a great vantage point to meet people as they walk around the loop.  I can just wave as they go by or start up a conversation if I’m in the mood.  So for the holiday weekend you just know I’ll be meeting a ton of folks here at Hillsboro Cove.

And before I end this rambling report, I’ve already gone into one of the local towns that has a Rhinoceros as the towns mascot.  Little concrete Rhino statues are all over this western town surrounded by cattle ranches and farms.  Don’t you know I’ll be exploring the area over the next week….

Marion Kansas

more photos on PICASA

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014-23 Hiawatha and Manhattan Kansas


Missouri (just a little corner of the state)

Kansas, Hiawatha
Kansas, Manhattan

Kansas prairie landscape

Campground:  Big Lake State Park, Craig Missouri.  $19 w senior discount.  Electric 30amp.  Water and dump station available.  Nice shower room and laundry room.  Good for a night or two, not a location for longer stays.  Summer heat and humidity being one factor.

Big Lake State Park, but not really a big lake at all

cabins across the lake from the state park

Campground find:  White Cloud Casino.  I discovered this little casino in the NE corner of Kansas.  They have full-hookup RV sites in the back of the casino for $5 a night, no limit.  Half off lunch buffet on Mondays and Thursdays: $5 and they gave me $30 in casino play money when I signed up for their players card.  I left with $20 more in my pocket.  Basic casino campsites, but in a quiet area behind the casino.

Campground:  Tuttle Cove, CORP park.  Manhattan Kansas.  $9.00 senior rate.  50amp elect and water. On  beautiful large Creek Lake.

Tuttle Cove

Iowa to Kansas map

Distance traveled:  189 miles
Big Lake, Missouri

I really enjoyed the drive along Iowa 2 a well maintained two lane country road with nice wide gravel skirting.  Very light traffic as well.  Now heading south into Missouri on county road 59 was another matter. Narrow and some real roller coaster type hill and valley driving.  You know, the kind that you can’t see what’s coming ahead over the hill.  Very light traffic made for easy going.  Down a few more back roads and here I am at Big Lake st pk.  Looks like the lake can go over it’s banks and many of the homes are raised up on stilts.  Later I found out the Missouri River overflowed it’s banks over 4 feet back in June of 2011, flooding all of the Big Lake State Park and surrounding area.   It’s called an Ox Bow lake, once connected to the Missouri River it is now separate from the river and includes a good sized wetland area.

The campground has maybe 8 campers mid-week, most of us coming in during the day and leaving the following day.  I should probably point out that I’m following in the footsteps of Louis and Clark, as they landed here on their way out west as well as on their return trip.  Noting the Ox Bow bend and the island across from the campground I’m staying at.  I think I have it a bit easier than they did on their journey out west.

The Davis Memorial, Hiawatha Kansas.

The next day I begin my adventure early in the morning.  Heading out, using my GPS for directions from my Missouri campsite, I cross over the Missouri River and  Ta-Da, I’m in Nebraska.   My GPS guides me through some back streets of a old abandoned river town and onto a paved country road with no center line, or any lines to speak of at all.  Less than a mile down the road and I’m in Kansas.  Three states in less than 20 minutes.  Down miles of country lanes traveling through thousands of acres of mega farms.  I’m heading to Hiawatha Kansas where a most unusual memorial has been constructed.  It’s was a finalist for the list of 8 wonders of Kansas.  

It’s another cemetery oddity.  John Davis came to the Hiawatha area as an orphan in 1878 and began working on the farm of the Hart family.  He fell in love the daughter, Sarah.  The family was outraged that a simple work hand would dare to marry their daughter.  They disinherited her.

Sarah’s parents were even more upset when, over the next 28 years, John was able to purchase two of the best tracts of farmland in the area, becoming quite wealthy.  After 70 years of marriage,  Sarah passed away.  Having no children, John was not going to leave any of the money to be inherited by Sarah’s family.  He quickly began plans to build a monument to his love of Sarah and his grief over her death.

A large stone canopy was built over the grave site.  It weighs 52 tons. Eventually over the years, as Italian artists completed each of the statues, they were installed on site providing a glimpse of the couple through the years from first being married and through old age and finally John seated next to any empty chair.  All this cost over two hundred thousand dollars during the great depression.

Sarah’s family never like John after he married their daughter and now the little town of Hiawatha was up in arms that John was wasting all his money on a memorial to his wife when they thought he should spend it on the them.  The town needed a hospital and wanted a swimming pool and felt John should donate to building those much more worthwhile projects.  John said in later years, they all hated me, so why should I spend my money on them.  I spent it the way I pleased.

Was he a cheap skate for not helping the town out?  It was revealed later on that he spent thousands of dollars helping out the poor in the community with gifts of a couple hundred dollars at a time.  Helping those in need, but never advertising it.

In an odd way, he has helped the community out today as between 10 and 20 thousand visitors come to the community to visit the site each year.  Spending time and money in the area and wondering about the true motivations behind building this memorial.

Now that’s an adventure you won’t find driving down along the interstate highways of our country.  You’ve got to get off the main roads and get on down those country lanes to find places like this.  I even saw a fox on my return route to the campground.  Pretty cool.

it's the story of a young orphan living the American Dream

it's a love story

young Sarah

young John

Missing someone so much you make a monument to her, or
not wanting the relatives to inherit your money....

Distant Traveled:  124 miles
Manhattan Kansas

Had to take a detour which took a bit longer, but I still got to the campsite by noon.  And boy is it hot.  93 degrees today and fortunately I have 50 amp service so I have both a/c units running and keeping the camper perfectly cool.  Even with the heat, I can tell the area is gorgeous.  More hills, many completely covered in cedar trees.

Wamego Kansas

Arriving in Kansas, one would expect to come across something to do with the Wizard of Oz.  After all, Dorothy was from Kansas.  Not far from the town of Manhattan, also called the little apple, is another town by the name of Wamego where I found the Oz museum.  It was created from a private local resident’s collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia.  Some of which was first exhibited in 1995, eventually leading to the formation of the museum which opened in 2004.

a true classic, The Wizard of Oz

The collection centers around the author of the Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum.  Frank wrote a number of other Oz books that number over 40 in total.  Who knew?  There are also a number of great video’s to watch on the creation of the movie which I found fascinating.  It was one of the first films to be filmed in Technicolor a process that required four reels of film to record the action in unison.  One recording in black and white, one in green, red, and yellow if I understand the process correctly.  The camera was huge and required many more lights to illuminate the brightly colored sets.  During filming, they went through 4 directors.  The first one had his work completely scrapped before filming began again from the start.  Shirley Temple and the east coast business folks wanted her to play the part of Dorothy.  Fortunately, Judy Garland won out.

So many interesting stories about this 100 year old classic.  Imagine.  It was written 100 years ago.  And the movie came out in 1939.  Not an easy time for any film to open.  The depression was still going on and WWII was about to begin.  If you go, I recommend watching each of the video presentations to get your full Oz on.  This is history in it’s most intriguing and entertaining tailored suit.  Learning should always fit so well.

some of the books written in the Oz series

I've provided links to his other books

one of the many in a series of Oz books

so many items created for sale after the movie opened

Judy Garland

the 4th and last director to finish the Wizard of Oz

this is how the tornado was created for the movie

was briefly in the movie, before dropping out

one of the toys, a flying monkey

Glinda the good Witch

Over the weekend, I drove down to the Konza Prairie to have a good look at what an original prairie looks like.  This is a research center and is part of the Kansas State University.  I’m hoping to see a few more prairie preserves over the next couple of weeks.

love the big open spaces

stunning prairie landscapes

a close up of the tall prairie grasses

Till my next rambling report, enjoy your travels around the country.

many more photos on PICASA