Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hutchinson, Kansas

October 11 - 14, 2017:

It’s a sunny but very windy day for the 120 mile drive to the Sand Hill State Park in Hutchinson, Kansas.  I wasn’t towing the Jeep today and the wind gusts were pushing us all over the road.  I’ve found that when towing, the Jeep kind of stabilizes the rear of the RV from swaying on windy days.  All things considered, I still much prefer not to tow.  The good thing is that wind is bringing in some heat with the temperature today close to 80 degrees which is very welcome.

I made one quick stop in the town of McPherson with its beautifully restored Opera House, two interesting murals and a couple of other sights.

McPherson Opera House is a beauty

Can you believe, first Olympic Basketball Champions in 1936

The Sand Hill State Park is a new park in Kansas in an area of sand hills with several hiking trails.  It mostly deserted during the week at this time of year as there is no boating or fishing.

The city of Hutchinson, Kansas also known as "Salt City" is about 6 miles from the campground.  There are a few historic buildings with interesting signs on their history.  We wandered into a good bookstore and an incredible toy / hobby store with the owners private (not for sale) train collection on a back room.  There is also the magnificent restored Fox theater, built in 1931.  It narrowly escaped the wrecking ball, but was saved and restored in the 1990's.  Much of the central downtown however is sadly abandoned and blighted.  I couldn’t find a brewpub or a bar in town that I would want to frequent and live music is a rarity here.

A very special Kress Department Store

The Fox Theater is very special

Especially up close

A mind expanding mural

Toy Store was great, the car moved around and through the
car wash with the brushes even turning

So many model trains and an extensive layout also

I especially liked this mural

There are two notable attractions in Hutchinson, the Strataca Underground Salt Museum and the Cosmoshere Space Museum.  We did the Salt Mine Museum where they take you 650 feet below ground in an elevator.  You then can wander around at your leisure to look at and read the exhibits and then take a narrated tram ride through an inactive section of the mine.  It was very educational although I wouldn’t want to ever work there.  

650 feet underground you enter these expansive caverns of salt

Old tram that moved workers in the mine

A few vehicles like this one were disassembled, taken down
into the mine, reassembled  and used to get around.   

Mike Rowe of the TV show "Dirtiest Jobs" did
an episode in the mine

Everything that goes into the mine stays in the mine, they
have decades of garbage

A block of salt

The train ride in the mine

Salt mines are a perfect storage environment with 68 degrees constant
temperature and low humidity

Many motion pictures and all sorts of important records
are stored in this mine

Storage boxes in the mine, this is a separate business operated
in the salt mine

The Hutchinson & Northern Railroad line was started to transport the salt

After the mine, I took about a 4 mile hike at the campground on the Rolling Hills and Bluestem trails through grasslands and sand dunes.  The sand dunes are mostly covered with grasses and a few trees.  The dunes are not very big, but quite scenic in areas.  It was a near perfect day and all was good.

The sand hills are not huge, but have a special beauty

The grassland is colorful and there were billions of grasshoppers 

Yes, there really is sand under that grass

I made another pass through downtown on a cloudy stormy day which often is better for getting vibrant photos.  Often the bright sun tends to overexpose some areas and shadow others.  The colors also can be flat and the sky overexposed, all bad.  A dark stormy sky or a clouds add much more character to the photos.  This was one of those days.

The sun came out briefly to beauifully illuminate this building

A unique Yellow Cab building

Interesting sculpture

Loved the sign and words at the Salvation Army Store

This beautiful inspirational mural covered the entire side of the building

Another great mural, makes me remember that great
song by John Lennon

Colorful storefronts

Another view of the Fox Theater

The interesting Flag Theater next to a dangerous sounding
combination of the Gun's & Ammo and Knives & Jewelry Store

A very interesting building with a model train club on the ground level

There was a Brew Fest in downtown but I just don’t want to spend $30 admission to hang around sampling many beers during the daytime hours.  I do manage to find some live music in the evening, first at “Metropolitan Coffee” where a Alex Garcia is playing solo to a crowd of mostly friends and family it appeared.  He was doing a mix of covers and originals with a very folksy vocal styling.  I then went a few miles away to “Oliver’s Beef and Brew” where a band called “Tequila Ridge” was playing. My first impression is that Oliver’s caters to a hard drinking and somewhat rough looking crowd. There was a young guy wearing his “Loves Truck Stop” uniform and many of the women could have been “Truck stop girls”.    The band was a veteran bar band that could play about anything, some just okay, other very good.  The bass player left the stage to walk around and play to the crowd, it’s a little unusual for a bass player to do that, that’s usually the realm of the lead guitarist who tends to be more of a showman.  Anyhow, this giant of a young man with good intentions started pouring a beer from a can into this guys mouth.  He couldn’t swallow fast enough and it spilled all over him and his guitar, he probably will think about that the next time he gets the urge to do it again.  Doesn’t seem so entertaining listening to it now, you had to be there.

Keep watching us and other weird RV'ers at: 

Another Sunday morning moving day, the next stop will be Dodge City, Kansas,
Twinkles and Slick

Monday, October 16, 2017

Junction City, Kansas

October 8 - 10, 2017:

A calm, sunny travel day was appreciated today on our 160 mile trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to Junction City, Kansas.  It was almost entirely on route 77 through endless corn country and grass lands.  In Kansas we crossed the routes of the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express, it's been awhile since we last saw those signs.  Our destination, the West Rolling Hills Campground is a Corp of Engineers site on Milford Lake which is a largest lake in Kansas formed by the Damming of the Republican River.  It’s a beautiful campground right on the lake with electric and water hookups for $10 a night with the senior pass. 

The Oketo Cutoff was a stage coach road used in 1862-1863
for the Pikes Peak Express and the Central Overland California

Pony Express station, it's hard to imagine these days that this
is how the mail once traveled across country

Big wide campsites

with lake views are always good

View from a trail in the campground

The city of Junction City is about 7 miles from the campground and gets its name from being on the junction of the Republican and the Smokey Hill Rivers which join to form the Kansas River.  It’s a typical army town, home of the Fort Riley and the Army’s first Infantry Division, the “Big Red One” with a very blighted looking section near the army base.  I haven’t seen this many gentlemen clubs aka strip clubs and boarded up businesses in a very long time.  
This area of Kansas was covered by a huge sea during the Permian geologic period about 250 million years ago resulting in deposits of Limestone and Shale with layers of Chert (Flint).  The weathering of these deposits has resulted in a gravely soil which is poor for agriculture, but better suited for livestock.  The area became known as the “Flint Hills” covered by native grasslands including the largest remaining tall grass prairie preserves in the country.

Due to the availability of limestone, it was used as the primary building material in Junction City and has stood the test of time really well.,_Kansas

The Civil War Memmorial Arch built in 1898 

The C.L. Hoover Opera House built in 1898 was restored a few years ago, a huge
success story in a poor city like this

The Opera House from the side

Mural in the lobby of the Opera House

The Buffalo Soldiers Monument

I went into the Club, it's nothing to brag about

Limestone was used extensively

George Smith willed his entire estate to the city in 1905 with
the stipulation that they build a library

Twinkles was not impressed with this quilt store

I was impressed by this old sign for the JC Bar, I
suppose it was originally a cigar Store 

I was going to go in, but after seeing the rough
looking characters standing outside decided against it

The Central National Bank was a beauty

The Exchange Bank is another
The Geary County Courthouse

The first Territorial Capital of Kansas was located just outside Junction City, but it only lasted for a few months during the turbulent days leading up to the Civil War.  I attempted to go there but it is on Fort Riley and you need to get a special military photo ID to enter just to look at the building.  It was doable, but there isn’t much to see and didn’t seem worth the hassle.

We are having weird weather which is uncomfortable in a poorly insulated RV, on Sunday it was close to 90 degrees, today the high was 45 and it will be close to freezing tonight.  I decided it was a good day to start at the library in Junction City to catch up on this blog.  
I then went to Stacy's Restaurant which had good reviews and sounded like my kind of place.  It was filled with locals, many farmers talking about the crop harvest and yields.  I had a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes covered with gravy that was excellent.  Under the plastic table covering were some old photos, one showing a native american indian statue that was located about 3 miles away.  I found information about it on the internet, a report from a person who had seen it and taken photos.  Surprisingly, I found it, but had to settle for a far away photo as it is on private land and there was no place to park on the road.  The internet account gives a pretty romanticized story on the statue involving an army hero, an Indian chief and the Spanish Coronado expedition that they discussed with someone at the Geary County Museum.

My top rated restaurant in Junction City

The mysterious and neglected Indian statue on an overgrown hillside

I have been neglecting for some time to reflect on the Native American heritage in our travels, but its been everywhere all along the way in every state we have traveled through.  This area of Kansas was buffalo country covered with tall grass prairie and the Ponca, Arapaho, Pawnee, Kansa, Kiowa, Osage, Comanche  and Otoe were here.  This was a prime site for the indians near the confluence of the Republican and Smokey Hill Rivers.  Fort Riley was established in 1853 as a post to protect travelers on the nearby Oregon and Santa Fe Trails and to protect settlers coming into the area.  General Custer also lived on the fort for a while, he was always in the thick of the action, kind of like George Washington was back in revolutionary War.  

Indian map in the museum
I then went to the Geary County Historical Museum located in the old Junction City High School building, but didn’t ask them about the Indian statue. They have several good exhibits covering all facets of local history.  They had inspirational personal accounts from various war heroes and uniforms from all US wars.  They also have a collection of photos from a long time local photographer who documented everything about town for many years.  There is even a bar photo taken in Junction City that was used in the opening scenes of the “Cheers” TV show. 

The Museum Building

A Fort Riley pillow to send home for Mom

This was a Graphophone that Louie Volkmann used to take
to peoples homes to play music for them on Sundays.  You could
say that he was the original DJ

Kaw Indian Chief "Wah Shun Gah " in
his ceremonial garb posed for a photo.  He

sort of looks like Keith Richards ?

I had a pass like this once

Is there still a need for an official watch inspector ?

The old Junction City train depot

Hard to believe that Junction City one had a trolley system

The fire Department won the championship prize

It’s 35 degrees outside at 7 AM and it's a beautiful sunny day forecast to get to 65 degrees by afternoon.  We head back into Junction City to the library where we buy a bag of book for $3.00, all good stuff too, then figure out our next travel destination.  This has been the way we have done much of our travel planning this year, no advance planning or reservations.  Next is the quilt store for Twinkles and another walk down Washington Street for me and then lunch at Stacy's Restaurant again.  If I lived here, this would be my go to place, it’s great, todays special was Meat Loaf with scalloped potatoes, peas, roll, drink and desert for $6.99 and it was really good, Twinkles also cleaned her plate of eggs, hash browns and toast, yum !

After that big lunch, we need a hike, so it was back to the Corp of Engineers Milford Dam Outlet Park to get on the Riverwalk Trail.  We did about 3 miles on the trail partially on an abandoned railroad bed and it was better than expected.

A hawk flying overhead

Monarch Butterfly

Owl was here and he didn't leave it clean !

Sign on the trail about the slavery debate in Kansas
Lake Milford is the largest lake in Kansas and results from an earthen dam completed by the US Army Corp of Engineers in 1962.  The original town site of Milford now sits under the lake, the entire town was relocated a few miles away to its present site.  The outlet of the dam is a popular fishing spot for humans and also for Eagles in the spring. In addition to the Corp of Engineers campground, there is the Milford State Park and a couple of other private campgrounds along the lake. 

View of the Lake from the edge of the Dam

The discharge chute of the Dam

The outlet of the Dam is a popular fishing spot

That's all  for Junction City, the next stop is  Hutchinson, Kansas,
Twinkles and Slick