Posts tagged with Travel

Ghost Rider on the Range

It was a dark and stormy night...

Snoopy, right? Only, this time it is a dark and stormy night when we drive out of the parking lot at the 2010 Symphony in the Flint Hills—rain, lightening, a real Kansas storm. How did the day end this way? It wasn't planned. Here's the story...

The planners of the day provide entertainment after the concert. There is a cowboy band and dancing, star gazing through telescopes and, our choice, a Story Circle. All of which are activities encouraging people to not all leave for the parking lot at once.

Annie Wilson, Jeff Davidson and Geff Dawson are on hand to sing as well as tell stories and poems in the Story Circle. They never light the fire, so it is dark when Geff Dawson tells the perfect campfire story. It seems a bolt of lightening kills a cowboy while he is working cattle on his ranch. He loves the prairie so much that he strikes a deal which allows him to forever remain in his beloved hills. Many see him on his horse during flashes of lightening in the mist of thunderstorms. A ghost rider on the range.

No sooner is the story complete than this announcement, “Due to storms moving in, everyone is urged to go to their vehicle.” Even though “severe” is not mentioned, many perceive the message as an emergency. We all take off in force. The parking lot is a gridlock. Since we drove our pickup pop up camper with the intention of staying in Cottonwood Falls after the concert, getting in the back and killing a little time with food and drink seems like a good idea. Well, maybe we'll just lean back and rest while the lot clears out.

Waking with a start, I check my watch. It is 2:30 am. The huge parking lot is dark and deserted. Every car gone and lights turned off. Worst of all, it is raining, with wind and...lightening! I admit I am a bit scared. Perhaps it is the story. Quickly the top is down. The rain is making the grass slippery, we need the four-wheel drive. The cowboy ghost opens the gate for us, I know it is him.

Eight miles on gravel and then north to the overlook along Hwy 177. By then, the storm has blown itself out. We stop for the rest of the night.

Finally waking around 9:30 am, I throw open the door and there I am, looking eye to eye with yearling heifers in a row with noses touching the fence. They look like they are thinking, “This is a strange truck and why are there no cubes for us.”

After a hearty breakfast, we travel back to Bazaar and take a backroad alternative route to Cottonwood Falls then home.

The Symphony day was perfect in every respect. However, when I think back to highlights, I might most remember the cowboy ghost who holds back the rain until the day is over and then taps our shoulder to get out of his prairie.

All but the parking lot picture were taken between Bazaar and Emporia, Kansas, on Sunday June 13th.


Symphony in the Flint Hills— A Kansas weekend Over 6,000 in attendance at the Fifth Anniversary of the Symphony in the Flint Hills on Saturday, June 12, 2010, were cheering right from the beginning. The first standing ovation was to Governor Mark Parkinson who loves Kansas and Kansans.

In a departure from the usual formal greeting, Governor Parkinson enthusiastically extolled State of Kansas as beautiful, productive and passionate. It's universities take second place to no others. The farmers and ranchers who take care of its fertile soils are the Nation's best. We may not have mountains, but we have majestic rolling green hills of grass such as those surrounding us.

Whether stung by the recent events surrounding university sports or caught up in the atmosphere didn't matter. It was a rousing welcome to an even more rousing concert, the beauty of which put an explanation mark to the day and evening. As the 2010 Symphony Field Journal States, “...we all come to greet our acknowledge how fortunate we are to be alive in our take our place in the midst of beauty.” Beauty of land and music. A perfect marriage.

My intention to Tweet the Symphony meant writing about a day involving all my senses in less than 140 characters at a time. It was challenging and not too embarrassing--other than misspelling “Phog.” (A lady who sat beside me riding to the site worked with Mr. Allen while attending KU). My first entry sitting on a bale overlooking the concert area, “other than far off electric poles, all in sight is green hills” pretty much describes the openness of this year's site. My last post, “no sunset, yet dusk settled over the hills like a soft blanket” did cover the beauty of the day and how the low hanging clouds seemed to drop in over the hills. Typical of me, there were food (smoked pork), beverage and weather tweets. And one about Johnnie and his line.

No tweeting during the concert, but I did wonder to myself who would have thought Lyle Lovett and the Kansas City Symphony would blend so beautifully. The Orange Blossom Special violin solo by Marvin Gruenbaum certainly had mass toe tapping appeal. And, even untrained listeners like me get the musical symbolism in "Buckaroo Holiday" from Rodeo by Copland

The fun, excitement and adventure did not end with the last note of the concert though. Click here to read about Cowboy music, poems and a middle of the night escape.


Roadtrip Alert! Kansas Frontier Military Scenic Byway

Parents of a close friend no longer take long vacations. Instead, they leave early in the morning and drive a loop, returning home in the evening, always in Kansas. I thought of them when we turned out of our driveway at 8:00 am recently. Our destination is Riverton, Kansas, about as far as the Kansas Frontier Military Scenic Byway will take us before entering Oklahoma. We have an appointment to pick up a hay trailer and we need to move along with few stops to get back by late afternoon.

At Globe we turn east on Hwy 56, also a historic route that roughly follows the Santa Fe trail. We briefly stop at the site of John Brown's Black Jack Battlefield near Baldwin City. A battlefield reenactment will take place there on June 5th. We'll be there. I am sure excitement will ensue for me to report.

To connect with KS Hwy 68 which will take us east to the Scenic Byway, we travel south through Wellsville, population 1,600. Although born in Kansas City, Chely Wright, award winning country artist, calls this small burg her hometown. We know because there is a sign and a street named for her. It is good they continue to be proud and supportive of their talented native.

Now on Hwy 68, we pass the Somerset Ridge Winery. Free tasting. Welcome. We seldom pass one of these signs without stopping. We will come back to try Kansas Buffalo Red and Aphrodite among many others.

Next is the Louisburg Cider Mill and their delicious cider and cider doughnuts. No way will we go by without stopping here.

The Kansas Scenic Hwy 69 runs north and south along the east side of the state. It follows the route used by the military to transport troops and supplies to forts. This route was more than a supply transportation route. Before Kansas became a state, it was Indian territory and the military outposts and trail were used to keep outsiders from encroaching the Indian Nation land. When Kansas opened up for settlement, the route served as a battle line between the slave state of Missouri and the free state of Kansas. The largest cavalry battle in the Civil War and the only major battle fought in Kansas was at The Mine Creek Battlefield in 1864.

We have previously visited both the Mine Creek Battlefield site, museum and Fort Scott, both right along Hwy 69. Very interesting and highly recommended. Be sure and take the tour and hear the Ranger's talk at Fort Scott’s beautifully renovated post.

Just north of Pittsburg is Frontenac. It is there we see signs announcing chicken restaurants ahead. Chicken Annie and Chicken Mary, two somewhat famous fried chicken restaurants, in the area. Some would say if you want good fried chicken, either of these two is the place to go.

Don't miss the new rest stop at the Junction of 69 and Hwy 52. It has an educational exhibit inside and a walking trail outside with informative markers. Just south of the rest stop on an access road is historical town of Trading Post.

We pass a sign that informs us Big Brutus is only 13 miles west. I really do want to see this huge mining implement. But not this time as our trailer is only a few miles on down the road and we have to pull it home.

Unbelievable for us to have passed all these tempting stops and still arrive on time at Riverton. The trailer is the type which “dumps” big round bales off the side. According to the impliment dealer there, the father of the current owner of the manufacturing plant in this very small, unincorporated community in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas was the first to build this popular type of trailer. We hook on and start back the way we came.

Wine, Apple Cider, Civil War reenactments, and an oversized back hoe. An interesting side of Kansas we'll visit again.


Blame it on craigslist

Last fall we decided to explore buying a four-wheel drive pickup for use around our acreage, specifically to pull a hay trailer. We knew what we wanted, ¾ ton diesel, and how far we would be willing to drive to pick it up (one day).

Watching craigslist became a obsession. Last October I found the truck we wanted in Bolivar, Tennessee. It pushed the distance a bit, but the 2001 Ford truck was in excellent condition and in our price range. Deal was made and we combined a fall foliage road trip to pick it up.

Trouble is, our beloved 2001 Roadtrek Class B motor home also required tags, taxes and tires. After a few tears and much discussion, in March the Trekker went up for sale—on craigslist, of course.

Turns out, others also search this popular sales site outside their home state. Calls came in from all over the country. Either it was the affordable age of the rig or its own web site but within three weeks, we were meeting an excited new owner in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Part of the deal was to help her out by driving that far because she was from Missoula, Montana.

Now here we were, two “old” no, make that “elder” hippies and no van. What to do, but go to, where else, craigslist, to look for the best alternative road trip machine when driving a truck—a pickup camper.

Wouldn't you know, from delivering the Roadtrek to Wyoming, we were headed to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit long time friends. And, on craigslist, there was a 2004 NorthStar popup pickup camper in Payson, Arizona, right on the way. After calling back and forth to make sure everything was on the up and up (something to watch on craigslist) the deal was made. We are back to trekkn'.

So, what started last fall has made full circle. It seems everything has worked out well. Only one problem, we still need a good hay trailer.

I've been watching craigslist. There is one in Oklahoma...


Mush! Karen Land and Iditarod Race Begins For Karen Land, the idea of participating in the famous Alaskan Iditarod Race was born in 1997 while hiking the Appalachian Trail with her dog Kirby. She picked up a book about the race while restocking supplies.

Five years later, she hitched up sixteen dogs and set off to race 1100 miles from Anchorage to Nome Alaska. And, she did this not just one year, but three.

On Tuesday, January 26th, a packed room at the Lawrence Public Library, had the pleasure of following her journey from reading the book along the warm eastern Appalachian Trail to the frozen north Iditarod race, capturing us along the way with her dog, Borage, her actual sled, her experiences and pictures.

The Iditarod Race began in 1925 with the children living in Nome Alaska needing Diphtheria supplies. Dog mushers relayed the medicine in pony express fashion from Fairbanks to Nome with Balto, the leading dog on the last relay saving the day. Or, at least he got the credit with a statue in Central Park, New York. This historical feat set the stage for the annual race which now runs from Anchorage to Nome instead of Fairbanks.

Anticipating all our questions after this quick history, Ms Land set about telling us stories of preparing for and completing the face. We learn the race is all about the dogs and the mushers love and respect for each of them.

Superior pulling dogs are traditionally Alaskan Huskies, hardy, strong dogs; in recent times often mixed with German Short hair Pointers for speed. They are good eaters having to consume 10,000 calories a day to train and run the race. Although this breed is common, one of her lead dogs was a Border Collie mix named Pig.

The sled is 23 pounds of aluminum loaded with around 100 pounds of food for the dogs and extra clothing. We are quickly educated on exactly what force sixteen dogs pulling together creates. For example, she told stories of her team pulling out a tree as well as moving a full sized vehicle to which they are secured. Actually, they train year around, in the “off season” by pulling around a 4-wheel ATV. The most important advice given to new mushers is to never let go of the team and sled. At that point, I am sure all in the room were imagining what would happen if they got away.

In 2002, it took exactly two weeks for Karen to finish the race. She finished in little over 12 days the last race in 2004. There are check points with veterinarians along the way and one requiring a 24 hour rest. Where does a young lady sleep among a bunch of snoring, smelly men? Outside. She quickly points out that everyone becomes quite smelly with no bath, raw dog meat against clothing and the hard work that comes with guiding the sled around trees and other obstacles.

All too soon, the race was over along with the stories. I encourage a visit to her web site, to enjoy another gift, writing. It was on that site that I learn what I suspected after hearing her presentation. Karen Land says in her biography, “I wanted to write about dogs and people who love dogs. But it became much more than that. I fell in love with all of the dogs, the sport, the wilderness, and the lifestyle of a musher. I knew exactly what I wanted to do next.”

Thank you to Lawrence Public Library and Del Monte Pet Products for the opportunity to hear her story.


Kansas Winter - Love or Leave?

It is brutal out there today. Thank you to mail carriers who work, even walk around in the cold, snow and wind. Douglas County does an exceptional job of keeping the rural roads clear. We appreciate those workers who probably feel they hardly had a Holiday.

Last year at this time, I would have joined their ranks looking at similar scenes through a rolled down car window while delivering mail to rural customers. Only once did I have a route stopping experience in this type of weather with no one coming along to assist. It was pre-cell phone and thankfully, a customer nearby left their back door unlocked. Those times are memories as retirement is allowing me to now watch the weather from the inside.

Still, despite problems and dangers associated with winter weather, even when I worked in it, I thought it was beautiful. Things look different, somehow cleaner. Sunshine only enhances the beauty of snow cover. It sparkles with shadows creating interesting creations out of everyday items.

We have Snow Bird friends who would not agree with my assessment of the beauty of a day like today. Many have already left for the south where they are probably sitting outside with no jacket right now. For over 20 years my parents hooked on their fifth wheel camper immediately after our Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration. We visited them several times during the Holidays. It was shirt sleeve warm each time.

I've asked myself, given my love of travel, if following warm temperatures south is an option. We do have an RV, however it is small, much more suited for road trips. Leaving family, grandchildren, for months at a time would be difficult as well. Even though there are opportunities to meet new friends, I would miss long time friends who are still part of the daily working world here.

Just now, I turned again to look out the window at the winter scene. It seems to be getting colder. Maybe it's time for a cup of hot tea in front of the downstairs stove where I am researching, planning and dreaming about roadtrips the other three seasons of this year. Because, for now, I plan to enjoy winter right here in Kansas.


Christmas 2009 Douglas County

Click on the picture for a slide show.


Recipe Mom’s legacy

As I write this, I am looking at a discolored, ingredient stained recipe card. Unfortunately, it is not dated, but I think I copied in the 60's when we were married. Mom made these cookies every Christmas and her name is on the recipe card because I put it there. However, Mom named it "Louise's Filled Ice Box Cookies." Louise was a neighbor. Even so, in my mind it is Mom's recipe so it is a little piece of her history for me.

I have many of Mom's recipes in her own writing in several recipe boxes. (Does anyone use these anymore) This might be the year to get them out and share. Mom no longer cooks or is able to attend our Holiday celebrations. The recipes will allow her warm, loving presence among us. And something to tell her about when we visit.

We might even find the original of this one.

Mom's Filled Ice Box Cookies

1 cup black walnuts, chopped
1 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Mix and boil two minutes & cool

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 butter
1/2 cup Crisco
3 eggs
1 teas. vanilla
Mix together and add
4 1/2 cup flour
1 teas. soda
1/2 teas. salt

Cream sugar and shortening thoroughly. Add beaten eggs, vanilla and flour. Take 1/2 dough at a time, roll about 1/4 inch thick, spread filling over it and roll like jelly roll. Wrap in wax paper and put in ice box over night. Cut in 1/4 inch slices. Bake at 350 10-12 minutes.


Fascinating Journey Official patch of this mission. If you look closely, there are thirteen stars, one for each of the astronauts children, especially appropriate because so many young people are following this flight.

The Monarch Watch web site is following their caterpillars, offspring of the KU program's butterflies, in space. They survived the liftoff and reportedly seem to be a bit disoriented but thriving. They are also posting pictures sent by classrooms joining in on the space experiment on their website.


What would a Monarch Butterfly look like floating in outer space?

Monarch butterflies like to travel. Thanks to Monarch Watch, Chip, Jim, Ann, Jackie, the Critter Crew (student hourly employees), and volunteers from the community the beautiful creatures will soon be taking it to a new level. Space.

Recently, Chip, a friend and neighbor, knocked on our door with the Sunday paper but no time for a chat. He said he was putting in long hours preparing for sending Monarch butterflies into space and the unbelievable response of 425 schools to participate in a science project along with the space shuttle crew. He left that morning with my name on the volunteer list.

Here are my feelings about working with the Monarch program the past two days.

First, the dedication of Chip and his staff to young people. Rather than turn away schools too late for the initial call for 20, they are sending the experiment to all 425. Yes, that many schools were interested enough to pay for the kit plus overnight delivery. Monarch Watch and Kansas University could touch the lives of nearly 8,000 children directly not to mention their families and others who will follow the butterfly story in the media.

The Space project would not be possible without the artificial diet developed by the Monarch Watch lab. These diet containers are being prepared for shipment to the shuttle launch site.

The timing of the Monarch stages of development for study in the nearly weightless environment sounds hard enough but then factor in possible delays in launch time. From what I overheard, it all came together with a lot of lost sleep.

Finally, the most impressive part for me is that all 425 classrooms are receiving exactly the same size caterpillars and diet food as is going into space. Then, by way of the Monarchs in Space site, there will be interaction with other schools and the experts. What if there might be interaction with the astronauts?

What an exciting science program especially for a whole bunch of children. That can only be a good thing. Box contains Monarch caterpillars headed for the shuttle launch.