Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kansas Highway 99

Regardless of the construction on Kansas Highway 4 and the inconvenience it causes many travelers from our neck of the woods, the detours are not all that difficult to traverse.  My detour takes me to Kansas Highway 99 and through the beautiful Kansas Flints Hills.  The pre-dawn and early morning hours are a special time, when everything is waking up.  Including me!

However, driving through those curvy roads with the pale sunlight streaming through the trees is a delight.  One particular curve is long and the highway snugs up a steep embankment and rocky outcropping.  On the east side, the Historical Stone Fence - part of the Scenic By-Way Auto Tour of Kansas - lines the shoulder of the road.  It acts as a barrier to a line of mature trees, their branches occasionally dipping over the fence.   It is like driving through a natural tunnel, even though it is only about a quarter of a mile.  For a brief moment you will seem isolated and a world apart from everything else.  The sunshine, filtered and softened by the trees, plays over the rocks.  The stone fence appears damp from the early morning dew.  The green leaves of the tree seem brighter. 

Suddenly  you come out of the curve and at the end of the tree line and behind the stone fence is a large pasture that extends to the tree-lined Mill Creek.  This year, the field is dormant and appears to be resting.  On the left is the old stone "Poor Farm" of Wabaunsee County, just a stone's throw from the highway.  "Poor Farm" road is immediately to the left and takes you up a small hill that over looks the old homestead.  Another family lives there these days.  I don't know who. 

A marvelous way to begin the morning, don't you think? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Librarians do it better!

Okay, catching title.  I am a Librarian.  Today I helped with the reading program at the library; I love the little kids.  They are always so good for me and I know they love me back.  The Head Librarian runs the show; I just keep them in line.  All preschoolers and all just as cute as a button.

 Michael Moore said something about Librarians being a bunch of subversive plotters, sitting there at their desk and smiling with a knowing smile.  I don't like Michael Moore, but yeah, Librarians are a subversive bunch and I am one of them.  Just a bit conservative, but subversive non-the-less!

"I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. ... You think they're just sitting at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them. You know, they've had their budgets cut. They're paid nothing. Books are falling apart. The libraries are just like the ass end of everything, right?"

Michael Moore
(BuzzFlash interview, 13 March 2002)

Regardless, in the afternoon I disposed of some really, really nasty books that were either withdrawn, unread, unloved, ratty, and smelled like last years socks.  I did my part for the ecology - I recycle books too, so they can be made into other books.  I moved at least 800 pounds of dirty, dusty, nasty tomes twice -- once into the book van and again at the recycling center.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day One of our Great American Adventure 2011

Smoky Hills (North Central Kansas)

I am sure you have heard of the wild, Wild West.  Well, we did go west on our vacation this year to Wyoming and to several of our favorite places.  We also slipped down into Estes Park, Colorado for a couple of days.  The weather was beautiful; the scenery was breathtaking; and the company was fine.  Of course, my dear husband was my traveling companion over the course of our 11-day motorcycle trip, just as he has been my traveling companion over the last 27 years.

Officially, this was the 12th annual “Great American Adventure” – touring the wild, Wild West of Wyoming!  The trip, which began on August 27th, 2011, was the 11th adventure that my dear husband and I took with the Topeka Oz Harley Owners’ Group and sponsored by Topeka Harley Davidson.  We had 28 participants and 18 motorcycles that ventured in little groups all across the great states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.  We lodged at the same motels, dined at many of the same eating establishments, but sought different routes and toured different parks and museums throughout the eleven day trek.

We left home and beautiful Lake Wabaunsee at 7:30 on Friday morning, stopping briefly in Alma, Kansas at the bank and at the post office.  I had a letter to mail to a friend in Missouri and banking things to do.  We then met three other couples at the McDonalds Restaurant in Wamego.  They traveled with us for the duration of the trip, with an addition of another couple later in the journey.

Most of our traveling was on State Highways or secondary county roads.  Friday was cool and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The only thing visible in the big blue dome was con-trails from jetliners winging toward Denver, Colorado.  We rode on Highway 24 through the congested city of Manhattan and eventually passed through Cawker City.  You know, Cawker City is the little town with the World’s biggest ball of Sisal Twine.  The ball of twine is located in "Downtown" Cawker City right along Wisconsin Street (Highway 24) on the south side of the highway. According to http://skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Cawker/twine.html, Frank Stoeber started the ball of twine on his farm in 1953.  By 1957 it weighed 5,000 pounds, stood 8 feet high, and had 1,175,180 feet of twine on it. Stoeber gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961.  Each year a “twine-a-thon” is held in conjunction with the annual Cawker City picnic, cook-off, and parade, so the ball never stops growing.

West of Cawker City, we caught Highway 281to Highway 9 and went west.  We turned north on 183 to Phillipsburg where we stopped for lunch.  Little Chicken Inn sits among shade trees on the west side of the highway and is cool and inviting.  We joined the locals, the truckers, and some of Ft. Riley’s finest to eat hamburgers and ice cream.  At Phillipsburg, we caught Highway 36 to Oberlin, then north on Highway 83 to McCook, Nebraska where we stayed at the Chief Motel.

I know our great adventure didn’t start out very “wild”, but we did have a wild time up in the mountains.  I do apologize for the absence of this column for the last two weeks, but I was having too much fun!  Besides, I was on the road a lot – on the back seat!  Until next time, take care and God bless you and your family.  Vicky

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Another beautiful day in the Flint HIlls

The sun is brilliant in the blue Kansas sky.  Clouds, cumulus clouds with dark underbellies, float on the light breeze this afternoon.  It is in the upper 60s degrees and the grasshoppers are jumping everywhere - on the engine of the motorcycle; on the front ferring, on me - the back seater.   Hint:  never wear a new jacket on the back of the bike in the fall. 

Yup, the sunflowers are gorgeous as well as the white yarrow and the lovely dotted gayflower clumped in the pastures.  A few butterflies flit here and there.  A beautiful yellow and black butterfly hoovered around my Rose of Sharon bush this morning after the rain.

It rained last night, with thunder rumbling in the distant.  A beautiful sound for the dry and thirsty land.  The air is so fresh and clean this day.  Better than any mountain air.

Happy riding, my friends!

Friday, September 9, 2011


If you don't know, the Kansas State flower is the Sunflower.  Have you checked the sides of the highway and roads lately?  Well, in the country anyway.  The bright shining faces of the wildflower are facing the sun and trace the sun's rays across the sky.  

I grow sunflowers in my flower garden.  I have one about 15 feet tall.  It has several large seed heads now and I am sure the birds will be going after them as soon as it turns cooler and the birds' food sources become more scarce.  Fall is truely here in the Kansas Flint Hills.

When my daughter was little, we used to stop along the highway under the viaduct of Interstate 70 in Topeka, Kansas and pick the sunflowers, take them home and put them in water (in a Mason Jar).  While we lived in the city, I still acted like a "small town girl".  I guess now, after 30 years I still have that heart.  I still love sunflowers and roses.  Actually, roses were imported to Kansas and they are my favorite city flower.  I don't grow them.  

Take a moment today while  in the countryside to look at the flowers along the ditches.   You might be pleasantly surprised!  Take care and God bless.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Snooze Time

Another sunny, wonderful day.  My dad's motorcycle was in the shop getting a tune-up and battery; new wiring on the ignition.  His motorcycle is an older bike - an 1990 Harley Davidson Ultra.  He had over 220,000 miles on it when he had the engine rebuilt in 2010.  OBTW, he is 82 years old. 

He doesn't ride anymore because of his health. When I asked why he was having his bike worked a couple of weeks ago, he said it was because he wanted it to RUN.   He wasn't going to have something that didn't work.

Two years ago he quit riding; two years ago he became very depressed because he couldn't "go".  However, he is doing fine with his new little car.  He has his own routine:  breakfast with the "girls" at 8:00 o'clock; home for a little nap; lunch with his friends at the Emmett bar; home for a while and then later about 3:00, he heads to Mickey's in Rossville to visit with George Love.  Old friends.

Today, my dear husband brought Dad's bike home from Topeka Harley Davidson and then spent the afternoon visiting with Dad.  When I picked up my husband later in the afternoon, Dad looked 10 years younger!  Happy!  I know he can't  ride the bike (arthritis), but it works!  

OBTW, when I took my husband back to get his truck, there was so many detours around the town it took me twice as long to get out of town as it did to get there!  No wonder I hate T-town.  Glad I live in the Flint Hills.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another beautiful Kansas Day

It was a rush this morning.  Eleven days of motorcycling through Wyoming, Montana and Colorado really took a toll on my old body.  I shouldn't complain.  One of our motorcycling couples who traveled with us is 82!  And he took those 350 miles day in great form!  

Corn harvest is in full swing in the Kaw River Valley.  I passed several large trucks carrying combines and grain haulers as I drove to work on Kansas Highway 24.  The farmers will be out in force this morning as soon as the morning dew is gone and the sun has dried out the fields.  Many of the farmers are bailing the crops into two-ton bales for feed; others have cut for silage.  This is the driest year since 1930s and I think we are in for another dry winter.  Hard times for the farmers.

Three things I am thankful for:  
1.   My grandchildren.  They are so beautiful and I pray everyday for them.
2.  My father.  He is 82 and still as onery as ever!
3.  My dear husband as he continues to provide for our family.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Returned and Blessed

Fall is fast approaching.  This morning it was very cool and once again the old Kaw River was shrouded in mist and fog - like a big cotton blanket upon the dry cornfields and land surrounding the river valley.

There are three things that I am thankful for today:  

1.  Our home nestled in the Nemaha Mountains in the Kansas Flint Hills.  We've lived here for almost 20 years;
2.  Our family, even though they are not as close as we'd like our daughter and her family to be, we know they love us.  We know we love their little family. 
3.  We are blessed by God to live in a free country. We move about our country unaccosted and welcomed by the states we visit.  We have returned home after an 11 day motorcycle vacation and we are tired, but am glad to get back into the routine again.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Floating Clouds

Coming out of the Kansas Flint Hills and down into the Kaw River Valley south of Wamego, Kansas on Highway 99, I drove into a thick blanket of white fog. It was 7:30 am and the temperature was a cool 63 degrees. Almost 20 degrees cooler than yesterday morning when it was 80 degrees at 6:30 (Yes, it was almost as hot as Hell yesterday.)

The fog wasn't over the river, but lay in a long heavy blanket about a mile or so south of the river. It stretched up and down the farm land parallel to the river; only about a half mile deep. The visibility was less than a quarter of a mile, but I drove on anyway. Probably too fast.

I was talking to my brother. We talk a couple times a month. He lives in Carbondale and, while we are close, we don't live very close. I got off the cell phone as my car exploded out of the white shroud into clear morning skies and crossed over the Kansas River on the Wamego bridge.

Mist rose in tiny swirls from the surface of the river. The water was warmer than the surrounding air. I think the phenomena is "triple point", but I don't think that is accurate. I do like the idea of fairies dancing ever so lightly, twirling invisibly within the rising mist. That has a more artistic bent to it!

It is another beautiful day in Kansas. On Highway 24, farmers are irrigating the soybeans in a last ditch effort to save their crops. It has been a difficult summer here; the corn crop is not even good for silage. Unless the farmers irrigated; then there is hope. A couple of friends in the Kaw River Valley are combining now, but I haven't talked to them since they started Monday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Attack of the Hummingbird

Green. That's what it was. I stood in the early morning light with a hose in my hand, messing with the water spigot. Morning is gray at 6:30 a.m. Not many people out at that time trying to water their pine tree... Of course they didn't grow the thing from a little stick. It was 80 degrees out and the humidity hung thick over the Kansas Flint Hills. It was hard to breathe.

Thunk! Something thumped my shoulder and then buzzed around my head. A gray-green blur and then a sharp little chirp, chirp. Criminitlee! A Hummingbird attack!

I ducked. Sure, I smelled sweet. I was ready for work, having dressed in my red library shirt and blue jeans. Ready for a day full of tomes and computer work in a couple of hours -- after a 60 minute drive and a cuppa. (Darn detours).

The little bugger flitted around and chirped again. It was a scold, actually, and then the hummingbird was gone.

I should know better than to wear red. It has happened before, but I prefer the encounters of the natural kind. Guess I won't wear red AND Estee' in the mornings when I water!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ghost Town - America City, Kansas

America City, Kansas School House

America City Church

My family took a trip to north Pottawatomie County on Saturday. Actually, we ventured into the very edge of Nemaha County, which is only four miles north of where my father grew up in Havensville, Kansas. We visited the location of a ghost town, America City, Kansas, located on Parallel Road that divides Pottawatomie and Nemaha County.

Kansas Highway 63 is a nice, two-lane blacktop road that starts in St. Marys, Kansas at Highway 24, and continues north to the Nebraska state line. It passes through some of the prettiest farm land in North Central Kansas as well as through and past many little towns that are historically significant to my family.

My father went with us to the location of America City, Kansas; the “Us” being my dear husband, my brother Ray, and me. After an early breakfast at Froggies in St. Marys, we drove to K-Road and 1st (Parallel Road) and surveyed the area.

It was hard to imagine that there were 800 residents in the booming town at the turn of the 20th century. By 1974, the only buildings remaining were the Methodist Church and the school. The Methodist Church was moved from its original location next to the highway to the current site a little north, next to the old school. In 1974, a family made their home in the school and the abandoned church was used as a garage. Now the school house is abandoned and in disrepair; the steeple is gone and lay on the ground next to the church, which is in equally sad shape. An outhouse standing behind the schoolhouse, leans precariously to one side and is in danger of falling down.

My dad’s uncle lived in America City and reared 7 children. We found the old cave that would have been behind the house. The house and foundation are gone as well as any evidence of the General Store they owned. The slight rise in the land was windswept and empty, except for the cave that at one time provided cool storage for food and a place of shelter during the sometimes fierce Kansas storms.

We found America City Cemetery a little further north and west of K-63. It is located on a gentle rolling hill away from the highway. Meadowlarks sang their lonely songs on that windy afternoon as my brother and I traipsed through the ancient markers. I photographed several headstones of relatives who died many, many years ago. Relatives, who came to the America City area as homesteaders, reared their families and then passed from earthly existence. The cemetery is the last visible remnant of many Kansas ghost towns. No one is going to leave.