Wednesday, September 5, 2012

North Central Kansas

If you're going to cross Kansas in late August, you need air conditioning. And, we're so pleased to report that, at long last, our moose is cooling like a champ! The team at DM Mobile RV Repair in Loveland replaced the mess Winnebago made of our heat pump and made us very happy! Many thanks to them and the good people at RVP Products (our heat pump manufacturer) in Wichita. Y'all did good! (Winnebago Factory Service is another story!) It was warm when we waved so long to Don and Mary Ann and pulled out of Loveland last Thursday morning. Having spent more time on I-25 this Summer than we had ever intended, we opted for a "blue highways" route east out of Loveland through Greeley and Fort Morgan. We clipped the southwestern corner of Nebraska for about 10 minutes before we headed south through the western edge of Kansas. When we arrived in Goodland in the early afternoon, this was the outside temperature! Fortunately, life inside our moose was cool and comfortable. (Finally!)

Our favorite Kansas overnight campground (in Ellis) was another 130 miles down the road. But, with the temperatures rising, we wisely called it a day early and chilled at the Goodland KOA, just off I-70. The park is perfect for an overnight. The lovely couple who own the place go out of their way to make sure their guests are comfortable. We felt a bit like we were staying at a bed and breakfast!

The temperatures had cooled off to the mid-90s (gasp!) by the time we arrived in the familiar Salina KOA on Friday. Life with a fully functioning air conditioner is awesome!!

Our Salina stop was timed to enjoy the Labor Day weekend with Paul's sister and her family. We had a great time catching up with them all.

A highlight of our holiday weekend was a fun and informative driving tour of North Central Kansas. (Hey! Don't knock it until you try it.) We loaded up with Susan, Doug and Kate and headed north to Minneapolis, Kansas. This charming town of about 2,000 calls itself "A Great Place To Call Home". By the looks of things, it probably is. We took particular interest in this block building at the end of Mill Street. Susan and Paul remember this building as the home of Aunt Winifred and Uncle David. Today, it's a charming four-suite inn that has been lovingly transformed by owners Pat and Brian. While we were gawking outside, they invited us in and showed us around. It's beautiful!

The owners were as interested in hearing about Paul and Susan's memories of the house and the family as they were sharing what they knew. This is a photo of the building circa 1911, when it served as home to Aunt Winifred's family and her father's veterinary practice.

When Aunt Winifred graduated from medical school in 1912, she set up her office in the front of the building. She married Uncle David, who was the high school shop teacher, and the building was their home until she passed away in 1967. In 1962, Minneapolis celebrated Dr. Winifred's 50 years of practicing medicine. Pat and Brian shared this scrapbook page that commemorated the occasion. We had a wonderful visit. We so appreciated these friendly owners making time to share their lovely inn with us.

From Minneapolis, we headed west into Russell County to visit the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas, the tiny town of Lucas. Along the way, Kate was buzzing about the newest addition in Lucas. She had heard all about, but had yet to lay eyes on, the town's new public restroom. Her enthusiasm was contagious. We couldn't wait.

While you ponder the question of why five intelligent adults would drive to a town of 400 people to see a new public bathroom, let us fill you in on "Grassroots Arts". According to, the term describes "art made made by people with no formal artistic training (usually of retirement age) using ordinary materials in an extraordinary way." Remember, Lucas is the capital of this phenomenon in Kansas. And, apparently Kansas comes in third among states, behind Wisconsin and California.

We knew we'd arrived at Bowl Plaza when we saw a giant roll of "toilet paper" sitting next to the giant grassroots toilet. (Look back at the first photo. Can you see it?) Bowl Plaza just opened in June as the Grassroots Capital of Kansas' response to an unmet need for its estimated 10,000 visitors every year. The "first flush" at the new privy was auctioned to the highest bidder.

The entire structure is covered (inside and out) in unbelievable mosaics created by Mri Pilar of broken bits and found objects. This is the mirror in the women's restroom. A quick peek in the men's restroom revealed boy-themed mosaics made out of things like Hot Wheels cars. This is the most fascinating public bathroom we've ever seen! Without a doubt.

A quote from a visiting Archeology student is embedded into a wall in the lobby of the plaza. We couldn't agree more!

Another thing that will make Lucas an "interesting dig" is the Garden of Eden. This is one of the reasons so many I-70 travelers stop in Lucas (and why the town needed a new public restroom). The former home of S.P. Dinsmoor is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This large scale example of Kansas folk art was a 20-year labor of love for Mr. Dinsmoor, who started the project in 1907 (at the age of 62) with the construction of the limestone log cabin. His worked moved on to the garden, where he used 113 tons of cement to construct 40-foot tall trees to display his sculpture.

In addition to these towering sculptures, Dinsmoor constructed his own mausoleum on the property. So visitors can stop by and say "hello" to this famous grassroots artist.

According to local lore, Mr. Dinsmoor's wife complained that she didn't see him enough. So, he crafted this self portrait just outside the kitchen window so she could always see him waving at her. Mr. Dinsmoor continued his work until he went blind in 1929.

The Garden of Eden is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed.  It's too hard to explain. But, it's definitely worth a stop.

To celebrate Labor Day, the family piled in the car and headed southeast to the tiny town of Florence. As the temperature soared into the 90s, we grabbed our seats on the shady side of the street to watch this town of almost 500 celebrate the day with a parade.

The main attraction (for us anyway) was the appearance of the middle school and high school bands from nearby Marion, Kansas. Kate's friend Barlow is the music director at both schools. On parade day, he started things off by conducting a wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

The Florence Labor Day Parade was small but mighty. There were lots of flags and roaring motorcycles.

And, you can always could on the Shriners to be at a parade, even if it's only three blocks long.

We didn't have to wait long to see the biggest "act" in the parade.

They looked and sounded fantastic! Way to go kids! That's a mighty fine band director you have there.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was a visit by California Winnie club friends Bob and Linda. They were passing through Kansas and decided to stop and stay for a couple of nights. They enjoyed touring the Eisenhower Library in nearby Abilene and we really enjoyed catching up with them. We wish them safe travels as they make their way back to the Bay Area.

Another of the Wonders of Kansas we'd yet to check out is Cozy Inn, in downtown Salina. With lots of  instructions from family, (Be prepared to smell like onions for days. And, whatever you do, don't even think about putting your sack of burgers in your car!) we finally made time for a stop.

It was hot and humid when we dropped in, so we sat at the small counter inside and ordered a sack of burgers.  Beef. Onions. Bun. That's it. No cheese. Ever. We're not sure we'd call these sliders a "wonder", but the place has a fun history and serves up a tasty little burger. Definitely worth a stop. And, yes, the onion smell does linger.

We left Salina this morning and headed east on I-70. Before long we were in our old stomping grounds and set up here in our "home park" in suburban Kansas City before noon. We have a busy 10 days ahead of us. So, we're sure to be on the run. 

The good news is the heat is supposed to break. Halleluiah!

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