Day 4: Oz

Trip Start Jul 29, 2007
Trip End Aug 18, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, August 2, 2007

Readers, we're not in Kansas anymore. And that's probably not a bad thing. I blog to you from Stratton, Colorado. I'll apologize up front to the loyal readers, you have a guest blogger for today. (Sorry, it's not Abby. Though she does say, AAAAAaaaagggaaAAAAAbbbzzzzzzzzz.)

As you might guess, this guest stint is the result of a challenge. I just hope my entry goes better than my day. Let me explain.

Ann hates Kansas. Well, perhaps that is too harsh, but she's been here, (and thinks) she's done that. And she's a firm believer in the stereotype that Kansas is pre-Aquinas/Copernicus/Galileo/Columbus, that is f-l-a-t, FLAT. And boring, she adds. Even though this is my first trip to the sunflower state, I set sail for the Orient, that is, to prove it wasn't flat, or something like that. I thought I had the courage to tackle the challenge her view of Kansas. OK, enough with the analogy, I present our day:

Not 5 miles from our departure point in Manhattan, we came across a "scenic overlook." Unfortunately, it was neither. See picture.

OK, not to be deterred, we started to discuss what excursions to take off of I-70. We settled on "The Garden of Eden" -- one man's visionary art, or so the sign claimed. We took a tour to see behind the curtain of one man's work/art/hobby/passion/insanity. (The tour consisted of 5 minutes of words from a disinterested teenager.) At the age of 64, S.P. Dinsmoor took to working in cement around his house. When his wife protested that she didn't get to see him enough because of his work, he sculpted a rough depiction of himself waving and set it so that she could see it from the kitchen window. Then back to his art. It all started w/Adam and Eve, and went on to include some other biblical scenes before engulfing his entire yard, surrounding the house, and tackling many socio-political issues. Most notably, he appeared to have a special rage for big business. See the pictures. He died some 75 years ago, but his body rests in a cement chamber he built -- glass encassed just like he wanted. And yes, we saw his remains. Along with us were 3 girls in their teens, one of whom reacted "Oh, Dang!" to seeing the artist formerly known as S.P. Dinsmoor. Some might say he lost his brain, but it was, well, something quintessentially american. (Rock), Chalk (Jayhawk) one up for Kansas -- you don't see that kind of place everyday. Study those pictures for your own inspiration and remember it's never too late to unleash the inner social commentary.

Next we stopped at the Cathedral of the Plains (St. Fidelis) in Victoria. Heck, it was Victoria. When it opened, it claimed to be the largest church west of the Mississippi. I guess they thought all those Irish immigrants that were coming at the time would just keep coming. Didn't look like it, so the place is a bit out of place, but impressive still. Those yellow bricks are local limestone and it looks well maintained.

Next, I played the history card. We took our longest detour of the trip -- some 100 miles roundtrip -- straight south to Fort Larned Nat'l Historic Site, a frontier fort that protected the Santa Fe Trail in the late 1800s. Barrack buildings, a pretty tall flag post, a cannon, even a volunteer in period garb couldn't elicit much enthusiasm from Ann for the state. And you'll see even Abby couldn't muster her usual joy at being in a NPU (nat'l park unit). Though both did their best to play along w/ my fun. See pictures.

Upon return to I-70, it was exit stage right. Of course that meant 100 or so miles and being threatened by a wicked storm from the west, a wall of a thunderstorm (hail, rain, and wind -- didn't see any twisters). And to top it off, Kansas even threw two actual real life tumbleweeds at us over the last couple of miles. We rode it all out along the road and entered Colorado. But don't think Rockies just yet; this part of CO is flatter and straighter than anything in KS, but go figure, Ann didn't mind so much.

The scorecard:
Distance: thanks to that long detour, we finished at an even 500 miles for the day, though you wouldn't guess it looking at the map. Covered Kansas and entered Colorado (state # eight).
NP Stamps: Fort Larned NHS; Santa Fe Nat'l Trail
Scenic Beauty: not so much. (Though Mr. Dinsmoor might say that depends on the beholder.)
Spirituality: some
The bizarre: off the charts! Go Kansas!
Abby meltdowns: nothing that qualifies, I guess her heart wasn't in it today
Staying over: Stratton, CO
Final call on Kansas: ?? inconclusive; it'd be a tough sell to get Ann back
Yesterday's answer was Fort Riley. Credit goes to Andy. (Night night, niece!)
Question: Russell, Kansas boasts that it is the boyhood home of what current US Senator?

PS: Not making today's cut was a visit to the "largest ball of twine in the world." It is in Kansas, and was within striking distance. I know, I apologize to you the reader. In our defense, we thought long and hard about it, really twisted ourselves up in knots over it, but in the end decided it would have changed the way we look at twine. And that's too much to ask. But alas, for you twine dreamers (and really, isn't the largest ball of twine the perfect meaningless roadside attraction) out there, we have not spoiled it for you. We say to you, stop looking for it in blogs, look within, then hit the road and find your own ball of twine, whatever that may be. There's no place to start like home.

Thanks for reading, tomorrow your regularly scheduled blogger returns!!!! (But I wonder how she feels about Nebraska on the return trip???)

Trip plans were pretty clear until today -- wanted to see the Arch, wanted to travel across Kansas -- but now our plans are more open. Probably will head through Denver and take an easier day, that is, stopping in Colorado, perhaps the Vail Valley area along I-70. We'll see.
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