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Published: August 13th 2010
We've had a couple of days with spotty internet connections and a lot of traveling since leaving Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, including driving almost entirely across the great state of Kansas on our way to our first truly Western stop in weeks - Colorado. Kansas was very flat (no duh!) with wide open stretches of highway in between small, small towns. Jim had perfectly planned out this leg of the trip, taking into consideration the fact that there is very little out there on the open road. In fact, the state of Kansas capitalizes on this with a strange toll system - you take a ticket as the start of the highway and then have to pay a sliding scale toll when you exit. The longer you are on the highway, the higher your toll. Intermittently, there are little islands of commerce - gas station complexes, convenience store and fast food with huge banks of bathrooms. It's almost like you are collectively on a the grand tour of Kansas with everyone getting on and off the highway in swarms. We stopped for gas and a quick bite. En route to Dodge City, we stopped for an afternoon in Abilene, Kansas
- the home of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Presidential Library. Because we had visited Truman's Library the day before - this was quite a shock to the system! I will provide more detail in my library post shortly.
The quintessential war hero, the Eisenhower complex was an ode to military service almost above serving as the president of the United States. While Truman's library was modest and unassuming, Eisenhower's was gigantic, spanning four city blocks with at least seven buildings or areas on the campus: the visitors center, his birthplace, the museum, the library, a chapel with a huge fountain out front, a towering statue of Eisenhower with five pillars behind him (suspected because he was a five star general??) and his final resting place. We didn't make it out to his gravesite on this visit - the territory was that big! And it was very hot, while the humidity was nowhere near that of Tennessee and Louisiana, it was still up and over 100 degrees. One other big difference was the extent to which Eisenhower's library was the heart of the city and that he was celebrated and acknowledged as a hometown hero. Perhaps because of the
size of Kansas City/Independence, it seemed like Truman's library was a whisper and Eisenhower's was a roar!
After the stop, we continued on with a few more hours of driving - about 6.5-7 hours total that day and as we neared our stop in Dodge City Kansas we drove directly into the most menacing thunderstorm. Now, I don't know about you, but thunderstorms with galling winds in Kansas did one thing for me - I began to think of Toto and red slippers and we started to cautiously observe the skyline like no other time before. The rain was coming down so hard that it seemed to be coming in sideways. Jim said "we are fine, every tornado program I have ever watched on the Weather Channel has hail preceding the twister", about twenty minutes before the truck was pummeled by hail stones for 15 minutes and we saw a "storm chaser" pickup truck heading toward the dark, ominous clouds in the opposite direction. We arrived in Dodge City to unload the truck in the rain and get settled. This was one of our only one night stays and was simply to break up the drive and
get some rest. My only real exposure to Dodge City in the past was a faint reference to National Lampoon's Vacation with Chevy Chase - we luckily didn't have any such experiences. We did some laundry and had a fairly early night.
The next morning we headed to Colorado Springs, a city the deserves a posting of its own. One final thought - we are officially on our way home now and there is no way around it!
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