Flyover America July 12-16, 2014

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July 15th 2014
Published: July 16th 2014
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The old line from South Pacific about "corny as Kansas in August" could obviously well apply in July. Or you could substitute soybeans for corn. For the 400 miles of driving today through northern Missouri and Kansas that is all we saw. If the world ever becomes critically dependent on corn, Kansas will be king. Our journey of the day was mostly just to get to the vicinity of Abilene so that we can visit the Eisenhower Library and Museum tomorrow, but we did break up the trip with a stop at an original Pony Express Home Station in Marysville KS.

I am not sure that I can think of another enterprise that so captured the public imagination while becoming a short-lived business failure as the Pony Express. When California became a state, there was a need to shorten the time for information to get there and back. It took at least 6 weeks by steamboat (including a 50 mile trek across the Isthmus of Panama), and even longer on the Butterfield Overland Coach lines. Three men in the freight business came up with the bold plan to set up a series of relay stations and carry the mail by horseback with horses ridden at top speed and changed every 15-20 miles, getting the mail from St. Joseph to Sacramento in 10 days. The plan worked, but it had been recognized from the start that it would require winning a $1 million government contract for the venture to be successful financially. But one of the principals came under criminal investigation, and the contract was awarded to Butterfield. They were to play Pony Express half of the money, but it was too little too late. The transcontinental telegraph was finished making the service less compelling, and after 19 months Pony Express went belly up. But it has remained in the public consciousness, with pictures of the daring young men riding hell-bent for leather across country through hostile Indian territory in all kinds of weather and conditions.

The museum was one of the most eclectic I have ever seen, and included several types of rolling stock (including a popcorn wagon), a collection of period dolls, a small collection of World War I and II uniforms, and a large collection of vintage rifles. Perhaps most valuable was a fairly large collection of model trains of old vintage.

The rest of the journey was complete boredom. As a plus, in Manhattan KS we unexpectedly came upon a wonderful restaurant with a Wine Spectator award wine list and great food and one of the most completely stocked bars I have seen.

Tomorrow: The Eisenhower Library and Museum and then home.

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