Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Tale of the Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers - Day Two: Morning Coffee, A Kansas Avalanche, & Prairie Queen Bacon

[Before We Begin: Let the record show that the names of anyone mentioned in this continuing Tale who are actually real people are mentioned in gentle jest only, with no real malice whatsoever intended. With that in mind, please read on . . . . ]

[And for those who will desire no doubt many explanations, please see the Day One blog entry . . . .]

The Four Musketeers' farmhouse at Country Cabins near Hiawatha, Kansas.

THE MORNING OF JANUARY 19, 2010, broke rather late as one by one the Kansas Gazatteer Musketeers awoke amid the generous comforts of their rented Country Cabins house. They lounged and ate Marcon Pie ala mode and lounged and ate still more and lounged and ate until Princess Pee (affectionately known as "PP" by her friends - who needs enemies?) at last decreed that the court's business was done for the day and that it was time to continue "the tour of our sovereign lands" (plebian translation: Exploring Kansas). Please forgive the Princess for feeling full of her royal pie--er, self; the previous night the ever-enterprising General Direction created a splendid crown and sceptre for the Princess, and she was still on Cloud Nine. Make that the morning fog. Whatever.

9:45AM - After the Count de Ice Cream renewed his prodigious reputation by devouring the remaining two quarts-plus of Breyer's Ice Cream, food was put away, bags were repacked, Commodore Bacon took up her customary port backseat shotgun position, and the General directed their vehicle back into Hiawatha.  The late start actually worked well, as the morning fog began to drift off and the drive down Oregon Street and the downtown area proved much more interesting than it had the night before.

Feeling the need for caffeine, the Fearless Foursome parked in front of the Brown County Courthouse (above) and walked across the street to the Clockview Coffee Shop.  Why is it called the Clockview Coffee Shop, you ask?

This is why - an excellent view of Hiawatha's second-most famous landmark from the shop's front door.

Having spent the past day having to awkwardly converse intimately and in person with other human types, the coffee shop not only provided desired caffeine but also glorious uninhibited access to safe, impersonal Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and other sad but current-basics-for-life-as-we-know-it.  Oh, and everyone's Kansas Explorer Guide got signed by the coffee shop personnel as well.  The Kansas Explorer Guide.  Don't leave home without it.

Yes, the General is happy.  Yes, the Commodore is Happy.  Unfortunately, the Palace would not sign the release form for us to show the official photo of the Princess being Happy.  Such are the burdens of the paparazzi.

By 10:55AM it was time to put the computers away and continue the journey.  Unfortunately three of the Musketeers kept trying to get online long after the computers had been put away.  Just sad.   Then it was two drives around the courthouse square, because after the Delphos Incident it had become a rule that all town squares must be driven around at least twice.  Then the General pointed their vehicle in the direction of the Thriftway grocery store one more time before heading a mile to the south and east to Hiawatha's Mount Hope Cemetery.

The General had never been to the Davis Memorial, one of the Overall 8 Wonders of Kansas nominees and located in the cemetery.  And she still has not, as the large amount of snow in front of the cemetery entrance had not been moved and the gates were closed.  The best that she could do was the view (above) of the Memorial in the distance.   Sigh.  Another day.  In the summer.

A drive past the Brown County Ag Museum and its fascinating Windmill Row led on east on US Highway 36 and north on State Highway 120 to Highland.  They cruised the Main Street, passing by Highland Community College before screeching to a halt downtown in front of a fascinating photo op.

The sign on the building was the first thing to catch everybody's eye.  But then the Commodore noticed the coup de grace - the side yard for outside parties.  An innovative use of corn bins as shelterhouses and an entrance nominally used by cattle gave this place Explorer Extra status. 

A State of Unbridled Silly Humor caused the Musketeers to quickly head north from Highland on a local scenic paved drive.   All too soon they arrived at Iowa Point, an unincorporated point of interest that featured friendly dogs everywhere and an interesting door encased in a concrete doorway extending back into a hill.  Definitely something to come back and Explore another time.  Then a turn north on State Highway 7 along the Missouri River brought the Fearless Foursome into the old steamboat town of White Cloud.


Above are some shots taken of downtown White Cloud, Kansas.  The town clings to hillsides and bluffs on the Missouri River just two miles from the northeast corner of Kansas.  It also harbored the main destination of the Musketeers this day:  The Four State Lookout, an overlook above the Missouri River Valley from which on a clear day one can see Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri.  It also is one of the current 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography nominees. 

The other major attraction in White Cloud is shown above.  The Wilbur Chapman Monument is dedicated to the 10-year old White Cloud lad who 100 years ago sold his prize pig to raise money for a leper colony.  The story caught the nation's fancy and became the origin for the traditional "piggy bank" in which decades of children saved their money.

Following the local signage General Direction took the ever-climbing paved street up to within 300 feet of the Lookout. Unfortunately at that point the street turned into an ice-and-snow covered curving road that brought the Expedition to an abrupt halt. The Count and the Commodore decided that the moment called for cringing deep into the back seat--er, that is, take a nap--as the General struggled to back the car down into the clear street. The Princess, with no where to cringe--er, that is, take a nap--squared her shoulders and barked imperial orders.  In short order they were out of impending danger and the Count and Commodore popped up, refreshed and ready for adventure.

White Cloud sported both decades-old homes and nonconventional ones as well, as attested by this mobile home complete with the deer seen hanging to the left.  Disappointment over the failure to conquer the Lookout and feeling like this deer vision would be the topper of the moment, General Direction threaded their way down and back to State Highway 7.  Here they saw from a distance the Lewis & Clark Pavilion and the White Cloud Tourism Kiosk, as the entrance to both was blocked by unmoved snow.  Renaming the trip The Almost Saw/Did That Also Ran Tour they proceeded on south along State 7, the Glacier Hills Scenic Byway. 

Back in Hiawatha the Four Musketeers were told of a new Explorer Item of Interest, to be found of all places in the new Atchison County Memorial Hospital.  They passed through the city (time getting away prevented more Exploring there) and on its southern edge finally found the hospital.  Sure enough, in the foyer was a large glass mural depicting the history and legacy of Atchison County.  The Commodore even lay down on the floor to take non-light-reflecting photos, causing a pause of concerned uncertainty in at least two hospital employees upon seeing a prone body lying near the front doors.   The bathrooms were used, items were bought in the hospital gift shop, and it was on south to Leavenworth following the Glacier Hills Scenic Byway.

A few miles north of Leavenworth the Count had fallen asleep and the others were no doubt commenting on how annoying his snoring was when the last thing anyone was expecting occurred - avalanche!  In Kansas!

Two large balls of snow came bounding down the hillside and directly into the Musketeers' path.  General Direction thought & acted fast as Princess Pee cried out, causing the Count to wake up a half second later with a HUH?WHAT?, to which the Commodore told him "you missed it," and they drove on as all related the story to the Count, who was rather disinclined to believe them.  He did, however, pass the Royal Mop to the Princess.  

Passing happily the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary the Musketeers passed into the city, never lost, mind you, just always Exploring.  Being very hungry (it was now 2PM) they headed for a Leavenworth landmark - Homer's Drive Inn.

Operating since 1931, Homer's was recently named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine.  It maintained that distinction with the Musketeers when it was realized that all had devoured their lunch so fast there was no time for any food photos.  The highlight of the meal was when Commodore Bacon swigged down a real chocolate malt in just three gulps, the richness of the malt hitting her palette right at the end.  The look on her face was priceless.

Upon going back out to the parking lot it was easy to locate the Four Musketeers' vehicle - the back window sported a frilly Princess crown and sceptre, a half-rhubarb and half-cherry Marcon Pie wrapped in foil, and two genuine Kansas Explorer Pith Helmets.  Sure, so it was the only car in the parking lot, but who else was going to claim it?


The next stop was a block to the north and one block east at the Prairie Queen Bed & Breakfast, a fabulous place operated by fellow Kansas Explorers Bob and Jan Topping.  The Princess and her entourage were given a personal tour of the historic mansion, with the real treat awaiting Commodore Bacon in the kitchen - special Bacon, twisted and sugared and made especially for her.  The Commodore's usual salty language was stilled for a time in awe of this matchless gift.  She would dole out the Bacon in small quantities throughout the remainder of the trip, managing to save two whole pieces for herself when she at last arrived back home.

Yes, the Bacon was that good. 

At this point and time we should bring up the subject of bottoming out the car. One of the problems with going on a trip in a Crown Victoria is that it is fairly low riding already. Add the weight of four passengers to that as well as their baggage, and unless you angle your entries and exits, your chances of ssccrrraaaappppiiinnnggg something underneath as you enter and exit are pretty much a 410% probability.

Prior to the visit to the Prairie Queen, General Direction had this scraping thing down. So far it had worked out to at least one scrape per town they had visited. The Count de Ice Cream had gained a few new white hairs by the time the General managed a last classic scrape in pulling into the B&B's driveway.

  The drive back down the driveway did NOT look at all promising.  The Count decided that the moment called for holding on to his favorite blankie and cringing deep into the back seat--er, that is, take a nap--as the General maneuvered slowly down the slope (see above photos).  Lo and behold, the car was angled and there was nigh a scrape to be heard or felt.  The Count was immensely relieved and everyone celebrated with small pieces of Excellent Bacon.

Several places were on the Musketeers' Leavenworth agenda.  At the corner of Pine and Esplanade stands the home (photo above) of Hiram and Sarah Bull back in 1866-1870.  Bull was a Union veteran and lumberman who left this house in the summer of 1870 and that fall co-founded the town of Bull City, now called Alton, in western Osborne County, Kansas.  In six short months Mrs. Bull went from living in this luxurious home to living in a covered wagon to living in a dugout.  She lived through it all and proved to be a most remarkable woman.   Mr. Bull would go on to serve in the state legislature from Osborne County and became nationally famous/infamous when in 1879 he along with two other men was killed by his pet elk.  The horns of the elk were recovered in 1930 in the town of Muscotah, just west of Atchison, and returned to Osborne County where they can be seen today. 

The Esplanade Street neighborhood is noted by most visitors for its period homes and the view along the Missouri River.  The Esplanade Street neighborhood is noted by Explorers for little things such as the Face in the Tree, seen at above top, and the architecturally-challenged backyard gazebo seen at above bottom. 

The Four Musketeers drove back into downtown Leavenworth and through glass windows viewed the Parker Carousel, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.  Their 6PM deadline was fast approaching, however, and they dashed west out of town along scenic State Highway 92 toward McLouth.

The town of McLouth is most noted for the rather strange item left sitting in the middle of Granite Street.  This boulder of granite proved to be so difficult and ultimately impossible to move that the city gave up the notion and simply paved the street around it.  The sound of the scraping of a vehicle's underside due to an unattentive driver is rare but not unknown to the Boulder.  The McLouth Boulder has become a special place of pilgrimage for all Kansas Explorers.   Commodore Bacon briefly stood upon the rock, but the action so excited a nearby young dog that his frantic barking redoubled and so drove the Musketeers away before a promotional photo could be taken. 

After driving around town a bit they made one last stop in town at Karmann's Liquor Store, where the General and the Commodore took so long that the Princess sent the Count in to hurry them up.  Foolish Princess.  The Count finally managed to persuade the General and the Commodore to leave the establishment and deposit their purchases in the car trunk before heading on west.  At least that's his story and he's still sticking to it.

Driving west in the growing darkness the road met up with State Highway 16 and eventually State Highway 4, upon which driving north brought the travelers to the Blue Mound Road exit.  This led to the doors of the fabled Barn Bed & Breakfast just outside Valley Falls at 5:47 PM, just in time for supper and much to the astonishment of the Sampler Director, who for some reason was under the impression that they would be much, much later in getting to the Retreat. 


Thus ended the second day of fun for the Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers.  Be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of the Tale.  It's a Bra Stapler, that one!