Sunday, January 23, 2011

The 2011 Ride of the Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers - Lucas to Valley Falls, Kansas!

Tuesday morning, January 17, 2011 dawned cold but with no major weather patterns, allowing for the reduced Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers to focus on their annual mission of attending the 2011 Retreat for Relentless Rural Leaders at the Barn B&B near Valley Falls, Kansas. 

We say reduced, as this year both Princess Pee (Connie Dougherty) and General Direction (Laura McClure) were unable to go along on the trip.  This left the youngsters, Count de Ice Cream (Von Rothenberger) and Commodore Bacon (Erika Nelson) to fend for themselves.  How will they know when to take a pitstop, without Princess Pee?  How will they even know where to go, without General Direction?  The proposed trip was fraught with danger and uncertainties. 

Ah, first problem of the day resolved!  Flat General Direction & Flat Princess Pee were created for the trip.  The youngsters have fussy chaperones once more who like to whack the youngsters in the back of the head now and then when they deserve it.

FROM LEFT: Commodore Bacon, Flat General Direction, Flat Princess Pee, and the Count de Ice Cream.
8:30AM:  The first stop was at Brant's Meat Market in downtown Lucas, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art.  Third-generation-owned-since-1922 Brant's, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce, was the perfect place to pick up sausage for the snack table at the conference.  This all may sound like an 8 Wonders of Kansas advertisement, and you are right.  We Lucasites are proud to be the poster children for this statewide project recently completed by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

From there the Musketeers headed south on KS Hwy 232 - the Post Rock Scenic Byway - and into the city of Wilson, where at the Made From Scratch Cafe they ordered breakfast.

 And their breakfast?  Why, homemade ice cream and bacon, of course!  They ordered and, after the slightest of pauses, the waitress replied, "We can do that," and nonchalantly strolled off.  She was back quite soon with the orders.  Quite tasty orders, too.

Off then on Old Hwy 40 east to Ellsworth, and then east on State Hwy 140.  They approached the turn-off for Mushroom Rock State Park - one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography - and the Commodore remarked that she has never been there. 

Well, it was easy to fix that.  Off they went on the country roads south and east to Mushroom Rock, first reported to disbelieving folks east of the Mississippi by American adventurer Kit Carson over 150 years ago.  An excellent place to bring the family for a picnic - in summer, that is.

A few miles east of Mushroom Rock the Musketeers turned north onto State Hwy 141, part of the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, their second such byway of the day.  Then a right back onto State Hwy 140 and east on to Salina and then a few miles of - sorry - Interstate driving south before turning off at the Mentor Road exit.  Got all that?  General Direction would have been proud.

Being the classically trained Explorers that the pair are, the Musketeers drove east on Mentor Road through small but proud Mentor, Kansas before turning south on Ohio Street.   It was then east on State Hwy 4, through the Saline and Dickinson County countrysides through Gypsum, past little Carlton to the wonderful near-ghost town of Elmo, at the crossing of State Hwys 4 & 15, with its distinctly unique large round grain elevator.  They drove down two of the remaining four streets, past the still thriving Catholic Church.  Then it was on east on State 4, past Dillon and on into the Dickinson County community of Hope.  Yes, Rural Kansas, you still have Hope - along with all the other plethora of terrible jokes that spring thereof.  Flat Princess Pee just whacked the Count in the head.
Shots of Downtown Hope, Kansas.  Surprisingly few of the downtown buildings were empty.  While at first the Musketeers thought that the occupant of the Sheriff car in the above photo was visiting the pink Ladies Lounge, upon further review of the photo it is now believed to be more likely that they were visiting the Hope City Hall next door.  Apologies all around and the Musketeers ask all to chalk their jumping to conclusions up to being without the normal accompanying yet annoying common sense of their elders.
The Musketeers drove on, past rural St. John's Lutheran Church & One-Room School & Cemetery, then around the east edge of Herington, Kansas and east on U.S. Hwy 56.  Just a few miles further they passed through the near-ghost town of Delavan, Kansas.

What is left of downtown Delavan.  A bank or post office, this one-fine brick building is slowly collapsing.
Delavan City Park.
The former Delavan School is still used as the Grandview Township Community Center.
As the Musketeers soldiered on east through Morris County along the Sante Fe Trail Auto Tour, past the turnoffs to Burdick and Wilsey and the road to White City, the Commodore suddenly realized that they had already visited at least three of either the winners or nominees of the eight categories of the 8 Wonders of Kansas:  Art, the city of Lucas; Brant's Meat Market, again in Lucas; and Mushroom Rock State Park for Geography.  Without deviating from their pre-selected route east to Ottawa and then north to Valley Falls, they would be seeing at least one of each of the other five Wonder categories as well.  An amazing concept, when you factor in the facts that (a) they didn't plan any of this, and (b) their route was one of the straightest that they had ever taken to the annual Retreat in Valley Falls.  And all this without General Direction!  She would have been so proud.

The Musketeers entered the city of Council Grove, Kansas - county seat of Morris County - and parked across the street from the Hays House, oldest restaurant east of the Mississippi River and one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine.

Lunch at the Hays House is always an occasion.  For this lunch the Commodore ordered the fish & chips (background) and the Count the handbreaded chicken fried steak (foreground). 

The Count took his eyes off his mouth-watering chicken fried steak long enough to snap this official photo of the lovely Commodore at her very first meal ever at the Hays House.  they forego dessert and after a very satisfying meal explored the rest of the building before stepping out and taking a stroll around downtown Council Grove.

One of the first things wthe pair noticed was that all the other eating/drinking establishments had these bright, cheerful OPEN flags waving.  The downtown was clean and nearly every building occupied. 

You may have noticed earlier that the Musketeers decided to forego dessert.  No, this was not a typo.  They merely showed abnormal patience in waiting until their walk brought them back to Aldrich Apothecary, directly south across the street from the Hays House, where they sat at the 1920s-era soda fountain (one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs) and had authentic chocolate malts.  Oh yeah.  Well worth the wait.

Getting back in the car Flat Princess Pee complained of having to wait in the car.  The Count replied that she was given the window seat (above) and could see everything and so quit complaining or he would turn this car right around.  Then the Commodore realized that this was the very first time anyone could ever remember seeing Flat General Direction being in the back seat of a car, and so had to take a photo (also above). 

With everyone settled back down the Musketeers took a short driving tour around Council Grove, past the Cottage House Hotel/Motel and the Kaw Indian Mission State Historic Site and the Hermit's Cave and the Historic Terwilliger Home Museum & Trail Days Cafe and Post Office Oak and Council Oak and even a block on State Hwy 177, the Flint Hills Scenic Byway (our third such byway of the day). 

It is easy to see why the entire city of Council Grove was voted an 8 Wonders of Kansas History. 

Time was moving on, and so the Musketeers proceeded east once more on US Hwy 56, past Allen and the first consolidated high school in Kansas history (Northern Heights High School, 1952), past the roads to Admire and Miller, then on south and east along State Hwy 31 through Osage City to the junction with US Hwy 75, at which the road east turned into State Hwy 268 past Vassar and Pomona Reservoir.  Two miles east of the reservoir the road now became State Hwy 68, which they followed into Pomona.  It was a purely silly moment when the Musketeers saw the sign on one business - "We Haul Off Old Vehicles 1-785-###-####" - and spent the next half hour envisoning numerous conversations that this business owner might have with his various customers.  You just had to be there.

Now, the Count have been driving this route east since the 1960s, when his family would go to visit his grandparents in Osawatomie, Kansas.  So by now he had driven past Woodlawn Cemetery on the western edge of Pomona more times than he could remember, and had always saw the tall obelisk in the cemetery but had never stopped to view it, thinking that it was just one more monument to the Civil War era.   

This time, however, the Commodore saw the obelisk and wondered what it was for.  So the pair pulled off the road and into the cemetery.

To the Count's immense surprise, the obelisk was not "just one more monument to the Civil War era."  Turns out that this obelisk is easily one of the largest single tombstones in the state of Kansas!  Above is the obelisk's plaque, listing it to be the graves of Dr. Henry Johnson and his wife, Agnes Johnson.  Once again the lesson of looking at familiar things with a new eye was hammered into the Count.

Ten more miles and the Musketeers entered the historically and architecturally significant city of Ottawa, Kansas, county seat of Franklin County. 

They stopped briefly at the Franklin County Courthouse, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture.

Then came the main stop in Ottawa:  the Old Depot Museum.  As they got out of the car, the Count couldn't help but notice this lopsided bell.  It was all he could do to ignore the temptation to go over and push it erect!  

The Old Depot Museum is also located at the northern end of the 51-mile long Prairie Spirit Rail-Trail, a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs.

The Musketeers got to the museum only twenty minutes before closing time, so the Commodore had to move fast.  She had come far to see the postcard collection of Ottawa native W. H. Martin.

Photographer William H. "Dad" Martin took over a studio in Ottawa, Kansas in 1894.  He began using trick photography in 1908, producing a series of wildly exaggerated post cards. These were so popular that he sold his studio the next year to concentrate on the post card business.  Within three years, Martin's trick photos earned him a fortune. Demand was so strong that his firm reportedly purchased photographic emulsion by the railroad tank car-full (or was that another tall tale?)   Martin sold the business in 1912 and founded the National Sign Company. So far as we know, he never again ventured into the darkroom. But during his brief career as a post card photographer, "Dad" Martin tapped into the national psyche with his own imaginative brand of homespun surrealism.

The Musketeers managed to sit at the museum's soda fountain, took in the museum's exhibit on the Pottowatomie Creek Massacre and John Brown (finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas People), and the Commodore managed to take a few photos and also purchase two very good books on Martin's collection before time expired. 

Very satisfied with their well-spent half hour, the Musketeers took a well-needed pitstop (Princess Pee would be proud) and turned their face north, traveling along US Hwy 59, then bypassing Lawrence to the west and taking US Hwy 40 to the eastern edge of Topeka, where they then turned north on State Hwy 4.  At the intersection with US Hwy 24 the Count noted that they were passing by the Rees Fruit Farm.  "Never been there," remarked the Commodore.  And so they stopped at the farm, in the Rees family since the 1850s and the fruit market having been operated since 1904 by the past three generations of family members.  There the Commodore bought apples and the Count apple ice cream.   

At 5:30PM the Musketeers turned off onto Blue Mound Road and into the parking lot of the Barn Bed & Breakfast Inn, in time for the evening meal.  So ended a great day of Exploring Kansas.  Now would come the time to roll up the sleeves and get busy for the next two days, working with other rural leaders from across the state.

The Barn Bed & Breakfast Inn, operated by Tom & Marcella Ryan and site of the 2011 Retreat for Relentless Rural Leaders for the 19th consecutive year.