That Wednesday of January 20, 2011 the inclement weather changed many of the plans for the 2011 Retreat for Relentless Rural Leaders at the Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn near Valley Falls, Kansas. For the rest of afternoon, part of that evening, and much of the next morning were spent in group sessions discussing a number of very serious topics and concerns affecting Rural Kansas and what positive measures might be taken to correct them. Potential cuts in Arts funding, more needed aid for the elderly, the much-needed role of young people stepping up to take leadership positions in all communities -all this was openly and passionately debated.
Later on Wednesday evening the somber tones gave way to a lighter tradition - the White Elephant giveaway. Some items had been picked up on the way to the Retreat; others had been found amid the various towns earlier that day; and there was also one or two items that returned from yesteryear.
All were now comfortable and patiently waiting their turn in the White Elephant Giveaway.
Martha Slater Farrell of Andover, KS wonders what is in her box.
Jay Yoder of Partridge, KS really liked Martha's Las Vegas Dice Clock, but . . . .
He decided that this Viking Horned Helmet was more his style.
Eileen Robertson of Humboldt, KS, 39-something and matriarch of the group, thoroughly enjoyed her new moustache!
Add Jay Yoder's hat to her ensemble and the transformation was complete. Was that Einstein sitting there?
Things got even lighter when Anita Goertzen of Goessel, Kansas was urged into telling a couple of jokes!
The White Elephant Giveaway concluded with a major revelation: we had amongst us long-lost triplets! From left: Gloria Moore, Barnes, KS; Jay Yoder, Partridge, KS; and Ashley Bogle, Eureka KS.
The next morning Retreat organizer Marci Penner led still more serious discussion before giving way to the second great Retreat tradition: the Sampler Auction. Never discussed or solicited, every year those attending the Retreat bring items for the others to bid on, with the proceeds going to the Kansas Sampler Foundation.
Bob Topping of Leavenworth, KS served as the auctioneer for the event.
The Ta-Da Girls - Susie Haver of Concordia, KS (Center background) and Commodore Bacon (Lucas, KS) assisted the auctioneer. Here the Commodore displays and explains the tiems for auction from World's Largest Things, Inc.
And here the Commodore shows off the Get Lucas Chamber Special Package deal.
She really worked the crowd with all the items.
After a spirited bidding war the triumvirate of Julie Roller, Wamego KS (center); Jennifer Arnold, Clearwater KS; and Abby Amick, Alma KS won the Lucas package and will be visiting very soon.
Oh, in case you were wondering - Flat General Direction and Flat Princess Pee were not left out of the auction. Both bought a book for the other and then spent the rest of the Retreat reading!
At noon the Retreat ended. There was time for a quick bite, a last ice cream cone for the Count, and a weather update - up to 10 inches of snow overnight, potentially icy roads across central and western Kansas - and being all packed the Kansas Gazetteers Musketeers bid their goodbyes and hit the road. Bearing southeast down State Hwy 4, they headed west at Topeka on US Hwy 24, passing through Silver Lake and Rossville before stopping on the west edge of St. Mary's, Kansas at a thrift store that was closing out. Calumet, tap shoes, and books were just some of the bargains that they managed to discover. Then it was on to downtown St. Mary's to see about Commodore Bacon picking up a pith helmet of her very own at the St. Mary's Military Surplus Store. Unfortunately they were sold out, the clerk having just sold his last two to a guy from Rossville. But he would reorder!
The Musketeers then passed on through St. Mary's and Belvue and around Manhattan, their lunch destination being a certain restaurant at 8th and Grant in Junction City, Kansas that neither had been to before. Taking State Hwy 18 they headed west down to Interstae 70 and then on State Hwy 57 into Junction City.
Here is where the younger Musketeers really missed General Direction's guidance! After driving around the downtown they dedcided to drive west down 8th Street, looking for Grant Street and the fabled restaurant. They never found Grant Street; indeed, all of 8th Street is a residential area with no commercial buildings until its western intersection with Old Hwy 18!
They did, however, manage to discover this great eight-sided business building in Junction City. And along 8th Street to boot!
Taking State Hwy 18 west from Junction City the Musketeers drove this new road for the Commodore past Talmadge, past the turnoffs for Manchester and Solomon and Vine Creek and Niles and Verdi, until at last they drove into Bennington, Kansas at 4PM to stop at the Linger Longer soda fountain, their third soda fountain of the trip and one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs. The Commodore immediately met one of the few people she knew in Bennington, the Count had a real chocolate shake made with chocolate milk, and then the Commodore had a dream come true: she got to play a real James Bond pinball machine that was in the back! That was the perfect end to the trip for her. Reluctantly they left the soda fountain and its impressive collection of Dr. Pepper memorabilia and sojourned on west, through Tescott, past Beverly, around Lincoln, past Vesper, Denmark, and Sylvan Grove until, with the sun going down, they rolled into Lucas at 5:30PM - just in time for the Lucas Area Chamber of Commerce meeting at 6PM at the K-18 Cafe. And so ends the 2011 Tale of the Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers for this year!