Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Missouri & The Gateway to Hell (Part 2)

Part 2: The Gateway to Hell Now, I told you that last story about Quantrill's raid in order to tell you this one! If you haven't read the last post, go back now and do so. This post will make a little more sense if you do. Some of what I am about to relate to you readers is very true. Some, maybe not so much. I'll let you readers decide what you want to believe or what not to. But this post is my effort at a faithful rendition of the events on Halloween night in 1976. A few miles west of Lawrence there is a very quaint little village known as Stull, Kansas lying in an idyllic little valley. It is a very small town, unincorporated, consisting of just a couple of churches, a handful of homes and a few other buildings. It lies on a county road between Topeka and Lawrence. There is a cemetary on the north side of the road and the church and other buildings sit on the south side of the road. A shot of the valley in which Stull, Kansas sits. It turns out that I and a few of my college friends may be partly responsible for possibly creating, certainly perpetuating and probably embellishing a local Halloween legend that involves a cemetary near this little town of Stull. This is a shot of the cemetary on the north side of the road.
Here's a link to a recent article regarding this cemetary and the curse surrounding it. I suggest you check it out before you go on with this post. You don't need to read the whole article If you don't want to, but it will provide a little bit of background for this post.
Another shot of the cemetary described in the link.
It seems that the cemetary at Stull Kansas is one of the Seven Gateways to Hell. At least that is what the more current local legend says.
But they got it wrong.
I and my college friends know the true story.
Through word of mouth, the legends seem to have changed a bit over time. Sometimes people see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear and remember what they want to remember.
They even got the location of the cemetary wrong. It's not the cemetary on the north side of the road as described in the link.
There is another very small cemetary about two miles south of town on a hill. Local legend, as I understood it, said that on Halloween night, at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of William Quantrill and his raiders ride upon the cemetary and surrounding area, killing and burning as they ride on their horses.
The reason that the ghosts of Quantrill and his raiders appear here, at this particular cemetary, on Halloween night is unknown. But the memory and reputation of Quantrill is strong in these parts. Who knows, maybe the legend is true. We were hell bent to discover the truth!
This is the real cemetary!
Now you and I know that a legend like that was probably dreamed up by intoxicated college students. But just for fun one Halloween, while I was at KU, we did visit this cemetary late one Halloween evening. A friend of ours, also a student at KU, had been renting a house in Stull and he invited us to a Halloween party at his house. It was a sort of usual college student party with lots of beer and other various vices. (Just to make it clear, we didn't inhale, as far as you know.) There was much drinking, however. Lots of loud rock and roll music as well. Later on that night, about 10:30, one of us suggested going to the cemetary. Some of the women were hesitant, and others balked a bit, but eventually we all decided to go. It was a cloudy and dark night. It was not cold but there was a very cool breeze from the north. It was a night with a full moon, but the moon was behind the clouds and not always visible. Wisps of clouds proceeded across the skies above us. We got into cars and drove south of the town for a bit and then stopped near a very rough dirt road that led up the hill to the cemetary. We decided to park the cars and walk up the short way to the top of the hill because the little access road was overgrown with weeds, had lots of ruts and generally looked a bit difficult to navigate. A couple of the ladies said they were not going up there. Our reply was, "Are you just going to sit here in the car? Remember there is safety in numbers!" some others were a little bit leery to go also, but the group mentality took over and we all went. It was only a few hundred feet up the hill to the cemetary. As we walked along we noticed how eerie it was. How secluded it was. If you screamed, nobody would have heard you. We were seemingly quite alone in the world. As we approached the cemetary we noticed that there were about 30 graves. All were marked with a stone of some sort. As we looked at some of the markers we noticed that many of them had dates back into the 1860's. (very old for Kansas) The names didn't mean anything to us. Some of the markers were very weathered and hard to read. A couple of them were cracked or broken. We wondered about the lives these people led when they were among the living. The grass was a bit long, but looked like the grounds had at least had some regular maintenance. Piles of leaves were scattered around the area. There were rows of bushes circling around the cemetary. There were lots of trees near the cemetary, and two very large trees on the very top of the hill in the cemetary itself. They looked like they had seen some better days as there were some broken branches. The trees had lost a lot of their leaves, but some remained on the trees. The rest of the leaves were scattered on the ground and gently blew around as the wind blew. Off into the valley there was some fields and more trees. It was a nice view from the top of the hill. But it was difficult to see too far because of the darkness of the sky. After we had explored the cemetary for awhile, we eventally all sat down on the grass beneath a tree that had some broken branches. The wind was blowing the few remaining leaves on the trees surrounding us making some nice rustling noises. The tree we sat under would creak a bit as the wind blew. We were surrounded by absolute quiet except for the sounds of our voices and the rustling of the leaves. It was almost pitch black. The full moon would try to peek out occasionally behind the clouds providing some additional light upon the area at times, but only briefly and not often. Ominous it was!

There were about 12 of us there that night. We sat fairly close together. I don't know If we sat that way by conscious decision or not. Someone wondered what would happen If we were attacked by wolves or some other dreaded creature. We decided that if that happened, then the ones of us on the outside of our circle might be killed, but the rest of us would probably survive. Subconsciously, maybe we just felt safer being closer together.

We sat huddled together, like this for awhile. We talked a bit. Laughed and joked around a bit. But as time went on we talked quieter and quieter. We began to listen to the surroundings a bit more. The rustle of the leaves. The creaking of the trees.

Occasionally, one of us would try and scare one of the women.

"Did you see that, Sally? I thought I saw something over there in the bushes! Maybe it was something evil?"

Sally just laughed and remained calm. She was unfazed.

Or later on...

"Did you hear that, Susan? I think I heard a noise! What in God's name was that!"

Susan just smiled a week little smile for a brief moment, but then got a more serious look on her face and said: "I am not sure I am liking this very much anymore!"

The rest of us just laughed.

Susan was easy to pick on.

But as the night wore on and the midnight hour approached, we noticed that the breeze had stopped. The air became very still. The clouds were still slowly rolling across the sky but the area around the cemetary became very quiet.

Our conversations soon were in whispers. It seemed to become very eerie. It became very easy to start to imagine things. Maybe there were beasts around. Were the ghosts of Quantrill approaching? Some of us talked quietly about what we knew about Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence in 1863.

We became mostly silent as a group and any conversations we had were brief and quiet.

Nobody was laughing much anymore.

Midnight was nearing.

Then somebody farted!

Everybody heard it. And it wasn't a small fart. It was a real Horatio Hornblower type of fart.

Raucous laughter ensued!

We laughed and giggled for a bit. There was a brief discussion about who did it. Some of us thought it was Susan, but she denied it and even got a bit mad when we didn't let up on her.

There were a few moments of laughter after that, but they eventually came fewer and farther between. Soon it was quiet again and we felt like we were very alone at the top of that hill shrouded in darkness.

Suddenly, the moon peeked out as a hole in the clouds opened up in the sky. We were suddenly bathed in a soft moonlight. It wasn't bright, but it took us by surprise. We were able to see much better now, but it wasn't exactly a comfort because the surroundings took on a new and somewhat scarier pall.

We were very quiet again as a group now as we surveyed the surrounding area in the new light. Someone said it was just a few minutes to midnight.

A moment later we heard some rustling in the grass off to the south side of the cemetary. It almost sounded like it could be the hooves of a horse. Maybe two horses.

We all heard it. We all listened intently. We all wondered If Quantrill was really going to arrive. This was just for fun wasn't it? For most of us it was starting to not be fun anymore.

The rustling continued. We couldn't see anything that might be the cause of the noise, but it seemed to be getting closer. We were very quiet and breathing heavily. There was much tension in the air. A sense of dread.

Without warning, two deer suddenly appeared running quickly along the south fence. The deer jumped the fence and ran directly toward us. Susan screamed! Others of us gasped and ducked instinctively. The deer charged right by us, then eventually jumped the fence on the north side of the cemetary and disappeared into the trees.

Nobody moved or said anything for a moment.

Finally someone said: "Far Out, Man!"

Someone else said "Damn!"

Others cursed.

Susan said: "Let's get the hell out of here!"

There was no discussion. We left the Stull cemetary never to come back again. Of course we told many people about our experience that night. They probably told their friends, who told their friends, etc.

The legends live on! But we were there at the beginning!

I came back to the scene of this event on my recent trip to the Topeka area. Things had changed a bit. But this cemetary (the real one south of town) still seems to be a very strange and forboding place.

Gateway to Hell? I think not.

Quantrill? Probably not.

But something lurks there!

And it is not friendly!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Missouri & The Gateway to Hell (Part 1)

Part One: The Enemy, Missouri Sports rivalries are important to some people. I attended college at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence Kansas. KU is a member of the Big 12 athletic conference. You may have heard of us. We won the national championship in Men's basketball recently. I am also fairly loyal to many of the other schools in the conference as long as they are not playing KU. But there is one school in the Big 12 that I find it personally very difficult to root for, and that school is Missouri.

Now rivalries can be taken to extremes sometimes, most are friendly rivalries, but KU's rivalry with Missouri actually has some significant historical context to it. And realize it or not, that history between the 2 states played a major role in the start of the civil war back in the 1860's.

This is a photo of a painting hanging at the state capitol in Topeka. It is John Brown, a noted abolitionist, depicted as a warrior for the cause of freedom.

Kansas became a state in January of 1861, the civil war commenced about 3 months later. But for Kansas, the battle over the legality of slavery commenced about 8 years earlier and was largely a battle with, you guessed it, Missouri.

Missouri was a "slave state" and many Missourians wanted Kansas to be a "slave state" also. Many new settlers moved into Kansas from various parts of the country during the 1850's. In Kansas, the population was split (pro or anti slavery) and there was actually 2 cities vying to become the state capitol, one pro-slavery, the other anti-slavery. Lawrence, where KU is located, was an important community for so-called free-staters (anti slavery).

Kansas was eventually admitted to the union as a free state, but the process was not easy and at times became very bloody.

Here's a link for a brief discussion of those days.

Bleeding Kansas link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding_Kansas

Two very colorful people were part of this history. One was John Brown.

And here is a link for information on him.

John brown link:


The other was William Quantrill, a pro slavery advocate. And here is a link for more information.

William Quantrill Link

Both Brown and Quantrill were noted for their ruthlessness and strong beliefs even though they were on opposite sides ideologically. They also never encountered the other directly in any battle, but both were recognzed as significant leaders of their respective causes. Neither the free state supporters (Jayhawkers), nor the slave state supporters were innocent in all these proceedings. There were many atrocities committed by both sides. It was guerrilla warfare at its ugliest with raids in both Kansas and Missouri where cities were burned and innocent citizens slaughtered.
Brown was famous for a raid he led at Osawatomie, Kansas. But probably the most famous raid was orchestrated by Quantrill at Lawrence (home of my Alma Mater) in 1863.
Here's more information about that event.
Quantrill raid link:
Part of the time I lived in Lawrence, I lived in a house that stood when the raid by Quantrill occurred. The house was one that survived the raid. I rented it with a couple of other buddies. It was a good party house in the older section of town. We also, of course, studied on occasion.
To me it is hard to believe in a cause so strongly, that you would be willing to do almost anything to advance the cause, even including the murder of innocent people. Brown and Quantrill are examples of those kind of people, yet they are in some ways renowned for their efforts no matter how cruel they were.
Now the sports rivalry with Missouri is generally friendly, but certain events have occurred over the years.
A basketball player from Kansas reportedly stepped on a Missouri players chest during a game in the 50's.
A former male cheerleader from Kansas told me a story about being somewhat afraid for his life after a football game in the early 60's. Kansas had beaten Missouri on Missouri's field in a year when Missouri was nationally ranked. For their safety, Kansas female cheerleaders were sent home at halftime. The male cheerleaders and other Kansas people were escorted off the field by the football team and some police after the game while the angry crowd pelted them with garbage.
I myself had some things thrown at me one year when I attended a football game at Missouri as a member of the KU pep band.
The rivalry is very strong for people that live in the Kansas City area because many graduates from both schools live there.
Nowadays the rivalry takes on a friendy but sometimes mischevious perspective. Fraternities and other groups play pranks on each other during the week of a big game. All for fun and usually silly.
But I guarantee you that Kansas people remember these historical events. And the Missouri people remember them as well.
Do you think we Jayhawks will forget the historical events that led up to the creation of this rivalry?
Not on your life!!!
Go Hawks!!
Note: Part 2, The Gateway to Hell, will be posted on 10/27/09.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

People of the South Wind

The name Kansas is derived from a tribe of Native Americans known as Kansa. One popular meaning to the name is the "People of the South Wind". Not that the wind comes entirely from the south, it doesn't. But we do get a lot of wind from the south. And sometimes the winds here are pretty strong. Sunday 10/18/09 This was the day to travel back from Topeka, where I attended a high school reunion, back to Wichita where I live. The weather forecasters were predicting a sunny day with a high temperature in the 60's. That is a definate improvement over the temperatures I experienced last Friday. The big problem was that the wind was supposed to be from the south at 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Ahh, yes that warm south wind. I knew about the wind in advance, but wasn't looking forward to it for the ride home. I wondered about how the scooter would handle all that wind when it was in my face. I was sure my trip home would be slower than the ride last Friday. Not to even mention the crosswinds when I would be traveling in a westerly direction. I was taking the same route home as I did when I came "up" from Wichita last Friday. The route consisted primarily of either straight west travel or straight south travel, with little in between. The morning low on Sunday was 32 degrees. I looked out the window of the hotel and looked at Max with a little frost on his seat just as the sun was trying to come up. How about the flames on that pickup!

I had breakfast with Greg, a great friend from college who now lives in Topeka. We met at the IHOP, had a great conversation and we talked about many things as we ate. Had eggs and pancakes, coffee and orange juice. I was a bit hungry and wanted the food to last me until I got home later that day. It took me 6 and a half hours to get here, although the trip was marked by many picture stops. With the wind for today I wasn't sure how long it would take to get home. Wasn't planning on a lot of picture stops, but was certain that I wasn't going to travel as fast as last Friday.

As I took out, for some reason, an old Irish blessing came to mind. You know the one, it goes like this.

May the Road rise to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rain fall softly on your fields

And may God hold you in the palm of his hands

The first part of the trip was westerly. Fun it was not! By the time I left, the temperature was a little warmer and not an issue. Or at least I didn't think about the temperature as much. I was pretty busy keeping the scooter straight sometimes. Oh, maybe it wasn't all that bad, but there were some moments. Like coming out into the open after passing a hedgerow and the crosswind catching me. Or going down into a valley where I would be reasonably protected from the strong winds, then coming to the crest of a hill and being pummeled by the wind as I reached the top.

The wind was never at my back today! But I was hoping that God would, well you know, do some watching over me.

During the first part of the trip I thought I was doing pretty good to maintain 40 mph going west. Any faster didn't seem too safe. Again there was almost no traffic after I got out of town and I didn't hold up any other drivers. I made a mental note to try and stay relaxed, but sure had to remain very alert as winds would sometimes surprise me and I would find myself about a foot to the right of where I was just a second earlier. Leaning sort of helped, but not always as the winds were fairly gusty. I remembered that I had once participated in a bicycling tour called the "Wicked Wind 100" back in my bicycling days.

I approached the town of Eskridge and decided to get some gas. The only gas station is downtown at an old station. They didn't have premium, but I didn't need a lot and decided to get some anyway. Figured it would mix in the tank with the premium already there. It didn't cause a problem.

As I was getting ready to fill up the scooter, an "old boy" in a pickup drove up and got out. He was friendly, saw me and asked:

"Isn't it a little windy out here today?"

Many potential answers raced through my mind. You know like:

You dummy! Isn't it obvious?

Cursing at him crossed my mind, but knew that he was, in his own way, just trying to be friendly.

So I just replied with "Yeah it is, thanks for reminding me!"

We laughed.

I noticed a church just on the next street with a parking lot full of cars. After all, it was Sunday and about 11:00 am. I thought about that Irish blessing again. And again.

I continued to fight the crosswinds for awhile, maybe got a little more comfortable with them, but never entirely, and was relieved to eventually turn back south to face the headwinds. Probably not a lot more fun, but hopefully less tricky and with fewer surprise wind gusts.

It did turn out to be a bit of a relief. Fighting the headwinds were much easier even though I rarely got above 50 mph. It wsn't that the scooter couldn't handle a higher speed, but more that I just wasn't comfortable with it. I have driven in strong winds many times, but usually in town where most of my riding occurs. On a highway, the situation is different. I had just gotten Max back from the shop and I really didn't want to put any new scratches on him.

This shot was taken near where the road turned back to the south. It looks easterly. I think you can see the effect of the wind on the grasses.

The real reason for the stop was not to take a picture. After all that coffee and orange juice earlier in the morning, well you know, I needed some relief. Another nice thing about traveling on a scooter or motorcycle. You can stop lots of places for that purpose. I knew that it was not going to be a problem. Hell, everybody was at church! (Not trying to be irreverent)
But an old song came to mind as I got off the scooter. Remember Jim Croce? , a recording artist back in the 70's. One of his most famous songs was "Time in a bottle", a very nice love song. But another song he did was "You don't mess around with Jim". A few lines from the song went like this:
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't piss (spit) into the wind
You don't pull on the mask of the Old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
The second line above is a life lesson well worth remembering. And I did.
So I aimed north! Good thing!
A little while later on I passed by this old one room schoolhouse. When I made the trip up last Friday, I remembered passing by this and that I didn't stop to take a picture. But I did stop this time.
The remainder of the trip was relative uneventful, albeit a lot slower than the ride last Friday. Due to my slower speed, a few cars would pass me, but like last Friday there was not a lot of traffic.
When I turned back west for the last long westerly portion of the trip, I even became a little more comfortable with the crosswinds. I regularly had the scooter at 50 mph. Not sure if I was any more adept at driving in the crosswind as much as the change in terrain. The second portion of the westerly travel was in an area of few trees, no hills and it seemed like the wind was more steady, not quite so gusty.
As I approached Wichita, and home, various thoughts crossed through my mind. While riding I discovered a great joy at being alone with my thoughts. Did a lot of thinking on the trip. I was ready and anxious to get home because I was tired of fighting the wind.
But at the same time, I was not at all sure I wanted this experience to end.
It was a fantastic weekend. I wished at the time I could have shared my fun with my wife and family. And then there are the blog readers out there. I did a lot of thinking about what I would write after I got home. A large part of these last 2 posts were pretty well written in my mind before I got home. I arrived at home safe and sound about 3:30 pm.
Herein lies my feeble attempt to share the experience with other people.
Lots of great memories!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kansas Flint Hills

Just what are the requirements for the "Perfect Ride"? Here's a few thoughts: 1) A full tank of gas 2) Sunny skies 3) Comfortable temperatures 4) A smooth road 5) Little traffic 6) A great machine 7) Lots of spare time 8) A decent camera 9) Interesting scenery 10) Little or no wind Friday 10/16/09 Yesterday was the 15th, the day that the final extension on individual income tax returns would expire. We had been very busy at the office. It went well that last 2 weeks, but at times a bit hectic, and it was good to get away from the office and go for a ride. That perfect ride was hopefully a possibility. We had had miserable weather for the last week or so. Cloudy, cool, rainy, just plain crappy. But the long term forecast looked good for the weekend. Were the motorcycle gods smiling at me? Well, if you looked at my ten requirements for the potential perfect ride, they were all met with only one exception. Number 3 It was a bit colder than I would have liked. A weatherman recently put up a graph on the televsion illustrating the fact that since the first of October there had only been 3 days where the high temperature for the day exceeded the normal high for that day. In addition, there were 4 days that the high temperature didn't even get to the normal low for the day. Now, I was prepared. I had 6 layers of clothing on, my silk glove liners and my new cold weather gloves. But it still surprises me when traveling at 65 mph or so, how the wind chill can still get to you. The temperatures were not comfortable. But it was survivable! About 30 miles from Wichita, I took a short break to take a pic of a very normal scene around our area. A small town called Whiterwater with a (almost required for every town) grain elevator. It's flat, not a lot of trees and this is a common sight around my neck of the woods.

A view to the east from the same location.

I was going to take a trip to Topeka for my high school reunion. I left Wichita at about 10:00 am. It was 47 degrees farenheit. I'll let you do the math if you want to convert to Celsius. There was just a light breeze from the north. Requirement 10 for that perfect ride was met. But the wind, what there was of it, was cold.

The Kansas turnpike goes directly from Wichita to Topeka, in almost a straight shot. About 135 miles that is easily done in 2 hours. But my route was much different. I wanted to see more of the Flint Hills. I didn't want to take Max on the turnpike. He's not exactly a high speed touring kind of machine. And I wanted to take pictures. Motorcycles and cameras are very congruent with each other.

This trip was to be a riding and picture taking Extravaganza!!

Because I didn't take the turnpike, I had guessed that the trip might be about 160 miles or so. Turned out it was very close to 200 miles one way. No matter!

I had to travel about 50 to 60 miles before getting to the Flint Hills by the route I was taking. I started out on county roads. North for about 25 miles then straight east for about 40 miles until I actually was to be on a real highway.

After going east for a bit, I came across this tank battery and oil pumpjack. I am not far from a relatively famouns oil and gas field known as the El Dorado field. Yes, we have oil in Kansas. It's not quite like Jedd Clampitt, but this particular field was discovered around 1920 and has been producing ever since that time

There were 6 pumpjacks near the tank battery. I smell money!!
I pass through the little town of Cassoday and here is where I get on a regular highway. It's Kansas route 177. In this area it is also known and designated as a "Scenic Byway". Now, what might be considered one person's Scenic Byway and another person's boredom are relative things. But as far as much of Kansas is concerned, the Flint Hills of Kansas are certainly a little different from much of the scenery in the rest of the state. Instead of farmland and grain elevators, you will see gently rolling hills, beautiful valleys, few trees, lots of grass and some cattle. The ground is not real conducive to crops. Knowing how some people like trains (Joe and Jack), I stopped here to get a picture of the valley and the train tracks. Just a moment after taking a couple of shots, I was going to get back on Max and continue down the road. But then this train sped by. Took another couple of pictures, just for fun.
Was wondering what constitutes a "private" railroad crossing. There was no road on the other side, just seemingly an area to store equipment and supplies for the railroad.
Another shot of the train passing by. The train was traveling at a pretty good clip. The flowers looked a bit brown. I suspect that there was an early season freeze in this area.
I was able to travel almost at will. Stop when I felt like it. Go as fast or slow as I wanted to. There was almost no traffic. I clipped along at 60-65 mph much of the way along here. The posted speed limit was 60 with a few 40 mph curves here and there. Isn't it great that on a motorcycle, that 40 mph curve speed limit can be maybe not be ignored, but certainly stretched a bit. Taking a 40 mph curve at an actual speed of 40 mph almost seems agonizingly slow sometimes. Maybe unless you are Jack Riepe leaning into a curve while riding his Suburban. He once told me he has done that before.
Did I say it was cold?
You bet your ass it was cold! I really was prepared for it, but the wind chill got to me a couple of times and I shivered a bit along this part of the trip. Funny thing though, was that by stopping to take pictures, the sun would beat down on me a bit and warm me back up. I stopped regularly for both reasons. One to get warmed up, and two to take more pictures.
A few cattlle up on a hill.
I am not sure I would call this a real "twisty" but at least the road wasn't straight. So many of the roads in Kansas are built on Section lines. K-177 is not.
I was hoping to get pictures of the change in colors in trees. The colors had started to change, but not quite as much as I had hoped. But there were a few places where you could get some color.
Then I arrived at a town called Cottonwood Falls. There are some actual falls on the Cottonwood River that flows through here. Not big ones I am sure. But this town has an absolutely fabulous old courthouse. Maybe the prettiest in the state. I have a client , an attorney, that is a photographer. He has made it a point to get photographs of all the county courthouses in the state. There are 105 counties in Kansas. I am not sure if he has actually photographed them all, but has done a bunch of them. Some are beautiful, some more ordinary. This one is not ordinary!
The sun, unfortunately, was right behind the building. I had to hide the sun behind the tower in this picture.
A view from an angle.
And from the downtown area. Not a big town. Population in Chase county in its entirety is not big either. But it is beautiful and a bit unusual, I think.
Up the road a ways sits this old farmhouse. It also is quite a sight along this relatively barren highway.
Here's the view from the front of the house.
The area near here has been designated as a nature preserve. This house has become an entrance and focal point for the preserve.
And a pretty serious barn on the property as well.
There is a little parking lot near the house. Signs for RV and bus parking. Couldn't find a sign for motorcycle or scooter parking so did the next best thing. I think I get better gas mileage than that Toyota Prius parked next to me.
Speaking of gas mileage. Sometimes I worry needlessly. I regularly get 75 mpg in town. I knew I would not probably get that much on the highway at faster speeds, but have never tracked it. My tank holds just shy of 2 gallons, so theoretically I can go 125-140 miles or so on a tank of gas. Maybe 100-110 miles at highway speed usage. Some of the area I traveled through had only very small towns, some without gas stations. I googled the area to see where gas stations were and where I could stop if needed. Turns out it wasn't an issue, there were many gas stations I could use, but I worried about it a bit nonetheless.
Up the road a little further I arrived at the town of Council Grove. The name of the town is due to the fact there were apparently some negotiations with area Indian tribes at some time in the past. General Custer even spent some time here before Sitting Bull later got to him.
Irondad had recently posted a picture of a tank on his blog. As I rolled through town I saw this one and determined that I could get a picture of a tank also.
People in small towns can be very patriotic.
There is an interesting little story about a former sheriff of Morris county. It seems that he and his wife had once made a video tape of themselves. This was back in the 1980's when VCR's were all the rage.
It was one of those tapes that should not be copied. Meant for private use. It bacame very public.
Catch my drift?
But someone got access to it and copied it. Numerous times. The copy I saw was very distorted after having been copied so many times. Of course it was a tape of them having carnal relations.
He wasn't sheriff soon after that.
I continue north from Council Grove, but soon turn back to the east. There is a town called Alta Vista just after the turn. I had never been there before.
Why not stop! I didn't have to be anywhere at any time soon. It's wonderful to stop when you want to and see something you haven't seen before. I thought it might be just a quick spin through the town. Thought it might be just like any other small town, with nothing real unique.
But I was wrong again! I quickly came across the "Ag Heritage Park"
A museum of sorts for old farm equipment of all things. Now I must say that used and even ancient farm equipment might be just considered "junk". But in a way, this was at least a bit interesting, definately unusual.
Here is Max with some sort of old steam powered farm implement. My how technology changes.
A whole row of old combines. Did they really need that many of them? Ahh, who cares.
A fence created with old wheels.
Some really old plows. Probably still work!
Up the road a way is some more cattle.
Now I am on K-4 approaching the small town of Eskridge. My wife's great grandparents actually homesteaded on some ground near this town. They did not survive the Great Depression of the 1930's. The farm apparently went back to the bank. Many years ago we attempted to take a drive and find the old farmstead. Not sure if we actually found it, but we knew we were close. There were many Swedish immigrants in this area.
In Eskridge, I found this old small church that now is a community center.
There is a little park not far away with a gazebo. What is it about gazebos and small towns? This one seems to serve as a bandstand. There are picnic tables and benches all over the park. I imagined a band concert on a Sunday night with most of the residents of the community in attendance.
Ahhh.... Life in a small town.
A view in the downtown area.
Max ran like a champ the whole trip.
After leaving Eskridge I encountered a signpost over the gate to a field.
Across the road was an interesting house. I had stopped for just a moment when I heard barking. I thought to myself, Oh Crap! Am I going to have to fight off a dog protecting its territory?
But turned out that he (she) was a very sweet sort of typical farm dog (maybe a Lab). Came up very sweetly and let me pet her (him). We talked for a bit. She (he) was very interested in the scooter, and then got a very confused look on her (his) face when I put my helmet back on. Said goodbye and rode off and I could see him (her) lazily wandering back to the house. An unexpected, but very sweet moment on the trip.
I arrived in Topeka about 4:30 in the afternoon. As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the chill was back in the air again.
Did I say it was Cold?
Made it to the football game just in time to see the pre-game ceremonies put on by the band. I was in the band in high school as well, but we were not very accomplished marchers. We sort of marched onto the field, played a couple of songs and then marched back off.
The band now is very accomplished having actually been invited a few years ago to one of the January first bowl game parades.
Way better than our band in my days was.
Also way better than the current football team.
The organizers of our reunion rented out one of the hospitality rooms in the pressbox area for us to watch the game and relive old times. We were so busy catching up with each other that we didn't watch the game much. We were playing Emporia High school.
Not that we missed much. We were the home team.
Maybe not the "Perfect Ride" according to my criteria, but it was damn close.
More to come!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Max is Back!

What more can I say!
I am so glad to have him back. Even though it was only a week getting repaired, Max is everything I remembered about him.
He even came back with some new farkle!
Lloyd, my good friend and scooter doctor extraordinaire installed some little flashing lights on the end of the handlebar. They are nice and funky. Just for fun! I suppose If driving at night, I may be a little more visible to other drivers. But just a little, as they are not exceedingly bright, at least not to the degree of the famous K Beemer that we all have heard about that lights up the night sky in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The Lambretta was a nice loaner and I appreciated the use of the scooter very much. But it wasn't Max.
After the replacement of the body parts, he sure looks great! Lloyd, as is his usual practice, washed him up as well and Max literally shined.
It took a little longer than expected for the repairs because one replacement part that came in was scratched a bit and once Lloyd got into the handlebar to check on the turn signal issues, another part, a turn signal relay, needed to be ordered.
But he is back now, and looking great.
Just in time too because Max and I are planning a little trip up to Topeka later this month so I can attend a high school reunion (35 years). It will be my first trip of any great length for me.
The interstate takes a pretty straight shot from here to Topeka totalling about 135 miles. But I intend to take some county and state roads to provide a better opportunity for picture taking. The scenery should be fantastic for the trip. I am not sure at what stage the trees will be in their annual change to winter mode, but an area I will travel through is known as the Flint Hills, and they can be very beautiful. The Flint Hills run generally along a ridge from north to south in the east central and southern part of Kansas and consist of gentle rolling hills, but primarily grassland with few trees.
The northeast part of the state where Topeka lies is much different than the Wichita area geographically because there are many more hills and trees. I am also planning a little day trip to a small town just east of Topeka to take some pictures for an upcoming Halloween post. I have already written the post, but badly need some pictures for it. Stay tuned.
Name Tag from previous reunion. Topeka West High School. Go Chargers!!
They say you can't go home again. A comedian I admire said once about high school reunions that people are the same and don't change a whole lot except for the fact that many of them are a lot bigger in stature than they were as teenagers. At the 30 year reunion I was about 65 lbs over my pole vaulting weight in high school. Many classmates noticed and I took a bit of ribbing for it. But for this reunion I should be only up only about 30 lbs.
One thing is for sure! Most of the guys have a lot shorter hair than we did in 1974.
30 + years of sitting at a computer and doing taxes can certainly have an effect on people.
Current reunion plans are for a homecoming football game Friday night and a mixer on Saturday night. It will be a chance to relive some old memories of a place I lived from age 9 to 17. Many of the memories of living and growing up in Topeka are good ones. Other memories, maybe not so much. It will be good to see some old friends and relive some old times. Picture taking will be an important part of the trip as well. There will be much potential fodder for future blog posts to tantalize or bore readers of this blog. I leave you with a couple of cartoons from the office.

This one I suspect is a recreation of a recent event in Bobskoot's office.

And "The Far Side" has some good accountant cartoons as well Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed