Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Westward, HO! A Massacre, Cliffs in Kansas (Really!), and a Brutus Bummer

On Monday, August 1, we had to hit the road really early, exiting the site at 6:45 AM, to allow for a stop along the way. We headed east on CO-96 all the way over to the east side of the state past Eads. It wasn’t long at all until we passed into the flats of the Great Plains, then near Olney Springs we passed the first corn we’d seen in months. At the Chivington community (remember that name), we turned north and traveled 8 miles on dirt roads. Along the way we passed three turtles trying to get across the road. Wonder what makes them do that in the middle of thousands of acres of grassland? We made it to the park in time to listen to Ranger Bryant give a history lesson. As we pulled in, there was a barn owl sitting on one of the signs. He took off before I could get a pic, but I did catch him flying past.

What became known as the Sand Creek Massacre is a dreadful piece of our history that began long before the actual battle. This is by far not all of the story, but I’ll hit the highlights. In 1851, the government signed a treaty with several tribes at Fort Laramie. The natives would allow safe passage for emigrants, and in return, the U.S. gave them most of the Great Plains, which is a huge swath in the middle of the country. The Cheyenne-Arapaho area ran between the North Platte and Arkansas rivers. A few years later gold was discovered near Pikes Peak, and people heading west to seek their fortunes were passing right through the reservation. The Indians didn’t take that too well, and the prospectors and settlers began demanding protection as they tromped through the native lands. Meanwhile, back east the Civil War was brewing, which meant the Union would need gold. With those two issues at the forefront, the U. S. called a meeting to renegotiate, translation…renege on their initial treaty. That resulted in the Cheyenne-Arapaho ending up with ~92% LESS land. A key point for that meeting…only a handful of the chiefs, including just a few from the Cheyenne’s governing Council of Forty-Four, were there. Although those present agreed to the new treaty, not everyone knew about the change and most would/did not agree to it. So that’s what the Feds were up to, but the local government in the Colorado Territory didn’t want them to have all the fun. Governor John Evans had Senatorial aspirations, and that would require Colorado to become a state. The only way for it to happen was with guarantees of safety and a military presence for the “Indian problem”. While there were a handful of southern Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders, including Black Kettle, working for a lasting peace, the majority of the tribe was not. In 1864, the plains tribes joined forces (Sioux, Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho) to actively rid their country of the “white problem”. In Colorado, though, most of the raids amounted to theft without much loss of life. That wasn’t helping the Governor’s cause, so he was actively looking for ways to stir up more trouble. In the meantime, an Indian-hating U. S. Army Colonel by the name of John M. Chivington issued orders for the soldiers to “kill Cheyennes whenever and wherever found”. In May of 1864, the 1st Colorado Regiment came across the Cheyenne camp of Black Kettle, Lean Bear, and others on their hunting grounds. Chief Lean Bear, who had traveled to Washington and met with President Lincoln the year before, went out alone to peacefully greet the visitors. Lieutenant George Eayre ordered his men to fire. The Cheyenne Chief died of multiple gunshot wounds. A month later the Hungate family was murdered. Their bodies were taken the 25 miles to Denver and put on display to stir up public fear. The inquest said the family was killed by unknown people, likely Indians. With the sentiment of the day, speculation leaned towards the Cheyenne and Arapaho despite frontiersmen who knew the tribes stating it was not the way they killed. I picture Governor Evans rubbing his hands together and saying “now we’re getting somewhere”. (There was speculation at the time, although no proof was ever found, that the Hungate’s really died at the hands of those trying to stir up trouble. Who had the most to gain, you reckon??) Within a couple of weeks, he ordered all “friendly Indians of the plains” to go to designated “places of safety”, which is how the group of peaceful, mostly Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho ended up at Sand Creek after checking in at Fort Lyon as directed. (The Dog Soldiers, who had been raiding and attacking whites, were not there.) The camp consisted of mostly old or very young men and women and children led by Black Kettle, who flew a U. S, flag with a white flag tied beneath over his lodge to show his peaceful status as advised by the Fort Lyon commander. In November, Chivington arrived at Fort Lyon with 425 men of the 3rd Colorado Calvary. He took charge of the 1st Colorado Calvary’s 250 men and a dozen or so from the 1st Regiment New Mexico Volunteer Infantry. He had a plan, and to ensure it stayed secret, he halted outgoing mail and restricted everyone to base. Then he led the whole mass out to Black Kettle’s encampment. The next morning, Chivington ordered them to attack the quiet camp despite the peace flags. Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer refused to obey and had their Companies (D & K) hold fire. The other soldiers, though, did so with relish. Men, women, and children were mutilated, their brains bashed out, their bodies cut to pieces. One witness later gave an account of multiple soldiers using a child of about three running in the sand as a target from 75 yards away. It took three tries to bring the baby down. Although Chivington would later testify before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War that 500-600 Indian braves were killed, it is believed that, of the 165 to 200 Indians killed, more than two thirds were women and children, and most of the rest were older men and chiefs. There were twenty-four soldiers killed. In the aftermath of that terrible day, none of the leaders responsible for the attack ever saw any kind of real justice. Although the Joint Committee strongly urged punishment, Chivington had already read the writing on the wall and resigned his commission, putting him out of the Army’s reach. The worse he and Governor Evans would receive was an end to their political aspirations. The Cheyanne and Arapaho bands hit at the massacre were decimated. Many of the militaristic Dog Solders, whose resolve to wipe out the whites was strengthened, replaced older leaders. That inevitably lengthened the Indian Wars. Sadly, Captain Silas Soule, who refused to order his men to attack, was murdered in Denver shortly after he testified before the Congressional committee. He was ambushed by Charles Squier and William Morrow, both of the 2nd Colorado Volunteer Cavalry. Wonder who instigated that? Both men fled, and Squier was briefly caught and returned to Denver for court-martial. He escaped from jail, and his captor was found dead of a staged drug overdose. Neither he nor Morrow would ever face trial. As the saying goes, though, karma is a bitch. Squier eventually fled to Central America where he was involved in a railroad accident that crushed his legs. He died there of gangrene in 1869. Despite all he had done, he was buried in New York with honors. WTH?

One thing Ranger Bryant talked about that was interesting, and you almost never hear it from any side. Ask the average person about the U. S. treatment of Native Americans, and they will tell you that the government ran people off of land that had been theirs for thousands of years. That is mostly not so. The first time the Cheyenne came into contact with Europeans, they lived in the Great Lakes region. They were pushed west by the Assiniboines, and further west by the Lakota. In turn, the Cheyenne and the Arapaho pushed the Kiowa out of their area and down to the Southern Plains. The Apache were originally in western Canada, but ended up in parts of what are now Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. The Shoshone started out in the Great Basin, then spread into modern day Idaho and Wyoming. Later they crossed the Rocky Mountains, and after that were pushed by the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho south and west. Some bands that ended up in Texas later emerged as the Comanche. While there were bands from various tribes that were farmers, there were also many nomadic groups who were constantly moving. Our government’s disregard for treaties, and its overall treatment of Native American tribes was awful and should not have happened. But, pushing them off of land was something that most tribes had been doing to each other for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Back in the truck, we made our way back to CO-96, which became KS-96 at the state line, and continued east. We had been looking for a lunch spot, because it was WAAAYYYYY too hot for a picnic, without much luck. At Scott City, we found a nice, little place downtown called Tate’s, which turned out to be very good with a lot of fresh, local stuff. I had salmon patties with a twist…they used smoked salmon. Delish!! We both had the fresh green beans, and MW had an Italian sandwich. Definitely worth the stop if you are passing through. After a long day, we just had a few miles to go north on US-83 to the turnoff for Historic Lake Scott State Park. It was about 100 degrees when we set up…I DO NOT LIKE IT!

Tuesday was supposed to start with a nice hike, but thanks to crossing into Central time, we both were still in bed at 7 AM. At this time of year in this part of Kansas, you can’t START a walk at that time unless you are okay being baked like a turkey before you finish. We decided to do it the next day. With no other plans, writing and bookkeeping ruled the day. I took a break at lunch time, and we headed back into Scott City to drop off a couple of things at the post office, do a little Dollar General shopping, check out the laundromat, and grab a bite at the Steak House Restaurant. The latter had a pretty constant flow of locals who all seemed to be there for the special, a meat and two plate for $8 that looked pretty delicious. Our sandwiches were good, too. The best part, though, was watching the waiter, Adrien, work. The place had about 10 tables, and he was doing everything except cooking the food…menus, drinks, orders, delivery, refills, extras, and cash out. I was exhausted just watching him, and he did it all with a smile and kind words for everyone. I love to see people working hard and enjoying it. I’m thinking he probably doesn’t need to get any additional steps in at the end of the day! Oh, and it was 100 or so outside, and the laundromat is NOT AIR CONDITIONED! No walking in the morning, because I’m going to need to get there early!

On the way back to the park we stopped to see the location of the last Indian battle in Kansas, the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork. In September 1878, 350 Cheyenne Indians left the reservation in Oklahoma to return to their homeland in the northern Great Plains. Colonel William H. Lewis and 200 soldiers pursued, and the Cheyenne knew they were coming. At this site, they set up an ambush, but the soldiers were alerted when a warrior opened fire early. A battle ensued, with the soldiers advancing on higher ground, scattering the Cheyenne horses. After Colonel Lewis was critically wounded, the soldiers retreated. The Colonel died the next day from loss of blood and holds the distinction of being the last Kansas casualty in the Indian Wars. Although the soldiers picked up the trail later, the Indians slipped away. Without food and horses, they were desperate. Near Oberlin, Kansas, they began raids that lasted for five days during which they stole supplies, killed more than 30 civilians, and raped several women. (Meanwhile, soldiers and white civilians who came upon Cheyenne women, children, and elderly unable to keep up executed them on site.) The tribe was later spotted crossing the Republican River in Nebraska. There they split into two groups with Little Wolf and the more able-bodied eventually made it to Montana to join the Northern Cheyenne. There they were eventually left alone. The others, led by Dull Knife were captured and imprisoned at Camp Robinson. Today there is a monument at Battle Canyon, where the Northern Cheyenne waited in ambush. You can still see the rifle pits on the hilltops where the Cheyenne dug in and the cave where the women, children, and elders hid during the action.

Wednesday morning I was exhausted. I could NOT get to sleep the night before, and ended up with about 3-1/2 hours total. My Mom and MW can both tell you that I’m a grouch on mornings like that. I was up a little after 6 AM, though, because starting early was my only option for not totally melting away. Well, that’s at least what I thought. Totally not the case…it was just as hot in the laundromat as when I arrived as it was the afternoon before. Ugh!! I finished up as quickly as possible and went down the street to Wendy’s to enjoy the cool air and get some work done. Later I ran a few errands, then headed back to Petunia. By the time bedtime rolled around, I was more than ready.

Historic Lake Scott State Park is located between Oakley and Scott City, Kansas, in the western part of the state. It is a place of springs, rugged canyons, bluffs, and a 100-acre lake, and certainly unexpected. Activities include boating, swimming, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. There is a concession building with camping and fishing supplies, as well as canoe and paddleboat rentals. Hikers, horseback riders, and bikers will find several miles of trails. The original homestead of Herbert and Eliza Steele, who settled on a portion of the land in 1888, and the remains of a Taos Indian pueblo built almost 2,000 years before the Steeles even thought about land in Kansas can be seen, too. Lodging options include cabins, and a variety of campsites. There are 55 electric and water sites, some with 50-amp, and 175 primitive sites. There are two bathhouses that are well-kept, but hot during the high temperatures. There were a few over-the-air tv channels and both Verizon and AT&T had signal. This park was nice and pretty quiet. We would return if in the area. For this stay in August 2022, we paid $99.75 for 3 nights, which included $25 for the Kansas annual pass. We were planning to stay for enough nights in Kansas state parks to make that a better deal than daily entrance fees.

We didn’t have too far to go to our next campground, so Thursday morning we started with something local, heading out about 6 AM. Our route took us over miles and miles of dirt road, but thankfully, it was nothing like the road to hell. Along the way we saw a fox, which was the first we’ve seen on this entire trip. Last year MW must have spotted 5 or 6! We also saw a pronghorn. Didn’t think much of that until we read a sign later saying they were eliminated from Kansas by 1933. A reintroduction program began in the late 1960s, and today there are 2,000 or so in the state. That being the case, it was a fairly rare sighting! After 1/2 hour of bouncing down the road, we arrived at our destination…Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park. I know what you’re thinking…THERE’S ANOTHER BADLANDS!! I think that makes FOUR! This park, small by most standards at 250 acres, is certainly one of a kind. The grassland prairie opens up into a canyon filled with terrific formations of Niobrara chalk. Then the prairie picks up and continues its run north from the canyon floor. The area supports a large population of native wildlife and plants, and is the only place in the world to find Great Plains wild buckwheat. The easy, 2-mile round-trip walk takes you through the grassland along the ridge, so you are looking down into the gulley. Judging by pictures at the entrance, it may be possible to get a guided tour into the canyon with a Ranger, but we were there long before anyone would be working. There are plenty of cliff swallows flitting around and their nests are visible on the formations. Bird watchers could see quite a few other species here, including several birds of prey. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may see several reptiles and mammals, too. It was a perfect morning for a hike, and the cliffs in the early morning sun were beautiful.

After enjoying the sunrise and hike, we headed back to Petunia to break down and hit the road about 9:30 AM. We headed south on US-83, then east on KS-4 all the way over to La Crosse. For lunch we stopped in at the Junction 4 Diner, which was a hit with the locals and truckers passing through. MW tried the much-heralded chicken fried steak sandwich, which was very good. My grilled chicken was, too.

Next we made a quick stop at a museum in town, the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum. Not kidding…there is an entire museum about barbed wire. I had no idea there were so many kinds. They all do basically the same thing, but some have different twists and loops. Back in the day, inventors and manufacturers were trying any hook they could to sell rolls of the pointy stuff. The largest part of the collection was gathered over 25 years by one man, Gary Spilger, for his personal collection. With 2,066 wire samples, I can’t imagine how the panels were displayed in the home he shared with Bettie!

The idea of barbed wire was first noted in France in 1860, and the first U. S. patents for several types were issued in 1867. By 1868, Michael Kelly invented “Thorny Fence”, which was the first to be produced in large quantity. No one had come up with a cheap and reliable version. The first patent for what we know as barbed wire was awarded to Jacob Haish in January 1874. He was racing against two other guys: Joseph Glidden, who had actually filed for a patent 2 months earlier, and Isaac Ellwood, whose patent was awarded in February 1874. To delay approval of Glidden’s submission, Haish filed multiple versions and then filed interference papers against Glidden in June 1874. The result of these tactics was that Glidden’s patent didn’t come through until November 1874. A battle ensued between Haish and Glidden. In the end, Glidden’s superior design, appropriately named “The Winner”, won out, but it took 18 years and the Supreme Court to end the rivalry. Early on Ellwood abandoned his ideas and joined forces with Glidden to form The Barb Fence Company. Both men became multi-millionaires, and the company eventually monopolized the barbed wire market before becoming part of the United States Steel Corporation. Of course, the development of this little strand of wire gave rise to the bloody Range Wars starting in the 1880s. It also changed the face of warfare. Some estimates say that more than a million miles of the stuff was strung during World War I in Flanders Field alone.

Back on the road we continued south on US-183, then east on KS-96 through Great Bend, northeast on KS-156, and then once again east on KS-4. Past Genesco, Kansas, we turned north on KS-141 and crossed the Kanopolis Lake dam. We missed the sign for the park turnoff and the nearest place to turn around was circling through a neighborhood that had dirt roads. The first couple were fine, but the last one had a lot less road than even we usually tow on. I was happy to get back on the pavement and arrive at Kanopolis State Park.

Friday started with a 40-minute walk around the park. It was a little over 2 miles, and the last 1/4 mile or so, I noticed a little twinge of pain in my right foot. It wasn’t bad, just noticeable. After getting cleaned up later, we headed into Ellsworth, Kansas, for lunch at Gambino’s Pizza. It’s an interesting place located in the 8-lane bowling alley. There was no one playing, but it seemed like half the town was coming in for lunch. We had sandwiches which were very good. After lunch we headed over to Gene’s Heartland Foods for some groceries and MW ran into Orscheln Farm and Home for some wheel bearing grease. Then we headed back to the park, but didn’t make it. Just a few miles down the road, MW noticed the transmission slipping as it changed gears. Holy smoke!! We decided to bypass the park and drive straight to Salina, Kansas, to find a repair place. I called AAMCO, who said come on in. While they did a test drive, we waited at the McDonalds next door. It didn’t take long to get the OMGosh news! Brutus needed a new nervous system…5th and 6th gears in the transmission were shot, and the rest weren’t far behind. After figuring out our strategy, I started checking for rental cars. Nothing available, but Enterprise would have one Monday. Okay, deep breaths. We limped home, stopping twice to let the transmission fluid cool down. On last leg, MW realized that if he kept it in manual and stayed in 3rd or 4th, it would run fine without overheating, but only about 40 mph. Back at Petunia, spent time rearranging the next week or so, including pushing back the mounting of our new trailer tires. (We order the tires online and have them shipped to an installer. In this case, Firestone Complete Auto Care in Leavenworth. We’ve used them before, and it worked out well.) After we got everything taken care of that we could, we vegged. It had been a stressful day. Oh, and my foot was worse…much worse.

Saturday I could barely walk. The pain in my foot was mostly in the arch area just a little behind the joint where I have a small bunion. During the night, just the weight of the bedspread was uncomfortable and kept waking me up. I really thought I had a stress fracture, but could walk as long as it was flat-footed with the weight mostly on my heel. I sucked it up and went to the park office to figure out our site situation in light of the unplanned extended stay. They were very helpful and came up with a solution, which we would implement on Sunday to save us cancellation/move fees. They thought of everything. Back at Petunia, we sat outside and enjoyed the weather in the morning, then I got a bit of writing and work done. I wore my orthopedic slippers all day. Made by Vionic, I bought them a few years ago to help with plantar fasciitis. It was GONE in a matter of days, and I was hoping they would work a similar miracle with this new ailment.

Sunday morning, amazingly, my foot was better. Almost perfect, in fact. I just had a few little stabbing twinges during the day, but mostly, it felt normal. Very perplexing. (No kidding, we were planning a trip to urgent care on Monday. If you know me, you know it must have been pretty darned bad for that to be considered!) First thing I went back up to the office to get everything arranged. Since sites there don’t have water, and we would be stuck once we moved, they gave us a site in the horse campground near the bathhouse with a faucet nearby. We can hold out for about a week with empty tanks, so as long as AAMCO gets done when planned, we should be good. After dumping, we got Petunia moved and set up in her new spot. While we lost our beautiful lake view, we gained a nice, quiet spot with nice sunsets. Except for some writing and a little tv, that was pretty much it for the day.

Monday we limped the 35 miles back to Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Salina, Kansas, doing 40 mph in 3rd and 4th gears all the way. The parking lot was so crowded that we had to park next door, and thought it was going to take a while. They hustled me out quickly, though, and we had the truck backseat stuff loaded into the trunk of the little Nissan Altima about 10 minutes after we arrived. Then we said goodbye to Brutus at AAMCO, where John was still sticking to his Friday at the latest estimate. Fingers crossed and prayers said! We’d both been craving pizza, so we went to Chick-fil-A. I know, sounds crazy, doesn’t it?! It was 9 AM, and the pizza place didn’t open until 11, so we decided to kill some time, then pick up a pie to reheat later. We had breakfast sandwiches, and I did a little writing for an hour or so, then we ran a few errands. On the way out of town we picked up the pies at Coop’s Pizzeria. On the way back into the park, MW was already enjoying me being the only driver listed on our rental. What was I thinking!!! I’m a DRIVER’S WIFE. I DON’T DRIVE!! LOL. (Actually, I do practice towing occasionally, but not enough to get him used to the idea.) MW grabbed a trail map at the office on the way in, because my step count has been lagging. All day my foot had been fine except for once or twice feeling a little twinge, almost like a bruise feels.

Tuesday everything felt normal in my metatarsals, so we started the day with a nice, and very early, 2-1/2-mile hike on the Split Rock Trail. To get there, we walked the first portion of the Rocking K horse trail through a field. It was mowed, as were the first and last thirds of our trail, but the middle section at the back was not. Although the trail was visible, the grass was grown in and about hip/waist high for me. It was a good hike, though, and the temp in the low 60s was wonderful. Lots of deer were out and about, and there actually are split rocks that look like someone hit them with a giant hammer. Back at camp, I sat outside to cool off before showering. Thank GOD! While MW walked down to the bathhouse, I took the opportunity to call Mom. As we were talking, I noticed tiny, brown dots on my arms. THEY. WERE. MOVING!! They were also on my lower legs and ankles. That’s when I saw that my yoga pants were COVERED with them. TINY. BABY. TICKS!!!!! I must have walked right through a cluster in that high grass. I got off the phone and stripped right there. Thankfully, no one can see our campsite, but I’d have taken off those clothes either way! Next I got as many off of my legs and arms as I could see. It didn’t appear they’d made it up to my trunk yet…another blessing. Next I threw MW’s clothes out of Petunia and wiped down the ottoman they had been laying on. Finally, I hit the shower. MW came back as I was finishing up, wondering why I threw his stuff out. I told him I had reached my limit! LOL. I didn’t really see any on his clothes, which is weird since I walk along behind him when we hike. They were even inside my shoes. To be safe we sprayed it all down with bug spray, left everything outside, and put it in a plastic bag the next morning for the drive to the laundromat. If the bug spray didn’t kill them, the hot water and dryer heat would! For the rest of the day, I kept feeling little things crawling on me, but never found any more. To be honest, I’m feeling them now as I write this. Yuck! The rest of the day was spent on a client call and bookkeeping stuff. Sitting at my desk, I happened to glance out the window in time to see a bald eagle fly past on his way to the lake. Too cool! I am always in awe when I see one.

Wednesday I slept later than planned, so MW walked without me. As soon as I was dressed, I headed to Salina. On the way out of the park there were a couple of deer and some turkeys hanging out at one of the houses on the park road. Odd. The other funny thing on the drive was at KS-140. Just across from the stop sign was a herd of cows spread across the hillside. Near the fence were two calves in the middle of an altercation. They were butting heads and slamming into each other like two teenagers fighting over the remote. I watched for a minute or so, then one of the mama cows walked down the hill and right between the two little ones as if to say “Stop it! I’ve had enough of your fighting!” They broke it up and one of the little fellas followed the cow back up the hill. Maybe they are more like us than we think. My first stop was the Missing Sock Laundromat to do the deed. It was very clean and had a lot of machines. They also had chairs and a booth to sit at, plus free wifi. Bonus! After the job was done, I went back over to Chick-fil-A for a little lunch and to catch up on writing. Before heading back out to the campground, I popped in at Kohl’s and a shoe store looking for a couple of things. I’m not a big shopper anymore, but I do miss just wandering around looking at stuff sometimes. On the way back into the park, I took a few pics and ran across another gang of turkeys. They rushed up into the woods quickly, but I did catch a pic. In the afternoon we received a surprise call from John Hillis at AAMCO saying that Brutus would be put back together on Thursday, and we could pick him up around 6:30 PM. WHAT???? That’s flippin’ awesome!

The next day started with a good walk down to the day use area, which took about 1-1/4 hours. Along the way we saw plenty of deer, and there were even a couple waiting for us back at the corrals when we returned. This is the first park we’ve been in for weeks where we see a lot of wildlife, and I’ve missed it.

After cleaning up, I spent some time working, then we headed into town. We ran a couple of errands before checking out a pretty neat museum downtown. Walking in the door at The Garage, AKA Salina Educational Automotive Museum of America, we were greeted by Michelle Peck, the Executive Director. She gave us the lowdown on the museum, and it’s a pretty interesting concept. First, the cars on display are owned by individuals, not the museum. The museum only owns a couple of cars that were donated to it. Second, the exhibits change. Their current showcase is Muscle Car Wars, and they’ve done a showcase on the beginning of the automobile. In the future, some may be model-specific, i.e. corvettes, mustangs, etc. They source exhibit cars from all over the area. Third, they offer several different interactive experiences like driving simulators, paint spray and welding simulators like those used in schools, and a seatbelt convincer ride that are INCLUDED in the ticket price. Finally, in the last, but certainly not least category, they have DRINKS!! After being carded and given an arm band, you purchase a pour My Beer card that allows you to self-serve beer and wine from wall taps. There were a couple of wines and several beer options. A little meter on the tap lets you keep up with what you’re paying, and our $10 amounted to three descent-sized servings of a pretty good stout. On permanent exhibit is the Hall of Fame for America’s oldest running custom car and truck association, Kustom Kemps of America (KKOA). While I’m more of an original girl, there were certainly some pretty amazing rides there. (The KKOA has held the Leadsled Spectacular in Salina annually for 42 years. It attracts over 2,000 custom cars and trucks, plus vintage bikes and plenty of vendors.) The Garage is one of those places you could visit every time you pass through and experience something new. I like that, and I really liked Michelle’s enthusiasm.

Check This Out!

Back out in the heat, we headed to Tucson’s Steakhouse for an early supper. The steaks were great and the Arizona Eggrolls (queso, chicken, spinach, and corn) were the bomb! We still had some time to kill after finishing up, so we headed over to Target to get a few groceries and walk around. Then, and only because we still had time to kill you understand, we went to Dagney’s Ice Cream downtown. They had a multitude of flavors, all made in house. I went for Hot Chocolate (spicy chocolate) and Cookie Dough, and MW had Piña Colada. Mine were both delish. MW said his had a little too much coconut for him, which I wasn’t aware was possible. On the way back to Brutus, we drove through downtown Salina on Santa Fe Avenue to take a look at the statues on display. It is a cool program. Once a year the city selects new pieces. Artists submit their applications to the committee, who then decides which ones are displayed for the coming year. While they are on display, the pieces are also for sale. It’s a great way for an artist to be seen and possibly make a sale, while the city benefits from folks coming through to see the artwork.

Let’s talk for a minute about AAMCO in Salina, Kansas. On Friday when we first noticed the problem, they were our first call from three possible transmission repair places in Salina. We chose them not because there was anything negative about the others, but because AAMCO is a nation-wide company and, should there be a problem with the repair, we can get it looked at without coming back to Kansas. John Hillis, who answered the phone, listened to our dilemma and told us to bring it in. Fifteen minutes later, we were there, and 30 minutes after that, we had a diagnosis. It was bad! MW and I worked through options in John’s office: Do we buy a new truck? Do we spend a small fortune fixing this one? How do we move the trailer to a site we can stay in for an extra week? Can we rent a car? How will we get the trailer tires that have been delivered to a place in Leavenworth? With a clear picture of our situation, John started figuring out how quickly he could get Brutus back to us. Despite having quite a few jobs in the shop, he said that, barring any unforeseen problems, he would get it done by Friday. Wow, we really expected a couple of weeks! We dropped the truck off before 9 AM on Monday morning and prayed for the best. Wednesday we received an unexpected call from John saying we would be able to pick it up Thursday afternoon late. REALLY??!! He was heading out of town on Friday morning and wanted to make sure we were taken care of before he left. (He drag races and had a meet in Topeka.) We touched base on Thursday, and he said we would definitely be able to get it. The last thing to be done is some type of remote reading of the shift point data. By 6:30 PM, they still hadn’t gotten back to him, but he said not to worry…”I’m going to be here until we get this done tonight.” Honestly, that is what I call above and beyond.

Since Enterprise closed at 5 PM on Thursday, I was up and out early Friday morning to give them back their little Nissan. It was a sporty little ride, but I didn’t enjoy climbing up out of it or being so small after 6 solid months in Brutus. Zachary had me in and out in a flash, and I saved a little chunk by bringing it back early. Bonus! Next I walked down to Spangles, a family-owned, 50s music-themed place, and found a spot in the corner to work for a few hours. They had free wifi…bonus! MW would pick me up later.

While I was ordering, a young man came in with a job application. He was dressed neatly and had a nice smile. One of the workers told him to have a seat and the assistant manager would be with him in a minute. I spoke to him on the way to my table, wishing him luck. He was very polite. Sitting two booths in front of me, I had a front row seat to his “interview”. After about 10-12 minutes, a woman finally came out to see him and took his outreached application. She didn’t smile. She didn’t offer a “hello”. She didn’t even really look at him, but focused on the paper. She rapid-fired a few questions at him in a really gruff voice: Have you ever worked in fast food? Do you currently have a job? What shifts can you work? Do you own black shoes? I felt so sorry for the guy, who was actually looking for a SECOND job. During a time of employee shortages and signs EVERYWHERE to hire, this woman was short, rude, and unwelcoming. Why would you treat someone like that?? It’s no wonder the place is understaffed. She ended up telling him to be back at 1 PM to interview with the General Manager. I wasn’t going to be there at that time, but seriously considered staying around to relate the experience to the boss.

MW showed up about Noon, and after lunch we headed over to our entertainment for the day…Top Gun: Maverick. I had been wanting to see it on the big screen, and am glad we did. The story was pretty good, and the equipment was great. I saw an interview with Cruise who said he really wanted to showcase the military in a realistic way. That held pretty true until near the end. Seriously…no one is going to store an old F-14 with missiles, shells, and flares aboard. We loved all the dogfight action and the carrier scenes, though. Cruise also said that was the first time footage of a real carrier takeoff from inside the plane was used in a movie (as opposed to simulated footage). And just in case you didn’t know, the P-51 featured in the movie belongs to Cruise. He owns several other aircraft, too, and flies them all. I’m not a Tom Cruise, the person, fan, but that is pretty cool.

Saturday morning started with a walk at the Wildlife Viewing Area in the park, which is a loop that is just over 1/2 mile. It’s a nice, shady walk around a pond, and there were quite a few wildflowers, a few I don’t recall seeing before. We scared something off in the woods just after arrival and saw evidence of quite a bit of beaver activity. There was coyote scat on the trail, and something, possibly a raccoon, left wet footprints on the boardwalk just prior to our arrival, too. Oh, and I found a Kanopolis Lake Rock, which are supposed to be all around the park.

Next we drove over to Mushroom Rock State Park just down the road. It is a tiny park…5 acres…that just exists to protect a couple of rock formations. Unfortunately, they aren’t really protecting them at all. People are still able to get close and can’t resist leaving their marks. When we got out of the truck, there was a mama cow right at the fence and a baby somewhere behind us, both clearly distressed. We thought the little one had gotten out of the fence, but couldn’t see him. After we checked out the rock formations, I headed down the road towards the sound, which was coming from a dry creek bed. My thought was to walk towards him in the creek, and he would run back to the fenced area. At the bridge, I realized I would need to cross a fence. It was below me and an easy jump, but I would be on private property. While debating, two mama cows with babies suddenly spooked in the trees right beside me, and I just about jumped out of my skin. I wasn’t going onto private property with a bunch of cows close, so I headed back to Brutus. As it turned out, the baby wasn’t out of the fence at all, but just on the other side of the state park land. Thankfully, the mama figured that out and was headed to her baby by the time we left.

After getting cleaned up, we headed over to check out Marquette, Kansas, about 15 miles away. In the tiny town of about 600 people, we were surprised to find several things to do. Our first stop was The Ranch House, where I had the fish special and MW went for the pork tenderloin sandwich. Both were pretty good. They had a really cool Eagle Rare (my favorite bourbon) mirror that I would love to have over the bar in my eventual house. The waitress said the owner wouldn’t part with it though. Pooh! Next we walked a couple of doors down to the Smoky Valley Distillery where we met Stan Von Strohe, who owns the place with his wife, Michele. He retired a couple of years back and decided that this small town where he had spent summers as a kid and spirits were his future. He wasn’t any good at talking to the ghost kind, so he went with distilling. Today they do several different types of vodka and two bourbons, one of which is smoked. (They smoke the bottles before filling, which gives it just a little more sweetness than the other one.) They have a bar where you can sample the wares for FREE and buy full-sized drinks, too, and plenty of room to eat food from the food truck parked out front. (The drink of the day was a fruit punch that was pretty darned good made with their vodka and BASIL!) The gift shop sells all of their spirits, plus some cute extras.

Our last stop in town was at the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. Started in 2003 by Stan Engdahl and his wife LaVona, this place has a pretty big collection of nice bikes dating back to the beginning of motorcycles. They also have Stan’s trophies, and there are more than 600, plus many of the bikes he raced over his 60-year career from the 1940s to the 1990s. During that time, he won five National Scramble Championships and sixteen Kansas State Championships, always racing on a Harley Davidson K model. I took a few pics of my favorites for you. Oh, and they have a rally every year to support the museum called “Thunder on the Smoky”. If you’re a motorcycle dude/dudette, it might be fun to check that out and see the museum at the same time.

On the way back to the campground, we passed several fire trucks. Turns out a wildfire started along the roadway that they got under control really fast. I’m sure the rancher who was losing grassland appreciated that! This part of Kansas is very pretty, and we’ve enjoyed exploring.

Kanopolis State Park was on a list of the best state parks in each state many years ago, and I added it to our list of places to go. MW booked it for this trip without seeing the list, so that was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t disappoint. The recreation area at Kanopolis Lake is the oldest in the state and covers over 15,000 acres. The state park includes a full service marina, beaches, picnic areas, a prairie dog town, and lots of trails for horseback riding, biking, and hiking. Water sports are the main attraction, and lodging options include cabins and fourteen campgrounds with 16 full hookup sites, 54 electric & water, 63 electric only utility sites and over 200 primitive sites. The park is split by the lake, with the Horsethief area on the north side and the Langley Point Area to the south. There are boat ramps on both sides, but the beach and marina are on the south side. The Rockin’ K equestrian campground is one of the best we’ve seen. It has both open and covered corrals, hitching posts, and waste disposal areas that were cleaned out every morning. With almost 30 miles of trails, this would be a great place to have a horse. The bathhouse was reasonably clean, but there is only one on the north side of the lake, to cover a very large area. It was too far to walk from our first campsite, but right next to the second one. There are vault toilets scattered around, though. Cell coverage was good for both AT&T and Verizon, and we had some over-the-air tv stations. We enjoyed our stay and would definitely go again. For this stay in August 2022, we paid $237.75 for 10 nights. Our Kansas annual pass eliminated the daily entrance fee of $5.

Well that’s it. A bit more than a week this time, but we made it through the mechanical difficulties, saw some cool stuff, and are, once again, headed east. Stay tuned, and we’ll see you on the path!

Talisa

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2 Comments

  1. Royal Connell

    Now that you’ve been to Sand Creek, you need to also visit Washita Battlefield NM in western Oklahoma. It is the bookend to Sand Creek and where Black Kettle was killed.

    • Talisa

      Thank you for reading. I’ll definitely put it on the list!

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