Friday, September 14, 2012

Fort Scott, KS

After leaving The Washington Carver National Monument we drove on towards Ft. Scott, KS. Here we would add another stamp to our National Parks Discovery binder. The tourism pamphlets regarding Ft Scott show an interesting historical town that has made much of it's history as a fort in the 1840's.

We decide to park in the fairgrounds and when we arrive we are the only ones there. Thank goodness there were not any activities planned for the next couple of days and we would have peace and quiet. We had hookups albeit in the grass. When the custodian came around to collect the money however, he told us we could move out onto the road as it was supposed to rain that night and the next day and if we were on the grass, we just might not get out for awhile. That would never do as we were scheduled in Sedalia in a couple of days.

Taking a driving tour around Ft Scott we were taken by the gorgeous late 1800's homes that have been restored and reinvented.  Of course there are those that haven't been but they are definitely in the minority. As one passes down the various street, very often one sees signs of renovations. Of course, there are places where the old have been torn down to make room for the new. I too would want ac and   tight, non-drafty walls with adequate plumbing. To give credit where credit is due, many of the rebuilt homes were built in  the prevailing style of the late 1800's early 1900's. There was one standout however, deco with the typical art deco colors of Florida - pepto bismol pink and sunflower hello. The icing on the cake however, just had to be the pvc rendition of palm trees swaying in the winds. Too bad the vivid colors aren't given justice in the late afternoon sun.

The next morning we took a trolley tour given by the Chamber of Commerce. A fast and furious tour of the various personalities and homes of Sedalia. Seems like every town has their homegrown heroes and Ft Scott is no different. Ft Scott was named after General Scott of the era and it is said that he replied "I'm not and don't expect me to go out there either." when asked if he was thrilled to have all these [frontier] places named after him. The fort was actually built along the Permanent Indian Boundary line that supposedly protected the Indian lands from being encroached by the White Settlers and to protect and prevent the inter-Indian conflicts. This fell by the way side before the fort could be completed but during it's heyday it was a major intersection. After the fort was sold off in the 1850's to the town and the town folks, the town continued to prosper as a the jumping off point for the new land openings in the west. Fortunes were made here and the housing of the late 1800's attests to this fact. Then it started a slow downward spiral until we come to today where it is a hustling refurbished town, proud of it's past, and making the most of it.

One of the houses that we had a very brief introduction to was a house of normal appearance where an avid quilted lives. She is so into quilt making that she has apparently decorated her house inside and out with quilts. To attest to the fact, I offer a couple of photos of the outside of her house, courtesy of the owner herself.

She was thrilled to be asked for photos of her house.

We enjoyed an afternoon at the national historical park where we partook of the type of cache that we particularly like - a multi-staged cache that takes you through the area making you read and learn the history. Then end is the satisfaction of finding the end correctly, learning all about the area and putting your name in the log book. Sometimes you can collect a travel bug and leave one, but this one was not big enough for anything other than the log book.

We could have spent far more time here but alas, Sedalia is calling and the storm clouds are a brewing. So off we go, farther to the NE ...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

on the road to ...

... Sedalia and the Escapees RV rally starting the 15th. For us however, "on the road" can mean a multitude of things. For now it means just that a couple of days here, a day there, and perhaps a couple days that leads to a couple of weeks in other places - our typical mode of travel.

We stayed in Big Cedar a couple of weeks and enjoyed exploring SE Oklahoma and SW Arkansas. Oh what a beautiful area of fields, valleys, mountains and above all, green. I do get so tired of the browns and beiges of the drought and SW summer normal colors.

I am now back in saddle of my bicycle, extending my riding more each time I hop on. It is a hard slog after being off for so long and getting so out of shape with having a car and driving everywhere. While in Peace Corps I walked and road public transportation (which means walking even more). I did ride in Panama but it was only to go into town, a ride of no more than 3 miles when I did it. As I often had to carry things, my bike was out of the question. But now I am back into it ... oh my aching legs, shoulders, arms, wrists, and butt.
We also got the tandem up and running - that is another story. It felt so good to get back on that one. Once on it I quickly recalled one of the downfalls of riding the "Rear Admiral" position, NO cooling draft comes my way until Danny gets down onto his aero bars.

Thanks to a friend on one of the quilting blogs that I belong to, and the fact that we are going to be in Missouri, Danny and I have decided to initiate ourselves back into touring on the tandem. We are going to ride the Katy Trail after we attend the rally and classes. We still have planning to do and make a decision on the week that we will do it in, but hey, the main decision to do it has been made. We are hoping to post as we ride by using the MiFi but as we will be camping some days, that might not happen.

On to Tulsa where we visited Alf, Stacey and the Boys. All are doing well and enjoying life. The drive up from Big Cedar, although only 200 miles give or take, was breathtaking. i think that I could actually live here if we could find something on a lake. The green and trees are my undoing along with the mountains. Oh they aren't at all like the Rockies or the Alps or the Andes, but still they are as beautiful as any of them. Of course having the ticks is a big worry and the mosquitoes do drive me batty when I am out, but other than that, it is great. While in Tulsa we managed to visit a wonderful bike shop where I replace my disintegrating helmet and gloves. So now I am in top form, safety-wise. 

Our next leg took us into the far SE corner of Missouri where we stopped at the George Washington Carver National Monument: Another stamp for my book. Here we learned so much more than the "discoverer of almost 300 uses for the peanut". He was a scientist, educator, humanitarian, and above all he had a deep sense of purpose that his Creator led him by. He only patented three discoveries of which one was for pigments that are now found in the basic Crayola as he didn't want his discoveries to be "held by a minority" but available to those on the lowest part of humanity. His Agricultural Pamphlets were translated into many languages and became the Bible of Ag in many developing Third World companies, used by many NGO's. A truly humble, gentle man, but a man with a stubborn streak that led him to great things. He was born a slave, managed to educate himself when it was denied to him, and spent man years teaching at Booker T. Washington's Tuskagee Institute in Alabama as head of the Ag department. He was also a renown painter having earned Honorable Mention at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.
 As a sickly young boy he spent many hours becoming one with nature and nurturing his love for botany, a love that would guide him for the rest of his life.
There are many sayings posted around the world regarding education that are his quotes - we saw them in Nepal in the schools, in Panama, and in Colombia, to name just a few. 

A truly great man ...

Feeling humbled and thoughtful, we continued on to Fort Scott, KS.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labour Day Weekend ...

Labour Day Weekend, 2012 ... we are stopped in a small place called Big Cedar, in SE OK where our landlord suggested that we attend the big Choctaw Nation celebrations (PowWow). So on Saturday over we went, after our visiting friends from DFW left to return home. Driving over to Tuskahoma the traffic was sparse, not suggestive in any way of the immensity of what is supposed to be a HUGE celebration.

As we drew into Tuskahoma, we had no idea where to go but I was sure that there would be signage of some sort to follow. No sooner had I said this than we saw a roadway sign with large orange blinking lights (you know the kind, the "road repair up ahead" type of sign powered by solar panels) telling us to turn at the next right. Two cars ahead and three cars coming in the opposite direction all turn the same way. Yes, we must be in the right place.

As we slowly drive onto the the Choctaw Nation's land, all we can say is, "We are late!" There are cars parked everywhere. Parking signs say "Parking Lot 13, 14, 15, 10, etc" with attendants at every corner for all 4 ways. With temperatures soaring into the 100's, there are huge cooling units at each corner offering water and a cool-down to one and all. There is even a huge water tank that one can douse oneself in. We follow directions that are given before we can stick our head out the window to ask - we end up parked a very long ways from the festivities that can be seen as we drove through the area.

Loading up with water, sunscreen and bug repellent, we lock up the car and head for the road. Wow, along comes a golf cart and asks if we want a ride. Asking where we want to go, we say the exhibition hall. As the women drives, she gives a very pride-ful history of the Nation (3rd largest in the "nation")  and explains the workings of the festival. Everything is free except food and midway activities and rides, including the concert with Martina McBride and Ricky Scaggs that evening. Turns out, we were being transported but the "elder" car - a system set up to transport all the seniors. Everywhere we looked, they were there, whistling people around. There was also the usual tractor-pulled hay wagons with seats ferrying people from the parking lots to the main events.

Us, along with the anticipated 125,000 attendees jostled and weaved from ac place to ac place. (Temps over 100F) We saw the craft hall - lovely traditional Indian crafts, quilts, leatherwork, beadwork, furniture, paintings, textiles, and ... you pushed and shoved your way through the crowds to just see let alone buy anything. It was air-conditioned and many people were there for that reason alone. Imagine, if you will, coming in when the gates opened in the am to set up your chairs or claim your seats for the evening concert and sitting there all day in soaring temps. You too would head for the ac buildings as often as you could leave your space safely. Then to the midway looking for corn - not to be found but we did find deep-fried pickles, a favorite of mine, and an ac building with health exhibits and booths. The most amazing thing however, was the big sign in front listing the calorie count of fair foods and the entrance booth giving away free ice cold oranges and apples as a healthy alternative. AND the building has AC and we also run across a real neat bicycle tour for next May (2013). Could not sign up but they were taking names to send info to on how to sign up and when.

Then over to the museum, another ac building. It is a new, very modern but historic looking building  with a wonderful statue in front of it.   They are indeed a very proud nation, having overcome adversity and looking to the future while learning from the past, which is established within the museum.

As the heat beats down and I become hotter and hotter even with the wonderful interludes in the ac buildings, we finally have to leave. It was a wonderful experience, one that I wouldn't have missed for anything, if only from the historical part. The festival was very well organized and one that they enjoyed offering to the community at large. Can we find anything more to enhance this? Only time will tell.