Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wichita and Fort Scott

I had to make a quick stop in Wichita for my annual medical check ups, but got to do some sightseeing.  As many times as I have been to Wichita, plus the fact I used to live there, I had never been to the Kansas Air Museum.  Built on the site of the former Wichita Municipal Airport, the museum not only has an impressive list of aircraft on site, but details the early history of aviation manufacture.  
I knew many small, private airplanes were made in Wichita, as well as many of the Boeing aircraft, both military and commercial, but I did not know this:


This is one of only three prototype Stearman cars made here in Wichita at the Stearman Aircraft plant.  It was a 2 cyl., 20 hp Kohler engine, which held only 4 gal. of gas and got 40mpg.  It could top out at 60mph and cruise at 40.   The design was for in-town driving, but the project was discontinued in 1973.  (Maybe this was the forerunner of the Smart Car)


Every red dot on the map below is an aircraft manufacturing facility which has operated at some point in Wichita.  I was surprised at how many are still in operation.  Just some of the more commonly known are Lear, Beech, Raytheon, Cessna and Stearman and Boeing.


But aircraft isn't the only thing Wichita is known for.  The Coleman Company got its start here in the early 1900s with the idea to manufacture a gas-powered lamp.  Coleman is still headquartered in Wichita, but much of its manufacturing is now done overseas.

Just a few other things of interest which were invented or came from Wichita:  
1890s-Mentholatum; the birthplace of White Castle Hamburger; Pizza Hut; and Rent-a-Center.

Finally, we are ready to start east.  The next stop is Fort Scott, KS.  The fort was established in 1843 as a military outpost to guard the military road from Fort Leavenworth down to Oklahoma Indian Lands.  Missouri had just become a state and everything west of Missouri was still wild frontier.


The outpost was abandonded in 1853 when it was no longer needed.  In 1855, the government auctioned the land and property to the local settlers.  Barricks such as those below were sold for $200-$500 to the highest bidder to become hotels.  The parade grounds became a city park and the town flourished.  In 1854, Kansas had become a territory and opened for settlement.

Fort Scott did see a resurrection when the Army took over during the civil war.  But by 1869, the town was at the hub of the new railroads.  At one time over 100 trains went through this town every day.  People came out west to Kansas to open banks and stores to support the growth and along with that growth was wealth.  At one time, Fort Scott rivaled Kansas City as the hub of railroads, but Kansas City won out and now the town has only a population of about 8,000.  But in its heydey, some elegant mansions were built out here on the dirt prairies.
In 1868, business partners from New York City came to Fort Scott to open a bank.  They built twin homes (identical floor plans, although the exteriors are slightly different) next to each other.  These homes were completed in 1878 at a cost of $10,000 each.  But shortly after their completion, the bank folded and the they were seized by the courts and sold.  One sold for $5,000 and the other $6,500.  Today, they are again owned by the same person and are operated as a bed and breakfast, with a restaurant as well.  We had lunch there and were allowed to wander through the house and into one of the rooms which wasn't rented out at the time.  They have both been furnished in period style furnishing from the mid to late 1800s.

This is the twin next door.  

The visitor center offers a guided bus tour for $5.  I was glad we did it.  Found out lots of interesting facts about the town and its history.  Below is another bed and breakfast.

I imagine there were 30+ restored homes in a 3 block square area.  Another industry which brought money into this town was gravel and concrete.  Although the gravel pits have dried up, they supplied the gravel and concrete for the building of the Panama Canal.  And today, they might have eight trains go through instead of the 100+ as in the past.  
For such a small town, they had the most impressive numbers of restored and maintained mansions built in the mid to late 1800s that I have seen.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Oklahoma and Grandkids

My first stop in Oklahoma was Ft. Gibson and Aaron and Holly's new home.  They now have 5 acres in the country and that leaves me lots of room to park.  In fact, Max and I didn't have any problems at all getting both our RVs in their driveway.  

This was in May, when all the rain and storms and floods.  For comparison, here I am at a place called 'the tubs'.  As you can see there is lots of water and moving very fast.  I'm at the bottom of the chute you will see in the next picture.

Well, this was 2 years ago at the same place.  The kids are down where I was standing in the last picture.  Normally, you have a nice chute to slide down as in this picture.   


Another example of the flooding was this closure of a low water bridge around the corner from where my kids live.   I heard later after the water had receded, there were large chunks of concrete gone from the bridge and it will be closed for a very long time.

Gavin gets a free ride back over the creek on Uncle Sam's shoulders.  (He got over there on the ATV).

Aaron and Holly's new toy.  

This is what their back field looks like after they have all played with the new toy.  Adrion and Gavin are out inspecting the mud hole they just made.  

I was there during the end of the school year field day for Gavin.  It was a little cool that morning and Gavin and his mom are trying to stay warm.

But it is finally the kindergartners turn for the sack races.

And the relay races.

And whatever they call this.

All too soon it was time to head down the road to Oklahoma City.  One afternoon I had the three younger grandkids come out to Arcadia Lake, where I was parked.  I think they had a lot of fun at the playground.  Here, Cale and Colin try to buck each other off.


Now it's Cale and Caitlin.

Colin swinging across the monkey bars.

And now Cale.

The water was a little high, so they played on top of the picnic table to keep their feet dry. (The site I stayed at 3 years ago was under water, only the very top of the table was visible)

Carter, now 15, is my soccer player.  Here he is (#25) playing indoor soccer.  I'm so proud of him, he will be on the varsity team as a freshman in high school.  

And here he is again playing outdoor soccer.  

My last evening in Oklahoma City, we all went out to Pops for dinner.  Notice the 15 year old is now the tallest in the family.

One of Oklahoma City's famous places is the Cowboy Hall of Fame or as it is now known:


I went to grade school just a few blocks down the road from the museum and it wasn't near as large as it is today.  Since I hadn't been here in probably 40 years, it was like seeing it for the first time again.  They have several different areas.  One area is devoted to rodeo and rodeo performers and the history of rodeo.  

They have an entire western town inside the museum.  Here, Max and I are lounging at the bar in the saloon. 


Another section of the museum was dedicated to western performers and all the western movies that have been made.  Some of the earliest western movies were silent films and filmed right here in Oklahoma at a ranch near Ponca City.
There were sections on pioneers and guns and even an entire wing on western art.  I was glad I went and probably could go back tomorrow and see lots of stuff I didn't see today.
Now it's time to move north to Wichita.






Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mena, AR and the Talimena Trail

When we left Louisiana, we were headed to Oklahoma, but on the way I wanted to stop and show Max one of the prettiest areas in southeastern Oklahoma.  Many people think of Oklahoma being flat and only having wheat fields, but that is so far from reality.  Only in the central and northwestern part of the state do you have flatlands and wheat fields.  We have hills (they are actually called mountains, but I refrain since they can't compare to the Rockies and the likes), lakes, sand dunes, caves and waterfalls.  And we even have some of the most beautiful fall colors around.  Every fall people drive the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a 50 mile trip through the Ouachita Mountains from Mena, AR, to Talhina, OK. 

Most of the 50 mile byway runs along a ridge.  I'm at one of the higher lookouts and looking behind me and down of the scenic drive.

It is 50 miles of breathtaking views.  Now everything is green, but in the fall, the colors run from green to yellow to orange to red, all at the same time.  It doesn't get any prettier.

These mountains have been traveled for years.  Orginally by the native Indians who lived here before we forced all the eastern Indians out here.  Even in 1832 the military was making roads through this area.

The area was nicknamed Winding Stair Mountains because of the winding, steep roads needed to traverse through the area.

Natural Springs throughout the area attracted not only the wildlife and early people, but once the area became settled, also drew the outlaws.  The area was so wild, the outlaws could escape in the area and hide out easily, but springs like this drew them to a central location.

I didn't drink out of it, but the water is still flowing.  The structure around the spring was built by a 1930s CCC camp.  You can see remains of their improvements throughout the drive.  They built shelters and even a campground which still exists.

Smokey Bear had just finished giving a talk to a group of school kids, but he agreed to let us get a picture with him.  

We missed the ranger show about raptors, but here this hawk is just enjoying being out of his cage.

This is one creature I wouldn't want to meet up with along the trails.  He tried to cross the road and didn't make it.  And no, we did not hit him, we found him like this.  

There was a dispute on the state line marker. Before Arkansas and Oklahoma were states, this area was originally given to the Choctaw Indians when they were forced here from their original homes in Mississippi and further east.  A survey marker from 1825 was discovered in 1877 to have been placed too far west, taking 136,000 acres away from what rightfully belonged to the Choctaw Indians per the treaty of 1820.  It took years of dispute and negotiations before the Choctaws were compensated for the loss of this land.  Even today, there is still dispute about the correct boundary lines.


The Rich Hill Fire Tower.  The original fire tower was only a platform on top of a pine tree.  It was replaced with a wooden tower in 1910.  Somewhere in the 1920s it was replaced with another tower and again in the 1940s.  This tower was built in the 1950s and was in use until the 1970s.  This information came from the signs on site, which is slightly different from what online info says.  A few interesting facts about this tower, it is 65 ft tall, but on top of Rich Hill (altitude 2681), it is the 2nd highest point in Arkansas.  When volunteers are available during the summer months, you can climb the tower for a view of the Ouchita Mountains.  In was still early May and no volunteers were there to let us climb the tower.
Our sightseeing is over and it's time to head to Ft. Gibson to see my kids and grandkids.