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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tornado Alley

Hi all,

The weather yesterday and today has not been terrific. Considering how long we've been gone and how wonderful the weather has been for most of that time, we are certainly not complaining.

After weeks of almost blinding sunshine yesterday was an abrupt change. Spent most of the time driving out of Oklahoma and into Kansas fascinated by the sky and the eerie light. We passed through one small town after another that had little more than the ubiquitous grain elevator and a couple of houses. Some of the towns were not even incorporated. The names of the towns are interesting as well. The first Kansas town? LIBERAL!  Really???

Eventually we reached Meade and sought out the Dalton Gang hideout.  Well, you know, it was Sunday in Kansas--where there are bulletin boards with the Sacred Heart saying I trust in Jesus and others with Koala Bears climbing trees and saying please save human babies---so the museum would not be open until 1 pm. Guess we will have to visit that tiny prairie house and the museum some other time. For those of you interested in that sort of thing there is a neat article on the Dalton Gang at:


On we tramped still watching grain elevators and inventive town name signs and welcomes as well as an apparently drunken row of electric poles. Shortly after passing through Mineola, which Bill says is the home of Mineola tangelos--growing on the lone twisted tree in that field? or maybe that scraggly grove of windbreak trees?--he always gets me laughing---anyway, we came to a small sign that said round barn with an arrow pointing to the right. You guessed it--we needed to check that out.

 What a beautiful barn in the middle of nowhere!  The wind was blowing something furious so we didn't even try to open the sliding door marked entrance. Not sure if it was locked--we didn't want to try to open and then close it again. It was so bad that Bill had to come open my door and then hold it open when I got back in so it wouldn't slam on my legs as I tried to get them into the car.

I deleted the first pictures I took of the welcome to Greensburg sign since they had obstructions and were blurry. I had read the sign but didn't think anything about its meaning until after we sought out the World's Largest Hand Dug Well. As we drove the Main St we commented on how odd it looked--like it had just been created--no landscaping and the road looked freshly poured. Then as we looked around we realized something terrible had happened. The Big Well is getting a new museum which will soon open and is surrounded by utter devastation. A Tornado had to have torn through this place. All of a sudden Greensburg rebuilding took on a special meaning. Just as hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast had sobered us two years ago, so too, the evidence of the power of tornadoes also sobered us once more.

The flatness of Kansas gave rise to rolling hills as we continued toward Larned and the Fort which had sat as part of a string of Forts designed to protect the traders etc that traveled the Santa Fe Trail pre-Civil War. Buffalo Soldiers served here after the Civil War. All of the buildings are original--once the Fort was closed the Government sold it to a family which used it for a ranch. Some of the roofs were altered but by and large the family did nothing to the buildings, even using one of the Officers' Quarters as their home and the barracks as housing for their hands. In the 60's the Government took it back when the family wanted to close the ranch, removed the alterations and made it into a National Historic Site.  Didn't walk the whole quad, since its layout is very similar to Fort Laramie, which I've visited several times. Did, however, check out one of the houses on Officers' Row and also looked at the inscriptions by soldiers who helped build the Fort and several people in the early years of the 20th Century.(BTW, Ranger told us the tornado hit Greensburg in 2004. A huge Combine tire was thrown miles from town and the Combine from which it came was even farther away!)

Our last stop of the day was Pawnee Rock, apparently a landmark outcropping of sandstone that stood out quite prominently on the horizon and served to direct travellers on the right path of the Santa Fe Trail. Unfortunately, through the years the rock has been quarried and also eroded so it is quite a bit smaller than it was when it was visible from a great distance.

By the time our explorations were complete for the day the clouds had broken again and blue showed through. The sun came out though the wind did not stop! Upon arrival at our lodgings in Great Bend I noticed the lovely lyre shaped clock. Amber Montoya, our desk clerk ,said it belonged to the owner's wife and was from England. She said it plays a different piece of music each hour. Bill asked: Pink Floyd?  She groaned and said, no, unfortunately!  She gave us a suite and a $12 discount and I liked her service so much we gave her one of our 1000 pt bonus rewards card.

We went to Applebee's for dinner and home to bed. The wind and fresh air had tired us quite a bit. Slept like logs.

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