Saturday, June 1, 2013

Abilene, KS - Day 5 and 6

I left Independence a day early due to a another bad weather forecast (more tornado, hail, and severe thunderstorm watches) and I had seen everything I came for.  When I left it was pouring.  There were blinding downpours all the way to Topeka.  It was pretty bad.  I heard that 3-4 inches of rain fell and there was some flash flooding along some creeks and rivers.

After Topeka the rain stopped that the sky started to clear.  The terrain also changed to rolling grass land.  It was pretty spectacular and so different from what I had been seeing in MO, IL, and IN.  Little to no development or roads.  Just green grass vistas that went on for 10 miles in all directions and with some livestock dotting the hillsides.

My first destination was Fort Riley.  This active military base is home to the 1st Infantry Division - "The Big Red 1".  It also houses the US Cavalry Museum and Custer's Historic House, which are open to the public.  You have to show two ID's to get on the base.

Custer House Fort Riley

The Cavalry Museum is pretty neat.  It chronicles the Cavalry's role in helping to settle the west and it's role in other conflicts.  It has lots of displays.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry, which were initiated at Fort Riley, were made up of all black soldiers.  They were referred to as "buffalo soldiers" by the Indians.  Custer's 7th Cavalry was also stationed at Fort Riley.  The week-ends were quite festive at the fort with hunting parties and other events.  The term "Life of Riley" originated at the fort referring to the easy lifestyle that some had at the fort.

US Cavalry Museum

Fort Riley is very historic.  It was built in 1853 and most of the buildings are built from the local limestone.  The parade grounds and surrounding stone buildings are very picturesque.

My next stop was Abilene, boyhood home of Dwight Eisenhower.  Although he was born in Texas, he lived in Abilene from the time he was 8 yrs old until 18 yrs old when he left to attend West Point.  Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, are buried in Abilene.  There is a beautiful museum and library complex in town that commemorates Eisenhower's legacy.  The Eisenhower home is also preserved on the library grounds.

I toured it all.  As you go thru the museum, you get a sense the historic figure that Eisenhower was.  Much of the museum is devoted to his army accomplishments.

There are three cases that display the numerous medals he was awarded from the US and other countries.  He was awarded five Distinguish Service Medals.  Baby bombers who were born after WW II and after Eisenhower's presidency probably don't appreciate the magnitude of his stature.  Being the Supreme Allied Commander of all the European forces in WWII, General of the Army (5 star), Supreme NATO Commander, Army Chief of Staff, President of Columbia University, and President or the United States.  Most of us have never seen such an accomplished and decorated person in our life times.

Eisenhower Boyhood Home

Chapel Housing Eisenhower's Grave
The library, museum, chapel, and home were worth the stop and I would highly recommend a visit.

I continued on I-70 spending the night at another truck stop in Salina.  As I progressed west, the terrain became more flat and trees became more scarce.  Wheat fields also came into view.

I stopped at Fort Hays Historic Park in Hays.  Fort Hays was built in 1865 as a supply fort supporting wagon trains going west and eventually the railroads.  The fort was large with over 45 buildings for housing Cavalry and Infantry troops.  Its main job was getting supplies out to the western frontier so there were over 1,000 mules corralled at the fort and over 150 teamsters to drive the wagons.  In the movie "Dances with Wolves" Lt. Dunbar travels to Fort Hays to get his orders to go to frontier and leaves with the teamster Timmons.. What see for terrain in that movie is what in looks like in western Kansas.  There's only 4 buildings left standing from the original fort., but it is worth a visit.

Fort Hays Office Quarters

As I proceeded west, the elevation also began to increase. While still flat and tree less the elevation went from about 900 in Abilene to 3900 at the Colorado border.  I did get off the highway and take some back roads to get a sense for the terrain.  It's pretty sparse and so different from what the terrain is back east.  You can see the horizon for over 10 miles in each direction.  Every small town has a grain elevator and you can see them on the horizon as you approach a town.

Rt 283 goes on for 25 miles like this

I enjoyed seeing and experiencing the high plains.  Now I progress to the Rockies.  Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are my next stop

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