Some Twime in Kansas

How did people survive without smartphones and the Internet?  My daughter was thrilled that our plan is to return to the Seattle area. A number of times she has commented about how long it would take us to get back to Seattle from our various check-ins. As Leslie was driving thru Arkansas, she wondered where the center of the United States was – since we were traveling from far southeast to far northwest.  Well given smartphones and the Internet, I was quickly able to determine that it was just outside of Lebanon, Kansas.

Since we were going to Abilene, Kansas to visit another Presidential Library, and since we have visited the southernmost point, we knew we needed to stop.

Southernmost Point - Key West

Southernmost Point – Key West

According to Wikipedia – “In 1918, the Coast and Geodetic Survey found this location by balancing on a point a cardboard cutout shaped like the U.S. Although this method was only accurate to within twenty miles, and the Geodetic Survey no longer endorses any location as the center of the U.S., the identification of Lebanon has remained.”  That is considered the center of the contiguous United States, the geographic center of the entire United States is Belle Fourche, South Dakota

The center is really out in the middle of nowhere. The town of Lebanon is small and looks like it has seen better days, and then the center of the US is not really in Lebanon – but in a field outside of Lebanon. It is a nice little area that I am guessing does not really attract many people (there was a father and some kids playing when we got there). There are a couple of monuments and a little picnic area.

Center of the U.S.

Center of the U.S.

There is also a 4 (yes 4) seat chapel where couples can take their wedding vows.

Center of the U.S. - Little Chapel

Center of the U.S. – Little Chapel

There is a closed up motel for those that wanted to stay in the center of nowhere in years gone by.

Center of the U.S. - Closed Motel

Center of the U.S. – Closed Motel

FYI – According to Wikipedia, for the conterminous United States – the northernmost incorporated point is Sumas, Washington; the westernmost point is Cape Alava, Washington; the westernmost incorporated point is Port Orford, Oregon.

We also learned a new word – conterminous – sharing a common boundary (it is a synonym for contiguous).

During our travels we like to stop in the state Welcome Centers if possible. They always have information on interesting things to do and see in the state. If we have not stopped in the one for Kansas, we would never have known about the Largest Ball of Twine.

Cawker, Kansas is home to the largest ball of sisal twine built by a community. The ball got rolling (sorry) back in 1953 when Frank Stoeber started collecting twine and rolling it into a ball. In 4 years the ball had grown to 8 foot in diameter. Stoeber gave the ball to the town of and it now sits in an open air gazebo and every August townsfolk come together in a Twine-a-thon to celebrate the ball of twine and add to it.  By 2006 the ball reached a circumference of over 40 feet.  All we can say is “It’s a huge ball of twine.”

Cawker City - Ball of Twine

Cawker City – Ball of Twine

When your town is home to something as amazing and significant as the largest community built ball of sisal twine, the town must celebrate it in many ways.  The businesses up and down Main Street celebrate the accomplishment by proudly displaying painting in their windows that showcase the famous ball. Some of the paintings are originals, but many show the works of the great masters could have been improved by the addition of ball of twine.  Of course you can follow the yellow twine string painted on the sidewalk to see all the pictures.

Cawker City - Ball of Twine Paintings

Cawker City – Ball of Twine Paintings

That was enough excitement (and driving) for one day.

Oklahoma

When I hear someone say Oklahoma I think of the Broadway musical and the line from the song – Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.  As part of the musical it sounds so nice but in reality sometimes it can be devastating.

As we started to move thru Arkansas and into Texas we started to pay attention to the severe weather as it moved across the country. When you live in a house on wheels you do not want to be anywhere near a tornado. While we were in Dallas there was Tornado watch but the weather changed and there was no tornado. However north of us in Moore, Oklahoma they were not as lucky.

Two days after the devastating tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma it was time for us to leave Dallas and head north on I-35.  Our next area we wanted to tour some was in Kansas; however it was too far to drive in one day so we needed to overnight in Oklahoma. Our plan was to stay in the Oklahoma City area overnight. Our path would take us thru Moore and I-35.

The tornado crossed I-35. Although it did not damage the highway it did cause considerable damage along the highway. You hear about the destructive forces of a tornado and how it can destroy one building and leave the next one standing. Although you see pictures and television footage it really does not come close to seeing it in person.

In the picture on the left you can see the sign for a mall theater was left untouched while parts of the mall buildings were destroyed. There was a Post Office in the parking lot that was also untouched. The picture on the right is from the other side of the highway.  It shows some houses that were totally destroyed while ones just a block from them looked fine. Words really cannot describe the destruction on how one house could be standing while the next one is rubble.

Oklahoma - Moore Tornado

Oklahoma – Moore Tornado

Back in 2007, long before we lived fulltime in an RV, Leslie and I signed up to attend a glass convention in Las Vegas. Instead of flying we decided to do a road trip and obviously any route from Seattle to Las Vegas should go thru Amarillo, Texas to follow Route 66 west to Las Vegas and thru to Santa Monica. It turns out that our stop in Oklahoma was in the vicinity of Route 66.

We drove up to Route 66 and went into the city of Chandler where we saw a historic Phillips 66 that was built in 190 and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. We turned back around in Chandler and drove west where we found a part of the old road and Arcadia’s Round Barn which was built in 1898 and has been a part of Route 66 history ever since.

Oklahoma - Route 66

Oklahoma – Route 66

We were ready to head back to Serenity when we noticed what appeared to be a large neon soda bottle down the road. Of course we had to investigate. Well we ran across Pops Soda Ranch (http://route66.com/40.0.html) – a little restaurant, shake shop, and of course soda store. The soda bottle and straw out front soars 66 feet above Route 66 (of course), and they over 600 verities of soda for sale. We picked up a few bottles of some strange flavors to share with the kids when we get back to Seattle (I would say what we got – but I want them to be surprised).

Oklahoma - Pops

Oklahoma – Pops Soda Ranch

We figured nothing could top a 66 foot tool neon soda bottle so we headed back to the RV to rest up for our trip into Kansas.

Bush 41 and 43

We drove from Austin to Texas A&M University campus in College Station to visit the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. So you might be wondering which President George Bush is connected with this library it is George H.W. Bush or Bush 41. (Bush 43’s Library goes by the name of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

George Bush Library

George Bush Library

When we entered the Library we first stopped to view the special exhibit on the human genome. We did not really understand why there was a genome exhibit at the Presidential Library, but later in the library tour we learned that President Bush signed the appropriations bill for the Human Genome Project. The exhibit was very well done and had a lot of activities for children.

George Bush Library - Genome Exhibit

George Bush Library – Genome Exhibit

After a brief visit to the genome exhibit we started our exploration of the permanent exhibits of the museum. Like the other museums it tells the story of the life of the President. Prior to being President, George Bush was in the air force, moved his young family to Texas, was a Congressman,  was the UN ambassador,  was chairman of the Republican Party, was ambassador to China, head of the CIA and Vice President. The library was laid out excellently as a winding trail one could follow thru the life of George Bush.  In addition to an excellent layout the theming for each section was great.

George Bush Library - Theming

George Bush Library – Theming

This library did not have a complete replica of the Oval Office. It had what I would estimate as a third to half of the office with a mural on the opposite wall that showed the rest of the office.  This was the first office that you could walk into and right up to the desk.  (There was an additional $5.00 charge to take pictures in the Oval Office).  You can also sit behind the desk and as you can see Leslie really does not want to the President.

George Bush Library - Oval Office

George Bush Library – Oval Office

We really appreciate the volunteers that work at the various libraries; however one must not believe everything they say. The volunteer told us a little about the picture on the wall to the left of the desk. She said it was from an unknown artist and it is not clear why it is significant but it has hung in every modern president’s office. We went to see the Bush 43’s library and it was not hanging.

As we continued our tour we came upon the section devoted to Barbara Bush. One exhibit that caught my eye was Ked sneakers that she wore. The card talks about how George got 24 pairs from the president of the Keds and gave them to Barbara and then how Barbra divided them between the White House, Camp David and Kennebunkport and would wear mismatched ones and loved to see the expressions on kids’ faces as they pointed to her mismatched shoes.

George Bush Library - Barbara's Ked

George Bush Library – Barbara’s Ked

This area of the Library also had a couch where you could sit and watch a comedy video that included a Segway race that Barbra won. The video was very well done.

Something that we noticed as we toured the museum is the attention they paid to children. At each of the major areas along the way there were they little dog houses that had interesting questions for the younger visitors.  Inside the house the answers were printed on shape of dog bones.

George Bush Library - Dogs for Kids

George Bush Library – Dogs for Kids

We really enjoyed our time in the George Bush Library and Museum and have to say it was the easiest to follow and had the best theming of any we have visited.

Our time in Austin was done and moved on to Dallas. While in Dallas we drove to the campus of Southern Methodist University to visit the newest of the Presidential Libraries.  The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum took place on April 25, 2013 (just a little less than a month before we visited).

George W. Bush Library

George W. Bush Library

After purchasing tickets to the Library you proceed into what is called Freedom Hall. Although all of the libraries continue to update their exhibits to make use of new technology, it was clear that this is the newest library. Freedom Hall is a 67 foot tall lobby that features a 360 degree high definition screen that shows a video of sights and people from across the United States a few times an hour. Some of the scenes in the video were beautiful; however they put the screen up so high it hard on the neck to watch the entire video.

George W. Bush Library - Freedom Hall

George W. Bush Library – Freedom Hall

In an outside courtyard off Freedom Hall there are statues of Bush 41 and 43. We immediately noted the size of the statues and believe that none of the other Presidential Libraries we visited to date had such large statutes. It was interesting to hear other visitors comment that of course “W” would have a huge statue of himself at his library.

George W. Bush Library - Statutes

George W. Bush Library – Statute

We then started to explore the permanent exhibits of the Library. There were not any temporary exhibits at the Library most likely due to the fact that Library just opened. It was interesting to note that unlike the other Libraries, this one had very little of the Presidents early life prior to becoming President.

A large amount of space was devoted to September 11th and the resulting War on Terror. The exhibit included a chunk of the twisted steel from the World Trade Center, which we feel was a little out of place. It is appropriate for the attack to be covered as an important event that occurred during the administration but at times it felt a bit overdone.

George W. Bush Library - 9-11

George W. Bush Library – 9-11

Next up was the Oval Office, unlike Bush 41, the Oval Office was a complete experience, and unlike the other Libraries you could walk thru the office. It was nice to be able to walk thru the office but it did make it harder to get good photographs. I like the effect of the sunburst around the Presidential Seal in the carpet.

George W. Bush Library - Oval Office

George W. Bush Library – Oval Office

A unique attribute of this Oval Office was the addition of the Texas Rose Garden which you could exit into. I went out and was really surprised how small it was, so I had to look up the White House Rose Garden on the internet (how did we ever survive without smartphones). The White House Rose Garden was established in 1913 by First Lady Ellen Wilson on the site of colonial garden that was established by First Lady Edith Roosevelt (wife of Teddy). The garden is only 125 feet long and 60 feet wide (to me it looked larger in pictures). The modern configuration of the Rose Garden with the central grass area and plantings along the sides was done during the Kennedy administration.

George W. Bush Library - Texas Rose Garden

George W. Bush Library – Texas Rose Garden

One thing we have noticed in many (if not all) of the Oval Offices we have seen is a statue of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. We were able to get a good picture of it in W’s Oval Office. The statue is called Bronco Buster and was made in 1895 by American artist Frederic Remington. A cast of the statute was given to Theodore Roosevelt by his Rough Riders. That statue is now Sagamore National Historic Site. During the Carter administration an original cast was given as a gift and now resides in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush Library - Bronco Buster

George W. Bush Library – Bronco Buster

One feature of the Library we really enjoyed was the Decision Points game. This was an interactive exhibit that allowed visitors to play President in some of the controversial decisions that came up during W’s administration. The question was presented and then the players could call on various advisors to give opinions. As the game progressed the players would indicate their decisions. When the time was up the final decision was made from what each player decided. We participated in the decision to send in federal troops into New Orleans to assist in the restoration of order after Hurricane Katrina.  We wanted to play with Decision Points more, but it was near the end and we were very hungry. We did not get any pictures of the actual Decision Points game, but here is part of the exhibit on the Hurricane.

George W. Bush Library - Hurricane Katrina

George W. Bush Library – Hurricane Katrina

We were disappointed that the Library did not include the humor section that a number of the other libraries have had. Although we liked some parts of the George W. Bush Library overall we feel it was not as enjoyable or informative as the others we have visited.

The Presidential Libraries of Texas

Last summer we found ourselves in Independence, Missouri and visited the Truman Presidential Library and really enjoyed our time there. Since then we have made sure that visit the libraries we come across on our travels. When it was time to plan our route from Florida to Seattle we had multiple reasons to go thru Texas, friends, barbeque, and three Presidential Libraries.

As Leslie has noted we started our Texas travels in Austin where we visited the Lyndon Banes Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. The Library is in downtown Austin on the grounds of the University of Texas.

LBJ Library

LBJ Library

Like a few of the other Libraries there was a Presidential limousine in or near the lobby area. This limo is the one that Johnson used after he left office in and around Austin and is not armored. According to Wikipedia future Presidential limousines will be destroyed to keep secret the protection methods.

LBJ Library - Limo

LBJ Library – Limo

Johnson’s history in Congress and relationships he developed coupled with the events of the time enabled Johnson to push thru a lot of landmark legislation that affected everything from arts and humanities to civil rights to head start and highway safety to urban mass transit.   The Library did an excellent job of highlighting the various bills that Johnson signed. Seeing the row of pens really made it clear how many federal bills were passed during his time in office.

LBJ Library - Pens

LBJ Library – Pens

Johnson’s Oval Office was different than any of the others we have seen. He always wanted to know how each of the networks were reporting the news of the times and had a console that contained three television sets and a remote (not like the remotes of today) that allowed him to pick which audio to listen to.  It also had a teletype machine in it – how the times have changed. Johnson’s Oval office had a dark green rug with the Presidential Seal kind of embossed in it – very different than the others we have seen.

LBJ Library - Oval Office

LBJ Library – Oval Office

Like the other libraries, Johnson’s included exhibits of letters written to the President. One that really caught my eye was the one with the picture of the Smothers Brothers. There is not a lot I remember about my youth, however I do remember watching the Smothers Brothers.

LBJ Library - Smothers Brothers Letter

LBJ Library – Smothers Brothers Letter

It is interesting how much outrage there was that Nixon was taping conservations he had in the Oval Office. There was an exhibit in which you could listen to phone calls between Johnson and others that were taped. One that really struck me was a conservation he had with Robert Kennedy where they were talking about things that could be done to support various candidates and Johnson asked Kennedy to help him apply some pressure but not to let it known it was coming from the White House.

The Library included one of the more extensive sections devoted to First Lady. The Library included a lot of information around Lady Bird’s environmental crusades and identifies her as the First Lady of the Environment. It was the only library that included a mockup of the First Lady’s office.  Of course the Library also included the china; Leslie likes Lady Bird’s wildflower pattern.

LBJ Library - Lady Bird

LBJ Library – Lady Bird

There were three special exhibits at the library when we were there. The first was entitled Photojournalism and the Presidency. It was interesting reliving moments in history by seeing photos that you recognize from the past.  The second was a tribute to 3417 Texans that gave their life in Vietnam. It was a very well done memorial that really brought home the human cost of the war by way of the 3417 dog tags.

LBJ Library - Vietnam Memoral

LBJ Library – Vietnam Memoral

The third special exhibit was George Washington’s personal copy of “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States. It is a bound copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the acts passed by the first Congress in 1789. In it you can see Washington’s notations where he highlighted the powers of the President of the United States. By Article 2 Section 3, Washington wrote required – this is the section that talks about the President giving the Congress the State of the Union. The book was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in an auction in June of 2012 for 9.8 million. It is currently touring the 13 Presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and will be part of a privately founded Washington Presidential Library that is being built in Mount Vernon.  Sorry they did not allow pictures of Washington’s book.

The Johnson Library was the largest library we visited so far and really enjoyed the hours we spent there. The next blog entry will cover the Bush Libraries.

 

 

 

 

A Presidential Library and a Bath

During our stay in Little Rock, Arkansas we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, our third visit to a Presidential Library. The library was larger than either of the two we previously visited and like the others started with a film that talked about the Presidents early life and entry into politics.

William J. Clinton Library and Museum

William J. Clinton Library and Museum

After watching the video the guide at the library directed us up to the third floor to the Oval Office.  We enjoy seeing the differences layout and decorations in the Oval Office between the various Presidents.  Clinton’s office had more ‘stuff’ on the tables and shelves than the other offices we had seen prior (and since). A nice feature of the Clinton library was the plaques outside of the Oval Office that identified the artifacts and gave some history of them.

Clinton Oval Office

Clinton Oval Office

Clinton Oval Office Descriptions

Clinton Oval Office Descriptions

One thing to note do not believe everything someone that is working in one of the libraries tells you. One of the guides at the Clinton Library said that all Presidents since Kennedy have used the Resolute desk, which is not correct, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Bush 41 used other desks in the Oval Office.

After viewing the Oval Office we started our tour thru the rest of the museum. We should not have followed the advice of guide that told us to go up the Oval Office after viewing the video. It put the rest of the tour out of order. A couple of the standout exhibits included Christmas decorations exhibit and the Clinton comedy exhibit. The comedy showed a number of videos of the sense of  humor of the Clintons (our only suggestion is that they include a sitting area – it is hard to stand an laugh for an extended period of time).

The Clinton Library also included a full size mockup of the Cabinet Room which we have not seen in any of the prior libraries.

Clinton Cabinet Room

Clinton Cabinet Room

Although the library and museum told the story of Clinton from birth thru his Presidency we did not feel it was laid out as well as the other ones we visited prior (or since). The second floor has a nice timeline of his presidency, but it makes one side onto the other and back as you move forward in time.

Clinton Presidential Timeline

Clinton Presidential Timeline

And now for the bath part of the blog – Leslie mentioned the other day that we took a day trip out to the Hot Springs National Park.  Although many consider Yellowstone to be the first national park, the National Park Service considers Hot Springs as the first park. The Hot Springs Reservation was formed by an act of Congress in April 1832, about 40 years before Yellowstone became a park in March of 1872.  In 1921 Congress changed the name from Hot Springs Reservation to Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the National Parks, but since the park includes portions of the downtown area as well as the sounding hills it is one of the easiest parks to visit.

The panoramic shot below shows the downtown area of Hot Springs as viewed from the surrounding hills.

Hot Springs Panoramic

Hot Springs Panoramic

The history of Hot Springs dates back to the Native American tribes that enjoyed the healing properties of the thermal springs. In the early 1800’s expeditions to the area started to spread the word of the thermal springs and in 1807 Jean Emmanual Prudhomme became the first settler of modern Hot Springs.

The first bathhouses in the area were little more that huts placed over holes in the rocks that collected the hot waters. In 1877 the Federal Government started various programs of major improvement which included a central plumbing and cooling tower system that led to the development of larger bathing houses. As word spread about the therapeutic baths the area developed into a well-known resort.  At one point there were nearly two dozen bathhouses in operation with nine of them on Bathhouse Row in the National Park.

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

During our visit we did a Ranger Walk and learned about the geology of the area. The water comes from rain that falls to the north and northeast of Hot Springs. The water flows thru cracks in the rock to a estimated depths of between 4500 and 7500 feet below the surface, where it is heated before flowing back up to the surface via over 40 thermal springs.

The water from 33 of the springs is monitored and collected into a central underground reservoir.  The springs that supply the reservoir are sealed and capped to protect the safety and quality of the water.

Hot Springs - The Covered Springs

Hot Springs – The Covered Springs

The reservoir supplies water to the bathhouses and public faucets where people can fill containers for personal use. The water does not have the sulfur smell (or taste) that one frequently associates with water from hot springs.

Hot Springs - Free Spring Water

Hot Springs – Free Spring Water

Although the majority of the springs feed the reservoir, there are a few springs that are not part of the central plumbing system. These springs feed little ponds and fountains in the area and I can attest that the water is indeed hot.

 

Hot Springs - Open Hot Springs

Hot Springs – Open Hot Springs