Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wagons Ho! Southbound from Kansas

From Covered Wagon Campground, Abilene, Kansas       Our two day journey from Rapid City, South Dakota to Abilene, Kansas was uneventful except for the aggravation that comes with the loss of cool in the coach's chassis air conditioning.   That coupled with the ever warming outside temperatures made us quite unhappy. This happened last year about this time and we had freon added in Foley, Alabama. I think there's a leak in there somewhere. Anyway, we arrived Abilene in a scorching 91 degree, sun drenched afternoon and waited for the world's longest train to make it's way through town just two blocks before we reached the campground.  Insult was heaped onto injury when the campground parked us in a treeless field. A final slap would be the horrendous black flying gnats that swarmed our heads when we dared to venture outside. Egads.  Good news is we are but a block or so from the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and boyhood home -- the reason we came here.

Here is a map of our route from Hart Ranch in Rapid City to Covered Wagon Campground in Abilene.

Without notice on the first travel day, we happened upon Carhenge, (think Stonehenge) an ingenious display of old cars, stacked and half buried in the dirt in the tiny town of Alliance, Nebraska. Evidently, the idea was conceived in 1987 buy a man in England to memorialize his father.

Late in the afternoon we came upon this spectacular Archway spanning I-80 near Kearney, Nebraska. This beautiful archway represents 170 years of westward movement by Americans. From what I read, the archway has a variety of interesting displays.

The original plan for this destination was to rendezvous with Joyce and Charlie who live about a hundred miles south of Abilene in Wichita.  Two weeks ago, however, Joyce began her long awaited cataract surgery and it didn't go well. She's had several follow-up visits with the eye doctor and she is better, but her vision still isn't even as good as it had been before the surgery... much less better.  Joyce and Charlie are also in the midst of extensive remodeling of their home and the timing just didn't work out for them to be away during this time.

So on Tuesday morning we left Lexie and Ozzie at home in their play pen and drove the short two blocks from the campground to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and boyhood home. To make the best use of our time, the ticket clerk suggested we go first to the Place of Meditation, where President Eisenhower, wife Mamie and first born son, Doud are buried.

The President's grave is on the left, First Lady on the right. Four year old Doud is buried here too but it's not clear where.
This purple banner hangs in the Place of Meditation and is apparently the words of then General Dwight David Eisenhower in prayer sometime before the war.

A bit of DDE trivia.  At birth, he wad David Dwight Eisenhower, but somehow upon enrollment at West Point, his first and middle names were transposed and he forevermore became Dwight David.

From the Place of Meditation, we walked to the boyhood home. This is where the Eisenhowers lived from 1898 until mother Ida Eisenhower died in 1946.

Concrete work is being done at the front of the house so tours were conducted through the back door, near where I'm standing in this picture.
The Eisenhower home remains on the original site and contains original furniture and household items just as they were when the family lived here.

The sitting room

The parlor

Dwight Eisenhower's mother, Ida. She lived in this house until she died in 1946.
Service men often came to the house after the war to pay respects to the Allied Commander. Mrs. Eisenhower usually had lemonade and cookies on the front porch for the unannounced visitors. 

The Eisenhower family Bible is on display in the house. 

The original telephone was never changed.  
The Eisenhower Museum was built by the Eisenhower Foundation with funds raised through public gifts. It is made of Kansas limestone and is a short sidewalk walk from the Eisenhower home.

Highlights of the Eisenhower Museum for me were:

Mamie's wedding gown and a display of wedding invitation, a pair of pearl earrings given her by Ike and a tiny piece of wedding cake contained in the small shield box.

Mamie's first inaugural gown

A personal card of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer S.S. and personal stationary of Adlolf Hitler
Original watercolor by Adolf Hitler

The D-Day Planning Table

The Inflatable Rubber Dummy. Hundreds of these were ejected from planes over the Normandy coast. The silhouette gave the appearance of Allied troops parachuting to the ground. The dummies exploded when they hit, making the Germans think they were being fired on. The blast destroyed the decoy, causing the Germans to believe the soldier had moved out of the area,
This letter, marked "Personal and Private" was special to me too. It was from British General Montgomery to General Eisenhower.  Because it's hard to read, I typed the message in the caption block under the picture.

Dated: 27-9-44   "My dear Ike, H.M. The King has asked if he can come and stay with me for 3 or 4 nights, and see his troops. He proposes to arrive on evening 10th October. I have told His Majesty that I am sure will have no objection to his visit. He is anxious on of the of these days of his visit to lunch with you (as I think you asked him) and to visit American troops in the First U.S. Army next door to me. My tentative programme for him would be as follows. Does this suit you?
11 October - Second Army, 12 October - Canadian Army, 13 October - Lunch with you and see American troops.
14 October - Return to England. I am keeping the whole thing very secret and no one here knows anything about it except myself, and Lt. Col. Downey, my M.A.    Yours ever, Monty"
General Eisenhower's 1942 Cadillac Staff Car

After the War 

Eisenhower accomplishments - Both extremely special for us in our retirement travel.

A built bullet-proof podium built for Ike by IBM 

Ike's golf clubs along with a scorecard showing his play against proffessional golfer, Bobby Jones. 
Following our visit to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, we enjoyed lunch at a local cafe in nearby Abilene Old Town and then rummaged around a consignment shop where I bought two nice, functional baskets. We returned to the coach, loaded Lexie and Ozzie and toured the rest of Abilene.

We followed signs to the Lebold mansion, not knowing what we'd find. Turns out this property site is that of the first cabin in Abilene Overland and Butterfield Stage Line. The couple who lived in the cabin were the parents of the first white child to be born here. They also were responsible for naming the city of Abilene.

Trains are everywhere in Abilene. I saw two depots. Wayne swears he saw a third. 

Lebold Mansion is for sale.  Completed in 1880, this 23 room mansion was built by a local banker who lost it after the depression of the late 1880's. For some 53 years, the building served as an apartment building, a telephone office and an orphanage. Restoration on the home didn't begin until 1972 and still is incomplete.
By 3:30, with our city tour complete, we returned to the coach.  Our time here is short as the weather is miserably hot. We pull out tomorrow, continuing the southeastward travel where I don't expect we'll get much cooler.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Summer at Bigfork, Montana

Bigfork Village Motorcoach Resort, Bigfork, Montana        We arrived on June 4th and spent June, July and August here. I found the resort online the day before we left Brigham City. I called Peggy Hinkle, the property manager who had one lot available for the entire season if we wanted it. The resort is a small  -- 29 sites, all individually owned. There are no amenities or on site manager but the large lots are quiet and filled with tremendous Ponderosa Pines -- just what we wanted. It was a two day drive in the rig from Brigham City. We overnighted at a truck stop in Butte, arrived the second afternoon and signed on for the first month.

From the roadside on the way into Bigfork. 
Snow capped mountain peaks behind the Swan River
The village of Bigfork is on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake, a spectacular beautiful blue lake, proclaimed to be the cleanest in the country. Our campsite (and the whole resort) is a short walking distance downhill to Bigfork village, a tiny but vibrant place for shopping, strolling and eats. (It's a walk uphill back to the resort though!)  The nearest suburban shopping area is 30 miles north around the northeast of the lake in Kalispel.

Entry to Bigfork Village Motorcoach Resort and our site, behind the sign.
Deer feast on the flowers in the bed here around the old wagon. They ate the flowers I had around the deck too.
It's not terribly uncommon to see bear here. 

A nice large concrete patio and wide driveway.
There's a small storage house in back filled with everything needed to be comfortable here. 
A few weeks after we arrived, Chula Vista friends, Penny and Bob, were scheduled be in Polson Motorcoach Resort, 20 miles south of us. We hoped to see them but I knew they had a hectic schedule and guests. To our surprise, they, with guests in tow, stopped by late in the afternoon of July 4th. It was good to see them but it was a short visit and I didn't get a photo to include here.

Our three months at Bigfork were a mix of good memories and bad experiences because of Lexie's health (described in painful detail in other posts). While we saw countless beautiful rivers, mountains, wildlife and skies, we grew weary of being in such a remote part of the country. Here are some of my favorite scenes from around the area.

A storm was brewing somewhere along the northeast shore of Flathead Lake 

A bright yellow blooming field of canola on the route from the resort to Calm Animal Clinic.

Barns in this area are especially photographic. Also along the route to the vet. 

Roadside view north from Polson to Bigfork 

The long ordeal of getting Lexie's medical diagnosis finally ended in mid July. Two weeks later, Tom and DJ arrived for a two week rendezvous. It's been a long time and it was good to see them. We enjoyed many hours visiting on our patio. 

Tom, Wayne and DJ on the first evening... eating pizza. 

Grilled elk steak, sweet potatoes and cole slaw.

Tom and DJ brought loads of food, as they always do and I tried some of the grilled elk.

From their last fishing trip to Alaska, they also brought a gift of delicious salmon and halibut. We had a night of Tom's fried trout and hush puppies too.

Oh, how good it is. This is the only time we eat from the wild.

Another day, we all strolled the streets of Bigfork, attended a street fair and ate fresh, warm apple bread at a local bakery.

Drat!  DJ got the last apple fritter at Brookstone Bakery. 

DJ and me with the dogs in tow. Yep, this was a hot day. 

Good restaurant luck was with us here as we located several superb Bigfork eateries along with a couple of good places in Kalispell.

Patio dining at Flathead Brewhouse Restaurant

Our view of Flathead Lake from the patio of Flathead Brewhouse

Tom, DJ and Wayne
We enjoyed great shrimp and fish tacos at Flathead Brewhouse

Saddlehorn Patio Restaurant. Also along the lakeshore near Woods Bay. 
A favorite outdoor restaurant for burgers. 

Another view of Flathead Lake from Saddlehorn Restaurant

In Cathedral City last year, neighbor Bob gave me a nice set of ladies graphite shaft golf clubs left behind by a neighbor who no longer played. It was a good full set but I have new ones that I enjoy using. Wayne carried the clubs in the truck until we found someone who wanted them. DJ became the recipient as she plays but didn't have clubs with her this trip.

Going pro. 

We located a 9 hole pasture golf course and DJ tried the new clubs. We had so much fun that DJ and I would go back for a second round.  The local Bigfork course, Eagle Bend, boasted a much higher play rate and their driving range fee was $20 per person.... but that rate is for an entire day with unlimited balls. The course is very near the campground but we only took an afternoon of practice balls there.

DJ, Tom, Wayne and I also spent a day kayaking the Swan River. We rented kayaks at Base Camp Bigfork (highly recommend) and took the 15 mile ride to launch. Unexpectedly, the historically rapidly moving river has dwindled to a trickle and the "float" turned into a half-day work out for us. We had fun, nevertheless.

I took this picture of Tom and DJ ahead of us. Wayne is to my left. 

The Wayner 

DJ. My pictures are awful. DJ has better ones. I'll try to replace someday.
We met just three couples while at Bigfork Motorcoach Resort. Neither developed into real friendships. Several owners seem to take their ownership roles a bit too seriously, I think. I did develop a good friendship though, with the off site property manager, Peggy.

At the end of three months, on September 4th, we left Bigfork Village Motorcoach Resort. We are glad to be pulling out. It's not that we didn't like being here. We enjoyed it as much we could under the circumstances. It's more that the memorable part of our visit will likely be the worrisome experience of Lexie's illness.