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.

1 comment:

  1. A truly fascinating post and I love all the vintage items, especially the telephone! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)