In Cold Blood – Day 66

In Cold Blood

Day 66 – June 5, 2003 – Thursday

I drove from Garden City, Kansas to Grand Junction, Colorado. Colorado is a beautiful state that we have visited a number of times. Unfortunately, the southern route I chose just didn’t have a lot of sights to see other than the mountains. And when you are in the car all day, you don’t meet many people.

I was on a radio program today with three funny DJs — lots of fun.

The day began with a visit to the home in Holcomb, Kansas where the murders took place that Truman Capote wrote about “In Cold Blood.” We haven’t been trying to see places like this, but it was just three blocks off the route, and Sheila at the hotel gave me directions.

I drove into downtown Garden City to see the Windsor Hotel. Pretty sad-looking.

I was on a radio show this morning with JJ, Stephanie, and Mike from Lafayette, Indiana. It lasted for quite a while; they asked a lot of questions, and I told a lot of stories. They said I should have gone to Greencastle, Indiana to see the world’s largest high school gym. They asked what my next stop was, and I told them I was just down the road from the home where the family was killed in the book and movie, “In Cold Blood.” That put a bit of a damper on the interview.

I’d driven Kansas Avenue from Garden City to Holcomb as directed. I turned left on the main road, Anderson Road. I crossed the railroad tracks, and I was looking for the third turn to the right, Oak Avenue. There were signs that said “Keep Out,” but I didn’t. I saw the house, took a photo, and got out.

I visited the Lamar Colorado Welcome Center where Judy Douglass was extremely helpful. This was the best welcome center lady in terms of information. She knew everything. I took a picture of their Madonna of the Trail. She gave me a brochure that explains the twelve Madonnas of the Trail. They were all done to mark different trails. I took a picture of their historic depot and steam locomotive number 1819.

It was raining hard, but the ladies at the Colorado Welcome Center said they sure love it because they’ve had three years of just terrible drought. That’s what Earl said in Kansas.

I determined that I would have to skip Cripple Creek because I couldn’t really get to it easily. It was a four-wheel drive dirt road.

Canon City has some sights to see. I stopped at the Colorado Territorial Prison Museum, and then I went to Royal Gorge. There were a lot of things to do around there — river rafting, camping, stables, tourist attractions.

There’s an amusement park at Royal Gorge. It was $18 to get into the park, but there’s a spot where you could go and just take a picture of the bridge and the gorge, so I did.

One attraction, Buckskin Joe, had only five cars in the parking lot. That would be a little tough to make it work financially I’m afraid.

There were a lot of rafting places. Folks raft down the Arkansas River; it goes through the Royal Gorge. These were big rafts, no little play rafts.

Near Big Horn Sheep Canyon, the river ran right along the road; it was very pretty. I took some river photos from the bridge at Brown’s Landing in the canyon. Then I stopped when I saw some guys rafting without rafts. They were jumping in “body surfing” along with the current. There were kayakers there to kind of make sure they didn’t get too hurt, but it certainly looked dangerous to me. I met three rafter photographers: Tim, Crystal, and Shonna. They photograph for the rafting companies and sell the photos.

I got a photo of the world’s largest mobile fishing fly in Salida. It was at a fly fishing shop.

I crossed the Continental Divide in Poncha Springs — 7569 feet elevation.

I saw the Monarch Ski Area.

I have never been in a traffic accident in my 38 years of driving — either as a driver or passenger. Knock on wood. Near Monarch on a treacherous mountain road turn today, a car coming in the opposite direction directly in front of me never turned, crashed into the guard rail, did a 180, and hit it again. The car never appeared to brake or even turn. If there had not been a guard rail at that spot, those folks would have died. Scary. Several of us pulled over to see what we could do. The folks in the car did not appear to be seriously injured, but the folks in the pickup truck behind me went back to check on them, and I drove six miles to the nearest store to call 911.

I met Bill and Cheryl after meeting Bob Meyer and reporting the accident that I just saw.

I did my eleventh pass — a slow moving pick-up truck on a mountain road.

I passed through the Blue Mesa Reservoir area.

I reached Grand Junction, Colorado at 7:23 pm. 24,688 on the odometer. Grand Junction has a beautiful setting in a valley surrounded by big mountains on one side with a river flowing through it; it is very pretty.

It rained much of the day, but I pledged to not grumble about the rain. Farmers seem to always need rain, and we should all do everything we can to support farmers.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
In Cold Blood — Canon City Colorado — Royal Gorge

In Search of a Name in a Song – Day 65

In Search of a Name in a Song

Day 65 – June 4, 2003 – Wednesday

The day began in Salina, Kansas and ended in Garden City, Kansas. It was an ugly day — dark clouds all day and rain off and on. And it wasn’t a very exciting day, though I did see the Kansas version of Rock City, Dorothy’s house in Liberal (Wizard of Oz) Kansas, Pawnee Rock, Dodge City, the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well, the World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorite, Midway USA, and a great round barn. I found Earl in Bucklin, Kansas; he was just a name mentioned in a song. I had a delightful lunch and great pie at Granny’s Kitchen in Great Bend. I passed on eating anything or drinking the water in a town named Montezuma.

I left the Candlewood Hotel after telling stories to the ladies at the front desk. That’s happened a lot during the trip. It’s all due to the beads. People see the beads, ask about them, and then it is story time. The beads have become the best tool on the trip by far — much more effective than our shirts, caps, business cards, or the signs on the car. And we have to do a lot less work because the beads meet people for us! I don’t write about it every day, but I give beads to everyone I meet, and I meet quite a few people most days.

I’m heading north on Interstate 135 to connect to Highway 18 to go to the unplanned detour to the town of Minneapolis, Kansas where I’m going to see a version of Rock City. I had my regular weekly radio show this week. Every Wednesday, no matter where we were, we were on the radio in Palm Springs, California.

Rock City contains rocks that were left prior to the Ice Age. In an area about the size of two football fields, 200 rocks (some as large as houses) dot the landscape. There is no other place in the world where there are so many concretions of such giant size.

There are rocks that look like a turtle, steamboat, birdbath, twin sisters, kissing lips, and more. At Rock City, I took a photo of each of the interesting rocks. “The Lips” was my favorite. These are Dakota Sandstone, and these rare concretions range in size up to 27 feet in diameter and have been designated a National Natural Landmark. I met Ray, the man in charge. Nice man.

I bought a Coke, and it tastes like grass. I had a similar experience in Kentucky where every Coke I tried had a grass flavor. Very strange. I had no idea what causes the strange taste.

It was very easy driving in Kansas. It’s just farmland and wide open spaces and straight smooth roads. If it hadn’t been raining, it would have been nice.

I happened to see a sign for the little town of Claflin that said: “If you can’t stop, smile as you go by.” You can guess what I did. Any town with a sign that clever deserves a visit and a photograph. I went west on Kansas Route 4 for two miles. Jackie Stiles, WNBA rookie of the year in 2001, was from Claflin. There was a sign to prove it. There was also a little old weather-beaten sign outside of town with a big list of state championships that Claflin has won. I took a number of photos in Claflin. The downtown is just as cute as can be; it had been redone as an old western town. So, I stopped, and I smiled. Thanks, Claflin!

There were a lot of cars at Granny’s Kitchen in Great Bend, Kansas, so I decided to stop for lunch. I have been tricked before by restaurants with lots of cars…only to go in to find little or no one there. I wasn’t tricked by Granny’s. The place was packed, and I met some of the nicest people who work there, and then a really nice couple with their grandson, Gage. I took a picture of Mona, Diane, Nick, and Rosie; Diana and Nick own it. My breakfast burrito was great and the rhubarb pie was excellent.

Keith, Gage, and Alta were from Pawnee Rock. They suggested that I go there. Alta told me that they’ve lived in Pawnee Rock for 30 years and never had a murder, but they just recently had one.

I drove straight to Pawnee Rock and the Pawnee Rock National Monument. I met Autumn, Ariel, Austin, Dan and Melissa at Pawnee Rock; they were from Hastings, Nebraska. Pawnee Rock was a landmark used for navigation by wagon trains in the Old West.

I met Micah, Dustin Johnson, Denton, Trevor, and Bobby as I headed back to the highway. They were out hunting snakes. I’d guess they were maybe 10 years old. I was a little worried that these little guys were out hunting snakes, but I was somewhat relieved when I looked in their bucket and saw a tiny snake. I asked them how they liked living in Pawnee Rock, and they all said it was a nice place to live; it’s quiet; and they like it there.

When I stopped for gas, I saw a Sheriff’s Van, so I thought I would ask about the recent murder in Pawnee Rock. I met Stephanie and Officer Wyant of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. They were on their way to a state hospital to pick up an inmate who was having psychiatric evaluations. He murdered his mother and his aunt. I think psychiatrists should be required to make house calls at prisons. I wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of a serial killer being driven around Kansas in an old Dodge van.

I saw the Garfield Memorial Wayside Chapel. It was named after President Garfield. It was 6 feet by 18 feet. It’s certainly one of the smallest roadside chapels that we’ve seen.

Kinsley was a planned stop today. Kinsley is midway between New York and San Francisco, 1561 miles to each. Kinsley calls itself the “Midway City.” A 1939 Saturday Evening Post cover showed two cars, starting in Kinsley and going in opposite directions, both bearing a sign saying “World’s Fair or Bust.” In 1939, there were two “World’s Fairs” — one in New York and one in San Francisco.

As I drove into Kinsley, I learned that Kinsley has a special connection to carousels. In 1901, Kinsley area farmer Charles Brodbeck, went to Hutchinson, Kansas, a trip of almost 100 miles. There he was fascinated by a small carousel, but more fascinated that people would ride a horse a considerable distance and then pay someone a nickel to ride a wooden horse around in circles. Brodbeck traded a quarter acre of land, some horses and cows for the little carousel. At first, he kept the carousel at his farm and gave rides to the neighbors. But in 1908, he and his son, Fred, loaded up the carousel and took it to nearby towns to sell rides. Very soon the family concluded that the little carousel with the wooden horses going round in a circle could make more money than farming. The next year, the family went out with the carousel and offered rides at small-town fairs and picnics throughout south-central Kansas. They added a Ferris wheel, other rides, games, and exhibitions, and soon the traveling carnival became a full-fledged “show.” The carnivals of Kinsley would travel throughout the Midwest from April to October setting up amusements for the delight of young and old. By the late 1970’s, the operation of the smaller family carnivals became too difficult. The business shifted to very large carnival companies.

The rich carnival history of Kinsley inspired the establishment of the National Foundation for Carnival Heritage in 1991. Bruce White, a nationally recognized wood carver of carousel figures, began working with the Foundation. Kinsley has a museum that houses a small carousel populated with figures that have been created from the winning entries in the “Design a Carousel” contest run in Kinsley. Carnival games, artifacts, memorabilia, and photos of the historic days of carnival are available to show visitors what family carnival life was like. In Kinsley, the legacy of a man who bought a wooden horse and developed an entire industry in a small midwestern town is being preserved and built upon for future generations. I liked that a lot.

Unfortunately, both the Carnival Heritage Center and the Economic Development Office were locked.

I took a photo of a mural featuring a carnival and a carousel. There was a colorfully-painted trash can filled with rocks next to the mural. I have no idea what the deal was with the trash can. I should call someone in Kinsley to ask.

There is a roadside park in Kinsley where US 50 and US 56 join. It has the Edwards County museum, Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe steam locomotive #3424, an old church, and a sod house.

My focus at this point was to go to Mullinville where I could see the work of a grassroots artist who I learned about in Lucas, and then on the Bucklin in search of “Earl,” a man mentioned in a Banks & Shane song that I like.

I detoured a bit because I saw signs for Greensburg having the world’s largest hand-dug well and also something about a world’s largest meteorite. I met Pam of the Chamber of Commerce at the big well. I took a picture; that’s a big well. I also saw the meteorite.

I reached Mullinville a little after 4 pm. I found the fields where M.T. Liggett has a number of his metal sculptures. Quirky.

I also strayed a bit from my route to see a wonderful restored round barn.

I reached Bucklin, Kansas just before 5 pm. I came to Bucklin in search of Earl, a man named in a song by our favorite singing group in Atlanta, Banks & Shane. Banks Burgess and Paul Shane started singing together in 1970, and they have been together and performing regularly ever since. Boz and I love them; they are wonderful singers, musicians, comedians, and entertainers. We have always been amazed that they didn’t become huge international stars. We sincerely believe they are that good. They have self-recorded some of their concerts and shows, and on one of their albums, they sing a song about the tough life that farmers have, and they talk about their friend “Earl,” a farmer from Bucklin, Kansas. I didn’t know Earl’s last name. I had no idea if he still lived in Bucklin, Kansas. But when I spotted Bucklin, Kansas on the map, I decided to drive to Bucklin in search of a man who I knew only by his name in a song.

As I drove into Bucklin, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to go about finding “Earl.” But the clue hit me right between the eyes. I saw big grain silos in “downtown Bucklin,” and I figured the local farmer’s co-op would know every farmer in these parts. So, I parked and walked in.

Bryan, the young man at the counter at the Offerly Co-op, asked if he could help me. He was probably trying not to laugh as he saw me walk in wearing my Mardi Gras beads. I’m guessing they don’t see a lot of beads in Bucklin. I told him I was looking for a farmer named “Earl;” I needed his name and phone number. The young man went to get the manager.

The manager took one look at me and my beads, and I suspect he was thinking he wouldn’t be telling me anything about anyone in the area named Earl. I handed him my business card with the story of the trip on the back, and I told him who I was, what I was doing, and this crazy idea about trying to find the man in the song. He asked me about how old did I figure this Earl was, and I told him he was probably about my age, 55. He decided I was probably okay, and he said he would dial the number of Earl Platner for me. He handed me the phone, but all I got was a recording. I left my cell phone number for Earl with a message about Banks & Shane.

I thanked Bryan and the manager, gave them beads, took a few photos of Bucklin for Banks & Shane, and I headed “Down the Road.” (That’s the title of one of the songs that Banks & Shane does so well.)

Well, it was a good try. I at least made it to the town, found out the full name of Earl, and made contact by recorder. I felt pretty satisfied, though it would have been great to actually meet Earl and enjoy some pie together. Maybe next trip.

I visited Old Fort Dodge and then Dodge City. Dodge City is a famous old west town. I was turned off by Dodge City because they wanted me to pay $8.00 to get into the town. If you want to see the buildings and artifacts, you have to pay. I wasn’t sure it was even the original thing; it was not very original-looking. It looked like a little amusement park street, so I didn’t pay the $8, and I headed to Liberal, Kansas to see Dorothy’s house of the Wizard of Oz.

The sky was very nasty as I drove to Liberal. All of a sudden I realized that the Wizard of Oz was all about a tornado. This was certainly the kind of sky that could produce a tornado.

I drove past windmills for at least five minutes when the cell phone rang. It was Earl Platner calling from Bucklin, Kansas. Earl got my message, and yes, he is the Earl in the Banks & Shane song! He asked where I was, and I told him I was in a windmill orchard. He advised me that this was a new thing that we would see more and more of where they’re harnessing the real strong power of the wind to generate electricity. If I had been closer, Earl said he would have given anything for me to have come back, give me a tour of the farm and the whole nine yards. I really enjoyed talking with him. He said to be sure to tell Banks & Shane that he’s still drinking beer and whiskey and chewing tobacco. He met the guys in Steamboat Springs, Colorado when Banks & Shane was performing there. He has stayed in touch with them. We talked at length about how rough it is on the farmers. They’d had two terrible years, but this year they’d had so much rain that it looked very promising for them to get a good crop. He said an awful lot of farmers would go out of business if they didn’t get a good crop this year. He said he wished the farmers could have a fair market, but he said the market isn’t fair. He said it makes it awfully tough on the farmers. Earl invited me for a visit the next time I happened to be in Bucklin, Kansas, and I invited him to come see us in Atlanta. I was really pleased to get the call from Earl. Not quite as good as it would have been to see him in Bucklin, but all in all, a pretty good adventure.

I reached the town of Montezuma just before 7 pm. I looked for some Mexican food, but then decided I should pass on eating or drinking water in a place called Montezuma.

Montezuma is home to the Stouth Memorial Museum. It is a place where some folks who traveled all over the world put all their artifacts on display for people to come and enjoy a trip around the world without having to go around the world. Great concept! Maybe I’ll write a book about this trip so folks can enjoy the trip without having to make it themselves…. 🙂

I made it to Liberal, Kansas at 7:45 pm — still a little daylight. I was able to get some photographs, including Dorothy’s house. I also got a photo of a building that had been recently demolished in a tornado here. It struck just a few feet from Dorothy’s house, but her house was spared.

I called it a day at the Comfort Inn in Garden City, Kansas.

I do not understand how we can allow farmers to earn so little from their hard, hard lives. We all depend on farmers. I just don’t understand how lawyers can get paid ridiculous amounts of money because of our badly flawed legal system, while hardworking farmers make little or nothing. It’s just not right. I wish the government could do something real to help farmers. I’d vote to give some of my tax money to farmers rather than give it to people in some foreign land who don’t even like us.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Rock City — Claflin Kansas — Pawnee Rock National Monument — Garfield Memorial Wayside Chapel — Kinsley Kansas — World’s Largest Hand Dug Well — M.T. Liggett Grassroots Art — Bucklin Kansas — Old Fort Dodge — Dodge City — Liberal Kansas

Dont Get Much Better Than This – Day 64

Don’t Get Much Better Than This

Day 64 – June 3, 2003 – Tuesday

I had looked forward to seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine more than any sight on the trip. I saw it today, and I loved it! I also visited the Geographical Center of the Continental United States, saw an amazing museum developed by the man who invented baggies, visited the National Roller Skating Museum and the Garden of Eden, and saw unique art and artists at a world-class art gallery in the tiny town of Lucas, Kansas. Oh yes, there was also the Prairie Peace Park, a highway built out of a zillion recycled tires, a wide variety of bicycle sculptures, a husband and wife entombed in glass-topped coffins in a pyramid-shaped mausoleum in the yard of their home, the Geodetic Center of the Continental United States, a home with every wall and ceiling covered in shiny aluminum foil, and a space ship. It don’t get much better than this! It was one of the most enjoyable days on the road.

The day began in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had written two notes — one to Desk Clerk Beth to thank her for sending me to Misty’s for a fabulous steak dinner last night, and one to Misty’s to introduce Beth and to thank them in advance for showing her the same great hospitality that I enjoyed. I gave the notes to the General Manager at the hotel with the money to buy dinner for Beth at Misty’s. It’s always such a nice feeling to do something special for someone as a complete surprise. My sister, Marty Windsor, introduced Random Acts of Kindness to us during the holiday season a few years ago. We got into it. My gift to Beth would qualify as a Random Act of Kindness, and it felt great.

Today was packed with two major destinations, but all the nice people I had met in Lincoln asked if I had seen their fabulous state capitol building, so I HAD to go by to see it. It was very nice.

A must-see was the football stadium at the University of Nebraska — what a history of national championship teams! There were signs noting that the Nebraska football team won the National Championship in 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, and 1997.

I tried to find the Museum of the Odd, but the street it was supposed to be on just ended. Odd — I had to give up trying to find it.

I had checked my list of things to see in Lincoln, and I noted the National Roller Skating Museum was on the way to the Capitol. What a hoot. I had to go by.

The National Roller Skating Museum was easy to find, but the door was locked. Bummer. I drove around back, but those doors were locked as well. I saw someone inside, but her back was to the window, and I couldn’t get her attention. I went to the car to try calling them when four young folks walked out for a smoke break. They asked Sandra, the receptionist, to open the door, so I finally entered and walked through the exhibit. I was surprised by all that I saw. As with so many things, you may have no idea how big or significant something is until you look more closely. It was somewhat reminiscent of the lesson I learned from my two hours with the two chicken farmers and one rancher in Maysville, Arkansas. Roller skating isn’t just boys and girls with strap-on skates, there’s inline skating, roller derby, skating competitions, roller hockey, and Olympic roller skating events. Tara Lipinski, Olympic champion ice skater, began her skating career as a roller skater. There is a big staff at the National Roller Skating Museum, and many of them are involved with the Olympics and competitive skating activities. I was glad I went and a little embarrassed that I originally went thinking it would be kind of a laugh stop.

I saw the Haymarket Square area in downtown Lincoln. I also saw bicycle sculptures all around town promoting Tour de Lincoln. I didn’t know what it was all about, but I enjoyed seeing the sculptures everywhere.

As I headed down the road in the direction of Minden, Nebraska and Pioneer Village, I spotted some strange-looking stuff on the side of the highway. I exited and did a U, and I found myself at the locked entrance to Prairie Peace Park. Quirky with a Capital Q. Lots of peace stuff. Kind of an amusement park. Someone into peace big time. It sadly reminded me of Eloy World.

On the road, I drove on a highway built out of 47,000 recycled tires.

Pioneer Village is really something. Harold G. Warp invented the baggie, and he developed Pioneer Village. His wife gets the award for the most understanding wife of all times. He spent a fortune buying and gathering up all the stuff that’s in Pioneer Village. There is building after building filled with stuff. All kinds of stuff. There doesn’t appear to me to be rhyme or reason to the interesting assortment of things, but I am very sure it was crystal clear to Harold Warp. Harold’s stated goal was to create a museum with a huge variety of items showing the progress of those items from 1920 to 1960. What he built is amazing. It would take perhaps a week to see it all and read all the little typewritten sheets that are posted next to many of the items.

There are 28 buildings crammed full of antiques at Pioneer Village. Most of the buildings are huge. There are hundreds and hundreds of cars, trucks, wagons, tractors, horse-drawn vehicles, thimbles, salt shakers, wrenches, kitchen appliances, etc., etc. I thought Pioneer Village might be a little funky, but it was really interesting to see.

As interesting as it was, I have to say that Pioneer Village had the least courteous employees of any place I had yet been. The lady at the cash register was just plain rude. I came in contact with five or six of the people who worked there, and they all shared the same totally unfriendly unhappy-to-be-there attitude. For the late Mr. Warp’s sake, I hope someone has the sense to get some nice folks in there so the place doesn’t die of apathy and rudeness.

As I was leaving Pioneer Village, I grabbed Nebraska and Kansas maps as I was altering the route to spend the night in Salina, Kansas. As I considered the various two-lane options to hit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, and the Geographical Center of the Continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas, I happened to see “Garden of Eden” listed on the map — next to the town of Lucas. I’d have never noticed such an entry on the maps of busier states like California or Florida — just too many towns to list and too much print, but on Kansas, the wide open spaces made it jump off the page. We’d been to the Fountain of Youth, so I figured the Garden of Eden was a must-see. Off I went.

I had a poor lunch at the Southfork Drive Inn as I drove out of Minden. Bland food and unfriendly people. Not even a napkin. Minden, Nebraska will be in the running for the most unfriendly people and worst service. What a contrast between Lincoln and Minden.

Next stop was Cawker City. I really have looked forward to seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine more than any other sight on the trip. Everything from the Grand Canyon to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine — that’s how I’ve summed up the trip for folks. There isn’t anything much in Cawker City except the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, so I had no problem driving right up to it on the main street through town. This sucker is BIG. It’s housed in a very nice open-sided building where you can walk right up to it and smell it and touch it. Frank Stoeber started the ball of twine on his farm in 1953. By 1957, it weighed 5,000 pounds, stood 8 feet high, and had 1,175,180 feet of twine on it. Stoeber gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961. He died in 1974. At last count, the ball weighed 17,554 pounds (that’s almost 9 TONS). It has a 40-foot circumference, and it consists of over 7,009,942 feet of sisal twine. If stretched out, it would extend 1,325 MILES. Like I said, this baby is BIG.

Frank Stoeber created it, and since he died, folks bring balls of twine, and they are weighed and measured and added to the giant ball. I bought a ball of brown “sisal” twine (the only type of twine that is accepted), and I left it in the box that’s there for that purpose, so my twine would soon be a part of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Be sure to take your own ball when you visit! It was wonderful to see that the townsfolk stepped in to build this special place for the Ball of Twine after the creator passed away.

The Cawker City Community Club is now the official owner/caretaker of the Ball of Twine. Each year a Twine-a-thon is held in conjunction with the annual Cawker City Picnic and Parade, so the ball never stops growing. The picnic and parade are on the third Saturday in August, with the twine winding held the Friday before. The Ball of Twine is located in “Downtown” Cawker City right along Wisconsin Street (Highway 24) on the south side of the highway. It is half a block west of Lake Drive, but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it (small town and big ball).

I looked for something else exciting in Cawker City, but when I didn’t find it, I headed for the center — the Geographical Center of the Continental United States. It’s on a farm near Lebanon, Kansas. I took a photo of the monument, and I took photos looking north, south, east, and west. Nothing too earth-shattering. The photos look a lot like four photos of a field on a farm in Lebanon, Kansas.

According to my fact-filled State of Kansas Road Map, the Geodetic Center of the Continental United States was perhaps 10 miles away. I had no idea what a Geodetic Center was, but I drove to the spot, and there were no signs or anything, so there didn’t appear to be many people who really cared what a Geodetic Center was. I would have tried to find a human to ask, but the sun was heading down, and I still needed to see the Garden of Eden.

I searched “Geodetic Center” on the Internet, and I learned that the “Geodetic Center” is the point at which all measurements for North America are taken. While the plaque is in Osbourne, Kansas, the official marker was on Meade’s Ranch, off the highway. The Geodetic Center of the United States Plaque – posted on a historical marker sign reads: “On a ranch 6 miles southeast of this marker a bronze plate marks the most important spot on this continent to surveyors and map makers. Engraved in the bronze is a cross-mark and on the tiny point where the lines cross depend the surveys of a sixth of the world’s surface. This is the Geodetic Center of the United States. The “Primary Station” for all North American surveys. It was located in 1901 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Later Canada and Mexico adopted the point and its supporting system as the base for their surveys and it is now known as the “North American Datum.” What Greenwich is to the Longitude of the world, therefore, a Kansas pasture is to the lines and boundaries of this continent. It must not be confused with the Geographic Center of the United States, which is 42 miles north, in Smith County.” – Erected by Kansas Historical Society and State Highway Commission.

When I reached Lucas, I saw a flying saucer hovering over a LUCAS sign at the city limits. I knew this was going to be a great stop.

Lucas is tiny (population 300), and there were plenty of signs directing me to the residential area that is home to the “Garden of Eden.” On a quiet little street with small homes, there it was on the corner of Kansas and Second. A small home with a giant sculpture filling the yard. What must the neighbors think! When I learned that it was built from 1907 to 1929, I figured the neighbors knew what they were getting into when they purchased their homes. I didn’t see any “for sale” signs. It wasn’t quite as bizarre as the Orange Show or the Beer Can House.

113 tons of concrete. Adam and Eve and the bright red apple. Okay, it’s pretty Quirky. I was very surprised to learn that it was so old. It was almost 100 years old!

Samuel Perry Dinsmoor, a retired schoolteacher, Civil War Veteran, farmer, and Populist politician, began building the Garden of Eden and Cabin Home in 1907 at the age of 64. Over 22 years, he fashioned 113 tons (2,273 sacks) of cement and many tons of limestone into his unique “log” cabin-style home with its surrounding sculptures. He opened his home to guests, conducting tours on the first floor and through the yard from 1907 until a few years before his death in 1932. Now owned and operated by a group formed to preserve it, the site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually. Mr. Dinsmoor and his wife are both entombed there in a pyramid-shaped mausoleum that he built right next to his home. I understand his casket has a glass top. I’m not into seeing dead folks, so I was glad it was closed for the day. For more information, see

I thought the quality of the sculpture was quite good. It hadn’t been a particularly pretty day, but the clouds disappeared as I arrived, and I had a beautiful blue sky that gave me some nice photographs. It was closed for the day, so I was only able to see the outside. I took so many photos at Pioneer Village that I had to pull the laptop out at the Garden of Eden and download photos to free up more space on the memory stick in the camera.

As I turned after the last photo to go back to the car and head for Salina, I happened to notice a little sign that said “Grassroots Art Center — 2 blocks.” I didn’t know what a Grassroots Art Center was, but I was sure going to invest two blocks of my time to find out. Two blocks took me to “downtown Lucas.” Just a few buildings on the wide main street. I parked in front of a building with a small sign that said “Grassroots Art Center.” It appeared to be a museum. I tried the door, but it was locked. I peeked in the windows, and it looked really interesting. Disappointed, I hopped in the car and planned to hit the highway.

As I was pulling out, a lady came out of the Grassroots Art Center and opened a car door. I stopped the car, jumped out, and asked if she was an artist. She replied: “No, I am the director of the museum.” I responded that I was writing a book, that I really enjoyed seeing the Garden of Eden, and that I wished I had gotten to town earlier in the day to see the museum as well. I met Rosslyn Schultz, and I was delighted when she agreed to open up and give me a personal tour!

In we went. I was blown away just inside the door. Here we were in the little bitty town of Lucas, Kansas, and I was standing in a world-class museum. Quirky, but absolutely world-class.

“Grassroots art” is defined as art made by people with no formal artistic training — usually done by folks of retirement age. Some folks call it outsider art, naive art, primitive art, folk art, raw art, recycled or trash art, intuitive art, art brut, self-taught art, and probably a few other terms. As I looked around, I immediately realized that a lot of the Quirky stuff we had seen over the last 64 days would qualify as “grassroots art.” I learned that grassroots art environments tend to be rather ephemeral, with ninety percent of the sites destroyed at the death of the maker. As I thought about Paradise Garden in Summerville, Georgia (Day 45) and how much Boz and I have hated to see the past gone or decaying, I immediately became a big fan of grassroots art and the work being done by the Grassroots Art Center and other groups to preserve this art.

The Grassroots Art Center exhibits and promotes the appreciation of the work of self-taught artists, especially those whose work tends toward environments rather than individual works. Its galleries display the work of local artists as well as regional self-taught or “outsider” artists.

Rossyln informed me that Lucas is home to not one, but four unique grassroots art environments. Two sites, S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden and Florence Deeble’s Rock Garden still survive in the town. The concrete and stone sculptures of Miller’s Park on the west edge of Lucas were sold and removed from the site. The Grassroots Art Center exhibits an extensive collection of work by Ed Root which has been preserved from the original environment south of Lucas. I learned that Kansas ranks third among the states in the number of grassroots art sites, after Wisconsin and California. You could understand California, but Kansas and Wisconsin???? Perhaps it is because there is not so much to do in rural Kansas or Wisconsin, and it causes retired folks to turn to art and their yards to occupy their time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, and I was fascinated by what Rosslyn showed me and told me. Each artist was unique. I found Leroy Wilson’s work to be especially interesting. I couldn’t wait to hear the story after I saw a display that seemed to consist of some kitchen cabinets and a section of a wall. It turns out that Leroy farmed north of Luray, Kansas, and like many farmers, he moved to a comfortable house in town after his retirement. But Wilson liked to paint, and he spent the next 12 years transforming the rooms in his basement with colorful mosaic and quilt-like patterns on every available surface. One after another. He’d dream up an elaborate design in his head, and he’d start painting. When he completed every room, he immediately had another design in his head, and he started the process again. He did this over and over and over again for 12 years.

The grounds of the Grassroots Art Center includes a display of Postrock Limestone art in the Courtyard.

After the great tour, Rosslyn mentioned that I might be able to catch one of the artists at Florence Deeble’s home. Rosslyn told me to go back toward the Garden of Eden, turn left, and it was the second house. I did as she said, but when I got to the “second house,” there were houses on both sides of the street, and they both had some Quirky stuff in the front yard. I picked the Quirkiest and walked up and knocked on the door. (The Shanklins, my dad, and others who have expressed concern about my newfound penchant for just walking up to strangers in the middle of nowhere will just croak when they learn that I did this.) Bingo. Pilar greeted me with a big smile. She had no idea who I was or why I was there, but she immediately commented on how much she liked my “happy beads.” I told her Ros had sent me, and she welcomed me in like a long-lost friend.

It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a home with every wall and every ceiling draped in shiny tin foil. For the next three hours, I really enjoyed speaking with Pilar, seeing her wonderful “assemblage art” work, learning how she works, and more. Pilar loves junk, and she just “listens” to the junk she has, and it tells her what to put together to create her pieces. I picked up some of the junk, but the only voice I heard was one somewhere inside my head that told me I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. Pilar kept telling me I’m wrong about that. Maybe I will magically get some artistic ability when I get older like most of the good grassroots artists, but I doubt it.

Pilar’s latest creations were “Re-Barbs.” She adorned Barbie dolls with all types of junk to create elaborate costumes and personalities.

Pilar is an amazing artist and a most interesting and delightful person. I REALLY enjoyed spending several hours with her, and I will be on the lookout for some good junk to send to her.

Regretting that I had not reached Lucas earlier in the day, I finally left the tin foil, the Re-Barbs, and Pilar, and I drove to Salina for the night. Even though I didn’t have a single piece of pie and had just one poor meal, Day 64 ranks as one of the best days so far.

When my sister challenged all of us in our family to practice Random Acts of Kindness during the holiday season a few years ago, I got with the spirit. I paid the toll for people behind me at a toll booth. I gave a big tip to the lady working the drive-through window at Whataburger. I scrambled to open lots of doors and carry things for people. There were some funny experiences. I have forgotten all that happened, but I remember trying to pay for the baggage cart for a lady at the airport, and she screamed at me to get away from her. I guess she thought I was a dirty old man up to no good. With rare exceptions, it was a very gratifying experience, and we have encouraged friends and business associates to try it. The challenge was to try to do at least one Random Act of Kindness every day during December. It would be wonderful if we all made it a conscious effort to do Random Acts of Kindness.

Dont Get Much Better Than This

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Lincoln Nebraska — Nebraska Capitol — National Roller Skating Museum — University of Nebraska — Prairie Peace Park — Pioneer Village — World’s Largest Ball of Twine — Geographical Center of the Continental United States — Geodetic Center of the Continental United States — Garden of Eden — Grassroots Art Center