September 14, 2012

« September 2012

Below are the diary entries for September 14, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.

Nicoline From Kansas to Colorado
Nicoline (September 14, 2012)

Last modified: September 14, 2012 at 23:27:19

Today started with an indoor workout, because the road the Sleep Inn was on was not really suitable for jogging and the motel had a gym. Tiny, but it had three cardio machines, a weight lifting contraption and some free weights. I biked and worked with free weights, did squats and used the weight machine. Not quite as long or as intensively as I should, probably, but better than nothing. After that we showered and had breakfast. Scrambled egg and a sausage biscuit, plus coffee that we bring up to the proper intensity by adding some instant coffee to it. Maybe it’s just me, but the farther west we get, the weaker the coffee seems to be.

After we’d packed up all our stuff again we drove off to Monument Rocks, which was on Eric’s list. I wasn’t so sure about it, especially when the Google maps directions he had printed back home would have had us turn into some dirt path to get there. We both agreed that that was probably not a good idea and drove on to see if we might come across a sign pointing to it. That really bothers me about Kansas: they’re awfully stingy with signage. But we found it, by following a dirt road. Not quite as rutted and cratered as the first one, but still. I wonder how people drive on these roads after a really heavy rain.

Monument Rocks, however, was absolutely worth the drive. Whatever made the Grand Canyon must have used Monument Rocks as a sampler! It also reminded me a little of the Badlands, but that may have been because of the weather. When we were at the Badlands in 1998, it was also very bright and the light played a really unusual trick. Well, I think it’s unusual because I don’t recall it ever happened to me again. The sun light somehow combined with the light-colored rock face so that the washed-out jeans cut-offs the boys were wearing that had scarcely any indigo left in them suddenly appeared to be quite dark blue. Strange, but true. That didn’t happen here, but Monument Rocks is a very impressive rock formation. Along the side of the road, some of the dirt had washed away in a gully that looked exactly like a miniature of the Colorado River bed. Eric took pictures galore, of course, and by the time he was done, he was about covered in mud, but the pictures are worth it.

From Monument Rocks we drove back to I-70 and onto Colby, where we visited the Prairie Museum. Colby is a little town that was first settled in the late 1870s by a J.R. and Mary Colby. Most of its collection, however, comes from the the Kuska family, who have lived in Colby for 50 years. They must have crammed their house to the rafters with all kinds of stuff, some of it junk, but some of it also very interesting. What was also interesting was that the museum also has exhibits outside, such as a sod cabin. Early settlers in Kansas often used sod to build shelter for their families, because lumber was either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. This particular soddy did have a timber roof, a wood floor, what Laura Ingalls Wilders would no doubt call “boughten” windows and white-washed walls, but probably not every settler could afford to do that. Some could not even afford tar paper for the roof of their soddy, so that whenever they had a heavy rain, the ceiling would drip for two or three days afterwards!

After the Prairie Museum we had lunch on the road (an orange, bagels, Cheez-it crackers and water) while we drove to the last stop in Kansas: the roadside Van Gogh reproduction in Goodland. To be quite honest, we were a bit disappointed. For one thing, the reproduction seems quite small, but that may be because we’ve become accustomed to the wide open spaces of Kansas in recent days. For another, they placed the easel in the wrong spot! When you look at it, you see the ugly yellow and red sign of a Dollar General store, a Napa auto parts store and a Pizza Hut before you see Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Even if it’s just a reproduction, it deserves better than that, surely! I don’t know why they didn’t put it a little further west, so it could be sitting in some field by itself and have that much more impact. A question I’d like to find an answer to some day: How do they keep the colors from deteriorating if the thing is out there in all kinds of weather and exposed to prairie sun and wind day in and day out?

We drove off from Goodland to cover the last 20 miles of Kansas, only to find that the last stretch of I-70 west was being worked on and traffic was diverted onto the northern lane of I-70 east, which caused us to miss the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign. That was clearly unacceptable, so Eric drove onto the shoulder, backed the car up to where it said “road closed” and I walked the last hundred yards or so to the sign, much to the dismay of the some of the road work crew who drove up to me to tell me that we really shouldn't do that. I just told them that I’d be very careful and that I’d be out of their hair just as soon as I could. I guess they gave up on me...

Unlike Kansas, Colorado has welcome centers galore, so we stopped at the first one, 11 miles from the Kansas-Colorado line. A very nice welcome center lady gave us so much information that it’s probably going to take us at least an hour to sift through all of it and decide exactly where we want to go. For now, however, we were going to go to Lamar, in southeastern Colorado, to take a picture of the last Madonna of the Trail for this trip. From the welcome center to Lamar was a good 100 miles, and with the change in time zones from central to mountain, we thought that would be quite enough for one day.

However, just outside Lamar we came across the Amache internment camp for Japanese-Americans in World War II. Not much of the camp - which bears a disconcerting resemblance to a concentration camp, except that the inmates weren’t being murdered - remains today, but some children of people who were interred there began to get together in the late 1970s to remember and to preserve as much of the site as they could. One of the signs said that of the 110,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of whom were citizens, who were interred during World War II, not one has ever been convicted of espionage. Some Japanese-Americans of military age even volunteered for service in the armed forces and many served with distinction. When we came to Lamar, we found out that most governors exhibited the NIMBY-reflex when it came to establishing internment camps in their states, only governor Ralph L. Carr (1887-1950) took a principled stand, which cost him his political career. “One of the few voices of reason during wartime was Governor Carr, who continued to treat the Japanese-Americans with respect and sought to help them keep their American citizenship. He sacrificed his political career to bravely confront the often dark side of human nature. ‘If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you.’” There is a statue to governor Carr in Sakura Square in Denver, according to an information panel at the Lamar welcome center. We’ll be sure to look him up!

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Eric Eric (September 14, 2012)

Last modified: September 14, 2012 at 23:18:53

The first stop today was Monument Rocks, an outcropping of rocks in the middle of the prairie. It reminded me of Utah, except that the rocks are not quite as large and much whiter. But they are pretty spectacular nonetheless, especially in the middle of the Kansas prairie where nobody expects them.

I also spend some time here taking close-up photos, both of some of the plants that were growing here as well as from inside a rain gully. Taking photos from below knee-height in the gully made it look like some great canyon, until you look at the plants and realize the real scale...

After Monument Rocks we went to the Prairie Museum of Art and History in Colby. This museum had a lot of interesting exhibits inside, including some great glassware, chinaware, etc. In particular a piece of Meissen procelain where I also took a detail photo to show the intricacy of the lace made out of porcelain. In addition to the indoor exhibits, the museum had a number of structures outside. We only went into the sod cabin (which was definitely an "improved" sod cabin" and the big barn.

We stayed on I-70 for the rest of Kansas, taking only a brief detour in Goodland to see the giant van Gogh painting which is (barely) visible from the Interstate. Shortly after Goodland we entered Colorado, where after a few miles we stopped at the welcome center -- and got overwhelmed with ideas of what to do in Colorado...

However, first order of business was to go to Lamar, where the last Madonna of the Trail for our trip was located. Lamar is 100 miles south of the I-70, so it's quite a detour to see this last lady, but I really couldn't leave this one out! On the way to Lamar we stumbled upon a Japanese-American Relocation Center called Amach (or rather, what's left of it). I knew about the internment camps, of course, but hadn't realized they were as far inland as Colorado. I thought they were mainly on the West Coast. Anyway, none of the buildings were left, only the overgrown outlines of the foundations could be seen. But that was enough to give some idea of what it must have looked like.

After taking photos of the Madonna and the exhibits at the welcome center next to it (including a steam locomotive and a wind turbine blade), we decided to find a motel right there in Lamar to spend the night...

By the way, I checked the mileage when we came to the hotel today, and we're over 3,000 miles on this trip so far...

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