I Like Ike … Abilene, Kansas

“The hope of the world is that wisdom can arrest conflict between brothers.  I believe that war is the deadly harvest of arrogant and unreasoning minds.”  D. D. Eisenhower 
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Ike  003Ike  007No, this is not a political post.  It’s just that we really enjoy visiting the presidential libraries/museums.  And we realized that Abilene Kansas, where the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library is located, was on our way from Kansas City to Denver.  This was the fifth presidential library we’ve visited.

The libraries and museums provide a unique insight into the presidents’ personal and political lives, and into the years that they served.

One of the things I enjoy is that each presidential library is different, since the presidents (except for John F. Kennedy) were personally involved in developing them.   Each president’s character is etched into their library.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum itself is located on the original site of President Eisenhower’s childhood home.   The home and land were donated to the Eisenhower Foundation, which maintained it until it was given to the Federal Government in 1966.

The Presidential Library site includes the boyhood home, the library, the museum, and the Place of Meditation.

Ike  004Ike  005The Place of Meditation – This chapel is the final resting place of President Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, and their first-born son, Doud Dwight, who died at the age of three from scarlet fever.

The meditation space is where, according to President Eisenhower’s wishes, it is hoped that visitors would reflect upon the ideals that made this a great nation and pledge themselves again to continued loyalty to those ideals.

Ike  006The Boyhood Home – President Eisenhower lived in this (then) six-bedroom house with his parents, David and Ida, and five brothers from 1898 until he enrolled in the United States Military Academy in 1909.

Ike  001Although President Eisenhower was not born In Abilene, the years he spent here were amongst the most important in his life.  His father moved to Denison, Texas where he worked cleaning train engines for a living after having lost his business, but moved back to Abilene so he could take a better job at his brother-in-law’s creamery.

From this modest upbringing, the six brothers went on to successful careers: a bank vice-president, a lawyer, a pharmacist, an electrical engineer, a university president, and of course, President of the United States.

Ike  008Ike  009Ike  010The Museum – When touring the museum, what struck us most was the emphasis on World War II.  More than half of the museum is dedicated to detailing the situation in the various regions of the world just prior to the war and to the events that led to the war.

This reflects Eisenhower’s distinguished military career, and his important role in the D-Day invasion and the eventual victory in the Europe.

Later we learned that after his Presidency ended, Eisenhower preferred to be addressed as General rather than President.Ike  013

Ike  017Ike  014Ike  015Ike  019And of course, as a two term President from 1952 to 1960, his accomplishments were many.

Amongst them, he; signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote, contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege,  continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security, launched the Interstate Highway System, created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), signed the National Defense Education Act providing loans for college students and funds to encourage young people to enter teaching careers and encouraged peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

Ike  018Ike  022And, as always, the First Lady, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, was a fascinating woman in her own right.  She moved to various army posts in the United States and around the world during his military career and was known as a gracious and popular First Lady.  From 1952-1961, she appeared in Gallup Poll’s list of the “Ten Most Admired Women in America”.Ike  023

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And because of his strong military background, General Eisenhower was an advocate for peace.  In his 1961 farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower expressed his concerns about future dangers of massive military spending, especially deficit spending, and coined the term “military-industrial complex”.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People, 1/17/61Ike  024

“Having established as our goals a lasting world peace with justice and the security of freedom on this earth, we must be prepared to make whatever sacrifices are demanded as we pursue this path to its end.”  Remarks at the Fort Pitt Chapter, Association of the United States Army May 31, 1961

Ike  021On reflection of his eventful life, General Eisenhower declared:  “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

A fascinating man.

~ Brenda

A Weekend in Kansas City

KC  013We stopped in Kansas City to visit our friend Theresa once again.  We had a great time last year when we stopped here, and she had some fun plans for us this time as well.

KC  001KC  002KC  004Our first stop was the Kansas City Farmers Market.  This continues to be one of the best farmers markets we’ve been to, although due to the lateness of the season, it was somewhat smaller than during our last visit here.  But the spice guy was still there and Hector stocked up on some fun spices.

There are also various ethnic eateries surrounding the market, and we had some yummy Middle Eastern food for lunch.

KC  016KC  015KC  017Then we went for a drive in the surrounding country.  We stopped at a The Farmer’s House Farm Market in Weston.  Proceeds from The Farmer’s House Farm Market are used to expand programs at The Farmer’s House, a non-profit whose mission is to offer an opportunity for youth and adults with developmental disabilities to learn practical vocational skills in a community integrated hands on work environment.KC  014

The market has special activities for the fall, and there were lots of kiddos around.  As for us big kids, we enjoyed the cut-outs and the costumes.

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KC  021Weston Bend State Park just outside the city has various easy but pretty hikes throughout the park.  We hiked on a trail that had views of the Missouri River and lots of trees.  Even though the fall colors hadn’t reached their peak yet, it was still a really beautiful hike.KC  018

KC  027We also visited Pirtle Winery, one of many wineries in the state.  Many of Missouri’s wines are sweet, and we prefer drier wines, but we did like a few of these wines.  The blueberry wine, while pretty sweet, was actually quite good with extra sharp cheddar cheese from Vermont.

KC  029We headed back to town to visit Oklahoma Joe’s once again.  This restaurant is located in a gas station – yes a working gas station – and is fabulous.  Anthony Bourdain listed Oklahoma Joe’s as one of “thirteen places to eat before you die.”  Check.

KC  036KC  037Angel had a short visit at one of the local dog parks and then we drove over to an overlook that features The Scout, a famous statue that depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape.  The statue was dedicated in 1922 as a permanent memorial to local Indian tribes.  And there’s a lovely view of downtown from the statue.

The next day was our 35th wedding anniversary and we planned a quiet dinner so we could get an early start the following morning on our westward drive.photo-5

So Hector and I went out to a romantic dinner that evening to celebrate our anniversary.  It’s been a wonderful and happy 35 years!  And this extraordinary journey is the best anniversary gift we could wish for.

And it was great to see our dear friend Theresa again and enjoy her hospitality in fun and beautiful Kansas City once again.

~ BrendaKC  038

The Gateway to the West

gateway  008Continuing our westward drive, we made an overnight stop in St. Louis, which was about halfway between Louisville and Kansas City,  where we were headed next to visit a friend.

gateway  010gateway  024birthday-balloons-56thgateway  001This was our first casino overnighter, and we chose the Casino Queen because it was centrally located and accessible to a little touring and dining nearby.   I was impressed when a security person immediately drove over to check us out.  He was very courteous and directed us to the specific area where we should park.  It was a gravel lot, level, and fairly large.  There was one other RV and one truck already in the lot in the early afternoon when we arrived.

It was Hector’s birthday and we planned to visit the Gateway Arch and go out to a nice dinner in the evening.  We settled in and walked Angel on a big grassy field behind the gravel parking lot.

Next we headed over to the Arch, which I’d never seen.  It’s an impressive and lovely symbol of the role of the city of St. Louis in the westward expansion of the United States.

gateway  003The Gateway Arch is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, who bought the Louisiana Territory in the Louisiana Purchase and made westward expansion possible.

gateway  026gateway  011gateway  012The Memorial encompasses a total of 91 acres, which includes the Old Courthouse, Luther Ely Smith Square and some surrounding streets (managed as easements).  The 62 acres that include the Gateway Arch structure and the surrounding landscape were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

The Arch itself is made of steel and concrete, stands 630 feet high (63 stories) with a span of 630 feet at ground level between the outer sides of the legs, and weighs 17,246 tons.  It’s really quite beautiful.  And the story of its construction is also fascinating.

gateway  013The Museum of Westward Expansion, located inside the Arch, preserves some of the rarest artifacts from the days of Lewis and Clark.  The exhibits explore the world of the American Indians and the 19th century pioneers who helped shape the history of the American West.  The museum was fascinating although it closed before we were able to get through it.  Definitely worth a longer visit.

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photo-2We returned to our temporary “campsite” to change, and gave Angel her second walk on the nice grassy area behind us.   There is an RV campground (owned by the Casino) on the other side of the field, but it  was closed for the season.  But we still enjoyed the field.  So far, I was pretty happy with our free overnight.

The birthday celebration continued at a barbecue restaurant that evening.  The restaurant had the second World Series game on.  It was fun to see a small crowd of St. Louis fans rooting for their team, who won that game (but ultimately not the Series).

gateway  027gateway  028The birthday boy had his fill of barbecue and free dessert and we headed back to Island Girl.  A couple of other RV’s and trucks were camped for the night.  Both the lot and the field were (very) brightly lit, so Angel got an evening walk on the grass.  We’d planned to have a drink at the casino (we don’t really gamble), to patronize the place offering us a free night, which is a “rule” we normally follow.  But, alas, we were too tired and pooped out.  So, I’m hoping this nice review of our overnight at the Casino Queen will slightly make up for that 🙂

The following day, we continued to head west, following the footsteps of many before us.

~ Brenda

Louisville and the Big Bat

As we headed back to Denver to visit friends, re-organize after our first year, and take care of doctor’s, veterinarian, RV and car appointments, we scheduled a couple of stops to visit more good friends along the way.lville 020

kentucky  001After visiting our niece and her fiancee in Cincinnati, we drove to Louisville, Kentucky to visit our good friends, Jim and Jane, whom we hadn’t seen in quite a few years.  We were very excited to see them and their daughters, Katie and Sarah.photo-6

photo-5Since we were there during the week, we got together in the evenings for dinner and catching up.  One night Jim and Jane hosted us for dinner in their lovely home, and Katie prepared a wonderful dessert.photo-9


Another night the family joined us for dinner on Island Girl.  This was the first time they saw Island Girl and I think the girls really liked her.

One day, Jim met us in the early afternoon and gave us a brief tour in and around downtown.  We visited some funky shops and saw some quirky Colonel Sanders stuff.

We then decided to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.  Hector and I are baseball fans and thought it would be an interesting place.

lville 010The first thing you see when you arrive at the museum is the World’s Biggest Bat – how could you possibly pass that up?  The bat, which is made of carbon steel, measures 120 feet long, is 9 feet in diameter at the base and 3 feet 6 inches in diameter at the handle with a 6 foot 6 inch diameter knob.  And it weights approximately 68,000 pounds!lville 011

lville 013At the museum,  we learned about how bats are made and actually got to see part of the process.  We also got to hold some bats that were once used by baseball greats.lville 015

The Louisville Slugger is the official bat of Major League Baseball.  There are 8,000 variations of bats, but today’s players typically choose from about 300 popular models.

lville 012Major League players order approximately 120 bats per season, and approximately 1.8 million Louisville Slugger bats are made each year – about 3,000 bats per day at the factory and 5,000 per day in peak spring training.lville 016lville 008

Initially all bats were hand-carved, now the process is (mostly) automated with computerized settings that allow for customization to Major League players’ specifications.  Players today use more lightweight bats with thinner handles than in earlier years.  It was really interesting to learn about the evolution of the bats,  what types of bats players used in earlier years vs. today and to get an insight into this very specific part of the history of baseball.

lville 018lville 017We also took a quick look at historic Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is held.  You can almost smell the mint juleps …

lville 019Louisville was another whirlwind stop, but our connections with our good friends after not seeing them for many years was as strong as ever.  And it’s great to see the girls grow up to become such smart and interesting young ladies.

Then we continued our westward journey…

~ Brendalville 021lville 022

Attack of the Fruit Flies!

fruit_flies_like_a_banana_print-re20126760c2a4258b2bee7c886447c75_wvk_8byvr_512Cartoon_Man_Being_Tormented_By_a_Fly_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_100204-039383-795042Continuing on the “things that had never happened to us before” trend, we had a fruit fly infestation while in Niagara Falls.  fly

One day after heading out for a morning excursion,  we arrived at the coach only to find a large community of fruit flies around our kitchen area.

We turned to the RV forums for help, since we find these forums extremely helpful.  And we discovered that a few fruit flies from bananas we bought had apparently bred in our plumbing.  We were at a campsite that had no water nor sewer, so we’d been using the faucets sparingly to conserve water from our fresh water tank.  And one day was apparently more than enough time for the fruit flies to multiply into quite the swarm!

Fruit-Fly-Banana-Sketch-Cartooncincy 006According to the forums, the best solution for getting rid of fruit flies is to place apple cider vinegar with a piece of banana and some liquid dishwashing soap in various cups and distribute them throughout the coach to trap the flies.  The people in the forums also recommended that we keep drains closed while not in use.

After a few days of following all of those instructions, the fruit flies were gone!  But after having all of this gooey liquid stuff throughout the coach, Hector and I were into deep cleaning mode.


So when we arrived at our next stop, Louisville, we rented a carpet cleaner.  We’ve discovered that because of all of the dirt that gets into the coach the carpet needs to be cleaned about every six months.  It is amazing just how much dirt the carpet cleaner gets out.

After some other deep cleaning, Island Girl was nice and spiffy and the fruit flies were forgotten!

~ Brenda

Nat, Zach, and Cincy

We camped at beautiful Four Mile Creek State Park while visiting Niagara Falls.  Our campsite faced Lake Ontario, so we’d parked Island Girl with her windshield in and open to a view of the lake.  And on the day of our departure, we were rewarded with a brief glimpse of a tiny Toronto skyline, only visible on clear days.

toronto  001That morning we were supposed to get an early start on our long drive from Buffalo to Cincinnati and were all set to go.  Best laid plans.

Well, it rained pretty hard the night before and the person driving Island Girl, who shall remain nameless, took a “shortcut” out of our campsite.  Said unnamed person thought it would be easy to drive around to the next vacant campground and avoid backing out.

That’s when I heard an unhappy sound while returning from my walk with Angel.  And I looked up to see Island Girl facing out on the campsite next to ours.  And what was the sound?   Tires…stuck…in…mud.  And 29,000 pounds on top.  Oh boy.

Fortunately, a gentleman I’d met while walking Angel came by to let me know that he’d been stuck in mud a few days earlier and the campground staff sent a tractor to pull him out for free.  So I went to the office and asked for help.

cincy 001cincy 002A short time later the tractor came by, and after a few adjustments pulled us right out.  But now we were running an hour and a half late!  Oh well, it could have been much worse.

And the campground gets BIG points for the free tow (we tipped of course).

cincy 004Fortunately, the rest of our trip was far better.   We had an uneventful 500 or so mile drive to Cincinnati.  A longer drive than we usually do in a day.cincy 014

After a late arrival, we headed to town to our niece Natalie’s and her fiancée Zach’s townhouse.  They live in a cool urban setting near downtown Cincy called Over the Rhine.  This neighborhood boasts among the world’s largest collections of Italianate architecture, rivaling similar neighborhoods in New York City, Vienna and Munich in size and scope.   It’s also one of the largest historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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We all went to dinner at a gourmet hot dog (read that not too cheap) restaurant.  I don’t often highlight restaurants on the blog, but I thought the Senate was well worth the prices.  And I actually ordered poutine, which turned out to be the best poutine I ever had (apologies to Canadians, and especially Quebecois).

cincy 017Late the following morning we went to Findlay Market, the state’s oldest continuously running public market. We just love farmers markets.  Hector loves to cook so we decided to eat in the next two nights, and bought lots of fresh ingredients for our dinners.cincy 009

cincy 015That day we’d not brought Angel along so we headed back to the campground to freshen up, take Angel for her walk and feed her.  And returned for a fabulous dinner cooked by the chef extraordinaire, Tio Hector, with assistance from our niece Natalie.  Afterwards we went to a blues club and another nightclub for some music and a little dancing.

cincy 025cincy 020cincy 028cincy 023The next day we brought Angel along for a whirlwind tour of Cincinnati; a brief driving tour of the city and a walk on the riverfront.

cincy 024cincy 026cincy 027cincy 021cincy 018That day we had lunch at another noteworthy place, Terry’s Turf Club, a very cute old-fashioned diner with great food and lots of cool neon signs.

cincy 041Then more touring to a lovely park followed by cooking at home by the chef and his assistants, and the Broncos football game, which Hector was very excited to see.cincy 016

cincy 044Our little “grand-nephew”, Calvin the cat did not take well to Angel’s visit, and hid downstairs most of the time.  He ventured hesitantly up the stairs one time, got to the next to last step, and headed back down.  Such a cutie.

Cincinnati was quite a surprise for us, it is a medium sized city but has big city amenities.  We had a really fun visit with Nat and Zach and as a bonus got to discover a little bit of Cincy.

~ Brendacincy 042