Let The Saga Begin

We arrived in the Kansas City area where we will…finally…get to start our US-50 coast to coast trip. After a pretty quick transit from Fort Myers to Kerrville TX for the NHOG rally…we had another 900 mile 3 day trip to the KC area…where at long last it seems we’ll actually slow down a bit. Connie and Neil were talking yesterday that we really haven’t had a day off since we left Fort Myers on April 26…it’s really been fun but it’s also been pretty busy and we’re actually glad that the rally is over, our last multi day transit for awhile is over, and we’re ready to get down to some Fun Stuff©.

So…US-50…let’s talk about it a bit. I just looked it up on Wikipedia…and according to the sign at the western end in CA…it’s 3073 miles to Ocean City MD from there as based on the green road sign…although wikipedia says it’s 3017 miles and the sign in MD that says CA is a slightly different number (sorry I can’t find a photo of it right now but we’ll get one for ya later). 

Our original goal was to go coast to coast on this road…we lived in Fairfax VA for 30something years right off of US-50…but given the rally in Kerrville TX we decided to do it in two parts. After the rally…we would head north to the KC area and go west from there to the terminus of the highway in northern CA. Then…instead of retracing our route we would head north to Oregon and catch US-20 eastward through Idaho, Nebraska and various other north central US states. On getting back even with KC we would cut south, pick up US-50 again and take it to the east coast in Ocean City MD. As we planned the trip…we discovered about 100 miles in WV that…to put it mildly…just ain’t rig worthy…so we’ll skip that part and head around the bad part to the north before getting back down to the highway in the DC suburbs. We’ll leave the rig in northern VA and take a 2 day overnight tip to get the last 100 or so miles out to the Atlantic…mostly because there aren’t any real good RV parks over on what Marylanders call the Eastern Shore.

Here’s a shot of the overall route of US-50.


Since KC is on the east side of KS…as you can see we’ll do about 60% of the route heading west from there. Then after coming back east  farther north…we will cut down through Columbia MO to rejoin 50…the small part we’ll skip is in WV and western MD. We’ve been on that road before…just not with the rig. There’s no real stuff we want to see there and taking the rig over those roads is just what we would call ‘round these parts as “choosing poorly” as the aged knight said in the movie.

Part of the western part of the highway…that part going through NV…is known as “The Loneliest Road in America”…we’ll certainly see that. For most of the trip…we’ll not be on limited access highways like interstates…although in some areas 50 is the same road as the freeway…for instance in northern UT. We’ll traverse some mountain passes over the trip…but we’re really looking forward to mostly being off the beaten path on what what Robert Frost called “the road less traveled by”.

Our average travel distance this summer will be somewhat less than we’re accustomed to…we have a whole bunch of travel days in the 120 to 150 mile range. We’ll also be staying less…on average…at a site than we usually do…this is driven partly by what we want to see in the area, the fact that it’s mostly small towns, and the need to keep up a schedule so as to arrive back in Fort Myers on Nov 1. Our last stop heading westward…the highway doesn’t actually go all the way to the Pacific any more as it stops in West Sacramento CA…but we’ll go and visit the rest of it out to the water anyway…anyway our last stop westward will be in the Sacramento area. From there…we’ll head north to Foster OR for the Independence Day weekend and while there head 90 miles further west…without the rig…to Newport OR to get the western end of US-20. Our original intent was to do the whole 50 route followed by the whole 20 route back to Boston…but the rally and calendar really prevented doing that unless we skimped on time at various locations…hence our overall route modification.

We will manage to hit a whole bunch of relatively unknown tourist destinations, a number of national parks we haven’t visited yet, Monarch Pass in CO, and various other Fun Stuff© sites.

I gotta couple questions about our current leadership inside the Beltway in DC…three of ‘em actually. Consider the last two Presidential administrations…each had a President of one party and at least one house of Congress controlled by the other party.

  • Why is it that when the Attorney General ignores a subpoena from the opposition controlled house of Congress…in one case it’s described as a brave push back against the extremists on the other side and in another case it’s a constitutional crisis. Seems to me that it’s either one of the other. In the first case…the AG was held in contempt of Congress…ignored it…and nothing happened. In the current case…the AG has been held in contempt by a committee and assumably will be so held by the full House…he will ignore it…and it’s a constitutional crisis requiring impeachment of the AG.
  • Why is it that in one case when a President signs an Executive Order because “the opposition in Congress won’t pass my policies”…and that’s just fine and dandy…but when the other side does it…it’s a gross unconstitutional over reach.
  • Why is it that when one case a Presidential Executive Order to establish policies which overrides a previous administration’s Executive Order…well, again that’s just fine and dandy because EOs can always and easily be overturned by another administration…but in the second case there are lawsuits over it…and you get idiot judges issuing stays of EOs because “they were issued arbitrarily and capriciously”. 

From my standpoint…what’s good for one side oughta be good for the other side. Unfortunately…it all comes down to politics and the media…most of whom are progressive/liberal/socialist/choose your preferred term here…conveniently ignore what they said in the past because it doesn’t fit their political beliefs. What the hell happened to the media…who used to be responsible for reporting the news, in other words telling you what happened…instead of trying to make the news. Walter Cronkite…who was far, far left…almost out to the socialist definition…never ever let that come through in his nightly news broadcast. He simply said “that’s the way it is” at the end because his job was to report…not make…the news. Honest journalism these days is about as hard to find as a politician who believes in compromising with the other side so that each gets some of what they want and moves the chains.

Anyways…back to Fun Stuff©. We arrived in Lawrence KS just SW of Kansas City just about 1300 today and quickly got pulled into site 17 at the Lawrence/Kansas City West KoA. This is an older campground but suffices for our purposes. Tomorrow we’ll head out to a railroad museum in Ottawa KS followed by dinner at a local brew pub. 

Here’s a shot of the rig sitting in site 17 here…as I said it’s kind of an older KoA campground and doesn’t have much of the “it factor”…but it’s convenient to where we need to be and the folks are friendly.

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Our intrepid explorers as they set off this AM for the first Fun Stuff© of the summer.

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We set off about. 0915 or so for a 20something mile trip south back down US-59 to Ottawa KS to visit the Old Depot Museum. We originally…well, actually Connie and not we as Neil had no real idea beyond the name but he sorta agreed with her so mebbe it actually is we and not just Connie…but whatever…we arrived at the museum and there was a caboose out front on a railroad track so we/Connie…one of those choices as noted above…anyways it mighta been a railroad museum. Once inside though…it became clear that while the museum was located in the old train depot it is really more of a Kansas museum with a very slight emphasis on eastern Kansas and the Ottawa area.

Exterior shots from the museum…the Depot building was built in 1888 and used for 70 years before it was abandoned by the railroad. After sitting unused for a few years the county historical society bought it and established the museum.

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These are grain elevators…also known as Kansas skyscrapers…they come in two main styles…either concrete or steel sides.

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There is a nice display and information on the bloodshed led by John Brown…of Harper’s Ferry fame later on…over whether Kansas should be a free or slave state. When it was admitted to the Union the law specified that the citizens could vote on which one they wanted to be…there were numerous battles, massacres, and violence on both sides of the issue throughout the couple of years immediately surrounding admission to the union. Unfortunately…that display allowed no photography so Neil didn’t take any…but suffice it to say that John Brown was not a nice man at all…nor was his family. He later tried to capture the federal armory at Harpers Ferry MD…but failed and was hanged for his efforts.

Inside the museum there’s a very nice model railroad setup…I think it’s HO scale but our buddy Tom Hargis from back when we lived in Fairfax VA would be a better judge of that than me…he’s a train guy.

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This soda fountain was in the building downstairs when it was abandoned…it was moved upstairs when converted to the museum.

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Reproduction of a school room from when the depot was in use…Connie actually had desks like this when she was in grammar school. Neil asked her if that was before or after the days of the one room schoolhouse…she did not find that amusing and said that her grammar school had 2 sections for each primary grade.

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Reproduction of a hardware store from the heyday of the depot building…all the artifacts are from old stores in the county.

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All in all…we spent about an hour on the tour…well worth our $4 admission each (55+ price).

We headed back home and lazed around for the remainder of the afternoon…venturing out for dinner and brews at the Free State Brewing Company. At Free State…we found only one seat open at the bar…Neil had Connie take it and was going to just stand around with her until another one opened…when the young fella at the next seat said “here, take this one and sit with your wife…we’re leaving in just a bit”. Shocking I tellya. We had some OK but not great brews…of the two stouts Neil had one was over hopped and the other had almost no flavor. Connie’s blueberry sour gose was good as was the red ale she had afterwards. Dinner was gooey baked cheese with marinara sauce and some really great ciabatta bread followed up by a cup of asparagus soup for her and cheddar ale soup for Neil.

Wednesday morning…we headed off about 40 miles east to Independence MO to visit the President Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum…which actually turned out to be pretty interesting. We paid our entry fee…$8 for Connie and free for Neil as a retired military guy…and spent a couple of hours wandering through reading the exhibits, watching some short videos, and learning a lot more about our 33rd President than we knew before hand.

This is the eternal flame in the courtyard of the Museum…it’s in honor of all fallen military members.

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Sculpture of President Truman.

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Walkway leading out to the graves of the President and his wife Bess as well as his daughter Margaret and her husband.

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Gravesites of Bess to the left and the President to the right.

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On the way out…Neil got a nice pano shot of the entire museum/library building. The two wings stretch out and back from the center lobby with a circular meeting room/office area connecting the ends of the two wings…the courtyard with flame and graves is in the open center. 

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We headed out from there back towards home about 1220 with just a single stop in mind before we returned…lunch and dinner.

There’s this BBQ chain in KC now named Kansas City BBQ with a total of 4 or 5 sites…most of which are large restaurants that can easily seat several hundred diners. The original location…which used to be named Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ…is in downtown and is literally in a converted gas station building…although it does still sell both gas and have a small convenience store as well. The original was founded by a guy who was known as Oklahoma Joe…when he retired he sold the place 17 years ago and the new owners “rented” the name as they put it for some time period. Don’t know any of the details but a couple of years back they renamed the chain to Kansas City BBQ…there’s a sign in the building that basically says the owners are from KC…never want to leave KC…wanted to rebrand to signify that they think BBQ in the city is the best around…and didn’t want to rent the name anymore. This place is so good…that back in the day Anthony Bourdain put it on his list of “9 Places to Eat Before You Die”…it’s that good.

Is it the best BBQ ever? Neil doesn’t think so…but it’s certainly in the top few of all the BBQ joints in all the towns we’ve tried. Cooking meat over  smoke has been done since caveman days…and it’s good all over the world. It’s also different all over both the USA and the world…KC is mostly pork with heavy smoke…TX is almost always beef or sausage with smoke, rub and maybe a little light sauce…NC is pork with vinegary sauce…AL/MS/GA is pork with a sweet sauce (except up in central AL where there’s a sub-category with a white mayo based sauce)…then there’s Memphis, Japanese (believe it or not), Mexican…Neil’s eaten burned/smoked meat all over the world…and it’s all good. There’s practically no such thing as bad BBQ in our opinion.

Anyways…back to the story…we had eaten at the original on our first trip to KC back in the day and at some of the larger branches out in the southern ‘burbs on subsequent trips…but since we were close to downtown and only had Li’l Red instead of Big Red and the rig…we stopped in for lunch and dinner. We got 8 ounces of hot beef brisket that we (mostly) ate for lunch on the way home and a pound of cold pulled pork that we’ll have for dinner tonight and tomorrow night then freeze whatever is left over for another day.

Here’s a shot of the line inside the building at almost 1300.

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It starts on the right at the entrance door, winds around the massive, maybe 30 people table area and then backdown the rear side of the tables to the ordering counter at center/right in the rear. Fortunately…once we got into the door a bit we spotted the “Pickup orders here” sign…Neil had Connie hold our place in line while he checked if it was pickups only or also did takeout order taking…the fella there said that “if you’re taking it out of the building you can order from me”…so we did, picked up a coke from the convenience store and hit the road for the last 30 or so miles back home.

That concludes our Fun Stuff© here in the KC area. We’ll head out tomorrow morning for the 195 mile trip back down KS-59, I-35, and US-50 to Hutchinson KS…most of the route is a backtrack along the same roads we took from Wichita KS to the KC area. After a 2 night stay there…gotta go and see the salt mine ya’know…we’ll head out for 2 more 2-3 night stays before we spend a week in La Junta CO over the Memorial Day weekend.

Interesting things found on the net this week.

Saw an interesting article in the weekly newsletter This is True…which comes in both a free and premium paid version and can be found at http://thisistrue.com. It’s one of the oldest internet publications…coming in at 1300 weekly editions so far. The author…Randy Cassingham…takes real, actual news stories and rewrites them without changing the facts in a sometimes humorous, sometimes educational format…I highly recommend subscribing to at least the free version. He coined the term “obliviots” which you can obviously figure out what it means…and specializes in what he calls thought provoking entertainment.

One of his weekly features is known as the “Honorary Unsubscribe”…which describes the life and honorary unsubscribe from the newsletter of a person who should be famous but isn’t. This week’s honoree is Fleming Begaye Sr. who died May 10 at age 97. Fleming was a full blood Navajo Indian who dropped out of high school to join the USMC during WWII…and was one of the Navajo Code Talkers of who you might have heard. Check out the full story here.

You should also check out the newsletter…it comes weekly and Randy doesn’t sell your email address. He does have some This is True items for sale including the famous “Get Out of Hell Free” card modeled on the Monopoly Get of of Jail Free card.

When you need just a smidgeon of help.



Ever wonder about the invention of the dishwasher?


For the math nerds…


For the non math nerds…in trigonometry…the sine of an angle divided by the cosine of the same angle results in the tangent of the angle…you should probably be able to figure it out from there.

Finally…There’s a place in The Netherlands where an aqueduct [the Gouwe aqueduct in Gouda] sometimes gives you the opportunity to spot a 101 meter long yacht navigating over a highway…photo credit to @DutchYachting on twitter.


Oh…just in case you’re a non math nerd who didn’t get it…the sine of gerine divided by the cosine of gerine equals the tangent (or tan) of gerine or tangerine.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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6 Responses to Let The Saga Begin

  1. Cat White says:

    Just for the record, I also had those desks and we had two grades to a classroom. We also had 2 or 3 pupils to a textbook and I was given a history book that my uncle had almost 2 decades before me. He had signed the bookplate. This was not in Appalachia. This was in Boston the “Athens of
    America in the 1940’s. I was so surprised to learnt that the Panama Canal was up and functioning!
    My father was even more surprised to learn what I had for a textbook. Talk about instant rebellion!

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Huh…wouldn’t have thought that in the 60s or so you would have still seen those desks in a big place like Boston. We had similar ones…like pretty much every other parochial school in history I guess…although ours were single student models.


  2. James + Cindy says:

    Neil we have been over Monarch Pass several times with a one ton Chevy. Last year was the first time with the 5500. It was a learning curve. Only thing we passed was a mountain biker. I had my foot to the floor to do 28mph. The Chevy would do a least 10 mph faster. Bill told me to set the cruise and let it go. Can’t hurt the motor, but not the fastest. Highway 50 is nice along the Arkansas River. The pullouts are small though for a long rig. Enjoy your trip.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      James…thanks. We noticed the same thing going up passes in the west with our 5500…slower than the F450 but it’s just the way it’s geared and the torque curve on the Cummins. We are looking forward to it…can’t be any worse than climbing up to the Eisenhower tunnel. It was snowing earlier today over Monarch. We only have about 170 miles that day so we will verify the weather before we go across. As long as it’s not actively snowing across the top on May 31 we will be fine…the road gets plowed as it’s a main route over the mountains.

  3. mary jane trainor says:

    Totally loved the couple selfie!!! You’n need to email that to me!

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Ok..will do tomorrow on the computer…too hard from my iPad.


      The three kinds of stress…nuclear, cooking and a&&hole. Jello is the key to the relationship.


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