Sunday, September 10, 1999...
Greetings from scenic Hartsdale, New York, where I'll be staying at least until next weekend.
My string of good weather ended Friday, when I drove through drizzle and overcast until late afternoon. Didn't mind too much, though: I knew there was little to see along this leg of the route, and my goal for the day was to drive as far as possible on Friday to ensure I'd have time for an early Saturday dinner with my stepmother before my flight home. Spent Friday night about 50 miles west of St. Louis -- only 60 miles from where I had spent the previous Friday night -- which left six-plus hours to cover on Saturday.
There's nothing to see along Route 40 in eastern Colorado. In fact, the first sight of consequence comes in Oakley, Kansas, where 40 rejoins Interstate 70: Prairie Dog Town, an old-fashioned roadside animal exhibit. In addition to the small, furry rodents, Prairie Dog Town displays a wide variety of mammals, including several freaks: a four-horned goat, five-legged cow and six-legged steer. The gift show also displays a stuffed two-headed calf, and sells boxed, gift-wrapped "pasture pies" for visitors to mail to people who, until the package arrived, had considered themselves friends.
Today's route featured the homes/libraries/graves of Presidents Eisenhower (Abilene, Kansas) and Truman (Independence, Missouri), but I skipped em both. Instead I picked up the daily dose of American history and culture at the Garden of Eden.
Bet you didn't know that the Garden of Eden was in Kansas the town of Lucas, to be exact, where the quiet order of a residential street is jarred by a 113-ton collection of concrete folk art. Creator Samuel P. Dinsmoor, a Civil War veteran, began work on the site in 1907. For the next quarter century, until his death in 1932, Dinsmoor expanded upon his eccentric vision, which included concrete sculptures of scenes from Genesis as well as Populist denunciations of business trusts and the "crucifixion of labor" by its enemies. A corner of the site contains Dinsmoor's mausoleum, within which, at his request, his body remains visible through a glass-topped coffin. (His hair, beard and suit have weathered the past 67 years much better than his skin and bones.)
But Dinsmoor didn't devote all his energies to his concrete Garden. In 1924, as an 81-year-old widower, he married his 20-year-old housekeeper and fathered two more children! Dinsmoor's second wife died at age 91 in 1995 if she hadn't remarried, she would have been collecting his Civil War veterans' pension 130 years after the war ended. Their younger child, who's about 70, is the youngest surviving son of a Civil War veteran and often participates in battle re-creations.
In Kansas, as in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, I-70 was generally built adjacent to Route 40. But while these states continue to identify the old roadbed as US 40, across most of Kansas the US 40 shield has been shifted to the Interstate and the old road goes unmarked. I followed a few stretches of the old road, but mostly remained on the Interstate to cover as much ground as possible.
Learned two things from Friday's radio scanning: every high school football game in the State of Missouri is broadcast on the radio, and a show hosted by a woman named Delilah may be the single most annoying syndicated program on the air. Delilah is a fortyish mother of two who dispenses helpful advice in a conversational style to an array of appalling callers, then dedicates the most treacly ballads ever recorded to the objects of their attention. The show could be subtitled "National Pity Party of the Air." A typical call might come from a 24-year-old woman who Lost the Love Of Her Life, her Soulmate, to someone else, who wants Delilah to dedicate Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" to him in hopes that he'll hear it and come back to her.
Having already covered US 40 east of St. Louis, I kept to the Interstate on Saturday to ensure I'd reach Cincinnati for an early dinner with my stepmother before the flight home. Found a new brochure at an Indiana rest area, though, touting the sights along the historic route of the National Road, Route 40, in the eastern half of the state. Brochures like this, and the ongoing effort to re-mark the Lincoln Highway, are a good omen for travelers like me.
And so the second long road trip of 1999 comes to an end, nine days, nine rolls of film and more than 5,000 miles after it began. One of these days I'll be blacklisted by rental-car companies: my unlimited-mileage rental from Dollar Rent-a-Car cost all of four cents a mile. I did confine my travels to paved roads this time, though...
Watch for the next installment of News from the Road next May probably the week before Memorial Day. Leading contenders for the next trip include the Longest Road in America (US 20), a West Coast loop of old US 99 and US 101, and the twice-postponed completion of the Oregon Trail. Your suggestions and comments are welcome. Hope to see you all soon stay in touch!
Back to trip menuBack to NEWS FROM THE ROAD menuBack to ROADSIDEPHOTOS.COM home page