Thursday, May 26, 2016

Highway 83 through Kansas flat and brown...


After the photogenically great skies we were blessed with in lower Nebraska,  I should never have gotten too cocky about our change of fortune, weather wise.  While things remained clear and bright as we left McCook and started south toward Oberlin, Kansas the sky quickly turned on us, turning a flat, cloudless, and dull slate blue, causing the earth below to loose the contrast and the drama a strong sky provides, bane of all serious photographers.  By the time we reached Oberlin, the sort of official start of our Kansas/Highway 83 trip, I was in despair and couldn't travel another mile.  I knew we would probably not come this way again and to keep going under these intolerably dull conditions would waste the opportunity we were there for, so after some debate, Jackie and I agreed to stop in Oberlin and had the good fortune to find the Landmark Inn, a hotel in a converted 1880's 3 story bank building, beautifully furnished in period antiques and filled with midwestern treasures of all sorts.  It was also some kind of special occasion and all the shops and services were open that evening.  We landed in interesting circumstances and could only hope that tomorrow would be more photogenic.

Woke up at about 7:30 and the sky was still iffy.  Jackie was sleeping and I was up and ready for a cup of coffee and to check things out.  I figured mid-westerners were early risers too, but there was not a soul on the empty streets of Oberlin and no place to get a cup of coffee or two eggs over light.  In fact, the only thing open was the not so super market, and they didn't sell coffee either, but the cashier directed me to the gas stations on the access road about a mile up that connected with the highway.  Went to the Sinclair station, filled my cup and all I could find was powered artificial coffee lightener.  Asked the cashier and she said that's all there is.  Same story at the other gas station across the street.  What's wrong with there people?  This is the wholesome, agrarian, close to the earth mid-western town and all they had for coffee was petroleum products!!!  After my complaints, the girl at the second service station did direct me to the Oberlin Cafe just up the road where the locals seemed to go, and I had a nice breakfast, real cream for the coffee, and spent about twenty minutes listening to the musings of an old timer in the next booth which was fascinating at the time, but I can't remember a word of it.  As I left the cafe, full and happy,  I could see that the sky was starting to develop wispy clouds that promised the good day we had hoped for.

Left after breakfast and a last look around Orberlin, and headed south toward Liberal, the last stop in Kansas before you hit the Oklahoma border.  True to its name, the 83 really is the road to nowhere because there was little to see or do till we arrived at our next  post o'call, Oakley.  Saw some farms, windmills, and tractors, a few gas stations and that was about it.

These pictures could have been taken anywhere, but were taken between Oberlin and Oakley.

Oakley was not a particularly interesting place and not much caught my eye other than the great motel sign as we entered town, Murray Bean's barber shop, and the abandoned Amoco station.  Stopped and talked to Murray Bean for a while and he seemed kind of thrilled to be talking to someone from New York.  He asked what we were up to and I told him about our Highway 83 adventure, but it didn't seem to make an impression, which I could kind of understand.  Why would you care about a road to nowhere when you are already in the middle of nowhere. 

After a fairly uneventful visit to Oakley, we continued south, and a mile or two south of town was Don's drive in, kind of a pleasant surprise

We got talking to some people from Texas who noticed our Nebraska plates (rented) and asked if we came all the way here for the burgers, which are considered to be pretty great, and we said not really, just happen to get lucky on our 83 adventure.  

 Not much seems to change around here but the prices.  Jackie got the burger but wasn't crazy about it, but didn't say anything to the Texans.  Can't imagine the made the long drive here for them either, but I didn't ask.

Next stop, Garden City, a much more substantial railroad town with a theater and lots of nice buildings, a good number of them empty.

There's more I'm sure, but this is a pretty good sampling of what's there.  It's starting to be later in the day, and given the sameness of the countryside and our increasing level of exhaustion, we were feeling like getting to Liberal if nothing else crossed out path.

Old Highway 83 seemed promising but it was just a 5 or 6 mile detour through farm country.

Liberal at last!!!  This is the train station that is still more or less functional and did house a surprisingly good Italian Restaurant, Ruffino's, which came highly recommended to us by a few town's people and we were not disappointed.

Otherwise downtown Liberal had lots of empty storefronts that are being slowly becoming filled with businesses serving the Hispanic population that is starting to be in the majority.  Just 2 pictures, but these give you the general idea of what Liberal, the last town on the 83 in Kansas looks like.  Not much going on, unless you want to hang around for lunch at Miesenheimer's.  Jackie says the smoked brisket is great and I loved the cole slaw.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Highway 136, Red Cloud to Riverton, Revisited...

May 2, 2016

I have begun to realize that I have been taking good weather for granted on our many outings.  This year has not been a good year for weather or photos.  Florida was a cloudy, overcast bust for the most part this February.  After 4 rainy, overcast, unseasonably chilly days in Omaha, which really weren't wasted since there's not a lot to see there anymore since they tore down most of the buildings and replaced them with parking lots, we finally got the bad weather out of the way just as we hit the road for the beginning of our Highway 83 road trip through Kansas, the only segment of 83 we haven't seen, but first a quick stop in Lincoln for some Yia Yia pizza and to stock up on some Huskerware.  As we were leaving Omaha, where Jackie was attending the Berkshire Hathaway convention, the skies began to clear and it started to warm up, which boded well for our next two weeks on the road which began as we headed south from Omaha toward Highway 136.

Highway 136 runs east/west along the Kansas/Nebraska border from Auburn, where our cousins live, to just before McCook, where we will pick up Highway 83 south to Kansas.  We are starting this segment of the journey in Red Cloud, home of Willa Cather, and in fact stayed in a guest house that was her family's home and is run by the nice ladies of the Willa Cather Society, of which we are proud and active members in good standing. (See posting dated 7/23/12, "Red Cloud Redux"

As we left Red Cloud, the weather was still with us, bright and sunny with rich blue skies and very photogenic clouds, providing me the opportunity to reshoot parts of the 136 that I didn't do justice to on August 1, 2012 (which can be seen on the blog entry of that date titled "Highway 136 west from RedCloud".).  Given the severely deteriorated state of many of the towns back then, I didn't expect much, so I was quite surprised to find these broken down towns in almost exactly the same condition I left them nearly 5 years ago as you can see on the 8/1/12 posting.  

Traveling west the first town we entered was Inavale, the photos speak for themselves.  The remnants of a white structure next to the red one was a post office, which was closed, but still intact the first time we passed though here 7 or 8 years ago.

Yes, the Pepsi machine does work, but the bigger question is why, in this world of constant and often cataclysmic change, is this row of 4 buildings exactly as I left them 5 years ago.  Civic pride would normally mandate clearing the debris, but there are obviously other, inexplicable forces at work here. (See posting

Fifteen miles down the road, which appears to be the interval at which Nebraska towns were spaced so that farmers with horse drawn wagons could bring their crops to the grain elevators along the railroad siding, was the town of Riverton, which also appeared almost exactly as I left it. 

The only significant change to Riverton is that Smitty's Bar and Grill, the only apparently functioning business in town, other that the post office, has closed down.  When I was last here, it was quite a busy place.  Either the ladies temperance movement prevailed, or the poor farmer's economy has driven people back to buying a cheap bottle and taking it to the basement.  This is a photo of my reflection in the window of the now abandoned Smitty's still celebrating Nebraska in it's own way.

After another hour or so we were in McCook once again and having lunch at Sehnert's bakery before picking up Highway 83 for our trip south into Kansas.  For a more detailed photographic exposition of McCook, please see posting of 7/2/12 entitled "North on Highway 83 from McCook".

Onward and southward to Kansas,

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The scene of the crime....

May 21, 2016

Jackie hates when I say that.

Today is the anniversary of the adventure that was our Las Vegas wedding at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather, founded in 1940 and presently the oldest wedding chapel in Vegas, now that the Hitchin' Post closed down, wonder why.

It was supposed to be pretty easy, but when we got to the Clark County Office building the day before to get our license, they were closed down due to power outage, which almost never happens.  An omen?  Who knows?  So far so good, so I'm glad we didn't take it seriously.    The sign on the door said they hoped to be open later in the day or early evening, hopefully.  Got there at 11pm, relieved to see that they were open, and we joined the long line of perspective newlyweds who provided a reference group of those opting for a Vegas marriage, ranging from some tattooed tuffs from Tulsa to some pretty dapper Hollywood/jet set types, placing us somewhere around the 80th percentile of the population of those in search of a winning hand in the crap shoot of connubial bliss.  Was hoping for a celeb or two, but they never seem to look the same off screen, so who knows.  

Wedding license in hand we arranged for the $179 non-denominational package at the Wee Kirk which included a video of the event, which still brings a smile to my face to see it.  Afterward, dinner at Andre's,  a well kept Vegas secret, an authentic French farmhouse hideaway a few blocks off the strip was magical and quite unexpected, where they seemed to know it was our wedding night and gave us the royal treatment, and finally, a gift from the city in the form of a parking ticket resulting from the inattentive mindless of 2 giddy newly weds.  Jackie tried to plead temporary insanity, but to no avail.  

                                              Still blissfully happy,


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kansas Drop Box...

Drop box...A convenient place to put interesting orphan photos that should be seen, but for whom there are no relevant blog postings.

"Busted flat in Baton Rouge and waiting' for a train...It was somewhere near Salina, I let her slip away"  Kristofferson said.  Never thought I'd end up in Salina Kansas, but here we are.  A railroad town like so many others.  A cloudy day, dodging the impending rain..  The clouds broke through long enough to get off a couple of shots...Think I nailed it...No regrets about missed ops, of which there were few...

The best looking building in town.  Got the shot just as the heavy sky moved in for good...

The only picture I took in Kingman, Nebraska.  One of the last small towns we stopped at before our weekend in Wichita.   An amazingly exuberant building in another wise dull little town that had recently suffered some disaster that left a good portion on one side of the main street leveled and recently demolished.  Hope it wasn't a fire, because their fire house is the best thing about the town, and this would be a sad irony. 

And this interestingly out of place bank in bland, dreary little town aptly named Smith Center in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of Kansas.

A new home for PaJ Gallery?

More to come,

Monday, May 9, 2016

I like Ike...

May 8, 2016
Abilene, Kansas

Spent the weekend in Wichita, made a quick get away under the threat of severe storms, golf ball sized hail and possible tornados to make it to our next stop, Manhattan Kansas before all hell broke loose.  While I was up for some action, weather wise, I was equally glad to see the clouds break and the sun shine through as we entered Abilene Kansas, on the way to Manhattan, home of Dwight David Eisenhower the reluctant but perfect president to preside over the middle years of the American Century.  Didn't expect to find ourselves there, but Jackie and I agreed that it would be a mistake to just drive by and not pay our respects.   Abilene is a small Kansas town like so many others, kind of desolate, irrelevant, and in a moderate degree of deterioration, in spite of the prominence of a presence in their midst like the Eisenhower Library nearby, but apart from the town.  There is a disconnect between the town and the Eisenhower complex, which appears to mirror the disconnect between the political insanity we are experiencing in 2016 and the simple needs of a suffering America, although in reverse.  Just so I don't let myself forget how good we had it in the Eisenhower era and how bad things seem to be getting, I bought myself an "I Like Ike" button.

In fact, the only acknowledgement of or homage to Ike in the whole town, was this portrait behind trucks.   Overall there doesn't seem to be much effort to capitalize on their native son, which seems strange.  In Red Cloud, there is full court press to tie the town's identity to Willa Cather, which has been increasingly successful, although there are still many empty storefronts and a few crumbling building on their main street as well.  There's only so much to be done. 

There's the down town and a bunch of churches, none of whom seem to affiliate themselves with Ike, so I chose to display the best looking one..

They could learn a thing or two from those Cather ladies in Abilene... 

                                                                      More to come,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Time to bury the hatchet???

May 3, 2016
Red Cloud, Nebraska

Anyone who knows me is probably tired of my rants about the unholy trinity of corporate America, the purveyors of the big lie, Walmart, Disney, and McDonalds, three toxic entities that have actually convinced the American public that they are public service organizations that exist only for the greater good while they poison the bodies, souls and minds of our countrymen and consign our young to lives of meaningless servitude while they rake in billions.  But I am not here to rant, I am here to reconsider.

Today was an amazing day in American history and American politics.  The very people whose minds and souls have been destroyed by the above named organizations have contributed to the election of Donald Turnip to represent the republican party for president of the United States.  They say countries get the leaders they deserve, and of this I have no doubt.

As I lay in bed in the Willa Cather House in Red Cloud Nebraska, writing this, I am reflecting on another quite strange occurrence which happened today.  While driving from Omaha to Lincoln Nebraska, Jackie was driving and I was amusing myself by taking pictures of clouds from the car window at 60 miles per hour with no particular intent.  Later in the day, while reviewing my shots, I came upon one that was so totally improbable that it gave pause for thought.  So far, this hasn't been a good year for photos for any number of reasons, primarily bad weather everywhere we've been and a bad attitude on my part.  Until today that is, when an impossible confluence of factors produced the following drive by shooting that occurred with no forethought or intent.

Walmart reached out to me and gave me hope.  The only conclusion to be drawn is that there is something wonderful about Nebraska that even makes Walmart look good.  So today the impossible has happened.  Donald Turnip has been nominated to lead our country and I took this totally unintended photo that magically broke the spell of my 2016 loosing streak thus far.  Maybe its time for me to bury the hatchet and stop hating the Walmart big lie and stop by to shop for some of the cheap chinese shit they purvey to the poor souls who have lost their jobs because the work they used to do is now being done for almost nothing by chinese slave laborers in their coal soot spewing factories.   

I can feel Walmart reaching out to me, but it sounds like I might still have a few anger issues to work through before I can set foot in a Walmart.  But the photo is a good start.