Day 8 : Little house on the prairie

Tuesday morning.  It’s time to drive from just north of Oklahoma City to Des Moines, IA.  Rich wants to pronounce it, Des Moines and not Da Moin.  Boys, what can you do with them.  We grab breakfast and head on down the road.I totally forgot to mention that we drove through Moore, OK.  This is one of the towns that were recently devastated by a tornado.  You could see the path of twister and the wreckage it left behind.  There was nothing standing but twisted and broken pieces of structures.  The path across the interstate wasn’t very wide, but you could see where it went.  The path through the neighborhoods was so evident.

I can assure you that there is nothing much north of Oklahoma City.  Now here, the wind does whistle down the plains.  It was pretty windy on the drive.  I had very little company on the road.  I was counting on a number of semis and locals, but they were few and far between.  That made the drive easier, but also boring.  How am I supposed to play leap frog without any frogs to leap?  Did I mention there were lots of casinos on Indian reservations though?

On our way out of Wichita, Rich found the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve on the map.  It was described as being the last patch of standing tall grass prairie in the U.S.  It wasn’t too far off of the route.  We found the detour well marked and jumped off the tollway.  I had a little trouble at the booth trying to get it to accept my dollar bills.

This exit was in the middle of nowhere and going nowhere.  I had two vehicles behind me waiting to pay their tolls!  How did that happen?  I didn’t see anyone and here I was holding up the line.  I finally gave up and shoved in the old credit card.  No, not mine.  Rich’s card!  Off we went after that.

We drove through some of those little towns that don’t really exist anymore, except for a few houses.  There was no store, gas station, or post office.  The road wound through pastures with cows and horses. It was incredibly green out there.  The best thing I saw was the Bazaar Cemetery.  I loved the name.  Of course, there was Bazaar the town and a church by the cemetery.

We finally got to the preserve.  It turned out to be an original ranch and farm started by Stephen and Louisa Jones in 1878 as a feed station for the family’s larger cattle operation in Colorado.  This was part of that romantic tale where cowboys moved cows from one location to another.  Cows are still moved from Texas, Colorado, and surrounding states to this area during grazing season.  But today, it’s all done with trucks.

Anyway, the ranch is an 11,000 acre spread owned by the Nature Conservancy in conjunction with the National Parks Service.  There is an interpretative building.  The house on the property was completed in 1881 and is quite nice.  It is showing its age.  I loved the walnut woodwork with its raised panels and gilding.  The size of the house is still pretty impressive today.

We walked from the top to the bottom of the house and viewed all of the rooms we were allowed to visit.  The walnut staircase that runs through the middle of the house is very beautiful.  It’s hard to image it being carved for this purpose.  There were storm cellars, root cellars, kitchens, pantries, as well as the normal living rooms.

The outbuildings included an ice house for refrigeration and a curing house where meats were salted and dried for use throughout the year.  The best thing out there was the three-seater outhouse.  There were two adult-sized seats and one child-sized seat for their daughter.

We toured the barn as well.  Who knew how happy I would feel standing in an old barn.  It reminded me of being in the barn at my grandparents’ farm.  This barn was limestone walls with three separate floors for livestock, implements, and feed.

We enjoyed the views and the wind.  It felt great considering that the car said it was 116 degrees outside.  We didn’t do any serious hiking because of the temperatures and our lack of planning.  We just didn’t have the water needed to make the trek around some of the acres.

We called it quits before the heat totally overcame us.  We got back on the road to Kansas City.  Our plan had been to return to Stroud’s for a late lunch, early dinner.  When we had been in the Kansas City area in June, we had dropped by for Sunday dinner.  This was the best chicken I had in a long while.  Now in Rich’s estimation, Gus’ Chicken in Memphis, TN is the best in the world.  I’m not so sure I would say that.  Stroud’s might be the best.

We pulled into an empty parking lot with some confusion.  Darn, they were closed until 5:00.  It was only 4:00 now.  We decided not to wait and went to try and find another destination for dinner.  Can you believe, the other selections were all closed and moved on?  There were other restaurants in their place and nothing we wanted to try.  By now, it was 4:30.  We decided not to waste any more time and returned to Stroud’s.

One gentleman had come in and we found some shade in the lot to park under.  A couple of more cars had parked by the time we decided to go inside.  There was already a waiting crowd of 6 people at this point.  At least it was cool inside.  We finally were shown to our table, which overlooked the lake at the side of the property.  We got to watch the ducks, geese, and swans ambling around.

Yep, the chicken was still excellent.  This time we got our leftovers and the cinnamon rolls into boxes.  Then it was time to head out again.  We got back on the road to Des Moines.  Up the road a ways, we decided we had to stop, but there wasn’t anywhere.  The rest stops were just picnic areas.  We got desperate enough to stop at a convenient mart that looked a little questionable.  The bathroom wasn’t too clean, but it had a toilet.  Just one toilet though.  Rich beat me to it and I was the standing out there dancing for a bit.

After that excitement, the road was pretty boring.  We had expected rain on this part of the drive.  The Weather Channel and Weatherbug were calling for 70 to 80 percent.  There were clouds on the horizon, but nothing was very close.  It made for a very nice sunset on my left.

Finally, we hit Des Moines while there was still some daylight.  We got checked in and set up.  This was the only hotel that didn’t have a frig.  We had to drag out plug in cooler up from the car to keep our goodies.  There was a bar though.  We popped down for a beer and relax.  The bartender was joking around with us as she was going about her work.  There were several people in the bar, but they all seemed to be keeping to themselves.  She actually tried to convince Rich to have one more.  I don’t think she wanted to be alone with just the guys hanging out there.  She did have to tell one gentleman that she couldn’t serve him anymore.  She recommended he go to the bar next door.  I figured he had been there a while and it was policy not to serve more than a certain number of drinks to one customer.  So why was she trying to get Rich drunk?

I was tired by now.  I went up and fell into bed.  Sleep was a while coming on, but it eventually overtook me with a warm and peaceful feeling.  I think Rich went to bed at some time, but I can’t tell you when.

Rich walking at the Flint Hills Scenic Overlook.  It was a beautiful view of the open range.
Rich walking at the Flint Hills Scenic Overlook. It was a beautiful view of the open range.

 

I found out later this is called a Compass flower.
I found out later this is called a Compass flower.

 

Waving prairie grasses along the side of the overlook.
Waving prairie grasses along the side of the overlook.

 

I still need to find out what this beautiful flower is called.  It resembled the milkweed, but with some differences.
I still need to find out what this beautiful flower is called. It resembled the milkweed, but with some differences.

 

Just had to do a selfy showing the spreading range out behind me.
Just had to do a selfy showing the spreading range out behind me.

 

Grasshoppers were plentiful around us.
Grasshoppers were plentiful around us.

 

Walking up to the 3-story barn at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
Walking up to the 3-story barn at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

 

I was amazed by the barn structure and the ramps leading up to the top level.
I was amazed by the barn structure and the ramps leading up to the top level.
The second story was very sun filled and spacious.
The second story was very sun filled and spacious.
A display of some of the implements used in ranch life on the range.
A display of some of the implements used in ranch life on the range.

 

This is the view from the 2nd story of the barn.  The pastures are very green.
This is the view from the 2nd story of the barn. The pastures are very green.

 

This is an example of the tall grasses on the prairie. That's the ice house at the top of the hill.
This is an example of the tall grasses on the prairie. That’s the ice house at the top of the hill.

 

This is the front of the Jones house at the top of the hill at the preserve.
This is the front of the Jones house at the top of the hill at the preserve.

 

Of course, I found a quilt in the working parlor.
Of course, I found a quilt in the working parlor.

 

This is the curing room behind the house.
This is the curing room behind the house.
Rich was walking around the front of the house to get a shot and he looked perfect for this shot.
Rich was walking around the front of the house to get a shot and he looked perfect for this shot.

 

This is the view from the font of the house.  It is prairie for as far as the eye can see.
This is the view from the font of the house. It is prairie for as far as the eye can see.