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Keep the Show on the Road!

042308 Emporia, Ks To Hastings, Ne On The Hypotenuse Trail

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I spent the night in Emporia, Kansas and had intended today to visit Cottonwood Falls, the Cove at Independence Crossing on the Oregon Trail, follow the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway for a hundred or more miles (using my 1926 PPOO Guide), visit the Pony Express stop at Hollenburg, see Cuba, a nationally recognized small town, and generally enjoy the beauty of the rolling Kansas Prairie.

 

Alas, some of that didn’t fully develop, and to top it off a red eyed example of local misfortune tried to send me in the wrong direction.

 

The day clouded up soon after I left Emporia, and so the marvelous Cottonwoods Falls was not her best as a result of the overcast. Cottonwood Falls is the Norman Rockwell version of a 1940’s Kansas town, with the courthouse at the end of Main St, the vintage buildings lining each side, and the cars angle parking. (It may be appropriate to point out again, that I am hoping to catch glimpses of 1920-1945 America…and thus far it has been a feast.)

 

I stopped in Council Grove where the Santa Fe Trail crossed, and photographed the Madonna of the Trail, with its base engraved “National Old Trails Road.” I was alone at the site.

 

Then I headed north to find the famous (for Oregon Trail buffs) Independence Crossing and the Cove. !&%$#*&, the Kansas road people closed the main highway (US 77) without as much as a pre-warning, and detoured traffic 35 miles out of the way. No doubt the closure was necessary, but had there been advice on the road in advance at Council Grove, I could have rerouted and saved the 35 miles.

 

Storms were approaching from the west, and I was getting a little edgy. When they start talking on the radio about “inch and a half” hail stones, I’m thinking that kind of stuff could do some damage. So I kept the radio on for emergency messages.

 

The detour (Kansas 99 here) hit the PPOO (roughly US 36.) about 10 miles east of Marysville. I went east on US 36 a ways to see what I might find at Axtell, then doubled back and went through Marysville. I was looking to match 1926 ads in the Guide with buildings along the way. Bingo……at Marysville there was a vintage service station that was described in the original guide. That is a nice catch.

 

I headed up State 148 to see the Pony Express Station at Hollenberg. It was very interesting, and certainly worth a visit, although a couple of the stations in Nevada are more evocative for to me. In Nevada there is no visitor’s center, and you are likely to be all alone in the middle of nowhere, just as it was in 1861. But don’t get me wrong….it was well worth the stop, and I enjoyed it.

 

I went through the small towns along the PPOO, and turned off the PPOO to see Cuba, Kansas, a small town that has gained national attention over the years. Again, the road was closed!!. A crew was working on it. No “go this way or that way,” just don’t go where you were headed. I went on down the road the direction I was originally going expecting to see an alternate route to Cube. Nope. You just can’t get there from here.

 

It was starting to rain, I was low on gas, and I had to decide whether to head north toward Nebraska or stay on the PPOO westbound. I pulled into a small town on the main road and gassed up. The black clouds ahead to the west had obvious sheets of rain falling from them, and I could go north and skirt the front, so I asked a local what I might expect and what he would suggest I do.. He looked at the Florida plates, and the blue Chrysler Convertible (which is a lot nicer car than I own) and pointed me into the storm. I said, Do you mean go west? And he said that there would be” no rain,” and that the rain was in the opposite direction.

 

Yah, right. My head must have looked like it came to a point. I went east a few miles and then north, and missed the storm that was moving eastward about 20 MPH. So not everyone in a small town is a saint.

 

 

The town of Cottonwood Falls, KS is a must stop, even on an overcast day.

 

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The Fenwick Service Station at Marysville, KS on the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway

 

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The authentic Hollenberg Pony Express Station. Hollenberg's road ranch became involved with the Pony Express during its brief life in 1860 and 1861. The route went by the station, and the ranch offered all of the necessary services, such as food and shelter for both riders and horses.

 

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Sounds like you had a moderately frustrating day.

 

I love the brick street in Cottonwood Falls. Isn't it strange that the Marysville service station is attached to another building?

 

jim

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Sounds like you had a moderately frustrating day.

 

I love the brick street in Cottonwood Falls. Isn't it strange that the Marysville service station is attached to another building?

 

jim

 

Jim,

 

I sized that up. Fenwick built the second building too. It has his name and the date 1930 on it. My guess is he owned the property and connected the second building to the station when he built the 1930 building.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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Small town America - despite the media's insistence it is dead and gone, it appears you have found that it is alive and well. Just sleeping in the sun waiting for better days to come.

 

As for your adventure with a "local" you have evidently discovered another facet of todays small town America - that there are still places where people haven't gone more than 20 miles from home in their entire life time. We are so used to the idea of vacations that take us from Maine to Florida, from CA to WY, and everywhere in between, that we forget there are still people who live their lives as people did in the 1940's, 1950's and even into the 1960's. At home.

 

Safe, and interesting traveling.

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

 

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