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2017 Happy Trails - Week 01

May 23 thru May 27 Kansas and Nebraska

Map of Week 01 Travels:

Tuesday, May 23rd

Drove 280 miles.
Route: US65 north to US50 in Sedalia, MO then west to I470 to I435 west around Kansas City where we then got on I70 west to exit 333.

Campground: Mill Creek Campground, Paxico, KS $35.00

After a week of chores and fixing things around the Missouri property for Tim, and a week of organizing and shopping for me, we were finally, at long last, ready to head west! Yea!

It is always a little stressful to leave our little Happy Trails Campsite here in southwestern Missouri because the lane is not wide enough to turn around with our humongous 5th wheel, so the only way out is to back all the way down the lane to the state road, MO TT.
All hooked up and ready to go!

This is the lane we have to back all the way down.

Side note: Missouri (MO) has a bizarre highway naming convention where roads are named letters, e.g., MO C, MO BB, etc. And they are not necessarily contiguous. For example you might be driving along MO A when it comes to a dead end at the edge of some farmer’s field or the shore of a Corps of Engineers Lake but then if you can manage to drive around the field (or lake) it will pick up again as MO A. Yes, it is easy to get lost in Missouri. And GPS doesn’t have a clue – you can ask any of our friends who have followed their GPS trying to find us out here in the sticks. LOL

So after all of the requisite packing up this morning, Tim had everything all hooked up, pulled out onto the lane and began backing up when suddenly he slammed on the brakes and yelled, “Oh crap! Something very bad is wrong.” And he jumped out of the truck! (My first thought was maybe he was having some kind of terrible bathroom issue?!?)

It turns out that as he looked in the driver’s side mirror to back down the lane he noticed that the slide on the driver’s side was buckled out! Closer inspection revealed that the screws holding the wiring support bracket under the slide had all come out. The bracket was hanging down between the trailer frame and the slide frame and when we closed the slide as we packed up to leave, it bent the frame of the slide. Aghhh! Tim was able to drill new holes and reconnect the wiring support bracket but he can’t do anything about the bent frame at this point. We’re hoping it holds up and the mice leave us alone because now there isn’t a tight seal underneath the slide.
And of course we were completely blocking the lane. Luckily no one came until he had it all taken care of.

Our destination today as we left our Happy Trails Campsite, was the area of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in east central Kansas. (More on why later.) Our route was a scenic drive through west central Missouri north along US65 to Sedalia, MO where we turned west on US50 to I470 west around Kansas City to I435 west and then north to I70 west across the eastern portion of Kansas.

Using our iPhone App, RV Parking, we had located three campgrounds relatively near the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. Two were near the town of Wamego, KS but off the main road with one only having 7 sites and the other one only 12 sites with hookups. We decided to try the third one, Mill Creek Campground which had 47 sites, 31 with full hookups, and which was touted as having easy access to and from I70. After our morning escapade, we were looking forward to something easy.

Our first clue that things were amiss was when our Apple Map directions to the campground had us leave I70 at exit 338 and turn immediately onto a narrow dirt road. But we’ve found some gems down worse roads in the past so we plodded on. After a mile as the road continued to twist and turn, climb and narrow into what appeared to be a driveway, the little voice on the phone suddenly said, “Please park your vehicle and continue to your destination on foot.” Say what? Tim was freaking out with visions of having to back the trailer all the way back to the Interstate. We crested a small rise and found ourselves facing a small dirt parking lot at – are you ready for this – The Prairie Fire Winery! Tim calmed down as he realized he was going to be able to turn us around and a nice fellow named Bob (later found out he was the owner) came out of the building and invited us in for a tasting. Too funny.

Bob knew exactly where the campground was located, took my iPhone out of my hand and loaded Google Earth on it. He told us to follow Google directions, not Apple map, and off we went back onto I70 to the next exit. From there it was an easy find. Bob invited us back to taste wine anytime and even invited Sunshine and Sprocket to come along. A dog friendly winery – imagine.

The Mill Creek Campground in Paxico, KS, once we finally found it, was quite picturesque. The sites were all large pull thru with full hookups and the lane into the campground was chock full of interesting antique memorabilia including the old Paxico train station.

Nice spacious, shady spot.
Oh no! Are those train tracks right behind the campsite? Yep. It actually wasn't too bad though. At least they didn't blow the whistle at night. LOL

This is Kansas you know. :-)

The campground had a nice hiking trail that meandered all along Muddy Creek but as it had been raining all day before we got there, it really was a muddy trail along Muddy Creek, so we didn't bother.

Wednesday, May 24th

Drove 103 miles.
Route: I70 to Exit 328 then north on K99 to K18 west to Elm Street – Church. Back on K99 north into Wamego and then onto the Oregon Trail Marker and Scott Spring. Return to campground via US24 east from Belvue then south on Paxico Rd.

Campground: Mill Creek Campground, Paxico, KS $35.00

I woke up to find Mr. “Fix It” busy at work yet again. Last night while watching local network TV we noticed that the sound was not coming in right. This morning Tim determined that in the surround sound system we have, one rear speaker was not working properly and one of the front speakers and the sub-woofer were not working at all! He found wiring problems and fixed them! Voila!

The first thing on the agenda today was to locate the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. We found it on Elm Street in an unincorporated part of the county. It was dedicated in May, 1862 and worship services are still conducted each Sunday.


“What is the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church and why in the world do you care?” I can hear you asking. So maybe a little history is in order.

Before the Civil War (1861 to 1865) as western territories were applying for statehood it was an important issue as to whether they would be admitted as a free state or as a slave state. In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill which provided that Kansas could enter the Union as a free or slave state depending how the people of Kansas voted. Many people emigrated to Kansas from other parts of the country to influence that decision by voting Kansas “free” or “slave”.

Excerpt from the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church Bulletin:

"In New England (my note: specifically in Connecticut where Tim’s ancestors are from) “Kansas Fever” ran high. The people of New Haven, Connecticut, raised money to send a group of colonists to Kansas, sixty or more men, led by one of New Haven’s most respected citizens, Charles B. Lines. These were well educated men, many with professional training. They left good jobs and good homes behind them. They were not just adventurers, with little to lose by going west; they were men making a sacrifice for their ideals.

Before the Connecticut-Kansas Company left for Kansas, a meeting was held in North Church, in New Haven. Professor Silliman of Yale pledged $25 for a Sharps rifle for the Company. Then Henry Beecher, the great minister from Brooklyn, pledged that his congregation would give the money for twenty-fife rifles if the audience would give another twenty-five; people in the crowd responded in great excitement, and soon twenty-seven had been promised. A few days later Mr. Beecher sent Mr. Lines $625 for the rifles, and with the money came twenty-five Bibles, the gift of a parishioner.”

Thus the name: Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee, KS.

Tim’s son Erik has been doing a bit of family genealogy and one of the mysteries of the family was the fate of Tim’s great, great grandfather, Edwin Brown, originally from Guilford, CT. As I understand it the last information on him was from a Kansas census in the 1850s or 1860s placing him in the vicinity of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee, KS. Erik believes that he took his family to Kansas as part of this emigration. There are later records showing that his wife, Tim’s great, great grandmother and their son, Chester Brown, returned to Connecticut but there was no further mention of Edwin.

We thought we would visit the church and see if there were any old records that would shed any light on the mystery. It was a long shot and unsuccessful, but still an enjoyable effort.

When we got to the church there was an older gentleman doing some work on the property who gave us access.

In the vestibule we found an antique map on the wall with quarter sections of the surrounding land identifying the original homesteaders. We located two families named Brown but one was not Edwin and the other didn’t give a first name, just “Brown”.
You can just make out the name BROWN right where you see the bend in the river. The river ran right through the BROWN quarter section.

When we questioned the caretaker he told us that there was a cemetery associated with the church and that a Mrs. Mueller who lived on the edge of town had all the old records. We actually found her on a lawn tractor mowing her yard and to make a long story even longer (LOL) she got the old Interment Record book from the 1850s and 1860s out of her basement and we sat outside on a picnic table and went through it page by page. It was very interesting and it was so gracious of her to spend her time helping us, but we could find no mention of an Edwin Brown.

So ends our adventure seeking out the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee, Kansas.

Moving on we decided to drive into Wamego, KS, about three miles down the road from the church and the home of The OZ Museum. Sprocket is a Cairn Terrier and was anxious to do some family tracing of his own – hoping to find Dorothy and Toto maybe. We’ve actually been here before - spent time visiting the Museum back in 2010 (I think it was) and we ate lunch at Toto's Tacos, so this time we didn’t actually go to the museum, just stopped to take a few photos with Sprocket, aka Toto.

We decided to stop in Toto's Tacos for some ice cream. Sprocket loves ice cream.

Sprocket was pissed (literally LOL) when he was told that they didn't serve ice cream.

From there we continued our tour north on KS99 to an Oregon Trail Historic Marker and site of the Scott Spring.

The next (and last) stop of our very busy day was the Prairie Fire Winery and Vineyard. Yes, we decided to retrace our missteps from yesterday, this time with pictures to show you why we were so anxious yesterday as we pulled the 36 foot 5th wheel down this gravel road. This time we could appreciate the beauty of the surrounding Flint Hills area and we didn't have to worry about backing all the way out.

Our first decision on the dirt road was - go straight or turn left. With the trailer in tow there was no going left!! LOL

This was the point where we thought for sure we had just come down someone's driveway and were going to have to back up.

Then we saw it was a winery!?!

Cute sign at the entrance.

Once inside we decided to each taste a flight of five. All the wines produced here are made only from Kansas grown grapes. I wanted to try their award winning Frontenac because we had tasted one a couple of years ago in upstate New York that was delicious and the Prairie Fire Frontenac won "best in show" its very first year. But they were sold out. After our tastings we settled on two we both liked and purchased them – one red, a Chambourcin and one white, a Seyval Blanc – Semi Dry. We plan to save them until we meet up with our friends to celebrate our embarkation for Alaska.
This Killdeer was waiting to greet us as we walked to the tasting room.


These are their new vines, a few years from maturity and wine production.

Sign as we left the Prairie Fire Winery: "Happy Trails To You...Til We Wine Again"
How neat is that! I think God's winking at us. LOL
I really need to take the time to Photoshop this so you can read it.

Prairie Fire Winery also sells locally produced Raw Milk Cheeses and we bought two big hunks that should last us for quite a bit.

Thursday, May 25th

Drove 270 miles.
Route: I70 west to K177 north to Manhattan, KS then US24 west to US281 north into Nebraska to the I80 interchange at Grand Island, NE where we drove east to Exit 318 onto SB Road.

Campground: Grand Island KOA, Doniphan, NE $44.00

Although we were “breaking camp” today and moving on to a spot yet to be determined, we took time first thing in the morning to do our CrossFit WOD. I post these embarrassing pictures only to prove to Fernando that we really are doing the WODs. Tim said he would literally chase me down and break the camera if I took any pictures of him doing the workout. LOL

We had planned to stay in the area of Grand Island for the Memorial Day weekend but sadly all the private RV Parks and the Nebraska State Recreation Areas in the vicinity were booked solid. So we could only get a site for one night. I was very disappointed because this KOA park was beautiful.

And it was Sunshine's favorite Campground so far in the trip. The bunnies here are practically tame. One came to within 5 feet of her as she stood frozen in place, like a bird dog on a point. Once it started running though, she went wild. Too funny.

Tim picked up some beer at the campground store and we had pizza delivered to the trailer for dinner. Nice relaxing evening.

Friday, May 26th

Drove 98 miles.
Route: I80 west to US281 north into Grand Island, NE to NE2 west to Broken Bow, NE.

Campground: Tomahawk City RV Park, Broken Bow, NE $20.00

This was one of those serendipity events. The only campground we could find listed that wasn’t booked for Memorial Day weekend in the vicinity of the scenic drive that we wanted to do was a real dump. I was looking at Google Earth trying to find the entrance to the place when we stumbled on this beautiful brand new city park. There were 15 full hookup sites and only two were occupied! I guess because it isn’t listed in any of the directories, no one else knew it was there either! It was one of those parks operated like some parking lots – you pick your space, then fill in an envelope enclosing your fee, and drop it in the deposit box.

We selected a site with a huge shade tree and a beautiful grassy lawn right outside our door - the dogs loved it. You can’t find soft, plush grass like this in Florida.

Saturday, May 27th

Drove 185 miles.
Route: NE2 west with side trip on NE106 to Victoria Springs State Recreation Area then back to NE2 on S-21A and on to Seneca before turning around to return to Broken Bow.

Campground: Tomahawk City RV Park, Broken Bow, NE $20.00

It was a drizzly day for a scenic tour but that was the plan so after our CrossFit WOD 2.3 (done in the trailer again) off we went.
First stop – Victoria Springs State Recreation Area. This 60-acre area is named after the mineral springs located here.
Victoria Springs SRA spring fed lake – not as spectacular as Mammoth Spring in Arkansas, that's for sure. But still quite peaceful.

It has a huge picnic area and a very nice campground just up the hill and across the stream.

The two log cabins were originally built by an early pioneer, Custer County Judge Charles Matthews, who settled here in the early 1870s. One cabin was his home and the other was the first post office in Custer County.
The original “tiny house”?

The drive then took us further and further into the Sand Hills area – an immense system of undulating sand dunes covered with prairie grass which stretch all the way across north-central Nebraska. Not suitable for farming crops due to the poor soil, it does lend itself to successful cattle ranching operations and in fact is touted as being the best example of cooperative land management use in the world.

As we drove along NE2 we spotted a wild turkey and a herd of deer, still in velvet. And lots of water pump windmills.

Next stop was the Nebraska National Forest. This original log structure was at the entrance.

And yes, it is unlikely that you would find a forest in the Sand Hills of Nebraska – all of these trees have been purposefully planted beginning in 1903 when botanist Dr. Charles Bessey determined that with a little help, the terrain could support a forest. We stopped by the Bessey Arboretum where several million trees are rooted before being transplanted into the surrounding forest.

The Scott Fire Lookout Tower is located in the Nebraska National Forest. We stopped and climbed the 75 steps to the top for some pretty outstanding views. Ran all the way up without breaking a sweat - not. LOL
Without those planted trees of the Nebraska National Forest, this is what the Sand Hills terrain looks like. It is a vast, empty space of rolling prairie grass covered sand hills.

As we drove along the scenic route today we crossed over the windy Middle Loup River at least a dozen times. Never saw any outer Loups though. (And yes, I did spell it correctly!) The railroad seems to follow along the path of the river.

Tomorrow we plan to continue our drive along the Nebraska Byway - Sand Hills Journey as we head north into South Dakota.

Back at the campground the weather had cleared and we enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner and evening in the camper, thus completing our first week on the road.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 10:48

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