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Day 235 – Missouri and Kansas, August 8, 2011

It was impossible to miss the capitol building in Jefferson
City.  It dominates the skyline of
Missouri’s quaint capital.  I spent a
little time poking around, both inside and outside, and came up with another
type of restroom available to me – government buildings.  Parks, Wal-Mart, restaurants, rest areas, and
gas stations generally serve the purpose, but churches and government buildings
have recently been added to the list!

After a short stay in Jefferson City, we traveled to Kansas
to pick up the eastern portion of my “Kansas East and West” tour and the
northern portion of my “Flint Hills Highlights” tour.  I completed the other halves in March when it
was downright freezing!  It was much
warmer today.  I would say hot, but it
seems to have cooled down remarkably from my night in St. Charles…either less
humidity or I’m getting used to it.

Speaking of nights, it’s amazing to me that last night at
Wal-Mart was quieter than my last two nights in campgrounds.  In St. Charles, some little kiddos had some
type of video going that I could hear plain as day two spots over.  Normally I would have stayed up, blogged, and
waited out the noise like I did in Michigan for a group of teenage girls that
couldn’t stop their shrieking giggle, but it was so hot I just crawled up in
the top part of VANilla, prayed for breeze and didn’t stir.  A few nights prior, I camped next to a family
of four.  One of them, I presume the
father, snored so loud, I could hear him over the crickets, frogs, and cicadas
that chirped in harmony all night long.  I’m
surprised his family slept a wink.  I
ended up placing the fan about two inches from my ear to drown the sound!

Upon reaching Olathe, Kansas I attempted to visit Mahaffie
Farmstead, once a stagecoach stop.  It
was closed…forgot it was a Monday!  We
carried on, following the Santa Fe Trail toward Edgerton where we visited Lanesfield
School, an old one-room school that seemed randomly located in the modern day
era.  Signs directed us from the two lane
highway along some side roads, where the school sat in a field a few hundred
yards from a power plant and across the street from someone’s house.  A cache happened to be hid in a brushy area
on the back side of the field, so we got a good view of the power plant as we
crossed the prairie beneath the beating sun.
The cache description warned to watch for poison ivy.  I didn’t find any poison ivy, but I did find
a tick crawling on me…ICK!

Slightly farther along Highway 56, we turned off to see
wagon wheel ruts left in the ground from 100 years ago.  The waist high grass, giant grasshoppers
buzzing my head, and the thought of snakes and ticks kept me from venturing too
far, but I did find a cache hidden near one of the signs.  The place that I found to be even more interesting,
however, was just a quarter mile down the road; the Battle of Black Jack
site.  The Battle of Black Jack, fought
on June 2, 1856, is considered by many to have been the first battle of the
American Civil War.  I’m showing my
ignorance in history…I did not know this.
I may have learned this at some point in my teenage years, but it
doesn’t ring a bell…though not much history does…it was so monotonous to me as a
kid.  In fact, up until this trip, I
still found it a bit dull.  The
visualization of it on my tour has made it far more interesting…I may read a
history book in my free time!

When Kansas Territory opened for settlement in 1854, it was
quickly flooded with proslavery and free-state settlers.  The opposing groups jostled for political
dominance over whether slavery should be allowed.  The clash in 1856 was the first time
proslavery and antislavery forces took up arms and fought a pitched
battle.  The men on both sides, totaling
around 90 to 100, engaged in intense fighting for several hours in the ravine
and tall grass.  Remarkably, no one was
killed. Henry Pate, who led the proslavery camp, presumed he was outnumbered as
well as surrounded by John Brown’s free-state militia and eventually
surrendered.

Petey and I took the small, wooden bridge over the ravine,
checked out the battle grounds, and found another cache (and another tick),
before continuing west to Council Grove where we turned north.  The drive took us past the tallgrass prairie
and across Tuttle Creek Lake before we finally reached Marysville.  This was not a suggested stop in my book, but
one I really liked.  I had my eyes open for
signs pointing to Hollenberg Pony Express Station that according to my book was
northwest of Marysville.  I noted a sign
to “Original Pony Express Home Station No. 1” along the highway just after
passing a city park with a few campers parked on the sides of a horse shoe
lot.  I turned into the town square to
find an original stone barn used by the Pony Express which also acted as a
museum.

Originally I had planned on continuing my travels to the
beginning of my next scenic drive, but it was getting late, and I was
interested enough in learning more about the short lived Pony Express, so I
stayed the night in Marysville to visit the museum when it opened at nine in
the morning.

I circled back to the city park where a few RV’s were pulled
over and asked a guy walking his dog if anyone could camp here as there weren’t
any signs explaining fees or procedures.
He said, “Yes, you can pull in wherever and park.”

“How much is it,” I inquired.

“Unless you use electricity, there’s no charge,” he
answered.

This was such a unique place to me.  Numbers were painted along the slanted curb
of the horse shoe entrance and vehicles could just pull in.  Trees shaded the grassy area where campers
could set up a tent.  Across the way were
tennis courts and a public pool.  A free
place to camp with flush toilets…no complaints here!  ETB

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