Saturday, November 19, 2011

Historic Lecompton and a Cheeseburger

Constitution Hall, built 1855, Lecompton, Kansas.

Riding through these parts of old historic Kansas Territory, what strikes me is how unassuming this quiet village seems--150 years ago things would have been very different mes amis. What the people did here sowed the seeds of the Civil War.

Like now, many of the issues stemmed from over-zealous politicians--on both sides--trying to make a name for themselves. Sounds all too familiar doesn't it, Gentle Readers of This Blog?

Blokes in Congress grab-assin' for power, and others using the cloak of morality to justify murder--while for the most part, Kansas People wanted to farm and make a living. Still others on both sides, the Jayhawkers and the Bushwackers, used the issue of Slavery to steal and kill each other for personal gain.

Crossing the Kansas River as I leave Lawrence.

The last few weeks have kept us all pretty busy. Little Egypt deployed to Ft. Hood with the Kansas Nat'l Guard, and as I write she's on her way to Kuwait. Work, school, planing, and getting set for a year without her has been work. Rico is prepping for the end of the semester with papers and exams. Also, the weather here has been bleak--but this Saturday promises to be warm--almost 70 degrees! Its going to be windy, as a storm with rain and snow are on the way--I will get in a ride, mes amis!

Sun Kissed.

You can see that little reflection from my messenger mirror--I'm riding due West and the Sun is quickly rising up over my shoulder. With the wind dashing and gusting in every direction--sometimes I get a tailwind, then a sudden violent crosswind! The clouds are riding this wind as well and they race over head.

Stamped of clouds roaring onto the Wilds!

Farmers that have prospered and continue to do so.

Fields put down for Winter Time.

Now to get off this road with the headwinds and ride to Lecompton.

I rode like a bullet out of Lawrence as I had a bit of tailwind. Riding West on Hwy 24 was tough as I had headwinds and cross winds--and some traffic too. Riding on Hwy 24 West reminds me of Hwy 79, the Pinal Parkway, between the Tom Mix Memorial and the Junction at Hwy 79 and Hwy 77, which takes you down to Saddlebrook and Oro Valley. The traffic is fast and the shoulder narrow. I had to really work to make 15 to 16 mph in that wind.

Before I ride into Lecompton I ride over the Kansas River again.

The Kansas River here about 18 miles West of Lawrence probably looks like when it did 150 years ago. The bridge I'm on is modern and smooth, and I'm glad there was no traffic so I could snap a few pictures and try to get one for you, Gentle Reader.

Territorial Capital of Kansas. Look at those flags! The wind has switched directions and now howling straight out of the South!

I almost missed this old building as come to find out, the old Lecompton High School was built in front of it in the 1930s--that was weird I thought at first. This was to be the State Capital of Kansas--the State Capital of Slave Kansas that is! The building was started up in 1855 but when things didn't go in favor of Pro Slavery backers, the construction was stopped and the site abandoned about 1857.

With the building about a third completed, and all the cut stones and material lying around, a few years later it was bought by a church which in turn built it as Lane University. Lane wasn't actually finished until 1882--the old building sat unfinished for a long time...

The claim to fame here is that at Lane, which at the time was progressive co-ed liberal arts university, is where President Dwight Eisenhower's parents met and go married in 1885. Lane University closed in 1902 and the old building remained unused for another 70 years. It was only recently restored in the early 1980s. Amazing that it survived at all.

The Mighty Trek hid behind the big juniper bushes at the entrance.

Territorial Capital Museum.

Christmas Time!

The upstairs chapel was pretty awesome--and the volunteers had just finished putting up a large live Christmas Tree--it was very beautiful. Big Christmas trees like that don't last long in Tucson because its so dry--but this one was well worth the trip riding out here from Lawrence.

Did not seal the deal.

First try up there for the Pro-Slavery backers--who in reality were Southern Senators and Congressmen trying to gain power in Washington D.C. by admitting Kansas as a Slave State. The citizens of Kansas Territory opposed slavery and felt that they had the right to vote on what kind of government they wanted--the idea of "Popular Sovereignty" instead of what Congress interests were in Washington.

The Mighty Trek is still there, thank goodness!


And now... Constitutional Hall built in 1855.

It is amazing that this old wood building is still standing, mes amis. It was built to accommodate the Territorial Legislature and it was here that Pro-Slavery and Free State interests debated and argued over the fate of Kansas.

You can see some of the original frescoes and see three chairs that were here when the Territorial Legislators hashed out the State Constitution.

So in 1857 the guys got together here and drafted the famous/infamous Lecompton Constitution--which would have admitted Kansas as a Pro-Slavery State. It was rejected after fierce debate in Congress, mainly by Lincoln and Douglas, and many historians feel its where Southern and Northern States drew up sides which tipped the US into civil war.

Window to let in sunlight in the stairwell going up and down from first to second floor.

Eight drafts of the Lecompton Constitution were hammered out in this large room before the one sent to Washington D.C. for President Buchanan to sign in 1857--which he didn't sign into law.

For many years later Constitution Hall was used as the Government Land Office.

Once the writing was on the wall that Kansas would be a Free State, people moved on to Topeka where the State Capital would be built. Lecompton faded quickly--while Lawrence prospered--but that is another story Gentle Readers of This Blog.

Again I believe its a miracle that Constitutional Hall was not burned down or dismantled by Free Staters. Probably people moved on to their business pretty quickly once Statehood happened in 1861.

The very fine museum staff and volunteers told me where I could get a quick bit to eat as it was now about lunch time--I was starved. All I had to do was go down the road just a few miles and pull off to the right at Kroger's Meat Market.

Staff making my cheeseburger in Kroger's family meat market.

The Kroger family have been farmers and cattlemen for many generations. At the store besides selling meat from the cows they raise on the farm right there, they sell gas, beer, candy, and stuff like that. I'm glad I know where it is now because its good stop to make before the trip home back to Lawrence.

Eisenhower Rd. a.k.a. Rural Kansas Hwy 1029.

I'll take 1029 South to the Old Farmers Turnpike that runs East and West (438 Rd.) and head on into Lawrence. Here I'm fighting a pretty strong crosswind from the West--the cold front is on the way, mes amis!

Hay cut and stored to feed cattle this Winter.

Old Barn Landmark right before Farmers Turnpike.

Lecompton Interchange at Interstate 70 and Kansas 10.

I decided that I'd go the fast way back, as least that's what the bike shop lads have told me, and take K 10 to Hwy 40 (6th Street in Lawrence City Limits) instead of scenic Farmers Turnpike all the way.

I cross over I 70 which is a wide concrete river packed with fast car traffic--to K-10 which I know has a wide shoulder. I've been told that riding on Hwy 40, which is the old highway from Lawrence to Topeka, is dangerous for bikes, but I'll give it a go.

Actually with the wind now shifted and coming right from the West, I am riding with the wind, mes amis! I make some very good time on K-10. When I get to Hwy 40, it has a wide shoulder for me to ride on just into the city.

With a tailwind on Hwy 40 and then on newly re-paved 6th Street--I fly into town!

Yeah I rode fast, and when I ran out of shoulder on 6th Street, I was able to ride the wide sidewalk next to 6th. Instead of having a bike lane, what the Lawrence people did was build a wide sidewalk--unlike Tucson and most cities where riding a bike on the side walk is illegal, riding on the side walk is legal except for Massacusetts Ave in Old Downtown Lawrence.

When the side walk ran out, I just hopped back onto 6th Street and rode in traffic. The street has been newly repaved, and with the tail wind I had, I was riding 28 mph in a 35 mph zone. I got a few looks from people passing me like, "Dang that Cat is fast!" I popped right onto Mass Ave, Downtown Lawrence and it was cool to see everyone out and enjoying the afternoon. Lots of car traffic so I had to be careful.

A quick stop by the local bike shop.

Bone Shakin' Short Cut back to the Little House!

Back at the Little House before the cold and rain and maybe snow arrives Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by and continuing to read the Blog mes amis. Take care!

Cheers! Bruce

Thursday, November 17, 2011

We'd All Be Happier If We Rode Bikes

Sunny but cold morning for the commute to the office.

October and November have been busy for us here up in Interzone, Gentle Readers of This Blog--but I am still on the bike! I've been mostly car free since the move, and I'm happy to report that I have never driven a car to work since I began working at KU back in late March. I've had a few rides with Little Egypt and Son Rico giving me a lift--or picking me up--but that has been rarely. If need be I walk home.

It has been one-point-two miles to work and back home by bike every day! The secret? Packing the night before, and then giving yourself enough time in the morning so you don't have to rush. Even though its just over a mile, I have a huge hill to climb--and even with the cool weather now, I still have to change clothes and clean up a little in the men's room up top at my office.

It has also helped that all the streets going up to the top of campus on Mt. Oread have been repaved over that last few months with new black cake-icing-like asphalt. The streets are narrow, steep, and 100 years old. The original bricks were heaving through on many of the roads--which made going down-hill pretty dangerous. You could hit a spot and get flung over the handle bars real quick mes amis.

Still every morning I see the students who are running late, speeding up and down Mt. Oread--always in vain--for parking spots that do not exist. In a panic and on a cell phone, they're not paying attention and if you're a cyclist you have to be real careful not to get run over. Most kids simply take the bus--which is free for them--or they walk up the hill. If the buses did not run I think more people would have to ride bikes.

I did have to run errands today and I had to drive. I had to be on one of those streets where there's a lot of traffic because its a main artery, and things like grocery stores and stuff are there. Lots of lights and lots of speeders and rude cutting people off and shit. Every asshole on a fucking cell phone too. Even in the grocery store parking lot people on cell phones speeding though there not giving a fuck about almost running some old farmer and his wife over.

This store is about 3 miles away and probably the same for most people over where I live. What if we were all on bikes? Wow what a sight! It would be a happy time--and then those people that are too old to bike, well they could drive because they had too--and they might even feel safe.

Well come Spring I plan to make more of a leap with biking to the grocery store. They tore down our local grocery around the corner so they could re-model it--it was old and falling apart. Now people like me who used to live nearby have to drive so there's a bit more congestion. The store we have to go to now (same chain) is not safe for bikes--I still see a lot of the workers from the old store working at this other location--they still have to ride to work many of them and its not easy I know...

Rock and Roll mes amis!

Lastly, I got a set of rollers--used--and so there they are! On warm days I'll test out the new winter clothing I'm starting to collect!

Allure Libre! Bruce