Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leavenworth and US Hwy 24 – 1st of 3 parts

Saturday I dropped by wife off at the Kansas City airport at 8 a.m. (so she could fly to Austin to visit our grandson and help them move to their new house – I’ll drive down next weekend, for a week of vacation through Labor Day!) With nothing else on my schedule, I decided this was a good day to visit Leavenworth and drive across US Hwy 24 that parallels I-70, rather than rushing home to Emporia!

I’ll share the eastern part of the trip today and in the next entry, and get to the Flint Hills portion in the following entry. ;-)

We have lived in Kansas for over thirteen years now, and have not yet visited Leavenworth… Time was up! Up to Platte City I went, from the airport and caught highway 92 – same number in MO and KS! Across the impressive Missouri river bridge, and I was in Leavenworth, with the Army base on my immediate right. I made the right turn into the base, but… the entrance was intimidating… one car was being searched in the right hand lane… and four were waiting to go in the gate.

I spotted the turn around opening, and exited the base, took a right, and continued west, to see if the historical sites I wanted to see were out there, or, if I needed to go on the base. Shortly, I was driving past the U.S. Penitentiary… now, THAT is intimidating!!!

I turned around, and decided to go into the Army base. The guard at the gate confirmed I did need to enter to see the historic sites – I had noticed he was checking in ID cards, in the cars ahead – so, I was not surprised at the next thing he said: “You need to have your car inspected to enter the base.” Therefore, I got to swing around, the other way, through that turn around, and get in the far right hand lane, to be inspected: driver’s license first, then, I was “requested” to open all the openings on the car – all four doors, trunk and hood! Really reminded me of those days, long ago, when I went through ROTC summer camp and three years of active duty – in the Air Force; I was in the Army, now!

They kindly gave me, upon my request, the sheet of paper with the driving tour. I pulled in on the left, in a bit, where the sign said: “Welcome Center” – though it wasn’t on the map. Walking into the building, it was obvious this was the lobby of a “hotel” like building – with visiting officers sitting reading their newspapers and continental breakfast off the lobby. Acting like I knew clearly where I was going, I made my restroom visit and exited quietly, picking up a couple of information pieces from the displays on my way out.

A little further, per map, I came to the first site of interest, the Buffalo Soldier Monument.

Colin Powell narrated the story at the pedestal on the right, above.

I really like the statue at the far end:

There were informative interpretive signs up and back as I walked around the memorial.

Further up the road, a right, and near the end of that road, I got to see the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. For any military person, this is the ultimate training site. I stood there, just imagining the long, long line of well-known military leaders who have walked in and out of the building and on these grounds, over many, many years!

At the end of that road, and to the left, just a bit, the Mighty Missouri River – the Gateway to the West - appeared on the right:

The plaque is of Lewis and Clark, camping on that island in the river, 200 years ago – a great drawing, and fascinating to compare…

Right behind here, is a row of officer housing:

Again, I pondered the long string of career military officers, notables from WWI, WWII and all other conflicts that have lived in these houses – they all came through here!

As I turned back toward the main road, I got my one disappointment from the brief visit – it was just 9 a.m. and the Frontier Army Museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m. on Saturday!

In our family, we always say on vacation visits: “Save something for the next time!” Well, we’ll come back and visit the Frontier Army Museum, and perhaps some of the other Wayside 16 on the list they gave me!

Out of the base, I headed south on K-7 through Leavenworth, the city. I was curious to see their “Preserve America” signage – they are the only Kansas city, so far, to earn the designation – there is was, along the right side of the road.

As a tourism guy, I was both impressed and disappointed in the “welcome” building, near the sign. The little building actually had public restrooms, but the brochure display was very disappointing… had a few B&Bs, and real estate ads – but NO Leavenworth brochures!! Unbelievable!

Following K-7 highway directly south for several miles, I approached US Hwy 24, and was reminded I had never visited The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame that I had seen signs for along I-70 so many times! It was just east of the intersection, so I decided to make a visit – but more on that in the next entry!


firstcitybook said...

When you return to Fort Leavenworth, you need to stop at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. A number of famous, and infamous, soldiers are buried there. Within downtown Leavenworth, you need to visit the park next to the Missouri River; it contains some of the oldest trees in Kansas. Not all of Leavenworth is so intimidating or disappointing. Did you stop at the buffalo overlook next to the federal prison? It provides a better view of what was once referred to as the "Big House."

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thanks for the suggestions. We'll be sure to check those out, next time.