Letters From a Bus
August 2007: Sidetracked
1st entry for August
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We Drive Through Kansas and Rest in Denver, CO

Aurora, CO, Day Two at Cherry Creek State Park, Buffalo Loop, #22

Monday, August 6, 2007 — We've lived in our bus for 83 days.

I am so glad we spent an extra day in Abilene.  There is a lot of history squeezed into this one little town.  We only scratched the surface and now I have to add Abilene to my growing list of places where we must return to see so much more. 
Our campsites are arranged in an unusual fashion — back to front so that two RVs share the same hookup location. It was a good idea for privacy also so that you don't see through a row of living room windows. Covered Wagon. Above: Rudi meets a new friend.
Below: Our campground is next to a farm and a field, but what is the crop? Bush beans? Soybeans? What?
Covered Wagon RV Park, Abilene, KS 7/30/07

We set out early and I was attracted to go first to the Seelye Mansion.  I saw this beautiful house when we drove in and it attracted me like a magnate.  We had the great good fortune to join a tour being led by the owner, Terry Tietjens, himself.  This guy is something else.  He is a natural born teacher and entertainer and he loves his subject.  We were visiting the home as it was 100 years ago and he explained how the Seelye family would entertain us.  We were their guests.  He recreated it all and included everyone by asking them questions to encourage conversation and speculation.  He actually lived with the unmarried maiden sisters, bought the house and all it’s contents from them in 1981 and took care of them until they passed away in their mid-nineties.  He renovated and preserved, and the house is as much as possible exactly as it was when the family lived there.  Before the tour was finished I had decided that Terry is an enormous asset to Abilene.  Later I discovered that he was given a citizen of the year award by the city.

The house is remarkable in that it was built right after the family visited the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where Thomas Edison demonstrated the miracles of electricity.  Edison was hired by Seelye to oversee construction of his new house with built-in electric fixtures installed.  It was one of the first. 

By then Seelye was a millionaire and how he got his money is a story in itself.  He made and sold patent medicines and they were peddled all over the mid-west.  What was in them is anyone’s guess.  For sure, alcohol, morphine and cocaine can make you feel better and these may have been included together with herbs and other substances. 

The Seelyes kept their two daughters at home and it was felt that no one local was good enough for them. As a result, they remained in their parent’s home and never married.   (Ike, whose parent’s home was located just down the street by the railroad tracks, delivered ice for their gigantic icebox while working to earn money for college!)

The Seelye Mansion
Left to Right; Top to Bottom:
New fangled idea: electric outlets & an electric iron
Seelye Mansion front porch entrance
Terry Tietjens, owner, on the third floor that was used as a music & dancing room. It is surrounded by bedrooms.
Downstairs study seen from the entry hallway
Study with leather sofa and table
Study with books under glass
Formal dining room is set for dinner
Entry staircase to second floor
The bedroom the ladies assigned to Terry
Main staircase leading down to second floor
Office desk on first floor
Stairway from third floor to the roof — a widow's walk
First floor in the kitchen, a gas range
Basement playroom next to laundry, canning, etc.
In this playroom there is a form of bowling called Box Ball
The grounds behind the house lead to a pond
Dennis scores with a small wooden ball
Elsa & Dennis pose on the bridge over the garden pond. Terry took the photo. Seelye Mansion, Abilene, KS 7/30/07

Here is a very interesting article on Patent Medicines that includes A B Seelye Medical Co. of Abilene
http://ktwu.washburn.edu/journeys/scripts/2002/1509a.html

I also discovered a series of articles by and about Terry Tietjens, owner of the Seelye Mansion. 
http://www.oznet.k-state.edu/huckboyd/00ksprof.htm#Terry%20Tietjens%20-%20Seelye%20Mansion%20-%20part%201

Or go to: http://www.oznet.k-state.edu
See K-State Research & Extension; Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development; Kansas Profiles 2000; Terry Tietjens – Seelye Mansion – parts 1, 2, and 3.

After our tour we paused to rest and had lunch in another house owned and renovated by Terry Tietjens, the Kirby House Restaurant.  I had a delicious quiche and salad and felt very much the lady as we sat at a table in the drawing room.

Lunch at the Kirby House; top right parlor right of entrance foyer, left Dennis at table in drawing room left of entrance foyer, above Elsa and Dennis have just finished a lovely lunch. Abilene, KS 7/30/07

We spent the rest of the day at the Eisenhower Center, which features two gigantic buildings, the Library and the Museum as well as the Visitor's Center and the little farmhouse where he lived with his parents and brothers as a boy.  There is also a “Place of Meditation” where Ike is buried with Mamie and their first-born son, Doud Dwight Eisenhower.   The 22 acres of property is huge with vast green lawns between the buildings.

We stopped at the Place of Meditation first and immediately I was bowled over by the quote inscribed on the wall there.  It spoke to me across the years because I believe that over and over again our country has done exactly what Eisenhower preached against.  Today we neglect our people and our infrastructure as we pour money into one more useless and nonproductive war.

"Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed....This is not a way of life at all...Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."  — Chance For Peace Address, Washington, DC, April 16, 1953  http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/visitors_center/place_of_meditation.html

“I like Ike.”  Ike is a part of my memory bank.  He was the first president who penetrated the consciousness of my youthful, ditzy brain.  We had moved from New York to California and were settled in our new house up on the hill in Hollywood Riviera, Redondo Beach, CA.  I was 12 when he was elected and I clearly remember a color close-up of his face with a big infectious grin on the cover of — was it Life or Look magazine in the summer of ’52?  Who couldn’t like that face?  My parents were Republicans.  They loved him: I loved him. 

The Eisenhower campaign against Democrat, Adlai E. Stevenson, is my first memory of political shenanigans.  Adlai was accused of being an “egghead.”  An egghead was defined as one who will not pee in the shower.  Also Adlai had a hole in the bottom of his shoe.  According to the papers my parents read, these two facts disqualified him from serious consideration for the Presidency.  I did not pee in the shower — and I had no wish to do so.  This worried me.  Clearly my dim and vague Presidential aspirations were over before they began.  I knew my parents were laughing but I didn’t get it.  I did not see what this had to do with being qualified to be the leader of the free world.  Actually, I still don’t.  Nevertheless, I liked Ike.

Place of Meditation. The architecture is all very fifties. Eisenhower Center, Abilene, KS, 7/30/07
Eisenhower grounds with family home in the background and the home (above) where Ike grew up with his five brothers. Eisenhower Center, Abilene, KS, 7/30/07

I’m a Democrat.  I’d forgotten about Ike.  We stumbled on the center because we were in Abilene.  I was not prepared for the Eisenhower Museum.  We spent too much time in the first rooms and I didn’t understand how much was still ahead of us.  Finally, we were overwhelmed with the enormity of Ike’s career and the vastness of the displays that recount his career. I came away awed and stunned and amazed.  I rediscovered a hero.  http://www.dwightdeisenhower.com/about2.html

Here was a leader.  Here was a man who did not shirk from making decisions.  Here was a man who did not hide behind political opinion polls.  In the museum I read the following quote and once again I was struck dumb as Ike spoke to me across the intervening years:

“Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. When you delegate something to a subordinate, for example, it is absolutely your responsibility, and he must understand this. You as a leader must take complete responsibility for what the subordinate does. I once said, as a sort of wisecrack, that leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”

Eisenhower Museum, above, and statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower on the grounds. Eisenhower Center, Abilene, KS 7/30/07

Today, Republicans would have me feel that if I don’t support the war I am somehow not concerned about the welfare of our soldiers who risk their lives or that I am unpatriotic because I disagree with this war.  But Dwight D. said, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”  Clearly, today we are confused.

Eisenhower also said, “War settles nothing.” In my lifetime, I’ve seen ample evidence of that. 

And Ike said, “Don't join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.”  To me that is a message that goes straight to the heart of not only the Bush administration but also many Presidential administrations since Eisenhower left the Presidency in 1961. Today business leaders and political leaders frequently avoid responsibility for their actions. It is common practice to lie or blame others. Karl Rove has honed the lie into a tremendously successful political tool — simply repeat a lie often enough and somehow it becomes accepted as a truth. The line between rhetoric and reality has become indistinguishable in the US politics of this new century.

I am witnessing first hand that we live in a gigantic country filled with a multiplicity of cultures.  Perhaps we are so large that we can no longer elect a good leader.  In order to please everyone (or the majority) we have created a system where it becomes impossible to make definite, declarative statements without running a risk of losing the campaign.  If you please one group you lose another.  And so, the one who can prevaricate most successfully does win.  (“Prevaricate: hedge, evade, beat around the bush, quibble, stall, or dissemble.  Avoid giving a direct and honest answer or opinion, or a clear and truthful account of a situation, especially by quibbling or being deliberately ambiguous or misleading.”)  The results for our country have been calamitous. 

Well, off my soapbox and back on the road…  On Tuesday we drove across Kansas and stopped for the night near the Colorado border in Goodland, KS.  Here we stayed at Mid-America Camp Inn and I really liked this campground very much.  I felt like I had found the Kansas of Dorothy and Toto.  We had pretty trees and we were next to a cornfield and the sky was full of dramatic thunderstorm clouds.

Lots of burrs in this camp. Elsa grooms Rudi. Looks like someone needs to groom Elsa.... Mid-America Camp Inn, Goodland, KS, 7/31/07 "Stay, Rudi. I want to take your picture. Margot tries to hide. She's next. Goodland, KS, 7/31/07
While Elsa grooms the dogs, Dennis cleans the bus. Those Kansas bugs! Mid-America Camp Inn, Goodland, KS, 7/31/07
Our Honda parked behind our bus. Mid-America Camp Inn, Goodland, KS, 7/31/07 View of our camp through the windshield — before Dennis cleaned it. Mid-America Camp Inn, Goodland, KS, 7/31/07
On Wednesday we drove to Denver, CO.  It was an uneventful drive across the state of Colorado. We pulled into a rest area and found that Colorado doesn't put in parking spaces for trucks and RVs. You have to pull in by the side of the road but this one was full so we pulled forward into a picnic loop. Later we stopped for fuel at a Flying J. Next to us I saw a woman trucker fueling her truck. She let me take her photo. I admire woman truckers. Rudi and Margot do not like fuel stops with trucks on all sides. They get on my seat and wait with sad expressions. They are wearing their travel halters and are tied to the seat belt by the floor where you fasten the clip.
Oh, no. What fresh hell is this? Not a tornado, I hope. No it wasn't but rain seems to follow us wherever we go.
Mid-America Camp Inn, Goodland, KS, 7/31/07
Right: Rest stop.
Left: Trucker
Below: Scared dogs.
We settled in at Denver Meadows Mobile Home and RV Park in Aurora, the south part of Denver.  This choice for a campground was a mistake.  I didn’t do a good job of research or I would have seen that it has a bad rating.  Actually, it is fine but there is noise from the freeway and it is in a bad section of town (near I-225 and Colfax where the old army hospital was located) and it is not maintained.  It is, in point of fact, kind of a dump and an expensive one: $35. a day.  I think the owner knows it because before looking at it, I was going to pay for the week (weekly rate) and she encouraged us to pay just for three days because payment is non-refundable.  I was grateful to her for this.
Below left: Our bus in our campsite.
Below right: We've been outclassed. A Prevost pulled in next to us. What are they doing in this dump? (Prevosts are built of metal like a city bus and ours is built of fiberglass. They are more sturdy but they rarely have more than two slides. They start at 800K.)
Denver Meadows RV Park, Aurora, CO 8/1 to 8/4/07

Denver is familiar to me.  My sister, Sally Barlow-Perez, used to live here and so did my mother, Doris Barlow.  But this Aurora area is not familiar to me.  It is a huge area so I’ve had to get re-oriented. 

Our first days in Denver were extremely social and busy.  On Thursday morning, our first full day here, I went out to explore on my own.  Every other week I need to find a Vietnamese nail salon to get “fills” for my “gel” nails.  At home I had a regular appointment with Gina, but it has been difficult since I’ve been gone.  Now, I’ve hit on a technique. 

I look for a nearby breakfast place on the Internet.  I-Hop is good.  Then I go out on a weekday morning and get to I-Hop about 9:00 AM.  I treat myself to breakfast with a good book and I ask the waitress about nearby shopping strip malls and the location of a nail place.  Whether the waitress is helpful or not, I-Hop is always in an area where I am bound to find nail salons if I cruise the nearby boulevards.  I generally arrive at such a place just as they are opening about ten o’clock.  They take walk-ins and I’m the first.  No waiting and prompt service. 

This time I found I-Hop on E. Mississippi Ave. in Aurora and Kacey Nails a few blocks away also on Mississippi.  They did a great job so I got the works: fills, pedicure, and wax for legs and eyebrows.  I’m a new woman.

In the afternoon Dennis and I went out to put gas in the Honda and find a place where he could get his hair cut.  It was getting Hollywood long.  With my newfound knowledge of the area we went south on I-225 to exit 8 and explored the Aurora Town Center Mall.  We found Metro Hair next to Jamba Juice.  I sat outside in a patio with a yogurt smoothie and read while Dennis got an excellent haircut.

That evening I finally got to meet Gretchen Carman-Palmer of Denver, CO.  Gretchen located me last year through Classmates.com and we began an email correspondence.  I am a member of the graduating class of 1957 at Torrance High School and Gretchen wanted to know if I planned to attend the fiftieth reunion.  Gretchen graduated in the same year from Santa Monica High School and has helped to plan their reunion.  She wanted to arrange a small reunion during that same timeframe for the members of our Riviera 1953 eighth grade graduating class.  I agreed that it was a good idea and offered to start a virtual reunion by adding a segment to my Cute Small Dogs website.  Our classmate, Dyanne Demaree Radke joined us in this endeavor.  We each have a page with photos and biography and memories and you can see each contributing classmate at:  http://www.CuteSmallDogs.com/Pages/Riviera/RivieraKids.html

Gretchen lives nearby and wanted to see our bus so she came to our campsite at Denver Meadows.  At last she and I met — as grandmas in our mid-sixties.  We haven’t seen each other since our elementary school graduation in June of 1953 — fifty-four years ago.  My goodness, we haven’t changed a bit….  Well, OK, but the eyes might be the same — only older and wiser. 

Gretchen went on to study music and singing and had a career in opera in San Francisco and Denver before she married and got sidelined as a wife and mother.  Today she is an Associate Broker for Remax Avenues Lowry in Denver.  She is still dramatic, charming and entertaining.  She took responsibility as a tour guide and suggested she drive us up the hill to a famous restaurant that she thought we should see.  Off we went in her car and she drove us west on I-70 to Golden for dinner at the historic El Rancho that boasts a panoramic view of the Continental Divide. 

We were enchanted and loved this old place with the wood interior and antler decorations.  My favorite dinner is trout and she recommended the trout so that is what we all ordered.  We spent a happy dinner catching up on our (extensive) life histories and recalling what we could of our eighth grade memories.  Gretchen is a force to be reckoned with and we had a very entertaining evening.  Soon she will hit the Los Angeles south bay for her reunions and I think the place will not be the same after her arrival.

To bed at midnight and up at 5:30 Friday morning.  We had to break down the bus and get ready to drive 35 miles north to Frederick where Dennis had Spartan chassis work scheduled for 7:00 AM at TransWest.  (More axle oil leaks.)  We didn’t know if it would take an hour or all day so the question was whether I should follow in the car.  I didn’t want to so we decided to risk being stranded for the day and I rode in the bus.  Good thing I did.  Co-Pilot did not agree with my MapQuest directions and we followed Co-Pilot in a merry carousel around the outskirts of Denver — first east, then north, then west.  We were put on a toll road and because of the tag axle we had to pay $8.00 for less than sixteen miles and the privilege of driving all around the block.  It took a full hour to arrive at our destination.

We pulled into line to wait for a bay and I hurried to cook breakfast.  Although the slides are in it is very possible to put together eggs and toast, coffee and juice and I finished before we had to drive our bus into a work bay.  I spent the time working on my computer, reading and even napping on our bed.  On the way back I fired Co-Pilot and took us through Denver on I-70.  We saved twenty minutes and got back about noon.

In the afternoon I got to visit my girlfriend, Sophia Fielding.  Sophia is a teacher who lives in Berkeley, CA and she happens to be visiting here in Denver at the same time that we blew into town.  She is here to play grandma, visiting her daughter, Lisa Killian, and family.  Lisa invited us to lunch and we drove south and west to Littleton where they showed us around her big beautiful two-story house.  Going from 375 sq. ft to 3750 sq. ft is quite a shock.  Her kitchen area is about the size of our bus!

Gosh, it was wonderful to see a familiar and beloved face.  Sophia and I have been in the same women’s group since the mid-eighties.  Together we’ve explored some of the many spiritual paths towards self-awareness and enlightenment.  We speak the same language. 

Right now we are very enthusiastic about Deeksha (transmission of divine energy) and the teachings of Abraham-Hicks (You create with every thought; you choose your creations.)  Sophia brought me a CD introduction to the teachings of Abraham.  Thank you, Sophia!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deeksha  http://diksha.com/  http://www.abraham-hicks.com/

Our visit was great fun with the opportunity to visit with Lisa and meet her children.

It was already a very busy day but Friday wasn’t finished.  My sister’s dear friend, Gretchen Cooper, came to see our bus and then we all went out to dinner.  Gretchen and Sally went to the University of Colorado together and have been friends ever since.  Gretchen showed tremendous interest in the bus and Dennis had a good time escorting her around inside and outside as he explained all the intricacies of life on a bus.  Then Gretchen led us back to the nearby Town Center and we had a lovely dinner at Mimi’s Café.  This is my kind of a place, an upscale Marie Callender type of restaurant.

Gretchen is an attorney and is now flirting with retirement, having cut back to only 20 work hours.  She has discovered golf and now she is a fanatic who plays four times a week.  I think soon it will be seven.  I can see this is going to be her great obsession for the remainder of her days.  It sure works for her.  She’s in great shape and looks fabulous.

On Saturday I caved in and rested.  I caught up on email and my website.  Sally sent me lots of ideas for things to see and do and the dogs had been neglected so in the afternoon we drove them to Confluence Park in Denver.  We walked a ways along a cement path by the South Platte River Greenway in Denver’s lower downtown.  (Confluence refers to the meeting of Cherry Creek with South Platte.)  Unfortunately there were too many speeding bikes to be able to enjoy the walk.  Despite signs to yield to pedestrians we had to keep the dogs on a short leash and constantly look behind our shoulder to avoid collision or dog death.  So although it was pretty and very unique, it wasn’t a fun walk. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confluence_Park

The better campground, located at Cherry Creek State Park was full for the weekend, so we planned to switch campgrounds and go to Cherry Creek on Sunday afternoon.  In the course of her visits Sophia has discovered a favorite breakfast spot where she goes on Sunday mornings.  She invited us to join her at Devil’s Food on S. Gaylord St. in Denver at 9:30 AM on Sunday.  When I looked at the map I saw that it was 23 miles to Devil’s Food and we would be driving right by Cherry Creek Lake on the way.  We had to be out of Denver Meadows by noon, so we decided to quickly collapse the bus and get it ready to move over to the Cherry Creek area.  I drove the Honda and we brought the bus to a nearby Wal*Mart lot where we parked and left it for a few hours.  Devil’s Food was only six miles beyond that location.

Gaylord is a pretty district with restaurants and shops, old houses and big old trees.  Our breakfast with Sophia was delightful and delicious.  Sophia was due to pick up the grandkids in an hour and that gave her just enough time to follow us back to Wal*Mart to see our bus.  She couldn’t see it with the slides out but she got the general idea.  She was amazed by the height of the bus.  After she left we drove the bus and Honda to Cherry Creek State Park.  By then there were campsite openings.

Cherry Creek State Park is a vast improvement over our former digs.  In fact it is the prettiest campground we’ve been in so far.  The campsites are brand new and have been planned for big rigs like ours.  All the sites have 50 amps. The sites are level and there is lots of space between each campsite.  The sites are arranged in loops so there is little traffic and we can all look towards empty meadows inside the loops.  

The day was hot but there was a breeze off the lake and we had some shade under our awning.  For the first time in 82 days, we pulled out our new Coleman camp chairs and actually sat outside in our campsite.  It felt like a celebration.  There is a place to build a campfire and we talked about BBQing dinner outside.  (Although we still haven’t bought a BBQ.)  Then it happened: rain.  Couldn’t believe it.  Clouds, wind and then suddenly thunder and lightening.  A downpour.  We brought in chairs and dogs and came out of the rain.  Dinner?  Reheated Chinese left over from our first night in Denver last Wednesday.  That’s OK.  We’re getting used to these storms.  We feel cozy inside our moving home.

Our first time sitting in our new Coleman camp chairs. They are big and comfortable with a pocket to hold a drink on the right arm and a book on the left. "Hey, maybe we should BBQ." Nope. It started to pour rain. The dogs are frightened of the thunder and lightening. They jump on Dennis for comfort. See Margot peeking over the pillows in the upper right corner? That's Rudi's stuffed toy gorilla on the floor. Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora, CO 8/5/07
Elsa Walton, Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora, CO, Monday, August 6, 2007