Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Coming Home to Kansas, Part 1

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coming Home to Kansas, Part 1

Bill was born in Kansas but left the state right after college.  His only sister, Rosemary, and brother-in-law, Jack, still live in Pittsburg (without the h). M’A ‘turn, our 37-foot motorhome, fit perfectly in their long driveway and Jack let out a long 50-amp outlet from his garage for us to hook on to.  For two nice weeks we were happy neighbors, sharing meals, reminiscing childhood tales, and revisiting many favorite places. After all, this is the first time they have been able to spend this much time together since Bill left town.  It is good that both have finally retired.

We alternated preparing meals.  I made beef salpicado, chicken arroz caldo, beef mechado, Hainanese chicken, and pancit bihon, Filipino meals with either Chinese or Spanish influence and Bill contributed his specialty, wine-infused Italian sausage spaghetti, and grilled some burgers.  Rosemary made old-fashioned beef stew, chicken noodle soup, breaded pork steaks, and deli sandwiches, great all-American meals.  As expected several nights became renewed left-over nights.

Breakfasts were also superb: biscuits and sausage gravy, Belgian waffles, banana pancakes, Spanish omelet, egg cups and bacon, blueberry oatmeal, hot browns, scrambled eggs with cheese and spam, blueberry pancakes, and SOS (please don’t ask me for the meaning)..  It was a pity I had not seen a Filipino/Asian store for a long time in our trips or I would have prepared tocilog, red eggs or tinapa.  For dessert we only allowed ourselves my favorite bread pudding and Rosemary’s strawberry shortcake.  One night, however, Jack introduced us to the Tropical Sno-man and his 400 flavors! 

On the Fourth of July Jack grilled orange roughy fillets and Rosemary made hashbrown casserole, green salad, and sweet corn for sides.  Then Bill and I visited his frat brod Ron and his wife Susan to watch the city-sponsored fireworks from the deck overlooking the swimming pool outside his 5,000 square feet home at Deer’s Run.  Three days later, Jack and Rosemary celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary so  we took them out to dinner at Chili’s. 

Jack is a RC planes flying enthusiast and had more than 30 planes stored in his home. Their home is a good-sized rambler sitting on an acre of the great Kansas plains with shade trees, flowering plants and green grass all around. Suzy, a golden brown itty-bitty Yorkshire terrier, keeps them great company, along with tree frogs that frequent their windows and red, yellow, and blue birds that flock to their bird-feeders. Red and pink dinner-plate hibiscus and a weeping mulberry tree adorn their entryway.

Pittsburg was a busy mining town in the old days.  Big Brutus, the second largest steam shovel in the world, is sitting idle but proud on the banks of its mine pits.  And to cater to hungry miners, two chicken restaurants were founded by two miners’ wives.  Sitting next to each other on their original locations, they are still competing fiercely to this day, giving Pittsburg fame for the best fried chicken in the country.  Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's were recently featured in a duel at the Travel channel.

The last time we were in town Bill showed me the houses he lived in, the schools where he studied, the places he loved, and the people he missed.  The picture on the left is of the 'Galloping Horse', a gift from the Chinese friends of Pittsburg State University. Story goes that the horse lived between 25-100 AD.

This time around, since we had more time, Rosemary and Jack showed us the sights around the adjoining towns and cities:  Tulsa, Oklahoma, two hours away, Joplin, Missouri, forty-five minutes away, and Kansas City, two hours away. On the way to Colorado, we will pass through Salina. So this part will cover Tulsa and Part 2, Joplin, Kansas City and Salina.

It was raining when we went to Tulsa. On the way there, we could not find the sign that says ‘First Cow Town in Kansas’ in Baxter Springs.  Soon after, however, the largest MacDonald store in the world rose above the Will Rogers Turnpike (I-44). It covers almost 30,000 square feet of space that includes a wonderful gift shop.  Vehicles with all sorts of plates, Indiana, Maine, Washington, etc., are parked and a statue of Will Rogers stands in front of each doorway on either side of the highway.

And then we were inspired by the giant prayerful hands that stretched out to Heaven at the grounds of the Oral Roberts University.  Later on, we had a great time at the Will Rogers National Museum in nearby Claremont, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa.  There I learned about the life of the well-loved man who was the voice of America from 1879-1926.  He starred in 71 films, was always invited to grace an important national event, and died only too soon in an unfortunate plane crash.

On the way home, we again tried to look for the ‘cow town’ sign in Baxter Springs but, alas, we were disappointed…again. But we saw the cattle grazing on the vast plains of Kansas...the black Angus, the white Charolais, and even the buffalo or bison.  And the rolls of hay seem to gracefully hug every corner of the lovely fields.

Next Stops: Joplin, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri, and Salina, Kansas