Saturday, June 12, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Day 6: Whitehall Bay COE Campground

 We woke to sunny skies and high humidity early on so the air conditioner was turned on very soon afterwards!  We're planning on using COE sites since they seem to provide power and water at every campground; kind of makes sense, since their campgrounds are around water dams they built!

Cellular internet access is sketchy at this site, very slow and it goes in and out, even with the weBooster!

Martha took this picture of our campsite:

Spent most of the morning fixing, with Martha's help, the shades on the left side of the VRRV, one of the screws had come out and as long as I was removing things to fix that, might as well re-string it!  It's been basically secured with velcro straps when I want it in the "up" position.

I also put to use a recently purchased soldering gun, amazing how much better results you get when you use flux and a gun which heats up almost instantly!  Fixed some electrical connections which had been giving me trouble with the VRRV's backup camera.

Later on in the afternoon, after an epic nap on my part in the air-conditioned comfort of the VRRV, we took the Sammy out for a ride to the Fall River Dam:


We checked out the Dam Site campground, which was vacant, we think that it's closed for work perhaps?  In our driving, we came across an old trestle bridge spanning the Fall River:



While driving the dirt/gravel road paralleling the base of the dam, I spotted a turtle crossing the road and stopped the Sammy soon after.  The turtle was moving pretty rapidly from the open road into the grass but stopped and hid in his shell when I got near:


Martha and I waited a bit but he didn't emerge, so we left him alone as he was baking in the sun.

Back at camp, a view of the nearby reservoir/lake formed by the Fall River Dam:


Still hot and humid, apparently a bit higher than normal according to locals we've queried.  Just our luck.
We'll be here through the weekend,  just hanging out.



Eastward, Ho! Days 4 & 5: Swedish Horses and Salt Mining

 July 10, Thursday

There was an abortive attempt to explore the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library Complex (we couldn't get in due to Covid restrictions having resulted in daily ticket quotas being sold out).


The only building we had access to was the Chapel where Eisenhower and his wife are buried:

We then displaced to the Hillsboro Cove COE (Corps of Engineers) campground near Marion, KS.  It was only for one night but our first COE sight together.  We'd had it with the heat and humidity and having electricity and water for $10/night with my Interagency Pass discount was great.

After we got camp set up, Martha took the Sammy and drove about an hour to the town of Lindborg which boasts a Swedish Heritage.  Here's some of the pics taken by her:









Pretty pricey for something no one I've asked on the Norwegian
side of things, seems to like eating

Meanwhile I hung out at the campsite, then decided to unload Yagi from the VRRV's front rack and ride around to explore the campground and surrounding area.  There wasn't must to see at the campground actually as about 1/3 of it is being worked on in some way or another and blocked off.

Once I'd seen all there was to see, I headed out of the campground and found the a deadend road that ended right at the water's edge of Marion Reservoir which is where the campground is located.

Not much else to report, Martha returned reporting no issues with the Sammy for which I was happy to hear.  

July 6, Friday - On to the Salt Mine

After a lazy start, we got the VRRV packed up and were headed out by 10AM I believe, taking the time to dump tanks at the entrance to the campground then heading to Hutchison, KS to visit the Strataca Salt Mine Museum.

Pretty neat museum, you are taken 610 feet underground by elevator and the rest is information displays and exhibits of old salt mining equipment and of course the salt mine itself!













All the comforts of home while working the mine

The small locomotive for the train tour

Salt mines are also used for long term storage of documents and other media due to their stable temperatures and humidity levels.


Paraphenalia from movies are also stored in the salt mine's storage facilities:


It's quite dark, as you might imagine, down in the salt mine, but here's a couple of pics that turned out:

Unused mining results due to the quality of the salt being poor.

A view of one of the many 50 foot support pillars, on left, and where
the roof of salt collapsed when it separated from the mud layer above it

We were done with all the touring by 4PM so we headed to our next campground, another COE site called Whitehall Bay Campground near Fall River, KS.  The site isn't as nice as Hillsboro Cove but it does include sewage drain at each site.  Located on the banks of the Fall River Lake, the camp sites are a bit close to each other but for $10/night with full hookups, can't really complain so far.

We'll be here through Monday morning, after which we head for Oklahoma!

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Day 4: Touring an Atlas F Missile Silo and Czech'ing out a large egg.

 We displaced from the Kansas Veterans Campground before 8AM today and drove east along the I-70 Super Slab for a few hours to the vicinity of Wilson, Kansas.

We're staying at a Harvest Host camping location, just outside of town, right next to the doors of a decommissioned Atlas model F missile silo.  We met up with Matthew Fulkerson, the owner and founder of Atlas Ad Astra.  He's also got quite the resume: Missile Base Owner,  World Traveler,  Adventure Seeker, Dog Lover,  Action Sports Enthusiast,  Bunker Hunter, and American Ninja Warrior.

His website with much better pictures of his plans and historical photos and diagrams is here: LINK 

To give you some context, here's a drawing of the complex underground, we would be touring the Control Center and then take the short access tunnel to the actual missile silo.  The tour is mainly the control complex on the left of the tall silo.

image source: atlas ad astra

The Silo Door

Martha and Matthew's dog, Buddy, standing on the doors
of the missile silo.

The escape hatch from the underground Control Center

Looking down the escape shaft to the inner door

What remains of the multi-ton access doors into
the control center

This is what you see as you move past the two access doors, the top half of the control center:


Pano of the upper half of the control center:


The access door for the escape hatch

The lower half of the control center, where the control systems were located,
where the Missileers stood their watches during the Cold War

Matthew showing us the two man control system to the control
codes for missile launches.  Remember this was 1959-64.

The access tunnel to the missile silo

Looking down into the Missile Silo, that's water down there

Looking up at the bottom of the silo doors, when it was operational, 
there'd be an elevator to raise the Atlas F missile above ground
prior to it being launched.

Standing at the remains of the missile control console that
Matthew hopes to someday restore to working condition.

Martha standing at the access door to the control center.

Here's a picture of our campsite:


Prior to our tour, we had gone into the nearby town of Wilson to "Czech" out the sights and the worlds largest Czech Egg.  Wilson is apparently the Czech capital of Kansas and holds a festival during July celebrating the Czech heritage of the town.


Pretty big egg isn't it?  Here's pictures of the information plaques:



Scattered about the downtown area of Wilson, we found several more eggs, these much smaller but still quite nicely decorated.  Following pics taken by Martha.







There were several historical looking buildings in the Wilson downtown area, a little bit of quick research online produced this old photo of the landmark hotel associated with rail travel back in the town's heyday:

The Midland Hotel then...
image source: link

and now.

We had "Fruit of the Forest" pie at Grandma's Soda Shop and I noticed this old time drawing of a nearby building:



Sadly, the building is water-damaged and in extreme disrepair, though the town is trying to fix it up.

We returned to camp and soon got the personal tour by Matthew, a man of big vision and quite ambitious goals I must say.  Still, he's working on something he loves and can, at the end of the day, show the fruits of his efforts.  Not many can say that eh?

If you're ever seeking an overnight camping spot near Wilson, KS, I strongly recommend you go to Harvest Host and book a night here!  The tour is outstanding, the location is very nice and quiet. Two other campers showed up to take their tours, a huge TT and a regular sized Truck Camper.  There's space for five rigs, in a nice grassy area.  

Check out Matthew's website: Atlas Ad Astra for way more pics and details!