Friday, October 10, 2014

Birthday Road Trip!

It was my birthday on Tuesday. I was in western Kansas, having gone out there to celebrate my mom's 90th birthday, and was heading back east to KC. I decided to contemplate my earthly arrival by visiting some places that spawned that arrival---the former stomping grounds of my grandparents and great-grandparents, or any other place connected to my existence.

Starting with ---my birthplace. The hospital where I  first greeted the world. Good ol' Grisell Memorial Hospital of Ransom, Kansas....

And the ER wing I subsequently visited a time or two....By the way, my father laid the brick for this hospital. We have a photo of him somewhere, holding a trowel and grinning, with a cigarette in his teeth.

My Grandpa's final home was in Ransom, in this cute little limestone prairie house. Someone has fixed it up and added the decorative red stone and blue paint. It wasn't that pretty when I was a kid. I remember a big container full of cattails and a creaky, warped linoleum floor. How I would love to buy that house and use it for writer's retreats.

Leaving Ransom, I went east and dared to drive the McCracken road, which is notorious for being full of pot holes. I haven't driven it for years, always choosing to go through LaCrosse and Rush Center instead, to avoid the craters. When mom used to drive me and my sister Laura to the mall in Hays for clothes shopping, it is the McCracken road we would take, and the hour drive seemed interminable. I always felt relieved when I spied the Liebenthal spire from the McCracken road, because it meant we were getting Liebenthal, at least. From there Hays was another 20 minutes.

It was kind of a rush to be back on that road. It is minimally maintained, with no shoulders, no highway stripes, and a rough, uneven surface. But the pot holes had all been patched and the patching hadn't yet been compromised by the cold weather to come.  

I drove on to Munjor, where the Volga Germans settled in the 1870's. They were fresh from Russia, and so they named their streets things like "Moscow" and "Kazan" street. My two sets of great-grandparents came over from Russia as babies, grew up in Munjor, met, married, had babies of their own, and those babies met and married each other and had my mother. Or something like that.

One house had a poster with a German greeting----or was it a warning?

Holy Cathedral Bat Man! This is the impressive church the Volga forebears built. It is so perfect and neat, and the stone is still bright as a penny. Note the blue sky overhead ---it was like that the whole day. What a great sky to have on my birthday!

Here's an old decrepit house in Munjor, on Petersburg street, another Russian namesake. Perhaps my grandparents or great-grandparents stepped foot in it one time. Perhaps they came here to play cards or gossip about their neighbors.

I left Munjor, got on I-70, then exited and made my way to Wilson Dam, which was really scenic. Again, behold that crazy blue sky. I kept finding myself on boat ramps, where I ran into signs like this one:

Got back on I-70, and drove to Lincoln county, where I exited and drove north a long way on a country road to Beverly, where my dad kind of grew up. His parents had a farm near there for awhile. Here is the Beverly Post Office:

I also drove to Lincoln, where Maurice and Laura, my dad's parents are buried, and admired the post-rock countryside on the way. Later I got back on I-70 and headed east for KC. Between Junction City and Topeka, I encountered a moon so big it was scary. How is that moon real? I kept asking. It doesn't translate in this picture. Plus I snapped this as it was starting to rise, and was less huge.

Crap my windshield is dirty


  1. Aha, we were following you Simonee Balonee!! You humans drive so slow. I interstellar and back on the moon before Wilson town. Where is your viewport slave? He must be shot for allowing this bird poop to happen!!!

  2. Outer Space Alien!!! I thought I had heard the last of you. I thought you had been absorbed into some sort of black hole. It's quite refreshing to hear from you, and to know you still troll the universe. Though you have confirmed my suspicions about your "people". So advanced technologically, yet still so primitive in some you not know that Kansas was and is a Free state?