Larned to Alexander - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 10, 2014

Larned to Alexander

Open countryside, typical of Kansas
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SOME DAYS are dull and some have excitement. Today had one thing after another and finished at a gem campground which I'm not sure was ever intended to be one.

If you ever ride west from Larned, do stop at the Santa Fé museum. From the

The old rail station at the Santa Fé museum
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The old school room, much as it was on its final day
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Every class has its dunce
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brochure it looked the obvious tourist trap, a place to leave a few dollars and depart feeling dissatisfied. But, no. I'm not suggesting that it should draw blue-haired ladies from Wisconsin but the old buildings - the original school, an old station and more - plus the indoor museum are worth more than the $4 asked.

Jail - it's the only language some people understand
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And then not long afterwards, leaning on a strong crossind, came Fort Larned. That was us leaning on the crosswind, not the fort. Fort Larned sits back from

Officers' quarters at Fort Larned, a dreadful posting out in the wilds
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Junior officers had to share
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Superior officers had superior digs
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Clearly it wasn't a wholly male life
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the road on the left, announced by the silhouette of a soldier taking a potshot... probably, although naturally it could never be said, at an Indian. Because Fort Larned was set up to protect the Santa Fé trail, which carried goods between Mexico and the eastern American states and had the inconvenience of going through Indian territory.

The Indians naturally resented that, not just because of the encroachment but because traffic made the buffalo graze elsewhere. In the Indians' place, I'd have attacked all the time. I don't know how much they did in reality but they, and I suppose the bandits that any such trail would attract, led the army to build this fort way out in the middle of nowhere.

It took more than a thousand men to quell the trouble and it's hard to see where they slept. All that remains is a large grass square with a flagpole in its centre and, around it, dignified stone houses behind a white fence. The houses, in a tenement, have been refurnished much as they were at the time, and the job has been done well. But those were where the officers stayed; the men must have been in tents - I can't see where else they would have stayed - and pretty miserable they would have been in winter, too.

These limestone fence posts date from the 19th century, when wood was too scarce. They weighed so much that a horse could pull only half a dozen on a cart. There are hundreds still in use in the La Crosse area
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We are riding the TransAmerica trail. It is angular riding, like being a chess piece, taking several squares one way and then more at a right angle. Extend one right angle and you get to La Crosse. And why would you go there? Because it has America's national, and perhaps the world's only, barbed-wire museum.

The trouble is that they didn't see the funny side of it
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You never know when you'll need a ball of barbed wire
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Bet you never knew there were so many types - and this is just one of many panels
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Now the deer and the antelope will no longer roam
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Barbed wire was invented by a man called Joe Glidden and, by keeping cattle apart, did more to bring peace to the west than all the rifle-totin' law men. But, as ever, there's more to it than you'd think. Have you, today, considered there might be a thousand varieties of barbed wire? And that they are all, or most of them, in this museum?

"Glidden had the idea of borrowing his wife's coffee grinder and passing a wire through it so that it caught the barbs," the guide said. Or something like that. He demonstrated it and I still couldn't see how it worked, so perhaps the accuracy of my quotation doesn't matter. Anyway, a local enthusiast began picking up bits wherever he went, and others joined in all over the country, and an association and then a museum were born.

The trouble is that they take it so darned seriously. It's a nicely laid-out museum. But, if you're like Karen and me, anyway, you go because it's odd. You itch to have your picture taken in front of the giant ball of barned wire at the door, the weight of which the guide will tell you without your asking. But there aren't any laughs. There ought to be, so far as we're concerned, and it's unfair of us. But barbed wire is a serious business, used in farming the world over and the changer of wars and the catalyst that brought the invention of the tank.

Well, end of a hard day and we rode back to the route and then further west and called time at a roadside rest area a few kilometres back from Bazine. I've no idea whether Kansas put it there for grubbly cyclists but the grass is wonderful, the road falls quiet at night and the toilets and washing area are immaculate. A five-star find.

Today's ride: 96 km (60 miles)
Total: 3,086 km (1,916 miles)

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