December 5, 2014

Salina with Friends

Our main reason for stopping in Salina, Kansas, on November 5 was to visit with my friend Jane, whom I had not seen in more than two years – way too long!  I think our last visit occurred when Tim and I stopped in Miami on our nine-month road trip.  Jane has since left Miami and is making plans to move to Salina to open her own bed and breakfast.  Tim and I were excited to catch up with Jane, see the house that she is restoring and explore Salina and the surrounding area.

Spending time with old friends, as well as making new ones, is one of the best parts of traveling in the RV.  It is wonderful to have the freedom and flexibility to make visits like this one happen.  How great it was to be able to head to Salina once we found out Jane would be flying in.
Kitty Enjoyed Her Visit to Salina -
 "I Know There's a Blade of Green Grass Under Those Leaves"

"I Can Ride the Buffalo, Daddy"

Tim and I made the most of our five days in Salina with Jane and especially enjoyed touring her house.  It is the perfect house for her, and I can only imagine how wonderful it will be when the restoration is complete.  She deserves to have a B&B of her own, and I know that it will be a successful venture.  
Let's Suggest a Name for Jane's B&B

It was also a pleasure to see Salina through Jane’s eyes and discover the many things that the city has to offer.  There are some wonderful historic buildings and neighborhoods, and I loved the massive grain elevators downtown.  Salina also has a nice downtown with restored theater.  Jane has already made many friends and connections in Salina, and it is easy to see that she will be happy there.  Although some people may question Jane’s move to Salina, I can understand the attraction.

In addition to long conversations, we also made time for good food and a bit of touring.  Tim and I actually had one of our most memorable meals before meeting up with Jane.  We stumbled upon the Cozy Inn, a local institution with only one thing on the menu – burgers with grilled onions. The first thing we were asked when we walked in the door was how many burgers we wanted.  Say what?  The Cozy Inn is similar to the White Castle since the burgers are very small.  Four to six is typical, and I ate four while Tim ate six.  Little did we know that most local residents never eat inside since the aroma of burgers and onions permeates one’s clothing.  For the rest of the day, everyone in Salina knew exactly where we had gone for lunch.  We kept hearing, “Oh, so you went to the Cozy Inn for lunch.”  The lingering smell of the Cozy Inn is obviously well-known throughout the city.

Enjoying Burgers at One of the Last Six-Stool Diners in the Country

How Many Can You Eat?

Jane, Tim and I also took a day trip to the Flint Hills and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service.  The Flint Hills represent the largest remaining tract of tallgrass prairie on the continent, and the preserve protects a nationally significant example of this once-vast ecosystem.  Tallgrass prairie once covered 140 million acres of North America.  Today, less than four percent remains, and most of that is in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Driving through the Flint Hills

We started our tour in the new visitor center where we watched the film and learned a bit more about this unique resource.  We discovered the importance of animal grazing, as well as fire, in managing the prairie and found out that the National Park Service uses controlled burns to stimulate new growth of native grasses.  Late fall may not be the prettiest time to visit the prairie, as the vibrant green grasses have faded and the colorful wildflowers are long gone.  However, the current amber hued grasslands exhibit a more subtle kind of beauty – just like a field of gold.

I'd Love to Return When the Grass Is Green and the Wildflowers Are in Bloom

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve encompasses the ranch established in 1878 by cattleman Stephen F. Jones.  He built a beautiful Second Empire style ranch house, as well as barns and other outbuildings.  All were constructed of local limestone, as were the miles and miles of stone fences.  It was amazing to find such majestic buildings in what may seem to be the middle of nowhere.  We enjoyed wandering around the ranch and admiring the architecture, as well as the landscape itself.

Second Empire Style Ranch House Was Built in 1881

Miles of Limestone Fences Enclosed the Ranch

Massive Limestone Barn Measures 110 x 60 Feet

The Barn Housed Livestock,and Enough Hay to Feed the Animals in the Winter

While Tim stayed behind on Sunday to watch football, Jane and I spent the day in nearby Lindsborg, a quaint town that calls itself Little Sweden USA.  Lindsborg capitalizes on its Swedish heritage, and the logo of the city is a Dala horse. A Dala horse is a traditional, carved and painted wooden horse statuette originating in Sweden.  It was fun to walk around the downtown area and check out the “herd” of Wild Dala horses, painted by local artists in unconventional ways.  My favorite stop, however, was the Swedish Crown Restaurant, where we sampled Swedish pancakes topped with lingonberries.  Yum.

Is that Jane Getting Ready to Ride a Dala Horse?

Two Lovely Lasses in Lindsborg

Tim and I had planned to leave Salina on Monday to return to Missouri so we could wind our way through the Ozarks.  We then wanted to spend time in Arkansas and Oklahoma before ending up in Texas for the first part of winter.  Unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas.  When we first started hearing forecasts about the impending Polar Vortex that would arrive on Monday night, we made tentative plans to take an abbreviated tour through Arkansas.  That idea lasted for a day or two until we reluctantly agreed that doing so would be foolish given that most nights would dip below freezing.  That wouldn’t be so great for our water lines.  Although we can handle a night or two, it’s not really much fun.

We therefore made plans to drive directly to Texas, one month before we had thought we might arrive there.  That’s what this lifestyle is all about – flexibility!  

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