Road Trip Day 5 – 2 State Capitols

Duke and I had a busy day today. We started the day in Topeka, Kansas where we walked a short couple of blocks from our hotel to the state Capitol building. The Kansas Capitol building is one of the prettiest I’ve seen. We did a self guided tour.

The Kansas Capitol building in Topeka.
The two wings of the building were built first. Then when they could afford it they added the center.
The Kansas Capitol Dome.
The ornamentation in the Kansas Capitol impressed me.
Duke in the Kansas House of Representatives.

From Topeka we headed east and stopped to see my cousin just north of Kansas City.

Barry and me.

We had a nice visit and then drove to Jefferson City the capital of Missouri. We took a guided tour of the Missouri Capitol building.

Missouri Capitol building

In front of the Missouri Capitol building with Thomas Jefferson.
The Missouri Governors Office.

We left Jefferson City and headed a few hours south. Tonight we are in a comfort in Willow Springs, Missouri.

Road trip day 4 – Coolidge to Topeka, Kansas

Duke and I like to visit state capitols. We have never been to the Kansas Capitol building so today Topeka, the Kansas state capital was our goal. We drove across Kansas from Coolidge on the western border to Topeka not far from the eastern border. We are very much on the Great Plains now.

The Great Plains in the middle of Kansas.

We have been on highway 50 since soon after we left Reno. Today we left 50 and headed a bit north. We stopped in Abilene where the Eisenhower Presidential Library and boyhood home are located. The library and museum were closed because of covid but we enjoyed walking around the grounds.

President Eisenhower boyhood home.

I’ve just started reading the Robert A. Caro’s book, The Path to Power, about Lyndon Johnson’s early years. The book talks about the big cattle drives after the Civil War when unbranded cattle were rounded up and driven north from Texas to the rail yards in Abilene, Kansas. Johnson’s ancestors ran some of these early drives and made a lot of money doing it. I enjoyed seeing Abilene, where the cattle drives ended.

Rest area historical marker near Abilene Kansas.

In Wichita we are staying at the Cyrus, a very nice old refurnished hotel about two blocks from the Capitol. We had burgers across from the hotel at a restaurant called the Pennant.

Road Trip day 3 – Gunnison, Colorado to Coolidge, Kansas

Today we continued to travel east on highway 50. We crossed the continental divide at Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312 ft.) and from there it was all down hill across Colorado following the Arkansas River.

Arkansas River in Colorado

Tonight we are staying Just over the border in Kansas in the little town of Coolidge (population 171 and elevation 3,356).

Coolidge, Kansas City Hall

We are staying in a very nice little cabin at the Trail City Bed and Breakfast.

Our Cabin at the Trail City Bed and Breakfast in Coolidge, Kansas.

The restaurant in Coolidge is closed this week so we drove 15 miles east to Syracuse and had a good steak dinner at the Black Bison Pub.

If you would like to see more pictures of our trip let me know and I’ll add you to the Apple shared album our the Google photos shared album.

Fillmore, Utah to Gunnison, Colorado

We continued to travel east on our road trip today. We are heading to Memphis, Tennessee where we plan to visit my sister and her husband.

Today we drove across southern Utah and into Colorado. Utah has dramatically different scenery than Nevada.


We are still on Highway 50, although today a portion of 50 was closed so we had to take a very windy back road detour. It was slower but beautiful.

Today is my Birthday so I looked for a promising restaurant for a birthday dinner. We ate at Blackstock Bistro and it was fantastic. We shared seared sea scallops on beet chips with bacon, shallots and red wine vineager, and seared beef and goat cheese crostini and roast beet and arugula salad. We could easily have been at a bistro in Barcelona but we were at a bistro in Gunnison!

Birthday dinner at Blackstock Bistro.

On the Road Again – Day 1 of our Road Trip to Iowa with Detours to see Friends and Family.

Today was day one of a three week road trip. We are heading to Iowa for Duke’s high school reunion.

According to our plan, today was the longest day of driving, 500 miles from Reno to Filmore, Utah. We were on highway 50 crossing Nevada for most of the day. Highway 50 is called the loneliest highway in America. We saw lots of sagebrush, mountains, and a couple of small towns.

Highway 50 in the middle of Nevada.

We stopped for a picnic lunch.


It rained some.

For dinner we got some great tacos at Tacos los Panchos in Fillmore.

Worst. President. Ever. by Robert Strauss

Robert Strauss’ book, Worst. President. Ever. James Buchanan, the POTUS Rating Game, and the Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents, is a different biography than any of the other presidential biographies I have read as I work to read a biography of each U.S. president. James Buchanan was president from 1857 to 1861. While Worst. President. Ever. tells the story of Buchanan’s life and presidency it also makes a very strong case for what an awful president he was. As Strauss said in a tweet in 2018:

“I know people don’t like Trump, but let’s face it, secession, Dred Scott, the worst depression of the 19th Century, invading more countries than any other president…and more. Buchanan is so clearly the winner (loser)”


The Dred Scott supreme court decision came out right after Buchanan was inaugurated. He arm twisted and lobbied for the wide ranging decision which basically said once a slave always a slave no matter where the slave lived. Buchanan was so clueless and out of touch with the country that he thought the decision would end the fight about slavery forever and the country could move on. The Dred Scott decision did just the opposite.

Buchanan named a cabinet that was like minded and primarily southerners and southern sympathizers. His secretary of the treasury, Howell Cobb had once owned a thousand slaves on his Georgia plantation. The cabinet were congenial. There was no one who could tell Buchanan when he was wrong.

Duke and I visited Paraguay in October of 2019. It is a land locked country between Brazil and Argentina. Even though I’ve been to Paraguay I had no idea that in 1859 the United States invaded Paraguay! Buchanan sent 2,500 marines and nineteen warships. It took a long time to get to South America and up the Parana River to Asuncion, the capital. By the time they got there the squabble was over.

At least I’ve heard of the other war Buchanan tried to get the U.S. into. The pig war started when a farmer shot a pig that belonged to the Canadian Hudson Bay Company. Buchanan sent General Winfield Scott, Captain George Pickett, troops and warships to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Canadian border in northwest Washington state. Luckily Scott negotiated a truce.

The book explains how Buchanan and his policies ensured that he presided over what became the worst depression in the 19th century and how he made sure that he not only did nothing to avoid the civil war but in fact insured that the southern states seceded. A final legacy of Buchanan’s disastrous presidency was essentially the destruction of the Democratic party. In the fifty years after he left office there was only one democratic president, Grover Cleveland.

In his last chapter, The Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents, Strauss points out that we can learn a lot about how to be a better president by studying failures like Buchanan and his presidency.

Worst. President. Ever. was thought provoking and interesting. I learned a lot from it and would recommend it to anyone interested in American history and the American presidency.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

I just finished reading Candice Millard’s book Destiny of the Republic. The subtitle of the book is A tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. That pretty much sums up this book about our twentieth president, James Garfield and his assassination.

Destiny of the Republic is the latest book I have completed as a part of my Presidential Reading Project. I’m reading at least one book about each of our presidents. If you would like to see a summary of my progress, a list of the books I’ve read and links to my reviews of them is here.

James Garfield was born in 1831. He was inaugurated as President in March of 1881. He was shot in July of 1881 and he died September 19, 1881. He was just 49.

Garfield did not want to run for president. He was drafted on the 36th ballot taken at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. He appears to have been a truly good man who wanted to bring the country together. I think he would have been an excellent president.

Garfield’s vice presidential running mate was chosen with no input from Garfield. Chester Arthur had never held a public position except as Collector of the New York Customs House a position he was appointed to for political reasons. Politically he was the creation of Roscoe Conkling the senator from New York who was probably the most powerful man in the country and perhaps also the most corrupt.

Even though Joseph Lister and the antiseptic surgery he pioneered were widely accepted in Europe in 1881, the idea of germs was considered laughable by the doctors who treated Garfield. He probably would have lived if the doctors had not introduced germs as they repeatedly searched for the assassin’s bullet. Ultimately it was the infection that killed Garfield.

Destiny of the Republic is a fascinating book. Millard knows how to tell a story and educate you at the same time. Another of her books that I enjoyed is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.

Garfield’s assassination by a madman who thought he was doing God’s work was so pointless. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed Destiny of the Republic. I appreciated the hopefulness of it. Garfield became President shortly after the end of the Civil War at a time when our country seemed irrevocably divided. I especially like one of the points Millard makes about Garfield in the epilogue.

“The horror and senselessness of his death, and the wasted promise of his life, brought tremendous change to the country he loved — change that, had it come earlier, almost certainly would have spared his life. Garfield’s long illness and painful death brought the country together in a way that, even the day before the assassination attempt had seemed to most Americans impossible. “

California Sierras Camping – Lower Blue Lake and Highland Lakes – Hiking to Granite Lake

Last Sunday and Monday nights Duke and I went camping south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierras. The skies were smoke free and the scenery was stunning.

Sunday we camped in Middle Creek campground just below Upper Blue Lake. Our campsite was right next to a stream. We could see little fish jumping in the nearest pool.

Our campsite in Middle Creek campground

After setting up camp we hiked to nearby Granite Lake.

On the trail to Granite Lake
Granite Lake

Monday we drove to the Highland Lakes area just south of Ebbett’s Pass. We had another great campsite. We could see the lake in the distance.

Our campsite at Highland Lakes Campground
Highland Lake

The drive home on Tuesday took us about two hours. Reno and our house are totally buried in smoke from the wildfires near us and in California.

The only bad thing about this trip was that the battery in our new Ford truck was dead both mornings. The truck had to be jump started. We have an appointment to take it in for repairs in a couple of weeks.

Backcountry Exploring – Modoc National Forest, Cave Lake campground, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and Gooch Spring campground.

Duke and I  have decided to go out camping and exploring every couple of weeks during this time of quarantine. It is a great way to maintain our mental health, such as it is! We just returned from a trip to the area where the northeast corner of California and the northwest corner of Nevada meet.

We drove north from Reno on highway 395 almost to the Oregon border and camped the first night at Cave Lake forest service campground. We had a lovely isolated camp spot just a short walk from the lake.

Because there was going to be a full moon we wanted to stay up until the moon cleared the  mountains. After dinner we sat by the fire for a while and then sat in the truck and listed to the wonderful This week in Virology podcast.  In the morning when we were ready to leave the truck wouldn’t start. The battery in our relatively new truck was dead! Luckily we have a portable jump starter which worked perfectly.

We drove east into California and into the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Just inside the refuge we took a side road to the top of Bald Mountain where there is a fire lookout tower and a magnificent 360 degree view.

They also had something I had never seen before, a Faraday Cage Shelter.

As we drove through the refuge we saw several groups of Pronghorn antelope. Unfortunately they were all in the distance but they are extremely fast and fun to watch.

All the campgrounds in the refuge had “No Campfires” signs. I’m sure the restriction is because of the high fire danger. So our camp at Gooch Spring was a dry camp.

The horizon was a long way away and there were no trees so the moon was spectacular when it came up.

If you would like to see more details of our route you can click the map below to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab.

NE CA and NW NV Aug 2020

Nevada Outback Exploring – Jarbidge Mountains, Big Bend Campground, Pine Creek Campground

Duke and I just returned from three days exploring the Jarbidge Mountain area of northeast Nevada. It was a wonderful back country adventure

We just returned from a two night camping trip in northeast Nevada. We were primarily in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, essentially we circled the Jarbidge Wilderness Area.

On Thursday we drove east on Interstate Highway 80 to Elko and then took highway 225 north to Wild Horse Reservoir where we turned east and left the pavement. Our campsite Thursday night was Big Bend campground just inside the National Forest. The campground had 19 sites but only about 4 were occupied. It was lush with Aspens and wildflowers.


Big Bend Campground, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest

View from Big Bend Campground, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forrest

On Friday we continued exploring. We went north and even crossed briefly into Idaho before heading south along the Jarbidge River through the tiny town of Jarbidge.

Road along the Jarbidge River

Jarbidge, Nevada

Jarbidge River

Our campsite Friday night was right next to the river in the Pine Creek campground.

Our campsite in Pine Creek Campground

One of the things that really struck us on this trip was how the mountains, canyons, and creeks were so unlike stereotypical Nevada landscape.

The view from Bear Creek Summit

On a slightly different note. Take a look at the piece of wood we used as a work surface on this trip.

It is a single plank from what must have been a very big tree. I remember it as my Grandfather (Poppy’s) workbench in the basement of my Grandparent’s house in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was passed down to my Dad and then to me. Duke recently sanded it down, stained and sealed it. It is a gorgeous piece of wood. I’d love to know where it came from. Poppy’s family homesteaded in western North Dakota. There were certainly no big trees there. He was born in Wisconsin so perhaps that’s where it came from. Who knows.

If you would like to see more details of our route you can click the map below to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab.

Jarbidge Area July 2020 Northeast Nevada Backcountry Route around the Jarbidge Wilderness Area.