September 16, 2013 – Norton, KS to Abilene, KS – Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library

Surprise … within minutes of waking up the silence of the state park was replaced with the roar of a downpour on our motor home’s roof.  Leaving our campground, the roads remained wet

And when the precipitation eased, the visibility was still lousy.

An hour and a half later, we approached the metropolis or Lebanon, KS where an historical market greeted us.

Having visited the geographic center of North America in Rugby, ND and the Geographic Center of the United States in Belle Fouche, SD, it was a no brainer that we’d seek out the Geographic Center of the Lower-48.  Leaving US-36, we drove 3 miles north through the center of the town (population 210, including at least to curious llamas)

before heading west between ranch lands on a narrow, dead end  road, hoping we’d be able to turn our motorhome and towed car around when we arrived at our destination.

As advertised, one mile later, we had reached the Geographic Center of the United States … a location my folks had visited on their honeymoon 74 years ago.

In addition to an official USGS plaque

and a “pi-shared” sign

there is perhaps the second smallest chapel we have run across in our travels.From there we traveled both “cross-county” and on I-70 toward Abilene … the only notable town we passed through was

Population 469 and shrinking

whose claim to fame is possession of the

Unfortunately, other than the post office and small town library, it’s other commercial buildings were deserted, similar to what we’ve seen across much of American’s rural heartland.

Along the way there were the predictable abandoned rural homes

another unusual wind-driven water pump,

and even die-hard bikers peddling along the highways in spite of the rain.

Arriving in Abilene, we discovered the exit ramp we were planning on taking was closed for construction requiring a circuitous detour to reach our campground … which is only four blocks from the

After touring the Visitor’s Center and watching an excellent 23-minute movie about Eisenhower’s life … which, among other things, made mention of the fact that even his political opponents still liked and respected him (one can only wish that today’s politicians would treat their political adversaries with a similar measure of fondness and admiration) …  saw the Place of Meditation

where Dwight D. Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie and their child, Doud (who died at age 3) are buried.

Interestingly, Ike’s oldest son, John, just turned 91 this month.

Our next stop was the house where Ike was raised and until sometime after 1910 had no electricity and no indoor water or plumbing.  Interestingly, the six room house where David and Ida Eisenhower raised a future president and his five surviving brothers (one brother having died in infancy) sits at its original location.  Instead of having to relocate it, all of the originally surrounding homes were razed or moved to other sites.

 

Note the radio in the right corner – purchased by several of Ida’s sons so she could listen to the reports of the War in Europe where her son, Dwight, was serving as Commander of the ETO

We then started to tour the Museum

where two huge murals adorn the sides of the lobby.

The museum is filled with history and unique artifacts cover the life of Dwight David Eisenhower from his youth up through the two turbulent decades of the 1940s and 1950s in which he was a thoughtful, soft-spoken American patriot as well as a world leader in war and in peace. 

Pictures of men who shared the world stage with Ike

A telegram from the USS Wasp on December 7, 1941 – ”Air Raid on Pearl Harbor.  This is not a drill.”

A German secret Enigma machine whose code the Allies broke during the war

Unfortunately, a thoughtful trip through the museum is like drinking from a fire hose and takes more time than we’d anticipated,  As its closing time came well before we had completed our self-guided tour … so we plan to return when it opens tomorrow morning. 

While leaving the grounds, we glanced back across the manicured lawns and saw a statue of Eisenhower through the light rain.

Walking back to our campground, we strode through Old Abilene, a typical old western town tourist attraction which was closed for the season.

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