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KANSAS CITY HERE I AM

A stay at Kansas City Elks Lodge #26, Harry Truman's Lodge

overcast 65 °F

(Monday) It was a short drive from Independence to Kansas City, MO, about 45 minutes. The Elks Lodge where I chose to stay is about 2 blocks from the State Line of Kansas. After setting up in the parking lot, (fortunately they do have 50 amp. power outlets so I can operate my A/C units in this 85-90* heat), I went to the local Chamber of Commerce office to gather materials for my tour of Kansas City. These offices are always very accommodating. Upon returning I took a 'power nap' of 20 minutes, got up refreshed and went into the Club to meet some of the bretheren. As it happened tonight was "Wing Night" so I joined in the merriment. I actually dislike wings. During the introductions I met this fellow from Little Falls, NY and he knew of Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh. While in college he and some buddies drove up to Plattsburgh for their infamous St. Patty's Day celebration with their 64 oz. cups of green beer. His job transferred him to KC. Yes, Elks Lodge #26 proudly claims former President Harry Truman as a member and his portrait is displayed on the wall of the lounge. Also displayed are 3 American flags in cases and a glass- encased model of the USS Harry Truman, a Nimitz-Class nuclear powered Navy Aircraft Carrier. Harry did pretty well for a guy whose mother-in-law thought he was never good enough for her daughter. She was a member of Independence's high society and Harry was but a farmer!

(Tuesday & Wednesday) Kansas City, MO is much more than I expected. It is called "The Gateway to the West", a claim St. Louis makes also. Since KC is further west we will give them the title. It is also called, "Paris of the Plains" for it has 200 fountains within the city, more than any other except Rome (Italy not GA!) The parks and green spaces showcasing these fountains are beautiful. The Gateway title, of course, refers to the trailheads to the Oregon, Sante Fe, and California Trails. More on that later.
I started my day by driving to Union Station, an easy 20 minute drive from my RV location. Restored between 1996 & 1999 at a cost of $270M, the magnificent building has quite a history. It is the 2nd largest train station in the US, behind Grand Central Station in NYC. Its predecessor, Union Depot served 14 different railroads but the Flood of 1903 (Missouri River) submerged the station and halted rail traffic, a commercially disasterous event.
Twelve of the fourteen railroads then formed a union, Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCTR) to replace Union Depot and chose a site on higher ground, safe from future flooding. The result was Union Station, opening in 1914 after 4 years of construction at a cost of then $50M ($1Billion in today's dollars!). The 10 level, 900 room Station encompasses 850,000 sq.ft. and was a small city within with shops, restaurants, a hospital, a jail, and the largest Railway Express Depot in the US. The interior was/is finished in 9 types of marble and has three 3,500# chandeliers hanging from the 95' ceilings! The North Waiting Room where passengers gathered for the announcement of their departing trains held 10,000 people. The most trains served in ONE 24 hr. day were 271(every 5-6 min.) during WWI. After WWII, in 1945, returning servicemen/women plus civilian passengers totaled a record 678,000 travelers passing through the Station, homeward bound to their families.
Following the war, automobile and air travel contributed to the decline of passenger traffic and the 'End of an Era'. Today, AMTRAK operates 4 passenger trains a day through Union Station, but 180 freight trains pass through the rail yards each day making it the second busiest freight railroad center in America (after Chicago)--what about North Platte, NE?? After the restoration Union Station now functions with a Post Office, corporate offices, several restaurants, hosts traveling exhibits, and has an IMAX theater. On the 2nd & 3rd floors is a display chronicling the history of the Station; its construction, activity in its heyday, its decline, and its restoration--all very interesting. To get a 'flavor' of the place I had lunch there.
After lunch I signed up for a Kansas City Trolley tour to get an overview of this magnificent city. Greater Kansas City MO, including its sister city, Kansas City, KS has a metropolitan pop. exceeding 1M people. It truly is the Gateway to the West for beyond are the seemingly endless plains stretching to the Rocky Mountains nearly 1,000 miles west. It was once a rough-tough town known for its gamblers, cowboys, riverboat sailors, and outlaws. The Missouri River steamboats contributed greatly to the city's prosperity, as did the cattle drives from Texas delivering steers to the stockyards for shipment by rail to the slaughter houses, and meat packing facilities in Chicago. Meatpackers, Armour Co. and others located to Kansas City, KS to 'set up shop', thereby reducing costs for transporting the cattle.
Today, the city has many dimensions. Museums abound, with scores of art museums & history museums. The cultural scene includes a magnificent Fine Arts facility (2 connecting) for stage and ballet productions, and the symphony orchestra. And reportedly (by the tour guide!), it approaches near accoustical perfection. Wow. KC is known for its Blues Jazz music influenced by locals, Count Basie and Charlie "Bird" Parker. Sports are big in KC with MLB's Kansas City Royals, and NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, both having their own stadiums. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is here, and showcases former players like Satchel Page, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and other outstanding Negro baseball players. The Hall family still operates its business & has its headquarters in KC at the Hallmark Greeting Cards center. Hallmark employs approx. 28,000 worldwide and creates products sold in 30 languages distributed in more than 100 countries and 100,000 rooftops (shops, stores).
Probably the most 'outstanding' museum in KC is the WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial. Its tower stands 217' tall and provides breathtaking views of the city and beyond. On the National Register of Historic Places, its displays, artifacts, and story of the American Dough Boys of the Great War go into detail on the "War to End all Wars". I spent about 3 hours there.
Just up the street is located the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the regional headquarters of the central bank of the United States. It serves the 10th District, which includes CO, KS, NE, WY, western MO, and northern NM. After going through security (of course) there were displays of Presidential coins minted during each man's term. Also were kiosks explaining our money system. Visitors were able to lift a 27# gold bar worth $540,000. today. The value fluctuates hourly, of course. A bag of money (shredded) worth $167. was given to those who visited the Money Museum. It will take me some time to tape all the pieces together!
Another interesting museum told the story of how the Steamboat Arabia was discovered sunken 25' beneath a farmers field. In 1856 the large 171' paddle wheel vessel struck a submerged tree (snag) and sunk quickly into the silty Missouri River bottom, taking its 200 tons of supplies destined for delivery to the western frontier to the river bottom. The changing course of the river in the 1800's made navigation dangerous. A 1897 Corps of Engineers study reported 289 steamboat wrecks in the Missouri River. Seasonal river course changes left the Arabia wreck beneath the field until it was discovered in July 1987 with its contents in remarkable condition. The museum tells the story in detail and displays the thousands of artifacts found aboard the steamboat. A worthwhile visit.
Tomorrow morning I head westward to Abilene, KS to visit the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum. Reservations have been made at the Covered Wagon RV Park, Abilene. Maybe I can find some Chuck Wagon food there.

Posted by dixter 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged kc

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