Days 22, 23, 24 and 25 WLBT

Salina and Wichita, KS

by David Runkel


The Tour arrived in Salina KS after a long, boring drive across Colorado and Kansas farm country, featuring many more wind mills and oil rigs than we expected, on I-70.  Despite our vow to stay on older, pre-interstate roads, it turned out that much of Route 40 is now also marked Interstate 70 and other highways were as straight across the landscape but probably not as fast. 

We stopped for a late breakfast; in other places it could be called brunch.  Ruby’s sits on a corner in a little town in Colorado that we forget the name of.  We parked beside a pickup and got an immediate lesson in open carry rules, as they apply in rural areas, anyhow.  The truck window was open and a long rifle was slung across the passenger seat.

A group of older men were at one table having their morning meeting, while several women were at another. Three of the five men wore sizable cowboy hats.  No exchange occurred between the two parties.  One older gentleman was overheard telling his pals that his end-of- life plan was to marry a young woman with 15 kids shortly before he died.  Why?  So, his Social Security benefits could be continued long after he was gone.

The breakfast highlight was a mile-high cinnamon bun baked that morning, not by Ruby who was doing the dishes when we arrived, but by a gentleman with a big smile, but nothing to say. He could have been Mr. Ruby. He was quite trim in comparison to Ruby, whom we decided had been the daily taster for many a year. 

With no bed and breakfast inns in Salina, we checked into a Hilton Garden Inn just off the interstate, rested and read the local paper, the Salina Journal, which featured the next day’s Scone by Scone book signing at the Library in its Et Cetera column.  A picture of the book cover was included.   

Day Twenty Two of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie Runkel with Mark Messenger of the Salina KS Library

Early Saturday we scoped out the library in the downtown past a street of beautiful old houses and many churches.  Salina, which gets its name from the nearby salt mines, is an example of rural spread, with a core downtown that is pretty much empty on the weekends, and miles of shopping strips on the outskirts. Every franchise was represented.

The Tour was welcomed at the library by local friends of Nina and Paul Winans of Ashland, Peggy and Bill Medina.  The couple, former contractors and restaurant owners, were once interested in opening a bed and breakfast, though their enthusiasm seems to have waned.  We ended up having a delightful dinner with them that evening at a terrific restaurant, the Renaissance, located in a former school in a small town six miles outside Salina, Assaria.  Tables are set up on the balcony around the basketball court. The setting reminded David of the old Cochranton, PA school he attended for 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades with a similar balcony-basketball court arrangement.  That particular location is now a parking lot, however.

The library is in a wonderful part of town with a regular procession of young and old from all social groupings despite it being a sunny, warm summer day.  Some were going through the large selection of out-of-town newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times as well as the Kansas City and Denver papers.  The book check-out counters were busy and the computers were in constant use. Peggy and Bill proved to be our only customers for the book, alas. But being in the bosom of Salina’s reading center gave us hope that there are readers everywhere, for our book or not.

Sunday morning we toured President Eisenhower’s boyhood home and library in nearby Abilene.   Exhibits have been set up in the library because the museum is closed for renovations, including updating of the 1950’s electrical system and rest rooms.  Our $9 admission tickets entitled us to return for free anytime in the next two years.

The Tour gloried in an earlier political era.  Sure, there were political differences and troubles with political grandstanding and untruths, but the rhetoric was tame by today’s behavior.  Perhaps most telling was the brevity of national political campaigns.  Eisenhower did not enter the 1952 race until June of that year!  Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate, was also a late entry.  Five months later Ike was elected with Stevenson recording the greatest number of votes of any losing presidential candidate up to that time.

The short campaign apparently was sufficient for people to get to know the candidates and make their choice. Perhaps a lot of people were not turned off by the contest.

The rest of the day was spent with niece Stephanie Bryan and her husband Tom, who had just returned from a vacation on N. Captiva Island in Florida.  We had a great tour of Salina, including a windshield inspection of the sprawling operations of the farm equipment manufacturing business of which Tom is the international division president.  All the equipment is far, far larger than the single furrow plow used on the Cochranton farm, which Tom referred to as a farmette.   

The Tour passed up visits to the Greyhound Museum (as in dogs) in Abilene, the Barbed Wire Museum in Southern Kansas, the Kauffman Museum of Mennonite History, the Smoky Hill and the Yesteryear Museum in Salina, plus several others. We’ll also miss seeing the World’s Longest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, not to mention the Garden of Eden in Lucas. We know our family will be disappointed to hear we did not stop near Lebanon, Smith County, which is the geographic center of the contiguous US.  Is there nothing in America not noted by one group or another?

Day Twenty Two of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Watermark Books Ad

After a car tune-up, the Tour headed to Wichita and later in the week to Kansas City, which we have been reminded is mostly in Missouri.  In Wichita, Deedie appeared at Watermark Books 

Day Twenty Two of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie at Watermark Books

   (thanks to Leigh Hood’s intervention with her high school classmate, the owner Sarah Bagby.) The turnout was better than usual, if you count the people present plus the ones who’d bought books in advance and wanted them signed.  Good questions, plus real interest in what goes into running a bed and breakfast.

Next stop is Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, MO Thursday.  Along with a planned visit next weekend to Bookworm in Omaha, this brings to 43 the number of states the Tour plans to visit.