Friday, July 27, 2012


We now reckon that if America had a zipper up the middle, that’s just where we are zipping along up I-35 & 1-135 with lots of open space on either side of the highway. All the corn is in with the stubble waiting to be burned, but because of the heat - 10 degrees warmer than usual, with usual being 92F – for the past three weeks we’ve been living in 100F heat and no sign of it cooling down. We consciously picked this time of the year to explore the heartland to avoid the height of the tornado season; now it’s too hot for tornados as they need both hot and cold air colliding to form. We are both still happy with our decision.

Our only stop in Kansas was in a town called Salina, not too far from Abilene the birthplace of President Dwight David Eisenhower whose museum we visited – which was the whole purpose for this stop. The afternoon we arrived we drove to downtown Salina as we needed to go to a Bank of America to get some cash; we have a new appreciation of ATM’s as we discovered that the branch closes at 4pm - a touch of the Greeks about the length of a work day! We visited a coffee shop/book store but no Brittani or Brad at this coffee shop.
The next day we drove the 50 miles to Abilene and the Dwight David Eisenhower museum which is located on the land where Eisenhower’s childhood home stands; here Ike’s parents raised their six sons. All the furniture including the radio is authentic. The grounds now host the museum, library, meditation chapel (where Ike, Mamie and their son Dwight are buried), a visitor center and the ancestral home which was acquired shortly after the death of Ike’s mother in 1946. As some of the exhibits had been removed due to ongoing renovations we started our tour with WW11 and learned a lot; Adele was fascinated at how they constructed a floating harbor off the Normandy coast in just six days, what a clever idea! D-Day was in planning for more than 2 years when the floating harbor idea was conceived of - it took months to fabricate all the parts, and then when the assault was to start the weather was too bad so they had to wait two days - must have been the longest 48 hours for all involved. There were lots of photos of General Eisenhower meeting the Allied leaders and of the assault landing – think Saving Private Ryan. Ike was rightly feted as a hero with ticker tape parades in all cities’ he visited on returning to the US.

We then learned the history of how both the Republican and Democratic parties wanted Ike for to stand for President and how he ultimately “stole” the Republican nomination. Mamie was almost as popular as Ike and quite a number of her outfits on display - she was voted as one of the best dressed women many, many times.  A little story about Mamie we read was about a visit to Paris during which the dress designers were annoyed that she would not buy her cloths there; she was reported to have said that she would not pay $300 to $500 for a dress in Paris when she could get a nice dress for $17.95 in America! She always looked a million dollars in her outfits. 
Looking through the pictures and letters of Ike's Presidency he certainly spent a lot of time on Cold War issues thus preventing a war between Russia and the USA; it looked ominous for the world after WW11 when the nuclear bombs were a real scare. An interesting facet of Ike was that just like George VI in England he was not comfortable in front of a television camera; ever the strategist he saw TV was the new medium and exploited it to get his message across to the people. One of his advisors came up with the clever idea of having the cameraman hidden under a black sheet with a hole for the camera lens, the President was therefore not too conscious of the camera. There are lots of family photos including their grandchildren having birthday parties at the White House and cycling on the lawn.  Mamie was a very busy First Lady and very popular.

We watched his farewell speech from the White House in which he prophetically warned against “the military/industrial complex” in the same section is a plaque with an excerpt from one of John Adams speeches (photo to follow).
The Abilene Visitors Centre is housed in the old railway station – at the other side of the tracks from the Eisenhower Museum – this was our next stop to see if we could take the trolley tour, sadly not as it only operates on Saturday’s at 2pm & 4pm. We had been hoping to be driven around town as, at 103F it was too hot to walk. Instead we settled for a really nice meal in Kirby House, a restaurant in a restored Victorian house where we were served by a jolly very pregnant waitress.

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