Lebanon, Kansas

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This marker represents the Center of the Conterminous (aka Contiguous, aka Lower 48) United States.  The actual GPS coordinates put the center about a half mile away but that is private property so they built it here to keep the riff-raff off the farmer’s land.  The site is about 2 1/2 miles northwest of Lebanon, KS.

When the government decided to erect a marker back in 1918 they projected the approximate location by balancing a cardboard cutout of the United States on a fulcrum (true story).  The site they zeroed in on turned out to be only about 20 miles from the actual coordinates that surveyors plotted.  Not bad for government work!

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Two more things I missed out on seeing this trip: The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum (in Lacrosse KS) and the Roller Skating Hall of Fame (hate that I missed that!) in southeast Nebraska.  They are both on my future-visit list.

One thing I saw while on the road today (mainly in Nebraska) were about 20 long trainloads of coal heading east, presumably to deliver it to the White House for the winter. Coal’s fixin’ to make a big comeback, ya know…..  I can picture it now, Mike Pence in the basement, shovelin’ coal into the furnace…..

Cawker City, Kansas

You are looking at the largest ball of sisal twine “made by a community,” which is actually larger than the largest ball of sisal twine “made by an individual” (who is now deceased), so I guess that makes this the Largest Ball of Sisal Twine EVER!!

As The Donald would say: “It’s HUGE”.  It was started in 1953 and by 1957 had grown to over 5,000 pounds.  When the man who started it died in 1974 the ball was comprised of 1.6 million feet of twine.  According to the signage it now contains over 8 million feet of twine (the hardware store is making a killing….), which works out to just over 1,500 miles!  The ball currently weighs 20,078 pounds, is over 8 feet in diameter and has a circumference of 43 feet.

Rollin’ the hay…

As I drove north from Plato towards Kansas City I saw these folks diligently making the white “caterpillars” of hay you have probably seen in fields throughout the country.  I never actually saw the gizmo in action so I had to go back and get a photo.  I’ve heard of a “roll in the hay” but I didn’t think farmers did it in their field, right next to the road in front of God and everyone…. and with children present!  Shocking.

I was kind of neat to watch (voyeur that I am) as they carried the rolls with the tractor and the gizmo wrapped white plastic around them.

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I did not get a chance to visit the Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, MO (guess you could say I wasn’t “sucked in” by their clever highway billboards). Tripadvisor reviews state that it is more interesting than most people expected.  Will add it to my list of things to do when I come back. And we won’t even talk about the Fudge Factory in Uranus, MO.  There I go, back in the gutter again…

Plato, Missouri

Why did I go to Plato, MO you ask…?  Why, it is the current (Mean) Center of Population for the United States, as determined by the 2010 Census – of course!  The site moves every 10 years, having started in Maryland in 1790, moved pretty much due west to southern Indiana in 1940, then shifting southwest to it’s current location.  As the population builds on the west coast, and as more people get air conditioning and move south (seriously!), the center drifts and drifts.  In 2000 it was near Cuba, MO.  The actual GPS coordinates put this site a little east and north of town (in or near Rock Creek).  This marker was in downtown Plato (pop. 109) between the high school (Go Eagles!!) and the Post Office (zip code 65552).

This “Mean” Center is determined kind of like balancing a cookie sheet with an equal unit of weight for each person in their particular location at a particular point in time. This differs from the “Median” Center of Population, currently in Indiana, which has an equal number of people above and below, and left and right of that point. I’ll have to ponder this while I drive as to why they aren’t in the same place (perhaps the reason is obvious…).

Hermann, Missouri

I might as well start right off in the gutter. This sign was above the urinal in the Men’s room of an aviation-themed restaurant in Hermann.  After driving up to St. Louis on Day Two I took the scenic route west of town through wine country, ending up in Hermann (which is a very nice town, by the way). I stopped for lunch at a little place called “Wings-A-Blazin” and when nature called my first trip post was born.  Aren’t y’all glad I started a blog…

Day One was uneventful (for me, anyway). A pickup truck ran off the highway on my side of the road in a heavy downpour but there were already people out of their cars calling for help and the driver appeared to be OK so I didn’t need to don my “Safety Sam” outfit.  Later there was a HUGE backup on I-40 going the other way so I just kept on moving along.  Stayed in a nice Airbnb in Nashville in a historic district not far from downtown.