Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wamego, KS

Day 63: Saturday, July 20, 2013
Clay Center to Wamego: 56 miles

For breakfast, I headed back to the town square. On the way, I passed the old railroad depot. Although both it and the grain elevator are no longer served by the railroad, it was not a beached whale: a business has moved in, and maintains it in excellent condition.

Clay Center depot
The Clay Center depot is still functional,
although as business offices.

Clay Center has a Carnegie library. As I perched on its steps to pick up my email, a passer-by noticed my laden bike and stopped his car to chat. He was also a bicyclist, and we had a nice conversation about cycling. He recommended the bakery for breakfast, and that's where I headed next.

The town square, with its city offices, was across the street from the bakery. Saturday is farmers' market day, and business was in full swing by the time I was done with breakfast. I bought a few tomatoes, and was given more veggies outright, including a couple of ears of sweet corn, at some other stalls. (It wasn't until two days later that I got around to eating the corn - raw - while resting in a farm lane at the side of the road, but it was still tender and sweet.)

Clay Center farmers' market
The Clay Center farmers' market was small but busy.

three wise guys
These three wise guys gave me some veggies.

Manhattan is a college town, and was a stop for us in 1981, because Guy was biking to graduate school in Manhattan. Back then, we spent the night with Dave and Sandy - Dave had spent several hours working on Jack's bike, then took us home for a meal and a place to sleep. I looked them up on the Internet before I left on this trip, and found that they had gotten married and were still in Manhattan. But I was anxious to get on to Wamego, to visit John, my old Air Force buddy. So, even though I was flirting with rain showers, I skirted Manhattan and made for Wamego.

Although I had wanted to fly when I enlisted, I ended up being a meteorological programmer for four years, stationed at Global Weather Central at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. I guess I should be thankful for that, as it was a relatively safe position during the time of the Vietnam War. John, on the other hand, had a full flying career with the Military Airlift Command and a much more adventuresome tour of duty. After serving his five years, he returned to Wamego to help his father run an alfalfa-drying business.

the milling company
John used to run the alfalfa-drying facility with his father.
Now, it produces custom feed mixes.

And he obtained his private pilot's certificate, IFR and multi-engine ratings, and instructor's certificate. Oh, yes - he also acquired a Cessna 120 - a two-place tail-dragger with a cloth-covered wing, made in the 1940s.

Cessna 120
John has owned this Cessna 120 for over 30 years.
It's beautifully maintained.

That was roughly the same time that I also bought a Cessna 120, from the widow of a man who had caught the tail wheel on a power line when landing at a small field, and had nosed in. (No, he didn't die in the crash. But he never got around to fixing the plane.) I had started taking lessons while in the service, but never obtained my certificate. And I sold the plane before I got it airworthy, when I got a job and had to move. So I was really envious of John when we passed through in 1981, and he showed us his 120.

In 2013, though, I had even more reason to be envious: he had added two more planes to his collection: a four-place Cessna 172 that is quite a bit faster than the 120, and a Luscombe Silvaire, a tail-dragger that looks a lot like the 120, but is smaller and slower.

Cessna 172
Over the years, John has added this Cessna 172 to his stable...

Luscombe 8A well as this Luscombe 8A.
It looks like a smaller version of the 120.

John also rides a bicycle occasionally. He has done the Bike Across Kansas ride with his son. But he has put more touring miles on his Harley than on any self-powered two-wheeler. At the moment, his bike was laid up: he had split a ring, which then tore up the engine. There went $4000.

John and Bret
As you can tell by his house sign, John drives a Harley.
But he has also biked across Kansas with his son.

John left the alfalfa-drying business to escape some disagreements with his partners, and went into the nursery business. At the time, he knew virtually nothing about it, but built it into a first-class operation, selling nursery stock all across the state. He sold the business for a tidy sum - and the new owners sat back and let the business run itself into the ground.

Then, in 1992, he started all over again. And that one's still going strong.

5-H Nursery
John's family has run the 5-H Greenhouse for 20 years.

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