Denver, A Reunion and the Great Midwest

After our visit to the US Air Force Academy, we pointed Contessa to Denver/Golden and several days with dear friends & family. Construction is an on-going phenomenon around Denver — it is always under construction — and our route was not immune! Miles of narrow lanes and concrete barriers on one or both sides certainly makes waterways more attractive to Captain Bill!

We parked the coach at Dakota Ridge RV Park, where she would stay for six nights. Off all our stops, the most expensive and the least attractive, but, ah well, it was a place to park her. We disconnected the Toad and headed back down to Castle Rock for a highly anticipated evening. We were welcomed to the home of Bill & Kathy Neuens and a delightful evening ensued.

We spent a lovely evening reminiscing of many years boating with Bill & Anne aboard Bandit and getting to know Kathy better. What a shock for all of us, and especially Bill, when we lost his wife, Anne, 3 years ago. We are so happy that Bill found Kathy and they are enjoying life to its fullest. After active duty during Vietnam, Bill retired at the rank of General with the Air National Guard – and as Chief Pilot for United Airlines. AND he is a great storyteller! We laughed and laughed – and enjoyed every minute!

On Tuesday, we had an absolutely wonderful afternoon with dear friends from our California home! Thanks to planning from Mary Lou, we met Steve & Mary Lou Vecchiarelli and Frank & Debbie Hazlewood for a delightful lunch and laughter. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between glasses of wine and the brain remembering to take pictures! But, thankfully, we still have our memories of a lovely afternoon.

Golden has an amazing Community Center with a superb workout facility, which we used on Wednesday morning – and then off for shopping for the infamous Ratts Reunion. Wednesday evening, we met Tom & Vicki Ratts and son Todd for a gentle and delightful evening. Tom & Jann are half-first cousins (!?!) – Tom’s Dad and Jann’s Dad were half-brothers and their shared father is the connection that binds the participants of the Ratts Reunion.

Arrivals started early Thursday and by the end of the day, we had 37 Ratts in the Grand Lake area, about two hours up the mountain from Denver. There were three houses (and a hotel room) to accommodate the group – and three days of laughter, tears and shared stories followed.

Late Saturday evening, the Captain & Admiral headed back down the mountain – to prepare for an early departure from Denver to avoid rush hour traffic, both from business on Monday but also those returning from the mountains on Sunday afternoon.

We got on I-70 heading west, where we will stay for more than a few days! First stop was Oakley, KS – where we visited the Buffalo Bill Center.

Buffalo Bill Cody & His Buffalo

What a surprise in this little town – right at our campground – Cap’n Jack’s Pub. A couple “retired” from the Chesapeake Bay to own/run the campground and establish this incredible pub that is the #1 dining establish in the entire region – and rightfully so! The Shrimp & Crab Bisque was perhaps the best we have ever had – even in all our months on the Bay during our Great Loop adventure!

Off early the next morning – destination Abilene, Kansas! Our purpose here was the Eisenhower Presidential Library – which we thoroughly enjoyed. But, as is often the case, the surprises we find in small towns sometimes make the headlines. In this case, it was the Seelye Mansion.

Built by Dr. & Mrs. A. B. Seelye in 1905, it is completely furnished with original furniture, Edison light fixtures, organs, pianos and memorabilia of the Seelye family. Dr. Seelye was the chemist and inventor of a plethora of “medicinal” remedies – what many would call “snake oil”. From 1890 to 1937, he & his army of up to 500 salesmen sold WasaTusa (Indian word for “healing”) which was 63% alcohol, chloroform & ether and a wide array of cure-all concoctions. Dr. Seelye provided the wagon and the medicines and the salesmen provided the horses. They traveled over 14 states making $.03 for every $1.25 bottle of product they sold – and everyone made a LOT of money! It all came crashing to a halt with the FDA in 1937, when they forced him to stop selling his potions as medicine.

Dr. & Mrs. Seelye went to the 1904 World’s Fair where they secured the blueprint for the “Connecticut House”, a Georgian style mansion. They acquired $60,000 of furnishings, returned to Abilene and spent $55,000 to build their home. In comparison, the Eisenhower home (on the wrong side of the tracks) was built for less than $1,000. The house and all its furnishings were in place in 9 months!

In 1970, Terry Tietjens drove by the Seelye Mansion on Buckeye Street in Abilene as part of a “traveling music group” and told his twin brother, Jerry, that he was going to live there one day. The house was rundown, the lawns overgrown and the two daughters of Dr. & Mrs. Seelye (Marian & Helen) were struggling to pay the bills and keep the house livable. It was another 11 years before Terry & Jerry were invited to tour the house – and the following year, the sisters agreed to sell him the house, complete with all furnishings. When he finalized the purchase, he told the sisters that they were now his “adopted” grandmothers – and allowed them to live with him for the remainder of their lives (5 & 10 years)! During that time, he recorded their history and the history of the home – and has now created a foundation to ensure the home is open and available for future generations.

The contents include WORKING Edison lights (hundreds of them), 3 Edison phonographs, 3 Victrola phonographs, an Estey reed organ that is 100 years old, and a bowling machine in the basement! The bowling machine is only 1 of 4 machines still in existence from the American Box Ball Machine by Holcomb & Hoke of Indianapolis. The machine was delivered and assembled while the house was under construction, as there is no way it could be added later. The foundation recently was offered $1M for the machine, as it is the only one truly intact!

After two hours, we were overwhelmed with all we seen and heard – and so very thankful that we had once again “stumbled” onto an American gem!

The afternoon was spent at the Eisenhower Center – and there again, we had a memorable experience in addition to all we had anticipated. The forecast was to be rain with potential thunderstorms. We arrived on the front porch of the Eisenhower Boyhood Home for the tour – and we were rushed into the house and down to the basement as there was a tornado warning! There we stood for 25 minutes, hearing about the house as we sheltered from the storm raging above us.

The storm passed and we were released from the house, shown the physical portion of this house from the “wrong side of the tracks” that “would never amount to anything.” All six boys went on to be hugely successful – from Executive Vice President of Commerce Trust Co, Founder of Pacific Northwest Law Firm, Registered Pharmacist (without graduating from high school), Electrical Engineer and youngest brother, Milton, was President of Kansas State College, Penn State and then headed John Hopkins University for 13 years.

Dwight Eisenhower was an amazing man who dedicated his life to his country – beginning with days at West Point, duty was the key word that drove him. He had spent two years following high school graduation working to support his brother, Edgar’s college education. During that time, he heard of the opportunity for a military education and he immediately applied to the Naval Academy. He was denied admission because he was older than their acceptance range (supporting his brother). He was appointed to West Point – and the rest, as they say, is history. From training and preparing troops, to his infamous leadership as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, where he orchestrated the invasion of Normandy on D-Day 75 years ago, to the initial leader of NATO’s security forces and then serving as the 34th President of the United States from 1953-1961, he never resisted his country’s call!

We had spent considerable time at the Eisenhower Home in Gettysburg, PA and we continue to admire and respect his commitment to our country!

We’re off to Missouri!

Author: Contessa & The Toad Get Hitched

After years traveling this beautiful country by boat, the Captain and the Admiral are bound for land adventures. Whenever Contessa (the motorcoach) and the Toad (Jeep Grand Cherokee) get hitched (towing the car) - we’ll post our adventures!

One thought on “Denver, A Reunion and the Great Midwest”

  1. Jann, Your blog is Absolutely Fascinating!! I am enjoying reading through your adventures, I get to enjoy and learn without having to TRAVEL! Be safe and keep on Blogging! Hugs, Debbie

    Like

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