Ark City, the NOMADS, and Camp Horizon

The NOMADS Annual Meeting ended, we said our fare-thee-wells to friends old and new, and spent a last day leisurely enjoying Forest City IA. The 560 mile trip from Forest City to Ark City KS was more than we needed to make in one day so we hit the road early the next morning for a two-day drive. We made thirty whole miles before stopping in a very pretty downtown square in Clear Lake IA.

Good friends Herb and Lois had told us about Cabin Coffee and we’d sampled and enjoyed the treat in Forest City. But hey, why not indulge ourselves again at what may be our last Cabin Coffee experience for many months? So Clear Lake was a great choice. Cabin Coffee is THE place to be Saturday mornings in Clear Lake — we had a fifteen minute opportunity to watch a lot of people coming and going, catching up and enjoying, before we earned our spot at the order window. And yes, the coffee is definitely worth the wait, even “to go”.

Properly fueled, we headed down I-35 for the next bathroom break, and the next one, and another or three before we were south of Kansas City KS to our Cracker Barrel overnight stop in Olathe KS. You know, we’ve always wanted to pay our respects, meet the help, and check out the good cooking when we stay overnight behind or beside a Cracker Barrel. And this one in Olathe did not disappoint. We enjoyed great eating and very quiet overnighting in the amply-sized RV and big rig parking behind this Cracker Barrel. Did you know their store directory has an asterisk beside every location with RV-friendly parking?

We pulled through Ark City to find Camp Horizon early Sunday afternoon. Wow, this was a great place for us and the other eleven NOMADS volunteers. Twelve of our group of thirteen volunteers in mission were in RVs, and one stayed in one of the camp’s cottages. Our camping space had full-hookups, partial shade, was close to our work areas and was just wonderful.

Camp Horizon started in the mid- to late-1940s and is a wonderful complete camp and conference center on 160 acres. The camp buildings and outdoor chapel areas sit atop a 3/4 mile long ridge with fabulous views to the south and west horizons. The skies were clear most of the time and we could see forever in both directions.

The hilltop position, one to two hundred feet above the surrounding farms and lowlands, helped a lot with Jim’s ham radio work (play!) to. He worked a station in Sao Paulo Brazil on 10 meters FM and one in Saitama City Japan on 12 meters sideband, his first contacts ever on either of these two bands. Too, Jim was able almost daily to talk with ham radio friends back east and in the Rockies. Mid-continent is pretty good for U.S. ham radio operations and atop a nice hill with an antenna strung high (40′) between two trees it just gets better.

King of the poison ivy

We weren’t at Camp Horizon to play on the radio, though. Our hosts at Camp Horizon had a page and a half of projects and tasks they asked our group to tackle. Jim and his work buddy, Cliff, spent all twelve work days (three four-day work weeks) clearing brush, felling small trees, and other outdoor work. Jim kept telling everyone this was his physical training for tennis season which starts early November. Whatever gets you through the day, Jim!

Wall prep takes far longer than painting

Debbie spent all twelve days working indoors wallpaper removal, patching, painting, organizing vast files, organizing storage areas, and carpet shampooing. Some of the work was grungy but it was all rewarding for Debbie. She could see the results of her work AND the hosts were tremendously appreciative.

Three weeks was a nice time-frame to learn an area. We visited two churches, played tennis a couple of times in the city park, visited the ice cream parlor, shopped consignment shops for more work clothes, and toured Cow Town in Wichita and the Marland Mansion in Ponca City OK.

Marland Mansion was pretty amazing and a lot sad. E.W. Marland struck oil and made a fortune early in the twentieth century. He spent a tremendous amount of money in his business, was generous with his employees, and built an extremely extravagant fifty-five room mansion. His business decisions and the markets required him to seek financial aid and, unfortunately for E.W., he asked and received “help” from some N.Y. banker named Morgan. J.P. Morgan and Co took over ownership and management of Marland Oil, merged it with Continental Oil and renamed it Conoco, and left an angry former owner by the wayside.

An imposing front elevation of the Marland mansion

Marland and his wife lived in the new mansion less than two years, and thirteen years after completing it sold it for a fraction of the construction cost. He lost his fortune but left a gorgeous house which has been wonderfully restored and is open for tours. We had a three-hour tour of the house and grounds and enjoyed it tremendously.

160 year old cabin, still much larger than ours

Cow Town in Wichita KS represents the other end of the social spectrum and perhaps seventy-five years earlier in the western states’ history. Cow Town is an outdoor walking museum containing 1800s homes and businesses moved from in and around Wichita. We walked through four homes, almost a dozen businesses from the butcher to millinery, grain elevator to drugstore. Cow Town provided us an interesting history lesson laced with great home-made cookies, ice cream, a bratwurst lunch, and a variety of entertainment.

Three four-day work weeks provided the thirteen NOMADS a great opportunity to complete the host site task list. We started every day with devotions and singing, we had fun in games and sightseeing and break times, and we enjoyed getting to know one another and the camp staff. And we worked hard on our projects list.

Our project leaders very capably and calmly guided us (and the hosts) through the list so everyone could work on what they wanted to, we exceeded the hosts’ expectations, and all felt the project was very successful. Our mission project ended Thursday afternoon.

No vinegar-pepper sauce for BBQ is no laughing matter!

Friday morning we packed up and headed in all directions. Some headed south for Oklahoma or Texas. A couple returned to Indiana. Three are from Kansas and had short trips. We headed northwest toward Hutchinson KS. And that’s a story for another day.

Jim and Debbie

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