Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012: PAP Day 5, Dodge City to Greensburg

Today was supposed to be on a route off the highway we have been following since the first day of the tour. We tried, but soon found ourselves on an impassible sandy road. We had no real alternative but to return to the highway. Fortunately, the heavy traffic from yesterday was absent today.

Additionally, after four days of 78 - 85 mile days, today was supposed to something of a recovery ride -- only 45 miles, after sleeping in. After checking the weather last night, we changed that last bit, to avoid even higher head winds and possible thunderstorms later in the day. So, basically we had a re-run of yesterday, but about a third shorter. The 45 miles ended up 51, and we again had headwinds of 10 to 15 from the time we left Dodge to the time we arrived at our hotel here in Greensburg.

We passed a long row of these metal sculptures along the highway. No explanation was apparent.
Strangely, Fred was more tired today than yesterday; for me it was just the reverse. I felt pretty good today, and the wind didn't bother me very much, except that I really didn't want to be caught in the open by a thunderstorm, and the wind kept us on the road all that much longer. We did see some rain ahead, but by the time we reached it, it had moved on. There was no sign or sound of thunder or lightning until well into this evening.

We had an fascinating afternoon exploring the town. Greensburg had a brief few years of boom back in the 19th century, but in the years since then it has just hung on, trading on the presence of "the world's largest hand-dug well" and an unusual number of meteorites that are found in the area.
Everything changed in May of 2007, however, when one of the most powerful tornadoes ever measured turned 95% of the town into a heap of rubble during its 15 minute nighttime visit. We spoke to several residents about their hair-raising experiences. It is a miracle that so few (12) lost their lives. You can read the details and see some photos on Wikipedia. Really horrific. About half the residents vowed to rebuild the town, and they have, with help from countless individuals, civic groups, and federal and state agencies. Imagine a town where everything is less than five years old! It is also interesting that they decided to rebuild the town as a model of sustainable building practices and technology. As an example, there are 10 community-owned mid-sized wind turbines that supply all the power the town needs and pour the excess into the grid. The town adheres to green standards for all its buildings. I believe that all the private homes and commercial buildings are energy efficient as well.

If you ever have the opportunity to spend a few hours here, you won't regret it.

From foreground to back: large slab where a business stood when the tornado hit, one of the town's wind turbines, our new Best Western, a couple more turbines.

All that remains of a couple of homes that have not been rebuilt. Note that here, in the center of "Tornado Alley", most homes are wood frame structures built on slabs, just like in Florida. I always assumed that homes in this part of the country would all have cellars, but apparently not.

At the Big Well Museum, looking down into the huge, hand-dug well that had been Greensburg's claim to fame before the tornado.

An entrepreneur has created a business re-purposing old gas tanks as tornado shelters. These are bolted into the slab and have room for several people to jam in. It sure beats clutching one another around the base of a toilet, which is how two town residents miraculously survived the 2007 tornado.

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