Day 28 – Kansas and Legendary Brands

Sean’s Journal: I must admit that I’m excited to get home. I have the Great State of Kansas to cross, then I will dawdle a little in Colorado that is my second favorite state next to Utah, and finally re-enter my homeland. Last night, I camped near Wichita. Vince will tell you a story about his unique camping experience here some years ago with his son. As I crossed the state line into Kansas, I couldn’t help but remember a PBS special on the dreadful “Dust Bowl” experiences that Kansans endured early in the 20th Century. It was horribly sad. BTW: The agricultural productivity of Kansas is legendary. 

A Baptist Sunday Service. I attended an early “contemporary worship service” at a Baptist church. I thought about attending the Latter-day Saints service but decided that, the broader my exposure to people of different faiths, the better I would serve the purposes of my journey. I enjoyed the “gospel” style music and the short sermon delivered by the pastor. Everybody was very welcoming. I shared the Bookends4Life URL with many and invited them to join me on the road. 

Thankful, I Am. I am on Interstate 70 and will drive for the remainder of the day with a worshipful attitude and grateful spirit as I review the marvelous experiences that I have been blessed to have over the past four weeks. I thank God for his guidance and protection. I’ll have a long mobile phone conversation with my dad about plans for my return. 

Now, I want to let Vince use the rest of this blog to tell you three of his favorite Kansas stories from his author’s odyssey with his second eldest son some years ago. 

Vince & Marie just chillin’ outside their RV,
sitting on their Coleman camp chairs

Vince’s Response: Our eldest daughter once lived in the Kansas City area with her family. I have traveled to Kansas on business. One of my clients would pick me up at the airport in his single-engine Cessna and fly me to their manufacturing plant in Fort Scott. 

Let me tell you about my author’s research journey with my son. I was gathering anecdotal material for my books, Take Pride in Your Work and Customer Astonishment. My son and I went in search of American pride—to find out what caused Americans to “ride for the brand” and to do their very best at work. All the experiences below occurred in the Wichita area. 

Interesting Campground. We will never forget one campground near Wichita. It was green and inviting. We found a nice camp site. We needed to take showers, but the restroom had no outer doors and no inside doors on the shower stalls. Oh well. My son and I took turns standing guard while one of us showered at a time. We ate dinner. As the sun was going down, about ten Harley-Davidson enthusiasts with their companion riders pulled into the campsite just one site removed from ours. My son and I figured we’d be in for a noisy evening. This was one of those experiences when you learn to “judge not.” We walked over to our new neighbors and introduced ourselves. What a friendly group they were. They sat quietly by their fire, ate, and visited in the most neighborly fashion. Live, learn, and love. It’s a good motto. Besides, my son and I were both jealous that we didn’t have our own Harley. So there.

Beechcraft. These memorable experiences happened over 30 years ago. I can hardly believe it’s been that long, but the stories are unforgettable. At that point in time, Beechcraft, the well-known general aviation company, was working on a new concept airplane called the Starship 1, with rear-facing turbo-prop engines and a fuselage made of a new composite material. I figured there would be lots of pride surrounding such an innovative project. I wanted to interview its designers, engineers, and pilots. The front office sent us to the guard station near the hangar. As an important side note, my son was just 13-years-old, but already an Eagle Scout. He made a good impression on folks. 

In the Pilot’s Seat. I asked the guard if we could see the prototype airplane. I told him I’d love to have my son meet the test pilot. The guard told us this would not be possible. I told him that my son was an Eagle Scout and how much it would mean to him and to his friends back home. He agreed to call the pilot’s office. The chief test pilot answered the phone. The guard said, “I have an author at the gate who would like to meet you and see the Starship. He has his son with him who is an Eagle Scout.” We could hear the pilot’s reply, “Well, I’m an Eagle Scout, too. Send them back to the hangar.” So off we went. The result was that we had an amazing chat with the pilot and a tour of the innovative, cool-looking airplane. My son got to sit in the cockpit in the pilot’s seat. Wow! Ask and ye shall receive, if you’re in the company of an Eagle Scout that is.        

Coleman. Wichita is the home of the famous Coleman Company. On our journey, we were camping out with: Coleman tent, Coleman sleeping bags, Coleman stove, Coleman ice chest, Coleman lantern, Coleman water jug, and more. I knew I had to get a taste of the pride of this legendary American company. We ended up spending several hours with the curator of the company museum who gave us an in-depth history lesson going back to 1900, including the story of the small Coleman stove used by soldiers in World War I. The crowning moment was when the curator presented my son with a black and silver (not green) commemorative lantern that had been created to recognize the production of the 10,000,000th Coleman lantern, if I remember the number correctly.

These are my great memories of Kansas.

Bookends: (1) Love those Harley-Davidson motorcycles. (2) Being an Eagle Scout is about good character and many useful skills. (3) Let a Coleman lantern light your way.  (4) Take pride in your work.  (5) And, God’s speed to you, young Sean, as you journey home. I’m glad those friendly Baptists gave you a reassuring “gospel” send-off.