Archive for Thursday, April 27, 2006

Grumbling about gas, other items

April 27, 2006

What has people grumbling most these days? That's easy -- gas prices.

It's not like it's a new subject. Good grief, for us "old timers," haven't we squawked on and off about it since the "energy shortage" back in the 1970s? But, it never fails. When the prices start going upward, we start complaining.

For me, I don't pay much attention to it. With my 11-or-so block commute to work in a small car when it's nice and a big truck when it's snowy, I don't use much gas. And, about the only adjustment I make to high prices is to make sure I fill up when the tank is half empty so it doesn't sting so bad.

But, I made a trip to Wichita this weekend for the Kansas Press Association convention. I made the round trip on a tank of gas. Actually, I've got a quarter of a tank left, so I know I'll get stung when I go to visit Frank next to fill up. Then I'll grumble.

I do feel the commuter's pain, though. I used to make a 50-mile commute (one way, all uphill in 3-feet of snow, by the way) everyday and I know what a gouge gas was back then. I can't imagine what it would be like now.

But, you've got to fill up with gas. What's the alternative? Walk? Maybe carpool for those with the long commutes, but schedules and personalities don't always work with that. We sure don't have a bus here or, for that matter, even a taxi. Try a bike, but watch out for the dogs.

No, we're pretty much stuck with paying at the pump. We can drive smarter and less often, but we're still going to pay. It's a fact of life.

That holds true for another topic that brings grumbles -- the weather. We sure don't have much room to complain in that regard, but we still do. After a mild winter without enough snow or ice to really even mention, we found ourselves in drought-like conditions. Burn bans were instituted. Wild fires raged across Texas, Oklahoma and even into Kansas. Then it got warm and moved to hot. Hot and dry with air conditioners on in April. Oh, my.

But, in true Kansas fashion, that didn't last long, did it? No, the rains came this week and brought with it cool weather. Some will call it cold. And, temperatures dipping into the 30s overnight sure qualify there.

So, there you have it. From hot and dry to cold and wet. What a weird spring it's been. It doesn't do much good to complain about it. Just like the gas prices, it's a reality we all have to deal with the best we can.

That's what we're facing with the looming downtown projects, too. Around the first of June (knock on wood and with the good Lord's blessing), the downtown project to replace sidewalks, increase handicap accessibility, address a few needed infrastructure upgrades -- most notably water lines -- and generally spruce up the area will start. Also, the fabled "Women's Bridge" on High Street between 10th and 11th streets should begin.

There's no way around it that those projects will cause some problems, especially during an incredibly busy June. Bus routes and traffic will have to be adjusted so everyone can get to Thomas the Tank. Planes, Trains and Automobiles will certainly be affected downtown. There's even talk of no Art Walks by the Baldwin Community Arts Council and even further down the road, the Maple Leaf Festival committee has re-routed the parade route as a result.

But, we'll all just have to make the most of it.

And, speaking of making the most of it and the busy June ahead, the Friends of the Battle of Black Jack are in full swing in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the battle that many historians call the first armed skirmish of the Civil War. That happened way back on June 2, 1856. Now, come June 2, will be the time for the sesquicentennial commemoration.

If you don't know about it, you should. It really is quite a big deal nationally and, especially, regionally for the battlefield just east of Baldwin City. The Signal has published several stories on it, including two in this week's issue. It's a major part of the history-rich area in and around Baldwin and Douglas County.

If you have been by the site, you know there's plenty of work to be done in preparation for the big event June 2. Volunteers are desperately needed to get the area up to snuff for who knows how many visitors. There are work days every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the area three miles east of town. Please join them.

Eventual plans for Black Jack Park are big. It's one step at a time. But, it's hoped that some day soon the park will be in the national system. Not only does that mean a lot to our area, but will bring tourists to town. So, let's make the most out of making a first good impression by having the area ready for June 2. You'll be making history yourself.

And, it might not be like John Brown did when he led that raid and so many other battles during the war between the North and South. But, it will count for something.

Maybe that's just a trip back in time when people weren't grumbling about the price of gas, but probably were grumbling about the weather ... and the price of gun powder.

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