Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Celebrating women who made transportation history


From the sea, across land, and all the way to the stars, women have made an incredible difference on our world.  March is Women’s History Month and we would like to take the time to share with you some incredible women who had a great impact on transportation.

Nellie Bly: Have you ever read the book by Jules Vern, Around the World in 80 Days? The classic adventure told the story of Phileas Fogg and his desire to circumnavigate the earth in 80 days. Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was a journalist who went by the name Nellie Bly, and she was inspired by the book. In 1889, at the age of 25, she traveled around the world — and she did it in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. According to she used a variety of transportation methods to achieve her lofty goal, including: ship, horse, rickshaw, sampan, burro and other vehicles.

Anne Rainford French Bush: In 1900, cars were just starting to be manufactured and there were only a handful of people who actually owned and drove them.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Anne Rainford French Bush was the first woman who obtained a “steam engineer’s license,” which allowed her to operate a four-wheeled vehicle powered by steam or gas.” In an article in Life Magazine from Sept. 1952, Bush said that the speed limit was nine miles an hour, and her father was pulled over for going 12 miles an hour in his convertible.

Alice Huyler Ramsey: In 1909, 22 year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey, drover her way into history as the first woman to drive coast to coast across the United States. According the Smithsonian Magazine, her 3,800 journey from New York to California took 59 days to complete. In those days, there was no GPS and the majority of America’s roads were not fit for long distance travel. Ramsey relied on the Blue Book travel guides with directions that weren’t always accurate. Ramsey and her three women passengers had to conquer many obstacles, including car trouble, inclement weather, and the fact that there were no directions west of the Mississippi River. Ramsey would eventually be the founder of the Women’s Motoring Club.

Olive Dennis: According to, In 1920, Dennis was hired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to work as a bridge designer in the engineering department. Later, her role changed to a service engineer where she was responsible for engineering upgrades that would make train rides more comfortable. Dennis invented reclining seats, stain resistant upholstery, adjustable ceiling lights that could be dimmed in the passenger cars. Arguably her greatest invention was the window vents that brought in fresh air, but kept the dust out and air conditioning that was used aboard the trains and also implemented in planes and busses. Dennis said, “No matter how successful a business may seem to be, it can gain even greater success if it gives consideration to the women’s viewpoint.” She was also the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association.

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) During World War II, the army was desperate for pilots to deliver newly built training aircraft to flight schools. Twenty-eight women pilots volunteered to take job of ferrying these aircraft. For the next two years, 1,074 more women volunteered and they were trained to ferry, tow gunnery targets, transport equipment and personnel, and test aircraft that had been repaired. 

According to, the WASP served at 120 different bases around the country and carried out a variety of aviation-related positions. The WASP asked Walt Disney if they could use a female gremlin character, called Fifinella, from an unaired cartoon as their mascot.

Although It took another 37 years before they were granted military status, these women played an important role in WWII.

“These 1,102 Women Airforce Service Pilots flew wingtip to wingtip with their male counterparts,” the site said. “And they were just as vital to war effort.”

Rosie the Riveter:  This famous icon represents all the women who went to work as the men were fighting in World War II. Rosie the Riveter was a campaign geared toward recruiting workers for defense industries. By the end of the war, one out four women worked outside the home.

The aviation industry saw the most women workers. According to, 310,000 women went to work in the U.S. aircraft industry.

Rosie the Riveter is slightly based on a real-life munitions worker, and she stressed the patriotic need for women to continue working. The term is also based on a song of the same name.  The most popular illustration of Rosie was created by artist Jay Howard Miller in 1942. Norman Rockwell also created his own Rosie in 1943.

Rosie the Riveter continues to be an inspirational icon for women across the world.

Janet Guthrie: Ever since auto racing got its start, it has been a predominantly male sport. But in the early 1970's a woman with a degree in physics by the name of Janet Guthrie wanted to change that. In 1976, she became the first woman to compete in a NASCAR race, and in the following year she became the first female driver to start in the Daytona 500. She won Top Rookie honors because of her 12thplace finish in NASCAR’s biggest race. Later that year she qualified for the Indy 500. Although her racing career never saw her in victory lane, she paved the way for countless female race car drivers. In 2005 she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Sally Ride: Nasa was formed in 1958, and it would be another 25 years before an American woman would blast off into Earth’s Orbit. Sally Ride, was born on May 26, 1951. Ride received her doctorate in physics in 1978. After she completed her studies, she applied to become an astronaut for NASA and was selected, she began spacing training that same year. On June 18, 1983, Ride took her first space flight on the Challenger. She returned to space in 1984 and continued to work for NASA until 1987 and began teaching at the University of California in San Diego to help women and young girls study science and math. She was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003.

Mae C. Jemison Nine years after Ride took her first spaceflight, Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American woman in space. Jemison was born on Oct. 17, 1956. She studied chemical engineering. According to, Jemison also received her M.D., and worked as a medical officer for the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 1985, she returned to the United States and followed her dream to become an astronaut for NASA. In 1987, she was chosen and after five years of working for NASA, she boarded Space Shuttle Endeavor and blasted off on Sept. 12, 1992. She spent eight days in space and conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself.

Monday, February 20, 2023

The Zero Milestone Marker and a journey across country: Eisenhower’s interstate inspiration

 Today is President’s Day. Thanks to Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower, we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our state’s interstate systems.

34th U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower

In June 1956, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and on Nov. 14 of that same year, Kansas opened the first section of interstate in the U.S., just west of Topeka. 

All great ideas need inspiration. Eisenhower’s came when, as a young Lieutenant Colonel, he joined a 1919 military cross-country convoy. The journey began after a dedication of a temporary monument in Washington, D.C.: The Zero Milestone Marker, a designated point where the U.S. road system begins.

The Zero Milestone Marker soon after its dedication in 1923.
Photo source:

The U.S. Army dispatched a military convoy of 60 trucks and more than 200 men to cross the country. Accounts from the time show the convoy had to deal with vehicles stuck in mud and experiencing failing infrastructure across the route.

After two months and 3,200 miles, the convoy pulled into San Francisco. In a formal report of the trip, Eisenhower said the trip had been difficult: “Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls.”


During the 1919 transcontinental convoy, west of Grand Island, Nebraska, soldiers use a winch to pull a Class B truck out of a ditch. Lt. Col. P. V. Kieffer surveys the scene. Source: Eisenhower Library

While it would be another 37 years before Eisenhower could become the founder of the interstate system, he cited this journey – and seeing in person the German Autobahn – as inspiration for improving the nation’s roads.

“…after seeing the autobahns of modern Germany and knowing the asset those highways were to the Germans, I decided, as President, to put an emphasis on this kind of road building,” Eisenhower said. “When we finally secured the necessary congressional approval, we started the 41,000 miles of super highways that are already proving their worth. This was one of the things that I felt deeply about, and I made a personal and absolute decision to see that the nation would benefit by it. The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.” (Reprinted from Federal Highway Administration publication.)

Officially dedicated in 1923, the Zero Milestone Marker now stands on the South Lawn of the White House. While roads don’t all begin and end in Washington, D.C., as the small monument suggests, the reason behind its creation rings true today: America’s road systems connect us and we all depend on quality infrastructure to thrive. Kansas’ own Dwight D. Eisenhower helped make it happen. 

The Zero Milestone Marker stands on the South Lawn of the White House.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Missing out on many years of memories

Chief Chris Head

My name is Chris Head and I am the Deputy Chief with the Liberal Police Department in Liberal. I have been an officer for 24 years, but I didn’t start my career off in Liberal. 

I started off in a small town in Oklahoma. The town was small enough that it didn’t have much crime to speak of, but we would get the occasional drunk fight or drug arrest just to keep things interesting. Due to the town being in a rural area, we would also get called to help the Oklahoma Highway Patrol with accidents on the highways that led into town.

One early morning, around 0500 hours, I got a call from our dispatch asking me to travel a few miles into the county to assist in a roll-over accident with unknown injuries. I was informed the vehicle was in the ditch, but not much more information was given as I can recall. I was also told that there were no Troopers in the area, and I could be alone for some time. As I mentioned earlier our town was small and didn’t warrant 24-hour coverage, so I jumped out of bed and headed out the door within a few minutes.

Police officers go on calls all the time where the questions can’t be answered until they arrive on the scene to assess the situation. This is especially true on calls such as this one. Questions like, “How many people are in the vehicle?” “How many of them are hurt?” or “How long will it take an ambulance to arrive to help me if needed?” Since I was a very inexperienced officer at this time, I’m sure all these questions and more were going through my mind.

When I got to the location of the accident, I noticed the ditches were overgrown with trees, briers and all sorts of undergrowth. After only a few minutes I noticed a vehicle stopped on the road, and I could see the taillights from the damaged vehicle near the bottom of the ditch. I also saw an unknown pedestrian frantically waving me over and pointing to the accident location. I got out of my patrol car and ran to the vehicle. It was at that time I noticed the driver, a young man, was laying on the ground several feet away from the crumpled-up pickup.

As I got closer to him, I saw he was unconscious and not breathing. I recently attended a first responder class and started CPR. While working on the young man I could tell that things were not looking good. He was unresponsive but from time to time would sit up and exhale deeply before laying back down only to stop breathing again. While this was happening, I never felt his pulse come back, and I continued on with the CPR.

While working on him I could smell the odor from the mixture of the gas from his vehicle along with the dirt that was scattered all around. I can still remember how tiring it was to give CPR for what seemed like 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived. I also remember my legs and arms cramping and being out of breath. I was relieved when I saw the ambulance pulling up, knowing I finally had some help.

Almost as soon as the paramedics got to us, I saw another person running down the embankment toward us. It was the driver’s father. As you can imagine he was extremely emotional after seeing his son and tried to get to him. In doing so he was interfering with the paramedics. This caused me to have to physically pull him away from his son in order to give the paramedics room to work. His dad threatened to hit me and even tried to punch me at one point, understandably so. It took me and a couple bystanders a few minutes to calm him down so he could think clearly.

While dealing with the dad, the paramedics were able to get the driver into the ambulance to transport him to the hospital in a neighboring town. After the ambulance left, the scene cleared out quickly and I remember looking at the pickup and thinking the damage was not that bad, and I believe he would have walked away if he had his seat belt on.

Due to the area being so small, word gets around, and it wasn’t long before I found out who the driver was. I also found out that his wife had just had a baby girl, and that he was on his way to work that morning. As far as why his father showed up, I found out they worked for the same company and one of their coworkers saw the accident and called him. He came there with the intention of checking on his son, but found that he was fighting for his life.

A few years ago, I was back in my hometown and discovered that the driver’s baby girl had grown into a beautiful young lady and recently had gone to prom. I was shown her prom photos and I couldn’t help but think about her dad, and how proud he would have been of his little girl. There was absolutely a void in those photos where he should have been.

Just about any officer who has been working the road long enough will have a similar story. These memories may fade and some of the details lost, but they don’t go away fully. From time to time something may trigger them, and you’re put right back there, in the moment surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells. Some officers may be reminded of a tragic accident after smelling the scent of a deployed airbag. For me, it’s the combination of the smell of gas and freshly disturbed dirt.

People get behind the wheel and don’t buckle up for one reason or another. But there is little doubt about it, if you ask that little girl who lost her dad early that morning, she would tell you there is no excuse not to wear it. 

If you don’t want to wear it for yourself, wear it for your family members who love you, and who want you to be with them as they make memories. Memories like playing in their first baseball game, catching their first fish, graduating high school, or even going to their first prom. 


Chris Head is the Deputy Chief with the Liberal Police Department


Friday, October 7, 2022

Prescription drugs contributing to roadway deaths

By Sheriff David M. Groves

Sheriff David Groves

Returning from a meeting a few years ago, I decided to take the scenic route to enjoy a leisurely drive back to the office on some of our back roads. The only vehicle I encountered was a motorcycle, which I noticed wobbling as it approached me. 

Moments later, the motorcycle left the pavement and crossed a grassy ditch, throwing the operator to the side of the road. I immediately requested dispatch send emergency medical and rescue personnel to the scene as I assessed the rider, who ultimately died there on the side of the road. 

It was later determined prescription drugs contributed to the crash and death of the rider, who was someone I had known for years.

Although the situation I experienced involved an impaired operator leaving the road and entering a ditch, the operator could have just as easily crossed the center line striking an oncoming vehicle, having a life-long impact on an innocent driver.

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs continues to pose a significant threat to those traveling our roadways. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports prescription drugs are the most prevalent of all drugs found in drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes at 46.5%, and that percentage has continually increased since 2005.

Alarmingly, but not surprisingly, teens new to driving are also getting behind the wheel impaired by prescription drugs, which they often obtain from family or friends, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

As community safety leaders, it’s not only critical to recognize the issue of prescription impaired driving for the seriousness it is, but to also take steps to keep our roadways and citizens safe.

When given the opportunity to visit with high school students about the dangers of drugs, it’s important not to solely focus on street drugs like meth and heroin, but because of the ease in obtaining prescription drugs, to also stress the dangers of abusing them and sharing with friends.

Additionally, because this life altering public safety issue significantly impacts those in our community, law enforcement leaders can take advantage of the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Training Program coordinated by the Kansas Highway Patrol.  Although the training requires a commitment on the part of both the administration and the officer seeking certification, the benefits to the citizenry and motoring public are worth the investment. 

If staff shortages create a hurdle in having a DRE on your agency’s team, hosting Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) Training will significantly boost the ability for officers to recognize and handle drug impaired drivers when they encounter them on the side of the road.

Finally, because in most parts of the state DRE’s are scarce - especially for small and rural agencies - I encourage law enforcement administrators with DRE’s on their team to capitalize on already existing partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions and offer up their DRE’s assistance when able to do so.

David Groves is the Sheriff in Cherokee County


Thursday, October 6, 2022

Lifechanging decision that changed everyone’s future

By Patty Schalk

You have probably all heard that wearing your seat belt could save your life in a vehicle accident. From personal experience, I would say many people have developed a good habit of buckling up every time they are in a vehicle. Some are just the opposite and rarely, if ever, buckle up.

January 1997 - my family had a life-changing vehicle accident that forever affected each and every one of us. No, we were not all in the vehicle that rolled over on the turnpike leaving Topeka. It was just one of us, my brother.

I’m not exactly sure of all the details as it happened 25 years ago. I do remember my parents, his wife and myself rushing to the hospital upon hearing my brother had been in a single car accident. He and his passengers were all thrown from the vehicle. I don’t remember if the passengers were wearing seat belts, but unfortunately, I know my brother wasn’t for sure. All the passengers survived and were able to walk away with minimal injuries. But my brother’s head was injured when he was thrown from the car, causing a traumatic brain injury. 

He was in a coma where he stayed for two weeks until my parents made the decision to remove his life support. We were prepared to say good-bye, but when the machines that helped him breath were turned off, he started breathing on his own. Since he had been in the Army, he was able to be transferred to a VA traumatic brain injury facility in Iowa where he spent the next four months recovering. His wife had not been to see him since the first few days in the hospital. Shortly after the accident when she learned of the extent of his injuries, she filed for divorce. When he was able to leave the hospital, my parents brought him home to live with them.

His life and ours had forever been changed. My parents’ lives had changed from being empty nesters for a few years with a new home and looking forward to new adventures, to being primary care givers to their son. He had to learn how to do the very basic tasks of independent living again. His brain injury affected his vision, speech, left arm movement and his left leg.

I can safely say that my parents have earned lots of feathers for their angel wings in heaven. They gave up their lives to take care of my brother. Not only did it affect them, but it affected me, my children and every family activity we have done for the last 25 years. We have to worry - is where we are going handicap accessible? Can he get in and out when stairs are involved? How do we get the wheelchair in and out of the car? Who is going to push him or help him?  Is handicap parking available?  I can tell you that quite often the handicap parking is full, so we have to get him out and situated, then go park somewhere else while he waits on us.

It's not all been difficult, because we have learned that you either laugh or cry, and often, we do both. Humor came to our family as a way of coping. Often my brother, who is fairly independent in spite of his disabilities, will get into situations where he will need rescued. One year while camping he tipped his scooter over in a ditch and was yelling “man down!” until some other campers came to his rescue. We still use that phrase liberally. There is never a dull moment with him as he is very determined to get where he wants to go one way or another, regardless of the impact to anyone else. Another common phrase we often say is, “gravity is on your side,” because he seems to fall quite often. Many times, these falls require outside assistance from the local fire department to get him up.

Dad passed away last year, and Mom continues to be his primary caregiver. It is getting difficult for her to meet his daily needs, of entertaining him, getting him to appointments, taking him shopping, etc. We are now trying to figure out how alternative care and support for him will look in the future.

The point of my story is that your decision to not wear a seat belt may or may not cost you your life. Something you may not have considered is that it could cause you to have severe life-altering injuries that change not only your future, but those of your friends and family – forever.

I hope you will choose to buckle up.


Patty Schalk is an Applications Developer Supervisor at KDOT in Topeka.



Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Why I remind myself to stay alert while driving

 By Tim Potter

Tim Potter

It was a good thing I noticed that the vehicle several car lengths in front of me was starting to slow down.

That was my first cue to stay alert.

I was on a straight four-lane divided highway in Reno County on a recent afternoon cruising at the speed limit, 65 mph. Right after I spotted the car slowing down ahead, I noticed a motorcycle closing in behind me.

The motorcycle was going noticeably faster than my car and the car directly in front of me and a third car to the left and ahead of me.

I was in the outside lane, already slowing to keep distance from the car directly in front of me. The motorcycle shot around me, then suddenly veered in between me and the decelerating car ahead. That car was now flashing a right turn signal as it approached a side road.

I realized the motorcyclist was not going to slow enough in time.

I heard the sudden concussion of the motorcycle crunching into the car bumper.

In my mind’s snapshot, the motorcyclist bounced and rolled in a churning swirl of hair, jacket and jeans -- but no helmet. Right in front of me.

I don’t consciously remember commanding myself: “OK! Avoid hitting the fallen motorcyclist by pulling to the left right now!” But that’s how I reacted.

I realized afterward that if I hadn’t been alert to what was ahead, then behind, then in front, I might have run over the motorcyclist after he fell and plowed into the car he hit.

I veered away to the inside lane in time to avoid striking them, then pulled back right, slowing down onto the shoulder. I stopped on the grass, pressed the emergency flashers, grabbed my cell phone and race-walked back 100 yards to the crash scene. As I strode, I called 911 and gave the few details to the operator. She said she was already talking to someone else and could let me go.

I immediately felt relief when I noticed the motorcyclist was sitting up and off the highway. I had been mentally prepared to give, or help with, CPR -- thinking he might have been knocked unconscious and might not be breathing.

He appeared maybe a little dazed. He was bleeding, but not profusely, from his scalp, his hair partly matted in blood. I seem to recall gashes around his eyebrow, on his hand. He was trying to punch in a number on his cell phone. His motorcycle, which didn’t look all that smashed considering the impact, was on its side and pouring a stream of gasoline onto the highway pavement.

He stood up, saying he needed to tend to his motorcycle. But I quietly urged him to sit down, telling him that he might be in shock. It was wickedly hot, the sun searing.

I filled out a witness statement for a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper as emergency medical workers treated the motorcyclist and placed him on a stretcher.

Later, I confirmed from the trooper’s crash report that the motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet and that, as the report stated, he was “following too closely to slow down.”

For me, it was a sobering reminder: the importance of staying alert, watching the speed and everything in front and behind, not following too closely and being ready to take an evasive move in a flash.

As the troopers say: Things happen fast.


Tim Potter is a Public Affairs Manager for KDOT in Hutchinson


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Never more thankful for child safety seats

Kristen's two little girls were in their child safety seats in the back seat when the car was hit.

By Kirsten Byrd

 It was a normal, beautiful day in August 2015. We had just gone shopping in Winfield and were on our way home to Udall. My husband was driving, and I was in the passenger seat. Our two little girls, aged 2 and 5 months, were in the back seat.

My husband noticed a sheriff’s car sitting on the side of the highway, so he slowed down to pass by. As we did, a truck that had been following us going an estimated 75 mph ran smack into the rear end of our 4-door car.

We were in shock, but the first thing we did was check to see if each other and our daughters were ok. Our 2-year-old exclaimed, “there is ice everywhere!” It was the rear windshield all over her and our 5-month-old baby.

As scary as it was, everyone, including the driver of the truck, was ok, other than some bruises and whiplash. I have never been more thankful for the rear-facing infant seat my baby was in, and the forward-facing convertible seat my toddler was in.

We had several people stop to see if we were ok and to help comfort us and the girls. Thankfully the police officer was there to witness the whole thing and get emergency services on the scene quickly. We now have three girls, and the younger two are in child restraints. It will stay that way until they can safely ride without a booster or car seat.


Kirsten Byrd now resides in Independence where she works as a Management Information Systems Clerk for the Tri-County Special Education Interlocal 607.