Sunday, September 14, 2014

Japan Festival in Springfield, MO

Lydia found a cool Japan festival for us to go to in Springfield, MO. I figured it was really a ploy to get me to wear my sweet yukata (a casual summer version of the kimono) in public so I couldn't disappoint her. Walking around in it while shopping for groceries afterwards was even more hilarious.

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I bought it while shopping in Kyoto. No big deal. We had some sushi and some mochi, and a couple little imported candies. It was sponsored by their sister city program with a city in Japan that's only a couple train stops away from Ashikaga, so that was a funny coincidence.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oklahoma State Fair and a Pow-Wow

We were on a state fair streak and it was hard to stop. Next up was the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City.

One of the charming aspects of living in tornado alley is that you'll constantly be reminded of your impending doom by all of the storm shelters for sale everywhere.

Our status as recent St. Louis refugees made seeing this baby arch even more excellent. A fairground I visited in Colombia had its own arch too. It must be a thing.

Gateway to corndogs.

In an odd reversal of the order of things, Lydia was the one buying weird food this time. She bought this fried giant gummy bear on a stick. It was pretty atrocious.

From any spot in the fair you could look up and see this giant spike pointing toward the sky. It looked like one of those rides that whips you up and down really fast, but this one was never doing anything like that. Just standing there. We had to check it out.

"The Space Tower is not operational" is the saddest sentence in the English language. 

It looked pretty darn cool. It seemed more like a moving observation deck than a ride where you lose your lunch, but still very awesome. It opened in 1968 and closed in 2010 due to mechanical problems.

I thought this police lifeguard chair was pretty hilarious.

It was a slight bit chilly on this particular day, so I was responsible and wore a sweatshirt. Of course the one I brought had MIZZOU written across the front in bright gold letters. I was confronted with my mistake a couple of times, including having a gentleman inform me that "Mizzou sucks!" very loudly while walking by.

On our way back to Missouri, home of sucky universities, we passed the Wyandotte Nation Pow-Wow about 5 miles East of Wyandotte, OK on Highway 60. I hadn't the slightest idea what to expect at a pow-wow but I would say it's a bit like a Native American county fair with no rides. There are plenty of booths selling food and crafty stuff.

The main event was happening at the center of the grounds. I would say it was shaped like a doughnut. There was a group singing and drumming in the center and various types of performers danced in a track around them. Then surrounding them on the outside was the audience. I thought it was pretty interesting but didn't really know what any of it meant. Each participant had a number pinned on their costume as it was a competition of some sort.

We had an "Indian taco", which was pretty much a taco salad on top of a piece of frybread. Frybread is essentially a fried think slab of bread, sort of like a fat tortilla. According to Wikipedia frybread "was created in 1864 using the flour, sugar, salt and lard that was given to them by the United States government" during relocation. It is the official state bread of South Dakota.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Karate Kids

Today we drove to stay the night at the nearby Indigo Sky Hotel and Casino over the border in Oklahoma. Fun was had. On the way out of town we noticed that yet another little festival was occurring on our little town square.

This show alone made it worth the visit.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A Trip to Omaha's Zoo

I'd read the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium was a unique zoo. I usually avoid zoos while traveling because I assume they'll all be the same, but not here folks. This zoo has the world's largest indoor desert and the largest nocturnal exhibit. The nocturnal exhibit in particular was pretty mind blowing.

We started off at the Desert Dome. Known by me as... "The THUNDER DOME!!"

I really liked the monstrous feet on the African Jacana.

I would say that it was my first time seeing the majority of the animals in the nocturnal exhibit. It was so cool!

These three banded armadillos were funny because they scurried around so fast but their armor concealed theirs legs, producing this weird gliding effect. We agreed they either looked like Roombas or...

...those Buzzy Beetle guys from Super Mario Bros.

An aardvark relishing his premium spot at the front of the dictionary.

Lemurs I think?

A peccary licking his way through a bunch of fruit frozen into a big block of ice.

A few friends sharing popcorn.

 It's probably bad but apes always remind me of hobos: surly, napping whenever/wherever they want to, begging for food, and difficult to keep eye contact with.

The zoo was so awesome that my phone ran out of photo space for the first time ever I believe. We skipped the aquarium and large parts of the zoo just because we spent so much time and energy with what we did see. I would definitely go back.

On the way home, halfway between Kansas City and Joplin is the small town of Rich Hill. The town is the subject of a recent documentary of the same name, which follows the pretty rough lives of a few teenagers that live there.

Rich Hill is the classic post boom mining town.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Kite Party, and then Finally Omaha

Our intrepid adventurers had just awoken in the middle of rural Nebraska and thought to themselves "why the hell are we still in the middle of rural Nebraska?"

We spent the night in Kearney, Nebraska. I briefly considered driving all the way up to Sioux City, South Dakota but I couldn't find anything there that would justify the trip.

Well, my ratty copy of 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die had helpfully supplied an interesting destination: the Sandhills. The Sandhills are kind of cool. They are giant sand dunes that have been "stabilized" by grass growing on top of them. If you weren't paying attention you might just think they were weird hills. Anyway, crops can't be grown on these things so they serve as grazing land for cattle.

The Great Platte River Road Archway looks like what happens when you mix one of those highway visitor centers with a museum. It looked cool from the outside but was kind of expensive so we didn't go in.

I got a few pictures of the Sandhills but they mostly just look like hills.

We stopped for lunch at a pretty interesting place in Callaway, NE. I mostly stopped there because it was the only restaurant in town I could find.

There were all kinds of different cattle brands burned onto the ceiling. Despite it being lunch time they had a hearty buffet that we hopped in on. There was fried chicken and several medleys of meat and potatoes and such. Lydia said it was like cowboy food.

Fun fact: medley, melee, and meddle are all based the on medieval Latin misculare "to mix". I did not know that.

Once we were done eating I asked the proprietor in my best medieval Latin: "hey, which way to the kite flight?"

The Callaway Kite Flight is a Callaway-sized big ole deal. First of all, it is sanctioned by the American Kitefliers Association. Yes that's apparently a real thing. Admission was $2 a person and I was in the middle of doing that slow move for my wallet thing when I really want Lydia to pay for something when the ticket takers just waved us in. It was going to start raining any moment and they felt bad taking our money. I think that was a nice Nebraska memory for me.

The 17 people at this event were apparently enough to draw a Sasse for Senate campaign bus out from its lair. I wish so desperately that it is pronounced "Sassy". When Sassy launched his bid for U.S. Senate he said of Obamacare: "[i]f it lives, America as we know it will die." Classic Sassy.

I turned my head to look at kites for like 30 seconds and Lydia had already bought ice cream. You really have to watch her.

We weren't there long when the sky started spitting and we hit the road.

We took a quick peek at the capitol building in Lincoln and continued on to Omaha. Another fun fact is that Omaha was the capital city originally but for political reasons people were planning on moving the capital to nearby Lancaster. Well the powers that be in Omaha got the town of Lancaster renamed after the recently assassinated President Lincoln because they thought it would deter Confederate sympathizers in the state legislature from making it the new capital. They thought wrong apparently.

After finally arriving in Omaha we strolled around in Lauritzen Gardens.

I was excited to show off my spankin' new Nebraska state fair t-shirt to the envious public.

Our hotel downtown and within walking distance of the nice Old Market shopping/dining area.

Even the Goodwill here was fancy.

Everything inside was 99 cents, and there was a giant art installation thing on the wall.

We had a really nice dinner at a seafood restaurant. I figured we'd eaten so many corn dogs and other junk that we'd earned a nice meal. I found a coupon online for free oyster appetizers so that was fun.

We saw this limited release Irish movie Calvary at an artsy movie theater. I liked it a whole lot. It was a classic dinner and a movie, but it was a fancy version of both that we can't get in Neosho. We would go to these sort of places in St. Louis so frequently that it wasn't a big deal, but we both agreed that we appreciated the experience much more since it had become a rarity.