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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Historic Site, a Museum, and a Fair

Most of what we did today we completely made up along the way and it all turned out roses. After waking up in Lawrence, Kansas we did some strolling along a street with lots of very college town shops.

We both agreed that the neighborhood reminded us of the Loop in St. Louis only much less scary. I even got to do some profitable book shopping. Hurray!


We then hit the road and headed towards our only actually planned destination: Wamego, KS.


We weren't driving long before we hit our first detour: a sign for the Brown v. Board of Education
National Historic Site in Topeka. It sounded cool plus Lydia is a teacher so I figured she'd be even more interested.




This creepy black baby-doll had was accompanied by a sign that read:

This doll is one of four that Kenneth and Mamie Clark used to conduct their study on the damage done to black children by branding them with the inferior status implied by segregation. Starting in 1939, the Clarks used these dolls to test some 200 children, including 16 black children aged 6 to 9 in rural Clarendon County, South Carolina, the week before the Briggs case was argued.
 "The conclusion I was forced to reach was that the children in Clarendon County, like other human beings who are subjected to an obviously inferior status in the society in which they live, have been definitely harmed in the development of their personalities." Dr. Kenneth Clark testimony, Briggs v. Elliot, 1951.


When we finally made it to Wamego we popped in to the OZ Museum. The Wizard of Oz is credited as the only time the state of Kansas has ever been or will ever be mentioned in a movie ever. Ever.

From the outside, I was a bit iffy on whether the OZ Museum was going to be worth the $8 admission, but it ended up being pretty darn cool.




They had lots of neat memorabilia from the books as well as the movie.


I liked Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum's life story because he was really hustling. He seemed to be doing lots of random odd jobs until he found something completely awesome to make his career. At one point he was a traveling axle grease salesman. It doesn't get much worse than that.


There was a little sign in the museum that explained that the Emerald City in the books was likely inspired by the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, often referred to as the "White City". Baum traveled to Chicago to see the fair. An additional fun fact was that in Baum's first book the city wasn't green, but anyone who entered was forced to wear green tinted glasses which created the illusion that the city was emerald. That sneaky wizard!






Even the museum's closed sign was fun!


Across the street there was a nice little yellow brick road leading to a park.




Well we only had a couple of things planned to do in Omaha and we still had an extra day to burn, so we decided to tour a bit of Nebraska's hinterland. In particular the Sandhills sounded like they might be worth a look. Why not? Well as we drove I passed a billboard for the Nebraska State Fair on the highway. I noticed that it was in progress, but didn't think much of it. A little while later we stopped at a Walmart for some snacks or something, and just for giggles I checked where the fair was going to be held. It was taking place in Grand Island, Nebraska. The city we had just stopped in. We both laughed when we saw the sign in the Walmart parking lot that read: "State Fair Shuttle". Let's go!




We arrived pretty late in the day due to the total lack of planning that had taken place, so we only had an hour before all of the exhibitions closed. We booked it.




This was a combine simulator which may win for dullest video game ever.


Clown garbage can. Who's laughing now?




Lydia wanted to walk around and look at this building full of quilts. I was glad she suggested it too because there were lots of patterns and fabrics and each color had a really significant zzzzzzzz.........


I had to admit that this Lego Star Wars quilt was pretty killer.


Sky ride!


There was a building full of pigs and cows about to or recently having given birth. There was a crowd gathered around one mother pig that looked like she was about ready to start launching little walking ham sandwiches at any moment. I can't say I've ever actually witnessed any sort of birth take place and I didn't want to ruin my winning streak today. I enjoyed watching these little guys battle for milk though.


There were some recent chick escapees present as well.


Why not?




This sheep needed some supervision. Not my souvenir cup!


How would you like to be a corn judge?


Once we were satisfied with seeing every last display we could relax and stuff our faces with fair food.




I read about the stuffed cucumbers while still on the shuttle bus and was happy to find them. There were a couple choices... chicken salad and a something else... but I chose seafood salad. It was really delicious and unusual, and its healthiness was completely out of fair-food character. The guy pumped it full of filling with like a food-grade caulk gun. Appetizing.


We had a beef sundae, which was beef, mashed potatoes, cheese, and a cherry tomato with some toast on the side. People used to call me "beef sundae" in college.




What a day!