Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 4: Auntie Em!

We headed out of Kansas City at 8:16 in the morning and the original plan was to drive till we got to Salina, Kansas. But, I had picked up a flyer for a store called the Kansas Sampler, and on our way out of town saw a billboard for it. And, I really wanted an Oz souvenir. So, we pulled over and did some internet searches for the store. We found a location in Lawrence, Kansas and detoured to there.

As we were driving into Lawrence, we passed a few stores for beads, gems, and such that all had a certain feel to their name and signs. The Jedi said, “why are there hippie stores in the middle of Kansas?”

Then we hit the main downtown strip.

“Oh look,” said the Jedi, “it’s a little hippie mecca.”

“It’s all the sunflowers,” I reasoned. “Living around so many sunflowers just fills you up with peace and love and joy. I wouldn’t mind living in a hippie mecca.”

The Jedi’s response was, “I’ve got news for you; we are never living in a hippie mecca.”

The store was full of cute sunflowers themed objects, Oz themed objects, and other Kansas stuff. I got my refrigerator magnet and a little silver bell for a friend. Sweetling got a plush tin man and an Oz postcard for her collection. Toa got a plush flying monkey, and the Jedi bought a t-shirt for Toa which reads, “Mommy’s Lil Flying Monkey”.

We left Lawrence considerably behind our original drive schedule. Also in the morning a wind picked up and we traveled under a high wind advisory. The sunny day turned to a hazy one with all the dust blowing. The horizon was a brown fog and the semi’s on the road were waggling and swaying slightly in the wind.

We hit Salina for lunch a little after noon, instead of an hour before noon. We had lunch at Spangles, which had great food in a fun 50’s dinner décor. It had a working jukebox, but it played CDs instead of the little vinyl records. (I know, no one even makes the vinyl records anymore.) I led Sweetling into the restaurant with her eyes closed, since we had to walk directly into the wind from the van. As we ate, I overheard two men near our table discussing the merits of "putting in 15 or 20 acres of cherry trees." We had dessert at Spangle too, which I was particularly pleased with, since their vanilla soft serve was lactose free. Toa and I split a Reece’s mudslide.

We left the restaurant, still behind, but we still went to the Smokey Hill Museum. I had wanted to go there for their recreated pioneer home. Inside the museum was a replica of the first cabin built in Salina in 1858. It was based off of a photograph and a salvaged corner of the original.

The museum also held a room that was a history of women’s fashion in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I did not photograph every dress in the room. I think that shows great restraint.

 Toa and Sweetling liked the big bucket of real buffalo parts.

It was 3:21 before we left Salina, and that left a LOT of Kansas still to drive through. We skipped our second planned stop for the day with the intention of driving straight through to dinner. We popped The Wizard of Oz in for the kids, because you have to watch The Wizard of Oz in Kansas, and away we went.

The wind kept up its intensity for a while but died down after an hour or so. The day turned warm, in the low 80s, and lovely. I was surprised at how very few paved roads there were. Nearly every road I saw was a reddish tinged dirt. Somewhere in the middle of Kansas we saw a fighter jet sitting by the side of the highway. It was right next to an exit, so we got off and went over to take a couple of pictures. The Jedi said he thinks it is an F-14. It was part of a little park. The rest of the park had a few picnic tables and a couple little grills set in concrete. And an F-14.

We stopped for dinner in Colby. Originally, we were going to hit a steakhouse. But, after sitting in the car all day and with a long drive still ahead of us, even the Jedi didn’t want a big steak dinner. Instead, we would up at a little China Buffet. I was dubious, but the Jedi went in and checked it out first and said it looked good. So we went in, and it was incredible. There were a few residents of Colby eating there who were friendly and pleasant. The place was clean, neat, and appealing. The waiter was absolutely wonderful. His English was limited, but his heart and his attitude was beyond fault. Toa of Boy loves lo mein, but the lo mein at the buffet table was full of cabbage, which Toa hates. So the kitchen made him a special plate of beef lo mein without cabbage. The quality of food overall was very good and very tasty. I was so impressed for a tiny little place in a tiny little town in Kansas.

From Colby, we drove to Goodland, because I just had to see the “world’s largest easel” painted with a copy of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. We got there just at sunset, and the wind had turned cold. The Jedi had to snap pictures for me, cause I was shivering so hard I couldn’t hold the camera still.

Having taken a few photos, we drove off into the Kansas sunset.

We crossed the border into Colorado at 8:20, but I have no idea if that was 8:20 mountain time or central time. The important thing to know about crossing the state border was that Susan got to say, “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore!”

After driving for an hour or more, we needed to pull over for a restroom stop. Ha. I never knew eastern Colorado was so sparse. The Jedi said it felt like we were driving in a tunnel. It was pitch black. Occasionally there were a few lights in the distance off to one side or the other, but there were hardly any other cars on the road in either direction, no streetlights, no horizon glow. Nothing. We entertained ourselves watching for the occasional tumbleweed that would be blown across the highway, illuminated briefly by our headlights, and disappear into the blackness.

Finally, we saw an exit that had a gas symbol on its sign, so we pulled off. We saw a few light up to the north, but a sign said “business center”, and pointed to a road to the west. I thought maybe the road to the rest curved around to those lights in the north, so we took the road. It quickly became a gravel road to nowhere, so we turned around and got back on the highway.

We had better luck at the next exit, where there were two gas stations and a Wendy’s. The Wendy’s was closed, but the manager came out and opened the door for us so that we could go in and go to the restroom. The wind was back with a vengeance and it was bitterly cold. While the kids and I were in the bathroom, the Jedi rearranged the van so that they could sleep the rest of the drive. The Wendy’s manager said they were expecting snow, and to be careful, because there was a wind advisory out.

So, we drove the rest of the way to Denver in the dark, in the snow, in a strong wind. We got to our hotel a little after 11:30 mountain time. Very tired.

Read from Day 1
Back to Day 3
On to Day 5

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