Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Capitol Tour in Des Moines

After we got our new drivers licenses, Phil and I rejoined the WINs in Des Moines, IA. Of course, the first thing on the agenda was to go see the capitol.

We were unable to sign up for a tour ahead of time, but were pleasantly surprised that we had no trouble getting one when we got there.

On the staircase, six mosaics in arched panels sit above a mural painting, "Westward," an idealized representation of the coming of the people who made Iowa.

The mosaics were made in Venice from small pieces of colored stone.

If you look closely at the right side of the painting, "Westward," you can see images of the settlers among the foliage.

One of the most unique things about the capitol is that the interior features 29 different types of imported and domestic marble.

A straight-up view of the inside of the rotunda. Lots of 23-karat gold leaf both inside and out. Completed in 1886, the building has been under a major renovation for a LONG time.

Some of us climbed up to the rotunda. Here's the view from there of the 3 lower floors.

And a closer view of the flag at the top. It isn't painted on there, it hangs by strings.

After that, it was time for lunch. We went to B&B Grocery, highly recommended, and most of us ordered their special, a pork tenderloin. Remember, we're in the Midwest...

The owner was a very nice guy, and really funny. He was kind of intrigued with us, and took a picture to put on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Short Trip to Omaha

After Kansas City, Phil and I went off on our own for a short trip to Omaha. We stayed at Glenn Cunningham Park, where we had stayed a couple times before.

The reason we're here is so that we could make a day trip up to the SE corner of South Dakota. I needed to renew my drivers license, and Phil was becoming a new SD resident.

The only tourist thing we did in Omaha was go to Lauritzen Gardens.

They had 3 huge, fairly new greenhouses. It was very warm and humid inside them - even the tikis were sweating.

The outdoor gardens were also very nice.


But I thought the neatest thing in the gardens was a huge model railroad track.

It seemed to be made out of twigs and tree stumps, and went on forever.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

More of the Kansas City Area

While the WINs were staying in Kansas City, KS, we visited lots of attractions in the surrounding area. First, our host, Donna, took us to the dairy farm where she grew up in Oskaloosa, KS.


We were given a wonderful tour by Donna's cousin, on the left, who now owns the farm.

The cows are milked twice a day, and the tour was timed so we got to see it - up close and personal.

Donna's cousins kids also helped show us around. Believe it or not, this is a newborn calf.

The "babies" are fed from a fake udder, with timed meals.

The kids also showed off their 6 little kittens, maybe hoping we'd fall in love with them and take a couple home with us.

We also visited the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe, KS. Since most of the buildings were closed, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

At least for a while...

Then on to the Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs, KS. If you lost your marbles, this is where you come to replace them.

They have live demonstrations showing how they make the fancier marbles.

They only do the demonstrations for kids groups, but we snuck in.

The finished products. Each of these takes about an hour to make.

And then, one last stop at one of the Kansas Sampler stores, which were started by Donna's sister. You can buy anything Kansas-related here!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Arabia Steamboat - The Ultimate Rusty Stuff!

Our next stop was Kansas City, where we went to the Arabia Steamboat Museum. On its last journey, the Arabia left Saint Louis in 1856, bound for Omaha.

Ten miles north of Kansas City, she hit a log snag and sank in 15 feet of water. The 130 passengers and crew survived, but the Arabia and her 200-ton cargo were lost to the river.

132 years later, in 1988, five steamboat enthusiasts from the Kansas City area successfully recovered the Arabia and her cargo. The river had changed course since 1856, so the ship was recovered in a field.

Amazingly, one of those 5 enthusiasts was in the museum the day we were there, and told us many great stories.

The museum is full of pieces of the ship, and tons of the cargo, including one of the 2 28-foot paddle-wheels.

And the stern, including the rudder.

The 200-ton cargo consisted of thousands of items intended for the settlements of the American frontier.

Kitchen items -

Tools -

Even lots and lots of shoes. These pictures are just a sampling of what is in the museum.

The only life lost on the ship was that of a mule. The skeleton was found tied to a lumber mill jack on the boat's stern.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lots of Stuff to See Here in Kansas!

Before the WINs joined me at Cheney State Park, I drove into Wichita to do laundry, and stumbled onto the greatest laundromat in the world. Carpeted, clean, TVs, playground for kids, and a billion machines.

When the WINs showed up, we went on several adventures. The first was the Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson.

They take you on an elevator 650' down in total darkness. We then went on a tram ride through walls of salt that stretch for miles.

The mine was carved out of ancient salt deposits formed 275 million years ago. We learned that we will never run out of salt. Even though this salt is mostly used on roads, it can be eaten. But they repeatedly told us not to lick the walls...

There was also a museum down there, with lots of rusty stuff.

Lots of garbage left over from many years ago.

Don't know why I found this so fascinating.

We also went to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. There is tons of stuff to see here, including a replica of the space shuttle.

The museum basically tells the story of the race to space, from WWII to the present day. I don't usually like museums that much, but this one was great. They also have a planetarium and IMAX theater.

I especially had a good time playing with the infrared screen. Clearly, Phil is hotter than I am...

And we also went to the Dillon Nature Center, which was very nice.

I was totally distracted by these cute little Canada Geese, which had just left the nest.

Aren't they adorable? Too bad they grow up to be "rats with wings."