It turns out, there is plenty to do in Kansas.
For starters they have lots of community pools and they let cyclists in for free for showers and a swim. I spent the day at the pool, reading a book and hopping in and out of the water to cool off. It was absolutely wonderful. I could nearly pretend that it was the ocean where most of my family is currently vacationing.
Honest to God if I were near a real airport I would be at the beach right now. Not that I'm not enjoying Kansas, but sometimes a girl just craves the ocean. I've been landlocked for far to long. I have no idea how people live their entire lives without being near an ocean.
Alright so there are community pools.
There are also restrooms. This is a big deal I swear. A lot of the towns in Kansas will let you camp in their city park and they even put bathrooms in for the travelers. So, we've been sleeping on cushy grass next to a place with lights and running water that we can use. They're in the strangest of places too. Nicest restroom I've ever seen and it's right outside of a town of 70 people.
Then I went to a fort! They have a fort from the 1800s that is fully restored and preserved. Fort Larned is it's name. The park rangers were as always super nice. I think it must be amazing to work in some of the most beautiful land in the country doing what you love to do. It makes them all smiley.
Well the rangers take turns dressing up in period costume and talking to the people walking through. I got to put on a soldiers coat and hat for a picture. It was a really nice place.
Then yesterday I did something even more exciting... an Air and Space Museum!!! Turns out Kansas has the cosmosphere, which has an Imax and a Planetarium. They repair and accurately restore machinery used by NASA and put it on display.
What's really neat is they helped make all the stuff for the movie Apollo 13 look accurate. According to them everything used in the movie is accurate. So, they have big shuttles outside and you can step out and they play a recording that makes it sounds like it's about to take off while you look up and up and up at it.
They had an entire section on the rocketry developed by the germans during WWII which led into a section on the atomic era and the cold war and the space race. They even had a section of the Berlin Wall.
Alright so it went from German rocketry to the Cold War to the Space Race to the first people in space and an Exhibit on the Apollo flights and walking on the moon. They had the duck and cover videos and the whole broadcast of the first moon landing.
Oh man! They also had a planetarium, which I have always in my life wanted to go to. They sit you in reclining chairs and you look at the ceiling while they turn out the lights and project the night sky on the ceiling. Then they point out constellations that I've always never been able to see and draw pictures around them so you can visualize it. They went through the night sky in the northern hemisphere in all four seasons and then ended with a picture of the sky that night and what to look for at what time. Super cool.
They had an Imax film about creating airliners for the 21st century which was neat because you got an idea of how airplanes were made, but kind of silly because it was basically a big advertisement for Boeing.
And they had Dr. Goddard's lab, where a 7th grade science teacher from the local school lit things on fire. She dipped a cotton ball into liquid oxygen and then set it on fire (boom!) and she made and set off small rockets while explaining the very basics of what makes them work. It was really cute.
Oh! They also had pictures of famous events in early space flight with some of the famous astronauts who wrote quotes and signed them.
The moral of this story: Space museums are as exciting as dinosaur museums.
There is something about air and space museums that always makes me cry, I think it has to do with the sheer amount of human dreams and potential contained within one space that does it. It's like the space shuttles exude the raw emotion put into their creation. Especially the early ones, where crazy people risked their lives to test fly these things that had never existed before because they had this bizzare dream that they could fly, that they could have the audacity to go to space.
Man used to look up at the stars and claim them the territory of the gods and these crazy people went there and claimed it as within their grasp.
So... yeah. I love air and space museums. The only thing better would be if they had hot air balloons. I think I'll be the first woman to fly a hot air balloon on mars. (Only two people are going to get that joke.)
Alright, so there are swimming pools and forts and spaceships in Kansas. What else?
There is homemade icecream, which I'm not supposed to eat but I did anyway. There are gas stations that serve everything from cold cuts to homemade food to fast food to go where the locals come and get a cup of coffee and hang out for an hour. There are always people to talk to when you walk in.
There are also local museums. These are super great because you get to wander around with someone who is volunteering there and probably grew up in the community. I wandered around a local museum today with a really nice lady who made up the displays herself. She played the music box for me and let me touch things I probably wasn't supposed to. My inner history/ancient studies minor was cringing at being allowed to touch things I knew I wasn't supposed to, but it was a typical case of the tragedy of the commons. Everyone else was touching these public artifacts, so they were going to be destoryed anyway. They were all out and not preserved at all and oh to get to touch them before they're destroyed! I never get to touch them at home.
We played with the suitcase organ and the thing that looks like binnoculars which you put old pictures in front of and look through. I got to go in an old jail and stand in it and look at all the pretty ladies things.
She was very nice and gave me an excellent tour. I highly recommend community museums, they are so neat.
Now I'm in another library, it's rather new, so I think it's still being put together and added to, but It's very open and clean like all the other libraries I have been in.
I am mildly considering how much I still want to be a librarian, but I hear jobs are hard to come by.
Anyway, things to do in Kansas: community swimming pools, cosmosphere, community museums, homemade everything delicious, but especially icecream.
Oh and I almost forgot, Kansas has really interesting storms, so if you like watching them you don't have to wait long to see one. Apparently the storm chasers come rolling through here a lot. They get motorcyclists, cyclists and storm chasers through these parts. They look at you and guess which one you are. So far they have always asked me if i'm a cyclist. This is because the motorcyclists wear more black (i'm trying to stay cool and am in white), and the storm chasers look super intense and come running into libraries demanding internet and coffee and this and that and oh man we have to go go go there's a storm go go go! I am on a leisurely vacation and so they hazard a guess at cyclist.
I do believe that is all I have to say about Kansas for now, I'll let you know if I find anything else out in particular.
I guess I never did do a reflection on Colorado.
Colorado has a lot of mountains. The people in Colorado that we met tended towards the quirky with quirky buildings and coffee shops and stores. Outdoorsy reigned supreme, with many communities of people who moved out there because they love skiing and mountain biking and hiking. There are hikers who hike the rockies and cyclists who are biking over them and they all converge on this one place called the transamerica trail.
It's interesting to say the least. Colorado was probably the state that I wanted to spend much more time in. I would have liked to take a side trip into the mountains (Not a hike up a fourteener without any equipment while everyone else has base camps and ice picks and all sorts of gear, in that case I'll take another massage instead).
Alright, that's it, I'm off to find food.
I will say this about Kansas, if you're driving through, have a book on tape to listen to. It makes the scenery more interesting.
Signed most estatically,
One Shelly Kessler, Crazy Moon Woman