Saturday, May 4, 2013

EPIC ROAD TRIP: Day One, Part One: In Search of Tulips and Tacoz

After a delicious breakfast of cereal and fruit and English muffins and assorted other complementary breakfast foods, we hit the road once again for Wamego, Kansas and their annual Tulip Festival, which we were eagerly looking forward to!

Upon arrival, we noticed something a little...odd...

No, not whatever it is Nikki's doing in this picture.


We just laughed and kept driving to downtown. So there weren't tulips at the sign. Maybe they had some good ones blooming in town. Maybe they had had some imported for the festival.

Nope. Just disappointment.

And melodrama from Nikki, of course.

Some of the flowers were SO CLOSE to blooming! We kept coaxing them to grow suddenly, but it didn't work.

The tulips seemed like just an excuse to have a festival though. The whole town of Wamego (and a lot of tourists like us) were out in the sunshine selling and buying crafts, playing games, eating delicious food, and experiencing everything that the park had to offer.

The large pond in the middle of the park offered visitors serene, gorgeous views. I bet you could get some model boats or something and zoom them all around in the water. If only we'd had one with us; I'd love to go yachting!

There were historic statues like this one around the park too. We looked at the outdoor ones and visited the Historical Society's museum (in next entry). It was so neat seeing how a town like Wamego used to be!

We started our tour of the grounds by supporting small businesses and SHOPPING!! First stop: a tent that was filled to overflowing with different kinds of jellies, jams, and quick bread mixes, all homemade.

That Peerless Pear was AWESOME. They sold spicy versions of some fruit jellies too! All were a little too spicy for my taste, but I have a sensitive palate, so don't discount them because of my review.
The business is called Sticky Spoons, and good news!! THEY DELIVER!! There were so many flavors, as you can see. As I mentioned above, they also sell bread mixes in cute little fabric sacks. OH! And they use old sugar bags as their shopping bags instead of just a plastic bag! How cool is that?! 

Here I am with the owner, rocking my "best friends" ring that Lauren, Lisa, and I got at Carlos O'Kelly's the night before. (None of the rings fit Nikki's fingers, so she didn't get to be best friends with us. NYAH!)

We also visited a tent where a gentleman cut wood pieces into really cool picture frames for people's names and for pet names! Lauren was surprised and pleased to find a frame for her dog Sneakers, who's the unofficial mascot of her dog-walking and dog-sitting business Pawsitively Pooches. (Nikki and Steve use her and her employees to walk Eva twice a week, which is great, because that's 20 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday that Tasha and I get to nap without Eva wanting to play/hog all the covers.)

The company, called Name Frame Place, is run by Kevin & Deb Ledford.
They make custom frames too!

AND!! Their business card is made of wood!

Another great vendor we bought things from was a woman named Amanda who sells chain mail jewelry! We all bought rings, but she also sells bracelets and earrings and fairie wings, and "clothes"! You can buy her awesome stuff here: Everyone should buy something from her and her husband! They make chain mail stuff together while watching TV and snuggling in the evenings. It's TOTALLY ADORABLE.


Hanging out with Amanda's husband, who's wearing an AWESOME outfit with the Punisher's logo on it!

After we finished spending all of our money, it was time to GET. SILLY.


Keep it movin'. Nothin' to see here. Just an armadillo on a riding mower.

Let's go knock down a building so I can scoop up the debris!!

No, Lisa!! I'm not debris!!

They had some historic re-enactors at the festival who showed visitors how settlers at the time would make clothes and go hunting for food and procure other necessities. They also had some fun games that people could play. The most popular one was throwing an axe into a block of wood:

You got about three tries to hit the wood, I think.

Lauren, Lisa, and I vehemently denied Nikki the opportunity to play the game.
Nikki: "But if an 8-year-old can do it, I can too!"
Lisa: "That's the worst idea I've ever heard."
Lauren: "If there's something you should NEVER do, it's throw an axe."
Me: "I can't believe you think we'd let you get away with this."
Disappointed, she huffed away towards the petting zoo, which the girls had wanted to visit anyway.

The petting zoo was hosted by the local 4-H club, the kids showing off their rabbits, goats, llamas, and sheep. I was distracted from the get-go by a GIANT pooch in a cute tee shirt. Turns out...HER NAME IS CLAIRE!! She's the second Claire I've run into on my adventures.

We were all very happy to make our acquaintances. :)

Lisa had been freaking out (in a mature, adult way) all day about going to the petting zoo and petting the goats. She's NUTS for goats. She took a bunch of pictures and was all smiles.

I bet she'd TOTALLY be that crazy hippie lady that raises goats in her house in the city. They work really well as lawn mowers. They'll eat anything.

Toto's Tacoz on Urbanspoon After such a busy day, we were starting to get HUNGRY. The food trucks were offering delicious-smelling things - barbecue, hamburgers, sausage, hot dogs, chicken...basically nothing Lauren could eat. They also had funnel cake, and I REALLY campaigned to get funnel cake, but the second point of going to Wamego was to go to Toto's Tacoz and eat some Wizard of Oz-themed Mexican food.

 Nikki's tee-shirt says, "the taco is the most versatile fruit". Lisa has a matching one, but she forgot to bring it.

The line to get food was understandably long, so we spent time looking for all the little Totos they had hidden around the restaurant. Can you spot them? (Note: Some are easy to find, and some are hard!)

There were murals all over the restaurant. It was a really bright, fun place!

This one's pretty easy to find! ;)

Three amigos!

Flying monkey!!

Lisa and Nikki each got a Toto's taco; Lisa got hers with ground beef, and Nikki got hers with pulled chicken. SOOOOOOOOOOOO good! Lauren got a cheese quesadilla with salsa that she really loved.

It looks sooooooooooooooooooooooooo good! And it was!

Nikki rated it highly on so other people would know how great it is. Right before we left, we HAD to do a Wizard of Oz-themed photo shoot!

I'm Toto!! Lisa's an excellent lion. And Lauren looks like she'd be MUCH less annoying than the real Dorothy.

We got back on the road shortly after lunch and headed southeast towards Oklahoma City. Before I share THAT adventure with you though, I'm going to write an entry about the Wamego Historical Museum, which had a TON of really cool antiques in many that I felt it deserved its own entry!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

EPIC ROAD TRIP: Day 0.5 - The Ups and Downs of Kansas

The plan was for Nikki to leave work at noon and meet Lisa and Lauren at Lauren's house to pack the car and be on our way. We were going to set out no later than 1:00pm and make great time zooming through Kansas, where the weather would be lovely, and the sunflowers would be out, turning their faces towards the light.

But that was not to be.

First, Nikki had to clean out and vacuum her car. While she's been going through and removing the trash (mostly gum wrappers because she has an ADDICTION) periodically, she hasn't vacuumed (or washed/dusted) her car SINCE SHE MOVED ACROSS THE COUNTRY!! She says that there's "no point" because most of the dirt and all is from the prairie, and as soon as she'd clean it up, it'd just get dusty or muddy again. I blame it on laziness, frankly. ;p So Nikki pulled her car into Lauren's garage and used Lauren's shop vac to vacuum all the grossness off the floors and the back seats. (Mostly Eva fur back there, but also pine needles from last year's Christmas tree.) Nikki laughed later and told the girls "It's obvious you're my besties because I've NEVER cleaned this car up for anyone else, not even my family when they visited!" So that took a bunch of time.

Then Lisa got stuck at work for a while and didn't get to Lauren's until sometime around 1:00 or 1:30. Totally valid as work > vacations, but it was still whompsy.

We finally got on the road around 2:00 but immediately had to stop off at the gas station to fill up Becky's (Nikki's car) gas tank and grab ice for the cooler and sparkling water for the girls. (When they realized that they couldn't fit the whole bag of ice in the smallish cooler, Nikki took the giant chunk of ice that remained and overhand threw it across the parking lot and laughed maniacally as it shattered into a million ice pieces. She maniacally laughed a LOT on this trip. Nikki Note: Whatevs.)

THEN we got on the road! Woooooo!!!!!

When Nikki, Steve, Tasha, and I drove from Baltimore to Denver, we saw signs for Limon, Colorado the second we crossed the Kansas border. "Where is Limon? It sounds important if it's being 'advertised' the moment we drive into the state before its state! WE MUST GO TO LIMON." Unfortunately, we were reaching our travel deadline and had to forgo making a stop at this mysterious city, but Nikki added visiting Limon to her bucket list because she's stubborn and weird like that. As this was an EPIC ROAD TRIP where dreams would come true, the girls made a little detour and stopped off at what turned out to be not much more than a place for truckers to fill up on gas and get food.

She was WAAAAYY too excited about this.

As we were on our way to take this picture with the sign, we were flagged down by a hitch-hiker. He said that he needed money for bus fare, and could we spare anything? We said no and started walking away, THEN he asked us for FIVE DOLLARS (pretty gutsy, if you ask me) for gas money. "I thought you didn't have a car," we pointed out. He just laughed. People are so weird. BUT!!!! The best thing ever happened -Lisa found a dollar near the sign! We took it as a message from Fate and bought a scratch-off lotto ticket with it...AND WE WON A DOLLAR!

Lisa with our winning ticket. The lucky numbers are 666!!!

Lauren traded in that ticket for another one to see if we could keep our lucky streak going. Unfortunately, it wasn't a winner. (She had chosen a "fire"-themed ticket, I think, playing off our "devil" theme from the last ticket.) We figured that we hadn't really lost any money, so we went on our way still in good spirits.

As we entered the far east side of Colorado, the weather started to turn. Wind was blowing in from the north, making it really hard for Nikki to keep Becky from swerving to the right. Tumbleweeds attacked us from all sides; Nikki ran over a bunch and hoped they weren't stuck under her car, clinging to the important parts that make cars run. Then the rain started POURING down on us. Wind, rain, tumbleweeds, no made for a depressing start to our drive.

You know it's bad weather when the sky's the same color I am!

Eventually we crossed into Kansas. The weather was still bad for a few miles, so we ran into a McDonald's for a bathroom break and to give in to our basest urges and split a small fry and get milkshakes. Om nom regrets. We continued on I-70, listening to pop music and talking about a variety of topics until we saw signs on the side of the road advertising a 6-legged cow, an 8,000 pound prairie dog, and a petting zoo with all sorts of wonders and excitement. Nikki remembered the signs from her trip out West, and her coworker had been talking about it for WEEKS, so we decided to take another detour and check it out.

With every mile leading us closer and closer to this epic sideshow, our excitement grew and grew. Finally...WE WERE THERE!

...Only to discover it was closed. Forever.

Even though the signs were still up for miles and miles on arguably the largest/longest/most important highway in America where ANYONE can see them, the owners of Prairie Dog Town had closed up shop without notice.

We all entertained the idea of buying the zoo, just like that family does in that Matt Damon movie, but I pointed out that a) none of us had that kind of money, and b) we'd have to live in Kansas. We scrapped the idea and kept going.

Our ultimate destination for the night was a hotel in Manhattan, Kansas ("the Little Apple") that we were staying in for free because Lauren's aunt used her hotel points for us. (THANKS!!!) The hotel was SOOOOO much nicer than any place I've ever stayed with Nikki; I'll have to start hanging out with Lauren's aunt more.

Such fancy free toiletries!!

TWO different kinds of bibles for when we're having an existential crisis of faith. Which to choose?!

Sleeping on that bed was like sleeping on a heavenly cloud, surrounded by angels and fluffy animals. Nikki said the feather pillows didn't offer a lot of neck support, but I thought it was fine.

Before we got to the hotel, we had decided to go to dinner at a restaurant that Lisa recommended, as the name of the place was really funny: Carlos O'Kelly's, a strange Mexican-Irish sounding combination/fusion restaurant.

Pretending to be a flamenco dancer

Nikki was disappointed that they really didn't play up the fusion-soundingness more. Why not have corned beef tacos? More things with potatoes in them? Lamb stew with some Mexican seasonings? Nikki & Lisa had the "Inspired Brisket Tacos," which had this GIANT piece of fried cheese on the side of it. The girls were in love. I filled up on salsa. Lauren had the spinach and mushroom quesadilla because she's a vegetarian. I split some of her quesadilla because om nom nom veggies!

Dinner buddies!!

Our waitress was AMAZING and took very good care of us. She was also a big fan of me, which I'm always pleased with. We gave her a great tip and left a lovely note of appreciation. :) We retired to the hotel room, where we relaxed and then froze to death because Lisa had cranked the AC, and then none of us thought to turn it off when we couldn't make it warmer (after trying multiple times in the middle of the night). I just did the same thing I did when I go camping - snuggle as close to Nikki as I can and steal all the covers. Despite the chill, we all slept really well, and after grabbing some food from the complimentary breakfast bar, we continued east towards Wamego, Kansas.