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Travelogue of Our Roamings

Winter and Spring of 2006

Brownsville | San Antonio | Rock Hill | Tucson | Tulsa - Gordonville | Houston


Wichita, Kansas

The next stop for us was Wichita, Kansas. This was as close of an assignment to Anna's parents as we could get. We tried for Tulsa or Oklahoma City. But there was nothing at all available in Oklahoma. So it was off to Wichita for us. We took off a couple weeks between Brownsville and Wichita to stay at Anna's parents for a visit, and sort through everything that we had in storage.

The reason for trying to be as close to Anna's parents during this time is that they will be having their 50th wedding anniversary this April, and Anna is coordinating their party. We'll put up pictures of the party some time in May .

We get to Wichita at the end of January, 2006. Our apartments this time are the Remington Apartments in the north east side of town . These are average quality apartments, with a lot of collage aged people and some teenagers. But the apartment has a lot of south facing windows with plenty of sunlight. The dog, Scooter, loves this! He loves to lay on the couch for hours basking in the sun. But speaking of dogs, no one around these apartments picks up after their dog. Dog droppings are scattered everywhere! It smells like a poorly kept kennel.

Well, we've been exploring Wichita. Our first impressions are that there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and a whole hell of a lot of liquor stores. Many outdoor things are closed until spring and summer. It seems that people around here must spend most of their time during winter either eating or drinking. Maybe shopping. This may seem harsh, but we really have found almost nothing to do in and around Wichita during our first several weeks. We also found that Wichita is really a pretty small city.

There was an old joke when I went to college in Oklahoma. It went something like this: "Oklahoma is so windy because Texas blows and Kansas sucks". Well I've spent about 10 years in Texas, and we all know texans are pretty good braggarts. This accounts for the blowing part. Now, Anna and I are starting to understand the last half of the joke.

An early season outing put us at Sedgwick County Zoo here in Wichita . We went on a $1 Wednesdays, which is available during winter. Some of the more temperature sensitive animal were not on exhibit, but hey it was a buck. This is also a very nice zoo, and I have especially recommend the tropical aviary . This aviary is one of the best that I have seen anywhere! It's full of tropical vegetation, with a long winding path with plenty of benches. The path goes through a tunnel under the the aviary's tropical lake showing South American and African fish, as well little duck buts overhead. The aviary is literally a-flutter with birds life, of all sizes, not just the big showy birds. Little colorfully wings are flying everywhere. Also look out under your feet as they have a number of small mammals running loose too.

We also visited the Exploration Place, even knowing that it was child's hands-on place. But we found it a little to elementary (about grade school level). The aviation area was the most interesting and informative. Who would have guessed that in Wichita .

Our next trip was to the northwest of Wichita to the town of Yoder, with is a small Amish community. It was interesting, with a small number of specialty shops and a large place with wonderful handcrafted furniture. But again we were a little under-whelmed. It just didn't meet our expectations. We finished with a late lunch at the Carriage Crossing Restaurant. Anna had their chicken fried chicken, and I had a grilled chicken fillet sandwich and a bowl of their soup of the day (clam chowder (I know, clam chowder in Kansas? But it was actually very good)). We both agree that all the food was very good, with excellent service. I am sure we will stop again the next time we are traveling that way.

By the way, I am starting to work at Cessna Aircraft Company next week. Working for Computer Services Corp.

The next trip, the following weekend, was to meet some of our friends in Ponca City, Oklahoma. We met at the Head Country Barbecue restaurant. Anna and I have long enjoyed their commercial barbeque sauce, and wanted to try their restaurant. We ate lunch there, and spent a few hours visiting with our friends. All agreed that the barbecue was just average. We tried their brisket, ribs, and sausage. Everything was cooked well, and was very tender and juicy. But there was very little smoke flavor, or flavoring from a rub.

The following day Anna and I went to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge . We found that the visitor center is closed on weekends, so we could not stop to find out where was best to see the wildlife. Thousands of ducks and geese, a few hundred sandhill cranes, and well as about 3 dozen bald eagles have been reported. They also have a large prairie dog town . We travel a good portion of the refuge, but didn't see anything really exciting. We will try back in a week or so, when the visitor center is open. We did meet a nice couple who were watching a small lake full of ducks. They told us of another prairie dog town closer to Wichita (I am hoping to get some good picture of these little guys, and hopefully of the burrowing owls that can also live in the burrows).

On a personal note, Cliff had four thyroid goiters (growths on the thyroid gland) removed from his neck this last week. One was about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. There were no problems with the surgery. Cliff will have a nice scar, several inches long, across his throat that he can make up stories about. All the pathology reports were negative for cancer.

Our next outing was to the Museum Of World Treasures , in Wichita itself. The museum in housed in a fairly small building for a museum, and we weren't expecting much from our trip. But we were pleasantly surprised. This museum might be small but it is absolutely packed with displays, items, and artifacts. Some of the more notable items are the actual pen used by General Robert E .Lee to sign the civil war surrender papers at the Appomattox Courthouse , Frank James' personal revolver, a piece of the Berlin Wall , one of only eight known true Viking battle helmets, the mummy of one of Ramses the Great's daughters , complete actual skeletons of a Tyrannosaur Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus dinosaurs (no replicas!). Check out the pics on this web page. Anna also like the Mayan burial urn and the area with the Buddhist artifacts.

I took an day trip without Anna to run up to Hutchinson, and to go back to the Quivira NWR. In Hutchinson I was looking for the prairie dog town that we had been told about before. I wasn't hard to find. It is right along Hwy 61, going northeast out of town, and right beside the Lowes hardware store. The little guys were everywhere, but the light was wrong for good pictures (but here's one anyway ). So, after watching them for a little while I headed back to the wildlife refuge. Once there, I soon found a flock of wild turkeys and a small herd of deer in the fields just after entering the refuge. The prairie dogs were at the far north end of the refuge, but finding them wasn't difficult. The colony probably covers twenty acres or more. I spent about 2 1/2 hours sitting behind a bush in this "town", but the little critters never really came back in that close to me. So, the pictures were just so-so. I made another tour around their "big salt marsh" before heading back. There I saw several yellow-headed blackbirds, which was only the second time seeing this bird for me.

One day, a couple of weeks later, Anna and I finally got around to checking out the Great Plains Nature Center. I say "finally" because this nature center is only about 1 1/2 miles from the apartment. I had taken a quick look early in our Kansas stay, and I didn't see much to go back for. Also, they do not allow pets, so we couldn't go there to walk the dog. The problem was that during my first quick visit I missed seeing the biggest part of the place. So, on a day warmer than most had been, we decided to go take a closer look just to get outside for a few hours. The nature center turned out to have a nice museum/exhibit hall, and a large number of very nice trails that wandered out through the prairies and scattered trees. One special thing to point out here is a captive (non-releasable) albino screech owl . The only albino owl that I have ever seen, and even more interesting because the screech owls are so tiny.

The final day out for us in Wichita was a trip to the Old Cowtown Museum. As the name imply's it is a recreation of on old west cattle town, with old western style re-enactments. But it is run as a museum, not a amusement park. Many of the building are originally old buildings that have been saved and moved to the museum grounds. Some from 1800's era of Wichita itself. There was a pioneer/trapper camp , and everything you would expect to find in an old west town. A sheriff's office, doctor/dentist office, newspaper, blacksmith , general store, railway station, livery stable , saloon, bank, funeral home, church, school, a working 1800's farm , and so on. And because this is Kansas, it had a working steam-powered grainery. It was a very nice day, and we found the museum very entertaining and informative. It is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours during a nice spring day.

Soon after this we packed up both vehicles and headed on to our new home, with the normal stop in Oklahoma to repack for summer at the next stop in our roaming.

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