March 31, 2009

Vote Yellow Brick Road Trip!

Remember that video I made from my trip to the Glore Psychiatric Museum? Well, it is currently posted on as part of a blog video contest!

Watch my video here!

Go visit the site and rate my video or leave a comment! Help me rack up some stars!

March 30, 2009

Roadtrip Philosophy - The Five Worst Types of Drivers

I obviously spend a lot of time on the road, something that I find to be an incredibly therapeutic experience. Nothing makes me happier than driving 75 miles an hour down an open stretch of highway listening to loud music, beating my steering wheel to the beat and smoking a cigarette.

But sometimes these moments of tranquil bliss are disturbed. Not by a guarded speed zone designed to trick the naive traveler, no I've long ago learned how to watch out for those. And not by the sudden change in weather conditions, though I didn't like sliding off the road the other day. No, my roadtrip serenity is more often disturbed by the other drivers. Here is my list of the top five worst kind of drivers.

  1. The Talker - On one of my first roadtrips, I mentioned I was nearly hit by a car running a stop sign. Why did the driver run the stop sign? Apparently, she was taking such an important phone call she failed to notice the bright red octagon to her right or the car in the intersection. I do not answer my phone when I'm driving because I can always call the person back. I have yet to get a phone call so important I have to answer while I'm driving. Or maybe that says something about my own popularity.

  2. The Texter - This is way more obnoxious than the Talker. While a person may be chatting on the phone, they still have one hand on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The Texter is using both hands to push buttons, staring at their cell phone and steering their car through traffic with their knees. I don't understand how people even do this or why!

  3. The Surprise Lane Changer - This drives me nuts! I am a very courteous driver. I slow down to let people into my lane when they are merging onto the highway. I wait my turn at the stop sign. But I how can I let you in my lane if you don't freaking signal?! It is a simple warning to the other cars on the road but it is an important one.

  4. The After Church Driver - People who tailgate and speed are manageable. I just move into the right lane and let them hurtle towards their own fiery, twisted metal endings. But the After Church Driver seems to enjoy slowing down traffic. Going 15 miles an hour in 35 speed zone, they will do anything to keep you behind them from slightly swerving out of their lane, signaling one way and then going another, or any other number of tricks to keep you from getting around them. I call them the After Church Driver because I encounter them most commonly on Sunday afternoons, often they are the elderly who haven't had their licenses taken away yet. But I'm on to them! I swear they know what they are doing and are just messing with us!

  5. The After Bar Driver - I'm not going to judge anyone here, but I don't like being on the road with drunk drivers. They make me incredibly nervous because I can't predict what they are going to do. I have heard of people barreling the wrong way down a highway or T-boning a car at a stoplight...they just make me nervous! When I encounter them on Friday and Saturday nights, I stay several feet behind them so I can react to whatever they do. But if you have to talk, text or turn without signaling, at least do me a favor and don't drive drunk!
Those are, in my opinion, the five worst types of drivers. But feel free to add some of your own by commenting!

March 29, 2009

The Yellow Brick Road Trip Snowed In Adventures!

As I posted earlier, Kansas was struck by a snowstorm and I was trapped in my house. I wasn't able to go on my usual weekend road trip, but there were still some pretty interesting adventures!

First, my car got stuck in the driveway. Then my parents got stuck in the driveway! My mother managed to wave down a snowplow passing through the neighborhood. They were nice enough to stop and clear a path so my parents could get to the house. It was around one in the morning and once we had their car in the driveway, my parents and I grabbed some snow shovels and started digging my car out so I could go to work today. Even my father, who has had his fair share of crazy winters, says he's never seen anything like it before.

But the adventures didn't end there! Today, I went in the backyard with my dogs and discovered my neighbors tree and crashed into my yard! It had come up by the roots and fallen into my yard but was still being held up somewhat by our very strong wrought iron fence.

I had actually heard the tree fall the night before. There was a huge crash and the dogs went absolutely crazy barking at the backyard. But in the dark, I couldn't see anything and decided it must have been some falling snow. Only in the daylight could I see all the damage. But like my car getting stuck in the driveway, I couldn't help but laugh! What else are you going to do?

Needless to say, our mutt Brock Lee was thrilled with this new addition to his playground. He spent a half hour running through the branches and circling around the yard at full speed. For a while he attempted to tunnel through the snow but only succeeded in soaking himself completely in the melting snow.

Stay tuned for some more road trips! But for now, I hope you enjoy my home bound snow adventures!

March 28, 2009

Roadtrip Memories - Remembering the Glore Psychiatric Museum while Snowed In

I'm snowed in! Today I was going on a yellow brick roadtrip to Planet Comic, the comic book convention in Overland Park, Kansas. But I didn't make it a full block before my car was skidding off the road. Don't get me wrong, several years in Chicago made me a great driver even in snow and ice. But this was just ridiculous! After a few minutes weighing my own mortality against meeting the Playmate who was the model for Red Sonja, I decided it was better to spend the day with comic book, a cup of coffee and reminiscing about past trips.

So I share with you a trippy little video I made from photographs of the Glore Psychiatric Museum, and in doing so discovered the proper use for techno music!

Enjoy everyone! Hopefully I'll be able to shovel my car out tomorrow.

SNOWED IN UPDATE: I tried to leave my house again to meet up with some friends. Last time I made it almost a block before the snow got too bad. Well this time I didn't make it out of the driveway! Yup, my car got stuck in the snow only a few feet after I pulled out of the garage. Looks like I'm not going anywhere for a while! But don't worry, I'll still be updating!

March 25, 2009

Roadtrip Philosophy - What is an Educated Vagabond?

I thought it was about time I explained why I call myself Kris the Educated Vagabond. I did not coin the term, it was actually coined by Bess. I have merely appropriated it as it applies to my life (and because she's much smarter and cleverer than me.)

I am a vagabond because I am an aimless traveler who never really settles down anywhere. In the last five years, I have never lived anywhere for over a year. I insisted on packing up and moving to a new part of town at the very least, although there have been two cross country moves and one international move in the mix. Most importantly - I have not been unpacked in five years. Seriously. I still have boxes in the basement I refuse to open because I'm just going to move again in a few months. I used to be able to fit everything in a couple bags, but over time and travels I have amassed a whole lot of crap I cannot bear to part with.

The educated part of my name is academic and spirtiual. I have traveled for educational opportunities around the country and the world. I have developed a love affair with the University of Edinburgh library and also amassed a couple of degrees. But it is also a desire to learn through traveling. No matter how much I read about a place, I learn more by going there and seeing for myself what is really going on. And I'm not done.

I am an educated vagabond because I'm always on the move, always looking for a new adventure, and most importantly always eager to learn more about the places I go and the people I meet.

So, are you an educated vagabond?

March 24, 2009

Historic Downtown Overland Park, KS

Since I spend so much time on the road, I thought it might be nice to take a very short trip to a place nearby. I pass the historic downtown area of Overland Park every day but I never really stop to look at it.

A little geographical explanation - the Kansas City metro area spreads across the Kansas and Missouri state border and includes several small cities, towns and suburbs. Overland Park, or the OP as it is commonly referred to, is in the south part of the metro area.

It was late Sunday afternoon and the streets were empty except for the occasional car passing through. There was no one in the Farmer's Market or eating in the restaurants along the street. It gave me a chance to observe that all of the historical monuments - the clocktower plaza and the statue of Overland Park founder William B. Strang, Jr. - are all new contributions. The historic downtown seems to be more of a modern embracing of the past but there doesn't seem to be much left of the past that they're embracing. The restaurant and buildings look newer, the only particularly ancient-looking building is the very retro Rio Movie Theater.

The first place I stopped along the historic street was the clocktower plaza, a large covered sitting area with a giant clocktower next to the Farmer's Market. I found it somewhat confusing in its architectural design. The sloping roofs seem to be more Eastern-inspired than an appropriate homage to Overland Park's actual sister city of Bietingheim-Bissingen, Germany.

A few steps away from the clocktower plaza is a large statue of William B. Strang, Jr, Overland Park's founder. Like the clocktower, this seems to be a belated homage to the past. The statue was erected in May 2006. The city founder and railroad magnate looks out of the empty streets sternly but blankly, like he is passively observing everything. He seems to be judging us as he is frozen with one foot forward, like he is ready to take action, but his face does not betray his motivation.

My visit to the Historic Downtown of Overland Park was a quiet trip, but I don't think I really gained anything "historical" about Overland Park from my visit. I plan to go back next month when the Farmer's Market is open, maybe a few people will make my next visit more interesting.

Total Travel Distance: 18 miles
Total Travel Time: 40 minutes
Soundtrack: "Sexless Demons and Scars" - Jack Off Jill

March 22, 2009

Roadtrip Philosophy - Vagabond vs. Hobo vs. Nomad

I call myself a vagabond, but how is that any different from being a hobo or a nomad? These terms are often used interchangably by travelers but I think there is a distinct difference. (And not just that I think vagabond sounds cooler, even though it does.)

The dictionary doesn't agree with me, however. They also use the terms interchangably. A vagabond is, "a person, usually without a permanent home, who wanders from place to place; nomad" or in less kind terms, "a carefree, worthless, or irresponsible person; rogue." Well, screw you too, Random House Dictionary of Random House, Inc.

I am not a nomad. A nomad is, "a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit according to the state of the pasturage or food supply." I have no tradition to my travels, only a desire to other places. I have no tribe to accompany, only friends who sometimes tag along for the ride. The only real similarity between a vagabond and a nomad is our constant travels and moving from place to place. But the circumstances and meanings behind our wandering ways are completely different.

I am also not a hobo. The Random House Dictionary calls a hobo, "a tramp or vagrant" or "a migratory worker." I am none of those things. But I am mostly adament that I am not a hobo because there is a hobo culture that I am not a part of. The term "hobo" is derived from the phrase "homeward bound," and is based around a lifestyle with it's own social norms and even written language. If you are interested in learning more about the hobo cultue, I suggest you visit the National Hobo Museum website. You can learn about the museum, the hobo convention, and the meaning of different signs used along the way.

In conclusion: I am a vagabond, not a nomad or a hobo. Even if Random House Dictionary isn't clever enough to tell the difference.

March 21, 2009

The Celtic Ranch - Weston, MO

As Anna and I drove to St. Joseph, we passed a giant billboard for "The Celtic Ranch." We are both huge fans of Celtic culture and it seemed like an interesting detour. So on our way back, we decided to follow the signs to Weston, Missouri. We drove for several miles down a twisting two lane highway before we came to Main Street in downtown Weston where we found The Celtic Ranch.

It was not a ranch. Not by a long shot. In fact, it looked like the gift shop for the Celtic Ranch. The windows were full of St. Patrick's Day decoration and merchandise from leprechauns to four leaf clovers. We decided to go in and see what the Celtic Ranch was if it wasn't a ranch. The answer? A really cool gift shop. There was the usual cheap, green plastic merchandise but it was overshadowed by the works of artisans and craftsman. There were hand-made leather cuffs, silver pocket watches and even kilts available for rental or purchase. There were books of history and myth for both adults and children and several small capitulations to the Scottish (Slainte Mhor, suckers!) in the predominantly Irish establishment.

There is also a very nice cafe attached to the shop. I went to buy myself a coffee but was immediately distracted by free cake. Free cake! It was the shop owner's birthday and we were lucky enough to celebrate with them, if only by taking some of their cake.

We looked around Weston's main street for a little while after that, but there wasn't much to see. There were almost only antique shops and places to drink. I went into the Country Store to try and find a pack of cigarettes, but apparently "Country Store" means "Liquor Store with Fully Stocked Bar in the Back." I think daily life in Weston consists entirely of getting drunk and buying old things.

March 19, 2009

Roadtrip Music - "You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country, But Not the Red Out of Her Neck"

While on the road, Anna was eager to play with my iPod and to enjoy some good ol' country music. Apparently, her life in Chicago has lacked the twang we had back in Oklahoma. I was happy to oblige with an old playlist I made as an homage to my redneck youth.

"You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country, But Not the Red Out of Her Neck" Playlist
  1. "Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynard Skynard
  2. "No Riders" - Shannon Curfman
  3. "Redneck Woman" - Gretchen Wilson
  4. "Hicktown" - Jason Aldean
  5. "Broken and Ugly" - Beth Hart
  6. "Sin Wagon" - Dixie Chicks
  7. "Wild One" - Faith Hill
  8. "Way Back Home" - The Wreckers
  9. "I Go Back" - Kenny Chesney
  10. "Not Ready to Make Nice" - Dixie Chicks
  11. "Red Dirt Road" - Brooks and Dunn
  12. "My, Oh My" - The Wreckers
  13. "How Do You Like Me Now?" - Toby Keith

March 18, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Traveling Exhibit - St. Joseph, MO

When we finished our tour of the Glore Psychiatric Museum, Anna and I decided to check out the Abraham Lincoln exhibit of the St. Joseph Museum.

Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America is a traveling exhibit featuring seven different stages. They are mostly hands-on (I particularly had fun playing with the Lincoln logs!)

The best part of the exhibit was playing dress up! You can try on a top hat and other apparel President Lincoln would have worn, then stand on a box to be closer to his height of 6 feet, four inches. Given that I am 5' 3", I'm pretty sure standing on that box with a top hat is as close as I will ever get to an impressive stature.

For those of a more feminine nature, you can try on Mary Todd Lincoln's clothing. Or you could watch others do it. The traveling exhibit includes a "Mrs. Lincoln's Closet" fashion show.

If you can't make it to St. Joseph to see the exhibit, it may be coming to you soon! Check out the exhibit's website to see if it will be making a stop in your town!

March 17, 2009

Glore Psychiatric Museum - St. Joseph, MO

This weekend the Yellow Brick Road Trip was joined by my bestest best friend in the whole wide world - Anna. She has known me through all my travels and took part of her spring break to join me for a trip to St. Joseph to see the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

The Glore Psychiatric Museum used to be a state lunatic asylum but now patients rooms are full of exhibits rather than troubled people. Mannequins are used to show different treatments of the past, the ancient past and the present. The mannequins themselves are freaky. Some are faceless white statues, others are relics from department stores in the fifties. They are chipped, cracked, decaying and barely holding together. Seeing them strapped in old straight jackets and restraints with their faces peeling off is just plain creepy!

Fun fact: Lobotomies were discovered when a guy got a railroad spike through the head and lived!

One floor was devoted to medieval and outdated methods of dealing with mental illness. These ranged from the bizarre to the cruel to the "oh my god, I can't believe they freaking did that!" There was the lunatic box, an upright coffin where a crazy person was locked in. There was a surprise bath where a person fell through a trapdoor into a pool of cold water - resulting in injury and death more often than sanity. There was a spinning cage, a human sized hamster exercise wheel, dioramas of stomping and bleeding patients, and even a mannequin tied to a stake as an example of witches burned at the stake. (A sidenote: Tom Cruise should really look at this exhibit, maybe then he won't be so opposed to psychiatric medication. Or we could just put him in the exercise box so he never makes another movie).

We also learned about the history of the hospital itself. One interesting story they told was of a patient who was lost in the system for years! Her family never found her until after her death. A doctor requested her records after hearing about the case to review her treatment. In an ironic twist, those records were then lost for eleven years! They lost the patient, found her and then lost her records!

The museum was amazing! Really freaky but really awesome!

Total Distance Traveled: 146 miles
Total Trip Time: 5 hours
Soundtrack: "You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country, But Not the Red Out of Her Neck" Playlist

March 16, 2009

Old Dutch Mill - Wamego, KS

Not far from the land of Oz is the Old Dutch Mill. It is the only working stone mill in the state and still grinds wheat into flour today. But not the day we were there. It was closed for renovations. But that didn't stop us from exploring!

Before the mill, we stopped by the small Wamego Museum to see what other interesting artifacts there were. But it cost money to look around and the elderly woman behind the desk did not seem the least bit thrilled to have a few hyper young girls in her quiet temple to the obsolete, so we decided we didn't want to see her dumb old museum anyway. Instead, we went to see the mill before we wandered around the very lovely park.

The mill was a large stone pillar encased in the metal scaffolding - it was an interesting contrast as if the present were holding up the past. We walked up the winding stone steps with debris on either side. Weeds and fallen branches blocked our path but we cleared them away as we circled around for a better look.

That is until the fish. On the steps was a dead fish, presumably from the pond over 20 feet away from the mill. That is when we discovered Kelly's ichtyophobia - an extreme fear of fish. She completely lost it! She was screaming and dancing around, having a complete conniption fit. It had probably been dead two weeks, but that didn't calm Kelly down. I'm not sure what exactly she was afraid of, but Jessica and I certainly enjoyed watching her spinning around, waving her hands in the air and rambling at the top of her lungs about, "The fish! There's a fish!"

If you decide to take a trip to Wamego, enjoy the Old Dutch Mill but beware of the fish!

March 13, 2009

Toto's Tacoz and Emerald City Market - Wamego, KS

There is only one option for lunch in Wamego - Toto's Tacoz! It is next door to the Oz Museum and its called Toto's Tacoz! If I have to explain why that is incredibly awesome to you then I pity your lack of whimsy. The name alone was brilliant enough to make me overlook my hatred of intentional misspellings in signage. (A side note: Spelling "crazy" with a "k" does not make you or your business clever, it makes you illiterate.)

It was more expensive then Taco Bell and I'm not sure if it was as good, but I did enjoy my beef taco. Once I found the beef under all the garnish that is. As my friend Kelly noticed, it was pretty much a salad on top of a taco with the actual ingredients buried somewhere underneath.

After a consuming our much needed vittles and enjoying the museum, we started to wander down Lincoln Street to see what other Oz-themed entertainment we could find. There was the Poppyfield Gallery, where we looked at the paintings created by local artists and a large collection of quarters. Interestingly, there is a law office above the gallery and we suspect the same man runs them both. There was also the Oz Winery and the JavOZos coffeehouse, although the latter was closed to our caffeine needs.

Eventually, we paid a visit to the Emerald City Market. It was like a very small William-Sonoma, everything was very ritzy and very over-priced. But we did find something - Wicked Sister fudge. This stuff is amazing. It is pure unadulterated, happy goodness in an edible form. I got the mint - just because it had green swirls in it and it reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West. Later I would eat way too much fudge in our hotel room, go on a massive sugar high and discuss stealing golf carts with Jessica. We thought about hot wiring them and then driving down the middle of Highway 24 a la Waterboy. Instead, we ate more fudge.

March 11, 2009

Roadtrip Music - "Girls Gettin Gone" Mix

Every roadtrip has a soundtrack. In this case, my friends and I each decided to make a mix cd for the road trip. Jessica put together a collection of fun music to sing along to, Kelly couldn't bring hers so brought along the Wicked musical soundtrack for inspirational purposes, while I went the more thematic route. I created a roadtrip mix called "Girls Gettin' Gone" featuring all female performers (mostly acoustic, country and classic) singing about the road.

"Girls Gettin' Gone" Mix
By Kris the Educated Vagabond
  1. "All American Girl" - Melissa Etheridge
  2. "Everyday is a Winding Road" - Sheryl Crow
  3. "Particular Place to Be" - Melissa Ferrick
  4. "L.A. Song" - Beth Hart
  5. "Freeway" - Aimee Mann
  6. "Welcome to my Life" - Melissa Ferrick
  7. "Get Out the Map" - Indigo Girls
  8. "The Road's My Middle Name" - Bonnie Raitt
  9. "Me and Bobby McGee" - Janis Joplin
  10. "Get Out of this Town" - Carrie Underwood
  11. "Heads Carolina, Tails California" - Jo Dee Messina
  12. "The Long Way Around" - Dixie Chicks
  13. "Till We Run Out of Road" - Jewel
  14. "Cigarettes" - The Wreckers
  15. "Vegas" - Sara Bareilles
  16. "Giggling Again for No Reason" - Alanis Morissette

So what do you think? Did I forget any really good songs?

March 9, 2009

The Oz Museum - Wamego, KS

We went to see the wizard! Last weekend, my friends Kelly and Jessica joined me on a wonderful trip to Oz...also known as Wamego, Kansas. On Saturday morning we climbed into my car armed with mix cds and the Wicked soundtrack to set off to see the wizard!

The drive was a little over two hours but it was great. We gossiped about our lives, sang along to the music and saw some very interesting road signs in little towns, such as the auto shop offering "Brain Surgery while you Wait." Finally we arrived in the wonderful land of oz...I mean, Wamego.

The museum was absolutely lovely! You walk through different rooms based on different characters. The first introduction is Dorothy, of course. Along with a manaquin dressed in her classic sundress were commemorative ruby slippers and all sorts of memorabilia, including a swatch of cloth taken from the original costumes hem. There are rooms commemorating all the favorite characters - the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the West (I still think she's just misunderstood), and Glenda the Good Witch.

For those fans of the movie, there are several television sets showing the classic film staring Judy Garland as well as the originial silent film of Wizard of Oz, although it was a terrible failure both critically and in the theaters. For those fans of the original books, you can see original printings and learn amazing things about the author L. Frank Baum. (Fun Fact: Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, derived the Wicked Witch of the West's name "Elphaba" from the initials of L. Frank Baum).

My friends and I went through the museum oohing and ahhing over everything we saw. Only after we left did we realize we should have stayed just to watch the movie again and again and again. But there was still more to see in Wamego, Kansas.

Click here to see more photos!

Total Trip Time: 27 hours

Distance Traveled: 245 miles

March 4, 2009

The Freak Show Exhibit - Leavenworth, KS

I love freak shows! As a tattooed, pierced woman who used to have purple hair - I'm sure this not surprising in the slightest. So I was super excited to see the historical freak show exhibit at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. It includes pictures of some of the "freaks" - from giants, to a crab handed boy, to a woman swallowing swords. There are also artifacts from the tents - a horrifying little petrified mermaid (seriously, this thing looked more like Gollum with fangs than Ariel), a mummified toad, and a two-headed chick. It was deformed but still so cute and fuzzy! If it wasn't taxidermy I would totally cuddle it. Oh, who am I kidding? I still wanted to cuddle it!

One thing that caught my eye was the display case of shrunken heads. I really want to know how they were made. Call it morbid curiosity but I really badly want to know what they are made of (assuming of course they are not real heads). When I was a kid, my mom showed me how to make a fake shrunken head with an apple. These were obviously not the crude, fruit skulls of my youth. So if anyone knows how to make a shrunken head - please let me know!

Finally, there was an animal hidden behind a sheet in a glass case. The sign posted in front of it said, "Obscene animal. For adults only." I thought about it for a moment and decided I am an adult (legally anyway, I don't know about mentally). I lifted up the sheet and took a peek. Yep, the animal was obscene. But I'm not going to tell you what it was! You have to go to Leavenworth to find out for yourself!

March 2, 2009

C.W. Parker Carousel Museum - Leavenworth, KS

A few more miles down Highway 7/73, also known as Fourth Street, I came to the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. The museum tells the history of the carousel and of C.W. Parker, who made his fortune designing and building carnival entertainment. It also features an exhibit about freak shows - something that intrigues my morbid curiosity.

The opening of the museum tour is a short film about the history of the carousel and the life of Parker. No one knows who invented the carousel or when, but according to the film at the beginning of the tour there are drawings of carousels that date as far back as 500 B.C. It's current form - a spinning platform with horses - was originally designed for military training. Eventually, of course, they fell out of favor as a martial exercise and became a more popular form of entertainment.

C.W. Parker started out at the age of 17 when he purchased a high striker machine for cowboys to test their strength on in Abilene, Kansas. He continued to expand his carnival enterprise by acquiring a shooting gallery and then built his first factory in 1894 in Abilene, Kansas. By the early twentieth century, he had four traveling carnivals and was supplying other carnivals with equipment - needless to say, he had become a very wealthy man. But after a falling out with the town about the location of his second factory, he built his new operations in Leavenworth in 1911. (Fun fact: Although the factory was only two stories tall, Parker advertised the Leavenworth factory in pictures as six stories.)

But the good times would not last forever. After Parker's death and the Great Depression, Parker carousels were doomed. At the height of their popularity, there were 5,000 working wooden carousels in the US but now only 160 remain. Of the thousands of carousels made by Parker, two are restored in the museum. One was made between 1850-1860, making it the oldest known working American carousel.

After the educational video, Bill W. was kind enough to show me around the museum. It was fascinating! You can see the development of the carousel horses, the intricate wood carving, the painstaking restoration process and artifacts from different times in the carousel's history. You can look into the workshop where the horses are restored and see them in different stages - from the replacement of lost limps to the detailed painting of the saddles. (Fun fact: Carousel horses are actually hollow inside! That is to prevent moisture from building up and rotting the wood.)

At the end of the tour, I got to ride one of the carousels. Initially, I was very self-conscious. I was the only rider so I felt like some creepy twenty-something trying to be a kid again. In the video at the beginning, the narrator said, "The carousel places no limit on fantasy." I think that is absolutely true. As soon as the ride started and Scout (that was the name of my horse) and I took off, I wasn't a creepy twenty-something any more. I was five-years-old riding the carousel in Tulsa, Oklahoma waving to my grandfather. It is funny how something so simple can take you back. My grandfather has been gone a long time, but I miss him still. Riding the carousel was something fantastic, it brought some beautiful childhood memories that I didn't just get to think about - I got to relive all over again.

The C.W. Paker Carousel Museum was a great experience, but I'm not done telling you all about it! There's still one more bit to cover - the FREAK SHOW exhibit!

Special thanks to Bill W. for being an awesome tour guide!

March 1, 2009

Hometown of Melissa Etheridge - Leavenworth, KS

On May 29, 1961, Melissa Lou Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. There, she learned to play the guitar at eight-years-old and wrote her first songs. She left Kansas for the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts but dropped out to go to Los Angeles to start her music career. Two Grammies, five platinum albums and one Academy Award later and the rest is history!

Today, I drove down Highway 7/73 with my favorite Melissa Etheridge album "Yes I Am" blasting on the stereo. As I pass a sign welcoming me to Leavenworth and then another with some local sports victories on it. And then was the guitar shaped sign honoring hometown hero Melissa Etheridge. There are actually two signs - one on the south entrance and one on the north entrance to Leavenworth off Highway 7/73. The city of Leavenworth put them up in August 2002 as part of a "welcome-back" reception for Melissa Etheridge.

Melissa Etheridge is still an important part of the Leavenworth community, even though she is no longer a resident. In 1992, she created a performing arts scholarship at her alma mater Leavenworth High School in honor of her father who was a teacher, counselor and athletic director there. In 1994, she performed a benefit concert and donated money to help refurbish the city's Performing Arts Center. She has also made donations to the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, where I am headed next in town.

Despite the snow that seeped into my boots walking to the sign, it was totally worth the drive.

Click here to see more photos!

Total Trip Time: 3.5 Hours
Distance Traveled: 96 miles
Soundtrack: Melissa Etheridge "Yes I Am" and "Your Little Secret"