December 30, 2010

Oldest Waterbed Store in the World - Kansas City, MO

If you can navigate the winding streets of Kansas City, survive the traffic of the Plaza, and figure out the confusing intersections of Westport, then hopefully you can find Temple Slug Futon, the oldest waterbed store in the world. Founded on April Fool's Day in 1970, this store is not only a roadside attraction but a haven for all the hippies of Kansas City.

After a few wrong turns in Westport and getting stuck in the holiday traffic of the Plaza, I finally found Temple Slug Futon on the corner of Jefferson and 43rd. With a hanging sign out front announcing its status as the world's older waterbed store, it looks like any other little shop lost in the old and new developments of that neighborhood of Kansas City. But, ever curious, I parked in front of the new apartment complex across the street and wandered in to explore.

I was immediately greeted by the smell of incense and a very kind saleswoman who asked if I was looking for a futon. I politely declined her help and told her I was just browsing. And was there every a collection of things to browse! In addition to the futons and other furniture, there was a wide variety of incense, crystals, candles, oils, and soaps filling the shelves of the store. From the East, there was an eclectic collection of items covered with Chinese symbols, yin-yangs, and Buddhas. For the modern druid, there other items covered with Celtic symbols and pentagrams. As I wandered through the store, I was amazed by the sheer variety of items all celebrating unique philosophies often neglected in the mainstream American culture.

It's weird and wonderful and colorful, even if it does tend to overwhelm the senses. I wandered through the store in a bit of a daze, trying to look at everything but realizing I could examine the shelves for an hour and still not see everything trinket they had to offer. I thought about making a small purchase, just to commemorate the experience, but honestly couldn't decide on anything to get. There were simply too many wonderful and interesting things.

The sales staff there were incredibly nice. They were always there to offer to help me but also let me wander in my happy daze as I browsed the shelves. If you're visiting Kansas City or even just passing through, it may be tempting to just stop by Temple Slug Futon to take a picture of the sign and then drive on. But then you will be missing half the fun. Stop and enjoy, browse and explore. That is why this place has been around for 40 years to earn the title of the world's oldest waterbed store. Because it is just that much fun to look around inside.

Total Travel Time: 1 hour
Total Travel Distance: 60 miles
Soundtrack: "Dookie" Green Day


December 22, 2010

Esquina - Lawrence, KS

Anyone who reads this blog is probably aware that I love Mexican food. (I've written about my love affair with the beef tamales at La Fonda Del Sol in Scottsdale, Arizona before). But as much as I love my classic Mexican favorites, sometimes I want something a little different. That is when I go to Esquina. This Latin restaurant takes everything you love about Mexican food and twists it around into something new and interesting. Esquina is also in a very historical location. The restaurant is located in the renovated Round Corner Pharmacy building. Before it closed its doors in 2009, the Round Corner Pharmacy was the oldest pharmacy in Lawrence and its original location even survived Quantrill’s raid in 1863.

During finals week, my mother came to visit me so I could remember what it was like to have a conversation that didn't revolve around law school. My mother loves Mexican food as much as I do (we both believe that all holiday dinners should involve tamales) and so I took her to Esquina.

My mom and I both started with the salsa and guacamole. I love guacamole, there is just something magical about that perfect mixture of avocado and spices that makes you grateful you have taste buds. The best guacamole I've ever had was in Mexico (big surprise there), but the guacamole at Esquina is fabulous. It's perfectly creamy and rich with just the right amount of spices to give it a complex flavor profile without overwhelming the decadence of the avocado.

For the entree, we moved on to the chicken tostada, a crispy tortilla with avocado, queso, chipotle sour cream, served with rice and beans. The chipotle sour cream had an amazing spicy bite to it, but we cut with some extra sour cream dolloped on top. Many of Esquina's dishes are topped with pickled red onions. I'm usually not a big fan of red onions, I think they have a very strong taste to them that risks over powering the other flavors. But the pickled red onions at Esquina compliment the spiciness of the chipotle sour cream, so the flavors play off each other without one becoming more prominent than the other.

Esquina is still one of my favorites restaurants in Lawrence because the food is so unique, taking traditional dishes I love like tostadas and putting a new twist on them to create something memorable.

Total Travel Time: 20 minutes
Total Distance Traveled: 5 miles
Soundtrack: Gen X Radio 99.7 FM

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!


December 21, 2010

Road Trip Music - We're Headed to Hell in the Handbasket

In college, I was known for making mixed tapes. I did it religiously and with a zeal usually reserved for introverted, emo high schools kids. Every tape had a theme and I spent days painstakingly calculating how to create the perfect music experience on that little cassette. When I set out with MirMir and Bess for Hell, Michigan, I jumped at the opportunity to create a mixed tape that would capture the "hellish" experience.

The original "We're Headed to Hell in a Handbasket" was actually a mixed tape. I mean literally, a mixed tape. The car we borrowed didn't have a CD player and this is before it was common for an iPod to be able to hook up to a car stereo, so as much as it might be showing my age I actually did make a mixed tape for this road trip. But time has passed, technology has improved and despite my resistance to the change I have begun to make mp3 playlists rather than mixed tapes.

So in honor loving honor of my road trip to Hell, I have made a new hell playlist with some newer music, some old classics, and in a format that more people will be able to use.

"We're Headed to Hell in a Handbasket" Playlist
1. “Run Devil Run” Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
2. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” Charlie Daniel’s Band
3. “The Devil in Mexico” Murder by Death
4. “Hell’s Bells” AC/DC
5. “Bat Out of Hell” Meatloaf
6. “Highway to Hell” AC/DC
7. "Devil's Dance Floor" Flogging Molly
8. “Hell on Wheels” Betty Blowtorch
9. “Devil with the Black Dress On” Jack off Jill
10. “Your Sweet Six Six Six” HIM
11. “Rock and Roll ‘69” Betty Blowtorch
12. “Sacrilege” Otep
13. “Sanctuary” My Ruin
14. “Heaven’s a Lie” Lacuna Coil


December 16, 2010

Road Trip Memories - Hell, Michigan

On Tuesday, I told you some of my favorite road trip blogs and mentioned I have traveled before with the bloggers of The Unplanned Misadventures of MirMir and Bess. It only seems fair that I should also share one of my favorite road trip destinations and the greatest roadside attraction I have ever seen - Hell. That's right. I went to Hell.

My friend Bess was a film major and working on a documentary about Hell as a place. She interviewed some religious authorities on what Hell may be as a location and then decided that MirMir and I should accompany her on a weekend trip to a little town called Hell, Michigan. We borrowed a car from MirMir's relatives and pasted a sign on the window that said, "The Handbasket," so we could go to hell in a handbasket. We then tapped a little statute of Buddy Christ (a "Dogma" reference for those who don't know) to the compass on the dashboard so we could ask Jesus which way to Hell. And I made mix tapes combining the best songs about hell that I could think of. We were off to Hell!

After a brief stop in Indiana for a speeding ticket, we made excellent time and reached the tiny town of Hell rather quickly. Hell, for those wondering, is cold in the winter. Very cold and very drizzly (For those wondering, Hell does freeze over in the winter). The town actually consisted of three buildings - a general store, an ice cream store, and a gift shop. We went to the gift shop first for souvenirs and so Bess could interview the proprietor about it was like to work in Hell. Unfortunately, the ice "screamery" was closed so our plan of getting frozen treats in Hell was quickly foiled. But we did discover you can buy postcards in the general store and send them so the postmark will read from Hell (for an extra dollar, they will also singe the edges of the card, because what is Hell without hellfire?)

Our trip was short because it started to drizzle (apparently it rains in Hell) and I was incredibly sick. But we loaded up on local wine with devilish names (Witches Brew, for those wondering) and headed to our nearby motel. Unfortunately, you can't stay overnight in Hell but there are plenty of places nearby where you can find a cheap room. We caused a bit of a stir in our little motel as we marched up to our room carrying several bags of camera equipment. It took us about ten minutes to understand why the employees were looking at us funny. After all, what would you think a bunch of young girls were doing with a camera in a motel room? I'm guessing you wouldn't think they were making a documentary about Hell.

When we got home, Bess filmed the final credits for the film which consisted of us singing an old road trip song appropriate for the occasion. It goes a little something like this:
I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car (of my car)
He's got style and he's got class
Got a genuine magnet on his ass
He's hollow and I use him for a flask


December 14, 2010

My Favorite Road Trip Blogs

I don't just write a travel blog, I read them as well. I love reading blogs about road trips because they give me great ideas for my own adventures and also provide me with an opportunity to interact with others who enjoy writing about their time on the road. Since I know you, my reader, also enjoy reading travel blogs (obviously) I thought I would share with you some of my favorites:

This blog was a recent discovery about I have been working my way through the archived posts pretty quickly. This blog combines books, movies, and travel into one amazing experience that captures the influence of media on our destinations. If you're looking for something to read, something to watch, or somewhere to go - this blog has some of the greatest suggestions you can find. She recently inspired me to read "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote (I know, it's embarrassing I haven't already read it) in preparation for a road trip to Holcomb, Kansas where the crime was committed.

If you enjoy the old-school roadside attractions like I do, then this blog is a must-read. Want to know about weird museums? Read about their trips to the Museum of Bad Art or the Spam Museum. Want to know about Jim Napors (aka Gomer Pyle)? Well they have been to his hometown and can tell you all about it. Whether it is a funny sign, a weird roadside attraction, or a restaurant shaped like a racial stereotype, this couple has been there and done that. This blog will tell you about all the strange things out there and make you want to hit the road in search of more.

Tammie Dooley gave up a career in financial planning to live as a freelance writer. As someone who spent many years as a struggling freelance writer, I know how big a transition that can be. She has embarked on some amazing adventures around the country and the world, including an awe-inspiring mountain climbing feat. If you only read a couple of her posts, read about her climb of Grand Teton. Her stories and pictures are absolutely inspiring.

I am lucky enough to actually know the MirMir and Bess of this blog - we went to college together. And I have also been lucky enough to accompany them on a few road trips, including one adventure to a little town called Hell in Michigan. After college, MirMir and Bess traveled the country. Then MirMir took to the sea as a cook for a tall ship while Bess went to California and now is living in Canada. They continue to have adventures and share them with their lucky readers and also share their thoughts on a variety of topics from movies to books to steampunk. Reading the blog is like sitting down for a drink with two of the most interesting people I have ever met.

In this blog, a mother writes about her adventures with her husband and young daughter in Texas and beyond. While I tend to travel alone or with a friendly companion, I love reading about their heart-warming family adventures. For those who are looking for some family road trip ideas, this is a must read. And for those who simply like to enjoy feel-good stories about a family that loves to hop in the car and hit the road (like me), this is also a must read.


December 9, 2010

Massachusetts Street - Lawrence, KS

If you are passing through Lawrence, there is one place you have to go: Massachusetts Street. From 6th Street to 12th Street, Massachusetts Street is the absolute ultimate in downtown Lawrence. Whenever I have friends visiting me, I always make sure to take a few hours to walk them up and down the strip, from the restaurants to the coffee shops to the stores, it is absolutely everything that is wonderful about our small town in Kansas.

Massachusetts Street above all, beautiful. The tree-lined street is scenic and perfect for a slow stroll, with plenty of local art and historic landmarks to see along the way. Built for the pedestrian, traffic is slow but parking is always available. There are crosswalks at every intersection and even in the middle of streets. Traffic always stops for a person crossing, something unique to Lawrence (I've nearly been run over countless times walking in Chicago, even while waiting for the crosswalk light to change).

As you are walking, there are plenty of shops to stop in along the way. If you are the crunchy granola type, there is Third Planet full of hemp clothing and opinionated bumper stickers for the ardent liberal. For the fashionista, there is Envy, affordable clothing for the trend setter. For the foodie (like myself) you have to stop at Au Marche', a specialty store that specializes in European cuisine (I recommend picking up some of their duck liver pate. With a glass of white wine, it will blow your mind).

If you're feeling peckish, Massachusetts Street has unlimited options. There is Teller's, award-winning Italian dining in a renovated bank that has some of the best fine dining in Lawrence. If you want to experience amazing Kansas barbecue, make sure to go to Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse. For a true college hangout, stop by Jefferson's for great burgers and oysters (I suggest the oysters for an appetizer and following it up with one of their big juicy burgers to finish it off). Also be sure to decorate a dollar bill to put on Jefferson's wall.

Like any college town, Massachusetts Street also has its selection of bars. One of my favorites is the Jazzhaus, an upstairs bar where William S. Burroughs was known to have a few drinks. There is also the Replay, voted one of the best college bars in the country. Replay is a little rowdy but with a huge outdoor patio where smokers can enjoy their cigarettes and their drinks, as well as an indoor stage that offers amazing bands, you'll have a memorable night for sure. And then there is Brothers, a bar frequented by college students who enjoy a beer and the sports on the television.

Whether you're eating, drinking, shopping, or just hoping for a nice stroll, you must take a walk down Massachusetts Street when you're in Lawrence, Kansas.

Total Travel Time: 15 minutes
Total Travel Distance: 6 miles
Soundtrack: "Get Born" JET


December 7, 2010

Road Trip Philosophy - Why I Didn't Drive Until I Was 17

During Thanksgiving, my family and I were discussing one of my cousin's new learner's permit. Which of course brought up the subject of my learner's permit. I actually didn't get my learner's permit until I was sixteen and didn't get my driver's license until I was seventeen, a year later than all my peers. This may be surprising because I obviously love to drive and spend a lot of time behind the wheel.

But before I became I dedicated road tripper, I was terrified of driving because of a traumatic car accident. When I was fifteen and a half, I was riding in a car on the way to church. There were five of us in the car, the driver, one person in the passenger seat, and three of us in the back. I was in the middle seat (also known as the Jesus seat because if you were in an accident, you better pray to Jesus. This was, of course, a little ironic.) On our way to church we were passing through an intersection when a car turning right on red suddenly appeared in front of us. We hit the car and the driver spun the wheel left as hard and fast as she could, trying to avoid a bigger collision. But she lost control of the car. We crossed three lanes of traffic, jumped a curb, and crashed into the side of a brick apartment building.

My memory of the actual accident is a little hazy. Mostly because I suffered a concussion. I remember only flashes. I remember seeing the car and thinking, "We're going to hit him." I remember hitting my head a couple times. Then I remember jumping the curb and seeing a brick wall coming at us. All I thought was, "We're going to crash." I didn't experience any existential crises. My life didn't flash before my eyes. All I could do was try to understand what was happening so quickly. And then be grateful I was wearing my seatbelt. Because if I hadn't, I would have flown through the windshield, become a skid mark by the side of the road, and I certainly wouldn't be alive today to write this.

We stumbled out of the smoldering wreck, confused by alive. But things got worse. The girl in the passenger seat began walking down the side walk when she collapsed, not breathing. The airbag had caused a asthma attack and she could not breathe. Luckily, a nurse who had been driving by pulled over and performed CPR. An ambulance arrived quickly to take everyone to the hospital, although I did not go. In my concussion-induced confusion, I was completely unaware of where I was and what was happening so I insisted I was fine. It wasn't until I got home that I realized the seatbelt had burst the capillaries on my waist and I was bleeding through my sister's sundress I had borrowed for the day.

For about a year after the accident, I became terrified of being in a car. Not just driving, but even being a passenger. I would have panic attacks at intersections and hyperventilate every time I got behind the wheel. I would take many months before I would stop seeing cars as moving death machines and start to embrace the freedom the road offered.

As odd as this may sound, I am actually grateful for the experience. I am an extremely careful driver and have only been in one accident behind the wheel. I have learned to anticipate the stupid decisions drivers make on the road and how to avoid them. I have learned how to not make those stupid decisions myself. And most importantly, I always wear my seatbelt. I know how suddenly and unexpectedly things can go wrong on the road and I know that wearing my seatbelt saved my life.

So for all you out there taking roadtrips, wear your seatbelt and be careful. The road is a magical place, but it can also be dangerous.


December 2, 2010

Rio Theater – Overland Park, KS

I love the historic downtown of Overland Park. I love the architecture, I love the shops, I love the Farmers Market and I love the Rio Theater.

The old Rio Theater is a sanctuary for a film fanatic like myself, because it is a theater like theaters should be. This is not a modern multiplex with an over-priced concession stand and crappy movies on all of the thirty screens. This art-deco theater has an elegant lobby with plush velvety seats, and selective screenings. The theater doesn’t just show whatever crap has been released. No, it chooses the best of films – independent, art, foreign, documentary, and anything else that is truly worthy of being on their enchanting silver screen.

The last time I went to the Rio Theater was with my father to see the Woody Allen film “Whatever It Takes.” My father taught me about great films from an early age. When other kids were watching Disney, I was watching “The Philadelphia Story” and “Arsenic and Old Lace.” That doesn't mean I haven't seen "The Lion King," of course I watched the classic kid movies. But I also knew that "You've Got Mail" ripped off Jimmy Stewart's "Shop Around the Corner." Now in my twenties, I'm still a film nerd and I still like the old ones the best. For example, Humphrey Bogart will always be the greatest on screen detective in my opinion, whether it is in "The Maltese Falcon" or the film noir classic "Dead Reckoning."

My love of old movies makes my love of the old Rio movie theater quite natural. Going to the movies used to be a classic evening out. Men wore hats and women wore their nicest dresses to see the latest film. Now, tickets are over-priced, concession-stands make a candy bar cost more than a nice meal out, and there is always somebody texting or talking through the film. Going to the Rio Theater is going back in time and experiencing the cinema as it was, and still should be.

Total Time Traveled: 1.5 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 73 miles
Soundtrack: "Drunken Lullabies" Flogging Molly


November 30, 2010

Road Trip Philosophy – Weighing in on the TSA Debate

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

The new TSA regulations on pat downs and advanced imaging in airports has many people upset. And I understand why. Although I prefer to drive whenever possible (obviously because this is a road trip blog), I am often forced to fly when time constraints prevent me from taking the time to drive long distances. So I am naturally concerned about these new regulations.

In my opinion, the TSA has gone too far. With the old pat down procedures, agents ran the back of their hands along the passenger’s body. I didn’t enjoy the pat down, but I understood it. I have issues with personal space. I don’t like being touched by strangers. Heck, I don’t even like sitting too close to people I don’t know on a plane or subway car. So while the old pat down procedures made me uncomfortable, I was willing to go through it because I knew it was as minimally invasive as possible and served an important purpose.

But the new pat down procedures take it too far. Now TSA agents rub and grope passengers with open palms. Already there have been complaints of people with medical ailments being humiliated in front of other passengers in the name of security. A bladder cancer survivor who wears a bag that collects his urine said a TSA punctured the bag during an aggressive pat down and left him covered in his own urine. A breast cancer survivor was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat down, after the agent had grabbed it with her hand.

This isn’t protecting anyone. The TSA says the pat downs are for security from terrorism. But then why is the TSA terrorizing us? Why is it humiliating passengers, violating them physically and psychologically? I believe I have the right to physically safety when traveling – whether it is from a terrorist or a TSA agent. I don’t believe I should have to give up my right to safety from one to be protected from the other.

The alternative to the pat down is to go through a full body scanner, but that isn’t much better. Rather than being groped, poked and prodded, you walk through what is basically a large X-ray machine and allow the TSA agents to view your naked body. That is something I am just not okay with. Call me a prude, but I don’t like flashing my genitals to strangers. What’s worse is that the TSA or other federal agencies might be saving these images. That means the government could have nude pictures of me and my private parts on file. The very thought of that makes me nauseous.

Honestly, the new pat down procedures and the full body scanners make me afraid to fly. I am more afraid of being violated by TSA regulations that will expose me and violate me than of any other security threat.

But I’m not sure what I can do about it. Sometimes, I need to fly because driving isn’t possible. I can only hope that enough complaints will force the TSA to reevaluate how it violates passengers.


November 25, 2010

The Phoggy Dog - Lawrence, KS

Before I moved to Kansas, I wasn’t much of a college basketball fan. As a kid, I went with my parents to the University of Tulsa games and loved them. But in high school and college, I was never really cared for sports. But then I moved to Lawrence, Kansas where I drank the crimson and blue koolaid. And every week I go to the Phoggy Dog in Lawrence, Kansas to keep drinking it.

In Lawrence, Kansas, there is nothing more important than the University of Kansas men’s college basketball team. And I mean nothing. You could insult a man’s mother, his country, and his god and he will shake your hand. But if you insult the Jayhawks, get ready for a brawl.

I don’t know when I became one of the rapid fans who yells at television screen, wears her favorite player’s jersey (Aldrich #45 from last season) and walks down the street chanting, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” I swear I used to be a sensible person. I used to scoff at those who camped out for tickets or participated in the silly rivalries. Now, I keep the game schedule in my day planner and sneer at anyone wearing a University of Missouri sweatshirt.

The Phoggy Dog (pronounced “Foggy” Dog) has thirteen televisions, including a ten-foot HD television and 10 HD plasma televisions. Whether you’re sitting at the bar or with a group of friends at a table, you are guaranteed to have a great view no matter where you are. There are also great drinks for a group of friends looking for a party. Whether its pitchers of beer or the “fishbowl,” the bar is set to get as many basketball fans as drunk as possible while they watch the Jayhawks trounce their opponents up and down the court. (I have no idea what is in the “fishbowl,” just that it is a fishbowl full of a very alcoholic cocktail).

Personally, I enjoy a beer or two while I watch my beloved Jayhawks and also enjoy the Phoggy Dog’s burger. It’s a 1/3 pound of Angus beef topped with cheese, tomato, lettuce, and pickles. It’s good as far as bar food goes, not great. The menu is all your staple American bar food – chicken wings, onion rings, chicken strips, French fries – none of it particularly mind-blowing, but definitely satisfying while watching the game.

The best part of the Phoggy Dog is the staff and patrons. Everyone who works there are Jayhawk fans. If you want to discuss players and strategy before tip-off, grab a bar stool and chat with any of the bartenders. If want someone to cheer or chant with you, turn to whoever is sitting next to you.

If you are passing through Kansas during basketball season and can’t get tickets to a game, go down to the Phoggy Dog and get a taste of what it means to be a Jayhawk fan. I guarantee it will be an experience you will remember, whether you’re actually a college basketball fan or not.

Total Trip Time: 5 minutes
Total Distance Traveled: 1 mile
Soundtrack: Rock Chalk Jayhawk!


November 23, 2010

Allen Fieldhouse (The Phog) – Lawrence, KS

Few things in Kansas are as important as basketball. After all, Lawrence is the birthplace of college basketball. In 1989, Dr. James Naismith came to the University of Kansas, just six years after writing the official rules for the sport of basketball, and began the University of Kansas men’s basketball team. (Fun Fact: Naismith is the only KU basketball coach to have a losing record, 55-60).

One of the students he coached was Forrest “Phog” Allen. Allen would go on to become a basketball legend; he was called the Father of Basketball Coaching. He would go on to coach the KU team for 39 years and lead the team to two Helms National Championships (two seasons in a row) and an NCAA Championship. He also coached the US basketball team in the 1952 Summer Olympics, helping the US bring home the gold.

The Allen Fieldhouse is named for the illustrious couch and a banner hanging in the rafters of the Fieldhouse reads: "Pay heed all who enter, beware of the Phog." Of course, KU honors Dr. Naismith as well. The actual playing court is named the James Naismith Court. Since the opening of Allen Fieldhouse in 1955, the Jayhawks have a home record of 651-106, that means they have won 86% of their home games in the Allen Fieldhouse!

Allen Fieldhouse is known for its dominating team and also for its noise! This year, ESPN The Magazine named Allen Fieldhouse the loudest college basketball arena in the country. And they are not kidding around. If you’ve ever been to a KU basketball game at the Allen Fieldhouse, you know that the KU students don’t mess around. They cheer, they jeer, they scream, they throw confetti – it is an experience that will leave your throat raw and your ears ringing. There is nowhere else in the country you can experience true basketball fervor like you can at the Allen Fieldhouse.

The Allen Fieldhouse also has some rich traditions. Before the start of every game, it is tradition to sing the University of Kansas alma mater "Crimson and the Blue" and then the Rock Chalk Chant. (“Rock Chalk Jayhawk! KU!”) During the song, students wrap their arms around their neighbors and sway. It is really a moment of community when the college students come together to support their teams.

But the traditions don’t stop with a few songs and chants. While the opposing team is being introduced, the members of the student section take out a copy of the student paper, The University Daily Kansan, and wave the paper in front of their faces, pretending to be reading it instead of paying attention to the other team (they also have a tendency to shake the pages, drowning out the names of the other players with the sounds of russeling paper). After the opponents are introduced, a short film is shown about the history and the accomplishments of Kansas basketball. If that doesn’t make you proud to be a Kansan, then you really don’t have a heart. Then as the Jayhawks are introduced, the students rip up their newspapers and throw the confetti pieces of paper in the air. But they still hold on to a bit of the confetti, they throw the rest when KU scores their first basket.

If you are passing through Kansas, you have to stop at the Allen Fieldhouse. It’s simply the one thing you have to do. And if you are lucky enough to score tickets to a home basketball game, remember: "Pay heed all who enter, beware of the Phog."

Total Trip Time: 10 minutes
Total Travel Distance: 2.5 miles
Soundtrack: "Crimson and the Blue"


November 18, 2010

Grand Opening of Vagabond Vestments!

Instead of a regular post today, I'm going to make a couple major announcements.

First, some amazing news! Apparently there are more of you reading this blog than I thought. The Yellow Brick Road Trip was ranked #16 on the 50 Best North American Travel Blogs! I am genuinely surprised and genuinely honored to be on the list, because there are some great blogs on there. So thank you to everyone who has been reading and I encourage you to check out the list for some other travel blogs.

My second major announcement is that I am opening Vagabond Vestments, a store for the Yellow Brick Road Trip where I will be selling handmade items to help fund my travels. I started knitting years ago, just for something to keep my hands busy while I was watching television. But eventually, my family and friends got tired of receiving knitted presents for every possible occasion. So I decided to sell my items here and use the money to continue my travels for The Yellow Brick Road Trip. Right now, I'm selling just knitted items but I enjoy other crafts - for example, I'm currently learning to cut glass - so you may see some other types of items available here soon!

Thank you to everyone who has been reading! Check out Vagabond Vestments and come back on Tuesday when I will have a post about the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas (the home of the KU college basketball team).


November 16, 2010

The Beast (The Largest Haunted House in the US) - Kansas City, MO

It's been years since I've been to a haunted house, but this Halloween my friend John and I decided to go to The Beast in Kansas City, the largest haunted house in the United States. That's right, the largest haunted house in the United States! And at five stories tall, that's not a surprising title. It is an elaborate maze through various scenes from the haunted Bayou, to the haunted English castle, to the serial killer's torture chamber - you wind through the dark and the fog until you have absolutely no idea where you are and how you got there. Then, you exit through a four story slide! (Which is why I don't recommend wearing a dress like I did - you will end up with your skirt over your head at the bottom.)

It wasn't too hard to find the haunted house or parking (if you don't mind paying for parking). We decided to drive there but there are regular pickups throughout town for those who don't want to drive downtown. We bought our tickets in advance, which I recommend doing. The line to buy tickets and get in was insanely long but the ticket line wasn't too bad. You can pay extra for a line jumper ticket, but I didn't really see the point in it. Unless you get there really late on a busy night, it's not really necessary.

I absolutely loved The Beast! The dark maze is disorienting in the best possible way. Some rooms are identically decorated so you have no idea if you've been there before - whether you are going up or down or in circles. It really creates a suspended sense of reality. The main scares are the surprises - sudden bursts of air, things popping out of walls or dropping from the ceiling, and of course the costumed employees suddenly appearing out of nowhere. There are plenty of high tech elements - a ghost king dancing, animatronic skeletons that leap out of coffins. I learned my friend John screams like a little girl and clings to me when an animatronic demon drops from the ceiling amid strobe lights and recorded shrieks. (Although I screamed like a little girl, too, so who am I to judge?)

The only downside to this amazing haunted house were the other patrons. The maze had very tiny hallways and there were way too many people inside. At several points it was like being cattle trapped in a chute to the slaughter, we were pressed against each other without hope of moving and at several points I had difficulty breathing in the cramped space. Overall, most customers dealt with this well by making jokes (mostly about being cattle), but a few people decided to blame everyone around them for the inconvenience. One man turned to me and got angry that I was somehow interfering with his group of friends. John and I were both a little shocked that he would be nasty and rude to a complete stranger, but I suppose some people are just unpleasant (Like me, because I hope he tore his pants on the way down the slide).

And, of course, there were the unsupervised children. I don't know what parents think it is a good idea to send eight and nine year olds into a dark haunted house at 10 o'clock at night without a parent but apparently there are many of them. The children enjoyed taunting people working in the haunted house and even trying to grab some of the props. I had an overwhelming urge on several occasions to turn into my mother and lecture them about respect for others. But instead, I suppressed my annoyance and focused on enjoying myself. I particularly enjoyed seeing a man in a serial killer costume chase one of the annoying little brats with a metal bar.

If you are looking for a road trip destination with a good scare, I really recommend making the trip to Kansas City for The Beast. Think about it - a good scare, a four-story slide, and you get to say you have visited the largest haunted house in the United States. You can't lose!

Total Trip Time: 3 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 40 miles
Soundtrack: "The Warrior Code" Dropkick Murphys


November 11, 2010

Road Trip Memories - Why I Used to Be Scared of Haunted Houses

It's been a long time since I have been to a haunted house, so I was thrilled when my friend John agreed to go with me to The Beast and the Edge of Hell in Kansas City on Halloween weekend. But to explain why this is such an awesome trip, I feel I should explain why I haven't been to a haunted house in years.

When I was about 13 or 14, I was supposed to go to a Halloween party at my friend Sarah's house where she told me we would be watching "Halloween." Not wanting to be the one girl who got scared, I decided to watch it the night before. Alone. At night. It was not the smartest idea. Needless to say, it scared the poo out of me and I didn't sleep or turn out the lights all night.

The next night, we went to Allen Ranch in Oklahoma for a haunted hay ride and haunted house before going back to my friend Sarah's house to watch scary movies. I was a little jumpy (okay, I was very jumpy) on the haunted hay ride but ended up having a great time! It was just the right combination of cheesy werewolves and creepy Jason Vorhees with fake chainsaws to make us jump out of our skins and laugh at the same time.

But then we got to the haunted house and things went terribly wrong. There were five of us and we were having a great time, screaming whenever someone leaped out at us and laughing at how easily we had been scared by a guy in a mask. Then we came to a hallway with, you guessed it, Mike Meyers standing in the middle. I was absolutely terrified. At first we thought he was a mannequin but then we saw him tighten his grip on the knife. It's hard to explain just how scared I was. For the last twenty-four hours I had been gripped by a young girl's fear of the masked killer in Halloween. Now he was standing in front of me and the only way out was to run past him. We counted to five and took off.

He chased us. That (insert litany of descriptive swear words here) jerk chased us.

I was officially losing my mind when not only did he chase us, he cornered my friend Jackie and I. Jackie pushed me in front of her and so there I was, screaming and crying, face to face with a masked slasher who seemed to come out of a movie just to torture me. As he stood over me, wielding a knife, I forgot I was in a haunted house. My brain switched into survivor mode and I went from thinking I was a scared little girl in a haunted house to genuinely believing I was a slasher movie heroine who wasn't going to be taken down that easily.

And so I kicked him in the groin. Hard.

I kicked that masked man as hard as I could and took off running (For a cartoon illustration of what this might have looked like, check out R.K. Milholland's Something Positive.) I took out a styrofoam wall and collapsed on the cold dirt as soon as I was outside in a shaking mess to tears and snot. It was a truly pathetic sight. The people who ran the haunted house called my mother to complain about me, when she pointed out that I was a young girl who just had been cornered in the dark by a man with a weapon. She said if they didn't want me to defend myself, then they shouldn't have let a masked man trap me. They thought about it and had to let me off with a warning.

Needless to say, it would be many years before I returned to a haunted house. But I'm happy to say, I went to the Kansas City haunted houses this year and loved them! So stay tuned because next week I'll tell you about my trip to The Beast in Kansas City, the largest haunted house in the United States!


November 9, 2010

Road Trip Philosophy - My Travel Bucket List

Travel Junkie Julia recently posted 10 Extreme Travel Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List. The exciting list included riding a bull, cage diving with great white sharks, and running a marathon on the Great Wall of China. My personal bucket list is significantly less dangerous, but I always appreciate some suggestions and thought this would be a great chance to share with you my top three travel destinations I will go to before I die:

1. The Sedlec Ossuary in Sedlec, Czech Republic

I have already bought my Czech Republic travel guides, complete with maps and hostel ratings. I've been planning this trip for a couple years and sincerely hope to go sometimes in the next few years.

The Sedlect Ossuary has an amazing history. The abbot of the monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land in 1278. When he returned, he brought with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. The word of this pious act soon spread and the cemetery in Sedlec became a desirable burial site throughout Central Europe. During the Black Death in the mid 14th century, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands of people were buried there and the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged.

Overwhelmed with bodies, a woodcarver in the 19th century was employed to put the bones in order. The result was incredible. He completely decorated the small chapel with the bones, including an enormous chandelier of bones hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vaults. This macabre chapel is one place I have to see before I die

2. Safari and Tour of Tanzania, Africa

Specifically, I would like to go on a safari tour through Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Also, a stop on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar for some relaxation in the beautiful sun. In addition to amazing safaris, beautiful beaches, and busy urban cities, Tanzania also offers Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa (though I doubt I am even remotely in good enough physical shape to even consider climbing it). Basically, I would like to spend a month living in Tanzania so I would have an opportunity to explore all of its amazing attributes.

Tanzania is believed to be one of the oldest known continuously inhabited areas on Earth. Fossil remains of humans and pre-human hominids have been found dating back over two million years. And while many countries in Africa have been torn apart by tribal wars and genocide, Tanzania has lived in relative peace. It is one of the most diverse places in Africa: there are over 120 ethnic groups and a multitude of religions being practiced, including Islam, Christianity, and indigenous religions. Though their primary industry is agriculture (fun fact: agriculture accounts for one-half of the country's gross national product), tourism is a growing industry. So I am certainly not alone in making Tanzania one of my top three places to visit before I die.

3. Mule Trip on the South Rim and Camping in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Given my recent trip to Arizona, this is probably the most attainable destination (also the cheapest, based on the cost of international airfare.) The Grand Canyon is such an amazing place. It took nearly two billion years of geological events to create it and is without a doubt one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. It is also the site of some of the oldest North American archeological finds. The oldest human artifacts found in the Grand Canyon are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period.

I want to take a mule trip down the south rim, but I would also like to camp at the bottom. I want to really experience the beauty and natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, but not be a destructive tourist. Many people don't know that the Grand Canyon is a delicate ecosystem, and one that eager tourists often abuse. For example, tourists sometimes throw coins into the canyon but then wildlife, such as the California Condor, eat them and choke to death. A depressing thought, I know, but I still think an important thing to remember. I want to go to the Grand Canyon to see the natural beauty, but hopefully leave no trace of my presence behind.


November 4, 2010

The Basket Dance Sculpture - Albuquerque, NM

While still stuck in the Albuquerque airport, I decided to walk outside for some fresh air and a cigarette. Sure, I would have to go through security again but I really needed to get away from the crowds of sweaty and irritated travelers (that and I really needed a cigarette). But while I was outside enjoying the fresh air (and my sweet, sweet nicotine), I saw a beautiful bronze sculpture called "The Basket Dance."

The sculpture was created by Glenna Goodacre, an artist most known for designing the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Sacagawea dollar the US put into circulation in 2000. (Fun Fact: Goodacre's daughter was a Victoria Secret model and is the wife of Henry Connick, Jr.)

Though a native Texan, Goodacre has lived in New Mexico since 1983, so it seems fitting her artwork would have a prominent place at many people's first introduction to her adopted state. Though "The Basket Dance" is not her most famous work, it is certainly interesting and honors the Native American tradition so prominent in New Mexico. The Basket Dance is an annual Hopi tradition celebrating the end of harvest where anything extra was re-distributed to help everyone make it through the tough winters. It is a beautiful work of art and definitely a great introduction to New Mexico for those making their first visit. Or for me, trying to forget how long I've been stuck in an airport.


November 2, 2010

The 1914 Ingram/Foster Biplane - Albuquerque, NM

On my way home from Arizona, I got stuck in the Albuquerque, New Mexico airport for about three hours. But it turns out the Albuquerque airport isn't that bad a place to be stuck. There are tons of historical exhibits and artwork for the stranded traveler to enjoy, like the 1914 Ingram/Foster Biplane

(By the way, I asked security before I took this picture. I don't recommend taking unauthorized pictures in airports unless you want to get tackled by TSA).

According to the Albuquerque Museum: "While on a business trip to Dallas, Jay Ingram, a Ford dealer from Decatur, Texas, met Charles A. Foster, an exchibition flier. Foster's flying stories spaarked Ingram's imagination, and the two men struck a deal. Foster would come to Decatur, build aeroplanes, and together they would from the Pioneer Aeroplane Exhibition Company."

"In six months, Foster built a copy of a Curtiss pusher that was sturdy enough for limited aerobatics. The wheels, tires and many fittings were purchased from mail order aeroplane supply houses. The ribs, interplane struts and wing sections were custom-made from raw lumber. The wings were covered with cotton or linen fabric and painted with a varnish made from cellulose dissolved in ether. The eight-cylinder Roberts engine was rated at 100 horsepower."

I don't know enough about aviation or airplanes to be appropriately impressed. But I do know enough to think it was a very cool looking biplane and its was fascinating to learn a little bit about aviation history while waiting for my modern flying tin can to finally show up.


October 28, 2010

Mystery Castle - Phoenix, AZ

On Saturday afternoon, Anna and I decided to take a break from horror movies for a couple hours and taking in some local roadside attractions. So we went to the Mystery Castle in Phoenix.

The Mystery Castle is a sad but beautiful story. Boyce Luther Gulley lived on the West Coast and always promised his little girl he would one day build her castle to live in. But when Gulley was diagnosed with tuberculosis and believed he only had a few months to live, he left his family without a word. His wife and daughter would never hear from him again until after his death. Gulley went to Arizona to spend his last few months building his daughter a dream castle. But he didn't live for a few months, he lived for years and built his daughter's dream 18-room castle of stone, adobe, automobile parts and petroglyphs held together by cement. This three-story castle, completed in 1945, is made of stone, adobe, automobile parts and petroglyphs and is held together by a cement mixture including goat's milk.

From his death bed, Gulley wrote to his daughter Mary Lou and told her about the castle. The teenage Mary Lou and her mother moved to her castle in the desert where Mary Lou still lives to this day. The castle gets its name from the "mystery" of the trap door. Gulley told his daughter not to open the trap door until 1948, three years after the house was completed. On New Year's Eve of 1948, Mary Lou and her mother opened the trap door to find a hidden room where her father had hidden gifts for her including the title to the house and gold nuggets.

The castle has 18 rooms, 13 fireplaces, a kitchen, a bar, and even a wedding chapel where wedding ceremonies used to be held! (Fun Fact: There are a collection of shoes left behind by brides in the wedding chapel for good luck). From the castle, you can see the whole cityscape of Phoenix and some beautiful landscape. It is truly a beautiful place with a beautiful story. If you are in Phoenix, be sure to pay a visit to Mary Lou Gulley's Mystery Castle.


October 26, 2010

La Fonda Del Sol - Scottsdale, AZ

If I got to choose my last meal, it would be the beef tamale with rice and beans from La Fonda Del Sol in Scottsdale, Arizona. One afternoon, Anna and I decided to look for a real Mexican restaurant to enjoy an authentic lunch. We hit the jackpot with La Fonda Del Sol.

The chunky mild salsa (with tomatoes, fresh cilantro, onion, and a little bit of lime juice) was delicious with fresh tortilla chips. We went through two orders of the salsa pretty quickly. I then had the beef tamale with red sauce and rice and beans. This tamale has eclipsed all other tamales for me. It was light and fluffy, fresh out out of the corn husk. The shredded beef was so tender it just melted in your mouth. And the red sauce had just the right amount of spice to give it a kick without burning your mouth. Anna's chicken enchilada was equally amazing so we sat silently, eating in awe of just how amazing the food was. I swear, when the waiter asked if everything was okay, we were both about to drop to our knees and praise him for bringing us these bits of heaven.

We finished up the meal with some deep friend ice cream (vanilla icing in a fried corn flake crust). It was good, but not as heart stopping amazing as the main course. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will get the sopapillas or the churro.

If you are in the Phoenix area and you like Mexican food, be sure to stop by the La Fonda Del Sol to enjoy the most amazing food you've ever had!


October 21, 2010

International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival 2010 - Tempe, AZ

It was gall break and definitely needed some time away from law school. And what better way then two days of horror movies? So I called up my best friend and traveling companion, Anna, and we booked our flights. We spent two days at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival watching some great films and even got to meet the director of one of the films (The picture below is us with Matt Rogers, the director of Snuff). Below are the films we saw:

Horror Shorts A: This collection of short horror films included "Rise of the Appliance" (great for watching someone be attacked by grill), "Nice Guys Finish Dead" (what happens when a slasher falls in love with one of the campers), "MutantLand" (amazing animation and very creepy), "Abra Cadaver" (a failed magician tries to use women to complete his tricks, until one teaches him a lesson), "Zombie Monologues" (a new zombie critiques the zombie apocolypse to a journalist and his cameraman), "Recollection" (a man wakes up in the middle of a serial killer's spree, but doesn't know who he is), and "The Furred Man" (a man explains to police why he is wearing a furry costume and covered in blood).

El Monstro Del Mar: This was by far my favorite film of the entire festival! It is the absolute best in exploitation monster movies. Three gorgeous but deadly hired killers, Beretta, Blondie and Snowball, hole up in a small beach-side community to keep a low profile. But this town has a dark secret. The local old sea baron, Joseph, tries desperately to warn them to never go into the water. But these crazy vixens listen to no one, especially no crazy ass old fool. So the Kraken awakes! Now, along with Joseph and his beautiful grand daughter, Hannah, they must fight for their lives against this furious creature of the deep as the sea rises in a tidal wave of blood.

Snuff: A young director sets out with his friend and ex-girlfriend to make a documentary about pornography. They meet Alyssa, a young girl about to make her first porn. Despite tension and fighting among the crew, they set out to follow her into her new career as a porn star. But then Alyssa goes missing and the crew fears she may have fallen victim to a snuff film producer. Can they save her or will they die in the process? This movie was great and I also had a great time talking with Matt Rogers, the director. (Fun Fact: The "porn actresses" they interview are actually a local roller derby team.)

Ave Maria: When an aspiring filmmaker discovers his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend, he decides they have to die. To avoid being caught, he will kill other people to make it look like they were part of a fictional serial killer's spree. But even after he kills his fiance, the desire to kill remains. He embarks on making the first "crimentery" about his murders, but the police are starting to catch on. This was a good movie with an awesome twist ending, but the main character sounded like he was doing an impression of Hannibal Lecter throughout the whole movie. It was a great story with great cinematography, but the all the "Silence of the Lambs" influence took away from it.