The phone rang at 3:18am. This vacation starts not with an early morning departure, but with an early morning run.
Weeks ago, I agreed to pace some friends who are running a 50 mile race this morning, the Midnight Madness 50 Miler. The call was to let me know that they were on schedule for our planned meeting at 5am.
I ran 10 miles with them from 5:00 am to 7:30 am. It was a neat experience pacing them, and it would be fun to try this race myself some day. Stephanie is on board also!
One of the runners returned just a few days ago from Europe. While in London, he and a cousin camped out overnight at Wimbledon to get discounted tickets for Center Court. They were successful campers and had a lot of great stories to tell because of it. I hope to say the same for us.
For a family that has done precious little camping, we are going all-in with the camping experience on this vacation. Every night. In a tent. For 15 nights. What could go wrong?
My brother, Scott, came over to see us off, which was great. We needed an official photographer. He was present to witness the final loading of the van as we pushed and squeezed every last item into place.
Scott indicated he didn’t have any plans for the day, which allowed him to come see us. Mallory (age 12) invited Scott to go with us on our trip, but Scott pointed out that we didn’t have room for him. Good observation, Scott!
Lunch was a combination of salads and lunchables we pulled out of our ice chest at a stop on the Kansas Turnpike. Stephanie’s seafood salad was a point of interest. Mallory asked her if it was salmon, but Stephanie told her it was imitation crab. “You hardly ever get real crab. Normally it is just crab-flavored iguana.” What?!
Driving through central Kansas does not provide the most interesting scenery. A quick review of the kids found Miles practicing on his drum pad, Mallory reading “Catching Fire”, and Marissa listening to music on her iPod. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.
We did see several billboards promoting “The World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well”. We were intrigued. There’s another billboard – “One of 8 Wonders of Kansas”! We have to stop now.
We pulled off the road in Greensburg and quickly found the well. We entered the building and while I was figuring out if we wanted to pay the necessary admission at this “museum”, I noticed that Miles and Marissa had gone ahead and wandered in. “We’ll take 5 tickets, please.”
This well was impressive. It was completed in 1888, and was 109 feet deep, and 32 feet in diameter. Today they have a stairwell that goes down into the well which you can take. It smelled like a musty cellar when you descended to the bottom.
Not only did “The Big Well Museum & Visitors Center” feature the well, it also included – at no extra charge – a view of the World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorite. It was found locally in 1949 and weighs 1,000 pounds. A smaller meteorite from the same presumed meteor shower in Kansas is currently displayed in the Smithsonian.
Even with these two “World’s Largest” attractions, Greensburg is probably better known for an F5 tornado that completely wiped the town off the map in 2007. The town decided not only to rebuild, but to do it with a complete focus on utilizing renewable energy.
Most all of the building that has been performed in the town since 2007 has utilized either LEED Gold or LEED Platinum construction. The result is a large collection of high-tech looking buildings.
Once we learned more about the history of the town, it explained the presence of the super-sweet John Deere dealership we passed coming into town. It looked nicer than any Lexus dealership you could show me. Business is good in Greensburg.
Our featured activities for today were in Garden City. When we pulled into town, our first stop was to visit the World’s Largest Hairball. 55 pounds of hair pulled out of a cow’s stomach. I can’t make this stuff up.
Across the parking lot is the World’s Largest Outdoor Municipal Concrete Swimming Pool. In the months leading up to this trip, Marissa, age 8, has been adamant that swimming in this pool was going to be her favorite part of the trip.
So imagine our disappointment when we arrive and the pool is closed to the public! The pool was hosting a swim meet and the gates were locked for people like us to swim. Keep in mind that this pool holds almost 2.5 million gallons of water. It is a huge pool. The swim meet looked like it was taking up perhaps 20% of the pool.
Marissa took it very well, but we did decide to swing by Sonic and get everybody a treat. A treat always helps to ease the pain.
We left Garden City for our final leg of the journey, to Goodland, Kansas. We arrived at the Goodland KOA around 7:45 and immediately set out to put up our tent. To nobody’s surprise, it started raining, and it continued to rain off and on the entire hour we spent getting the tent up. But the tent did make it up, and it doesn’t leak, and the crew did a great job of putting it together under trying circumstances.
Around 9:00, the girls went to the pool. The KOA owner was shutting down the pool, but the girls talked him into 15 more minutes. He very generously let them use the pool and splash around. While I was taking some pictures of the girls in the pool, Miles told me “Don’t drop the camera in the pool!” A reference to the first night of our last trip to South Dakota when Stephanie dropped our camera in the hotel pool and we had to buy a new camera the next day. (I didn’t drop the camera.)
This KOA has a mini-golf course and Miles was going to check it out, but the course was closed as well.
Around 10:00, we gathered at our picnic table and enjoyed a late night snack. We got to watch the thunderstorms light up the sky to the north. Thankfully the temperatures are very pleasant here and we have not seen any mosquitoes.
It turned out to be a great travel day, with or without the giant swimming pool.