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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Put Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City on your 2018 Calendar!

Time Travel poster

Today, on National Roller Coaster Day, Silver Dollar City raised the bar a few notches with the announcement of its newest ride. Time Traveler, a revolutionary new concept in roller coasters, will open in 2018. Billed as the world's fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster, ti comes to the United States from German manufacturer, Mack Rides. Specially designed for the beautiful Ozark Mountain terrain, the track will cross itself 14 times in the nearly 2-minute long ride.

Check out these facts:
The Load Station

1. Fastest - with a top speed of 50.3 miles per hour.
2. Steepest - 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop ... straight down.
3. Tallest - 100 feet at its tallest point.
4. First & Only with Three Inversions - Dive Loop, Vertical Loop and Zero-G Roll
5. First & Only with a Vertical Loop - 95-foot tall loop
6. First & Only Double Launch - 0-47 mph in 3 seconds; 30-45mph in 35 seconds

It's going to be a fantastic ride and for those who love the rides, you're in for a huge thrill. The spinning is a game-changer for roller coasters.

Construction in progress
I love the concept of combining an attraction that celebrates the past (which Silver Dollar City does so well) with the innovation of the future. In announcing the new ride today, the park told the story of a young scientist, inventor and clockmaker who lives in Silver Dollar City, with his wife, Anna, and their only daughter, nine-year-old Emmaline. Charles, a dreamer, is enthralled with Jules Verne's creative genius. Charles teaches Emmaline that it's wonderful to dream, but it's not enough. You have to do something about it. Their mantra becomes "Dream Big. Do Good."

Charles invents Time Traveler and next year will invite people to take a tour. So get your ticket or season passes, and plan for the future and the past at Silver Dollar City.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dinosaurs at the Museum at Prairiefire

Overland Park is home to the Museum at Prairiefire. I first visited shortly after it opened in 2014. The museum operates in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Luckily for the Midwest, this gives residents and visitors access to exhibitions and educational resources that would not otherwise be available in this part of the country.

The current exhibition, The World's Largest Dinosaurs, runs through September 4, so there is still time to visit. According to the museum's website, "The huge dinosaurs called sauropods ... rank among Earth's great success stories, roaming the planet for 140 million years."

I have not yet seen the this exhibition, but I intend to. For today, I will focus on the marvelous building that houses the museum. It is one of my favorite buildings in the Kansas City area and if you haven't yet seen it, put it on your must-see list.

It is the first building in North America to feature dichroic glass on its exterior. NASA developed dichroic glass, a light-bending material, to protect astronauts' eyes from the sun's radiation.

It absorbs light s tone color on the exterior and filters it differently on the interior. This creates a constantly changing pattern of reds, oranges, golds and blues depending on the time of day and the brightness of the sun. The architect created the design to showcase the prairie. Whenever I'm in the area, I drive by just to see what the museum looks like at that moment.

In addition to the museum and its exhibitions, there's great food and shopping in the area, so plan to your visit accordingly. Check out the museum's light pattern when you arrive and when you leave. It will change.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Two Must-See Scenic Views in Kansas City, KS

Lewis and Clark at Kaw Point

Monument to Sacajawea,
who later joined the
Lewis & Clark
The Kansas River flows into the Missouri River at a point that became a camping spot for the Lewis and Clark Expedition well over 200 years ago. Today that point, known as Kaw Point, is a favorite spot for visitors to Kansas City, Kansas. As you stand on the point in Kansas, you look over the confluence of the rivers to Kansas City, Missouri.

Kaw Point Nature Trail
When I visited on a beautiful, but hot, July day, a few were beating the heat in their boats or canoes. The spot is a local favorite for canoeing and kayaking.

It's hard today to imagine what the point looked like when Lewis and Clark visited. One can imagine the bluffs were tree-covered and beautiful on that June day in 1804. When the expedition reached Kaw Point, it consisted of 45 men, including Lewis and Clark, three boats, four horses and a dog.

Today the Kaw Point Park offers nature trails as well as the awesome view.

View from Kaw Point Park

Rosedale Arch
The second great view of Kansas City, Missouri, from Kansas City, Kansas, is the Rosedale Arch. (Rosedale, once its own town, is now part of Kansas City, KS). This WWI Memorial, built in 1923, honors those who served and gave their lives in the 42nd Rainbow Division (comprised of National Guard units from 26 states and DC). Located just a short distance off I-35, the arch site offers a great view of the city.

The arch, inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was designed by John LeRoy Marshall, a Rosedale resident.

View from the Rosedale Arch

Monday, July 24, 2017

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City, KS

It's funny how you can live years of your life in an area and only discover some of its uniqueness once you've moved away.

I recently attended an Instameet event (for those who don't know, an event for Instagrammers) in Kansas City, Kansas. I had lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, twenty-plus years, and can honestly say I'd never heard of a couple of the places we visited.

Downtown KCKS is home to a truly fabulous Memorial Hall, dedicated as the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall more than ninety years ago. Located within short drives to the airport and downtown Kansas City, Missouri attractions such as the Power and Light District, it has a history as an entertainment venue.

It was the 1963 venue for singer Patsy Cline's last public performance before she and her fellow performers - Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins - died in a plane crash returning to Nashville. In the intervening years, many famous performers including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, REO Speedwagon and Led Zeppelin have performed in the 3,500 seat arena.

In addition, it has been home to a variety of sports events including professional wrestling and martial arts. On the day I visited, a roller derby practice session was in progress.

Although the outside is stately in an understated way, the inside is elaborate in its design. Marble, arches and columns combine to draw the eye. Sixteen arches separated by the columns showcase patriotic quotations. The architects who designed the building had a keen sense of classic beauty.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Needless to say, I loved it and like all the other attendees took many pictures. If you ever get the opportunity, take the time to visit the memorial located at 701 N 7th Street in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Museum

Trolley Museum

Looking for something different to do in Colorado Springs? We recently visited the Trolley Museum in the Roswell area and discovered an interesting history of the city and streetcars.

Inside of trolley
Located in the 19th century Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific roundhouse at 2333 Steel Drive, the museum has interesting artifacts of a bygone era. Our knowledgeable tour guide gave us a rundown of a fascinating period in the city’s history.

A number of restored – and in the process of being restored – streetcars provide a historical look at transportation across the nation. The current inventory includes streetcars from Denver, Ft Collins, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The display includes cars from the Rock Island, Southern Pacific and D&RGW railways, as well as interurban electric busses. An 1888 Pullman sleeping car is being restored. Visitors can tour a restored caboose and take a short ride in a restored trolley.
The tour guides also present the significant figures in the development of transportation in the area.

But the Trolley Museum is more than just the past. The Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, operator of the museum, is in ongoing negotiations to restore streetcar service in Colorado Springs.
Caboose display

With the current inventory of restored cars, it will be possible to operate the trolley line. What fun that will be!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Colorado Springs, a vibrant destination

Old Courthouse

Colorado Springs – then and now. Eons ago (so it seems), I lived in the city and attended St. Mary’s High School, which stood next to St. Mary’s Church. Today the church still stands tall against the skyline, but the two-story building that was my school is now an expanded parking lot for the church.

Prickly pear
The Pioneer Museum and the public library across the street are still operational, but much of the downtown is totally new to me. I find that exciting. Walking the streets, I am inundated with memories, and with a genuine fascination for what cities can offer. The old department stores of my youth – Kaufmann’s, Hibbard’s, the Grey Rose and Lorig’s – are gone, but in their place, the buildings house restaurants, bars, shops and galleries. I spent a morning taking photos of a few of the public art projects that line the streets. I was not alone. A number of people of all ages took photos and selfies. I wondered how many shots of downtown Colorado Springs hit social media sites in those few hours.

I love the old courthouse that graces the newer buildings around it. I am forever fascinated with the unique designs that architects create. With the Rockies as a backdrop, it must be a challenge to design something that enhances the natural beauty of the area and yet stands on its own.

Just twenty or so blocks to the west, the old Colorado City has kept the flavor of yesteryear. It also features many food and drink establishments, galleries and shops, but unlike the modernization of downtown, this area boasts of its history.

I enjoy them both. When you visit Colorado Springs, take time to walk both areas and experience the new and the old. Both offer visitors plenty of charm and choices.

Add in the climate and the mountains, and life doesn’t get much better!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mt St Francis Sanatorium

Mt. St. Francis

I recently read “The Art of Breathing” by Janie DeVos. With little knowledge of what tuberculosis (TB) care was like in the early part of the 20th century, through her novel I learned a little about the life and treatment for patients at the time.

Confined to sanatoriums and often quarantined, patients must have been driven nearly crazy during their months and sometimes years of treatment. In addition to the confinement and separation from family and friends, they faced their illness head-on and knew the odds against recovery.

Katherine, the heroine in DeVos’ story, is based on her grandmother’s own battle with TB. DeVos spent time in Chicago in the sanatorium where her grandmother received treatment, researching medical methods of the time and the day-to-day activities allowed patients.
The book reminded me that my dad had an aunt who emigrated from Ireland only to die here from TB a short time later, or consumption as they called it then. She was only eighteen and none of my dad’s generation ever knew her. However, he and his cousins took care of her grave throughout their lives.

Patient hut
With these thoughts in mind, I recently visited Mt. St. Francis in Colorado Springs. In 1907, the Modern Woodmen of America purchased the land to build a sanatorium for treatment of their members who contracted TB. Once built, the facility consisted of many individual huts where a patient was isolated from others. With room for only a bed, a table, and a wheelchair, the small huts probably became the center of a patient’s world. The Colorado air has always been known for its health properties, so hopefully patients spent many days outside enjoying the magnificent Rocky Mountains and the woods that surrounded the facility. 

Inside of patient hut
This one facility treated more than 12,000 patients over the years, and it is just one of several major sanatoriums in the Colorado Springs area. In fact, for years the city was known as a healthy place to treat TB patients.

On my visit, I saw a number of deer and I hoped that the thousands of patients from yesteryear also were blessed with their calming presence.

The Woodmen society operated the sanatorium until 1947, when they sold it to an individual who donated it to the Sisters of St. Francis. The sisters continued to concentrate on physical and spiritual health care and today the facility includes a nursing center, a retreat center, and a church.

The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. I would love to make a retreat there.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Monument Rocks in western Kansas

Slash a wide path down the middle of our country from north to south, and you will likely discover that eons ago it was part of a shallow sea. Back before dinosaurs roamed the land, sea creatures swam the sea.

For years, geologists, archeologists and other scientists have found fossils proving that sea life once existed in what is now prairie land. Today Monument Rocks, a formation of chalk rocks, is all that remains of the millions of years of sediment deposited on the sea floor. Erosion washed away all but these rocks. Today they rise out of the flat Kansas landscape and stand as tall sentinels to a distant past.

As a National Landmark, they attract many visitors. Although they stand on private property, they are open to the public. Standing tall at heights of 100+ feet, they appear both majestic and vulnerable. I stood in awe, trying unsuccessfully to imagine what our country once looked like. How many years did it take for large deposits of fossils and how many after that for sediment to build to such towering heights?

Although they don't cover large areas of land, they are magnificent. You can see the vulnerability in the crumbling bits of rock that litter the ground. Climbing on them is forbidden, and it's easy to understand why. However, visitors are free to roam around and take pictures of the different views. When you visit, be sure to walk through and around the formations, because you'll be amazed at how a few steps can totally change your perspective.

Located south of Oakley, Kansas and I-70, it is about a twenty-mile drive and well worth the time.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Coronado Heights Castle near Lindsborg, Kansas

Coronado Heights Castle

Yes, Kansas has its marvels too. Too often we just drive I-70 and never see all that the state has to offer.

This trip we chose to visit Coronado Heights Castle and Lindsborg, before spending a night in Salina.

In 1541, explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado visited the area while looking for a lost city of gold. Legend has it that, not finding the gold, he gave up the search and returned home.

In the 1900s, a Spanish coin and the chain from Spanish armor were discovered in the area, furthering the belief that Coronado visited.

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal program to put people back to work during the Depression, built the castle and picnic area that people love to visit today. As you wind up the hill to the castle, you still have little clue to the fantastic views from the top.

Take your camera when you visit. The views showcase the beauty of the Kansas countryside. In June, the land is quilted in a golden and green pattern.

A bike trail circles the base of the hill. The park is located just a few miles northwest of Lindsborg and is easily accessible from I-70 at Salina.