Wichita KS – Much More Than Cowboys and Cattle Drives

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September 22nd 2015
Published: January 11th 2016
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First, “Happy 2016” to all. I hope the year is productive and proves healthy for all my readers. A computer crash of sorts (does an operator error while learning a new operating system constitute a crash?) has led me to downsize the blogs describing the final five weeks of the 2015 Chapter of The Great Adventure. I want to let my regular readers know that all is well in Arizona so they are not contemplating, “I wonder whatever happened to Old Whatshisname.” A long story made short, I had the CPU cooling fan on my laptop go poo-poo kaka shortly before I arrived in Illinois in July 2015. That’s okay as my machine was as old, as slow and as feeble as its owner. I managed a workaround until I returned to Arizona where I shopped and selected a spiffy new unit but failed to ask an essential question before the purchase had been completed – “Do you have the unit in the store?” Apparently, the definition of “in stock” can mean “in possession of the corporation at some warehouse, somewhere.” Of course, the anticipated arrival date was two days before the actual arrival date.

My new unit arrived a mere two days before I caught a flight to Rockford IL for a wedding and Thanksgiving with the family. The new laptop came with a new operating system, Windows 10. That was okay since I spent a good portion of my computer time in Illinois learning (cussing at) the new operating system and downloading the newest version of programs I use regularly such as Google Earth. After I returned to Arizona, I began the transfer of data from the old machine to the new one. That went without a hitch – copy a folder from the old hard drive to the thumb (flash) drive, copy to the new hard drive, delete the folder from the thumb drive to free up space for the next transfer and delete the folder from the old hard drive to prevent me from copying the folder twice (GREAT in theory, but it didn’t work out so well in execution). Of course, the “Recycle Bin” became full so I was ignoring the warnings and was PERMANENTLY deleting the files and folders.

In the process of organizing files on the new machine and getting rid of the icons Bill Gates, Toshiba, et. al. place on the desktop and/or in the start menu (sorry, Bill, but I can type amazon.com into the address bar if I want to go shopping at their web site), I deleted a “Backup” icon from the desktop. Heretofore, those things that magically auto-appear on the desktop had been shortcuts to a program, file, etc. Yes, a “shortcut” had a little arrow in the corner to indicate a “shortcut,” but this is Windows 10 and I surmised that was one of the innovations. H-E-R-E-T-O-F-O-R-E!!! I shortly learned that the arrowless “Backup” icon I had deleted from the desktop was not a shortcut to the program that performed a backup but, instead, was THE FOLDER that contained all of my travel, financial and personal data which I have designated as the folder I want the Backup program to Back Up. STOP, continue no further. CALL THE MAN!!! My geek managed to recover most of the deleted files; however, some have gone to a cloud in the sky and not the Cloud hawked by Microsoft on its new operating system.

I have yet to investigate what files are missing from previous years; but, after pouring through the 2015 information to pick up the pieces and finish the unpublished 2015 blogs I had in progress, it appears that the more recent the file’s creation, the more likely it is that the file will be missing. I guess that’s a leap backwards as evidenced by this high infant mortality rate. The blog (and photos) which I published on December 17 2015, Ike, Brown, Oz and … Bugs??? – Manhattan KS, had been completed and uploaded to the travelblog.org web site before my trip to Illinois and was merely awaiting a final proof-reading before publication. Subsequent blogs existed only in MS Word documents and were lost – along with virtually all of the accompanying photographs. Fortunately, it appears my state by state MS Excel spreadsheets (with attraction and campground information) remain unscathed so I will be able to provide a list of the attractions I visited along the way with a brief “yea” or “nay” evaluation. Numerous valuable lessons were learned.

My next “stop with a mission” after visiting the Topeka/Manhattan/Junction City KS area was Oklahoma City OK to see the sights and to visit a childhood friend, but that was a longer drive that I wanted to make in one day (about 7 hours and almost 300 miles) so I looked for an overnight stopover. When I found Wichita has numerous very interesting attractions, I decided to stop for a week. On my way from the Tuttle Creek Cove Campground in Manhattan KS to the Air Capital RV Park in Wichita KS, I made a stop at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City KS. The attraction is not worth a long detour for most but contains a wealth of information about the prairie ecosystem and is well worth a stop if passing through the area.

One day I planned a loop drive to the south and east of Wichita to see the countryside and to make a stop at the Emmett Kelly Museum in Sedan KS. Many of you might have surmised that I am a sucker for the circus in general and carousels, clowns and hobos specifically – particularly fueled by Red Skelton’s TV portrayal of Freddy the Freeloader. “On the road again….” Kelly was born in Sedan but left when he was very young and never really embraced the town as his own. The museum, it turned out, would be my final stop of the day. I took a chance on the hours of operation and found a placard in the storefront window with 3 or 4 contact phone numbers. One call gained my admission within 10 minutes. The museum, essentially, appears to be someone’s (or group of people’s) collection of Kelly memorabilia with no documentation of the artifacts nor any informational placards about Kelly’s life. In light of its remote location, I will have to give the attraction a thumbs down except for the clown or Kelly fanatic.

Stepping back a moment, my first stop of the day was the National Glass Museum in Wellington KS. My late aunt and uncle had begun attending auctions in the late 1940s and early 1950s out of necessity (they had seven children before learning the water was enriched) and used the discounted household furnishings daily. By my teenage years, they had amassed an extensive “museum” in their residence and their “housewares” (including an extensive collection of depression glass) were beginning to become more valuable. The museum is unique, the depression glass is beautiful and I will give the attraction a lukewarm recommendation – it is worth 30-60 minutes of your time if you’re in the vicinity.

I drove down the street a few blocks to the Chisholm Trail Museum. Expecting the museum to be chock-full of historical information about the famous Chisholm Trail, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that the attraction is a local museum linked to the Chisholm Trail solely because the Chisholm Trail passed through the area. Don’t misunderstand, the museum is a very nice facility housed in an old hospital with numerous unique artifacts that provide great insight into life along the Chisholm Trail; however, it is not a museum ABOUT the Chisholm Trail.

My next stop was in Arkansas City KS at the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum. Ditto my above assessment. While the museum holds a great variety of artifacts about the people who participated in (in some cases) and/or who resided where (in other cases) the Cherokee Strip Land Rush of September 16, 1893 OCCURRED, the museum holds little information about what prompted the land rush, about how the land rush was conducted or about the post-rush repercussions. I guess a comparative example might be helpful. When I visited the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice NE in September 2015 (the aforementioned Ike, Brown, Oz and … Bugs??? – Manhattan KS), I learned about the Homestead Act – its causes, its logistics, its impact and its ramifications. The people who participated added intriguing color to the history lesson; however, the focus of both the Chisholm Trail Museum and the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum is the artifacts used by the people of that particular era whether they lived in the named locales OR ANYWHERE ELSE during that particular period of time. A washboard is a washboard is a washboard is a washboard …. That having been said, both museums are well done and worthy of a stop if in the area.

On yet another day I took a short drive to Hutchinson KS to visit the Kansas Underground Salt Museum: Strataca and the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. Salt! In Kansas??? A space center! In Kansas??? Yes, and both attractions are phenomenal. At the salt museum, I opted for the Blast Pass which includes Underground Admission, the Dark Ride and the Train Ride. The Safari Shuttle is an add-on to any of the admission packages. Although 10 percent of the tours overlapped and was, therefore, repetitive, I was awestruck the entire time. I’m sure part of my reaction was the awesomeness of this unanticipated treat. I might have expected an attraction like this one in Utah (after all the Great Salt Lake had to get its salt from somewhere &(*%!&(MISSING)*$#^&%!$(MISSING)&^%!&(MISSING)*), but I was totally taken aback by the scale of the operation and by the quality of the tour.

Likewise, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center was a totally unexpected surprise. Those who know me understand that I am intrigued by the entire space age thingy and have been so since the seventh grade when Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space. When I was wintering in Sanford FL, I purchased a season pass to the Kennedy Space Center (and was fortunate enough to witness two shuttle launches so proximal that my chest vibrated), and I visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston TX in March 2015 ("Houston, we've had a problem!" – NASA and Much More to See in Houston TX).

Those two facilities are undeniably the “grand poohbahs” of spacedom in the United States; however, numerous other space-oriented attractions dot the landscape. Some I have visited whereas others remain on my list. HOWEVER, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center has unquestionably the most comprehensive examination of the space race between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics (U.S.S.R.) and the most in depth information about the Soviet space program I have seen as well as the best examination of the cooperative efforts of the two countries in recent years. I visited both attractions on the same day – I truly didn’t believe either would be worth its (sorry) salt. Man was I pleasantly surprised and unquestionably wrong. I recommend both highly but will suggest that each have its own day if time allows.

I happened to be in Wichita when the one-day El Dorado Fall Festival was held at the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado KS, so I decided to attend – weather permitting, as is usually the case. The weather cooperated totally! About half of the museum offers relevant local non-mining history, specifically local Native American inhabitants and agriculture, and half examines the oil industry and how it changed the local landscape. Although I have visited several oil-related attractions in my travels, this small museum still held some lessons to be learned. Behind the museum is an oil boom town with 6-8 period structures. On the day of my visit, there were living history demonstrations throughout the boom town and two oil rigs had been erected and docents were providing working demonstrations. I don’t know exactly what is offered on a non-festival day, but the museum is well done and worthy of a brief stop. I was glad I made the stop in Wichita as I happened upon two attractions I expected to be mediocre but found to be exceptional, and my timing was perfect for the El Dorado Fall Festival. Again, sorry for the lack of pictures. Since this blog is only three pages in MS Word, I guess, when compared to my standard blogs, pictures are not necessarily worth but definitely generate a thousand words!


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