Wednesday, April 16, 2008

4/16/08 Wichita Repairs and 43,000 Tulips

If you receive email updates: To see the photographs, click on the blue link "Malkoff's Grand Adventure" at the bottom of the email. From the blog: You may restart the slideshow by clicking on the arrow.

Our arrival in Nebraska was filled with pomp and circumstance -- we were our own parade! A giant tow truck hoisted the RV and Sarah, Dave, Mayim and I followed along in the tow car. Fighting wind gusts in the drive from Oklahoma to Nebraska, my driving speed had been a sedate 58-62 mph. Once the heavy, semi-sized tow truck got underway towing the 39' RV, he zoomed along between 72-75 mph! I guess when you are big enough, wind gusts aren’t an issue.

All-in-all, if you are going to be broken down on the side of the highway on a Sunday afternoon, it was a good experience. Good Sam had a specialized tow truck out to rescue us within an hour; Caterpillar (the diesel engine on the RV) let us stay in their lot and sent a staff person over Sunday night to make sure we were safe and had everything we needed; Kansas Truck Center (our RV is built on a Freightliner platform and electrical system) were quick to move us to their lot when the breakdown was electrical, not engine related, and diagnosed our problem Monday morning. It only took one day to get the new batteries and another day to install them. The Truck Center let us boondock in their parking lot each night, so we were able to keep Mayim with us and not incur the extra expense of a hotel.

43,00 Tulips Slide Show

Mayim liked being broken down as she wasn’t allowed to stay in the RV while it was being repaired. (Good thing, she would have maimed the mechanics driving the RV to a service bay.) Touring Wichita in the car pleased her immensely and since the weather was lovely, we were able to leave her for an hour or so at a time with the windows and sunroof cracked. Drinking from a water bottle is one of her on-the-road skills and she is a good sport about waiting patiently in the car. Although we enjoyed working on her fetching skills using a stick outside the botanical gardens, the fun ended when she found a giant odoriferous mulch pile to roll in.

Our first stop was Botanica, which is Wichita’s stunning botanical garden with sculptures, fountains, waterfalls and flowing streams. Despite the previous few days worth of intense rain and extreme wind, the gardens were in good shape. Dazzlingly laid out so that your breath is taken away around each turn of the path, the experience of seeing 43,000 tulips, 62,000 daffodils, pansies and wildflowers in full bloom was a delight. Even Dave was impressed! The butterfly garden, unfortunately, was closed until June, while the Shakespearean Garden with flowers, herbs and metal carved panels with passages from his sonnets and plays about flora were cleverly done. When finished on our flower photo safari, we visited the gift store, purchased a butterfly t-shirt for Sarah that changes from black and white to vibrant colors in the sun, and resisted books on horticulture or gardening tools. Visiting these gardens and interacting with the volunteers made me long for some dirt of my own to cultivate. An RVer’s sacrifice…

Slideshow of Wichita, Kansas

Overlooking the Arkansas River, our next stop on Museum Row was the science museum, Exploration Place. Deceivingly complicated puzzles waylaid the three of us at the entrance of the museum before we delved into the exhibits. We would have never figured out the answer to balancing twelve 6” nails on the head of one nail, luckily there was a staff member who knew the trick. When we finished up with the puzzles, we had two hours before the museum closed so Dave dashed off to follow his interests and Sarah and I started with the Memory exhibit.

Engaging all our senses with music by the decades, guessing jelly beans flavors, recognizing familiar smells like baby powder and suntan lotion, and touching common items in a covered box taught how our brain can retrieve information, or not, which we laughingly discovered! Although we were fascinated by the interactive exhibits on facial recognition, she and I realized we’d be no help to a police sketch artist. Concerning remembering what is meaningful, we learned how to “chunk” and develop relationships between strings of unrelated items. Speedily zooming through the rest of the museum, we enjoyed high speed photography, an exhibit on Kansas' bison and tornadoes (Wichita is at the heart of Tornado Alley), giant bubbles, explored flight and design by making paper airplanes and attempting to fly 747’s and Cessna’s in the flight simulator while announcements were made that the museum was closing in 15, 10, then 5 minutes. We needed more time!

Agreeing that it was a great museum, we said farewell to Museum Row. We'll save the art museum for our next visit. Mayim was glad to play along the river bank and I enjoyed the architectural lines of the bridge, science museum and artwork in the late afternoon light. Enthusiastically supporting our choice of Sonic for dinner, Mayim wolfed down tater tots, popcorn chicken and hamburger bites. Mayim loves Sonic! Since no one offered to share their addictive Lime Aids, she had to make do with water. We returned to the RV in the Truck Center’s parking lot to boondock another night, buffeted by the winds with gusts between 35-40 mph. While struggling to not be blown away, wondering if I would see Toto and some ruby slippers soon, I bravely went out to do laundry since Sarah needed clean clothes for her trip to California.

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