Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Midwestern Adventure: Nebraska!

I don't have a wholllllllllle lot to say about Nebraska because:

1. I was hungover for the "driving through Nebraksa" portion of my journey.

2. I'm going to save the wedding reception pictures (which did take place in Nebraska) for the wedding recap post that I'll get to in, you know, six months or so.

3. I took the back back back back roads, which were beautiful, but didn't have much to offer in terms of bathrooms and I was nervous that I was going to get a case of whiskey ass so I couldn't dilly dally.

4. I was P-I-S-S-E-D O-F-F because I was supposed to pick my aunt up in Omaha that afternoon and we were supposed to drive to Sioux Falls, SD that evening so that we had time to dawdle back from the Corn Palace the next day so that I could make my spray tanning appointment. So blah blah blah, the schedule was specific. What I did not factor into the schedule was that she would MISS HER FLIGHT.

I'm over it now, but that day I was SO TOTALLY PISSED because I was afraid my plans were going to be ruined and DAGNABBIT I wanted to see everything on my list. It took me a good three or four hours before the steam stopped coming out of my ears, even though I kept trying to shake it off and not let the change of plans make me miss out on Nebraksa. It actually ended up working out for the best so it's all good in the hood.

So anyway...not many pictures of Nebraska, but it sure was beautiful. They have historical markers everywhere and I kept stopping and reading them and none of them were all that thrilling -- mostly just stuff about how this land used to be the homestead of so-and-so and s/he wrote a book about it all called [Insert Something Pioneer-Sounding Here].

But look, children of the 80's!! Look where I was!



If there was a river I would have hired an Indian to help me across, but there wasn't a river or any buffalo to shoot with my arrow buttons and space bar and I did not die of dysentery. But I did get all geigh over how loud the trees were and I thought about whether it sounded the same to the people from the olden days:



Seriously, the sound of the trees and the corn and all the nothing was SO AWESOME. Listening to that damn tree was one of the few moments I really wished I'd had someone with me because it was like I'd stepped into Sarah Plain and Tall or something. Except I'm not even sure that took place in the midwest, but I'm sure you know what I'm getting at: It was old-timey and GORGEOUS.

Other than the wedding-related festivities that were to take place in Omaha, the only Nebraskan item on my agenda was a visit to Lawrence, NE. That's the town where the family from my favorite documentary ever, The Farmer's Wife, was from.

For years and years and years I've been wanting to get out there and just have a look around that town, but in a totally non-stalkery way, I swear. So I went and it was one of the nicer small, BFE towns I visited that week...nicer than it looked on TV. I had planned to have lunch in the local restaurant/bar but I was earlier than expected and after my big night in Cawker City, the thought of eating in a smoke-filled bar grossed me out. I didn't even get out of the car, which I half regret, but there really wasn't much of anything to see until I got to the east (?) side of town and saw, you know, a TANK:



It seemed awfully out of place and it was clearly a memorial for something, but I had whiskey ass to contend with so I kept on keeping on and didn't get out to investigate whatever it was memorializing:



I know you all think I'm a nutter for being so excited about CORN, but hangover or not, I did stop to take a picture of my fat face and the CORN:



That particular spot was the first good cell service I'd had in hours so I was parked alongside the road for a good 30 minutes while I checked my e-mail and made some calls and probably also alarmed the locals.

The interstate:



80 sure does look different out there than it does here, dontcha think??

I eventually made it to Omaha and thanks to my awesome pre-trip research, I knew that the World's Largest Ball of Stamps was in a section of Omaha called Boy's Town. I hadn't planned on making the stamps a priority, but I had time to kill before I could check into the hotel and I saw a sign for Boy's Town so I followed it and VIOLA:





They had these big bowls of canceled stamps that you could buy for a penny each, but I just liked sticking my hand into the stamps. I don't know why. Put a big bowl of anything in front of me and I want to fondle it.



The excitement on my face was probably less for the stamps and more for the lovely bathroom facilities at the stamp place:



And finally, there seemed to be a lot of these O! things around town, which I'm assuming stands for Omaha and not for Oprah:



The end. Until I get to Iowa, anyway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Midwestern Adventure, Day Three: Kansas!

I wish I had a witness to the insanity that was Kansas, but this was a solo road trip so whatever I tell you in this post, just assume that it's 100 times MORE bizarre, okay? Because really, Kansas was a T-R-I-P.

First of all, Kansas's landscape couldn't compare to Missouri and Oklahoma. It was pretty dull, but WHOA BESSIE the sky was awesome:



Most of you know that the big attraction for me in Kansas was the World's Largest Ball of Twine, right? When my brother first announced that he was getting married in Iowa I immediately Googled all the road trip worthy things in that neck of the woods and I didn't come up with much, but the Ball-o-Twine somehow became the big ticket item.

My road trip philosophy is this: Pick something random and off-the-beaten-track and go there. Hilarity will ensue. The caveat: Don't stay in craphole motels because they rain on your parade and you might get bed bugs. For reals.

So my whole trip was me aiming for a bunch of random spots, but with 4-star lodging carefully integrated into my travel plan. The trouble with the twine was that it's in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE:


View Larger Map

This is great for my sense of adventure, but it SUCKS for the "not into craphole motels" side of me. I ended up finding a list of B&Bs in the area and while I'm also not into the whole B&B thing, I figured that was better than the Super 8. One of them, The World's Largest Ball of Twine Bed Without the Breakfast (seriously), touted itself as a one unit cottage adjacent to the ball of twine and at the low, low price of $30 (payable in cash that I was to leave on the table!) and I figured that okay, I'd roll the dice and hope that it was as homey as the woman who owned it said it was.

And, um, I guess it was:





Cute, right?

But here's the inside:









Overall, I'd say it was kinda dismal. And I'm annoyed that I can't find the picture I took, but there was a big sign on the fridge alerting people to the fact that GAME CLEANING IS NOT ALLOWED. Because you know how dirty Monopoly can get and all.

It wasn't even 8PM when I arrived and I had a few hours to kill before I'd be able to fall asleep so I got the bright idea to go across the street to the bar (because the restaurant was closed on Mondays and the town was all of six blocks long so I was hard pressed for other things to do) and have some dinner and a couple of drinks so I had the chance of actually falling asleep.

So I went to the bar, as seen here the next morning without all the pickup trucks out front:



I have a lot of nerve but boy howdy, I really had to talk myself into opening the door because "walking into a rural Kansas bar by myself" is not high on the list of safe things to do. There were about ten men, one KID and two women inside. I pretended they didn't allllllll turn around to stare at me when I walked in and I went right up to the bar, sat down and ordered a sandwich and a Jack & Diet.

That Jack & Diet eventually turned into SEVERAL Jack & Diets (though I suspect that they were heavily watered down) and a few shots of peppermint schnapps with the men at the bar. It was bizarre and surreal and when I told my brother the story of it all the next day he was like "THIS IS HOW WOMEN END UP AS MURDER MYSTERIES ON A&E!" True, but my homies at The Corner Bar & Grill were lovely.

Mostly.

Here's my overall'd friend Leigh:



So this guy Leigh (he spells his name the girl way) spent the first half of the night totallllllllllllly hitting on me and the second half of the night pretending he didn't know me.

Why?

Because his girlfriend showed up to lay claim to her man.

Guess why she was there?

Because even though *I* couldn't get a cell signal, the whole rest of the bar had been texting people telling them that there was a pretty new girl at the bar (awl, thanks guys) and word got out that Leigh was hitting on me and she came to make sure I kept my new girl hands off her man. I didn't know any of this until they told me about it later in the night but they all thought it was HILARIOUS that he was 100% trying to romance me one minute and the next he was telling her that he hadn't even spoken to me. I mean, he had a ZERO percent chance, but it was pretty funny, particularly since my bff Toni and the lady bartender Teresa HATED her and I had accidentally caused a Jets vs Sharks standoff that they said the town will be talking about for weeks. Alls I know is that she was old, trashy and REEKED of fabric softener. Like she washed her hair in it or something.

Other highlights from The Corner Bar & Grill:

They launched a toothpick and a straw into the ceiling in my honor. I don't know why this is so exciting, but they made several attempts until one stuck and then I had to climb on the barstool and sign the ceiling:





Notice the kid in background of the toothpick-launching picture? He was eleven. It was 11PM and he had repeatedly asked his dad to take him home but his dad (a Gary Busey look-alike) was HAMMMMMMMERED. I was like "OMG IS HE GOING TO DRIVE??" and they were all like "No, duh...his kid is." That would be his ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD-KID.

OMG.

He was a sweet kid. The dad was sweet too, but maaaaaaan, he was drunk.

Here I am with my Cawker City bff Toni:



There was dancing:



And shenanigans:



And drunken confessions that they thought I was going to be a bitch when I walked in, but that I was welcome back at the Corner Bar & Grill any time. It's unlikely that I'll EVER EVER EVER return, but they gave me a bunch of tsoskes and they were SO MUCH FUN and I apparently gave Toni my phone number because she has texted me several times since I left.

Other fun facts:

1. You can rent a three bedroom apartment in Cawker City, KS for $141.00 a month!

2. Toni's car starts via light switch:



3. My whole tab for the night was $21. V-A-L-U-E.

I don't know what time I finally hit the hay at the Ball of Twine Inn, but it was late enough that I didn't care that it was depressing and when I woke up around 7AM to use the bathroom I decided that I was too sober to sleep in that bed anymore so I washed the bar smell out of my hair and hightailed it out of there.

I was tempted to just skip town without taking any pictures of the twine but HANGOVER BE DAMNED, I had come all this way...so I added the length of twine left for me by the innkeeper, took some pictures, and headed out of town in search of coffee.



I missed the Twine-a-Thon by just a few weeks:



I signed the log:



I tried looking peppy:



This one is a shout out to my dad:



The thing I don't get is why the ball of twine was SUCH an attraction. I mean, I know *I* was there, but I'm weird. And seriously, it was IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. As in NOWHERE. It's something you have to go way out of your way to see, but the log had entries almost every day and the inn left me some pretty expensive looking marketing collateral and there's a yellow line of "twine" painted all down the main (only) drag and the storefronts are all empty except for twine-related art:





As weird as it was and as happy as I was to leave, I will always have fond memories of Cawker City, KS.

From there I moved on and drove through miles and miles and miles and miles of whatever this is (wheat?):



Amber waves of grain!

So miles and miles and miles of crops later, I arrived here:



If I had cell service I would have called someone and told them to bust out a map and look at the VERY MIDDLE of the lower 48 states because I was standing there RIGHT THAT VERY MOMENT!



There's not much to see out there so I snapped a few pictures, took a few minutes to listen to the cicadas and then headed out of Kansas:

Oooooooooooooooooklahoma!

Maaaaaaaaaaaan, I can't believe I was in Oklahoma TWO WEEKS AGO and that it has taken me THIS long to get back to recapping my midwestern adventure. Sheesh.

Here's the bottom line:

I LOVED OKLAHOMA.

Sure, part of my lurrrrrrrve for Oklahoma was that it was totally freaking gorgeous when I was expecting it to be all dust-bowl-esque, but it was mainly great for the following reasons:

1. I was able to stop in and see an ollllllllllld family friend and visit her farm and meet her family and gawk at how L-O-V-E-L-Y it all was. I was so so so so so pleased to have the opportunity to reconnect with Carey because I hadn't seen her since I was a kid and she was a teenager and really, our families go waaaaaaaay back (as in, I wouldn't exist if our mothers hadn't met in England 40+ years ago) and I was thrilled for the chance to sit on her couch and look through old photo albums with her.

2. Oklahoma was the site of the "Elizabeth is stupid and couldn't figure out the toll road exit and was caught off guard when strangers stopped and offered her 50 cents so she could pay the toll" thing.

3. I inadvertently stopped at the WORLD'S LARGEST MCDONALD'S, which seemed appropriate given the fact that The World's Largest Ball of Twine and The World's Largest Ball of Stamps were also on my agenda for this road trip.

4. My hotel was probably the nicest hotel I'd ever stayed in and DEFINITELY had the most comfortable hotel bed in the world.

5. I had dinner at a restaurant listed in my book of 1,000 places to see before I die and had what was the best steak I'd ever tasted (until three days later when I had an even better one in Omaha).

6. Everybody was SO FREAKING NICE!

Proof that I was there:



Or at least half there, I guess.

Carey's husband's family has acres and acres of land in Oklahoma and I can't remember what kind of crops they have, but they also have CHICKENS!





If I hadn't been so late in arriving at the ol' homestead, I would have been able to see them using this thing to grade the eggs:



It was SO FREAKING HOT and I was MELTING like a snowman so the opportunity to get inside the egg cooler was welcome:



Carey's husband is really into birds and they keep a lot of them as pets, including guinea fowl:



and a whole bunch of fancy chickens:



and chickens with feathery feet!



And a horse too!



After a lovely visit with Carey, I headed off...



...into the sunset:



I took like 75 self portraits outside the restaurant where I had my delicious steak dinner and normally I'm a PRO at the self portrait, but I just couldn't get it together:



Y'all come back now:



I had some time to kill on Monday because I was spending Monday night in a BFE town in Kansas and I didn't want to get there TOO early because I knew there'd be a whole lot of nothing to do so I ended up going a bit south of Oklahoma City to Sulphur, OK:



It's the home town of my good buddy Dwight and I knew he'd get a kick out of it so I took a picture of the sign and sent it to him. He called me almost immediately and gave me a list of things I should do while I was in the area. Among them was a trip to Turner Falls, one of Dwight's childhood hangouts:



There was a long creek that led away from the falls with cabins and picnic tables scattered along the way. It looked like it would be a LOVELY way to spend the summer:



Dwight also said I needed to have fried catfish and hush puppies at this place, but BOOOOOOOOOOOOO for being closed on Mondays:



So I sulked away to get one of three lime-aids I drank while I was in Oklahoma.

Also while in Oklahoma --

My rental car was trying to tell me something:



And I played chicken with a semi:

video

Whew...the end.

Until I get up the energy to tell you about Kansas.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Kansas...