We just returned from our vacation in Colorado. We did all the touristy Colorado activities. We hiked up the mesa, which is the largest dormant volcano in the country. In the process, we nearly killed my wife. The next day, we hiked up the ridiculously rocky path to Hanging Lake. The path itself may only be about a mile long, but it is the most difficult mile I have ever walked. We were told that it would be easier than the mesa. It was not. On the way up, we nearly killed my wife.
Then I learned to tube and drive a boat. I had put a floating key chain on my GoPro, in case it fell off if/when I went down. I wasn’t convinced it would hold up the camera. I hesitantly tested it carefully, by not really letting go of it while it “floated.” On my second wipe out, the GoPro went for a swim. I floated helplessly in the water, panicking and frantically spinning about, looking for the blue key chain to bob to the top. Nothing. There was a look of sheer terror on my face. Certain that my GoPro met its watery demise, I was wishing I would have gone under as well rather than face my wife’s wrath. After what seemed like minutes, but, according to the video footage, was mere seconds, I saw the blue key chain on the surface. I have never felt such relief.
The way home was probably the most activity I have ever crammed into 2 days. We left Colorado and ventured into Kansas. My wife is Czech, so of course, we had to stop in Wilson, KS, the Czech capital of Kansas. We took a picture next to the World’s Largest Czech Egg. (To save you from the disappointment my 15-year-old suffered, this is not an actual egg. It is a large painted egg-shaped sculpture.)
From there, we headed north to the Garden of Eden. Samuel Dinsmoor, the man who created the Garden of Eden was an interesting man. Dinsmoor served in the Civil War. After the war, he started creating cement sculptures designed to bring tourism to Lucas, KS. His sculptures, while having some biblical references, are all about how large corporations take advantage of the little guy. They are…interesting. When Dinsmoor’s first wife died, he was not allowed to bury her on the property. Instead, she was buried in the local cemetery. One night, Dinsmoor decided to dig up his late wife and bury her in his backyard. To make sure she couldn’t be relocated to her original resting place, he covered her grave in cement. He married his second wife when he was 81. She was in her 20s. Don’t ask. I don’t know, either. Their children, listed as the last surviving offspring of a Civil War veteran, died in 2013. When Dinsmoor himself died, he had already planned to be added to the spectacle that is the Garden of Eden. He fashioned a cement coffin, complete with a glass top, to be placed in a cement mausoleum atop his first wife. If you take the tour, you will be allowed entrance to the mausoleum to see his mummified corpse. Even after all these years, his beard would make most hipsters envious.
It was getting late when we left Mr. Dinsmoor. But we had a special, secret plan, before heading to the Wizard of Oz museum. The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was immortalized by Weird Al Yankovic. The ball of twine Weird Al sang about is located in Minnesota. The ball in Cawker City, Kansas is its much-storied rival. (We’ll leave out the supposed largest ball owned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.) Cawker City is a small town in northern Kansas that has all but shut completely down. The shrine to the twine, though mentioned on the city signs on both sides of town, has no pomp and circumstance about it. It is in a gazebo just large enough to protect it from the elements. It is so nondescript that we drove past it twice before stopping to ask where it was located, only to find out we were directly across the street for it.
From there, it was a mad dash to Wamego. It is about 2 hours from Cawker City to Wamego. We left about 3:40pm. The Oz Museum closes at 6:00pm. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. The teenage girls running the museum were not too pleased to have visitors so closed to closing time. They reluctantly let us in, and promptly locked the entrance to the display behind us. It may have been that it had been a busy day already and we were feeling a bit rushed, but I think only the most diehard Wizard of Oz fans would really appreciate what is probably the focal point (despite the fact that it only had one or two more signs than the ball of twine) of this small town. On to St. Louis for another night’s sleep before our final trek home.
Headed from St. Louis to Ohio, we ran into more than our fair share of construction. Traffic was so bad that we hopped off I-70 looking for a detour. Instead of a faster path home, we found a gift shop chock full of Native American memorabilia. We posed for pictures in front of a large bison (not the world’s largest) and inside a tipi (also not the world’s largest). We shopped a bit then headed back out. Traffic was moving now, so back to the highway.
On our way to Colorado, I remembered seeing a sign for another attraction that was sure to be closed when we headed through the first time. Since it was now early afternoon, when I saw the sign, we had to stop. Again, the kids had no idea. Most of them were woken suddenly, no idea where they were. They were groggily surprised to be forced to stand next to the World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, IL. Their moods got better when they got to ring the chimes. Directly across the street from the wind chime, they were constructing the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. We took a picture in front of the work in progress. Then we headed across town to the World’s Largest Golf Tee. We were met with a lot of, “Really? What now?” It was great. Leaving the golf tee, we were told of another attraction in the center of town. Casey’s giant pencil. “It’s not the world’s largest, though.” Who cares? Giant pencil! More pictures! Again, we got a lot of, “Are we really stopping there? No more pictures! Please!” But I know they loved it. Memories!
Perhaps the one thing I noticed driving halfway across the country with the kids is that when you have a 15-year-old daughter, every picture looks the same.