Day 4: Louisville

Thursday morning turned out to be a lot of fun, but it didn’t start very well. I’d slept on the couch and was grouchy, and when we got into the car we discovered the GPS had no battery charge. Something was wrong with the power cable that plugs into the cigarette lighter. The Romgi saved the day again with his ingenuity; he got out our camera cable and USB car charger and hooked everything up, since the GPS uses a micro USB cable for power. This turned out to be extra extra good because I am possibly the world’s worst navigator (which is why we bought the GPS in the first place), and our destination was tricky to get to.

Where did we spend our morning? At Grant’s Farm, once owned by Ulysses S. Grant. Not only is it a wildlife preserve featuring animals from six continents, it also has the log cabin that Grant hand-built. How cool is that? Want to see pictures? (Oh, and before I forget the other reason I was grouchy: you have to wait in line when you first get to the park, because a tram takes you around to see the animals roaming around and then drops you at the food court/gift shop. The Bwun wasn’t thrilled about waiting, but I’m guessing I was even grouchier than he was. The Romgi will probably back me up on that.)

Actual cabin built by actual U.S. president.

A horse?

Some zebu. Sorry for the shaky picture; the tram was shaky.

Some type of African cattle...I was wrangling the Bwun, so I didn't catch the name.

Wild turkeys!

Once the tram dropped us off, it turned out there was a whole section of the park there with less-wild animals. Like, ones that were just in cages you could see sort of close-up instead of many many yards away. The Bwun had a lot of fun and you’ll see why!

First up was a capybara. I'm always sorely tempted to call these chupacabras, but those are something else entirely...

Next, some rather large tortoises. Is there a different plural for the word tortoise?

A parrot (on the other side of the fence). He sang "La la la" and waved goodbye, about the same as the Bwun does. Kind of cute!

Another tortoise, but this guy was speedy. He kept walking along the length of his fence and would use a rock at the end as a pivot point to turn around again.

Guinea pigs, which scamper quite quickly.

Monkeys. Too bad the Bwun just couldn't see them from where we were; I think he would have enjoyed seeing them monkey around.

A bald eagle who came to the park after an injury left him unable to fly. He does look kind of regal, huh?

...But he looked kind of ridiculous when he started walking.

Camels. I like their tufty beards and shoulder hair.

What collection of animals would be complete without a llama?

The absolute best part of the park was the pygmy goat pen. There were about 40 pygmy goats (some grown, some kids) and for $1 you could buy a bottle of milk to go feed them. Hilarity ensued.

As soon as we walked into the pen, we were swarmed.

The goats were willing to do just about anything to make sure that bottle didn't go to any other goat.

Even once the milk was gone, goats would stand up to try getting the bottle.

The Bwun really liked the goats (they were about his size, as you can see) and is here saying, "Eye!" My apologies to the Romgi for getting in the picture. I was just trying to stop our son from poking an animal in the eyeball.

Despite the Bwun's behavior, the goats really liked him too. They wanted to gobble his hands up. They almost succeeded.

See how well we've taught the Bwun to be nice to animals? (Ignoring the poke-in-eye picture up there, of course.)

Wouldn’t you know, when we finished at Grant’s Farm and got back on the road, the GPS died again. The USB cable wasn’t working to charge the battery anymore. We found a McDonald’s for some free internet access and the Romgi wrote down directions to our next destination (Louisville, KY) while we tried to think of what to do. But another wouldn’t you know, prayers worked and the USB cable started giving a charge to the GPS again. We haven’t had any problems with it since.

As we headed out of St Louis, the Romgi asked me to get a picture of the arch. It turns out I am possibly worse at taking pictures than I am at navigating. The main reason seems to be that I wait just a fraction of a second too long to snap a photo – or maybe that I just don’t pay enough attention to the scenery. Either way, we end up with pictures like this:

Yes, that arrow is pointing to the St Louis arch. We had a lot of great views of it before then.

About eight shots later, I managed to get this, although admittedly it isn't a very scenic view.

Another thing I’m not so great at: geography. I honestly didn’t know (because I have obviously never looked at a map in my life) that St Louis is right on the border between Missouri and Illinois. That’s my excuse for not even looking for a Welcome to Illinois sign. We decided it wasn’t a big deal, because we go through Illinois again on our trip home.

Welcome to Indiana!

I was asleep for most of Indiana (the drive through wasn't more than a couple hours), but the Romgi took over documenting the trip, I guess. Zoom in and you'll see a crop duster plane. I'm a little bit concerned that he took this picture while driving.

Indiana is primarily made of corn.

Because of previous state welcome sign mishaps, I had the camera out and ready when we crossed the bridge into Kentucky. But the Romgi has this habit of pointing things out to me without saying something useful like "There's the state sign TAKE A PICTURE!" Instead it comes out as just pointing and maybe a "LOOK!" So I missed the "Kentucky state line" sign. Just barely. I thought he was pointing on the water that had just splashed onto our windshield.

Not to worry! We were welcomed to Kentucky on the other side of the bridge.

Behold: Louisville.

I got us a room at this fabulously nice inn for the same price as our spidery Motel 6 room in Denver. There were marble floors with inlaid designs, dark wood furniture, donuts at the continental breakfast...this place really had it all. Including a horse and rider on the roof.

We had a nice quiet night in Louisville (aside from the Bwun, who didn’t want to sleep except in the bed. Again). With only 8 hours of driving left until we reached Greensboro, we decided to do a half day of travel on Friday and Saturday, which meant we got to sleep in. Thank you, Louisville!

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Day 3: St Louis

Our plan for Wednesday was to spend an hour or two at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure and then drive to St Louis (about 7 hours from Salina). I’m glad we decided to do that instead of trying the zoo on Tuesday afternoon, because even in the morning it was plenty hot. Luckily the zoo itself is extremely well-maintained and has plenty of shady trees and benches. Seriously, this place is in the middle of nowhere, but they must have amazing funding, because the animals were obviously well-cared for and the grounds were in spectacular condition. Something to be said for private funding, eh?

So! Let’s see some animals.

A wolf. He stared at us. The Bwun said, "Dog!"

A lion (two, actually). This guy was just purring, but it was LOUD! The Bwun was suprisingly uninterested, which isn't really a good thing for the second animal you see at the zoo.

Ring-tailed lemurs. You can at least see one in the picture, right?

A wallaroo (wallaby-kangaroo mix). I loved seeing him hop around.

A rhinoceros. These guys are BIG.

A giraffe. The Romgi was able to get his attention for this shot.

An orangutan. This was by far the Bwun's favorite - just sitting up against the glass eating some lettuce!

A cougar. You'll have to look closely on the right side, in the glare. Also note you can just barely see the Oeuf making a bump. P.S. My hair is not really that color orange.

Flamingos! Glad to see them perched so flamingo-ly.

The flamingos were our first and last stop at the zoo. It was a really great place, and I enjoyed getting to see so many fun animals in the middle of Kansas. Good start to the day.

Then we headed off for Missouri.

I took this great picture of the Kansas City skyline before the Romgi pointed out that now the camera's memory card was full and I wouldn't have time to delete anything before I missed taking a picture of the Welcome to Missouri sign. Oops.

Good thing the Romgi loves me a lot and was willing to stop at the Welcome Center to take a replacement picture, since I kind of missed the real sign...

You know what I’d like to tell you? That the rest of our day was uneventful. Partially true: we made it into St Louis without trouble; we got checked into our hotel room, which had a kitchenette and the Food Network; we had take-out from a Tex-Mex restaurant similar to Chevy’s; another hotel guest burnt their dinner and the fire alarm went off; several fire trucks came.

Oh yeah. That part isn’t uneventful.

The lights on the fire truck were much, much brighter than I would have guessed.

The Romgi and the Bwun made an adventure out of it as only optimistic people can. I stood off in the distance being grumpy.

At last the fire trucks went away and we got to go back inside. The Bwun had a hard time falling asleep, and when I’d reached my limit of hearing him scream and cry, I got him out of the crib and had him come lay down with me. I rubbed his back for about 90 seconds before he fell asleep. After that he promptly twisted and turned so that my choices were to fall off the bed or to go sleep on the couch. I picked the couch. Not my favorite night!


Day 2: Salina, KS (part 2)

The Bwun became more and more uncertain as the ride went on.

So he came and sat with me...

...while the Romgi took over the lion.

Sorry for the bad lighting, but this is the view from my seat inside the carousel.

Other animals included: horse

zebra

camel

After our ride, we ate lunch in a little gazebo near the carousel. I think the town of Burlington, CO turned out to be a great stop for us! It wasn’t far from the state border, so before too long we saw…

Welcome to Kansas!

This is what most of Kansas looked like, except flat. I think the camera angle adds a lot of interest.

We kept seeing signs on the side of the road for “SIX-LEGGED STEER” and “WORLD’S LARGEST PRAIRIE DOG.” There were a lot of other animals listed, but wouldn’t you be sold just on those? I was, so we stopped in Oakley to visit Prairie Dog Town.

The Romgi knew when we pulled up that it might not be as cool as advertised.

Warning! May be disappointing inside.

We walked into a dingy gift shop smelling strongly of formaldehyde. To go see the critters cost us $8 apiece (the Bwun got in free), which made it more expensive than all of our adventures in Burlington combined. How could it possibly be worth it? The cashier told us to go out the back door – so we basically went out into the hot sun to see someone’s collection of farm animals. Stinky farm animals.

But there were some surprising animals, it’s true.

Like a raccoon.

A six-legged AND a five-legged cow.

Some foxes.

A bobcat.

A coyote!

My personal favorite, a badger.

And, of course, prairie dogs. Did you know they chirp?

As for the “world’s largest prairie dog,” it was just a big fake cardboard thing. Laaaaaaame. We looked around the stinky gift shop when we were done, but most of the gifts involved bathroom humor. If we hadn’t gotten to see a badger, I probably would have called it a complete and utter waste of money. Because of the badger, though, it was just mostly a waste of money.

Not much else┬áto say about our drive through more of Kansas. We stayed overnight in Salina, and although our hotel room cost about double the price of the Motel 6 in Denver, we got a very comfortable king-sized bed, a spider-free room, and best of all, the Food Network. And HGTV. We need a cable package at home that just includes those two channels, and we’d be set! For dinner we ate at a local Italian restaurant that was well-reviewed. It was impressive: baked ravioli appetizer (one of my favorites) was almost a meal in itself, the Bwun’s spaghetti and giant meatball (at least half the size of his head) was a big hit, the waitress graciously took my dish back when it came out covered in shredded cheese (ok for some things, but not what I wanted on my tilapia and linguini with vegetables), and the service was excellent. Who knew you had to go to Kansas for all that?

I’d like to say we called it an early night, but the Bwun wandered around for a few hours while we watched the Food Network. (Alton Brown was on. Can you really blame us?) Fortunately, the Bwun fell asleep quickly once we finally put him down, and he slept the whole night in his crib – which meant no one else had to give up their spot on the comfy bed. Hooray!