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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

53. Explore Hutchinson

We left for our adventure in beautiful weather in the mid-60s.  Angel was so excited there was green on the ground along the road and wheat growing in the fields.  When we got out of the Cosmosphere on Saturday afternoon, it was cold and overcast.  There would be no outside activities this weekend.  On the drive home, we ran into snow.  Gotta love Kansas weather.  You never know what you are going to get. We did get to explore downtown Hutchinson. 

 We had tons of fun exploring a pawn shop, the Salvation Army, and a music store.  Angel was so excited to get to look through piano books.  We also got to see the famous Avenue A painting and our daughter won herself a rabbit in a claw machine at Spangles.

The animal from the claw machine
Part of our Salt Adventure was getting to see the original mine where they found the salt.  It is miles away from the museum so we were stunned to think about just how much salt that means is under the city.
The weather led to the kids favorite part of the adventure.  We had to stay inside so we got to swim and order pizza for the hotel and watch Back to the Future trilogy on abc family.  The kids called it our hotel party and it was a definite highlight of the trip. 

The hotel was not Eric and Angel's favorite part of the trip...not the "quality" the name implies.  Angel was given the "wheelchair room," but she would not call it accessible.  There were very shaky handles on the toilet itself instead of a bar on the wall.  It's a good thing Angel has long arms so she could use the grab bar on the bathtub to help her transfer.  It was such a scary situation that one time she decided she would use the clearly marked handicap public restrooms beside the breakfast room.  Well, they are not handicap accessible at all.  There is no bar in the restroom.  The telephone was on the opposite side of the bed, which was easily remedied by moving the phone.  The fridge was unusable because it opened the wrong direction for a wheelchair user.  The hotel staff did move some unnecessary furniture out of the room so Angel could move around.  We're not sure if the front desk fully understood the difficulties when Angel tried to express them, or just did not care. Anyway, it was not the highlight of the trip for Angel.  Maybe hotel chains should give Angel mileage and a free hotel night stay and she could help them know what really constitutes accessibility and help with furniture arrangement, etc.

52. Kansas Cosmosphere

Our daughter has been looking forward to the Cosmosphere since before we decided to visit 150 plus sites in Kansas this year.  We had decided to make this our Spring Break trip this year last summer, and we kept our plans.  I (Angel) do not know who was more excited, Eric or the kids.

The traveling exhibit was about To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA.  No pictures can be taken of traveling exhibits, but if you love the Peanuts and especially Snoopy, it is definitely worth seeing.  We can say, even after viewing the museum, that Snoopy may not have been the first dog in space, but he was probably the first beagle.

The museum did a great job of sharing the history of rockets and space exploration.  Angel fully expected to see information about space exploration, but she was shocked to read about the beginnings of rocketry.  The whole connection to Hitler and the Nazi Party was especially shocking.  She had no idea that rockets were made in concentration camps--more people were killed making the rockets then were killed when they were used in warfare.  It was also cool and unexpected to see an actual piece of the Berlin wall.  Angel and Eric remember when the wall came down.
The museum also did a great job showing the history of the space race between the USA and the USSR.  It was intriguing to read about decisions made by past presidents and how their decisions could have impacted the outcomes of the space race. 


The first show we got to experience was Tornado Alley in the IMAX Theater.  We got to see going right through the middle of a tornado as well as other severe storms.  Angel discoverd she had double vision when lying back in her IMAX seat, but things became single again when she sat up straight.  We all enjoyed the movie and hope that is as close as we ever come to experiencing a tornado.

Another show we got to experience was Dr. Goddard's Lab.  It taught about rocket propulsion and how to make a rocket work.  There was a lot of blowing things up which we all thought was fun.  The kids were fascinated.  We also learned that a rocket is anything that expels a gas from the rear and moves forward.  That has caused a lot of giggles and fun at our house.  We all agree that Dr. Goddard's Lab was our favorite part of the Cosmosphere

The final show we got to take part in was the Planetarium.  It is awe inspiring to get to sit back and watch the entire night sky surround you with no clouds or anything else hindering your vision.  It is especially amazing to get to have the constellations pointed out to you along with tips on how to find them.  Unfortunately it was a cloudy evening, so we could not try out our new skills that night.  We will probably completely forget how to find the constellations by the time we get a clear sky.  Angel fully expected the Planetarium to be her favorite, but Dr. Goddard' Lab won the race.    Angel has such fond memories of the Planetarium her Dad used to set up for his sixth grade science class, she is not sure anything could beat that.  It may have been just as wonderful as she remembers it.  Or, it may have been so exciting because she was younger and had never been to another Planetarium.  It is sometimes hard to recreate experiences you have as a child

Astronaut Ice Cream

Always a Classic

We came home and watched Space Chimps 2

51. Exploring Yoder

We decided to visit the town of Yoder on this adventure.  Not everywhere can you see buggies driving down the street or parked in front of stores.  Our son went on a search for horse poop, but did not find any until the parking lot at our hotel in South Hutchinson.  Makes you wonder where all that poop goes.
We happened to be in Yoder during the Parade of Quilts, so we were lucky enough to see several of them all over town.  They are absolutely gorgeous.  Eric is so appreciative of the work that goes into each and every quilt since his grandmother was a quilter and he got to watch her do some quilting work.

There are several fun places to shop in Yoder--not bad for a place that small.  We were impressed with Kansas souvenirs and hand packaged snacks.  We were most impressed by the variety of fudge--enough impressed that we had to go home with some.  :)
We had been told by several people to check out Carriage Crossing Restaurant.  Well, we were not disappointed.  Eric says I (Angel) only thought it was so good because I was so hungry, but I disagree.  It was absolutely amazing and the best part was the homemade bread and butter.  It didn't hurt that the waitresses were all wearing KU shirts to support them during March Madness.

50. Kansas Underground Salt Museum

Who would have ever imagined miles & miles of salt under Hutchinson?  Well, there is and we are allowed to tour a small part of it in the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.  Our daughter was not impressed with "yet another museum."  However, we have not been to any other museum that requires you to watch a safety video and wear a hard hat and re breather.  That was our first indication that this was not just going be "yet another museum."

The majority of the museum deals with the salt mining process and history of the mine.  We were amused by the instruction not to lick or pick the salt.  However, once we discovered there were no official bathrooms in the mine, we realized we would not want to lick the salt.  You never know what is on there.  :)
We got to ride both the Dark Tram and the train.  Our daughter was terrified to ride in the dark, but the Dark Tram is not really completely dark.  It does take you into a part of the mine that is not lit by artificial lighting, but the Tram has headlights and there are various things spotlighted throughout the ride.  The kids ended up loving it especially because they could get off the tram at a certain point and collect salt samples to take home.  The train ride was cool as well and takes you into a more rustic area of the mine.  We got to see a part where the ceiling had fallen in.  Don't worry they told us they are constantly monitoring the ceiling of the mine (and we do all have hard hats on.)

Besides the mining aspect of the mine, there was also an area that showed how the salt mines are used for storing items like medical records, technology, historical documents, movie memorabilia, etc.  We had fun touring that area and our son especially loved the superhero costumes.  The kids were shocked and I'm not sure they really believed that computers used to be so big.  Both kiddos were very impressed by the Wonka Bars from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Dirty Jobs visited the Salt Mine

The salt museum was totally cool and we recommend it all of you.  However, you should be prepared for some ear popping as you travel down the elevator into the museum 650 feet below the surface.  And, you cannot prepare for the ear popping by chewing gum like you can on an airplane.  There is no gum allowed in the museum.  Also, Angel got a headache on the say down that did not leave until she reached the surface after we were done touring the mine.  Other family members did not have this problem, so it was probably related to her traumatic brain injury and sensitivity to barometric pressure changes.  I guess a relatively fast descent under ground is not necessarily meant for everyone.