Garden of the Gods – Part 2

We drove from the Visitor’s Center to the trails. Again, we were early, got a parking spot, but the parking area was filling up and already a lot of people were there.

The description of the center says “Imagine the formations against snowcapped mountains and brilliant blue sky.” The day we were there, we really did have to imagine that. The snow might have still been in the ridges and creek beds of  the mountains, but not visible enough for us to see many miles away and the “brilliant blue sky” was more like a basement-floor gray. So the formations didn’t show up as well as they might’ve on a sunny day, but the walk was still good. As we continued, more and more people arrived. Then again – it was a Saturday in mid-July. What did we expect?

By the time we got to the Balance Rock, so many people were around taking pictures of other people pretending to hold up the rock, I couldn’t get a good view. But did the best I could without someone’s hand and phone in the shot.

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Ok – we’ll remember that!

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I like this tree and this picture.

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What I could get of the balance rock.

 

 

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Garden of the Gods – Part 1

Most people who visit Colorado Springs visit Garden of the Gods. Surprisingly, this is a public city park and is free to all who visit. GOTG is also a National Natural Landmark.

We first headed for the visitor’s center. The center  has several exhibits which we quickly walked through, a gift shop and a balcony overlooking the park. A highlight is the dinosaur picture painted on the floor/wall with a 3D perspective – although it is painted on flat surfaces. My brother pulled out his famous red chair and we got our pictures on top of the picture.

Something I didn’t know, but maybe should’ve known is that Katherine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful after visiting the area – Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. (You can read about it all outside the ladies restroom.)

Last time I was at  Garden of the Gods was on a hot day in 2006.

This time we went early in the morning (right when the center opened)  when the weather was still fairly cool. We were early enough to get a parking lot outside the center – but already the place was filling up and getting crowded.

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View from the balcony of the visitor’s center.

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And another view from the balcony with Pikes Peak in the background. (Imagine Katherine Bates seeing this and being inspired to write America the Beautiful.)

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The sign by the ladies room.

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And the red chair makes an appearance.

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I look frightened …

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And Barb looks so calm.

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Another view from the balcony  …  my brother in the parking lot.

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New Food – Longan

IMG_7987Some new, experimental foods I’ve been eyeing since the beginning of the year when I first started this new-food adventure  – this one I never saw before last Saturday when I spotted it in my local ethnic grocery.

The longan tree is grown mostly in southern China and does well at a slightly high elevation. And since 1798, it is has also been grown in India – in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Longan is considered a superfood high in vitamin C and potassium – in case you decide to have some for lunch.

When peeled, the longan looks like eyeballs which is why it is also called Dragon Eyes.

So, I bought it.

I peeled it.

I ate it.

The fruit is sweet and easy on the taste-buds. My best comparison is to the grape, although it’s different in that it has a hard shell and a rather large pit. The consistency of the fruit, itself, however, is very grape like.

I give it a six out of 10.

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Sunflowers in the Park

Another fun small Kansas town (where we did actually see other people) was Goodland. Although there are other things to see in town including a couple charming restaurants – we focused on the sunflower painting

Actually the picture idea started a long way from Kansas – in Canada where a Canadian artist decided to replicate seven Van Gogh paintings. He asked Goodland if they would accept Van Gogh’s sunflower picture since they are the Sunflower Capitol of the Sunflower State.

Unfortunately we didn’t actually see any REAL sunflowers – probably a little early in the year.

But the Van-Gogh-Canadian-artist sunflowers on the easel were cool –

The picture is 24×32 feet and the easel is 80 feet tall. Altogether, the painting/easel weighs 45,000 pounds so it’s good the picture didn’t topple over and hit us on the head or something.

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The World’s Largest Czech Egg

Signs along the highway told us we were nearing the “World’s Largest Czech Egg,” I didn’t know that was even a thing until we started seeing the signs. But we were willing to stop and see what it was all about.

DSC_0120First of all, Wilson is the Czech capitol of Kansas.

The people wanted to do something to honor their heritage and also to encourage people to stop at their town – so they decided on “the world’s largest Czech egg.” Next challenge, however, was “who would build it?”. That took awhile as they searched for someone who could construct a 20 foot tall egg. They found a company who build fiberglass tanks for oil fields and the owners agreed to help out.

Meanwhile, a high school art teacher designed the egg in a “kraslice” pattern.  And the egg was born or hatched or something.

The egg is 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.

However, once again, we visited a town where we didn’t see anyone. Downtown shops seemed deserted except for random seating on the sidewalks in front of their stores. Hmmm. Puzzling.

Wait – I take that back – we did see other people  – another car of travelers stopped by to see the egg just as we were leaving.

Kind of fun. If you’re going by, stop – the egg is not difficult to find and is located in a small city park.

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Lecompton, Kansas

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The town sign.

The temp said 108 degrees as we rode into Lecompton, Kansas.

This small Kansas town was once named Bald Eagle (hence the sign), but was changed to Lecompton after the chief justice of the territorial supreme court: Mr. Samuel Lecompte. Lecompton was the center of the territorial government.

And is known as the birth place of the Civil War.

In 1855, a Lecompton Constitution was written establishing Kansas as a slave state. But  the constitution was rejected nationally as it was one of the big topics in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The seed of a massive debate was born, a debate that ended in war. Lecompton continued to be a place where pivotal decisions were made in  American history but because we didn’t really get to see more than the outsides of buildings, I won’t go any further with the historical facts.

Except to say …

Later, in 1863 Lane University was established in Lecompton, a school which Dwight Eisenhower’s parents attended.

Right now there are three or four historic Lecompton buildings on the National Historic Register. – and it was rated one of the best five small towns in Kansas by the people of the state.


But none of that made much difference on that 108 degree July afternoon.

The town was quiet, empty and extremely … hot.

Hungry – we found a storefront restaurant on the empty main street – Aunt Netters.

Inside, a young girl and guy worked behind the counter. A display of cupcakes were behind a glass counter and cupcakes mobiles hung from the windows. We were the only ones there.

We enjoyed a good, homemade lunch and then we debated whether or not to get a cupcake and eventually decided against it – which was a good thing, because we soon realized that the place had actually closed while we were there. (The time was 2:00.)

Once outside, we decided to walk down the street (yes, the street itself) and check out one of the historic buildings – Constitution Hall. Not surprisingly – it was closed. But even though it was 108 degrees (Did I say that already?), the walk was pleasant. Heading back to the car, we passed another historic building – the Radical United Brethren Church.

I don’t think we saw even one person the entire time we were in town (except the two people at the restaurant), but when I look the restaurant up on TripAdvisor, it had a lot of ratings, so there must be people there sometime!

A peaceful town on a peaceful afternoon.

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Aunt Netters’ cafe – good food … with cupcakes being their specialty.

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A walk down the main street of town (on a hot afternoon)

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Constitution Hall .. but it was closed and not a tour guide in sight.

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The Radical United Brethren Church – another National Historic Site.