2012 Road Trip Photos #40: The Season Finale: Look Back in Outtakes

Nine days. Five states. 2,887 miles. 828 photos. One mountaintop. Fourteen stops for gas. Innumerable sights and memories. Nine consecutive entries for journals written on location. Forty entries for photos, additional commentary, and hindsight. My wife and I have taken a road trip in some fashion each year since 1999 — before we were married or even dating, back when we were best friends. Our week-plus excursion to Colorado via Kansas was one of our most ambitious, successful, and draining road trips to date. Thanks sincerely to those lovable readers who followed along with us and offered encouragement throughout the process, whether in ways great or small, conscious or unwitting.

As my way of concluding the “2012 Road Trip Photos” series and holding the blogging equivalent of a post-production wrap party, please enjoy this assortment of previously unshared photos from the journey. Some are alternate viewpoints of sights you’ve seen; some are little moments bypassed till now. For the complete itinerary, check out the 2012 Road Trip checklist for the ultimate reading guide, with links to all the notes and photos, day by day. They’re a fun way to kill an afternoon or help decide how your own future trips to these locales will be even better.

Let the montage begin!

F-14 Tomcast, WaKeeney, Kansas

DAY TWO: my wife peeks out from underneath the F-14 Tomcat in WaKeeney, Kansas.

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2012 Road Trip Photos #38: the Landscape of Joplin-That-Will-Be

Our family had an ulterior motive for cruising Route 66 on Day Eight besides meeting Mater. It was the most straightforward path from the Little House Museum to our relatives who live across the Kansas/Missouri border in a town called Webb City. After so many days on the road with just our trio keeping each other company, it was a relief to unwind and chat with other familiar folks. My wife’s sister, her husband, and our irrepressible li’l nephew have called it home for several years, at a distance hard from us to traverse under normal circumstances. Luckily for us, this year’s itinerary provided a convenient excuse to veer in their direction for a visit.

Times in the area hadn’t been easy over the previous fourteen months. Webb City neighbors a nationally recognized city called Joplin, which occupied headlines in May 2011 when an F5 tornado wrought over twenty-two miles’ worth of obliteration and sorrow.

After our first home-cooked meal in a week, my gracious sister-in-law offered us a status update of Joplin via personal guided tour. Even though fourteen months had elapsed, I hoped we wouldn’t be ghoulishly gawking at a DMZ of too many sobering sights.

St Johns Hospital, Joplin, Missouri

Lingering destruction comprised a minute portion of what we encountered. Continue reading

2012 Road Trip Photos #37: Tow Mater Welcomes You to Route 66

The scenery east of the Little House Museum remained steady and unremarkable until we navigated our way to famous Historic Route 66. Originally connecting Chicago and Los Angeles, the formerly cross-country thoroughfare that inspired a TV show, a Pixar film, and innumerable road trips was ignobly decommissioned decades ago when it found itself superseded by the newfangled interstate system. Many sections were downgraded, renamed, or scuppered altogether. A few segments across America retain the original name, shape, and celebrity, including a few miles’ worth in southwest Kansas, leading east into Missouri.

Historic Route 66 road sign

Some locals still cherish the heritage of Route 66 and cheerfully commemorate its legacy and impact on pop culture. Galena, for example, is a rare small town that can justify boasting about a life-sized stand-in for the one and only Tow Mater.

Tow Mater, Route 66, Galena, Kansas

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2012 Road Trip Photos #36: Little Museum on the Prairie

After two major attractions and lunch at Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, we finally exited Hutchinson and pursued other Kansas fancies on Day Eight. We headed southeast, skirted the perimeter of Wichita, wound our way down I-35, and negotiated the offroad highways leading near the town of Independence to one of several Midwest locations that once housed the original Ingalls family, stars of the biographical Little House on the Prairie series that was mandatory reading for all women of my wife’s generation.

As you can imagine, this short stop in the middle of drought-stricken agrarian territory was for her benefit. We were a long, long way from the manly gadgetry of the Kansas Cosmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, Kansas

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2012 Road Trip Photos #35: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 2 of 2: Starship Parts Catalog

As we saw in our previous installment, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, provides a good, safe home to many retired spacecraft and spacecraft understudies. Their collections are a comprehensive tribute to those pioneers and daredevils who yearn to see mankind reach beyond our spatial boundaries and discover what else lies in store for us in God’s universe.

Ad Astra per Aspera, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

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2012 Road Trip Photos #34: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 1 of 2: Starship Graveyard

Once we returned from the Underground Salt Museum to the surface world, Day Eight of our nine-day journey continued on the other end of Hutchinson at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. Our family has seen space-race paraphernalia in other museums such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2003), Kennedy Space Center (2007), and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (2009), but the Cosmosphere competes in its own way, particularly with souvenirs from foreign contributors to the space race. Kansas seems like the last place on Earth you’d find a dedicated repository for cosmonaut relics, but there it was.

Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

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2012 Road Trip Photos #33: Underground Salt Museum, Part 3 of 3: Hollywood Under Glass

The curators of the Underground Salt Museum realize that visitors want their money’s worth for the experience. Staring at shelves filled with real film canisters and acid-free storage boxes isn’t the most stimulating visual aid to the average tourist. Either to drive home their mission statement or to dazzle and delight us, the tour ends with a collection of sample movie props that have been forwarded to Underground Vaults & Storage for permanent preservation. If American civilization ends and the next wave of settlers happens to be searching for clues as to the leisure-time predilections of their predecessors, the contents of this fortified entertainment bunker will tell them all they need to know about the movies and characters that meant the most to all of us, that transcended commerce and became High Art worth saving from oblivion.

They’ll also see the Mr. Freeze suit from Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin.

Mr. Freeze suit, Batman and Robin

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2012 Road Trip Photos #32: Underground Salt Museum, Part 2 of 3: To Preserve Man

In addition to their service as a simple salt mine, the subterranean chambers of the Underground Salt Museum provide a stable temperature, humidity, and overall salt-heavy atmosphere ideal for slowing the biodegradation process and preventing everyday objects from crumbling into dust. To prove the point, one of their museum exhibits is a stand filled with vintage garbage, looking just as freshly disgusting as it did when Don Draper’s contemporaries first threw it all away decades ago.

trash preservation, Underground Salt Museum

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2012 Road Trip Photos #31: Underground Salt Museum, Part 1 of 3: Into the Mines of Morton

We ended Day Seven with a hotel stay northwest of Wichita in Hutchinson, a city large enough to have its own dying shopping mall and not one, but two notable attractions. Thus did Day Eight commence in the heart of the Kansas heartland…at the Underground Salt Museum.

I realize the name carries an excitement level on par with a box factory or the state of Delaware, but the Salt Museum is no ordinary salt mine. Granted, yes, part of it is an ordinary salt mine, but we’d never seen one of those before, either. Could it possibly be fascinating to gander inside the workplace that provides us with one of the greatest-tasting minerals on Earth?

This rusty but imposing chainsaw-mobile says yes.

Chainsaw-Mobile, Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas

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2012 Road Trip Photos #30: Boot Hill Museum, Part 2 of 2: Dedicated Hobbyists of the Old West

Previously on MCC: The most notable event of Day Seven of our road trip was a quick tour through the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City. The main attraction is a preserved portion of the original Boot Hill Cemetery, still populated by the original customers, still marked by low-budget tombstones of the Old West.

However, the Boot Hill Museum is more than those preserved historical plots. Beyond that and the spacious gift shop, visitors can also walk along a simulated Dodge City strip mall of the Old West. Some of these shops are inaccessible, but several invite visitors and contain display cases filled with souvenirs and paraphernalia of the Old West. The saloon even has occasional rounds of singing, and waitresses who invite you in for a glass of sarsaparilla, which I was afraid to sample. There’s also a working ice cream shoppe, but the tourism-level prices inspired us to bide our time and fetch snacks later at a Dairy Queen down the street instead.

Boot Hill Museum stores, Dodge City, Kansas

Not all the contents are vintage 19th-century items. One room is dedicated to TV shows of the Old West in general and Gunsmoke in particular. Their short-sighted gift shop missed a profit opportunity by not offering copies of these objets d’art for sale. What child wouldn’t want to pop Gunsmoke’s Festus…Sings and Talks About Dodge City and Stuff! into their parent’s CD player and listen to it twelve times a day?

Gunsmoke, Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City, Kansas

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