Sunday, August 22, 2010

Busker Fest

All year long, Lawrence hosts a wide range of fantastic, quirky events: the Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, Art Togeau, and this weekend's Busker Fest, among many others. We watched three great performances: Periko el Payaso Loko (a juggler), MamaLou (a strong woman), and Voler (aerial acrobats). Photos and comments are below.

We recently attended a local juggling performance, and the juggler built up to five - and then six - balls. This juggler started with five and the ball count went up from there. The photo above shows him handling seven.

He also juggled several flaming batons.

MamaLou had an engaging stage presence while performing many old school feats of strength.

Voler shared fabulous acrobatic feats while suspended from the roof of Lawrence's Art Center.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In Flanders Fields

In the late 1920s, Kansas City completed construction of the Liberty Memorial, dedicated to the fallen in World War I. The National WWI Museum opened four years ago at the Liberty Memorial, and we finally had a chance to visit. Inspired by John McCrae's famous poem, the entryway features a glass bridge over a field of poppies, with each poppy representing 1,000 combat deaths. While compact, the museum has engaging interactive displays, well-produced short films, and many objects from the time period. While we would like to have seen more material dedicated to the civilian side of life (and death) during the war (most of the objects on display were ordnance and uniforms), the collection was impressive and told a fascinating story.

We learned quite a bit at the museum. For example, we were not fully aware of the global nature of the war. Not only was the extent of campaigns in Africa and Asia a revelation, but the museum solved a family mystery. Erik's grandfather was stationed in Texas during WWI, a deployment that we always found puzzling. But, even prior to the Zimmermann Telegram in which a German official proposed a Mexican alliance with Germany (to regain territories that the US took in the 19th century), the US had a southern "front" along the border.

A storm approached as we arrived at the Liberty Memorial. It was closed because of lightning, but we were later able to ascend to the top.

The view from the Liberty Memorial is spectacular, featuring the KC skyline, Union Station, and other notable landmarks.

Lea at the top of the memorial

One of the interactive displays allowed visitors to create fake propaganda images by mashing together elements from various posters. Our effort to encourage wartime austerity is above.

We only had a few hours at the museum, but it deserves more time and attention. We'll certainly visit again.

A Big Transition

Carter entered kindergarten this week. The first day of school was a mix of nerves and excitement. Carter has been looking forward to kindergarten since his pre-school "graduation," but as the moment to cross the threshold into his new school building approached, he was seized with apprehension (you can see it on his face in the photo above). However, his reticence melted away, and he has reported that each day of school has been "awesome" and every day is better than the previous one.

Carter getting ready to go on the first day.

The crazy crowd in front of school (it is more organized than it seems).

A final pep talk from mom.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hiking the Katy Trail

We have been fortunate to travel to many exotic locales, but sometimes overlook the beauty in our own backyard. On our regular treks to Michigan, we drive along I-70 through Missouri. Western Missouri is not particularly picturesque. However, as we traverse the center of the state, we always note a lovely area around Rocheport. Not long ago, we discovered that it is a trail head on the Katy Trail, the largest rails-to-trails project in the United States. The Katy Trail is associated with Lewis and Clark's journeys, and stretches from just west of St. Louis to Clinton (near Kansas City). We spent a lovely weekend hiking along the trail. Photos and comments follow.

Rocheport is a charming small town, reminiscent of western Michigan lake towns. Its main claim to fame - aside from hosting the 1840 state Whig convention - is the trail. We snapped the above photo in the park near our B&B. Note the sign on the ladder that looks like one of the many climbing toys.

Just west of Rocheport is a fantastic old train tunnel, a remnant of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railway (the Katy) that cut through central Missouri. The tunnel was clearly carved out with explosives and shored up by bricks and mortar.

After a short hike on our first day, we retired to the B&B's backyard hammock where Carter read us a book.

We began our second day early in the morning and planned to hike around 12 miles. In the end, we hiked 8.6 miles. Carter was especially a trooper on the long walk. He catalogued the wildlife that we encountered, tallying 168 frogs and toads (1 dead), a deer, a couple of squirrels, and many varieties of bird.

While walking along the trail eastward, the Missouri River (the "Big Muddy") was on our right, and the tall bluffs were on our left. We had spectacular views of both.

Close to Rocheport, a stream emerged from the rocks of a bluff. We cooled our hands and faces traveling in both directions. We really needed it coming back - it was a typical, steamy August day.

We found other surprises along the path. Somewhat hidden from view was this cave, with a brick entrance probably constructed by railway workers a century ago.

In the more distant past, native peoples drew petroglyphs high on the bluffs. A few remnants remain - you can see the red "swoosh" in the center-left of the photo below.

While the trail is popular, we had many quiet moments alone as a family. We took several breaks to rest, snack, and admire the scenery. We especially enjoyed the wildlife, some of which is captured below (including toad #1).

Our trip to the Katy Trail was a rousing success. We plan to return in the fall to see the trail when the leaves are turning.