Saturday, January 8, 2011

A free tutorial

I've decided I need to incorporate some tutorials into my little blog, so here you go.
Tutorial #1.

"How to turn something BORING into something EXCITING"

(Oh, did I just lose some of you who were hoping it was a crafting tutorial? Never fear. This tutorial is so much more useful than how to crochet a pair of bunny slippers out of the cat fur you sucked off the sofa with your vaccuum hose.)

For this lesson, we'll use our last 48 hours as an example...

Yesterday the boy, the husband and I loaded ourselves into the car bright and early for a fun little roadtrip. Er, make that a little business trip. (Trust me, the little guy already knows how to negotiate a business deal, haha.)

Our destination?

The place most folk want to get the heck outta.

Any guesses?

That's right, kids.

Dodge City, Kansas.

Now, 'ol Wyatt Earp might beg to differ with my branding of this as a "boring" roadtrip. Back in the day, Dodge City was filled with hopeful cowboys and crazed outlaws, and it was anything but boring. Fast foward to 2011, and unfortunately it might not be on Travel Magazines' list of top destinations. The drive from here to there is pretty dang flat, it's in the middle of winter so there's no greenery to be found, and it's pretty much cows, cows, and cows to look at. (No offense, Dodge City. Had we more time to spend, we would've been happy to visit Boot Hill, down some delicious steak, and hobknob with the locals. I promise we'll stop on our next drive through.)

Let me tell you something: most people traveling out that way (from these parts, anyway) are headed to beautiful Colorado, usually straight for the Rocky Mountains. So stopping by Dodge City might make 'em chuckle and smile as they continue past, eyes on the prize of Rocky Mountain highs. (Dang, I am a poet.) But as a final destination, well, not too many people probably stop there. Except my husband -- who needed to be there for a short business meeting. And since it is a 6-hour drive and my husband is not quite the best road-tripper (as a driver especially, although as a passenger he is fantastic since he is a pro on his laptop and can also fall asleep at the drop of a hat which we all know makes the time on the road pass quickly) -- I volunteered for the position of chauffeur. Our son got to play hooky from school for the day (since he never gets sick and never has to miss otherwise). We piled in the car, and made the best out of our 640-something-mile-long, less than 36-hours-total roadtrip.

So let's get to the tutorial, shall we?

Step #1:
Be sure and talk up the boring subject until it sounds exciting (and you've managed to successfully convince yourself as well that it could be fun).

Dora and Diego are the best (and the most annoying) at this if you need to watch some cartoons for good examples; otherwise just tack some exclamation points on to whatever you are saying. For example: Dodge City sounds AWESOME!!! Dodge City -- what a neat place full of cowboy history!!! Ooooh, I heard there used to be BAD GUYS in Dodge City!!!

(By the way, the five-year-old was eating. it. up.)

Step #2:
Think outside the box.

Instead of counting cars (hello, boring) or counting mile markers (hello, boring), we counted GRAIN ELEVATORS! (Don't be jealous.) My five-year-old got quite into this. And he could never remember the real term for them, no matter how much I repeated it and made him repeat it, and instead called them "food makers". Cute. (Note to self: be sure and look for agriculture books at the library with pictures. The kid wants to know more, and my sad little attempts at explaining the process of grain from field to table was probably not the most accurate.)

Step #3:
Stop and smell the roses.

Now, speaking of "smelling the roses", that would've come in handy on this trip. Unfortunately I was trapped inside the car with two humans of the male species. Niiiiiiiiiiice. It meant a lot of emergency rolling down of the windows, yelling on my part, and howling with laughter on their part. I'm sure you've caught my drift by now. Throw in the fact that Dodge City is also quite the fragrant town, and we could've used a whole lotta roses. (In case you haven't been there, the air smells straight like cow poo. And lots of it. Bless their little hearts in Dodge City. And neighboring Garden City. Don't let that name fool you -- it don't smell like no garden.)

But instead I really mean "stop and smell the roses" as in -- stop and see all the fun that is lurking around the corner. Kansas is full o' fun.

Some things we stopped to see:

*the world's largest hand dug well!

my own handsome cowboy peering down in there

Trust us, it was deep, and if someone really did dig that 109-feet-deep sucker by hand, well, color me impressed!

By the way, we noticed that this particular town was a bit different from the other small towns we had driven through. All of the buildings on its little main street were new, as were most of the houses, and the trees were strange-looking as well. Then it dawned on me. The town must've been leveled by a tornado. Bless their hearts. Sure enough, I looked online when we got home, and in 2007 it was hit by an F5. You know what they call those -- the "finger of God". Nasty stuff. We don't mess around with tornados 'round these parts, and we've all been affected by them in one way or another, whether we personally have been in one or one of our communities was struck by one. So I'm glad to know that little town is rebuilding and will survive.

*the world's largest collection of....(?)....well, we're not quite sure exactly, but it was large!

It was basically a collection of a billion whirligig type metal sculptures, many of which had {ahem} political statements of their own, like the ones titled "Hillary" and "Laura Bush" that had swastikas on their heads. Yipes. Appropriate and tasteful? Hmmmmm, notsomuch. Interesting? Most definitely.

(Have YOU ever seen one in person? My boys are holding one for ya'. It had been a-tumblin'.)

*cotton fields!

*old oil mansions in small towns! (Okay, this part was in Oklahoma....)

Some fun things we DIDN'T stop to see but would've if we'd had more time:

*the Kansas meteorite museum -- I guess all the farmers pooled together and made a collection of all the rocks that fell outta the sky and landed on their property? My boy would love this as well.

*Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City

*the beginning of the Santa Fe trail -- I would've liked to have seen this since apparently you can still see the wagon ruts in the ground, but alas, it was an additional 7 miles WEST of Dodge City, and honestly, we were ready to get on the road for home.

*a museum featuring a hideout of the infamous Dalton Gang -- again, too far off the beaten path, but since my grandfather wrote down his own personal account of when the Dalton Gang rode into a neighboring town here in Oklahoma, I would've found it interesting.

*the world's largest hairball (I couldn't make these things up if I tried)

*Prairie Dog Town -- Kansas, I'll be coming back soon...

Step #4:
Make lemonade outta lemons.

Once we got to Dodge City, my husband had to skedaddle off to his meeting. It was 3pm, and the boy and I were pretty much trapped in the Holiday Inn Express until further notice (which ended up pretty much being all night since we didn't end up leaving). This was also finalized by the fact that my husband failed to grab my makeup bag in the pile of things to throw in the car, and we all know dang well I didn't really care to venture out in public with no makeup. Sure, I do it all the time when I go to the grocery store and Wal-Mart, but on our trip I wasn't too amused that I had no options.

But instead of being bummed about this incarceration, I flung off my socks and shoes, planted myself on one of the beds, remote in hand, and enjoyed an evening of mindless TV watching with my kid, "dinner in bed" (a la Subway sandwiches that the husband brought back for us), and pretty much having no "to do list" of any sort other than just to relax. Trapped? No. Forced to relax? Yes. (And okay. It wasn't mindless TV watching. "Gold Rush" on the Discovery Channel is one of the coolest new shows on TV. Those dudes are living the dream. I totally want to go to Alaska now and pan for gold.)

Step #5:
Don't spend big bucks. Free is where it's at.

Know what awesome souvenirs my kid came home with?

For starters, we brought home a TUMBLEWEED. Awesome! And hilarious! And one-of-a-kind!

And free.

Periodically I would look in the rear view mirror on the way home and crack my own little hilarious-to-me joke:
"Hey, is that a tumbleweed in your trunk or are you just happy to see me?"

I know. I'm awesome. My husband tells me all the time...

My kid also came home with all-natural-cotton picked straight from the fields. Cool AND educational. He wants to take it to kindergarten to show all his little buddies.

(Don't worry. We didn't steal from the farmer. We only took what was straggling behind after it had already been picked and bundled.)

And my husband and I got our own free souvenirs. At the oil mansion we visited, we got a free program from the pre-inaugural ball that was held there last night for our first-ever-female-governor that is about to be sworn in. Kinda cool, huh? That's right. We like to hobknob in the same places all the rich and fancy folk do. (More on this oil mansion tomorrow. It's good for a whole other post.)

Step #6:
Realize that there's more to life than all the bells and whistles and fancy iGadgets and commercialism and consumerism get my drift, right? Go for the simple things.

This step can't be bought and paid for. This one is straight from the heart of the world's most awesome five-year-old.

When asked about his favorite part of the trip (because he thought it was AWESOME and EXCITING, remember, to be trapped in the car in Kansas in the dead of winter with his quirky oddball parents on the way to a destination that not only smelled like cow poo but also that he would really see nothing of other than the inside of a Holiday Inn Express motel room), he answered:

"hanging out wif my Mama and Papa".


And that, my friends, is how to turn something BORING into something EXCITING.

(You're welcome.)


~Michelle~ said...

Oh, where do I begin on this post? I chuckled and hehe'd my way through it. I think the tumbleweed part is the funniest - eastern Colorado has a bunch of those, so it doesn't surprise me you found some in west Kansas. And I learned something - I wasn't aware them there Kansas folk grew cotton. Wheat, yes...cotton, no. Sounds like a fun little trip! But can you top standing at the geographical center of the continental US, which I did over Christmas?? (look it up, also in Kansas)

Country Dreaming said...

Yes, we Kansans are a facinating group of people. :)
Come back soon.


Mrs. O said...

We've been to Dodge City! Your post reminds me of Roadside America. We love to check out places featured on that site. If you haven't been there, check it out!

cssolomon said...

LOL Valerie - I love this blog. I like the way you think. I will definately keep these life lessons forever. :)