Surviving long drives.

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And another one for Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

I know… road trips again? and yep. This trip was so driving heavy that I found myself having to find new ways to make it bearable, because even with my amazing partner and our endless conversations and stops, being consistently stuck in a hot car with your butt falling asleep is always going to be a pain – so much fun, but also a pain.

I’ve talked about games to play, budget points to discuss, responsibilities to dole out, and the importance of knowing the people you are traveling with – emphasis on the driver – again, I know I have covered this stuff extensively (1, 2). But despite my years of experience with many different groups, at many different ages, under many different circumstances, I was surprised at the things that I had never thought about before to help you pass the time or make your travel more fun or comfortable.

First, most of my road trips – at least in the last few years – have really been all about the destination instead of the actual trip. But because we were having a lot of fun – and disasters – along the way, I realized how much better it is when you aren’t all about getting there. After all, that is exactly what makes it a road trip!

So, beyond all the rules and bits of advice I’ve mentioned elsewhere, here are a few more tid-bits that are more important of you don’t mind throwing the path to get to your destination a little bit out the window.

First, don’t be afraid to stop beyond what you have planned. As a kid I remember driving out of Colorado – our final destination – in a detour to see one last monument. While I didn’t appreciate it then (it was a really long trip!), I understand and appreciate deviating from the path now. In Kansas, We pulled over at one stop just because the outlook was just too pretty to pass up. These stops can make your drive longer but also breaks them up and lets you see things you otherwise never would have noticed.

Second, don’t marry yourself to anyone place, but feel free to make it all up as you go. This really paid off in Wichita – if you have been following along – and finding an easier hotel. Sometimes when you travel, your plans will change just because your timeline just doesn’t line up at the end of the day. Again, setting definite points are great, but being free to explore is even better.

Third and final (for now), tell absolutely everyone that you are road tripping. I never thought this was important until the one waitress offered us water for the road. Sometimes people surprise you with kindness when they know you are going to be on the road a lot. Whether this is an extra cup of water or suggestions of things to do or see, getting something from a local source can do wonders for your trip. I don’t care if it’s advice for one more stop you’d never think to visit, or a cold glass of water, you loose nothing by talking to other people.

Again, this is all for now but this trip only inspired my love for travel and road trips more and more, so I am sure that down the road, I’ll think of many more points to share.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you Soar.

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Surviving long drives.

Fourth of July at Wamego, Kansas

 

So, we’re months later but yay! we’ve made it to talking about the Fourth of July! But since it is months late, you may ask – and rightfully so – why? Why should I take the time in the middle of September to write about an event so far back and so far away?

Well there are a few pretty good reasons actually.

First, this is where this post naturally landed – in fact, there are a few floating posts that could easily have come before this, pushing this post even further back in our schedule.

Second, as it turns out, Kansas is an oddly popular place to visit around the Fourth of July; there were multiple groups I ran into flying to and from Kansas and others I heard talking on the plane who make the trek every year just because of where they get to see fireworks. These girls were somewhere off of a lake for the weekend, but I was somewhere a little different.

The days leading up to the Fourth, Wamego, Kansas comes alive with carnivals and activities that all lead up to the firework-extravaganza called “Boomtown”. This entails the carnival, a parade, car show, an ice cream social, and, of course, food.

It takes about 40 minute from the base to get here but there are parking lots all over the area that donate to groups like the boy scouts (who help show you were to park) so we didn’t mind getting there in the afternoon despite the crowds we knew would show up. We brought a twin sized comforter and were surprised that there was actually really close parking and enough room to lay out. Unfortunately, it was busy enough that we didn’t get to run around seeing any other activity.

It’s recommended that you bring a radio and tune into the given station to hear the music alongside the fireworks, but leading up, if you are on one of the baseball fields, there are food booths and a live band that plays – the covers were really good and we had so much fun singing along.

Then the sun sets and I haven’t seen a firework show like it. The display is absolutely stunning for the whole half an hour that it runs and the field is flat so no trees will block your view. It also seems that the distance laws in California are different because the fireworks in Kansas felt like they were right above us the whole time.

The hardest part of the whole evening, of course, is going home. My advice: pick a driver who is calm and collected and can handle driving in tight spaces with crazy drivers all around them. It took us about an hour to get out of the close lot and then we had the 40 minute drive home. The other advice: go to the bathroom as close to the firework show as you can or right after and don’t mind sitting in the car for as long as it takes.

Still, it was an amazing show and well worth the wait in the sun and the time in the car.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Fourth of July at Wamego, Kansas

Historic Fort Riley

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Fort Riley, Kansas. July 2017.

I will be honest, as much time as we spent at Fort Riley, I didn’t spend all that much time exploring. Since this is where Ryan lives, we ended up going to many more of his local haunts than exploring sites I can tell you all about. That said, there are cool things about army bases for history-loving folk which is worth getting a day pass if you are able.

I grew up on road trips with my family visiting old cemeteries, usually near old churches or battlegrounds, and my younger sister and I became obsessed with these visits. We would search for names that were funny or similar, the youngest or oldest person, or the coolest or oldest tombstones we could wander across. To some, graveyards are scary, but I have been to so many, so many places and so many kinds.

This is one reason, Ryan took me to the Graveyard at Fort Riley. While graveyards are fascinating in and of themselves, there was something different about being here. Military graves, like military lines, have clear formations – anyone who has driven past one of the larger ones can tell a military grave-site from a great distance for this reason. Despite this, there were clear sections and you could easily see when  time breaks happened. There were also much more variation in the stones which I hadn’t expected – I’m used to the sites where all the stones match except for the writing and symbols engraved on them.

It was also very different walking along the graves of soldiers with a soldier. We tried not to get morbid about it (and for the most part we succeeded), but he was able to tell me what some of the medallions and engravings stood for as well as some of the history of the base and area which explained some of the deaths.

After the graveyard, we drove down to the U.S. Calvary Museum. While we only toured the courtyard and looked at the vehicles on display there, I enjoyed this stop as well. One thing that killed us – I physically had to move Ryan out of the area – was a family who had their kids up in one of the army jeeps for photos. There are signs everywhere and you really do not want to get in trouble on an army base, so please, for the love of all that is holy, do not climb on the vehicles!

Army bases are old and full of changes that have shifted in look and style throughout time that you can see as you wander through an old base, and it really is an amazing thing to see. I really enjoyed my tour through the grounds and, if you get the chance, I suggest you wander as well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Historic Fort Riley

Visiting An Army Base: a few things to know.

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Fort Riley, Kansas. July 2017.

In case I hadn’t made it clear by now, my boyfriend is in the military and, while we knew we were going to be running around the state, we knew we also planned on staying on base. Honestly, this is something you have to plan – you can’t just walk onto a military base whenever you want; there are very specific protocols.

This isn’t the first time I have stayed on a military base. My uncle was in the military and we stayed with his family when we visited them in Japan; I was a pre-teen then, however, so I don’t remember all the procedures because mom and dad took care of all that planning.

So that we could both stay on base – as well as save some money – Ryan made reservations at the on-base hotel, making sure that both of our names were listed as part of the reservation – I don’t know how many times Ryan called the hotel to check this and plenty of other details the days leading up to our stay, both when we were stopped and while driving.

Now, you can choose to do some of the security clearances before you get there if the person you are visiting had all your details, however, you need to be present to get a pass onto the base; they need to copy your identification and take a current picture as well as have you fill out multiple forms to double check your identification to grant you proper clearance. Because of this, we felt it was easiest to get in early enough to drop into the welcome center and get it all finished right away without more coordinating. He, of course, learned all this by going and talking to the people at the welcome center a few weeks before I flew out.

Unfortunately, the one thing we forgot to check was the Sunday hours for the welcome center – it closes early on Sundays. Because of this, we had to get a temporary pass – available because of the reservation – and then got up early on Monday morning to get my longer term pass. This definitely involved me with my greasy hair up in a high bun, sleep shirt, big jeans, and glasses, sleepily filling out my packet of paperwork while practically falling asleep on the hard bench seat, but it all worked out. In the end, getting the pass worked out mostly due to the fact that we were staying on base, not just visiting each day.

Then there are some obvious things you have to get used to. You have to know when you are allowed or not allowed to take pictures – again these are pretty obvious and many areas have signs posted. It’s also remembering to keep your pass with you – we kept mine in Ryan’s car since I wan’t going out around base without him and we didn’t want to accidentally leave it in the room. The last big thing was behavioral – Ryan and I have always been affectionate but, in uniform, there are rules about behavior. This wasn’t much of a problem because he was only in uniform on his one work day.

Again, base life is much different than just visiting a friend anywhere else and there are a lot of things to remember because you really don’t want to get in trouble here – seriously, don’t speed on base. Still, with all the waiting at check points and the disadvantages of being in the middle of nowhere, this was an amazing place to stay and the staff at the hotel was amazing.

I am probably not staying at Fort Riley again – Ryan isn’t going to be living there much longer – but if other bases are anything like this, I definitely won’t mind staying on another one again. But for now:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

Visiting An Army Base: a few things to know.