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.
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.
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:
In case I haven’t made it clear before, through our travels around Kansas and just into Missouri, we were in the car an unbelievable amount of time and, for nearly the 5 whole days I was there (with the exception of a few hours Ryan was at work), we were always together – living in each others’ pockets, as it were. This can either be amazing (we thought so) or can drive you nuts, but either way, the key to this kind of travel is knowing your partner and being as comfortable with them as you possibly can.
When it comes to Ryan and I, we had only been together (as a couple, at least) for a month – all of which was long distance – but we have been friends (best friends) for almost 12 years. Still, being with someone for 24 hours a day for 5 days is intense, no matter how long or how well you think you know them.
First and foremost, you really have to get over the fact that you and your companion(s) are human so human things are going to happen. Bodily functions, habits, and whatever else are always going to happen so the key is to laugh when things get a little awkward and move forward. As the book says, everyone poops. Add to that, dating and there is a whole other level of getting used to someone else being in close quarters. I’m telling you, we have discussed bathroom patterns and have excused ourselves when need be to deal with those kind of personal issues.
Second, follow the road trip rules (1, 2) and we have discussed before and make a plan. This pre-planning will save you so much time and headaches and let you just enjoy your time together. Read those old posts and you’ll get a lot more information!
Third, when being together becomes too much, know when to spend your time apart. This somehow didn’t happen in Kansas – Ryan and I apparently could be marooned somewhere together and be fine, at least during this honeymoon period – however, being able to take time for yourself is really important, short- or long-term.
Again, the whole point is to get comfortable with this person who you are going to be spending an outrageous amount of time and close quarters with so even if my parameters are broad, it’s all about doing what you need to do to make that work: speak up, clear the air, laugh, make jokes, or do whatever you need to do and enjoy yourself.
Sometimes when you are running the line between local-staycationing, dating, and travel, you come across a day that is an odd mixture of all of the above – for Ryan and I, Wichita was the near-perfect example of this. On the most basic level, the day consisted of lunch, a bookstore date, and a more traditional date – a few hours in an entertainment center.
First up, The Redrock Canyon Grill. Ryan and I decided to try something food-wise that was more local (or at least the we had never tried) and when we did an area search, Redrock popped up near the top places to try. And after our time here, I understand why. The food and service was great. The atmosphere made us feel a little bit under-dressed in t-shirts and jeans but there were a few parties dressed similarly so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought the prices were a bit high at first but the portions are huge, so they are actually fitting for what you get.
Our server was amazing, very sweet and, since we weren’t there at a rush, stayed by the table for a while and talked to us about our trip as well as food recommendations while we were ordering. What I loved the most, however, was a small gesture I’d never thought to ask about: when she asked if Ryan wanted his leftovers packaged, we said that we were road-tripping so couldn’t take them. Instead, she brought us ice water in to-go cups because it was hot and she knew it was a long drive ahead of us.
Again, between the food, the service, and this kind gesture, I totally recommend the Redrock Canyon Grill.
The next stop was Barnes and Nobles – in no way a local hot spot. To start, Ryan and I are both big book nerds so whenever we get a chance to hit a bookstore, we will. And, as a book nerd, I love seeing the variations even in these big chain book stores. For me, this is a great line between travel and staycations – it’s not near home, however, it’s like home but different enough to want to run around and explore.
Finally, we wanted to do something very traditionally date-like but also new, so we looked for an open escape room that would be available early enough that we could still hit the road in time to get to Fort Riley before nightfall. This was impossible since these book up pretty far in advance, but we quickly discovered Glow Golf instead. Again, this isn’t an experience you can only get in Wichita – these kind of entertainment zones are popping up all over the country.
This particular location has a lot of choices, and while not expensive, each thing costs you a little and they add up. First off, everything is black light so if this messes with your eyes, you may want to skip out; if not, jump on it! We played golf (two games for the price of one), the laser maze (a thief-type game that we played over and over again), ping-pong, and cornhole with light-up bean bags. Dating with some fun competition thrown in? Yes, please! Especially to break up a long drive day.
Again, none of these activities really scream ‘exploring Wichita’ because they weren’t for that. Sometimes in travel, you need a slacking off day, and I loved our day slacking off in Wichita and wouldn’t take it back for all the explorations we could have done, especially on our time table. But more of that to come as we continue to explore Kansas.
After the crazy debacle I talked about last week (the lost suit adventure), getting a night out and another of Ryan’s big planned dates was an amazing experience. As I said, I focused my research more on small things to see and do – basically going through my regular travel bucket list – but Ryan looked up experiences.
This is how he stumbled upon the Prairie Pines Playhouse and their Murder Mystery Theatre – a half scripted, half improve show with audience interaction served alongside a four course meal. He was searching great activities to do around Kansas – at this point we pretty much knew that staying in one place would get boring pretty quick; I mean, I love you Kansas!! There are so many great features of this playhouse that I’m going to have to pull the experience apart piece by piece:
So while I talked about our crazy suit adventure last week, it turns out that there was no reason for us to freak out. This place is pretty casual – it is improv in the middle of Kansas so (and trying not to sound too judgmental) so I feel like I should have realized this. In Ryan’s tie and slacks and my black dress and heals, we were the most dressed up people in attendance. I noticed this as soon as I stepped from the car and assessed the situation.
I had Ryan roll up his sleeves, unbotton the top few buttons, and loosen his tie for a dressed down formal look which worked for a date – I wasn’t as worried about myself since a black dress, heels, and red lipstick are a pretty universal look. If you are wearing heels, just be aware that you will be walking around on gravel, grass, and other uneven surfaces.
If you like a good mix of beautiful and rustic, this is definitely a place for you. I decided not to bring my good camera on this trip because it was an inside show and I figured that it would be too late to do any camera work. Boy, was that a terrible plan!
The appetizer course consisted of meat, cheese, and veggie platters and was served on the patio before the show began. At this point you were encouraged to place your drink order and then grab some food to bring to the table or to walk around the grounds with until 10 to 15 minutes before the show was meant to start.
The grounds aren’t huge but lots of walking around space. There are little almost cabin looking spaces which were really cute as well as a natural rock falls into a a gorgeous pond willed with flowers. On the other side, there was another pond with a taller rock area you could climb that has a few bench swings along one side – though these didn’t seem to be used often based on the wear and spiderwebs.
Inside was just as nice – that mix of lovely and rustic. Again, this is called the Prairie Pines Playhouse for nothing – I would love to see this place in winter – another season they do plays in.
So yes, I fell in love with the atmosphere of the place, but that would have been nothing if the show wasn’t worth the trip, however, the show was definitely worth it. The show we saw was The Altos – a murder mystery with advertised as the Sopranos: only lower. Basically, a mobster who everyone has a problem with is killed and people are gathering for his funeral. However, it turns out he isn’t dead and throughout the play, tries to figure out who is trying to kill him.
At first, some of the actors made us a little nervous – there were flubbed lines and some craziness. However, since this is a comedy and an improve show, these flubs quickly became part of the running gags and made the show more dynamic and funnier than I could ever explain.
But remember, this is also an improv show and there is audience interaction. Audience members are picked to interact with actors on and off the stage throughout the show. Ryan got picked to go up as the mobster’s son – Tony – and he seemed chomping at the bit to speak the whole time, obviously enough that he was teased about it quite a lot. He threw the actors off a bit but seemed to be a hit with the audience. Then, unexpectedly, he got tapped to go up again by one of the older ladies – she apparently missed his scene earlier in the play – to go up and play the informant. While he was funny the first time around, he was twice as sassy in the second go making a crack about the no-alive mobster’s size which resulted in a threat to put him – Ryan – in the urn instead.
So be aware when you go, no one is safe and while you aren’t forced, no one has to be as sassy as Ryan – just play along, follow the actor’s lead and do what feels right!
The food timing was between the acts of the play and you are served by the actors, in character – we got a lot of commentary, including the priest discussing the probability that Ryan could be possessed and his interest in doing an exorcism later. In terms of the quality of the food, we had mixed feelings. Frankly, it was catered food and getting the chicken with pasta, it didn’t blow up away. However, it was good enough that we ate enough to be almost uncomfortably full and had really large portions. For the price you pay for the food, the play, and everything else (drinks were extra), we couldn’t really complain.
Overall, I highly recommend going to any event or play held at the Prairie Pines Playhouse, and if I were ever in the area again, I would definitely go back. The plays are limited and, especially the Christmas show, fills up fast, so keep an eye on this venue and and call in to reserve space early – when we went they were saying this Christmas was at least half filled already.
During my 5 days in Kansas (and Missouri), Ryan and I stayed in three different hotels in three different cities – if traveling to one place isn’t enough to drive you nuts, having to pack up your bags everyday and switch outfits between driving and dates is quite a pain in the butt.
As we have talked about, I am the kind of traveler that (first) likes to take her time when exploring new places – you don’t get a lot of this when you are traveling between two states in 5 days – and (second) likes to settle into the places I am staying – I pack in such a way that I can live out of my suitcase if I need to, but it is nicer when I don’t (toiletries have their place, separating clean and dirty clothes, and hanging up dresses because I get to unpack, is absolutely lovely). Again, you don’t get to do this a lot when you are moving from place to place.
Still, when you know that you will be moving from place to place – even if you do plan on staying for more than two days – if you unpack or not, you must always triple check every hotel room you stay in, because, in all likelihood, you will not be coming back for anything. And honestly, the more hotel room jumps you make, the more likely it is that you are going to misplace a thing or two along the way.
Luckily for me, on our journey from Kansas City, Missouri to Wichita, Kansas, I didn’t forget anything. However, Ryan left his dress clothes either hanging in the closet or laying on the bed for the play we had in Wichita that night.
Basically, due to the late night at the Starlight Theater and my slight jet lag, we got up a little later than we expected, but with an 11 am checkout time, I wasn’t to worried about us being late. However, with me showering and doing my basic bathroom routines (that I need the sink for) then him showering and doing all his business (while I folded both our random bits of clothes – mostly his since he had the room before I came into town – and finished getting ready), the time did slowly ebb away until I was knocking on the door giving him 15 minute updates.
Once we were both ready to go – after I had reminded him about his suit which he may or may not have moved – I double checked my stuff and we headed down to the car. I will admit that we may have been distracted by one another even as we were walking down the hall – new couple who hadn’t seen each other in about a month: yep. Also, Ryan was more interested in fighting over who carried my bag than double checking himself.
I talked about the stuff we did in Kansas City in my last few posts, which was followed by the almost three hour drive to Wichita. We chatted, sang, watched videos, and snapped pictures – basically having a gay old time. Then, about 30 minutes from getting to the hotel (that he booked earlier as we left Kansas City) which was a tiny bit out of the way of the actual city, but really convenient for a night stop over, he looked over his shoulder and burst out laughing. At my confused look, he told me to look out the window and pay attention to both the completely unblocked back windows – no suit.
We were still 30 minutes or so from our hotel (which was not located near stores) and probably had another hour and 15 minutes before we were supposed to get to the playhouse, which would be another 30 minutes away (give or take). It was time to reevaluate and arrange accordingly. Ryan jumped on the phone and canceled our reservation, looked up any local department store that we could pick up some nice clothes at, and locate a hotel close to both the store and the playhouse so we could have time to breathe and get ready before heading back out.
And somehow, he managed it.
We did the quickest run through a department store – being a good shopper with a good sense of direction within stores finally paid off – to pick up a tie, button up, slacks, and a belt (replacing all the slightly nicer but missing items – he had had the old ones fitted and dry cleaned, while the new ones didn’t even have time to be ironed) and then crossed the street and check-in to the new hotel.
So yep, hotel jumping is hard and you should always, always send someone to do a final run through check after you get everyone and everything else out of the room – you never know what you may have missed! If you did forget something and aren’t too far away – ie, Ryan lives a few hours away – you should also definitely call the hotel and see if they can send you your lost items.
However, as always, when it comes to misadventures, sometimes the unexpected become great adventures and great stories for later.