Now I'm Going to Dizz Knee Land

We started our day with a fantastic breakfast at the delightful CafĂ© Berlin in Columbia, Missouri. We treated ourselves to good coffee, eggs Benedict and what has to be the best biscuit I’ve ever eaten on the road.  In fact, the biscuits were so good that we decided to take a few extras with us and toast them up for breakfast the next morning.  I feel like I could write poetry about those biscuits, they're so delicious.

On our way out of town we stopped at an antique mall that had a great selection of remarkable items and really excellent prices too, which is an unusual combination in my experience.  We left with an assortment of treasures, but I still felt compelled to pull the car over when I saw a sign on the side of the interstate indicating a souvenir shop called Nostalgiaville just ahead, with a going out of business sale in progress no less!

I had seen mentions of Nostalgiaville on the Internet while preparing for my trip, but had been only fearfully curious about what on earth such a store would encompass.  So, here was my (last) chance to stop and find out.

It was of course really kitschy, but Mark and I had fun looking around and managed to find a few items we couldn't resist.  I did succeed in passing up the giant rhinestone encrusted Elvis bag with three dimensional/removable clock, though.

The real reason I insisted on stopping at Nostalgiaville, (besides the simple irony inherent in the failure of a place called Nostalgiaville) was to take photos of the exterior - the visual appeal of which was readily apparent when we drove up.  I really liked the pink "Enter" sign pointing straight into the dirt.  It looked even lovelier with the beautiful fall leaves as a backdrop.

I also liked the billboard that warned travelers on the highway that they should exit now->exit now->exit now.  What is unclear about that, I ask you? 

It turns out the longtime owners are retiring and don't want to fool with running a store anymore and I can't say I blame them one bit.  I do wonder this, however: what motif(s) did they use to decorate their home?  I hope, for example, that the bathroom is done in Elvis, the kitchen in I Love Lucy and the boudoir Marilyn Monroe.  It's probably Bauhaus or Shaker or something intensely minimalist like that, though.  That seems to be how things work in the universe.

We continued on our eastern trek toward St. Louis, through intermittent rain showers, heavy mist and even a big pile up on the interstate that had traffic creeping along for a few miles.  We made it to St. Louis by late afternoon and immediately made a visit to the Soulard Farmer's Market.  This market has been in continuous operation since 1841 and must be staggering when it's operating at full tilt.  There were only a handful of vendors when Mark and I went, but we managed to scare up a fragrant cantaloupe for a dollar and some cherry wood smoked bacon.

Outside Soulard Farmer's Market on a stormy fall day.

I was hunting for provisions because the place we were staying had a kitchen with which we could prepare tomorrow's breakfast.  Remember, toasted biscuits were already on the menu and now we had bacon!

After returning to our lodgings (which were fantastic, by the way), Mark deftly applied a bit of Halloween make-up for me and we were soon off again for some Halloween dinner at the nearby Lemp Mansion in downtown St. Louis.  The Lemp mansion was home to the family that created the Falstaff brewing empire and was the site of several Lemp family member suicides in the early part of the 20th century.  It is reputed to be haunted and made the perfect setting for a little pre-concert dinner.
We didn't manage to see any ghosts - just funlovers eating fancy entrees.  The food was pretty straightforward old-school restaurant fare (I chose Beef Wellington), but the setting was oh-so-perfect for a freewheeling Halloween night on the town. 

We headed back to our lodging so we could rest just a few short minutes before walking a couple blocks to the Old Rockhouse, a venerable St. Louis rock club with a view of the Arch out the windows.  The ostensible purpose for this entire trip was for me to be able to see a band I really love and have been following over the years.  You might remember their hit "Dizz Knee Land" which has the memorable quote, "I just flipped off President George, now I'm going to Dizz Knee Land".  I've loved this band since I heard their first album  in 1992 and this is probably the fourth or fifth time I've seen them perform.  They're all three phenomenally good musicians and put on an incredible show usually lasting a couple of hours or more.  I'm a huge fan of a well played electric guitar and Dada has two guitar greats, my favorite being Michael Gurley (at right with the cowboy hat).  Soon after the show began I was able to slip into a small pace at the stage's perimeter, about five feet from the feet of Michael Gurley.  The best part of where I stood was my proximity to Michael's monitor, so I could hear every lick loud and clear, as it was happening.  Mark stood in the back and snapped a few photos for me since I was busy worshiping at the altar of power pop.  I had a blast.

On the walk back to our rooms through the chilly, rain washed streets I was glowing with the power of listening to music you love, cranked up to 11, played exclusively for you.  It was worth every penny and minute I had spent getting here.


On the Loose in Missouri

After feasting on a breakfast of cold fried chicken and cinnamon rolls, we headed north on the interstate towards St. Joseph, Missouri.  The further we traveled north, the heavier the fog became, eventually turning into a light drizzle just as we arrived in St. Joseph.

We'd come to St. Joseph so I could share the Glore Psychiatric Museum with Mark.  After visiting the Glore in 2008  it became one of my very favorite small museums in the U.S. and I knew Mark would truly appreciate seeing some of the terrifying old tools once utilized by his trade (he's a psychologist).  When we walked in, there were several classes of callow scholars being led about by Intro to Psych 101 professors.  Hearing the high points of the tour came close to being cringe-worthy for me.

The first few rooms we entered gave me a bit of a scare.  On my last visit to the Glore, the thing that had enchanted me most about the place was the widespread use of 70s era mannequins to reenact delicate concepts like electroshock therapy, inhumane restraints and witch burning.  Those grossly incongruent glamour models had lent an air of absurdity and intimacy to the display that I found vital.  It was apparent that the museum has been undertaking renovations and several rooms have been freshly painted and had their Joey-Heatherton-style mannequins updated with featureless silver plastic forms.  I think I must have been visibly forlorn.- it's certainly the way I felt.

Until, at least, I entered one of my favorite areas of the museum (mental illness through the ages!) and saw that all the mannequins that had made such an impression on me on my last visit were still intact.  Here are some pictures of them so maybe you can understand what I'm talking about:

It also helped my spirits to see some of my favorite exhibits at the museum - like the mandala which is a graphic display of the stomach contents of a female patient at the hospital who was obsessed with swallowing non-food items.  They operated on her in the 1929 to remove this vast array of items from her gut, and the surgeon who removed them sewed and glued them into a huge mandala, including a exhaustive typewritten list chronicling the objects.  Compelling, revolting and fascinating all at the same time.

I don't remember seeing this wonderful piece of embroidery the last time I was there.  A patient who was reputed to be a mute endlessly embroidered various rags and sheets during her protracted stay at the hospital.  The staff allowed her to sew and sew and sew her stream of consciousness ramblings onto fabric as a therapy modality.  I found the phrase"hair on fire" embroidered on one side.  You just have to wonder.

As we made our preparations to leave, we noticed frequent loud rumbles of thunder.  When we went to the door to confirm that what we were hearing was in fact thunder, we discovered that the wind was blowing a gale force, the rain was coming down in big heavy drops and lightning was striking quite close.  As we stood there watching in awe and surprise, little pellets of ice began to rain down.  We dashed out to the car when it seemed to let up a bit.

We found a place that made real coffee drinks (surprisingly rare in the Midwest) and plotted the rest of our afternoon over a nice cup of latte.  The weather made most of our previous plans untenable, so we decided instead to meander on county roads toward St. Louis, stopping in little towns at antique malls and anyplace else that looked interesting.  Our drive yielded several good junk stores and a variety of excellent finds.  It was a delightful way to spend the day, especially considering the trees are wearing their splendid fall regalia in this part of the country.  We oohed and aahed as we crested hill after hill to see the countryside awash in yellow, oranges, reds and greens.  The rain was persistent, but mostly light.

In the last town we stopped in for a collectibles foray, we decided to have an early dinner and chose a Mexican restaurant recommended by the shop owner.  It was time for our traditional travel margarita!  Mark and I like to sample Mexican food and margaritas all over the world, and Lexington, Missouri seemed like a fine place to collect our next specimen.  The margaritas were pretty average, laden with sweet and sour mix but tasty nonetheless.  I could only drink about half of mine since I was driving.

Mark did have to add hot sauce to the hot sauce, though.  Unmitigated, it was pretty much ketchup with salt.  Fortunately, the bottled hot sauce on the table perked the bowl of insufficient sauce right up.  The food was surprisingly tasty, and earned our authentic Mexican comida seal of approval. 

One last hour of rainy interstate driving and we settled for the night in Columbia.  Tomorrow we're off to St. Louis.


Killing time in the Heartland

Because I had the luxury of it, I rigorously planned the itinerary for this trip - I'm talking spread sheet with different colored fonts and multiple tabs.  I made reservations, wrote down hours of operations, included confirmation numbers. I remember being horrified many years ago upon hearing the story of someone's sister-in-law who had written out every single thing they were to do on their trip and now I look up to find myself as bad if not worse than that controlling harpy!  But meticulously planning things out is a big help in finding cool things, so it's what I do.

Having the fuel pump go out on the car turned out to be a good tonic to have to swallow.  It forced me to set aside the notion of controlling things for a while and simply focus on enjoying myself.  It made me scrabble, using well developed skills, to see what there was to do where I was, not where I was going. And I have to say, I feel very satisfied with the results of my little experiment.  Yay, flexibility!

This morning, I found a laminated lament from The Rag in the bathroom, an ode I like to think of as poetry.  It took a minute to sink in, just what I was looking at: someone who has taken the time to produce a compelling piece of writing in order to create empathy with a rag.  And not for the sake of marketing, either!  This piece seems to be just for the pure joy of writing something down.  Here's my favorite stanza: 

     Come the morn and your
     windshield is wet with dew and
     grimy with road dirt.  Use me
     instead of the towel.

Isn't that delightful?
Alright, yes, I know I'm weird.

After a delicious breakfast at the motel restaurant (?!) Mark and I stashed our bags at the front desk and strolled along the highway for about a mile and half to a nearby bowling alley.  Beer, french fries and bowling never fails to satisfy me. Well, and I guess I should add trash talking to the list.  I tried to trash talk Mark, but started losing so badly that I had to quickly abandon that form of entertainment.  You'd think I'd be winning like crazy with a pearlized pink ball that bears the inscription "Cosmic Bowling" .(I'm under the impression that there were cigarette burns on my bowling bowl, which impressed me quite a lot.)

Maybe I was just distracted by my shoes.  I had one of those moments of modernization that make you realize you're getting old - when we got our bowling shoes, they had Velcro instead of laces.  For as long as I've lived my bowling shoes have always had laces and now they went and modernized the sport and there are VELCRO bowling shoes!  The world will never be the same.
Vincent Price kicked Pink Hair's butt extensively in game 1 (157 to 79), but barely managed to hang on to the lead in game 2.  I won't reveal the scores for game 2 because they are so hideously embarrassing.

Not long after we had set out to walk back to our hotel, I got a call from the mechanic and the car was ready to go.  They were nice enough to come pick us up and soon had us on the road, $1100 poorer. Mark and I pretty much sprinted out of town, just to get moving again and a couple of hours later found ourselves in Kansas City, Missouri, back on the itinerary!

 Which allowed us to dine at a place called Stroud's.  Stroud's has been in the chicken frying business since 1933 and their experience and talent shine in every mouthful.  They still fry their chicken in small batches in iron skillets, not frozen out of a bag into the deep fryer.  Mark and I ordered some livers and gizzards for an appetizer, just because we couldn't drive all the way to the heart of the Midwest and pass up that opportunity.  With good reason, Stroud's has won all sorts of awards.  They are an eating institution and we were about to enroll!

Our table filled with food, most of which we were not able to eat, but I directed my attention to a succulent freshly fried wing.  I'm not sure if my eyes rolled back in my head or not, but that chicken wing sent me.  The crust was a masterful balance of crisp and thin and the meat was moist and cooked perfectly.

To avoid feeling so monstrously gluttonous, Mark and I reassured ourselves that we were really just procuring picnic supplies and will be able to eat several meals from what we took away with us in boxes.  Cold chicken and cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow!  Heaven.

We're off to the psychiatric museum in the morning.  I'm looking so forward to a return visit since I enjoyed it so immensely the first time.


Satellite of Love

- R.I.P. Lou Reed -

In 1962 in the small Kansas town of Hutchinson, a big thinking gal by the name of Patricia Carey rounded up a used star machine and some rented chairs to set up a planetarium in a corner of the poultry barn at the Kansas State Fair.  Fifty years later, the resulting Kansas Cosmosphere is an astounding world class space museum boasting the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside Moscow and the second largest collection of space artifacts in the world.  In the middle of the Kansas prairie!

As we drove toward the museum Monday morning, I went directly from excited to giddy upon spying the nose cone of a Titan rocket in the distance.  Unfortunately for Mark, that fervor is only now beginning to dissipate.
Seeing as how I'm planning to build a spaceship in my own back yard, I was bound to experience the Cosmosphere as a veritable Candy Land of cognition - shapes, colors, textures, materials, structure.  I went prepared to absorb all those inspirations and more, but what I didn't expect was the incredible lesson in history I received in the process.  The museum dedicates a good bit of space and explanation to the earliest stage of rocket development: Hitler's push to produce weapons capable of traveling long distances.  The Cosmosphere is home to the only surviving specimens of both of Hitler's prestigious rocket programs (the V-1 and V-2) which were used by the Nazis to bomb the smithereens out of London and surrounding areas.

Turns out after the Nazis were defeated, both Russia and the U.S. swooped into war-ravaged Germany and scooped up all the scientists and technology that had been assembled to produce the fearsome V-1 and V-2 missiles.  The U.S. relocated a huge team of scientists to the New Mexico desert (White Sands) to jump start our weapons program, while the Russians were more brazen in their approach with Stalin orchestrating the literal kidnapping of a group of over 20,000 people and piles of equipment and records, relocated them to various outposts across Russia to focus all efforts on advancing the Russian rocket program ahead of all competitors.  Add a Kruschev and a Kennedy, stir gently, then pour into a tall frosty glass for a delicious Cold War.

Oh my...I just realized I'm really starting to geek out about rockets here.  Back on task: the Cosmosphere is one of those rare museums that does a marvelous job of helping you put different things together in a new way and achieve a much deeper level of understanding.  This level of insight requires extensive label reading mind you, but the Cosmosphere cleverly balances copious amounts of wall mounted information with the skillful exhibition of relics of such great magnitude that you can't believe you're seeing them.  A good example: the command module of the ill-fated Apollo 13 flight of Tom Hanks movie fame.  The Cosmosphere is responsible for having retrieved the various components of this module, which were languishing in various warehouses around the U.S., and then meticulously restoring and reassembling them into their original form.  The museum also led the retrieval and restoration efforts for the Mercury program Liberty Bell 7 module, which flew the second manned space flight in U.S. history.  The Liberty Bell 7 was lost to the deep dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean shortly after landing because of a problem with the explosive hatch.  Astronaut Gus Grissom was very nearly dragged to the bottom of the ocean with the sinking capsule, but was fortunately plucked from the choppy seas just as his suit became swamped with water and he was losing the battle to keep his head above the waves.  Very thrilling!

One of the things I appreciated most about the Cosmosphere is their emphasis on collecting and detailing Russian space program artifacts.  There are numerous museums here in the U.S. that proudly display the ephemera from our participation in the space race, but recognition of the importance and magnitude of the Russian efforts is rare in my experience.

 If you take a step back from it all, it's easy to see that really, the Russians have surpassed us in almost every endeavor to reach outer space and yet you hear very little discussion of their accomplishments in this area.  Since I pay attention to such a thing, I was thrilled to see a plethora of Soviet relics such as personal items and a space suit belonging to Yuri Gargarin (the first man in space) and one of the ORIGINAL Sputnik I satellites! I particularly liked the diorama of Laika the space dog floating along on her Major Tom Space Odyssey mission as the first terrestrial animal to orbit the planet (under the watchful eye of Dwight Eisenhower no less!).

Another piece of Soviet space chutzpah that I really loved discovering is the Luna II sphere, manufactured by the Russians for use in an extraterrestrial pissing match.  I'll let the museum's wall label tell the story: 
"In a move that was sheer propaganda, the Soviets placed a stainless steel sphere (identical to the one pictured below) aboard the Luna II spacecraft.  The sphere was covered with medallions stamped with the emblem of the Soviet Union and the year 1959.  When Luna II impacted the Moon, the sphere was ejected, scattering the medallions across the lunar surface.  It was the Soviet version of a calling card, announcing to all who followed that the Soviet Union had been the first to the Moon."

The sphere that lives at the Cosmosphere is one of only five that were made.  The first two were launched toward the Moon, with the second one impacting the lunar surface.  One has disappeared, leaving two which are both in the U.S.: one at the Cosmosphere and a second one at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

I could obviously go on at length on these empyreal topics, but I think it's time to quit wearing out readers who aren't quite as fond of outer space revelry as I am. Just one more picture and then I'm done:

Coolest gazebo EVER.

Mark had to literally tear me away from the Cosmosphere.  I could have spent a lot more time there, but quite honestly I was exhausted from drinking in new information and marveling.  It was definitely time to leave.  We took to the road and headed toward Kansas City, diverting from Highway 50 when we saw the sign for the Kansas Learning Center for Health in Halstead.  I was on a mission to view Valeda, the transparent talking woman, dramatically ensconced on a revolving pedestal, spreading knowledge of female anatomy to the adoring masses.

I remember visiting the Houston Museum of Natural Science when I was a young girl and being mesmerized by the transparent people and gigantic interactive organ models that were on display. I was eager to see a surviving model of what was at the time (late 60s) a genuine modern marvel.

The tiny but admirable Kansas Learning Center for Health has diligently maintained their model (named Valeda) in an era where such things are usually sent to storage because they're considered outdated and arcane.  Mark and I were the only visitors when we arrived (they had to turn on the displays for us) so we were able to get really close to Valeda as her informative narrative unspooled.  She was surprisingly relevant and entertaining in the age of Industrial Light and Magic and the internet.

Outside the auditorium, we encountered a nicely executed set of gigantic models representing the 5 senses.  They had been recently installed and were not only cleverly designed but also colorfully beautiful.

I looked up to realize that Mark had taken to scrubbing Sheriff Tuffy Tooth for amusement, and as such interpreted it as a signal that it was time for us to get underway again.

We decided to stop for gas on the outskirts of Emporia, Kansas but when Mark turned the key to resume our journey, the Caddie had other ideas.  Houston, we had a problem.  Long story short, the fuel pump picked the Flying J outside of Emporia as the ideal place to crater.  Which actually turned out to be a good choice of location.  We quickly found a really nice fellow Wesley that towed us to a garage and dropped us at a nearby hotel where we could spend the night.  All went very well, considering the disruption and frustration of dealing with such a thing.  The only fly in the ointment was where to eat at 8:00 on a Monday night in the middle of temperate nowhere.  We sussed up our options (after determining the local dive bar was closed) and decided the least traumatic choice to be a nearby Chinese buffet.  The food wasn't wretched, exactly, but it wasn't much more than nutritious.  The reason I mention it at all was there was an item on the hot table that made my list of the top 5 grossest things I've ever seen on a buffet.  It might even have overtaken the number 1 or number 2 spot!  Hard boiled egg halves that had been left out long enough to develop a strange leathery yellow exterior.  Oh well!  At least our meal was notable!   

So here we sit, in Emporia Kansas.  The mechanic should have us back on our way by evening, but until then, we have to create adventure the old fashioned way - chance!  I think a walk to the Emporia bowling alley may well be in order.


Steak and Spacesuits

I'm a somewhat frequent customer of the Motel 6 chain because I'd rather use my money on something fun to do and I'm not very fussy about fancy rooms.  I've found Motel 6 to be a pretty mixed bag, but every once in a while, I'll get a room that defies belief, and last night was one of those special nights.  Nothing hideous that we couldn't cope with, but perhaps this photo of our broken window (left in that state long enough for the tape to have disintegrated) which had a lovely view of the interstate will begin to capture the character of the place sufficiently.

I thought of posting a review on one of the various travel websites I frequent while it was fresh on my mind, but then I stumbled across this excellent post when I was using Google Maps to plot our escape:

          Rating: 3 * * *
          I stayed here for a few nights to do some meth
          but all I could get was some crack from a pimp
          all the hookers were fat and black who wants that.
          Do not stay here for a good time
                                           - Ronnie Mansfield

 As Mark pointed out, Mr. Mansfield's review completely negated the need for me to try and add anything I found pertinent - there was simply no way to improve on his poetic assessment.

We did, however, emerge from the experience unscathed, and it was all soon of little matter as we sped away toward Cattlemen's Steak House in the Stocks Yard area of the city to indulge in a top notch steak and egg breakfast. Cattlemen's has been in business since 1910 and sits right in the middle of one of the biggest cattle processing yards in America.  The restaurant was packed when we arrived, but we were able to belly up to the well worn counter without a wait.  We sat cheek to jowl with young cowboys in Sunday cowboy hats and old couples with matching fanny packs, drinking fresh Bunn-o-Matic coffee and watching the waitresses race to and fro.

We decided to start our breakfast off with an a Cattlemen's customer favorite - what the menu delicately refers to as "lamb fries".  For the less delicate among you, what we're talking about here are lamb testicles, dredged in seasoned flour and fried to crisp perfection and yes they were very tasty.  If you ask me, however, the most remarkable thing about them is that they're served as though they're some sort of seafood, i.e. with a bowl of cocktail sauce and a lemon half.  Mark and I talked about how people often need to disguise an uncomfortable thing like a testicle in order to eat it, pretending it's something completely different than what it actually is.  I almost spit out a mouthful of coffee when Mark started referring to the ketchup dipping concoction as "nut sauce".

Our silly appetizer couldn't hold a candle to the absolute perfection of my expertly prepared rib eye, though.  Like meat butter, I tell you!  It was topped with 2 eggs over medium and rested on a bed of extra crispy hash browns that sat in a savory pool of au jus.  I focused on the steak and used the other two items as if they were relish or sauce.  It was divine.

 We waddled out of Cattlemen's with full ranch hand bellies, chewing on toothpicks like old men.  The next item on the agenda clearly needed to be a walk - that sort of breakfast can make you solidify if you don't get up and start moving around.  Mark whipped out his trusty phone and found us an interesting little park on the northern side of town, just where the city peters out and the country flavor begins.  It was a crystalline day with an invigoratingly crisp temperature and vivid blue as far as the eye could see in any direction.

We chose the path that bordered the lake, encountering few other remarkable nature enthusiasts save one we saw in the distance: a shiny black modern Mustang, parked with its nose to the lake, windows down, driver leaning back in his seat with the relaxed slouch of someone with absolutely nowhere else to be.  We could hear the faint strains of some sort of music filling the space around the car, bouncing off the water, disappearing into the vast sky over the lake.  As we got nearer, we were able to pick out the plaintive pan flute stylings of an extended version of "Amazing Grace".  It's funny how such a thing has the power to make you feel as though everything is right with the world and that there's an order that we're just not able to see.  If that sounds religious, I don't mean it to be - it's more akin to the feeling you get when everything working out even, or when you lay down a perfect finishing touch on a painting.

We returned to the car along a wonderful pictorial map of Route 66 which was inscribed into the concrete sidewalk.  What a beautiful day for a stroll and a great round-played of the follow your nose game - making the most of whatever spot you land in.

The next spot we landed in was the fabulous Osteology Museum.  This museum of bones and skeletons is run by a company called Skulls Unlimited that does what is referred to as skeletonizing animals (including humans).  They use flesh eating beetles (cleaning a martin skull at left) and then assemble them into recognizable wholes.  The museum opened in 2010 and consists of two floors packed with more than 300 fascinating specimens, some of which display pathologies of various sorts, but most of which simply reveal the fantastically intricate structure that rests just beneath the surface of living beings on this earth.

There are certainly a lot of impressive specimens (even a cassowary!), but what knocked my socks off was their collection of double headed calves.  Having even a single two-headed calf is a notable accomplishment in the the world of roadside attractions, but it's really something for the Osteology Museum to have so darn many of them.  Amazing.

One last thing to add to my glowing review: the naturalistic way in which each and every skeleton was presented was absolutely masterful.  The poses always skillfully suggested the animal you were seeing from a giraffe all the way down to a pair of hummingbirds.  One that tickled me was the raccoon skeleton, digging in a Milk Dud box.  What a lovely place to visit.  Thank you Ashley Latimer for the first rate itinerary suggestion!

From the Osteology Museum, we high tailed it north up the interstate toward Wichita, Kansas.  We had the golden late autumn afternoon sun to enhance our drive, the slanted rays seemingly bringing the red dirt to life and making the yellow and brown chaff of the fields glow like freshly washed hair.

Our overnight destination was the city of Hutchinson, Kansas, home of the surprisingly located Kansas Cosmosphere, one of the most comprehensive Space museums in the world.  When I learned that the Ramada Inn in Hutchinson had an outrageously Spaced-theme indoor pool area, I knew where it was that we had to stay.  Happily, when we arrived, it was even hokier than I had dared to imagine.  My favorite item was the empty astronaut suit made of fiberglass.  It made for such great pictures!  But why are all the astronauts saluting?

Mark made the final salute of the evening from the hot tub with his paper cup of bourbon.

Tomorrow the Cosmosphere - I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.