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.

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