Friday, August 8, 2008

Frugal family on the road - day 1

Well, we're back from our sojourn to northeast Kansas. To recap, we talked about various vacation plans, but decided that the better part of financial valor would be a short trip to a nearby destination. And since we're new in Kansas, we figured we'd take a look around here some.

I took a week off of work. On Monday we stayed in Wichita, going to Botanica, the local botanical gardens, with some senior friends from the community. We've always belonged to arboretums (arboreti?) wherever we've lived, but this was the first time we'd here. It was a lovely place, but the weather was darn hot, so we started early and didn't stay as long as we might have otherwise.

Tuesday we drove to Lawrence. This is a town I've always heard a lot about, partially because of it's proximity to KC, and partially because many of the Jewish kids from here go to KU (there is no appreciable Jewish population at any of the other Kansas universities, including WSU). We drove straight to the campus, which was quiet for the last week before the students start coming back (and before football practice gets underway).

We started off with a picnic near the Kansas Union building; we brought food from home, and I have a wonderful picnic basket that my mom bought for my birthday a couple of years ago, so we don't have to use plastic silverware and paper plates, and it all fits into a backpack. Then we went to the KU Natural History Museum, a four floor museum with a good, young-kid-friendly exhibit on bugs, and one DK1 (the almost 10 year old) liked about evolution which was quite interesting and comprehensible. (We could learn that humans didn't evolve from apes, but rather that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor.) There was also a long hallway of fossils, particularly those found in Kansas. There were some live snakes and live fish, although the rest of the museum was rather heavy on the taxidermy, for my taste, including a ton of birds and a horse that was the sole survivor of Custer's Last Stand. The place had a suggested donation, but we're members of a science museum here so it's a cross-membership, so we gave a little money but not as much as suggested.

By this time it was after 3 in the afternoon, so we went to check into the hotel. I usually try to find interesting or unique places to stay, as evidenced by our sojourn in Westport a couple of weeks ago, but this time I was determined to spend the least amount possible, so I booked us a room in a hotel on the highway, a place where you would expect football fans would stay when they come in for games. It had a pool and a gym, and that's usually enough for DW.

In the travel literature we found a municipal pool that seemed interesting and fun, and as it was still in the high 90s we decided to spend some time there, only to get there to find that it was closed for the day for routine maintenance. So we played at the playground for a little while and then DW took the kids back to the hotel for a little while in the pool, and I walked around Massachusetts Street (the main drag) for an hour or so. (My wife is nice to me that way.)

I wasn't planning on buying anything (famous last words) but one of the men's shops - the only men's shop, in fact, which carried clothing suitable for anyone over 22 - had an amazing sale (30% off their final markdowns) and I ended up buying a couple of summer shirts and a couple of fall/winter blazers for $70 each. I had worn my late blazers to the nub, to the point where DW was embarrassed to see me out in public in them, and believe me, it's a good price. (By comparison, Dillards has a sale this weekend, and the cheapest men's blazer is $150). So that was good, except I used the credit card.

Then we went for dinner, to a local place called in fact Local Burger that serves sustainable, grass fed, locally produced hamburgers (beef, bison and elk) mostly. Local, sustainable and grassfed is usually kosher enough for me, but I was determined to go out for ice cream after so I didn't want to eat meat, and of course DW is a vegetarian, and the DKs mostly are, so she and I had veggie burgers and the kids had grilled cheese, except for DK1 who had a tuna salad that didn't fill her up so she ordered a grilled cheese too. Looking back, we probably should have gone here on a night when we didn't want ice cream, because the burgers looked good and DK3 will eat a hot dog now and again. So a bit of a missed opportunity there. About $35 for dinner, so it's not cheap, but sustainable food rarely is, as I never tire of pointing out.

Then we went out for Ben & Jerry's, and back to the hotel, where the evening passed about as well as you would expect with 5 people (including three children under the age of 10) in a single hotel room.

Cost for the day: a tank of gas, the makings for the picnic lunch (maybe $10), the dinner - and the clothes, but that's a different category.

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