The Lope: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Walpurgis Night

Hang out the garlic and steep your soul in dread, for tonight the Devil walks with Earthly feet.

Tonight is Walpurgis Night (Germanic: "Walpurgisnacht") - half a year from Halloween - the very night which Bram Stoker chose to set into motion the events of Dracula.

Stoker: "Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad – when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel."

Current writers also invoke the darkness of Walpurgis Night. In a BBC interview, J.K. Rowling spoke of her original name for what would become the Death Eaters that plagued Harry Potter. "They were called the Knights of Walpurgis", she said.

Read about Walpurgis Night, and its much happier (therefore less interesting) follow-up, May Day, in a post we published the last time we were suspended between Nosferatu and Primavera.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The Kansas State Historical Society will hold its 2008 State Historic Preservation Conference this coming Thursday through Saturday in Hutchinson, Kansas. The title of the conference is "Past-O-Rama: Green Light For Preservation." For details, see this link.

Ace and I will be attending all three days of this (a bargain at 100 bucks) and two of our friends have already jumped aboard for parts of it. You can attend smaller chunks of the three-day event if you like, for less money. Again, see the link.

With a name like "Past-O-Rama", you'd hope for some retro, and it looks like you'll get it - possibly several times. Read on.

Friday night, Dr. Carroll Van West of Middle Tennessee State University will present a talk on roadside architecture.

There is a dandy bit of roadside architecture right here in Hutchinson. This windmill-like building has served several purposes and has even been moved once. It used to be at about 4th and Plum streets and now resides much farther east on 4th.

Saturday morning, Angela Shearer of the National Park Service will present a talk about Modern architecture.

At Saturday's lunch, Dr. Jay Price of Wichita State University will speak on Kansas roadside architecture.

I'm not sure it qualifies as architecture, but the sinewy fiberglass arm of the Brown's Tire "muffler man" in Wichita demands your attention.

My favorite googie architecture building in Kansas is the Haysville Community Development Building. I believe it used to be a Vickers gas station.

Other attractions include a talk about the history of Hutchinson by Ace's pal, Gary Hughes, a well-respected local teacher. Gary is known for his portrayal of Father Frost at Christmas-time, though I'm betting he'll be dressed a bit more mainstream for the conference.

There'll also be a session about barn survey results. They aren't making any new old barns, you know.

There will be a workshop Thursday on "Saving the Claim House."

The claim house in question is this 1876 structure which was built near Hutchinson to satisfy the U.S. government's Homestead Act, which required that setters build a dwelling and live on part of a section of land for five years before being given the rest of the section for a dollar an acre. The building has been modified since then and has been moved at least twice.

An update on restoration and renovation work at the Kansas Statehouse will be presented by Treanor Architects, the firm in charge of the work. Here's a view from last year of an upper level of the rotunda, looking down.

And here is the long scary stairway between the top of the inner dome and the roof of the outer one.

Ace checks out the inner dome.

Friday morning breakfast will be served at the Wolcott House. Dig that cool screened porch.

Barry Law and Amy Farley of Hutchinson will conduct a tour of the Houston Whiteside Historic District on Friday afternoon.

This area is, by the way, where I live, though my house is not one of the ornate ones.

Jim Seitnater and Mark Rassette will conduct a tour of downtown Hutchinson on Friday.

There will also be optional tours of the Kansas State Fairgrounds...

...and of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

There's a lot more to the event than this. Again, see the link.

Oh, the picture at top is of the sign outside the Western Holiday Motel in Wichita - a nice clean place. I may add more pictures to this post, later today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 21)

Ace has now passed
the first and the last.

Dead road.
Barking dog.
Empty street.

A single star behind.

Where is Ace Jackalope?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Big Honkin' Ferris Wheel on Ebay

Hey, do you want to show up the other dads on the block?

How 'bout a huge Ferris wheel in the backyard? Yeah, that'd do it.

Check out this Ebay auction for the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica pier's Pacific Park amusement park, seen above in the background of the Los Angeles area's Santa Monica Pier.

Some poses do require hand support...

The base support structure of the wheel is not included in the sale. You'll have to fit it in the base of the Ferris wheel you already have laying around, or buy this one from Pacific Park.

And fear not, historians and preservationists, the "Pacific Wheel" isn't very old, having debuted in 1996. It went to solar power in 1998 and is credited as the first Ferris wheel to do so. It is nine stories (90 ft) tall, 30 ft wide, weighs 122,000 pounds, and has 20 gondolas that can hold six riders each - plenty of room for your kids and their friends. Of course if your kids already have 120 friends, (not counting the cyber ones who are really middle-aged men living in their mom's basement in Jersey) you really don't need this social lure.

You can see a webcam view of the wheel, here.

Though often described as being at Santa Monica Pier, this isn't quite accurate. The wheel is on the connected "amusement pier", which is currently home to Pacific Park, an amusement park of recent vintage. It is Pacific Park that is offering the Ferris wheel for sale.

Why are they selling it? A page on Pacific Park's website states that they are replacing it with a more energy-efficient one, using, for example, 160,000 energy-efficient LEDs instead of the 5,392 red, white and blue traditional light bulbs the current wheel uses. It will also feature computer graphics. I sure hope it doesn't flash advertisements.

The new wheel is being built by Chance Morgan Rides Manufacturing Inc. of Wichita Kansas, the firm which also built the one being sold.

Previous to this amusement park, there had been another one called Pacific Ocean Park which operated from 1958 to 1967 and was demolished in 1974.

We last showed the wheel in a post about Ace's voyage to the western end of Route 66. Read more about Santa Monica Pier and the the adjacent Palisades park (the ceremonial end of Route 66), there.

Pacific Park states that 50 percent of the winning bid will be donated to Special Olympics Southern California. Current bid at the time of this writing is $50,000.00 and the auction ends on April 25 (2008). According to Pacific Park, the wheel originally cost about $800,000. What are you waiting for? It's a steal!

By the way, the Ferris wheel is named for bridge-builder George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., who designed and built the first wheel for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893. It was intended as a rival to the 1889 Paris Exhibition's Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower won that round, the wheel having been demolished in 1906. Ferris' first wheel lived on, though; according to wikipedia, parts of it were used to construct a bridge across the Kankakee River, just north of Tefft, Indiana.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great Plains Renaissance Festival this Weekend

The 5th Annual Spring Great Plains Renaissance Festival will be held today and tomorrow in Wichita's Sedgwick County Park from 10AM to 6PM both days. Tickets costs are ten dollars for adults and thrre dollars for children. Ace and I do recommend it.

Presented here are some photos I took at the Fall version of the festival last year, I'm holding back the ones that show pirates, as I usually do, for use during Talk Like a Pirate Day in September. I previously used some photos from last year's Fall festival in my most recent St Patrick's Day post. There won't be much text with this, as time is hard to come by of late.

A royal procession.

Upon entering last year, Ace found his way to the Royal Court.

Christine Leddon, a.k.a. Her Royal Highness Catherine d' Bajor, awards Ace some "royal bling."

Spectators often arrive attired for the festival.

Modern technology is not completely absent.

I'm aware, through studying my website statistics, that many people find while looking for costuming ideas. So, here ya go.

I'd photographed this young woman before. Layla is her name.

Of course, there's entertainment.

There are always jousts.

Antibus The Magician is scheduled to return this year.

Viking Sam is listed as being back with Yrsa, his shallow keel Viking raider longboat. See more of it in our Spring 2007 post, from which this photo is taken.

There is usually plenty of children's' entertainment.

All in all, it's not a bad deal for ten bucks.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 20 - redux)

Apparently I didn't give enough clues or a wide enough picture last time. Ace watched these two Kopapelis play a tune of relief at a place named for where one might cross the river. It is named neither in their tongue nor in ours. Where is Ace Jackalope?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hail (again) in Hutchinson, Kansas

Hail Ruts

We're famous for the trail ruts left by pioneers here in Kansas. Right now, we have hail ruts in Hutchinson, Kansas, as we're being shotgun blasted from above with pea sized hail. Check out the added bonus of the lightning bolts in the upper right.

The street was very dark, and the lighting angles wrong for showing the pellets, so I set up a tripod (in a storm...Mensa material, I am) and waited for passing cars to light my little frozen subjects.

These are the flowers I shot just the other day. Lucky us.

I may have more to come, as the night proceeds. there have been three waves of hail so far...nothing too big, yet, where I am, but I can still hear its treble percussion on my glass windows as I hit "publish post."

Monday, April 07, 2008

KU Wins!

I'm no sports junkie, but I have to admit to being slightly jazzed at the University of Kansas' Jayhawks' victory tonight in the...what's it called?...the NCAA basketball championship.

A KU player (a quick look at SI tells me it was Mario Chalmers) scored a basket with just 2.1 seconds left in regulation play to send the game into overtime. Patsy and I were watching the game while indulging in the default late meal of Applebee's half-price appetizers. The Kansas Jayhawks won against the Memphis Tigers, 75-68, just as I ran out of diet Coke. Perfect timing.

When I moved to Kansas over 20 years ago, I wondered what the heck a jayhawk was. It's not a real bird of course. The term has its roots in the slave state vs. free state conflicts of the 1850's. Read more, here.

The first Jayhawks coach was James Naismith, who is credited with inventing basketball in the first place. Yeah...take that!...uh, other teams.

The High Cost of the High Cost

What a shame it is that this fresh-faced young lady will not be serving us coffee tea or pop again. Her employer, Skybus Airlines, quit business rather abruptly this past weekend, citing the cost of fuel as one of the reasons. If she was still working for Skybus (photo is from July, 2007) I hope she finds a good job.

This announcement appeared Friday on the website of the Columbus, Ohio, based budget airline. Round-trip travellers, including two of Ace's pals Richard, Barb and their kids, were stranded and had to find other means home.

Skybus had been flying for less than a year, having started in May of 2007. The airline sold ten $10 seats on each flight and its normal fares were pretty inexpensive too. They attempted to compensate with no-frills service on which they sold all the extras, like food. Carry-on luggage was free, but checked bags were $10 each for the first two. I didn't mind this a bit, considering their fare prices, and I'll miss them.

Something else I'll miss, which also cited fuel costs as a reason for going out of business: Daisy's Deli, (formerly Neufeld's Deli) in Hutchinson, Kansas, closed last week, also citing the price of fuel. Patsy commented on this better than I ever could.

It's not been a good year for some of our favorite places. Tropical Bistro in Hilliard, Ohio (near Columbus) shut down in January. I'll miss looking forward to seeing this neat fake fireplace, which is a miniature tribute to the older and equally defunct Kahiki Supper Club.

I was looking forward to buying Ace another smoking drink. Of course I couldn't afford to fly there anyway, now that Skybus is gone.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


What do you call a Roto-Sphere that no longer rotates?

Spectacular - that's what you call it.

We previously looked at the huge neon signs called Roto-Spheres on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik last year in a post called "Sputversary."
We noted then that the one at the El Comedor Restaurant on Route 66 in Moriarty, New Mexico, wasn't rotating and wouldn't be fixed until (the manager speculated) sometime this summer.

I really like the photo above because it shows a bit of the anatomy of the beast, as far as how the neon tubes attach.

It's convenient to have this shot with a car as a size comparison. Those spikes are eight feet long and the center sphere is 37 inches in diameter, for a total diameter of about 19 feet. The whole thing weights over a half a ton - pretty heavy for something that looks heaven-bound.

We drove by it in late February and are happy to report that it's UFO-like charm remains intact, even with no motion and a few spikes not lit. We can also report that the long-broken Roto-Sphere in Gallup, NM, which is reportedly being restored, was not yet back at it's home at the Downtown Plaza.

For more about Roto-Spheres and other "sputnik balls," including a video clip of a Roto-Sphere...well, roto-ing, see last year's "Sputversary."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

No Fooling - Spring is Here

I hesitate to publish anything on April Fool's Day so I waited a bit.

I've been doing Spring cleaning in my backyard, getting rid of layers of debris from multiple storms of various, wind, hail, floods, snow...we've had it all. Anyway, I was treated to the sight of these Hyacinths flourishing under a fallen Jenga of dead branches. Patsy had planted them there about ten years ago.

After I lifted away the debris, I shot this bug's eye view from the ground. The flowers were getting direct sunlight for the first time this year, and for some ludicrous reason I thought of a speech Sam gave near the end of the film version of The Two Towers:

But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer.

Maybe it was the symbolism of literally lifting the flotsam and jetsam of nature's wrath (and my own neglect) away and finding something beautiful flourishing underneath.


This young leaf, though no longer quite gold, reminds me of a Robert Frost poem beaded jewelry artist Mia Denman called my attention to, when she named a necklace after it:

"Nothing Gold Can Stay."

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay

On down at the Hutchinson, Kansas, post office, a flowering tree bloomed against the darkest blue band of the sky (90 degrees from the sun).

Isn't it a wondrous thing, that physics and chemistry conspire to gift us a blue sky.

My out-take photos: