Today we decided to get up early and drive out to beautiful Topeka, Kansas. I say "Beautiful Topeka, Kansas" not as a way of clarifying which Topeka, Kansas I mean...as in, not that homely, disheveled Topeka, Kansas that has just given up on itself...but more as a sort of polite form of address. I wouldn't want to say "Generally Unexciting and Agrarian Topeka, Kansas" because, well, it never hurts to be civil.
First up, the Combat Air Museum at Forbes Field.
The hangar was unheated and it was just under the freezing point, but the children were quite taken with the old-fashioned (probably very old) biplane toys. They don't make them like this any more. Or if they do, they are wooden "artisanal" toys that are sold online for unseemly sums.
Engine checks out. Little drafty underneath...
Gretchen exploring the interior of a Sikorsky Sea Stallion.
She also really enjoyed climbing the stairs and looking in each cockpit...this is a MiG21 Fishbed.
An F11 Blue Angels veteran:
And a F9 Panther.
Braving the cold to see the Lockheed EC-121, basically an early sort of AWACS plane built on a Super Constellation platform. Another MiG in the background.
Stay behind the chains, kid! Inside the 121.
An F14 Tomcat in retirement.
Trainer version of the A4 Skyhawk.
Thence to the Kansas National Guard Museum, a surprisingly good little museum for being somewhat obscure and charging no admission fee. The collection was pretty substantial.
Looks like a Spencer carbine or something similar. The boy approves.
Lahti 20mm AT rifle...immense gun, served the Finns in their various wars with the Russkies in the 40s.
Beautiful Mauser broomhandle. Assumedly a P.38 to the right.
A Maxim gun, recoilless rifle, and howitzer. Don't leave home without them.
LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO 'MA DEUCE'!
Then "Ma Neufeld" gave us both a talking to for him touching the exhibit, so we went over here and I think he would have enjoyed playing with the flamethrower, but we refrained.
Second from top, son. En-Field. Say it with me.
Although he would have settled for the sniper variants of the Springfield or Garand.
These look like war trophies brought back by veterans...P.08 Luger and an ornate dagger with "Alles fuer Deutschland" inscribed.
Back in to the cold...the M60 Patton.
Self propelled artillery...M110 8-inch gun. Could lob a 200lb projectile 15 miles.
M109 howitzer, 155mm gun.
They also had an early M1 Abrams, and this is the M42 Duster, with twin 40mm anti-aircraft guns.
Then we got some lunch and headed north to the Topeka Zoo. First stop was with the orangutan exhibit which was highly entertaining. Given the weather, many of the animals chose understandably to stay in their indoor heated facilities. The orangutans were clever and amusing, a better exhibit of them than at the KC Zoo, I'd say.
Lions doing what lions in zoos do...not very much at all.
Gretchen and I called this chap over to the fence with our amateur deer call techniques.
Inside the main building, the hippos and four giraffes were keeping warm and stuffing their faces.
A beautiful, if somewhat niffy (and thus probably quite authentic) rainforest building had plenty of beautiful birds. And I do not mean that in the British slang sense I should say *ahem*.
The way this fellow was striding I could almost hear Barry Gibb, "well you can tell by the way I use my walk..."
A pair of black bears, one under the rock and the other in the hollow log, sleeping through the winter.
This intensely Nordic child is so white he seems to have affected the color balance of the camera compared to the one with Gretchen...
And then, walking from the bear exhibit...oh be still my beating heart...IT'S THE BEAST!
Yes, a fox squirrel, that most prized trophy, the big game for squirrel hunters, a beautiful specimen to be sure, and here I was, lacking a season, a permit, and a rifle. Our eyes met in tense civility. He went his way, I went mine. We will have our peace, for now.
All in all a lovely little zoo and an interesting couple of museums, well worth the hour or so of a drive from Kansas City.