40 Seconds in Iowa (or 4 States, 3 Days)

DH and I are currently sitting at OMA waiting for our flight home. (Editor’s note: this was true at the time of writing this, but it’s being posted over a day later) We spent this past weekend in Kansas City, mostly on the Missouri side. Astute readers will note that Kansas City is quite far from Omaha (OMA). DH had a coupon to cash at the casino in Council Bluffs, IA, just across the river from Omaha, NE. So, we flew into OMA, rented a car, drove to Council Bluffs, and then drove three hours to Kansas City.

The Nebraska/Iowa border is interesting. Generally, it follows the Missouri river. However, there’s a little nub of Iowa that sticks into Nebraska. It surrounds Carter Lake. Carter Lake was once part of the river, but a flood in the 19th century changed the course of the river. As the agreement that created the border pre-dated the change of the river, Iowa retained the rights to the land even though it was west of the river. Because of this flood and resulting border dispute, when you drive from OMA into Omaha proper, you pass through Iowa for around forty seconds.

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Driving down to Kansas City was surprisingly enjoyable. We had a Mazda 5 as our rental car. It’s a 4 door hatchback but with sliding rear doors (like a mini-van) instead of traditional doors. We were basically driving the state line, too, which is kind of neat. The interstate is straight and long, but the land nearby is alternately flat and hilly. Also, for most of the way, you can see trains running in the distance on either side of the interstate. (We estimate that taking us from Kansas City to Omaha is probably worth 2M.) We saw a very unique multi-colored house on the side of a hill, and we saw a herd of black cows.

The Harrah’s in Kansas City is right on the river, as it’s a riverboat casino. The hotel was quite nice. We were in a sizeable suite, and a welcome basket filled with fruit, crackers, cheese (eew), and candy bars was waiting for us in the room. We had some brief troubles with the TVs that the maintenance guys were able to resolve, but otherwise, the room was fine. It was a long walk from the hotel to the casino (via an indoor walkway, thank goodness), but there were a few games for us to play briefly. We had dinner at the buffet (Seven Stars players get one free meal at the buffet every day). DH went to play poker, and I watched Dinner for Schmucks in the room (free PPV movies are another Seven Stars benefit). Dinner for Schmucks was quite good. I think it suffered from an overzealous studio. The marketing tried to make it out to be a comedy, which it isn’t. The title is also unfortunate. None of the characters ever call it a dinner for schmucks; it is called the dinner for winners or the dinner for idiots, depending on the context. I don’t know why they chose to re-title it, but it’s a ridiculous change. The movie itself was actually touching, despite some cliché elements. The humor is the kind of non-obvious, awkward shame humor that The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm have in spades. As trite as the ending is, it is quite interesting seeing how it all gets there.

I also spent some time on the web. Via a feminist blog, I recently discovered a site called kink.com. It is NSFW, of course, and go at your own discretion, as you may learn more about me and my interests than you care to know. At any rate, I haven’t joined or paid anything for it, but there are tons of free video snippets that are great fuel for the kinky imagination. I’m not normally a fan of video porn, but I found most of that site’s content to be interesting at worst and incredibly hot at best, appealing to the best (worst?) of my voyeuristic tendencies. DH found the site frustrating, though…he needs more than a snippet for porn to be effective. He tends to use xhamster and redtube. I also did some kinky shopping, but it’s so hard to buy things over the web. While it’s cheaper than my local store, sizes and shapes and textures matter so much, and it’s impossible to gauge those things through a website.

The next morning, I had a meeting with my team for the BSG. Our private label gamble in the previous year didn’t pay off, so the company lost money, though we held market share. The good news is that there are now two teams worse than us…so that’s something! 🙂

After my meeting (and DH’s 10 mile run…outside…in the cold…because he’s INSANE), we decided to go touristing. Part of our trip from the casino included a shopping spree, so we had reason to seek out a mall. I also wanted to visit a few places. Specifically, we headed for Swope Park, which is a landmark of importance to Heinlein fans. I insisted that DH and I make out while there, in commemoration. But, before that, we got stuck in the elevator for around ten minutes. As my (currently in beta) phone only had a hit-and-miss connection, this was not fun. I used the time to take some pictures of DH using various filters on my camera:
Swope Park also happens to be the site of the Kansas City Zoo, so we spent a few hours there. Most of the zoo is closed for the winter, but the polar bear and the river otters were thrilled with the chilly weather.
The polar bear was doing laps, including Olympic-quality push-off turns, and the river otters were enjoying their extra slippery (due to ice) slide into their pool.

We also went to the indoor areas for the snakes, frogs, and meerkats.
This little spider monkey was totally fascinated by my shoes. He later jumped on command for DH. DH would hold his hand at a certain height and the monkey would jump to his hand.
Finally, we walked around a trail to see the kangaroos. The kangaroos at this zoo have no fence between them and people. In the snow, we could see kangaroo prints coming from their area into the people paths. I have no idea how this is a workable system, but it is absolutely how it was. My picture is from a distant vantage point, but there was a spot where I could have easily walked less than ten feet to the kangaroo. I’m sure he wouldn’t have stayed still while I walked over, but there was nothing between me and him but snow.
The end of the trail went through the petting zoo area, which, at this time of the year, is primarily populated by sheep. The sheep were standing right on top of the people path. After a moment of contemplation of how to proceed, DH shrugged and walked toward the sheep. As one might expect, I suppose, the sheep moved…DH became an unintentional shepherd! It was like the video game, Sheep…they just moved away and into their pen. So, DH successfully completed the sheep roadblock, and we proceeded back to the warm buildings of the zoo.
We also saw camels in snow…and how often does that happen?
After the zoo, we drove to Kansas. Most of Kansas City is in Missouri. We tried to discover how or why this is the case, but we couldn’t get a clear answer. It seems like Kansas City was named after the Kansa Indians that originally populated the area, and that there were actually two different settlements (one in MO, one in KS) with the same name. They eventually merged as the Missouri Kansas City grew across the border. I’m curious though what caused the Missouri city to grow faster than the Kansas city. Did Missouri implement tax breaks that encouraged growth just to spite Kansas? Or, did some natural occurrence cause one city to have better resources? For that question, I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer.

We saw the Prairie Village monument (a statue of prairie people) and decided that would suffice as making our visit to Kansas count. We also stopped at a Sonic for a Limeade (yay!). We drove through the shopping district of Kansas City, but the stores were not to my liking. So, we drove back to the casino and watched Tangled. I thought Tangled was decent. I liked the music in Princess and the Frog better, but I liked the storyline in Tangled better.
We used up the last of our food comps for the weekend on a lavish dinner at the steakhouse, which included escargot, the best damn steak I’ve ever had (a strip that was so tender, it felt like a filet), a lobster tail, and a dessert of Jack Daniels chocolate pecan pie. We also enjoyed a variety of ‘tinis. The casino has a dance club, but the tunes were not to my liking, so we ended up heading back to the room to relax and eventually sleep.

Our drive back to Omaha was largely uneventful. We listened to podcasts and chatted about house things. 🙂 But mostly, we had a fun weekend.

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