Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Staying Close to Home - a Look at Lake Lenexa

I'm still obeying the doctors' orders to avoid strenuous activities, so photo safaris are limited to sites close to home. Most recently I've made a couple of visits to the "new" Lake Lenexa, located in Black Hoof Park in western Lenexa, Kansas.

Already this project has become an award winner for its unique design and excellence in construction. Strategically placed in a scenic area amongst the hills, stone outcroppings, and forest (yes, this IS in Kansas), the dam and spillway project has transformed a storm water runoff problem caused by rapid suburban growth into an important community asset. The 35 acre lake and its surrounding park will offer, when totally completed, fishing, non-motorized boating, wetlands, trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and boardwalks.

I am fascinated by the contemporary and visually appealing design of the dam and spillway, and wish I had a way to photograph the complete layout from above. The design incorporates fountains, walkways, and plantings. Below is a series of photos which gives a variety of views:

Well developed, hard-surfaced trails have made Black Hoof Park a favorite with walkers of all ages. Families with munchkins in strollers are not an uncommon site. Those with an eye for wildflowers will find varieties native to riparian woodlands and prairie land when further away from the developed sections of the park. I suspect that bird watchers will find the park to be worthy of visit, as well. Even at mid-day, I noticed activity which included Eastern Blue Birds and a flyover by what I thought at first to be a pair of Great Blue Herons, but then wondered if they might be American Bitterns instead. The proximity of a much-used firing range means that you don't get a totally quiet, woodsy or rural setting, but after a few minutes you don't even notice the constant sound of gun fire.

Kudos to the city of Lenexa! This lake and park appears to be a winner.

All photos © frank thompson photos

Saturday, May 16, 2009

An Explorer Type of Find - in the 'Burbs

I've lived in northeast Johnson County (the Kansas City suburbs) for 36 years and I think I get around enough to know the territory. John's Space Age Donut Shop in Overland Park has been here even longer - since 1967.

So how did I learn about this timeless (or retro as the moderns are fond of saying) piece of Americana? From Tim Engle, a west coast travel writer who happens to love the kitschiness of Kansas City, as detailed in his upbeat and fascinating article in the April 12 issue of the Kansas City Star Magazine. Any place that has to do with food, sweet stuff especially, should be checked into, of course, and I felt it my duty to do so.

Space Age Donuts is a second generation, family-owned shop at 8124 Floyd Street, where that street V's into Metcalf Avenue. It's in the same building with another long-time Overland Park hi-carb haven, the Tony's Villa Capri Italian Restaurant. It is also a risky, catty-corner run across the street from the venerable, iconic White Haven Motor Lodge, which I assume is still the traveling salesman's favorite place to stay in KC. (Do traveling salesmen/salespersons still exist?)

One step inside the donut shop, and you are transported back to 1967 (time travel in Engle's words). The formica-topped, chrome-legged tables and chairs could have come from the kitchen of the post World War II tract home in which I grew up. The U-shaped counter and stools surely must have been ripped out of my home town's long-gone White Way Cafe. Coffee drunk on premises is 70 cents a cup. Arriving at about 10:30 in the morning, I learned that John probably wouldn't be open much longer that day, as his morning's make of sweets was just about gone, in part due to the fact that it was Secretary's Day or Administrative Assistant's Day or Boss' Day or something. No way to say "thanks, you are appreciated" like tons of calories. All that was left were a few cake donuts (which I prefer to glazed anyway), and to my delight - apple fritters. I ate the cake donut in the parking lot, then took the apple fritter home to briefly zap in the microwave and eat after lunch. Yes, indeed, one of life's great, but guilty, pleasures which I rationalized by reminding myself I had lost nearly 40 pounds on a diet.

It's getting more and more difficult to return to that diet.

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