There are a lot of weird things going on in Topeka - and not all of them within the hallowed halls of the state capitol building. On a recent day trip I explored three of them.
The Mystery of Little Carrie's Grave Marker
Little Carrie Frances Kiene was laid to rest in 1885 at the tender age of five, with a lovingly-carved young girl sitting on stones to mark her grave site. As the seasons have come and gone over the past twenty years or so, an unknown person or persons has slipped into Mount Hope Cemetery to update her wardrobe, replacing it with something more appropriate for the weather and time of year. Here she is dressed for spring in May of 2010. Cemetery workers say they do not know who the mysterious gravestone-dresser is. I think it's better to not know, to allow a little bit of mystery in our fact-filled lives.
The Fire Hydrant Garden
In a modest neighborhood near the center of Topeka is a dog's paradise. This multi-colored garden of fire hydrants, installed by the home-owner over the years to keep his two dogs "busy and happy," includes hydrants from many eras, some undoubtedly valuable antiques, all brightly painted by the owner's stepson.
Kickstart Saloon -
Home of the World's Oldest Motorcycle
I assume that most of my readers realize that a biker bar like the Kickstart Saloon is not someplace I would normally hang out. I wondered if I would feel uncomfortable going into such an establishment, but set aside those concerns knowing there were photos to be taken and a story to be written. The truth be told, I've entered restaurants and churches where I have felt less welcome and more uncomfortable. The iced tea was excellent, in case you are wondering.
As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I realized that I was looking at dozens of autographed brassieres hanging from the ceiling. The story goes that first-time female visitors are obliged to remove their bra, sign it, and add it to the saloon decor. (I've also read that knowledgeable ladies take along a spare, then go to the restroom long enough to have given the impression that they have removed their bra, then emerge with a bra in hand. I have no personal knowledge of this. You learn interesting things online.)
This is what I went to see - The World's Oldest Motorcycle. No - I'm not a motorcycle fan, but if it is the World's ______est Anything, I'll be there with my Nikon. As you can see this "bike" has been assembled from bones, presumably those of cattle rather than any dinosaurs from the Flint Hills. As with all valuable pieces of antiquity, this old bike is protected by a glass encasement. No word whether or not it has been nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Motorcycles.
In a fancier establishment, this might be known as a Bier Garten; but at the Kickstart it's just the backyard. Whatever it's called, it has a bandstand on the back of an old flatbed truck, a dance floor, and a motorcycle tree. When weather permits, there is live music on Thursday nights.
Not an oddity by any means, but I do want to add that I finally had the opportunity to eat at another of Topeka's iconic dining establishments: Bobo's Drive In. Bobo's is a classic American Drive In, complete with carhops, operating at the same location since 1953. In 2007 it was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (on the Food Network), and in 2008 elected one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. Bobo's serves up one of the best burgers I've ever eaten anywhere, and the fresh, hand-dipped onion rings far surpass any I have ever tasted. AND - you can actually get a Royal Crown Cola - a real fountain RC! Most people rave about the cinnamon apple pie, but I passed on that so I have a great excuse to go back.
I recently wrote that I anticipated my next Kansas Journeys blog posting would be a report on the Kansas City Hot Air Balloon Invitational held Memorial Day weekend at Gardner's Celebration Park. I did get a number of colorful photographs that I was pleased with, but found that I don't have much to write about. So - I encourage you to check out my very brief slide show at Flickr.com to see those images. (Sorry - no music with this slide show, but if you know the words or melody to "Up, Up, and Away," you can sing or hum along, royalty free.) The link: www.flickr.com/photos/kansasexplorer3128/sets/72157624159581092/show/