The Wamego Files: A Case Study of Victory Inn, Oz, a Headless Horseman, and Zombies

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Victory Inn

Well, October is here which brings visions of colorful leaves, Halloween, haunted houses, and a return to the road.

This leg of the road would bring me to Wamego, KS as I had negotiated a media ticket with the famed Columbian Theatre to review their production of Sleepy Hollow.  My home away from home would be the Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast owned and operated by Francis and Margaret Feyh.

I was particularly looking forward to traveling this time as I would actually be going in a new direction.  Nothing but highways going west and south.  New scenery, at last.  It was a pleasant afternoon for a drive and I enjoyed passing through the small towns of our great country.  About 1pm, my thoughts turned to lunch just as I began to pass through the town of Tecumseh in Nebraska.

Lo and behold I saw a place called Frazier’s Café off to my left and decided it would be a make for a good break.  I glanced through the menu looking for something different when my eyes fell upon a meal listed as the H Bomb which described itself as a spicy chicken fried steak sandwich.  I decided to order one though I thought the price was a little high at $9.95.  That is I thought it was a little high until I actually got the sandwich.

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Frazier’s Cafe

This sucker was about the size of an H Bomb as well.  It was so big that I needed a knife and fork to eat it.  It was tasty and big enough for 2 meals which is exactly what I made out of it.

Full from lunch, I continued my drive which included traveling through Burchard, NE, the birthplace of silent film star, Harold Lloyd.  About 3:30pm I entered Wamego and parked in its downtown area.  I wandered up and down the street admiring the buildings.  I stepped into the library and thumbed through a few books before I finally headed over to Victory Inn.

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the inn.  It had a well manicured backyard with a little waterfall and gazebo.  I rang the doorbell of the back door and waited a few minutes.  Upon hearing nothing, I began to search out the front door when I heard the turn of doorknob.  I did an about face and retraced my steps as Margaret welcomed me into her home.

She quickly led me to the Victory Inn Suite before leaving me to my own devices.  I got myself settled and goggled at the palace sized bathroom which housed a Jacuzzi bathtub before exploring the house.  I admired the antiques and glassware and bumped into Margaret’s husband, Francis who quietly welcomed me to the inn.

After wandering about the home, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a good long soak before slipping into my suit and heading over to the Columbian Theatre.

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Columbian Theatre

The theatre is quite an impressive edifice.  It was built in the late 1800s as a music hall and that same hall still serves as the theatre’s performance space.

The show itself was rather disappointing. After a rough show, I walked back to the inn where I wrote a very difficult review and then retired for the night.

In the morning I was ready for breakfast and Margaret had a nice repast waiting.  There was nothing fancy about the meal.  It was just good old-fashioned home cooking with eggs, bacon, cinnamon coffee cake, some amazing hash browns, and juice.

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Old fashioned country breakfast

I needed some exercise so I spent the next two hours wandering around Wamego where I visited the park, saw the town’s famed windmill, and then I stopped at the famed Oz Museum.

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The windmill of Wamego

The Wizard of Oz is very big in this town.  Not only do they have a museum dedicated to all things Oz but several businesses are named after items in the story such as Oz Winery and Toto’s Tacoz.

The Oz Museum has brought in visitors from all over the globe and it was actually an interesting little visit.  The history of L Frank Baum (author of the series), the birth of the stories, the creation of the famed movie, and other Ozian things came to life before my eyes.  The most surprising piece of trivia I learned was that the books were so popular that other writers were brought on to create more stories after Baum’s passing.  Baum had written 15 stories, but the series ended after the 40th novel written in the late 1960s.  For those who have the time or desire, the film is also shown all day.

When I stepped outside it looked like it was about ready to rain so I decided to while away the afternoon in my room where I watched the Iowa Hawkeyes pummel the Purdue Boilermakers.

After thoroughly enjoying Iowa’s shellacking of Purdue, I took another Jacuzzi bath and then headed over to St Bernard’s Catholic Church for worship.  The church is a pretty impressive edifice and looked fairly new to my eyes.  My eyes did not deceive as the building was erected in 2010.

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St Bernard Catholic Church

It was a pretty good service and Father had a very thought-provoking sermon about how 80% of Catholics no longer attend services which got me to thinking as to how much the attendance rate had fallen amongst all denominations.  His most telling statement was, “I don’t think it’s because we (he was an elderly man) were old-fashioned.  I think we’ve just lost faith.”  Very profound food for thought.

After services, I had hoped to eat at the Friendly Cooker, a diner on the main street of Wamego.  However, the only nights they serve supper are Thursdays and Fridays.  Instead, I decided to try the cuisine at Toto’s Tacoz.

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Toto’s Tacoz

Twas not a bad choice at all.  I had the namesake food which ended up being shredded beef, cheese, onions, lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, and tomatoes on a tortilla.  It was seasoned quite nicely and a little of it goes quite far.

Then I headed over to Junction City, a military town (Fort Riley is nearby) to experience Zombie Toxin.  As a teenager in Omaha, I rather enjoyed the haunted house attractions available in the city and we have some pretty good ones.  While my interest in them has waned as I’ve gotten older, this one made me curious as it touted itself as the #1 haunted attraction in Kansas.

After visiting it, I can say that those claims are perfectly valid.  I would also like to give a special shout-out to Rob for providing me with a speed pass media ticket so I could enjoy Zombie Toxin.

First off, this attraction pays meticulous attention to the details.  It begins with the story of Dr. Von Monschture which I absolutely love because it gives a sense of reality to the attraction.  Once inside, you appreciate the care that went into this place.  Each room has a specific atmosphere and a lot of creativity went into creating the numerous experiments in Von Monschture’s quest to revivify corpses.  There’s nothing cheap about the horrors here.  It has the quality of a big budget horror flick.

Aside from the horrifying beasts, you’ll have to deal with crackling electricity, falling barrels, giant wolf’s heads and a maze in darkness in your attempts to escape from the mad scientist.  Oh, and be wary.  The weird creations and characters of the house pop out anywhere and anytime.  I’m still trying to figure out who or what grabbed my jacket at about the halfway point.

If you live in the vicinity of Junction City and are looking for something to do this Halloween season, visit Zombie Toxin.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

After visiting the haunted house, it was time to head back to the inn for the night.

For some reason my sleep was a little fitful.  I popped out of my sleep due to goofy dreams on a couple of occasions, but still felt well rested when I woke up for good around 7am.

Another old fashioned breakfast was on the table consisting of pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, cinnamon pecan rolls, juice, and water.  Once more I ate my fill, then came back to finish writing.

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Another leg of the road has been completed and Wamego is a quaint little town with friendly folk and a bit to do.  Take in a show at the Columbian.  Travel to the merry old land of Oz.  And for those who need more, the town of Manhattan is less than 30 minutes away.  But make sure you get a room at Victory Inn, you’ll get comfort, hospitality, and a good meal.

Until the next time.

Cotton Patch Redux, Day 5: Serenity Bed and Breakfast Inn is Serene, Indeed

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Serenity Bed and Breakfast Inn

One thing I’ve always liked about traveling on Sunday is that it’s (usually) peaceful and quiet.  This one was no exception and the traffic was so light through the construction that it was as if no work was being done.

For this final leg of the journey I would be stopping in Wichita, KS where I would be staying at the Serenity Bed & Breakfast Inn.  I was more than ready to stop for the night after a long day of driving and sketchy sleep over the two previous evenings.

This was actually a bit of a milestone as Serenity Inn was the 30th B & B I have visited and I must say that I really hit the jackpot with this one.  Serenity Inn, owned and operated by Ken Elliott, has all of those features of interest that make for a fine B & B.  It’s an older, elegant home with a lot of interesting history as Ken gave me a brief walking tour of the estate.  It’s also famed for its murder mystery dinners.

After the tour, Ken led me to Jordan’s Suite which served as my final home away from home for this little jaunt.  It was perfect.  From the four poster, canopy bed to the Jacuzzi bathtub, it just radiated comfort and peace.  In short, it was just what I needed.

I was so weary that I was unable to engage in any sort of exploration of the area.  Heck, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even eat that night.  I just arranged my things and had just enough juice to watch the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl and, more likely than not, send Peyton Manning into the sunset as a champion.

I slept like a baby that night.  My lights went out and didn’t relight until the next morning.  I awoke, fully refreshed, and enjoyed a nice long bath in the morning.

I was starving after having nothing to eat, aside from a small snack, since the previous morning.  The Serenity Inn is famed for its LARGE breakfasts and that is a truthful claim.  I opted for room service and goggled at the huge meal Ken brought to my room.  A massive Mexican omelet, a full banana, a cinnamon roll, grapefruit, salsa, water, coffee, orange juice, and tortillas.

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A breakfast fit for a king. Several, actually.

The cinnamon roll was piping hot and one of the best I had ever eaten.  The Mexican omelet was light and fluffy and stuffed with black beans, cheese, and corn.  Under ordinary circumstances, I would not have been able to eat very much.  Hungry as I was, I still didn’t do much damage to the meal, but more than I would have thought possible.  I would recommend that the portions be trimmed down to at least half their size, but there are certainly no gripes about the quality of the food.

After breakfast, I said my good-byes to Ken and drove the final leg to Omaha.  If you want to enjoy a classic B & B and you find yourself in Wichita, do yourself a favor and get a room at Serenity Inn where you will enjoy a fabulous house and a fine, filling meal.

And on a final note, don’t feel too bad for me because I missed out on the play.  Outside of a mild disappointment, it did nothing to damper the trip.  I enjoyed some great inns, met some great people, and had a great adventure.  I’ll get another shot at Cotton Patch Gospel as either actor, reviewer, or both.  Hopefully, it will be showing somewhere in or around my homestead in the not too distant future.

Just Around the Riverbend to River’s Bend

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Why, hello again, and welcome to my one year anniversary article spectacular.

I decided I needed a truly special bed and breakfast to visit for my one year anniversary and I certainly found it at River’s Bend Bed and Breakfast; owned by Dr. Rita Schoeneman and located in the rural town of Iowa Falls, IA.

The weather was certainly cooperating with me on this fine summer day.  It had a rather springy feel to it with moderate temperatures, a sunny sky, singing birds, and clouds that were looking especially fluffy.  I was so excited about this trip that I had awoken at 4am and could not get back to sleep.  Shortly before 9am, I had hopped into my car and before I knew it I had reached Iowa Falls.

Iowa Falls is the biggest small town I have visited since I began this project.  It seems to have quite a few things to do and, as I would later learn, is jam packed with history.  It’s also the town where Kansas Jayhawks basketball legend and current NBA star, Nick Collison, began his rise to prominence.  Fun fact:  I attended school with Nick in elementary school (mind you, I was 4 years older and don’t know if we ever met) and was taught by his father, Dave, in junior high school.

As I drove around the city (yes, this city was big enough for me to drive around), I found a couple of nice scenic drives as well as a fairly impressive aquatic center that housed a decent looking miniature golf course.  I silently lamented the fact that my good friend and perennial rival, Mat O’Donnell, was not present for a duel.  Then again, the course was closed so it was a moot point.

Eventually, I parked in the town square and began to wander about the downtown area.  One of the more spectacular sights was the Metropolitan Opera House.  When first built, it was actually an opera house and had brought in some of the biggest names of the day like John Phillip Sousa.  Now it was a movie theater and I really wish I had had an opportunity to get inside the place and look around.

The Metropolitan Opera House.  This is now the local movie theater.

The Metropolitan Opera House. This is now the local movie theater.

About 2pm, I passed a boat club which had a riverboat moored on the Iowa River called the Scenic City Empress.  I saw some people getting onto the ship and I immediately parked my car and asked if I could purchase a ticket.  I would later discover that I had actually earned a free ticket for this cruise by booking at River’s Bend, but I was glad to make the $7 donation.

The Scenic City Empress

The Scenic City Empress

It was a very relaxing cruise on the Iowa River (which actually starts and ends in Iowa).  The whole journey took about an hour and fifteen minutes and I learned quite a bit about the local history from how the town was founded, to some of the powerful families who had lived there, to a lot of significant events that had occurred in the town’s history.  Once the cruise ended, I headed on over to River’s Bend.

For the first time since the project began, I actually had company for the trip.  Originally, my best friend, Josh Kudron, and his wife, Malissa, were supposed to join me on the journey.  Regrettably, complications arose which prevented them from making the trip.  Luckily, my parents, Bob & Virginia, whom I’ve long tried to convince to try a bed and breakfast, said they would like to come along.

We were warmly greeted by Rita, a former national director of the US Forest Service, who gave us the grand tour.

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The Bliss Suite AKA the Honeymoon Suite

The Bliss Suite AKA the Honeymoon Suite

Garden Room

Garden Room

Evergreen Room

Evergreen Room

This place is impressive.  It’s a Greek Revival house and the biggest bed and breakfast I have visited.  The rooms are incredibly spacious with the exception of the intimate Garden Suite.  I was quite surprised that the place only had 4 guest bedrooms considering how much house existed.  We had taken the Riverview Suite, which was a combination of the Riverview room and the Library which housed an eclectic amount of reading material from forestry to manga.  I gladly took the Library because I wanted to be able to get out on the balcony in the morning and watch the sun rise.

The Riverview Room

The Riverview Room

The Library.  This also forms part of the Riverview Suite.

The Library. This also forms part of the Riverview Suite.

After getting settled, we got into my car to travel to the nearby town of Eldora to attend worship services at St Mary’s parish.  On the drive over, my pop had me turn on the radio so he could listen to the Iowa vs. Ball State football game.  There are few things as entertaining as listening to my father watch or listen to an Iowa Hawkeyes sporting event.  Dad isn’t the most demonstrative of people. . .unless he’s watching his beloved Hawkeyes.  Then he’s the most animated person on the planet.  And he had plenty to be animated about as the Hawkeyes looked like they would be upset by the Cardinals as they were leading 13-3 as we headed into the church.

Father Tony, a very energetic and animated man, attempted to set a land speed record in delivering the service.  Apparently, he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome and was feeling a little ill, so he worked through the service as quickly as possible.  All that I can say is, he must be unbelievable when he’s feeling great given how much energy he had feeling sick.

After services, Dad hesitantly asked me to turn the radio back on and he must have done some serious praying, for now the Hawkeyes were about to, and did, in fact, win by a score of 17-13.  “They didn’t deserve to win,” said Dad, the relief evident in his voice.  We headed back to Iowa Falls where, under Rita’s suggestion, we went to Porter’s on Main for supper.

The place was a little dim, but the food was excellent.  I munched on a Diablo Chicken sandwich with a side of chicken gumbo.  Dad supped on a terrific New York Strip (which looked bigger than the 10 oz it was supposed to be), a side of chicken gumbo, and a baked potato.  And Mom enjoyed hamburger steak with some superior American fries (I know because I sampled some) and a salad.

After supper, we returned to the inn where I had to help my lovable Luddite of a father with the TV in the living room so he and Mom could watch the movie “Sneakers”.  I went to the suite to post some pictures, have a long hot soak, and curl up with my latest Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Spirit Box”.

Mom and Dad settle down to watch a movie.

Mom and Dad settle down to watch a movie.

I grew drowsy as I read and soon fell asleep for the night.  I awoke the next morning and did go out on the balcony to watch the sunrise, then immediately rushed back inside because it was darn chilly out there in my shorts.  I grabbed my Kindle and headed down to the 2nd living room to listen to music and continue Mr. Holmes’ adventure.  Dad had gotten up earlier to go buy a newspaper and he came back just as Mom was coming downstairs so we headed into the dining room for breakfast.

With all of the fancy, gourmet breakfasts I have eaten at bed and breakfasts, it was a nice change of pace to have a hearty, traditional breakfast.  Beginning with a dish of mixed fruit, Rita brought out some wonderfully crisp bacon and a stack of small pancakes which were quite fluffy and delicious.  Cups of coffee along with glasses of milk and OJ made for delicious breakfast beverages.

Rita came out partway through the meal and began to share with us some of the history of the house.  Then she asked about my B & B project as well as my theatrical background.  When I started talking about theatre, Rita shared this amazing tale of the time Hugh Jackman visited the house.  She even had photographic proof of the encounter.

As the story went, the previous owner of the movie theater had to sell out because he couldn’t afford the new digital projectors that would be needed to stay in business.  The new owner bought the needed projectors, but wanted to have a reopening worthy of the theater’s past as the Metropolitan Opera House.  As it happened, the new owner’s son happened to be an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles and was the agent for Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.  When the owner’s son told Hugh about his dad’s desire, Hugh readily volunteered to come to Iowa Falls to make it a red carpet event.

Hugh and his family stayed in the room that my family had stayed in and Rita said he was an absolutely perfect gentleman and down to earth guy, though his entourage was annoying.  In between signing posters for the event, Hugh helped his son with his homework, played with his daughter, and even made his children carry the breakfast dishes into the kitchen for cleaning.

The time passed much too quickly and soon it was time to check out and head back to reality.  It was truly a grand event and I easily rank this place in my top three bed and breakfasts that I have visited for this project.  If you find yourself in Iowa Falls, take some time out there.  Soak up the local culture.  Take a ride on the Scenic City Empress.  Most importantly, spend a night at River’s Bend.  You’ll get a great meal and enjoy some great conversation from an excellent hostess.  Heck, you’ll probably learn something, too.