Monthly Archives: May 2015

Travel writing :: Wichita Eagle article on Kansas Bed and Breakfasts

Photo courtesy Circle S Ranch

Photo courtesy Circle S Ranch

Here’s an article I wrote for the Wichita Eagle for a special section they publish in May called Perfect Summer. You can read the article below or see it online here: www.kansas.com/living/travel/article21238104.html

Kansas B&Bs offer variety, unique accommodations

By MeLinda Schnyder

Twenty-five years ago last month, Lynda Fort of Ulysses, Kansas, was one of nine folks to show up for meetings organized by the Kansas State University Small Business Development department that she said focused on “promoting alternate income for families in the late 1980s after the wheat embargo to Russia caused many farmers into bankruptcy.”

Fort had operated Fort’s Cedar View bed-and-breakfast since September 1987, when she converted the home where she raised her five children into an inn. She and the others gathered studied the standards and compliances of other states and developed the Kansas Bed and Breakfast Association on April 1, 1990, with 31 original member inns. Through the decades there have been about 175 KBBA members – as many as 130 at one time – and today there are roughly 83.

Because each bed and breakfast is a unique property, KBBA formed to help new innkeepers and to provide the public with assurance that member properties “have very strict standards and the inns have liability coverage, comply with state health codes and fire codes, and are licensed with the Kansas Department of Agriculture,” Fort said.

“There are probably 100 inns in Kansas that do not have KBBA membership, may not have licenses or standards that we have and some have infrequent guests and don’t have to collect sales tax or transient guest tax,” she said.

In 2004, Fort was hired as KBBA’s executive director, a role she still holds. Her inn is one of two KBBA charter members still active, along with the Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn in Valley Falls.

“I love my job and enjoy all the member inns in our association,” Fort said. “They are the frontline to events, attractions, history and where the good food is located in their areas. They host retreats, reunions, extended stay guests and offer a great bed-and-breakfast experience.

“In the national average, an innkeeper’s life is five years, which isn’t true in Kansas,” she said. “Many inns have been in operation for over 20 years and any closing is the innkeepers desire to retire, not sell the property.”

One of the goals of KBAA-member inns is to provide unique accommodations, and you’ll find a wide variety of B&B settings available in Kansas – old barns, new barns, Craftsman homes, bunkhouses on working ranches, Victorian mansions and small historic hotels, for example. Fort said 82 percent of KBBA inns are five rooms or fewer.

The best way to get a feel for the property is to visit KBBA.com, where you can search for inns by location, amenities or specialty. From there, Fort advises to visit the inn’s individual website and check review sites such as TripAdvisor. If television and Internet connection are important to you, for example, be sure to ask ahead of time.

About a dozen B&Bs show up in south-central Kansas on KBBA’s online map and many more in reasonable driving distances from Wichita. Here is a sampling of some of the closest, unique KBBA inns.

Photo courtesy Barns @ Timber Crreek

Photo courtesy Barns @ Timber Creek

Barns @ Timber Creek, Winfield

Martin and Cheryl Rude opened their bed and breakfast in 2004 after moving a 1890s post and beam barn to their 35-acre farm, reconstructing it and adding modern comforts. An original stone barn is on the National Historic Register and was restored in 2011 into an event space. Late last year they added to the five rooms inside the beam barn by building a treehouse. “We’re pretty sure it is the only B&B guest room in a tree in the state of Kansas,” Martin said. “Perched in a hedge tree that’s not going anywhere, the treehouse is dominated by native cedar stairs and trim. The queen bed is in a loft and the main floor has a fully equipped bathroom and kitchenette.” Rooms start at $105 per night; www.timbercreekbarns.com.

Beaumont Hotel, Beaumont

The four suites and six deluxe rooms at the Beaumont Hotel are average motel-type accommodations; what’s unique is that you’re staying in a renovated hotel that was built in 1879. It’s a popular stop for motorcyclists and pilots, who can land at the nearby grass airstrip and taxi right up to the property for an overnight or a meal. The diner-style restaurant is known for hearty breakfast, hand-breaded chicken fry and excellent desserts. Right across the street is an 1885 Old Frisco wooden water tower, on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest one still operating in the U.S. A caboose was added next to the tower earlier this year. Rooms start at $99 per night; www.beaumonthotelks.com.

Bunkhouse at Wildfire Ranch, Medicine Lodge

When you book at Bunkhouse, you’re staying at the Ringer family ranch, situated in a pasture on top of a hill in open range, giving guests a 360-degree view of the Gypsum Hills. The bunkhouse is a log-sided building constructed eight years ago with beautiful wood interiors decorated with cowboy art and mounts. It has two bedrooms and a pullout available in the dayroom. A two-bedroom cabin is also available, and when a large group of hunters or a wedding party books there is overflow in the walkout of the family’s ranch house. Although the facilities have kitchenettes, Roger Ringer said one of the most popular amenities is the big country breakfast they serve. So far he’s counted guests from 24 countries, 43 states and at least 174 Kansas towns. Rooms start at $89/single per night; www.bunkhouseatwildfireranch.com.

Circle S Ranch & Country Inn, Lawrence

Circle S has been a working ranch through six generations since 1862. In 1998 the ranch was opened to the public when an inn was built to look like an old Kansas barn, with a lean-to and a silo that houses an eight-person Jacuzzi. A large party barn hosts many weddings, reunions and retreats. The inn has 12 suite-style rooms covering three separate floors. Each floor has its own large common area and beverage station, and each room has a different country chic décor theme. Guests will see a small buffalo herd, longhorns and for a fee can book horseback riding, hayrides and bonfires. “Breakfast is always included but we can also provide additional meals,” said owner Mary Beth Stewart. “We’ve been doing a lot of garden-to-table meals for our guests who get here and just don’t want to leave to go anywhere else.” Rooms start at $150 per night; www.circlesranch.com.

Inn at Glenstrae, Wichita

Robert Elliot and Tracy Sloat are the fifth owners of the 1900 Craftsman-style house in Wichita’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood tucked away a few blocks from northeast of the corner of Central and Hillside. They bought the well-maintained home in 2004 and after their children were grown they realized the home and their interest in entertaining and hospitality were the perfect mix for a B&B. Touring the house and learning its history is half the fun of staying here; the other half is the luxurious furnishings and personal treatment. There are two guest rooms: a smaller first-floor room and a spacious upstairs Flint Hills Suite, with a third room in future plans. Guests have access to five common areas: a front porch, screened side porch, living room, dining room and garden. Everything inside and out matches the boutique luxury experience the Elliots have created. Eggs Benedict is the house specialty, along with a sumptuous cup of house-blend coffee. Rooms start at $149 per night; www.theinnatglenstrae.com.

Photo courtesy Inn at Glenstrae

Photo courtesy Inn at Glenstrae

Posted in Travel Writing, Writing - all

Travel writing :: Wichita Eagle article on making the most out of your trip to Kauffman Stadium

Royals, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

 

Here’s an article I wrote for the Wichita Eagle for a special section they publish in May called Perfect Summer. You can read the article below or see it online here: http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/article21236496.html

 

Make the most of your trip to see the Royals

The Kansas City baseball team is bringing new generations to the ballpark

By MeLinda Schnyder

Go ahead, admit it. The post-season run by the Kansas City Royals caught your attention and for the first time in years you paid attention to the boys in blue, bought a team T-shirt and even tried to get tickets to the home American League Championship Series and World Series games.

If you’re like most fans, those tickets were too hard to get or out of your price range so you didn’t get to watch the game from Kauffman Stadium, often called The K. Now the 2015 season has started off promising and you’re anxious to get to Kansas City to show off your new Royals shirt as part of the home crowd.

It’s OK, the Royals are glad to have you back on the bandwagon. “Our success last year on the field brought a whole new generation back to the Royals,” said Kevin Uhlich, Royals senior vice president of business operations.

Since it might have been awhile since you’ve experience The K, we’ve put together a primer on getting the most out of your visit to the ballpark.

The stadium

This is the Kansas City Royals’ 43rd season at Kauffman Stadium and going into the season the team had hosted 74,345,705 fans there since 1973. The Royals completed a $250 million renovation to Kauffman Stadium before the 2009 season, so if it’s been that long since you’ve seen a game there then you have a lot to catch up on. They designed grander entrances, widened concourses, added more restrooms and concession stands and completely changed the outfield area.

The famous fountains are still there, but now there’s seating blended with the fountain area. There’s an Outfield Experience with amenities for all ages, making getting to the game early essential to take it all in and not miss the game. In 2008, the team added the 84-by-104-foot Crown Vision high definition scoreboard, the largest in Major League Baseball. In 2012, Kauffman Stadium was the site of the MLB All-Star Game so the venue got a little sprucing up then, too.

Getting tickets

One of the great features of The K is that every seat has a decent view of the field, which means no matter your price point you can enjoy the game. Fans wanting great views of the pitching matchup will want a seat behind the plate; the outfield is great for catching foul balls or home runs, and families will like being close to the kids zone while others might like watching pitchers warming up in the bullpens or interaction with outfielders.

With all of the renovations, seating options have changed, too. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been to The K, take a look at the views from various seating levels before buying tickets: www.seats3d.com/mlb/kansas_city_royals/.

At this time last year it wasn’t uncommon to hear of fans going on third-party ticket seller StubHub and buying tickets behind home plate for half the price you could buy them directly from the Royals. Those deals are gone as crowds through the first month of the season have set records and driven up demand.

Fans can buy seats directly from the Royals online, via telephone or in-person at the box office or they can buy through third-party options. The Royals have a feature called dynamic pricing that basically means the prices of tickets will shift with supply and demand.

Ticket deals

If you’re on a budget and want to see a game, there are plenty of options. The Royals offer ticket discounts to military, seniors, students and have a variety of special discount days that can be found on their ticketing website and by signing up for email notifications.

Getting in and out of the stadium

The K is one of the easiest stadiums to get in and out of and there’s plenty of parking. Regular-season game parking is $12 for cars and motorcycles, $17 for oversized vehicles and $20 for RVs.

Kauffman Hall of Fame Museuem George Brett 3154 hits baseball sculpture IMG_1950_MSRoyals HOF museum

You have to visit the Royals Hall of Fame museum at least once; it’s included in the cost of your game ticket and is open through the top of the eighth inning. The 7,000-square-foot museum in the left-field area opened in July 2009 and is much more than a plaque gallery of the 25 members of the Royals Hall of Fame. Visitors travel through a clubhouse lobby, a timeline wall covering the history of baseball in Kansas City, a dugout-style theater with a 15-minute film narrated by Buck O’Neil and a gallery full of interactive exhibits and memorabilia, like the George Brett No. 5 display (representing the jersey number he wore) made of 3,154 baseballs, one for each of his career hits, along with the bat for his 3,000th hit.

 

The Outfield Experience

The Hall of Fame museum is part of the Outfield Experience, an area developed in 2009 to provide entertainment for all ages. Behind the Hall of Fame is a kids area with a miniature version of The K, a base run, batting and pitching cages, five holes of mini-golf and a Royals-themed Royals, Kansas City, Kauffman Stadiumcarousel. You can pay for each activity or on Family FunDay Sunday you can buy an all-day pass for $10 per child. Every week there is a home game, the Royals host Family FunDay Sunday with pre-game entertainment on the Outfield Experience stage, face painters, caricature or balloon artists and a Royals autograph session. After the game, kids 14 and under can run the bases for free.

Concessions

Guests may bring food and water bottles into the stadium. Water must be in a plastic 1-liter or smaller sealed/unopened plastic bottle (one per person) and the food must be packaged in soft-sided containers that do not exceed 16-by-16-by-8 inches.

Every Friday, the concession stands offer hot dogs and peanuts for $1 each. There are also eight weekday games remaining on the schedule that offer All You Can Eat Seats in the Loge Outfield level Sections 319-325. For example, on Thursday, Aug. 13 you can buy a $45 ticket in Section 319 that includes all the hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, pretzels and soft drink products you want.

If you want more than standard ballpark fare, there are specialty concession stands throughout the park and two restaurants. Among the specialty concessionaires: at Boulevard Grill stand you can watch as they hand-dip footlong corndogs and bread chicken fingers before deep-frying them; at Sweet Baby Ray’s stands you can get sandwiches, burnt ends and ribs; and Belfonte’s in the outfield serves up ice cream and fresh-baked cookies.

The restaurants include Rivals Sports Bar in right field and the new Craft & Draft on the Loge Level along the third base line.

“Younger adult fans in particular have embraced the ballclub,” Uhlich said, “and Craft & Draft is a great setting for them to have an evening out with their friends and enjoy a ballgame. The new space is open air with plenty of options for sitting and standing.”

Craft & Draft is open to all guests first-come, first-served. The venue features more than 20 beers on tap and another 50 bottled beers, along with gastro pub fare including a quick-fire artisan pizzeria.

Rivals Sports Bar opens 1.5 hours prior to game time and has a full food and beverage menu with wait service. The restaurant, with open-air seating for up to 150, has a full bank of flat screen HDTVs, including a 103-inch screen.

Stadium tours

From a $17 legends tour to a $325 all-access tour that includes a loge level seat, fans can see as much of The K as they want on an official stadium tour. The tours must be booked in advance and typically run Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from April 7 to May 23, Tuesday through Saturday May 26 to August 29 and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday Sept. 1 to 26. Check www.mlb.mlb.com/kc/ballpark/tours for tour descriptions.

Royals, Kansas City, Kauffman Stadium

Promotions at The K

Some fans pick a game to attend simply by a date that works, others choose based on the opponent or whether there’s a promotion. Here are some key opponents and promotions this summer. A complete list can be found on the Royals’ website.

May 22-24: Royals versus the St. Louis Cardinals. May 24 is celebrating the 1985 World Series.

June 6: The Royals are giving away a set of four commemorative postseason bobbleheads this year and on this day the first 15,000 fans get the second in the series: Lorenzo Cain.

June 7: The first 3,500 Wildcat fans who bring their special K-State Day ticket ($11-$26) to the K-State table located inside of Gate B will receive a limited edition purple and gray KC Royals K-State ballcap.

June 19-21: The Boston Red Sox visit; fireworks after the game on Friday and on Saturday, June 20 the first 15,000 fans get the third bobblehead in the collection: Mike Moustakas.

July 25:  In the middle game of the series against the Houston Astros, the first 15,000 fans will get the final in the commemorative four-piece bobblehead collection: Yordano Ventura.

Aug. 7-16: the best home stand of the season has the White Sox, Tigers and Angels visiting. On Saturday, Aug. 15 the first 10,000 fans get a replica jersey. On Sunday, Aug. 16 the first 3,750 Jayhawk fans who bring their special KU Day ticket ($11-$26) to the table located inside of Gate B will receive a limited edition crimson & blue KC Royals KU ballcap.

Sept. 5: The first 2,000 Shocker fans who bring their special WSU Day ticket ($12-$34) to the table located at Gate B will receive a limited edition black and gold KC Wichita State ballcap.

Posted in Travel Writing, Writing - all

Travel writing :: Wichita Eagle article on 9 places to get your adrenaline pumping

Me skydiving at Stearman Field with Gypsy Moths just outside Wichita, Kansas.

Me skydiving at Stearman Field with Gypsy Moths just outside Wichita, Kansas.

Here’s an article I wrote for the Wichita Eagle for a special section they publish in May called Perfect Summer. You can read the article below or see it online here: http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/article21236298.html

Nine places to get your adrenaline pumping

Plenty of regional options for adrenaline junkies

“Hi, welcome to my office,” Mike Busby bellowed over the sound of the 600 horsepower engine as I climbed feet-first into a blue and green No. 66 NASCAR race car at Kansas Speedway on a hot August day. As I got buckled in, I was told: “Don’t cry. Don’t puke. Smile – you’re being videotaped.”

That made me smile and, except for the unexpected bump when we came off pit road onto the track at a 17-20 degree bank, I wore that smile for all three 168-mile-per-hour laps around the 1.5-mile oval track. Later, when I would see video and photos from my Richard Petty Driving Experience ride-along, it was clear this was an adrenaline-fueled smile, a what-the-heck-did-I-sign-up-for smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’d do it again. Next time instead of riding shotgun I want to be behind the wheel. The track is typically open weekends May through October. A ride-along on a non-race weekend is $109, an 8-lap driving experience is $449. Check www.drivepetty.com for details.

If driving fast doesn’t get your blood pumping, we’ve got eight more adrenaline-inducing options for you to try.

Extreme Underground, Atchison

The location alone might get a few people’s hearts beating fast: a former underground Army bunker. If that doesn’t do it, take a turn in the speleobox, a wooden maze that simulates crawling through low caves. There’s also slacklining, where participants walk, bounce or do gymnastics while on a 2-inch wide, nylon webbing stretched between two objects like a tight rope. If team extreme is more your style, play a game of laser tag or archery tag using foam-tipped arrows. Prices range from $3 for single-game passes to $20 for unlimited play wristbands, and hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday and 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday. www.extreme-underground.com

Gander Mountain Academy, Wichita

The virtual range at Gander Mountain Academy lets you hold a Glock pistol while feeling and hearing the sound and trajectory of real bullets using carbon dioxide cartridges. They have a target range that tests your handgun grip, stance, use of sights and trigger control as well as 180- and 300-degree ranges that test your speed and judgment. It features a 2 million-pixel screen and multiple targets of your choice, which have simulated distances ranging from 3 to 50 yards. Cost to use the virtual range is $15 for non-members; memberships are available that offer discounts on range use as well as classes. Call ahead to check availability and age restrictions. www.gandermtnacademy.gandermountain.com /locations/wichita-ks

Gypsy Moths Skydiving, Benton

There might be no greater rush than free falling at more than 115 miles per hour from a Cessna C182 at 10,000 feet above the Kansas prairie. The gentle glide once the parachute opens can be quite the opposite: peaceful and spectacular, especially at dusk. Just nine miles northeast of Wichita at Lloyd Stearman Airport Field in Benton, Monty LaMar operates Gypsy Moths Skydiving for newbie tandem skydives to more experienced skydivers. A basic tandem costs $230, if you want photos and video to record your bucket list accomplishment it’s $300 total. www.skydivegypsymoths.com

Original Juan’s, Kansas City, Kansas

A manufacturing and bottling facility on a list of adrenaline hot spots? Two words: The Source. If you have to sign a waiver to try a product, that’s enough to raise your blood pressure. The Source is a hot sauce extract that registers 7.1 million Scovillle units. Translated: it’s one of the hottest sauces in the world. A tiny drop on the end of a toothpick touched to your tongue will have lasting effects for hours, including heart racing. If you want to go a little tamer, ask to try other hot sauces and grab some bargains in the outlet shop while there. www.originaljuan.com

Red Dirt Flyboard, Mannford, Oklahoma

A flyboard is an accessory that attaches to the water output system of personal water craft, like a Sea Doo. Water is sent through a hose that is connected underneath the flyboard, shooting down and propelling the flyer into the air so they can soar above the water or swim like a dolphin. First time flyers are required to take a safety course, then flyers enter the water and begin flying at approximately 5 feet above the surface. Red Dirt Flyboard opened last summer to bring flyboard training for beginners and enthusiast adrenaline junkies to Keystone Lake, about 15 minutes west of Tulsa. Individual flights are $99 for 20 minutes of water time, $139 for 30 minutes. Memorial Day begins their season and they offer flyboarding most weekends. www.reddirtflyboard.com

Riversport Adventures, Oklahoma City

Riversport Adventures is a mashup of climbing, jumping, dropping and boating activities that you can choose to do one at a time or in combination. Officials say the SandRidge Sky Trail is the tallest adventure course of its kind in the world: an 80-foot structure features six levels of challenges that increase in difficulty the higher you climb in your safety harness. A playground in the sky, the challenges include rope bridges, balance beams and zigzag elements. From the top you can zip 700-feet across the Oklahoma River – and back again. To get down, you can choose the high-speed 72-foot Sky Slide, jump from the 80-foot Rumble Drop free fall or just walk back down the stairs to exit the structure. Pay one price and play all day ($35 plus $15 for the zipline), or select a single one-hour experience. www.boathousedistrict.org/adventures

Verrückt, Kansas City, Kansas

Any true adrenaline junkie has to make the trip to Schlitterbahn Waterpark to ride the world’s tallest water slide. Verrückt roughly translates to insane in German, after all. Just the 264 steps to get to the ride will get the adrenaline pumping. When you reach the top you are higher than the Statue of Liberty. The true test, though, is sitting in the three-person raft staring at the straight drop of 168 feet 7 inches – that’s a free fall of 17 stories in 4 seconds, traveling about 50 mph at a 60-degree angle. But wait, there’s more. Blaster jets propel riders up a 55-foot hill that is considered the world’s largest uphill water slide before plummeting five stories to end the ride. Schlitterbahn is open May 22 through Sept. 7. Day passes for children/seniors is $29.99 if purchased online; ages 12-54 cost $39.99 online. www.schlitterbahn.com/kansas-city

Wichita Sports Center, Wichita

Strap on a bubble soccer suit – called a body zorbing ball – and you’ll be ready to bump, roll and flip over while trying to score a goal. In addition to soccer games, players can opt for freestyle time: just bouncing off other players and knocking each other down. There are adult and children suits and they go on like backpacks, with the top open so you can breathe and the bottom open so your feet touch the ground. Check the calendar for open and league play; cost is $15 per hour per person. Wichita Sports Center will be part of River Fest this year, where you can watch or choose to participate for a 30-minute session. www.wichitasportscenter.com

 

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Photography :: olloclip 4-in-1 photo lens system gallery

Disclaimer: Verizon provided a three-week olloclip 4-in-1 photo lens system loaner so I could try it out with my iPhone 5s. Views (and photos) of the product are my own.

I had a blast playing around with the wide angle, fisheye and two macro lenses. While I had the loaner, I happened to take a road trip from Wichita through Beaumont, Kansas, and on to Bentonville, Arkansas, plus another trip to Oklahoma City — so I had plenty of chances to try out the lens at ballparks, historic homes and gardens and many other stops along the way.

The wide angle gave me twice the field of view of my normal iPhone lens, which came in handy many times. The fisheye made for some fun images; one of my favorites is of an alley with a mural. The macro lenses were great for closeups of flowers and baseballs.

Here are a few of my favorites.

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Posted in Photography