Missouri/Kansas: Hot, hot, hot

13 Sep

09-08-13 KI0A3423

When we plan our travel to each state, we try our best to go when the weather will be good – not too hot, not too cold, pretty colors, all that stuff. When I scheduled our latest trip for September, I figured that would be a nice time of year to visit Missouri and Kansas.

So it was a bit of a shock to see “103” on the bank’s temperature display in Manhattan, Kan., on a Sunday afternoon in early September, but I guess it should not have been too much of a surprise since our car had been reading between 99 and 105 all afternoon. And, truly, it was equally hot back home in Iowa. Go figure.

Jim and I met with a total of eight alumni in the two states, and even though it was hotter than blue blazes, we survived.

09-07-13 foutch KI0A1681

We started our travels in St. Joseph, Mo., where we met up with three brothers – all Iowa State alumni – who work together doing the coolest stuff. What’s that phrase – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? That’s kind of what they do. They take old, historic buildings (generally empty and unused) and turn them into the most fabulous places to live.

The three alumni are (left to right, above) Scott, Shawn, and Steve Foutch, collectively and professionally known as Foutch Brothers. Scott (’86 farm operations/animal science), Shawn (’87 civil engineering), and Steve (’88 architecture) grew up in Woodbine, Iowa. Their company is headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., but their renovated buildings can be found throughout the Midwest. We saw three of the buildings in downtown St. Joseph, including a former paper factory that has been completely transformed into apartments and commercial spaces (above, by the indoor swimming pool). More photos and info to come!

09-07-13 dawn KI0A2735

Our next visit was with Dawn Refsell (’01 agronomy, MS ’03 crop production & physiology), a field market development specialist with Valent USA Corp. Besides being a weed specialist and spending most days with farmers in their fields, Dawn has a lot of other interests: She quilts, gardens, helps her husband with his beehives, and rides a Harley. We tromped around with Dawn in (very hot) soybean and corn fields (above) near her home in rural Lathrop, Mo., and she gave Jim and me jars of her delicious homemade salsa before we left.

09-08-13 KRISTA KI0A2876

The next morning we met Krista Eilers, MSW, NHP, QRP (’93 social work) at Loose Park, just south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. Krista is a holistic practitioner and founder of Holistic Healing, and she’s also a yoga instructor. She practices yoga every day and also power-walks, bikes, and sails.

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From there, we drove to Manhattan, Kan., where we met Cathy and Mike Mores. I’m sure I will never forget this day because it was SO HOT. But Mike (’99 advertising) and Cathy (’99 art & design) were such good sports. We visited for more than an hour in their air-conditioned home, but the idea was to photograph them hiking at the nearby Konza Prairie. At this point I’m thinking, “Here’s a great idea: Let’s hike up the highest hill in Kansas on the hottest day of the year.” But it worked out really well. Even though it was hot, there was a nice breeze, and we did, indeed, hike up what seemed like the highest hill in Kansas and lived to tell about it.

A highlight of our visit with Mike and Cathy was getting to meet their son, Parker. Parker has an awesome Iowa State bedroom – he’s a true Cyclone fan in the middle of Wildcat Country. He is also one of those serious, wise-beyond-his-years kinds of kids — except that while we were hiking, he kept wanting to pour all of the family’s drinking water on his head. That’s how I knew he was 7 years old and not 35.

Here’s a conversation I had with Parker while we were walking together in the prairie, trying to stay out of the pictures:

Me: So, Parker, your dad tells me you have frogs in the pond in your backyard.

Parker: One frog. It’s a medium-sized frog.

Me: Oh, cool. I like frogs. Does he have a name?

Parker, giving me a scornful look: It’s a wild animal.

Me: Right.

Clearly, this kid is more mature than I am, because I would have named that frog.

Everyone should have a kid as cool as Parker.

09-09-13 ALISON KI0A4417

Our last appointment in Kansas (state No. 46, if you’re keeping track!) was at the Overland Park home of Allison Foss. Allison (’01 child, adult & family services) is a social worker and case manager for individuals with developmental disabilities in Johnson County. She also helps coordinate the Greater Kansas City Myasthenia Gravis Walk, Run & Roll, a 5K run and walk to benefit the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Kansas City. Allison is definitely the kind of Iowa Stater who makes a difference in her community.

As always, I’m anxious to tell you more about these awesome alumni, either on this blog or in print next spring in the special VISIONS Across America issue of the magazine.

Next up: We’re heading to Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah NEXT WEEK. (Who is doing this crazy scheduling??? Oh, I guess I am.) After we get back, we only have one state left!

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