Spencer

I feel something like a traitor when I take my kids to play at a park outside of Worthington. After all, Worthington has in excess of 25 city parks, many of them wonderful – with Chautauqua Park probably being the cream of the crop. But – as I’ve written in this blog – Central Park in Sibley, Iowa, has become a favorite, partly for the short, road-trip element and partly because it is a great and large space.

On Saturday, we ventured even further into the Hawkeye State to the largest playground I’ve seen in the region (though I haven’t really scouted out Sioux Falls in this department). I had taken Grace down to Spencer last year for an overnight camping trip after seeing a picture of its massive playground on the city’s Web site. Sure enough, the facility was a significant hit, and she has been occasionally asking about a return trip ever since. This time around, of course, we had to bring Zachary.

It’s about an hour’s drive down to Spencer. One can take the interstate and then head south at the Lakefield exit before traveling east at Spirit Lake, but we took U.S. 59 and U.S. 18. (Actually, we took a couple of county road detours on the way, as we forced to make an emergency bathroom stop in Melvin, Iowa. Fortunately, the bathroom at the city ballpark was unlocked, albeit a tad on the filthy side.) It’s a pleasant drive and both kids slept a bit on the way there and way back, although nowhere as long as they should – especially on the way there.

When we got there, we picked up a small bag of Cheetos for the kids to share along with a big bottle of water. Moments later, we were at the playground, and Grace was off with a flash. The expectation was that Zach would be open-mouthed with amazement, but instead he appeared a bit overwhelmed by it all. He explored for a few minutes, sat down on a bench and asked for the Cheetos and water, explored, sat down and snacked … back and forth. He wound up drinking a good portion of the water and eating nearly all of the Cheetos (his fingers becoming a nice, bright orange in the process).

Zach is also a young man who has to have someone help him test things out, more or less the contrary of Grace in this regard. There were several slides and other equipment that I knew he could handle; he’s comfortable on similar fare at Chautauqua Park and Central Park in Sibley. But when I attempted to get him to go on a crocodile slide he was eyeing, or a purple raptor rider, he either said "no" or screamed when I tried to pick him and get him on. The raptor eventually worked – I convinced him it was Barney (unfortunately, I had to repeatedly do my Barney voice for a while) – and the slide later worked, too, once I grabbed him and ran up its steps. The cries of fear went to sounds of joy.

We spend a little more than two hours there, which was enough to completely tucker the little ones out. I didn’t get quite as much fight over leaving as I’d anticipated, probably because G&Z were sapped. They joked around in the car for the first half of the ride home; the second half was quiet. Later, bedtime couldn’t come soon enough, particularly in Grace’s case. She fights bedtime so hard, and this problem is magnified exponentially the more exhausted she is.

But … the trip was definitely worth it. If you’re ever near Spencer – or simply want to go to a very nice-sized playground – take a drive down. Then, the next day – as we did – you can return to your favorite local park (in our case Chautauqua) and enjoy what’s great about home all over again.

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