Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Voyage to Winsor McCay City

Now available as a puzzle at:
The greatest adventure of my childhood was a trip to Winsor McCay Ctiy.  Now that my two children (age 8 and 10) are old enough, it was time I made a return visit.  Winsor McCay City is an oasis, not just of nature, but also of culture, of science and of art.  The city is surrounded by a largely barren mountain range, sparsely populated by the world’s toughest and most bizarre creatures.  These are the rare species that can withstand the lethal stone terrain.  The city itself is lush.  Its engineers carved out this mini-metropolis from the landscape 150 years ago.  They transformed 15 thousand acres of rocky peaks into tree-laden parks, ornate buildings, ambitious civic sculptures, a wide variety of museums and all of it is connected by an ingenious system of bridges and tunnels.  Renting a car or bringing one here is virtually impossible.  It’s best to use public transportation.  Fortunately it is a pleasure to ride.   Maps are posted all through the system and the symbols are easy to understand.  Uniformed helpers who seem to speak almost any language are found in information booths.  If you have a fear of heights, though, this is not the place to visit.  It’s difficult to go anywhere without going vertical: venicular, escalator, elevator, sky lift and old fashion stairs are the various methods of travel on this many-leveled land.  The city, after all, was built atop mountains, well above the unforgiving valleys.

It’s a treat to just to visit the city’s many parks.  Each has a unique theme, but they were all designed to inspire and rejuvenate.   They range from simple tree-lined walkways to giant extensive gardens with massive natural-looking waterfalls.  Most of these parks are like open-air petting zoos for the kids, with exotic animals from all over the continent.  Watch out for the tree impits though.  They can be very mischievous.  One came up to me like a tame squirrel, and quick as a wink, slipped off my watch and ran away with it.  The park superintendent was familiar with this little creature’s game, and simply took me to where the little imp kept his stash to recover the watch for me.

The only reasonable way to travel here is by airship.  I flew in a giant, rigid, lighter-than-air dirigible.  The passenger gondola was opulent and expansive.  Throughout the eight-hour voyage I experienced all manners of luxury and delicacy.  As clouds floated, my cares went with them.  Neither the crew nor the passengers were in a rush to make their destination.  Several times the captain took the ship low to conduct some aerial sightseeing.  Something of this weightless travel has yet to leave me.

As we came close to our destination, the wasteland surrounding McCay City came into view.  It is stunningly beautiful from a height.  Centuries of erosion and unique growth of lichen has created some unusual seasonal effects that belie the deadly nature of this land.  As we flew low I looked through one of the ship’s attached binoculars.  I could see grazing hoopers and some wild phantors lugging the large cactus melons they are known to “farm.”  At one point on our journey a flock of colorful aeros flew along side the airship as if to welcome and guide us to the City.  Although the captain told me that this is common occurrence he added that he was always thrilled to see them.

The heart of this city is its vast collections – especially in the sciences.  Nowhere else on this world will you find such a concentration of museums stocked with large varieties of prehistoric artifacts, animal fossils, epic art and important historical antiques.  Numerous expeditions via airship have brought most of these collections here.  The exhibit “Hardly a Footprint” does an excellent job of explaining the history and the importance of using airships for exploration.  Everything I saw was presented in an exciting manner and there are active demonstrations for the kids, especially in the science museums.  Indeed, the massive Science Hall, occupying an entire mountaintop, is the centerpiece of the city.  Its importance cannot be understated, for it was science that built this city.  A visit to Science Hall is an all-day affair.