Why Kansas?

When Darcie invited me to go meet her parents in Salina, Kansas I have to admit that I might have been a little apprehensive.  Not from the meeting of the parents, but from the endless hours and miles of flat wheat fields we’d be driving through to get there.  In spite of what I originally thought, it turns out that with the proper attitude, taking a road trip across Kansas is actually a lot of fun!

Leaving Colorado

Mile Marker 419.99 in Colorado

Stoner proofing the 420 mile marker in Colorado.

The first thing I learned was that despite my fear of Kansas wheat fields, the real terror of this trip is eastern Colorado.  Seriously, once you leave Denver, there’s nothing.  Zero.  Zilch.  Even Verizon’s cell service seems scared to venture out that way.  The only respite from the monotony is a single roadside mile marker, that back in the days before legal pot would have never been noticed.  Now days, it turns out that sticky finger stoners like to motivate themselves off the couch now and then to snatch the marker 420 signpost.  Rather than constantly replacing it, the state of Colorado found a much more practical solution…just relabel it 419.99!  Neither Darcie nor I partake, but we still had to stop and grab a photo just for the novelty!

 

Mt Sunflower

Two people in front of Mt. Sunflower in Kansas

Henry and Darcie successfully summit the highest point in Kansas.

Our first road trip stop was about a 20 mile detour off the main road onto the highest natural point in the state of Kansas.  Getting there actually took us back west towards Colorado as the site is less than half a mile from the Colorado border.  No huffing and puffing needed to summit this state high point! In fact, if you didn’t know where you were, there wouldn’t be any indication at all that you were at a spot higher than any other in Kansas; the state slopes towards the east, so while there might be hills later on, even the highest of those is lower than this spot.    The real “peak” is on private land, and luckily the owners have a great sense of humor about it and encourage visitors.  There’s a guest book, a little free library, and a bunch of sunflower themed art.  I don’t know if this is worth a repeat visit, but I’m glad we made the trip!

Cawker City

Now if you were just driving straight through Cawker City, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just another dying prairie town.  Boarded up storefronts, no place to get food, and in fact hardly anyone else in sight.  Well, right on the main street, there is what I’m 100% sure is the most awesome of all possible “Biggest Ever” items…the world’s biggest ball of twine!  Started in 1953 by a local farmer in his barn who had too much time on his hands,he eventually donated it to the city back and moved to its present site in 1988.  Now it’s grown to nearly 20 thousand pounds, and over 43 feet in diameter.  The city is very eager for you to know that it’s 100% natural sisal twine…no artificial nylon strings in it like the copycat ball somewhere in Minnesota!  For me, ever since I heard Clark Griswold say in his classic Vacation movie, “Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes … or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?” this site has been on my bucket list.  I can’t believe how un-naturally pleased I really was to be here.  Secret tip..smell the ball.  It’ll bring you right back to elementary school!

Lucas, Kansas

Next up on the road trip was the quirky art town of Lucas, where they describe themselves as “The Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas”.  With a permanent population of about 400, parts of it have definitely deteriorated, but there’s still a funky bohemian vibe to the town that we didn’t really pick up anyplace else.  The town originally came to fame when a guy named Samuel P. Dinsmoor decided to build a concrete sculpture garden based on both biblical and populist themes on his cabin in the north side of town.  Mr. Dinsmoor died in 1932, but he’s still there, laying in his concrete mausoleum in one corner of the lot.  It’s open to the public for a modest fee, and for that you apparently get a guided description of the art, a tour of the cabin, and if you’re really lucky, a peek at Samuel himself.  We didn’t have time to spend on the tour, but just checking out the sculptures from the sidewalk is definitely an experience not to be missed!

Creepy statues in front of a house

The front entrance to the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas.

Right next to the Garden is another exhibit, mostly dilapidated, but still fun called “The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Biggest Things.”  I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a better name for it.  Back in the day, some guy used to drive this bus around the country collection donations for his museum.  Now days it seems abandoned, but there’s a sign on the house welcoming you to come into the yard and look around.  Definitely worth checking out!

The last thing to see in Lucas is their visitor center and public restroom.  Taking bling to a whole new level, this building is decorated inside and out.  Called “Bowl Plaza”, the restroom was designed to give the art loving tourists a place to go without putting a drain on the local businesses.  The park next to the toilets has some cool art as well…Darcie loved the giant frog, and for some reason I loved the collection of giant forks.  I’m thinking I might have been hungry!

Finishing the epic road trip across Kansas

After one last stop in Wilson, the “Czech Capital of Kansas” for a bite to eat and a photo of the world’s largest Czech egg, it was full speed ahead back to Colorado with one quick stop in the town of Goodland for a peek at the world’s largest copy of Van Gogh’s “The Sunflowers”.  This one was put up by the Rotary club as a way to get people to stop in town from the highway.  I guess it worked, since we at least bought a coke at their gas station.  That’s some serious viral marketing!   The last stop was Darcie’s traditional photo opportunity at the Colorado border to celebrate coming back home.  Overall it was a great trip, and surprisingly, there is still tons to see for another Kansas road trip soon!

 

4 Responses

  1. Karlie

    That bathroom is insane!

    I can’t imagine doing a road trip through Kansas–all the flat land for miles and miles, but it seems like you two had fun. Your title drew me in since all I could think about was scenes from the Wizard of Oz and how curious I was on what you could do on a road trip in such an area.

    Reply
    • Henry Malmgren

      Funny enough, there is a Wizard of Oz museum, and a Wizard themed winery in Wamego, Kansas. We didn’t have time to check it out, but we’ll be there next time!

      Reply
  2. travelsidenotes

    A great post that transported me right there. I love reading about America’s heartland. I have been travelling quite extensively in America, yet have never made it to places in Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma, to name a few. Hope I can do that soon!

    Reply
  3. Ami Bhat

    Road trips are just amazing. The memories that you make with your friends, those sudden detours, the stop-overs – all of it make it so much more fun. I just got back from one epic one and reading this was a fresh wave of nostalgia. Am sure you are going to remember this one for a long long time.

    Reply

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