Kansas City’s Union Station still provides what little passenger rail service exists today, but it has so much more. It has been restored as a museum, restaurant center and post office. The station was, and is, one of America’s great stations.
The next larger city on the way west was Kansas City. The highlight was Union Station (next posting), but the couple of hours in town provided some nice shots beyond the station.
Show me the way to Missouri.
1946 – State Capitol 1989 – University of Missouri
The small town of Jefferson City is the Missouri capital city. The state capitol is much like most of the others, design in the classic style (photo from Wiki)
Jefferson City is the 15th largest city in Missouri. The only state capital that is lower in ranks of cities within a state is Olympia, Washington – which is the 24th largest city in the state. As the photo below shows, there is no skyline to Jefferson City. (Note – 17 state capitals are also the largest city in the state. The largest state capital by population is Phoenix, with 1.7 million people in the city limits).
And if you find yourself in this small state capital what is the #1 rated activity according to Tripadvisor? The Old Penitentiary, rating higher than the Capitol itself.
State Symbol time!
State Animal – Missouri Mule. In the 1800s mules were the ‘workhorse’ of the farm – and Missouri was the center of the mule population.
State Horse – Missouri Fox Trotting Horse. Developed in the Ozarks in the 1800s this horse is famous for his trotting gait.
State Dessert – Ice Cream Cone. Famously invented at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.
Jefferson City is just down the road from the much larger Columbia, Missouri. It is home to the University of Missouri. (photo from website commonapp.com)
The comic strip Beetle Bailey was written by Mort Walker while he was still attending the university. It is celebrated with a sculpture.
Roads in Missouri
1947 1954 1979 1997 2007 2010
Missouri is home to the most famous roads in American history – Route 66
As the song says ‘Well it goes to St Louis down to Missouri’.
In the crossroads town of Ash Grove there is a restored Sinclair station filled with kitsch.
Missouri claims they are the first state to award a contract from the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (aka – The Interstate Highway Act), and then they started construction. Having driven from St Louis to Kansas City on Interstate 70 I believe they haven’t improved it since it was completed 60 years ago.
Today it is 250 miles of left lane drivers. Easily one of the most frustrating drives I have had is a Sunday late afternoon drive across Missouri! (except anytime you drive an interstate in Indiana). (Photo from Missouri Public Radio)
U.S 60 parallels I-70, only across the southern part of the state (and not between two major cities). The road is smooth and traffic free. Good for drivers, apparently not so much for this armadillo.
1958 1980 2001
With the Mississippi River and the Missouri River, there are plenty of bridges in Missouri.
St Louis area.
Chain of Rocks Bridge links Missouri with Illinois just north of St Louis. This bridge was built to bypass St Louis for both US 66 and US 40 traffic. It was completed in 1929, and closed to most vehicular traffic in 1970.
Complete with a bend in the middle of the river.
The Eads Bridge is a massive railway and automobile bridge linking East St Louis to St Louis. It was opened in 1874, to a throng of people watched a ‘test elephant’ cross the bridge to show how strong it was.
The McKinley Bridge was the first bridge to take Route 66 traffic across the Mississippi River (photo from Wiki). It is not named for President McKinley, rather the bulder of the bridge and owner of the Interurban company, coincidentally also named William McKinley.
Kansas City has their fair share of bridges as well, crossing the Missouri River (photo from Reddit)
Christopher Bond Bridge (photo from public radio Kansas City)
Jefferson City Bridge
They don’t have to be large to be cool – The ‘Swinging Bridge’ at Osage Beach, in southern Missouri. (photos from Missouri Life). It actually rocks a bit as you drive across it.
1973 1995 2013
With most of the access of the early 1800s being along the rivers, Missouri held a key position. Boats could come down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh or up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St Louis, and then on to Kansas City along the Missouri River.
From here there were overland routes to the West Coast. Among those were the Butterfield Trail. In 1858 John Butterfield started a stage coach that delivered mail, using a route that went southwest from Missouri, across the Southern Rocky Mountains, and on the the west coast to San Francisco. (drawings from Wikipedia)
The far more famous Oregon Trail started in Independence, Missouri. The map below clearly shows the route coming up river from St Louis before the long, arduous overland route west.
Today there is a marker to show the start of this trail. Independence is far more renown for being the hometown of Harry Truman. (photo from Wikipedia)
The railroads started not much later than the trails, with the first railroad in the state starting up in 1851. By the mid 1860s you could cross the state on a train.
Jefferson City Station. Built in 1855, and rebuilt in 1984. (photo from Wikipedia)
Kansas City Union Station (photos from Wikipedia)
The National Museum of Transportation in St Louis has a great collection of artifacts, but has the most emphasis on trains. (photos from Wikipedia)
St Louis has a strong history of aviation, starting with the Spirit of St Louis – the plane that Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic.
TWA was once headquartered in Kansas City, with their primary hub based in St Louis.
1975 1980 2017
St Louis is the largest metro area by population. A very old city, St Louis in the mid 1800s was already up to 8th largest in the country, despite being basically on the western edge of the country at the time. In 1910 it was 4th largest.
Unfortunately of cities that had more than 100,000 people in 1950, St Louis has lost more than any city except Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio.
Urban renewal has resulted in a number of newer buildings downtown, resulting in a somewhat modern looking skyline.
St Louis was the hometown of Chuck Berry. In the Delmar Loop neighborhood there is a statue of Chuck, near a bar he often played at for fun.
This stadium is the 3rd baseball stadium in St Louis to be called ‘Busch Stadium’. A baseball only stadium built in a quasi retro style, the stadium continues to be one of the best attended venues in all of baseball as St Louis is a very strong baseball town.
The earlier stadiums include Busch Stadium I – aka – Sportsman’s Park. This stadium was originally completed in 1902, and served as the home of the Cardinals until 1966. For many years St Louis had a second team, the Browns, and it was their home too. In addition to those teams, college and professional football teams used it as well.
By the 1960s the neighborhood around the stadium was in decline, and attendance was dropping. In addition teams had learned that they could ‘encourage’ the local governments to build them a new stadium bu threatening to move to another city. (Wiki Photo)
Busch Stadium II – In the 1960s and 1970s there were a number of multi purpose round stadiums built across the country. Busch Memorial Stadium was one of the earlier examples. Note the roof arches along the top of the stadium mimic the famed Gateway Arch in the background. This stadium was used until 2005 when the new stadium was built on the same footprint. (Wiki Photo)
The Gateway Arch is St Louis’s most recognizable landmark. Towering 630 feet above the city, the arch is now over 50 years old and continues to be the tallest man made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and the tallest structure in Missouri.
It was designed by Eero Saarinen in the 1940s, but not constructed until the 1960s. It is a tribute to the fact that St Louis was known as the Gateway to the West.
The Old Courthouse is part of the Gateway Arch National Park. Dating from the 1860s, the building was the location that Dred Scott sued for his freedom.
St Louis in 1904 was a happening place. Not only were the first Olympics ever to be held in the U.S. hosted in the city that year, but they also had a World’s Fair (where the Ice Cream Cone was invented). Today there are a few landmarks in a park dating from that amazing year in the city’s history.
The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of the highlights of the city.
Kansas City is 250 miles west of St Louis, directly across the state on Interstate 70. One of the more interesting areas of the city is known as the Country Club District, dating from it’s original development in the early 1900s near a golf course.
City Hall is a classic Art Deco skyscraper that was completed in 1937.
From the observation deck you get great views of the city.
Kansas City was one of the few cities in the 1970s to built sport specific stadiums. They are not downtown, rather out at the edge of town in a sea of parking lots. (Photo below from Kansas City Star newspaper)
Small Towns and Countryside
1977 1985 1987 1991 1993 1999
While there are two large cities on each end of the state, the vast majority of the cities are small. A number of them have historic significance, and have been featured on the maps.
Sainte Genevieve is a small town on the Mississippi River. It has the significance of being the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River in the state, having been founded in 1735. The town has a historic district that is a popular tourist attraction. (all photos from Wikipedia)
Weston is another small town on the far western end of the state along the Missouri River. At one point in the 1800 it was one of the largest ports on the river, with over 265 steamboats docking. It is also home of the McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest continuously operated distillery in the country.
Hannibal is Mark Twain’s boyhood home. As most know, it is also located on the Mississippi, making it the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’s adventures.
Missouri is one of those states that has a wide variety of attractions – cities, towns, scenic countryside and rivers.
Toto we are back in Kansas!
1953 – Much like Iowa, Kansas is state that is virtually all farmland, although more grasslands than crops. The views on our opening map is of the capitol in Topeka, and a typical countryside road.
Topeka was a city of about 80,000 in 1953. Since then it has grown to a population of about 125,000. By far the largest employer in town is the state government. (photo from Cathy Luz Real Estate website)
1963 – Rest area on Interstate 70.
As the map shows, as well as the photo below, there are some rolling hills in Kansas. Kansas is a leading state for wind generated power.
1973 – Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center in Wichita. This facility is the largest of it’s kind in the state. It has hosted, among other things, the Miss USA Pagent.
Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, with a metro population of 645,000. It was founded as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail. (Photo from VisitWichita website)
Today it is known as the Air Capital of the World with numerous small aircraft manufacturers including Beechcraft, Cessna and Stearman. The Kansas Aviation Museum celebrates this history.
The museum is located in the former Wichita Municipal Airport terminal. (Photo from Museum website)
1973 – Kansas State Parks. Most Kansas State Parks are fairly small, the largest being Fall River State Park.
The most unique park in the state is Mushroom Rock. These rocks are a remains of sediment from the Cretaceous Period. (Photo from Wikipedia)
1989 – Rural scene. Over half the people in the state live in what is classified as ‘Rural’, one of the higher percentages in the country. Trivia moment – the highest percent rural population is Wyoming.
1993 & 2015 – Bison. Before Europeans showed up there were an estimated 20 million American Bison roaming the Kansas territory. Their demise was swift, as example the first three months of 1872 there were more than 43,000 bison hides shipped east from Dodge City alone.
Today there are a few refuges for the bison to continue to live. The largest is Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near the town of Canton, Kansas. (photo from Travelks.com)
2001 – Flint Hills. This region covers much of eastern Kansas, stretching into northern Oklahoma.
The area is very picturesque, and a nice break from the endless prairies beyond.
2003 – Collage including the Kansas Speedway. When the International Speedway Corporation was investigating building a speedway in the Kansas City area, they chose the Kansas side because of better funding (i.e. the State gave them more money than Missouri would).
2005 & 2009 – More prairie scenes.
2011 – 150 years of statehood celebrated by travel.
The two most famous Kansans are Dwight Eisenhower and Amelia Earhart.
Eisenhower was actually born in Texas but raised in Abilene, Kansas, where his Presidential Library is located (photo from travelks.com)
Earhart was born and raised in Atchinson, Kansas. Her childhood home is now a museum. (photo from kansastravel.org)
2013 – Celebration of Kansas Byways.
One of the more interesting byways is the Gypsum Hill Scenic Byway. It travels through rolling prairie as well as a section of red buttes. (photo kansastravel.org)
2017 – The Sunflower State.
We end this tour with Kansas State Symbols.
Bird – Western Meadowlark
Monday morning, we set out for a Kansas City morning. Directly across the freeway, in front of the stadiums was the Missouri welcome center, and after a stop there I headed down into the parking lots for the stadiums for a closer look.
The All Star game was to be held at Kaufman Stadium the following week, and there was a lot of activity. Given their heightened awareness there was also lots of security, as I quickly found out by being stopped by one. I guess my excuse (like to check out stadiums), the Mercedes with Ohio plates, or us giving him a lost look; whatever it was he allowed me to drive around once as long as I promised to head out as soon as possible, which we did.
From here we continued into town to Country Club Plaza, is an upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood, and designed architecturally after Seville, Spain
It was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. The neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza consist of upscale apartment buildings and mansions.
The Plaza, and all of Kansas City, is known for it’s fountains. There are more than 30 statues, murals, and tile mosaics on display in the area, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville
After touring the neighborhood, we continued downtown. The City Hall is a 29-story skyscraper located in downtown Kansas City, and has an observation deck on the top of it. It is the fourth-tallest city hall in the world, and the seventh-tallest building in Kansas City.
The building is considered a “Beaux-Arts” style building, but has Art Deco elements on the interior. The interior of the city hall is full of Italian gray, red, white, and green marble which lines the halls and the floors of the building
I had read the observation deck was free so we had to check it out. Despite being a weekday, we were able to park on the street nearby and walk over to the building, heading into the main entrance. The security there told us we had to go to the lower level, which seemed strange since we wanted to go up, not down. But following his directions we headed to the lower level.
In the lower level we found the security station, and informed the guard we would like to see the observation deck. ‘No problem’ he says, we will just have to wait for a security guard to take us up. He then explained that it isn’t just open, you go up with a guard to the top floor, and they open the door to the observation deck. Even better, an adventure.
As we sat there waiting on the guard a well-dressed large man comes rolling in, followed by a bunch of people. He comes sailing over to the bench where we are sitting on and says ‘Good Morning’ and shakes my hand, then asks me for my name. When I told him, he says ‘glad to meet you’. When I asked who he was he said ‘the Mayor’, which I responded to ‘of what?’ We were standing in the presence of the Honorable (not so much according to many) Mayor Sly James. After asking about us (where are we from, what brought us to Kansas City, how do we like it), he headed off.
Shortly thereafter the guard arrived and we headed up. The views were spectacular, a 360-degree view of Kansas City. The building reminded me of Carew Tower in Cincinnati, with a brick wall that is chest high.
The guard was very nice, she showed us around and let us wander around the 4 sides at our leisure. After seeing all there is to see of Kansas City we headed down, still amused with our meeting with the mayor.
We spent another hour in Kansas City, then continued the westward path through the other Kansas City, and off through the prairies. Fully expecting this to be the worst part of the entire road trip, 425 miles of Kansas, it turned out to be ok.
We made a few stops along the way, including in Lawrence to buy a new camera since our trusty Canon Eos was having serious problems.
I was surprised that Kansas wasn’t as flat as expected, as we encountered rolling hills much of the way.
We did see more windmills than anywhere I had seen before, but after a short 425 miles west of Kansas City we reached the Colorado line.
For those expecting to see mountains once you reach Colorado you are in for a disappointment since it is another 200 miles to the mountains. But we covered those 200 miles fairly quickly and found our home for the next 2 nights in Morrison, Colorado. And thus ended our longest day.