As I drove along in far western Kansas, into the Oklahoma then Texas panhandles, I was lucky enough to experience a great sunset.
A brief stop in Wichita, the last city of any size before heading west across the vast plains and into the desert. So they have that going for them.
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.