Stop. Think about Kansas. How often do you do that? It’s undoubtable that those of us with limited exposure, go directly to images of a petite brunette, with some killer shiny red shoes. Maybe you thought of tornados, and maybe you thought of OZ, or maybe you thought of both. The hard truth is when you think about Kansas, you don’t think of much.
Whenever, I find myself driving I-70 through the vast flatness, I can’t keep my mind from wandering; “What the hell do people do here”? Some things are obvious, farm, farm, and farm. If they live in Wambego, maybe they work at the OZ Museum, and maybe they, um, farm.
Someone once jokingly told me that the reason people live in Kansas is because early settlers made it to the Rockies, saw what they were up against and turned around. Funny. Maybe true. The jokes about Kansas could go on as long as the drive through it does ( that’s a long, long time). But if you spend some time there, you’ll learn alot. You’ll learn that the people are exceptionally kind. You’ll learn that nearly everyone works hard for what they have, and are proud of what they do ( which is mostly, farm). You’ll also learn that the landscape is a lot more than what it seems.
If you’re driving West on I-70 from St. Louis, and you survive the 9 hours across the state, along the way you’ll find a few small rewards; The Wizard of Oz Museum and Winery in Wambego ( free wine, yay!), and the Russell Stover factory in Abilene ( free samples, double yay!). When you get to Oakley, take a break. At first Oakley, might look like another stop along the road, and in some ways it is. Gas stations, fast food, 80 million year old rock chalk formations. Wait, what?!
In the flat lands, of the high plains tucked away in the middle of a farmer’s field are Monument Rocks, the nation’s first National Natural Landmark. The formations some reaching as high as 70ft. tall were formed millions of years ago when what is now Western Kansas was a vast inland sea. In the summer months, the rocks become home to thousands of tiny cliff swallows, who nest along the rocks. Stand among them for a moment, listen to the quiet, and stare up at their size, and for a few seconds, and you’ll be saying to yourself, ” I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…”
On your way back to the highway, stop by the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center for a little local history, a friendly chat, clean bathrooms, and free coffee. Free coffee, yep. Worth the stop.
The lesson from Kansas: Step outside, get some air, and expect the unexpected.