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when driving between Wichita and the Oklahoma state line, you may find yourself on a toll road. (the cost for an ordinary vehicle is only $1.90 as of 2012, unless you are taking it farther than Wichita.)
In the middle of this stretch of road (and also in the middle of the road itself, that is, in a widened portion of the median) is a rest stop. It includes a large fast-food restaurant and also a gas station. Although it is the only gas station on this section of road, the gas price is generally in line with average gas prices in the area.
These photos give an idea of what the rest area is like.
Updated May 6, 2012
If you have ever wanted to visit a real fort from the heydays of the american west Fort Larned is the the most authentic one. While it will not look like a John Wayne fort it is the actual fort from the period of expansion after the American Civil War.
Generals and Native Leaders met here to negotiate treaties. Attacks on native settlements were launched from here. The west ward trails of emigration and commerce were patrolled from here.
This is the real thing. It will give you a new appreciation for what it must have been like to have been stationed out in the west for a trooper. It's location and condition are still very similar to what you would have seen if you had ridden here on horseback in 1865. So visit here and put those movies into perspective.
Many of the famous figures of the American west came through Fort Larned. From George Custer to the Buffalo Soldiers.
Get off the free way and really see the west as it was.
Updated Dec 12, 2011
Address: 1767 KS Hwy 156 Larned, KS 67550-9321
The Fort Scott National Historic Site is from a period of American history that's not well represented elsewhere. It gives you a chance to see what Americans were up to in the period before the American Civil War.
It is the only installation that the American government ever built to keep the white Americans from migrating west. The administration of Jackson championed the concept of Native removal in order to deal with inter-racial conflict. Basically in the 1840s they drew a line north to south. The land on the west was for Natives (that were forcibly moved from their eastern homes) and the east was for the whites.
This was meant to be a permanent solution to the "Native Problem¨. In reality the policy was very short lived. About 10 years.
This unwalled Fort was the home of Dragoons and Infantry and was constructed by the soldiers themselves. It is extremely well preserved and restored.
Do not miss the following
„« The rare Mountain Howitzer in the building on the NE corner of the site.
„« The wild uniforms in the infantry barracks
„« The military style stable
„« The Sergeant¡¦s Quarters around to the rear of the infantry barracks¡¦
„« Visit the kitchen in the officers' quarters. Try to visit in the morning the light is very nice.
„« There is a very cool bakery on the SE corner.
Try to hit it on one of their special events weekends they shoot off the cannons and have lots of reenactors on site. During the summer they have scheduled guided tours. It is hard to visualize how the place was so I recommend the tour if you have the time
Updated Dec 12, 2011
Address: P.O. Box 918 Fort Scott, KS 66701
Phone: (620) 223-0310
The Garden of Eden
This home of an old American Civil War veteran is one of the finest examples of folk art anywhere in the world. This guy received a double pension from the army and built a concrete rambling sculpture garden around his home. The house itself is constructed of limestone logs on the high plains.
He married late in life a young Bohemian immigrant who had to abandon the home during the great dust bowl years. It was later reoccupied and is now a historic site.
If you drive across Kansas YOU MUST STOP and see this. It is just a short drive off Inter-state 70.
Updated Dec 8, 2011
Address: Lucas Kansas67648
If you watch movies you tend to think that the golden age of the cowboy took place in Montana or Colorado. In reality it was in much of central Kansas.
The most famous of all Cattle Trails crossed through and terminated in Kansas. The wild cowboys burning up their pay in saloons and houses of ill repute took place in Abilene.
As you travel through Kansas you have the chance to see and experience the landscape that formed these men into the American Icon that they became.
Many towns have monuments and small museums. But the real thing to focus on here is the overall feeling of the prairie and the wide open places. I highly recommend at least one night sleeping on the ground outside. At some points you can see ruts in the trail from the actual drives over 130 years ago.
If you really love the cowboys I recommend visiting a ranch for a day or two riding a horse. See my tip on ranches to visit.
Written Sep 18, 2011
Kansas is well represented in some films. There is a lot of misrepresentation also. Many of the movies that are made about events that took place in Kansas a filmed in the American Mountain West.
Here is a list of films that I think capture some of the feel of Kansas. I recommend them to you before you come here. They do a pretty good job of giving you a feel of what Kansas was like in times past. They can “get you in the mood” a bit.
Red River: What cattle drives were like
Dances With Wolves: The beginning of the trip west has a great sequence in a military post and settlers and natives interaction. Many of the most famous massacres of natives and settlers took place in Kansas. Some of the most frontier abductions took place in Kansas
Ride With The Devil: This little known film will give you a good sense of Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas days of the American Civil War.
In Cold Blood: A Gritty 50’s look at Kansas.
The Grapes Of Wrath: The dust bowl is a big part of Kansas history
Any Buster Keeton Film: He is from Kansas there is a Keeton Film Festival each year in Iola, Kansas
Any Louise Brooks Film: Also a Kansas native and very interesting. She was a real trend setter. You often see her signature hair style even today
Updated Sep 18, 2011
Website: Netflix Netflix%L
Kansas has some of the last tall grass prairie. If you visit Kansas you should check it out. It is very accessible by car. It is interesting in all seasons. The spring and summer bring verdant growth and wild flowers. Fall and winter shows bronze mature landscape.
There is a wide range of wildlife much of which is migratory so it is interesting during any season.
It is wide open so bring the proper clothing and a good pair of field glasses are a good idea.
Updated Sep 18, 2011
Address: P.O. Box 585 Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845
Phone: (620) 273-8494
The Grandview Ranch is a working Family owned ranch in the flint hills of Kansas. Jan Jantzen and his family offer you a chance to see what life on a working ranch is like.
They burn their prairie off on a regular basis to manage the Grandview Ranch. They have openings for you to help and or observe the burn. It is a fun and exciting event.
There is a campfire meal and live music afterwards. It makes for a unique and memorable adventure.
They also have a wide range of other ranch activities that you can arrange to take part in.
Updated Sep 18, 2011
Address: Grandview Ranch - 151 Road 130, Emporia, Kansas, 6
See and climb around in a huge steam shovel. There a many old mines in southeastern Kansas. One of the remnants of that time is a huge steam shovel. It is like a great ship stranded out on the prairie. It is a novelty at least and a grand adventure if you have some imagination.
I thought it would be lame but we took some kids there and they went nuts. My nephews ask to go every time they come to visit.
Do not forget to stop at Josie’s Restaurant in Scammon for dinner on your way out.
Updated Sep 18, 2011
Address: West Mineral Kansas
Site of the world's largest hand dug well, Greensburg, Kansas. The well is 109 feet deep, 32 feet wide, and was completed in 1888. The only digging tools were a shovel and a pick. Until 1932 this well provided Greensburg's water supply, and in 1939 became a tourist attraction, complete with the obligatory tacky roadside signs.
If you want to pay a few bucks you can go inside the enclosure, even descend the 105 steps to the bottom of the well. Another "attraction" at the site is a 1000 pound pallasite meteorite. Greensburg must have been the bullseye of some kind of target shoot, as area farmers have dug up numerous meteorites over recent decades.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: 315 So Sycamore, Greensburg, Kansas
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