If The Creek Don’t Rise

01 water and rosesLinda Burton posting from Topeka, Kansas – The morning light in Jefferson City revealed water. The weather radio was exhausted after a night of blaring out flood warnings and thunderstorm realities and tornado possibilities. At least, I was exhausted from listening to it. The front desk had warned all guests to park in the back lot, assuring us the hotel wouldn’t flood but the street out front probably would. It did. I threw on yesterday’s clothes and headed outside for a walk around the premises, glad to discover it was only the front street under water just past the 01 water uprose bushes; from the back parking lot I could exit uphill and make it to the highway just fine. “It’s a go,” I told the cats, as I hauled the cart into the room. One shower and four cartloads later, we were on the road, in good faith that last night’s line of storms was far to the east, and the roads west had not been breached by Missouri River overflow. It was 224 miles to Topeka; 30 miles to Columbia on US 63 (cross the Missouri River once); then I-70 for 128 miles (cross the Missouri River twice) to the Kansas state line (cross the Kansas 01 topeka on 70 signRiver just before it flows into the Missouri). Luck was with us; the Missouri looked angry and long stretches of lowlands lay underwater, but all roads were open. Independence lured us to stay in Missouri a little longer. The Harry S Truman Presidential Library! The National Frontier Trails Museum! Kansas City, Missouri offered the Kansas City Royals and tall buildings and the American Jazz Museum. But no stopping; it was westward ho to the Sunflower state, hoping to find Toto in Kansas today. And sure enough, the sun came out.

01 toll plazaThe sun came out, and a toll booth popped up. I-70 between Kansas City and Topeka is tolled, I haven’t got the skivvy yet on why, but the Kansas Turnpike Authority promises no taxpayer funds are used to maintain that section of highway. I wound up paying $2.75 in all; and next thing you know, I’ve arrived. Four cartloads later, the cats were 01 jack on bed topekasnoozing on the bed in their new Kansas domicile, and I had my feet propped up reading about I-70, aka America’s Main Street.

Did you know I-70 was the first interstate highway project started in the United States? And that the portion of it in Kansas was the first segment to be paved, and completed, in the interstate system? I know you know that President Eisenhower (a native of Abilene, Kansas, by the way) championed the creation of an interstate system, back in the 50’s. Officially named the Dwight D Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Today the interstate system has a length 01 kansas signof over 46,000 miles, making it the largest public works project in history. The I-70 portion runs from a Park and Ride in Baltimore, Maryland, to I-15 in Cove Fort, Utah. And 424 miles of I-70 cross the state of Kansas.

If I were to travel it all, what would I see? I flipped through the little booklet. Kansas City, Bonner Springs, Lawrence. Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas; Lecompton is next, with the Territorial Capital Museum and Constitution Hall. President Eisenhower’s parents got married in Lecompton, I 01 topeka signread. Topeka is next, the capital city and the site of the Brown v Board of Education National Museum, I’ll get back to that. Manhattan is further west and a bit north of I-70, dubbed The Little Apple, it is located in the rolling Flint Hills (who said Kansas is flat?). Next Junction City and Fort Riley, with the US Cavalry Museum and the Custer House, the 1st Territorial Capitol of Kansas; and then you get to Abilene.

Abilene is Ike’s hometown, as I mentioned; it was a wild cowtown in its early days, till tamed by Wild Bill Hickock. It’s pretty placid today; people come to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, but they are still wild enough to have a Wild Bill Hickock Rodeo every July. Next Salina and Russell, and the Saline and Smoky Hill Rivers; then Hays. Hays is the “German Capital of the Plains” and puts on not one but two 01 twineOktoberfests every year. You can find everything from a miniature horse farm to a giant dinosaur display to magnificent historic churches in Hays; and if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can head north towards Nebraska for the World’s Largest Ball of Twine at Cawker City (40’ 3” circumference), the Garden of Eden at Lucas (a collection of visionary concrete sculptures erected by S F Dinsmoor), and the geographic center of the contiguous 48 states at Lebanon, where a chicken wandered around my feet when I visited there in 2009. All worth a side trip, I guarantee.

Back on I-70, WaKeeney marks the halfway point between Kansas City and Denver; Oakley is next; it claims to be the birthplace of the “Legend of Buffalo Bill” – their statue of Buffalo Bill is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. At the Fick Fossil and History Museum you can see the oldest documented mosasaur skull in the world; also a “soddie” house. When you get to Colby 01 sunsetyou are just 53 miles from Colorado; you cross into the Mountain Time Zone, on the high plains. The west side of the state is where Mt Sunflower is located; at 4,039 feet it is the highest point in Kansas.

A very big state, and I haven’t seen Toto yet, but I’ll keep looking. I’ve got plenty of time, and the sunset promises some decent weather.