The "I'm As Corny As Kansas In August" Tour
August 4-7, 2004
My plan was to cover as much of the state of Kansas as I could in four or five days, my goal being to visit and photograph as many of the "cornball" roadside attractions as I could find in that time. I did my research in advance, and had a rough itinerary printed out, with no particular starting or stopping point each day. I was traveling alone, so I had no rules, other than those that were self-imposed, the most rigid of which was STAY OFF THE INTERSTATES!!
I left my Tulsa, Oklahoma home at 7 a.m. and immediately proceeded to violate Rule #1, by heading north to Bartlesville, OK via I-75. This was planned, however, since the rule only applied to Kansas, and I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. It was raining, but only gently. Route 60 through Pawhuska, OK took me over the wonderfully-named Bacon Rind Creek and past rolling Osage Hills and pastoral cattle scenes.
Took the small roads into Wichita, and stopped at a Kansas Welcome Center and loaded up on literature. Amazingly enough, I was following another Inca Gold Series I Chrysler PT Dream Cruiser all the way from Ponca City to Wichita. Since there were only 7,000 of the model made, I see them VERY rarely. Rt. 81 north into Wichita is a rather seedy strip of old bars, strip joints, clubs, and motels. Some of the motels have retained their vintage signage, but not their ambience.
I needed gas, but finding an open service station wasn't easy. Finally, I filled up in Hesston. Seems a lot of the gas stations around there are recently abandoned, but I don't know why. My first "corny" stop was in McPherson, on a tip from the gentleman at the Welcome Center. I love model trains, and a good friend is constructing a major layout in his basement, so the stop was for both of us. The Belli Brothers Store (Musical Instruments and Model Trains) is vast, and in the basement is one of the largest model railroad layouts in the state of Kansas. The room, 25 ft. by 77 ft., is literally filled with trains of both HO and N scale. There are over 1300 ft. of track. For $1, they turned on the lights, opened the basement, and started the trains for me. Unfortunately, the lighting was so dim I didn't get great pictures, but here's the general idea. The store is at 110 S. Main.
On to Lindsborg, also known as "Little Sweden", where Swedes settled the land in the 19th Century and their influence still remains. Nearly every store on the Main Street has a Swedish theme or flavor, and the architecture is Scandinavian throughout the town. I particularly enjoyed seeing the brightly colored Swedish horses all over town.
Bright colors also abounded in the paintwork on the homes.
A cheerful and bustling town!
Outside of Lindsborg, and not cheerful and bustling at all, is Coronado Castle. Built as a WPA project in the 1930s, it sits on a high bluff overlooking the prairie, and the road to the "castle" is lonely and winding. I felt like the only person on earth as I drove up the long hill, and although the view from the top is impressive, the structure itself is eerie. Perfect place for an ambush, I thought! I have no idea why it exists, but a stone marker and the name "Coronado" leads me to believe it's a monument to the conquistadors. The inscription declares it "A Place to Share".
It was getting a little late, so I drove to Salina, where I knew there would be lodging for the night. I had only driven 368 miles, but thus far had seen everything I set out to see. I wanted to get an early start in the morning, because some of the best sights were yet to come.