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O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

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By Renee-Lucie Benoit | Aug 19, 2015

I took a break from blogging because I was on a road trip to Kansas with my sister for a couple weeks. Everyone joked, “Is this going to be a re-do of Thelma and Louise?” I said, “No, unless it is the version in which Thelma and Louise live and they take another road trip 30 years later. In our fictitious version we’ve left our rotten husbands years ago and no sleazy bar crawler will look at us much less a Brad Pitt look-alike at a roadside motel. If we went in to rob a convenience store the proprietor would laugh himself silly. No, this isn’t Thelma and Louise. Let’s call it Toni and Lucille.”

When my sister and I made plans for me to visit her in Colorado, I immediately thought, “Road Trip!” and stated emphatically that I wanted to take a few days to see the Flint Hills, Dodge City and wind up in Topeka to meet the staff at Capper’s Farmer. So that’s exactly what we did. I can say most sincerely that the staff at Capper’s is a jolly bunch. My sister and I enjoyed talking and lunching with them. Thank you, Capper’s!

Then we hit the road. The last time I was in Kansas was when I was 10. We were headed to Los Angeles from Iowa to visit my mom’s sister. All I remember is peering out the window of the tiny travel trailer in the early dawn and being flabbergasted by the sight of …. nothing! The horizon was flat as the proverbial pancake. Featureless, amazing, thrilling. This time I found that my 10-year-old remembrance was woefully incomplete.

Not only is Kansas beautiful, it is varied in terrain. The east is rolling hills, wooded for the most part. The middle is covered by the Flint Hills, north and south, and gorgeous. It is only the west that is flat. Even then, if you look close, you see lots of interesting detail especially in the Tall Grass Prairie.

We start our road trip in Colorado with a detour but in no time at all we see the “Welcome to Kansas” road sign. Our first stop is Hays. This is one of the beautiful limestone homes they have there. I love the spreading elm tree in the yard.

Among the early residents in Hays were groups of English settlers, some of whom built the first church in the town, the Presbyterian Church that now houses the Ellis County Historical Society’s museum. I love this beautiful church with its amazing windows in the waning light. Most of the stone work in Hays was by Germans who came to Kansas by way of Volga, Russia.

(Half of) Buffalo Bill (his upper half) stands firm in downtown Hays, Kansas.

Would any of you fence builders care to guess what happens when the wood rails rot? How are they replaced when the posts are stone?

On the next leg we see more evidence of expert masonry in Alma, Kansas.

I’d live here.

Or here …

They have great cheese in Alma , too.

After Alma, we’re back on the road to the Tall Grass Prairie Monument.

Along the way we stop at a marker that explains all the stone fences. In 1867, the pioneers didn’t have easy access to barbed wire. But they had stone … and a lot of time … and patience … and permission.

This is a section of one that goes on for miles.

Welcome to the Tall Grass Prairie.

This barn is on the property of the National Tall Grass Prairie Monument. Pretty impressive. When I think of all the work that went into it I think, where’s the Ben-Gay?

The largest hand dug well in the world is in Greensburg, Kansas. It is a marvel of engineering and was completed in 1888 as the town’s original water supply. It’s 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter.

In Dodge City we miss The Annual Cattle Drive through downtown. On the outskirts of town we see the feedlot where the cattle probably came from.

Near Oakley, Kansas, Taos Pueblo Indians came looking for relief from the oppression by the Spanish.

In Oakley we get up to some high jinks at the gigantic sculpture of Buffalo Bill chasing down his quarry. I’m making like the Road Runner. Meep Meep!

The marksman and horseman in me can’t help but critique the sculpture. No way would he have been shooting from horseback with the heavy Colt-Paterson Model 1839 shotgun.

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I think I make a pretty good-looking Buffalo Bill, don’t you?

My sister and I had a grand time in Kansas. There was so much else to see and we were limited for time. We can’t wait to go back and pick up where we left off.

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