When I’m not traveling internationally or working my day job, I try to get back to my home state for family visits at least three or more times a year. Occasionally when the opportunity strikes, I like to reserve one day for a road trip. I really don’t like to drive, but when I go to Kansas, the rules change and my heart yearns to hit the pavement for a new destination. Yes, I have a Kansas bucket list as well. I have traveled to 100 of the state’s 105 counties and one of these days I’m going to knock out the final four. But I still have the goal to go to every town in the state, which is something like 500 places. In March, I checked off 10 more places on one of the nicest weather days early spring could possibly yield.
I like to advocate the benefits of international travel, but I don’t want to discount the importance of discovering your own backyard. Kansas may get the reputation of being flat and boring, but if you look a little deeper, you can find something interesting if you open your mind to it. At least for me, I made a quest out of it. If you can’t escape it, explore it.
I won’t go into each little place I visited, but I focused on Jewell and Smith Counties in north central Kansas. The first main stop was the cabin that inspired the Kansas state song “Home on the Range,” which was restored and had a little walking trail around the farmstead next to where it was located. Another place I saw was probably one of Kansas’s biggest attractions: the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states. There were places ranging from true ghost town (Otego) to tiny hamlet (Bellaire) to small town (Tipton). I find something interesting everywhere I go because I am open to exploring it. There may be an abandoned house, a flowering bush, or simply a picturesque sky in the distance. I choose to be entertained by the ability to roam and let these places unfold before me while the dust kicks up behind me and country music blares through the static on the radio. For a moment, I can step with one foot into the past and take in the present at the same time. That’s probably a sappy way to imagine it, but I take great joy in these road trips, even though it is a lot of driving. I finished off the trip with a delicious steak dinner at Fly Boy’s Props & Hops Brewing in wee Sylvan Grove. To me, that was a day worth much more than just looking at dots on a map. I made those dots dance to life just for me.