This week Road Trips with Tom switches gears and presents a photo essay focusing on the much-maligned state of Kansas. All photos are mine. Double-click on a photo to enlarge it.
Poor Kansas. Nobody takes a road trip to Kansas unless they’re visiting Auntie Em. No, they drive through Kansas, usually as fast as possible. Their view is confined to what they can see at 75 mph from an interstate highway. When you do that, one place looks pretty much like any other.
They miss the essence of what makes this place special: Amber waves of grain, for sure. Prim little towns, many of which have seen better days. Friendly people who are genuinely glad you stopped by. County fairs, where kids can win blue ribbons for their prized hogs. Fried chicken dinners and pitchers of lemonade. High schools with rodeo teams. Porch swings. Cattle feed lots you can smell from miles away. Two-lane highways and railroad tracks that run arrow-straight toward the horizon. And the ubiquitous grain elevators – the skyscrapers of the prairie.
Is this romantic notion of America’s heartland still relevant? Maybe at one time, but no longer. We’re an urban/suburban nation with a very diverse population. The new heartland is probably Silicon Valley or someplace in New Jersey.
See the romantic old heartland while you can. And don’t forget your camera!
Start by getting off the damn freeway. If you’re headed east or west, try State Route 9. You won’t see any cities, but you will see the world’s largest ball of twine and a handsome old stone county courthouse or two.
- US 56
Turn off your cell phone. Find a place to pull over. Shut the engine. Breathe deeply. Listen to the wind and the songs of the birds. Get out and walk in small towns. Eat at a hometown café; ask for the special, and don’t forget the pie. Talk to strangers. Watch how the light changes as the sun marches across the sky. Here, in Kansas, the sky is part of the scenery.
Enjoy the photos. We’ll be back on March 19 with an update.