changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration
& photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals
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- July 1, 2014: Mary joined us as we paid a second visit to Sizzles
BBQ Bar & Grill in Shawnee, giving us a chance to sample three more
entrees: BBQ brisket & short ribs, and ribeye steak.
servings were still very large. Part of the brisket and half of the ribs
went home with us. The flavor of both was good, though the meat on the
ribs did not want to come off the bone. The ribeye was very good.
offers a wider variety of side dish choices with out additional charge
than many restaurants. The sauteed portabello mushrooms were very good!
Sizzles BBQ Bar & Grill
- July 3, 2014: Our first overnight Kansas trip of the summer began
after work on Thursday, when Linda and I headed west to check into the
Salina Best Western and have supper at one of my vary favorite unique Kansas
restaurants, the Renaissance Cafe,
which occupies part of an old high school in Assaria (population 413).
make a serious effort to get back to this fine Italian restaurant at least
once a year. I really love their steak venato (ribeye dredged in seasoned
bread crumbs and grilled, then smothered in a savory sauce of brown mustard,
shallots, mushrooms, cognac and cream), but decided to try the steak Porcini
this time. It is also a ribeye, but dry rubbed with spices, grilled and
served with porcini mushroom butter. It was good, but the Venato is still
am going to have a tough decision the next time. Linda gave me a taste
of her salmon with a sun dried tomato, shallot, garlic, thyme, white wine
& butter sauce and it was some of the best salmon I have every had.
each had the Gorgonzola romaine salad and we split a crispy calamari starter
& a dark chocolate bread pudding with bourbon vanilla sauce which left
my mouth felling wonderful.
settling in for the evening, we stopped at another unique Kansas restaurant,
but this one is at the other end of the spectrum. The 92 year old Cozy
Inn has just six stools and the only hot food prepared is one ounce
burgers. After the wonderful meal I had just had, I couldn't bring myself
to have a burger, but checked on the current menu and took a few pictures.
The interior of the restaurant always smells like hamburger & onions,
and after just a couple of minutes inside, Linda could smell the grease
and onions on my clothes and hair when I returned to the vehicle.
- July 4, 2014: WI had been careful to plans things for July 4th, to
include attractions and restaurants which would be open on the holiday,
but when we arrived at the "Cathedral
of the Plains" (Saint Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria, Kansas)
where I intended to do new interior photography, there were many vehicles
parked in front and people in dress clothes were walking in. We pushed
on to Hays.
Hays we first visited St. Joseph Catholic Church. Ellis County has a large
number of magnificent stone churches which were built by the Volga German
immigrants when the area was at its peak. The current building were usually
about the 3rd structure at a given location and are very impressive. I
already have pages devoted to several of them, but a service had been in
progress when I last tried to photograph this 1887 building. The interior
was interesting, but not nearly as impressive as the outside and I don't
think that this one is going to get a page of its own.
nearby Ellis County Historical Society's museum turned out to be very nicely
done. The displays were attractive and professional looking and the descriptions
talked about the items on exhibit, their context and how they related to
other items. This is a big contrast to the many historical societies whose
artifacts are just setting there more or less at random and have labels
which tell you more about the person that donated the item, then about
what it is or represents.
was blown away by the work of Ellis County's renaissance man. Justis Bissing
Jr was a Volga German immigrant who came to Hays in the latter half of
the 19th Century. He was primarily an architect and entrepreneur, but he
was also an fabulous cabinet maker. The piece which impressed me the most
was a 6' tall "Apostle" clock with incredible detail. Using only a foot
powered jigsaw, he spent years working on the clock which is constructed
from seven woods and has four tubular chimes, two brass clock works, and
eleven electric lamps that light up when the clock chimed. I wish it was
collects postcards and they sometimes give us clues to new things to see.
In the museum gift shop she found a card for the Kansas Merci Boxcar Museum,
which I had never heard of, and we went there when we left the Historical
was a fairly good reason I hadn't heard of it. The "museum" consists of
one boxcar in front of the American Legion Hall. It is one of 49 boxcars
given to the United States by the grateful citizens of France in 1949.
It was originally displayed in Topeka and then was taken on a 140 day tour
of 120 Kansas towns ending on Armistice Day, November 11, 1949. I found
the story more interesting than the outside of the car. It was behind bars,
so we couldn't see if there was anything inside.
lunch we tried K's Diner in Hays, which is known for "home cooking." The
restaurant was very clean and the service was good. The onion rings and
chicken fried steak were pretty good, Linda didn't care for the catfish,
which seemed to have the same batter as the rings and steak. Although the
French fries were fresh cut, they didn't takes that good and the corn tasted
like straight from a can with no effort to make it more appealing.
Hays, we headed north, stopping occasionally to drive through the few small
towns along the route and take some photos. The neatest stop was Palco
where we photographed a restored classic Shelly service station, which
appears to house a sandwich shop called, "The Spot." When we walked past
the adjacent grocery store, we saw signs with the welcome news, "Auction
Cancelled - The community has come together and the Palco Grocery and Deli
will continue as an ongoing business and will continue to serve the city
of Palco and surrounding area." Searching online in the evening, we learned
that the auction had been scheduled for 3 weeks earlier. I hope it works
only planned stop for the afternoon was Nicodemus
National Historic Site. Nicodemus was established in July 1877 by freed
slaves leaving Kentucky. After reaching a peak of 600 residents over
then 15-20 years, the town failed when the railroad passed the community
by. There are about 40 residents today, as well as several buildings being
maintained by the National Park Service.
we were preparing to leave, we saw a sign saying "Ernestine's BBQ ... Gift
Shop" and saw a small home with the door and windows open. Wanting to support
small town businesses, we stopped and checked out the gift shop, but didn't
see anything that we wanted. We were still full from lunch, so we got cold
drinks and a personal sized sweet potato pie to take with us and eat in
the car. That warm pie was so good!!!.
stayed the night at the LandMark Inn in Oberlin. It occupies the Bank of
Oberlin building built in 1886, the Reeder Building built in 1888 and a
small modern addition. We had the "Judges Chambers" suite right above the
front door of the bank. It was a nice room, but had too much light in the
morning and was too far from the wifi. I had to go to the other end of
the building to get on the internet.
Teller Room Restaurant which occupies the former bank lobby was closed
for Independence Day, but the owner, Gary Anderson, had committed to preparing
a meal for hotel guests who wanted them. The menu changes daily, with three
options each evening. Linda had shrimp scampi and I had a open face chicken
salad sandwich which was toasted with cheese. Considering the limited choice,
we were both quite happy with our selections.
Teller Room is known for its desserts (which are available anytime for
hotel guests) and we split a "German chocolate hot fudge" - a house specialty
which was invented after a German chocolate cake turned out differently
than planned and they looked for a use for it. I really liked it, eating
more than I should have! It is a sundae dish with German chocolate cake,
ice cream, butter pecan frosting topping, and hot fudge sauce for $3.50
supper, we drove around town, then returned to the hotel to play board
games and catch up on the Internet.
Shelly service station
- July5, 2014: Saturday's breakfast was included at the Landmark Inn:
spicy sausage links, egg/cheese/potato dish, scone and fruit. All were
drove up to the Nebraska state line and investigated Cedar Bluffs, a town
of perhaps 2 dozen people. We returned to Oberlin by 10AM to be at the
Decatur County Last Indian Raid Museum when it opened, but when we went
up to the door, there were prominent signs saying that photography was
not permitted. Since the point of the visit was to photograph the museum
for my web site, we went on our way.
headed east on US36, investigating small towns and making our way to Norton
to the They Also Ran Gallery. The gallery is part of the First National
Bank, but is normally closed on the weekend. The curator had made arrangements
for us to be let into the gallery if we made it there before the bank closed
for the day at 11:30AM.
gallery is devoted to Presidential Candidates who were defeated, and it
has received a lot of attention from around the country. Each Inauguration
Day there is an inauguration party honoring the newest member of the gallery.
Although the gallery is mainly devoted to the two major parties, some significant
third party candidates are also included.
the street, we also found an cute restored vintage Conoco gas station.
There are so many of these vintage stations across Kansas, with no signs
explaining who is doing the work or why.
we visited the replica stagecoach station in the municipal roadside park.
The original Station 15 was located near the present day community and
was a stop on the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Express Company. The stagecoach
company had a very short life and was reorganized as the Central Overland
California and Pikes Peak Express which launched the Pony Express. These
companies were all in a period of about 3 years.
leaving town, we had lunch at the Town & Country. Linda had a club
sandwich and I had a chicken fried steak sandwich, They both came on toasted
white sandwich bread and came with potato chips for $7 & $8.50. They
were OK, but the best thing was that it was quick.
continued to stop briefly at some of the small towns, but the next destination
was the Home on the Range Cabin, which recently had a major restoration.
The one room cabin was where Dr. Brewster N. Higley wrote the poem "My
Western Home" which was made into the song "Home on the Range," the Kansas
had never been there before and we followed it up with a visit to another
place she had never visited, the Geographical
Center of the contiguous United States, near Lebanon, Kansas. While
we were there, another family found a camera which had been left behind.
We looked at the photos and saw that it was a family of 4 who had recently
been at the Big Ball of Twine, Nicodemus, and Garden of the Gods, but there
was no clue who they were. The family who found it decided to look for
a Sheriff's office in Lebanon to leave the camera.
were running out of afternoon and I wanted to be at the next stop before
4PM. so we sped through the next few small towns to go to Belleville and
the Boyer Gallery. I hadn't been to the
gallery since 2007 and returning to share it with Linda was a real treat.
Boyer lost a leg when he was 35 years old. He needed something to do, had
always been mechanically creative, and started carving. For about 50 years
he has made fascinating mechanical creations with tiny mechanisms to make
them move. The mechanisms are as beautiful as the sculptures and many of
the sculptures are funny. Others have ball bearing moving on various intricate
tracks, bouncing off of trampolines and otherwise moving in multiple complex
patterns. We stayed until the museum closed at 5PM.
had supper at a place which we stumbled across in the next county seat,
Mayberry's in Washington. The steakhouse occupies a large older building
and has done some interesting things with the dinning room, including naming
all of the booths for nearby townships and putting signs over them. But
the food was uninteresting. The onion rings were ordinary frozen rings.
The French fries and fried potatoes were fresh cut, but not cooked enough
and not very good. My prime rib came medium well, not the medium rate which
I ordered. I think the server realized it was wrong and would have taken
it back, but I never send anything back.
hotel was the 1905 Weaver Hotel in Waterville. After sitting quietly empty
for years, the Waterville Preservation Society purchased the building,
restored it, and volunteers have now operated it for 5 years. Most of the
hotel was full with a family reunion when I made our reservation, so we
settled for one of the smallest rooms. The size of the room and cramped
bathroom reminded us of Europe, but everything was up to date and we had
Along the railroad tracks in Cedar Bluffs
- July 6, 2014: Sunday morning we slept in, just getting up in time
to have the included breakfast before 10AM. I didn't care much for the
breakfast which had fruit, scrambled eggs and a potato egg dish which I
walking around the one block downtown the night before, we had seen a sign
on the railroad station museum across the street which listed several phone
numbers to call to get a tour. The first number listed was the Weaver Hotel,
so when we came down to breakfast we asked about it. When we finished breakfast,
Ann Walter (who appears to be a force for Waterville promotion) was already
waiting to show us the museum, then the adjacent Opera House and the wooden
caboose museum. She did a wonderful job!
on highway K9. our first real stop of the day was Alcove
Spring, which is near Independence Crossing, where pioneer wagons following
the Oregon Trail forded the Big Blue River. Part of the year there is a
falls dropping down to the spring, but there were just a few drops a minute
falling at this time. I had been here before, but wanted to take better
photos of the graffiti carved in the rock by pioneers who stopped at the
spring in the 1800s.
spring was named by a member of the Donner Party in 1846. This location
was also the site of the first recorded death in the Donner Party - 70
year old Sarah H. Keyes, who died from consumption.
continued on K-9, making passes through the few communities we passed,
until we turned off to visit the unincorporated community of Kelly. A few
years ago a friend told me that the tiny community had a huge Catholic
Church and this was my first time to check it out. Wow! The 1915 German
Gothic inspired limestone building is very ornate, inside and out. We must
have spent 20 minutes photographing the altars, statues, windows and other
features. The ornate wooden pulpit has a staircase leading up to it and
a canopy shaped like a large shell. St. Bede's will be getting its own
was getting much later than we planned to have lunch, so we hurried on
to Boomers Steakhouse & Grill in Holton. It turned out to be the second
best meal of the trip and while it is not unique enough to make our primary
list, will be added to the list of other restaurants worth visiting. We
each started with a pretty straightforward, but very good French onion
soup and we split a warm homemade spinach & artichoke dip. Linda had
Broasted chicken and I had a broiled rib eye. They each came with fresh
cut fried potato wedges and garlic toast. The wedges were a little overdone,
but still good. The garlic toast was very good.
were tempted by the house made strawberry pie, but had already had a lot
of food, so we did without dessert this time. I am pretty sure that we
will be back.
drove back north and then east to Whiting, where someone had emailed me
about a waterfall on the Delaware River. I was expecting a half mile
hike, but I hadn't expected the heavy growth and rocky, wet shore with
no trail. When we asked a fisherman about getting to the falls, he suggested
wading the half mile, which did not appeal. He also mentioned a nearby
farmer who might less us drive across his land, but no one was home at
that house, so we went on.
final stop of the trip was Muscotah, just 4 miles away. It is the hometown
of Joe Tinker, who was a Chicago Cub and part of the early 1900s double
play combo of "Tinker to Evers to Chance." We were there for Joe Tinker
Day last July when many things were going on and we wanted to see what
more had happened. A museum was being developed in a former water tank
which was panted to be the World's Largest Baseball, and they were starting
a mural at Joe Tinker Field. When
we arrived at the field, the nice mural which adorned the snack bar was
completed, but the back stop and bases had been removed from the field.
While I was photographing the mural, a wasp stung me on the lower lip.
Nursing my injury, we went on.
new work has been done on the unfinished interior of the World's
Largest Baseball, the seams have started falling off, and the signs
were removed. This was a disappointing conclusion to the trip.
St. Bede's Catholic Church
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