Kansas Travel Blog

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration & photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact him.
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bacon at Bichelmeyer Meat Market in Kansas CIty, Kansas
Wednesday - July, 2018: We began the day with the annual youth pancake breakfast at Lenexa United Methodist Church. The small fee for parking is applied o the breakfast, so that effectively you have free parking right next to the Community Days Parade in Lenexa, Kansas.

This year's parade was a little less interesting because 2/3 of the entries were politicians and their supporters. The parade route parallels the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and actually crosses the tracks. The parade was delayed three times as trains passed through town.

For lunch we had BBQ at the Lenexa American Legion Post.


Burlington Northern Santa Fe train in Lenexa, Kansas BNSF locomotive
Tuesday - July 10, 2018: We drove to downtown Shawnee to have supper at Betty C's Bar & Grill. Overall, the food is typical bar food, but one dish stands out for me, the Reuben Rolls (Egg roll filled with corned beef & Swiss cheese, served with Reuben sauce). The chicken wings are also good.

The building housing Betty C's once held a place called Penny Droppers and the floor is made of pennies.

Berry C's is next door to the historic Aztec Theater, which is slowly being restored. It appears that the projection that it would reopen this summer was overly optimistic. The plan is to eventually show new and classic movies,  plus host live theater and events.

There is a marker across the street  "Oct 17, 1862  A band of Confederate guerrillas led by William Quantrill corralled the residents of Shawneetown into the square at this site. A majority of the town's buildings and homes were looted and set on fire nearly destroying the town. Thirteen persons were injured and two citizens murdered during this Civil War raid." 

Quantrill attacked Shawneetown again in 1863, just before his better known burning of Lawrence, Kansas.


Reuben Rolls - Betty C's Bar ad Grill Reuben Rolls

Aztec Theater - Shawnee, Kansas Aztec Theater

Quantrill Raid marker - Shawnee, Kansas Quantrill Raid marker

Saturday - July 14, 2018: We took out of state house guests to Lansing and Leavenworth to show them a little of the two communities, starting with Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing. Are particularly wanted to show them the two "baby mounds" of infant and children's graves. They are unique to this cemetery, or at least the name for them is unique.

We saw many unusual monuments in the cemetery.

On our way back to K-7 we drove through the VA complex in Leavenworth with its national cemetery and unique Chapel of the Veterans. We saw that construction or demolition crews were working on many of the empty buildings.

Our featured stop was the C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, with its three historic carousels (1950, 1913 and ~1850). They have a nice film about Parker's heritage, which I had not seen before. The highlight of a visit is a ride on the 1913 Parker Carry-us-all.

We had a late lunch at Retro Diner, arriving shortly before they closed for the day at 2PM. Highlights of the meal were the onion rings, chicken philly and shrimp po 'boy. I was less impressed with the jalapeno burger and French fries. The burger could have been much better if the mixture of diced onions and jalapenos had not been raw.

The prices were quite reasonable and the servings were huge.


baby mounds at Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing baby mound

C. W. Parker Carousel Museum - Leavenworth, Kansas 1950 Parker Carousel

Retro Diner - Leavenworth, Kansas Retro Diner

Sunday - July 15, 2018: We took out of state house guests to Lawrence, Kansas for a tour of the University of Kansas, followed by lunch at Ladybird Diner. The biscuits and gravy were OK, but the chicken pot pie was much better. The double cheeseburger was good.

On our way out of town, we visited Haskell Indian Nations University Cemetery, a moving reminder of the days when Haskell Indian Nations University an American Indian boarding school where the United States government forced Native American children to live, removed from the influences of their families and community.


Ladybird Diner - Lawrence, Kansas Ladybird Diner
Friday - July 20, 2018: Three days of exploring Kansas began with a drive to the tiny community of Wetmore, Kansas We were met at Spring Creek Classics by by Merlin King, who gave us a tour of the private classic car museum which occupies a lovingly restored old Chrysler Dealership, a 1925 Texaco Station and two additional buildings. Your tour begins in the 5,000 square foot Chrysler dealership, which houses 12 classic automobiles, memorabilia and automobile related toys, as well as automobile and truck repair tools. 

 We drove on to St. Marys, Kansas to the 3 building St. Marys Indian Pay Station Museum Complex. The are normally closed in the morning, but Rita Mickentaler had agreed to meet us this morning and David Steele gave us a detailed and entertaining tour of the museum buildings. The centerpiece of the museum is the 1857 Indian agency building for the Potawatomi Indians, which was used as a Pay Station for payments from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Potawatomi until 1870.

We had lunch at The Chef, a breakfast and lunch restaurant in downtown Manhattan, Kansas. We sampled the corned beef hash, smoked salmon bennie (house smoked salmon, eggs and hollandaise over rye toast with home style potatoes), and chicken fried steak-n-eggs. All of it was good, though I was less impressed with the hash than many people are. I would have liked more spices.

On our way back to the car, I spotted the Strecker Nelson West Gallery, an art gallery which I had long planned to visit.

While touring the gallery, we spotted the work of a familiar artist, the late Eric Abraham, whose work we had so enjoyed when he had the Flying Pig Studio & Gallery in Lucas, Kansas. We happened to mention liking his work to the owner and learned that they has several more pieces by Eric and we ended up buying a delightful ceramic pig in a hot air balloon basket, a true flying pig. 

Continuing west, we drove to downtown Abilene, Kansas to the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum. The free photography museum is operated jointly by the Jeffcoat Photography Foundation and the Dickinson County Historical Museum. The museum has a collection of antique photography equipment, cameras and thousands of photos which were taken during the years the studio operated.

We visited a second private car museum in Mentor, Kansas, just south of Salina. Rex Russell has about 80 classic cars and an automobile themed event space. Pretty much all of the vehicles are ready to be driven and regularly are. Rex had already driven several this day and during the summer months, the students from the McPherson College Auto Restoration Program come up one evening a week and take many of the vehicles out for a spin.

Before supper, we made a short visit to Coronado Heights Park in Lindsborg to check on the restoration work which was done last year. While it will help preserve the castle for the future, the changes weren't that noticeable.

Supper was a revisit of the Renaissance Cafe in Assaira. This was our send time there since Executive Chef Kevin O'Brien left the restaurant in 2 1/2 years ago. The restaurant is fine, but the food isn't the treat it used to be and their were multiple service failures. 

The Gorgonzola salad used to be one of my favorite salads anywhere, but this salad had little dressing and I could barely taste the cheese. The short menu had no dishes which particularly sounded interesting. Linda tried the grilled trout and I had the herb fettuccini. The trout was the best part of our meal. 

For dessert we split the $8 Chocolate Trio of flour less chocolate cake, hazelnut chocolate truffle and milk chocolate mousse. The server had warned us that the servings would be tiny tastes of the desserts and she was correct. Though none of them made me wish for more.

We are removing this restaurant from our listing of Unique Kansas Restaurants.

Still a little hungry, I stopped at the 96 year old Cozy Inn on our way to our hotel in Salina. The tiny, one ounce burgers are cooked on a tiny 1922 grill and are the only hot item offered by this little restaurant. There are no inside tables, just a counter with 4 stools. 


Spring Creek Classics - Wetmore, Kansas Spring Creek Classics

St. Marys Indian Pay Station Museum Pay Station Museum

Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum - Abilene, Kansas Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum

Rex Russell Car Museum - Mentor, Kansas Rex Russell's Classic Car Museum

Saturday - July 21, 2018: We had a nice morning dive, stopping briefly at Riverside Park in Halstead, which was used for scenes in the filming of the 1955 movie Picnic. The city of Halstead recently spent $85,000 to refurbish the famous swinging foot bridge.

As we continued south, we saw a church spire in the distance and when we got to the crossroad which led to it saw a sign saying, "Historic" St. Mark Catholic Church, so we drove over to St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in  Colwich, Kansas. It was built from 1903-1906, but has been remodeled and made more ornate over the years.

While photographing the exterior, we saw a couple doing wedding photos on the grounds. When we opened the outside doors, the organ was being played. so we quietly opened the interior doors to see if a service was in progress. It turned out to be the organist rehearsing before a wedding later in the day.

The interior is very ornate and a page about St. Mark will be added to our Beautiful Kansas Churches page.

We revisited Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard, to update info on our page, get fresh photos for the page and for Facebook posts. Then on to Eagle Valley Raptor Center in Garden Plains. It had been several years since we last visited this privately funded shelter for injured & orphaned raptors.

We had lunch at Benny's Burgers and Shakes in nearby Cheney, Kansas. This is our second visit at this counter serve restaurant and it deserves an entry on our list of Unique Kansas Restaurants. We had onion rings, fresh cut fries, a double hamburger and the new chicken Philly sandwich. All were good, with the chicken Philly being the standout. It was a huge sandwich for only $5.85.

Continuing west, we drove to Sawyer, Kansas, to the Family Food Store which we discovered during the Big Kansas Road Trip in May. It is a combination bakery, deli, specialty food store operated by the Wolf family, who are members of the Old German Baptist Brethren. We were too late to get any of that day's freshly homemade vanilla ice cream, but filled a cooler with items such as pie, candy and pizza. The pizza isn't traditional, the toppings are used to fill a pie shell. There are three kinds and we went with Greg's Style (ham, salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella). We baked it the next night and it was very good. A 9" pie is $12 and feed 2 - 4 people.

Just a few miles away, in Coats, Kansas, we photographed a petrified wood art environment which was created by Frank Lockert in the 1930s. Today the yard and adjoining house belong to Patsy A Fittro and her husband Glenn Knowles. We took as many photos as we could from the sidewalk and then knocked on the door to see if we could go into the yard. Patsy was delighted to show us the yard and cottage, constantly apologizing for the weeds. Glenn joined us shortly and quietly watched and listened as Patsy told us story after story, some of them about the art environment.

We reversed our course, then went on into Wichita, Kansas to continue our exploring in the evening. 

Our first was a fabulous Steampunk Art environment in a side yard West 17th Street in a residential neighborhood. The small yard is packed with steampunk, fantasy and science fiction art, with each piece fighting for your attention. There is so much entertaining art in this space that it is hard to take in. This was the high point of the weekend for me!

Supper was at Bite Me BBQ in the Old Town area of Wichita. The large barbeque restaurant was packed, but they soon found us a table. The food was good and the servings were huge! Linda had the rib meat sandwich and I had the 12oz smoked prime rib. They also offer 16 and 24oz prime rib. Our sides were corn and cottage fries. The prime rib had great flavor from the smoker and I liked the horseradish sauce.

The meal also included a trip to the condiment table which had a wide variety of pickled vegetables. 

We finished the meal, splitting a large serving of peach cobbler.

It wasn't quite dark yet, so we drove over to the Keeper of the Plains, near the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. About 50' southwest of the Westar Energy building at 777 W Central Ave there is an Arkansas River overlook where you stand on a large grating. There is no sign to tell you to peer down through the grating, but we knew to look nd found a 5' troll created by sculptor Constance Ernatt. 

We spent the night at the 1906 Hotel at Old Town. We went there for the location and the low weekend rate, but the converted warehouse makes an attractive hotel with a center atrium and while the room was a bit small, it was comfortable. We would stay there again.


Riverside Park - Halstead, Kansas Riverside Park

St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church - Colwich, Kansas St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church

Chicken Philly sandwich at Benny's Burgers and Shakes Chicken Philly sandwich

Family Food Store - Sawyer, Kansas. Family Food Store

Petrified wood art environment - Coats, Kansas Petrified wood

Gary Pendergrass Steampunk Art - Wichita, Kansas Gary Pendergrass Steampunk Art

Smoked Prime Rib at Bite Me BBQ Smoked Prime Rib

Troll - Wichita, Kansas Troll

Sunday - July 22, 2018: I was up early this morning and went out to take a walk around the Wichita Old Town neighborhood, taking photos and playing Pokemon Go.

Our first stop of the day was at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Derby, Kansas. It is the newest Kansas theme park, having opened in May 2018. On of the first things we noticed is that the cast members at Field Station: Dinosaurs have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They make saying something for what must be the 50th time that day seem important and interesting.

The 14 acre park has 44 life sized animatronic dinosaurs. They move their head, mouth or tail, rather than walking. The concessions area has no hot food, but offers sandwiches, candy, popsicles, soda, water, and sports drinks at surprisingly reasonable prices. 

There are a variety of programs and activities at sites throughout the park. Two attractions (geodesic dome ropes course and miniature golf course) have additional fees and can be visited without purchasing admission to the park.

Lunch was at a Wichita restaurant we have heard about for several years - Doo-Dah Diner. On Sunday the only option is a Brunch Buffet at $19.99. You can order some items off the menu in addition to large buffet and we sampled many items. A few of the highlights were the maple pepper bacon, jalapeno bacon, salmon, and monkey bread. The banana bread French toast we really good!

Our first stop on the drive home was Arvonia, Kansas, to photograph a couple of buildings which are being slowly restored - 1872 Arvonia School and 1882 Calvinistic Methodist Church. We usually sign the guest registers when we visit Kansas attractions, but when I opened the outdoor registration box at Arvonia School, there was a swarm of wasps and I was stung on the hand.

We also visited the cemetery where we understood there were a number of headstones in Welsh rather than English. Although we looked at a great many memorials, we only found a couple in Welsh.

The final stop of the trip was at Pome on the Range Orchard and Winery near Williamsburg, Kansas. It had been several years since my last visit, but things were little changed. We stocked up on freestone peaches, peach wines and apple wine. I particularly liked the flavor of the apple wine.


Field Station: Dinosaurs - Derby, Kansas Field Station: Dinosaurs

Doo-Dah Diner - Wichita, Kansas Doo-Dah Diner

Arvonia School - Arvonia, Kansas Arvonia School guest book

Monday - July 23, 2018: We added a new page about the Gary Pendergrass Steampunk Art environment which we toured in Wichita on Saturday evening.  
Friday - July 27, 2018: We added a new page about the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum opened in Abilene, Kansas.

We made a special trip to Topeka, Kansas after work to try out Lonnie Q's BBQ. I had been wanting to try this barbeque restaurant for a couple of years, but it has very limited hours. It is open for lunch on Monday - Friday and supper on Friday. They only stay open until 7:30PM and even going straight there, they had run out of the ribs well before we got there.

They were packed when we arrived nd the line to order took at least a half hour. By the end of our meal, most people had left and as the staff got caught up, the owner, Lon Weaver, visited the people at the remaining tables. Linda mentioned that we had been disappointed that the ribs had run out and he returned to the kitchen to bring back a few bits of the rib meat, so we could at least try it.

A few minutes later, Lonnie visited all of the tables, passing out ice cream bars and sandwiches. It felt like he concludes each Friday night this way.



Lon Weaver - Lonnie Q's BBQ Lon Weaver

Saturday - July 28, 2018: We added a new page about the St. Marys Indian Pay Station Museum in St. Marys, Kansas, which we toured last weekend.


Sunday - July 29, 2018: Friends joined us to help try Conroy's Public House in Overland Park. We started with Fried Brie, which was served with fruit, crackers and naan.

There were quite a few items on the menu that looked interesting and we also had onion rings, fish & chips, pork chops, and the Irishman sandwich. All were good, the pork chops and onion rings were the best.


Conroy's Public House - Overland Park, Kansas Conroy's Public House
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