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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Sunflowers at Gieringers Family Orchard and Berry Farm in Edgerton
Saturday - September 5, 2020: The day started overcast, but by 8:30 it showed signs of clearing and drove to Grinter's Sunflower Farm, between Tonganoxie and Lawrence. As we left I-70, we could see a fairly steady stream of cars heading for the farm. The primary field is at a new location from the past few years and they have cleared a nice parking area across the street.

We took photos at this location and then headed to the Grinter's "Sunflower General, where they sell crafts, T-shirts, local honey and baked goods. This space was changed this year in an attempt to allow for social distancing, but there were still more people than we felt comfortable with.

There was a second smaller sunflower field behind Sunflower General, with plants which were a few days behind the main field.

 

Grinter's Sunflower Field - Lawrence, Kansas Grinter's Sunflower Field
 
Sunday - September 6, 2020: After postponing Lenexa Kansas' concert series early in the summer, it has started back up with several Sunday night concerts in Sar-Ko-Par Park in the next few weeks. Tonight the performers were Sisters and Strings and there was a large appreciative crowd.

 

Lenexa concert series - Sar-Ko-Par Park Lenexa concert series
Monday - September 14, 2020: I drove to Mission, Kansas to have lunch at Town Topic, a 20 plus year old restaurant serving drive-in style food in a 1950's Valentine Diner. The first Town Topic was opened in Kansas City, Missouri by Claude Sparks in 1937 and there are three locations today.

Unfortunately, it is temporarily closed during COVID19.

While in Mission, I stopped at Cross Cemetery, a tiny family cemetery at the busy intersection of Lamar Avenue and Johnson Drive. Two grave stones are mounted in a red brick wall: Nancy Cross who died in 1886 and
Washington Cross who died in 1872. There is also a flat marker, "Dedicated to the pioneers of this community."

I have found little information about this cemetery online. Find A Grave says the bodies which were interred here were moved to Cornith Cemetery in Prairie Village, but does not list Nancy or Washington as buried there. Other sources say the burials are still here, with one claiming that this was the corner of the cemetery, with the other graves having been paved over.

 


 
 
 
 

Cross Cemetery - Shawnee, Kansas Cross Cemetery

Tuesday - September 15, 2020: I visited several places in Kansas City, Kansas, starting with Bichelmeyer Meats, a family meat market which has been in operation since 1946. I bought Old World Polish and Barbecue sausages and had a nice conversation with one of the butchers who wondered why I was taking photos.

After photographing former Fire Station Number 9, several murals and a statue of an antique sad iron, I stopped by Spicin Foods in the Rosedale district of Kansas City, Kansas. The name and signs have been updated changing the name from the former Original Juan Specialty Foods. The salesroom has been largely cleaned out to allow for social distancing. The area for free samples has also been changed and moved, though I'm not sure exactly how it is used, as there were no employees around.

Lunch was just up the street, a few blocks across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri at Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ, one of my favorite bbq restaurants and listed in our Kansas City BBQ Restaurant Guide. I planned to eat on their outdoor patio, but they have removed most of the seating and the tables are well spaced, so I dined inside. I had a quarter smoked chicken with with fresh cut French fries and spicy jambalaya. All was good, with the jambalaya being even better than I remembered. I almost got a larger serving to take with me.

One of the employees noticed my taking photos of the food and invited me to photograph their smoker, but I had already photographed it while here with a Roadfood Kansas City BBQ tour a couple of years ago.

 

Bichelmeyer Meats - Kansas City, Kansas Bichelmeyer sausage

Spicin Foods -  Kansas City, Kansas Spicin Foods

Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ - Kansas City, Missouri Blvd BBQ

Thursday - September 17, 2020: I drove to Edwardsville, Kansas to dine at 4th Street Cafe for the first time in a year and a half. The restaurant is in a small, old stone building and there isn't room to socially distance the dining area, so it is carry out only. I got a double cheeseburger with grilled onions and fresh cut fries for only $6.95! It really is a good burger and I enjoyed it at Edwardsville City Park.

While in the area, I revisited Jones Bar-B-Q to what changes have been made. This small BBQ restaurant was catapulted from obscurity to national visibility when Netflix released season 3 of Queer Eye in March 2019. The "Fab Five" did a makeover of the restaurant the Fall before and made it much more visitor friendly. Those changes are still in effect, but the huge line that waited for food when we last visited is gone and there was no line today. I don't know if that is because it is a week day or business has slowed. The BBQ vending machine which they added earlier this year looked well stocked.

 

4th Street Cafe - Edwardsville, Kansas 4th Street Cafe

Jones Bar-B-Q - Kansas City, Kansas Jones Bar-B-Q

Tuesday - September 22, 2020: I returned to Edwardsville, Kansas. This time to get carry out at Roscoe's Barbeque. I ordered a half slab of pork ribs ($13.50) 1/2 order of fries ($1.99) and cheesy corn ($2.99). The ribs tasted pretty good, smoky with a good flavor, but were cooked a little too long. I like the meat tender, but not falling off the bone. The cheesy corn was some of the best I have ever had. 

 

Roscoe's Barbeque - Kansas City, Kansas Roscoe's Barbeque
 
Thursday - September 24, 2020: Today I visited two sunflower fields which are north of Edgerton, Kansas. Several weeks earlier, I had learned that Gieringers Family Orchard & Berry Farm has had public sunflower fields for several years and their Facebook page said that the field will be opening to the public this weekend. I sent a request through their Facebook page and they gave me permission to come out this morning.

Gieringers is a busy "u-pick farm" farm from April through October. They added sunflowers to the mix in 2015. A $10 fee includes the sunflower field, corn maze & kids mini maze, combine slide & truck slide, kids play area, picnic area, food trucks and more. They made a point of planting later in the season, to have sunflowers after most fields were done. There are 3 more, smaller fields which will bloom after the present one. The pumpkins next to the sunflower field give even more photo opportunities.

During the drive to Gieringers, I passed another sunflower field which was in bloom. On the way back, I stopped by Lewis Farms, which has a large field, right next to Edgerton Road, with better parking than most of the public sunflower fields. They are open dawn to dusk. Taking photos is free, though there are donation boxes. The sell cut sunflowers (leave the money in the box) and mums & pumpkins are for sale after 3PM and all day on weekends.

I added a new page devoted to Gieringers Family Orchard & Berry Farm and added both sunflower fields to our Public Kansas Sunflower Fields Guide.

 

Gieringers Family Orchard and Berry Farm - Edgerton, Kansas Gieringers Family Orchard

Lewis Farms - Edgerton, Kansas Lewis Farms

Friday - September 25, 2020: Today we started a two day exploration of central Kansas. Our first stop was Jesse James Cave, just south of Pomona, Kansas. I visited this cave in August, but it was a very overcast day, with a thunderstorm coming and it was very dark that day, as well as filled with cows. It is an interesting spot, with a creek running through the opening from right to left. Linda is in the picture to provide scale.

On the way west from Pomona, we stopped to photograph a 51 ton, 36 foot tall obelisk in Pomona's Woodlawn Cemetery which marks the graves of Dr. Henry Benton Johnson and Agnes Charlotta Johnson. Johnson was a doctor in Pomona for 42 years.

Next stop was in Vassar, Kansas, where we photographed the 1912 Little Red Schoolhouse and then drove downtown to make a short video of my pumping the old hand water pump which is in the middle of the intersection of Main and Topeka.

It was a short drive on to Osage City, where we had an 11AM appointment to photograph the Railroad & Mining Museum. There are no regular hours and the museum is rarely open for visiting, but Cathryn Houghton and Richard Youngers There really are no exhibits about mining, but the old depot has a number of railroad exhibits and a model railroad which was built by Richard.

Santa Fe Park is located just west of the railroad depot and has a waterfall and picnic tables. We understand that the City has recently taken over the park and will develop it and a route connecting the park to the nearby Flint Hills Trail, which passes north of town.

We photographed several other old buildings in town and also stopped at Rapp School  five miles west of Osage City on highway 56.

After another stop to photograph Admire Memorial Bridge, west of Admire, Kansas, we had lunch at Keianna's Dive in downtown Allen, Kansas. Few of the customers and none of the employees were wearing masks and there tables were not distanced from each other. The cheese burger, fresh cut fries and Kayla sandwich (grilled chicken with grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon, Swiss cheese and Cheddar cheese) were fine, if not standouts. I would have liked to have had a burger with all the toppings that ore on the Kayla sandwich.

Every review of Keianna's Drive had said how good the pies were, but none were available. When I asked why, the server said that people had stopped ordering pie this year and they didn't like throwing them away.

In Council Grove, we visited Alexander ArtWorks which produces stained glass art and custom metal items ranging in scale from jewelry to highway signs and life size silhouettes. We learned that they have been not been producing stained glass recently, because it is time consuming and there is a better return on their metal work. They were putting the finishing touches on a metal sign which will go atop Legion Stadium in Council Grove.

While returning to our car, we noticed Rock Fish Art Gallery across the street. We were impressed by the variety and quality of works displayed and plan to revisit the gallery. The gallery is also the home of Carlin Carpentry & Design, which specializes in custom designed furniture using reclaimed woods and new & unusual materials.

We continued on to Woodbine where we photographed some interesting structures, then drove southwest of town to photograph the West Branch Lyon Creek pony truss bridge. The 49' long bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, though we could see that at least one vehicle has recently crossed it.

In Enterprise, Kansas, we visited the Hoffman Grist Mill which is at the end of the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad line. The equipment looks quite interesting and this would benefit from having someone present to explain how the equipment operates. 

The adjacent gift shop offers wheat, pancake mix, rolled oats, corn meal, grits and buckwheat flour which was milled at Hoffman Grist Mill. There is also meat, cheese, honey, hard candy and gifts.

Our next stop was at Jason Wiebe Dairy, a family farm on the Santa Fe Trail near Durham, Kansas. They primarily sell their farm made cheese online and at assorted markets across Kansas, but will also sell the cheese at the farm by appointment.

Their most popular cheese is the Cottonwood River Cheddar Reserve, an aged, raw milk cheese which contains tyrosine crystals. Several east coast restaurants buy it in 5 pound blocks.

We had supper at Main Street Cafe in Durham. It has a reputation for a good German buffet on Friday nights, but the ownership changed a couple of years ago and they had a mediocre BBQ buffet instead. None of the employees wore masks, though many customers were. We managed to find a table which was fairly far from others and went ahead and dined in.

There was a cooler near the register where Wiebe Dairy cheeses were offered for sale at about $3 more per pound.

Continuing into Hillsboro, we photographed Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church which was the first organized Mennonite Brethren congregation in North America, and nearby Salem Orphan's Home Cemetery.

We like to support local businesses when visiting small Kansas communities and stocked up on a few things at Dale's Supermarket. We also bought a couple of packages of their house made smoked sausage, which we have since discovered is quite good and we will get more the next time we are in Hillsboro.

We had originally planned to spend the night in Hillsboro, but Country Haven Inn had double rooms remaining for two people and we spent the night in McPherson, 25 miles farther west. The sun went down while we were driving west, and was very orange sue to West Coast wild fires. I started looking for something interesting to line up for photos and finally found a nice grain elevator, a little west of Canton, Kansas

 

Jesse James Cave - Pomona, Kansas Jesse James Cave
 

Water hand pump - Vassar, Kansas hand pump

Railroad and Mining Museum - Osage City, Kansas Railroad & Mining Museum
 
 
 
 

Keianna's Dive - Allen, Kansas Keianna's Dive
 

Alexander ArtWorks - Councel Grove, Kansas Alexander ArtWorks

West Branch Lyon Creek Bridge - Woodbine, Kansas West Branch Lyon Creek Bridge
 

Hoffman Grist Mill - Enterprise, Kansas Hoffman Grist Mill

Jason Wiebe Dairy - Durham, Kansas Cheese aging at Jason Wiebe Dairy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunset Canton, Kansas Central Kansas Sunset

Saturday - September 26, 2020: At 9:15AM we had an appointment to tour the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies in the Tabor College Library. We were met by Peggy Goertzen, who I think was ready to cancel, when she learned that we are from Johnson County, with its relatively high level of COVID19, but she was polite and gave us a masked and socially distanced tour of the Heritage Alcove and explained the history of the Mennonite Brethren Church.

Before leaving Tabor College, we photographed the 1893 historic church across the street. The country church was moved twice, arriving at this location in 1990. It is used for Wednesday evening worship during the school year.

We left town on US-56 and as we were crossing over Mud Creek, just north of Marion, Kansas, spotted an overflow dam on the Creek and a concrete pony arch bridge over another smaller creek. It took a long drive through Marion to circle around to this area. It turned out that railroad tracks and the lay of the land kept us from seeing the dam, but we did cross the bridge. There we no signs or markers on the bridge, but searching online, we learned that it is Clear Creek Bridge. We could not learn the history of the bridge.

Back on the road, we drove to Burdick to photograph the United Methodist Cemetery and shop at the Burdick Meat Market & Locker, which turned out to be closed this day.

For lunch we went to Trail Days Cafe and Museum in Council Grove, Kansas It had been several years since we had been to this cool restaurant in the 1861 limestone Terwilliger Home. The restaurant's grounds contain a small complex of old buildings is a combination museum, cafe and bakery. Dining is currently only permitted on the porch or carry out and we selected the table on the porch which was furthest from the rest. I had a Buffalo (Bison) Joe curly oven fries and Linda had baked ham with strawberry sauce, mashed potatoes and applesauce. We enjoyed our meal, though for me it is more about the history the are preserving and presenting. 

We headed north to Alta Vista, Kansas, where a rickety old wooden bridge carries A Avenue over the Rock Island Railroad. Linda called this bridge scary, but I thought it was really neat.

East of Alta Vista on K-4, we stopped at Frese Farm's Chainsaw Larry. A long stretch of fence posts are topped with Larry Frese's chain saw folk art and we stopped by the workroom to photograph more of his work. There was no sign offering the work for sale (though we believe that it is) or encouraging stopping at the nearby home, so we took our photos and continued on our way.

Another farm, a bit farther east had another art environment with dozens of bird houses topping fence posts.

We continued to head east and then north, passing through Alma, Kansas, where we happened across a new public sunflower field at Munchkins Pumpkin Patch, just south of I-70. Admission to all of the grounds is $10 for ages 2-16 and $5 for those older. We learned that this is the first year the sunflower field has been open to the public. They had planted sunflower last year at the time recommended for this area, and they came and went before sunflower season. This year they waited much later. The field was the smallest public sunflower field we have seen. Although Munchkins Pumpkin Patch was busy, we saw no one taking photos with the sunflowers.

We drove on to Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie Preserve, a 50 acre hilltop with untouched native prairie grass, which is dedicated to Captain William Mitchell and the Connecticut Kansas Colony. Despite the unseasonable temperature in the upper 90s, we ascended to the top of the hill to enjoy the view north toward Wamego.

Continuing on to Wamego, we sampled the wines at OZ Winery. They provide only two samples of wine per person, selling sampling flights of three or five full glasses of wine. Two apiece was enough for as to sample the wines we thought we might like.  Our favorite is called Yellow Brick Road.

It was time to start heading home, but we made two more stops. The first was Topeka State Hospital Cemetery. The hospital operated from 1872 to 1997. Although 1,157 individuals are known to have been buried in the hospital cemetery, there are only 19 grave markers. But 2006, two granite monuments were erected at the cemetery with the names of everyone known to have been buried there.

Just a couple of miles away, we had supper at Bobo's Drive-In which opened in 1948, and has been at this location on 10th Avenue since 1953. It had been 3 years since we were last there, but the Spanish burger and onion rings were both as good as I remembered. Their corn dog was just a corn dog. The indoor dining area is closed and masked servers take the orders and bring the food to the cars, packaged to go.
 
 

Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies - Tabor College, Hillsboro Heritage Alcove

Clear Creek Bridge - Marion, Kansas Clear Creek Bridge
 
 
 
 

Trail Days Cafe and Museum- Council Grove, Kansas Lunch at Trail Days Cafe
 
 
 

Frese Farm's Chainsaw Larry - Alta Vista, Kansas Wizard of Oz folk art
 

Munchkins Pumpkin Patch - Alma. Kansas Munchkins Pumpkin Patch

Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie Preserve - Wamego, Kansas View from Mount Mitchell

Topeka State Hospital Cemetery - Topeka, Kansas Topeka State Hospital Cemetery

Monday - September 28, 2020: Today was a day trip to to southeast Kansas. I drove straight threw to Pittsburg, to have lunch at Bob's Grill, a small diner which is open for breakfast and lunch only. I sat at the counter, as far from other customers as I could. I and some other customers wore masks coming and going, but the servers and the majority of the customers did not. 

I love the burgers at Bob's and usually get them, but to try something new, I went with the Beef Philly, a large cheese steak which came with a huge serving of fresh cut fries and a drink for only $8.50. It was a great sandwich!

I used the rest room before leaving and it was the first of two disgusting rest rooms I was in during this trip. It was in really poor condition and there is no sink.

Driving on through Pittsburg, I spotted a church spire and followed it to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, a large Catholic parish with adjacent elementary and high schools. The building was unlocked and I also photographed the beautiful interior.

My first planned attraction for the day was Colonial Fox Theatre on Broadway in downtown Pittsburg. I stopped by the Colonial Fox Theatre Foundation office next door and asked if I could photograph the theater. The Marketing Coordinator, Casey McCafferty, locked up the office and let me into the impressive old theater.

The foundation was started in 2006 by five local general contractors. After 14 years, it looks like they are about half way through the project. It takes real vision to work on a project that will take a generation! It still looks rough, but the bones of a fine building are still here.

I continued on down to Historic Route 66 and made brief stops in Baxter Springs and Galena. My only extended stop was at Schermerhorn Park & Southeast Kansas Nature Center, where I took videos of Shoal Creek and Schermerhorn Cave.

On the way back north, I stopped at Pickled Pete's in Frontenac. Masks were required, sanitizer was available and some booths were closed to allow customers to be separated from other parties. I was happy with the chili fries and how accommodating the bartender/server/cook was, making me a cheeseburger with fried onions and jalapeños, even though that isn't listed on the menu.

The men's rest room was in terrible shape and didn't have a seat on the toilet. Nice as the service and food were, I still can't recommend this restaurant.

The final stop of the day was at Rock Creek Lake Waterfall, just west of Fort Scott. I recently re-posted a video of the falls from 2015 and it looked so nice I wanted to see it again. It was a nice afternoon and a very pretty setting.
 
 

Bob's Grill - Pittsburg, Kansas Beef Philly
 

Our Lady of Lourdes Church - Pittsburg, Kansas Our Lady of Lourdes Church

Colonial Fox Theatre - Pittsburg, Kansas Colonial Fox Theatre
 

Shoal Creek at Schermerhorn Park Shoal Creek
 
 
 
 

Rock Creek Lake Waterfall - Fort Scott, Kansas Rock Creek Lake Waterfall

Tuesday - September 29, 2020: For supper, we tried out the new Seafood Island, which is located where a Ryan's was long at 75th and Nieman in Shawnee, Kansas. They do a lot of seafood boils and gumbo, but we went with fried oysters, catfish, shrimp, onion rings and Cajun waffle fries. All enjoyable, but nothing which stood out as special. I got carry out, but took a quick look at the dinning room, where the tables didn't appear to be very distant from each other.
   
   
Seafood Island - Shawnee, Kansas Fried seafood
 
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