Kansas Travel Blog Archive
May, 2008

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith Stokes' adventures while exploring and photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact Keith at sfreader@sff.net.

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Butcher Falls at Red Buffalo Ranch.
Saturday - May 31, 2008:    Revisited the new Stroud's in Fairway, Kansas. They are finally doing takeout, and orders may be called in at (913) 262-8500. There is still usually and hour's wait for a table at dinner, but there is no wait at lunch time on Saturdays.

Servings are generous. My chicken gizzards dinner to go was enough for two hearty meals.

 

 
Friday - May 30, 2008:    Revisited Ruchi Indian Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas. It still has very good food. I think it is the second best Indian food in metropolitan Kansas City. Service was average today - which is better than it usually is. The service is usually so bad that I only go for the lunch buffet, when the service is not as important.

The variety and quality of restaurants in Johnson County and Kansas City has improved remarkably in the past 20 years. When I moved to the metro area in 1985, the choices were BBQ, Steak and Chinese. I still remember how excited I was when the first mediocre Indian restaurant opened in Overland Park. Today there are many great choices in almost all cuisines

 

 
Tuesday - May 20, 2008:    For obvious reasons, I don't list national chains on the Unique Kansas Restaurants page, but I do occasionally visit them. Just thought I would give a shout out to one.

Five Guys is an East Coast based hamburger chain that recently opened their first Kansas location in Olathe. This is the westernmost 5 Guys in the United States. They serve only hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. 

Fresh hamburgers with no preservatives, cooked to order. A regular burger has two patties, without the second patty, it is a "little" burger. Many toppings (including grilled onions and grilled mushrooms) are available at no additional charge, or you can pay for bacon or cheese.

The French fries are fresh and cooked in peanut oil. They list the community that the potatoes come from, on a chalk board. The servings are so large that even a big eater like me gets a small order of fries.

You order at the counter and are paged when your food is ready. While you wait you can enjoy (raw) peanuts in the shell. There are free refills on the soft drinks.

 

 
Wednesday - May 14, 2008:    Added a new Kansas Travel page devoted the Red Buffalo Ranch outside Sedan, Kansas.

 

 
Tuesday - May 13, 2008:   Had lunch at KC Grill N Kabob in Lenexa, Kansas. This was a revisit of a restaurant already listed under Unique Kansas Restaurants. The Persian lunch buffet was wonderful, as always. Though I wish they labeled the items so I could learn what I am eating and like. The buffet is a bit pricey for lunch at $11.50 including tax and beverage.

 

 
Monday - May 12, 2008:   Added a new Kansas Travel page devoted to Beef Burger Bob's in Fredonia, Kansas. Made several changes and updates to the Kansas Restaurants Page.

Discovered that the commercial web site, kansasbeautiful.com is using many of my photos without permission. Emailed a demand that they be removed to the owner of the site and the legal department of the domain server.

 

 
Sunday - May 11, 2008:   I drove to Lawrence to try Vermont Street BBQ. The restaurant (which moved to Massachusetts Street a few years ago) occupies three store fronts. Much of the interior is rather uninteresting, but the wall in one dining room has several murals and (at least) the men's rest room has tiles and shells on the floor and walls in a sea motif.

I tired a chicken wing appetizer, pulled pork sandwich, French fries and onion rings. I tried to purchase just one rib to find out how they were, but the management refused. Although the smoked, then fried wings were tough, the rest of the food was pretty good. The fries were covered in seasonings that I enjoyed, but I think that many people would find them too salty and/or spicy. There was no hint that the fries would come heavily seasoned.

There are three sauces: Carolina style mustard, sweet and smoky hickory, and slow burning spicy sauce. The mustard was a little too peppery for my taste, but the hickory sauce went well with the pulled pork.

This restaurant may well end up on KansasTravel.org some day, but I will need to try the ribs first. Since I am going to have to return anyway, I didn't try their deserts during this visit.

But it may be quite a while before I get back to Vermont Street BBQ. Lawrence is only about 35 miles away and I dine there at least 10 times year but there are so many interesting locally owned restaurants that I am still far behind trying all the places that look interesting.

After lunch I drove north of Lawrence to scout along Buck Creek for waterfalls. The land along the creek is privately owned and I need to find out exactly where the largest falls is located and how to obtain permission to visit them. From the road, I did spot several places where there were falls or rapids, and photographed one small falls at a low water crossing where the adjacent property was not posted. I still need to do more research here.

Then I drove north to Valley Falls where a web site said there was a falls on the Delaware River just downstream of the Composite Truss Bridge on the north side of town. I explored through the rough going along the bank downstream for about a quarter mile but found no falls.

 

Vermont Street BBQ men's room - Lawrence, Kansas Vermont Street BBQ men's room
 
 
 
 

Buck's Creek waterfall near Lawrence, Kansas Buck's Creek waterfall

Delaware Bridge Composite Truss Bridge Delaware Bridge

Saturday - May 10, 2008:   Saturday morning we drove to Sedan, Kansas, stopping briefly to drive past the original Little House on the Prairie along the way. 

Led by A&E television personality Bill Kurtis, Sedan is working hard to revitalize and keep the town alive. Among other things it has a historical museum with a section devoted to Emmett Kelly (the famous circus clown who was born there), and what it calls the "World's longest Yellow Brick Road." 

To my eyes, the yellow brick road is a strip of brown bricks in the sidewalks, but the rest of the work has been more successful. When the buildings in the downtown were being abandoned, Kurtis bought may of them and rented them to new businesses, acting much like an industrial incubator.

Our first stop of the day was "The Hollow," a beautiful small park just off the main street. There is an old schoolhouse by the street and a walkway down to a creek. A boardwalk follows the creek a short distance to a lovely small waterfall.

Then on through town and west a few miles to the 8000 acre, Red Buffalo Ranch (owned by Kurtis), where we met ranch employees Dane Varney and Wade. They took us on a 3 hour tour in a 30 year old, open sided Land Rover. The Land Rover was fun, though the repeated climbing over the gate on the back grew just a little old.

We visited Butcher Falls (impressive between its rock wall like banks), Prairie Henge (outdoor art built by Stan Herd) and photographed wildlife. While searching for buffalo, we stumbled across a group of 3 white tail deer that seemed not at all afraid of us. Although they don't have antlers this time of the year, this area of Kansas produces deer with some of the largest racks found anywhere.

Finally we located a group of buffalo. There are over 50 on the ranch, but this group was all bulls. These are wild buffalo, not at all domesticated. We pulled the Land Rover onto a bluff just out of sight of the herd, but by the time we we were out of the Land Rover, a solitary bull was investigating us and slowly approached to within about 40 yards. We all stayed very close to the vehicle.

Finally the bull moved a bit further away and more bulls came into view in ones and twos until there were 8 bulls, up to about 1200 pounds in size, in a grouping about 40 - 60 yards away.

After taking many pictures, We piled back into the Rover. The past mile it had been running a bit rough and we started to head back, but went only a fairly short distance (over extremely rough terrain) before it completely died while crossing a small creek. That was when Dane realized that someone had used the Rover without his knowledge and that we were out of gas. Fortunately we were only about a half mile from the ranch headquarters where we were able to take another vehicle back to pick up our car.

We spent a lot more time than I planned at the Red Buffalo Ranch, but it was very enjoyable, I got many photos and it was well worth while. Dane and Wade were great.

On our way back into Sedan, we stopped for lunch at the Rib Rack, a BBQ place that showed a lot of promise. The walls are covered with mounted deer heads, elk racks and the like. They were out of brisket and pulled pork, but the ribs and sausage were good. We were less impressed by the side dishes or the service.

Back in Sedan, we stopped at the Red Buffalo gift shop, where we thanked Mary Kurtis (Bill's daughter) for arranging our tour. We bought some gifts and we had chocolate malts made at the coffee and ice cream bar at the back of the store.

Back on the highway, we traveled just a few miles west before taking to the gravel roads in search of Ozro Falls. We found a sign for the Ozro Falls Cemetery, but the road was getting worse, and became impassible just past the cemetery. There appeared to be another way around on the map, and we circled a few miles. This road also deteriorated until we were driving on a muddy two rut through a wheat field. Not a place where we wanted to get stuck, but we made it to the Caney River and the trail just added to the adventure.

The two rut continued on across the river just above the falls, but it is only a low water crossing and the water was high. In fact, so high that the low water fall was turned into more of a bump in the river. I need to return when the water is lower to get better photographs. And perhaps when I am driving a SUV. 

Ozro falls is not well known. Almost every mention of Ozro Falls on the Internet refers to the cemetery. I doubt that it is visited more than a coupe of times a week.

We found our way back to US-166 and continued west. Storms had been threatening all day, and finally we had rain, followed by hail. As the hail grew larger, I pulled to the side of the highway. The storm went on for perhaps 10 minutes, at times with golf ball sized hail. Fortunately no damage was done to the car, and when the storm turned to dwindling rain, we continued to Cowley County State Lake. 

The rain stopped as we drove along the lake shore looking for a waterfall which I had found mentioned in an Internet blog entry. We stopped to ask some fishermen where the falls was located and it turned out that we were right next to the falls. The fishermen had been badly beaten by even larger hail than we experienced and were just leaving. The 20' falls is quite beautiful, but hard to access, and (because of short sight lines) hard to photograph. But there are no signs or other indication that the falls even exist. Its a shame, since they are quite impressive and just a little work could make a nice viewing platform. This falls is worthy of being a well known Kansas attraction.

We headed back east and then north through Dexter (where helium was first discovered on Earth), then east on US-160. As we past through the small community of Moline, there was a sign saying the town had the oldest hanging pedestrian bridge in Kansas. After consulting The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, we found the 1904 suspension bridge. When I went to take photographs, I was delighted to discover a pair of low waterfalls just upstream from the bridge.

It was now after 5 PM, and I wanted to revisit Elk Falls before returning home. As we drove east on Highway 160, we listened to the Prairie Home Companion on public radio. But the broadcast kept being interrupted with weather warnings. The storm system that gave us the large hail had grown worse and several tornados touched down. When we returned home, we would learn that more than 20 people died in the area around the intersections of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

At the tiny town of Elk Falls (known for its annual outhouse tour), we drove to the 1890s iron truss bridge. My previous visit was in the winter, and I wanted to get some photos while everything was green. The falls is just above bridge, and when I started taking photos, I was surprised to see someone photographing a nude woman on the rocks next to the falls. Another couple was holding up a blanket to block the views from a couple fishing on the other side of the river, but she was in full view from the bridge. And she was worth photographing.

Finally we continued north and east, with plans to conclude the day with dinner at the Prairie Nut Hut in Altoona. But the Nut Hut was closed for the weekend. Instead, we backtracked 10 miles to Fredonia. Where we had supper at Beef Burger Bob's. 

Bob's opened in the 1950s as the Icebox Drive In. Bob and Tony Babcock bought the Iceberg in 1972. Over time they expanded it into a restaurant and renamed it to reflect their famous loose meat sandwiches. Bob has retired, but still helps Tony on Saturdays, so we got to meet both of the delightful couple.

The menu is on a chalk board with notes taped to the sides. We split a beef burger, cheese burger, hand breaded pork tenderloin, and Suzie Ques. Beef burgers are not as crumbly as a NuWay or Maid-Rite. All were very good. Beef Burger Bobs will definitely be added to KansasTravel.org

After dropping my friend off in Fort Scott, I got home about 11PM, having driven 580 miles since leaving work the day before. I slept well last night.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Butcher Falls at Red Buffalo Ranch.
Butcher Falls
 

Buffalo at Red Buffalo Ranch Bull buffalo at the Red Buffalo Ranch
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cowley Lake waterfall Cowley Lake waterfall
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Elk Falls Elk Falls

 
Friday - May 9, 2008:   Friday afternoon I headed south directly from work, stopping in Fort Scott to pick up a friend and heading on to Independence, Kansas near the Oklahoma State Line.

We had supper at Uncle Jacks, a neat restaurant that I first visited a couple of years ago. It is much more sophisticated than I would expect to find in most small Kansas towns. It is named for the owner's uncle, who was a New York fashion photographer and his photos decorate the two level restaurant and bar. The old storefront has the original hardwood floors and a metal ceiling.

We shared an appetizer that had Buffalo shrimp, Buffalo wings, calamari and crab bruschetta. The bruschetta had a lot of crab in the topping and was my favorite item.

For entrees we had steaks, ribeye and filet mignon. Both were perfectly cooked and very good. Neither of us were that impressed with the potatoes (herb roasted and baked), but the grilled zucchini was good.

We stayed the night at the Independence Microtel. It was clean and roomy. A good choice for an inexpensive night's sleep.

 

 
Thursday - May 8, 2008:   Added a new Kansas Travel page devoted to POW Camp Concordia located 2 miles north of Concordia, Kansas. During World War Two, the camp housed over 4,000 German Prisoners of War.

 

 
Wednesday - May 7, 2008:   Added a new Kansas Travel page devoted to the Scandia Museum in Scandia, Kansas. I visited this local museum in June of 2007, but never got to preparing a review. In large part it is like most historical museums across the state, but I enjoyed the wooden sculptures that were created by Allen D. Larson, a local, self taught artist.

 

 
Monday - May 5, 2008:   Added a new Kansas Travel page devoted the Prairie Fire Festival in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. The photos were taken during this this year's festival which took place April 7-12. For me, the highlight was a bluegrass jam with over 30 musicians.  
Sunday - May 4, 2008:   Began the day by attending the annual meeting of the Kansas Explorers Club on the grounds of the Kansas Sampler Festival. There was no one there that I knew, but following the meeting I had a nice chat with the only other attendees from Olathe, the Zimmermans, who recently completed their 13 year quest to visit every community and former community in Kansas.

Leaving Concordia, I drove south to Lindsborg, Kansas. I planned to have lunch at The Cookery, which sounded good in The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, but it turned out to now be Jalisco, a Mexican Restaurant. I didn't travel to the most Swedish community in Kansas to have Mexican food, so I went looking for another restaurant.

It turned out that the only other restaurant open at 11 AM on a Sunday in downtown Lindsborg was the Swedish Crown Restaurant. They only serve a buffet on Sunday. Although the breakfast buffet was supposed to end at 10:30, other than an ordinary salad bar, the food was mostly breakfast items. It wouldn't return on a Sunday.

After lunch, I continued south through town to the Old Mill Museum. This weekend is the only time during the year the they operate the machinery in the spectacular 1898 Smoky Valley Roller Mill. 

I was able to join the first tour of the day, led by a delightful and knowledgeable young woman named Heather. Even without wheat actually running through the machinery, the noise & vibration are extreme, and some of the people in out group left before we finished the first floor.

On the way back across I-70, I made two stops to get green photos of places I visited during the winter. The first was the Seelye Mansion in Abilene. The second was Deep Creek Waterfall near Manhattan.
 

Updated the web page devoted to Deep Creek Waterfall (adding a photo of area youth partying in the river above the falls), and added two new pages devoted to the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph and its Lourdes Park & Grotto, which I visited the day before in Concordia, Kansas. 

 

Marci Penner at the Kansas Explorers Club Meeting Marci Penner at the
Kansas Explorers
Club Meeting
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Deep Creek Waterfall Deep Creek Waterfall

Saturday - May 3, 2008:   Started the day at the Kansas Sampler Festival. Although I arrived well before the scheduled 9:45 opening ceremony, I was too late. 

My favorite parts of the festival were meeting Susan Howell who recently purchase some of my photographs for use in Kansas Traveler, and competing in the Kansas Travel trivia contest at "the stump." I purchased a second Kansas Explorers Club T-shirt.

During the afternoon, I toured the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph, which was just across the street from the grounds of the Sampler Festival. Other stops during the afternoon were at the Cloud County Historical Museum, 1899 stone bridge in Rice, and the Boston Corbett Dugout Site. Boston Corbett is reputed to have been the man who shot John Wilkes Booth.

In the evening, members of the POW Camp Concordia Preservation Society led a tour of the WW2 German POW camp which is located just outside of Concordia. Their enthusiasm added a lot to a visit of the site which has little remaining from the period that the camp was in use.

Supper was at the Tumbleweed Steakhouse & Tavern. Service was very disappointing, and the food was average at best. The larger crowd because of the Sampler Festival may have been part of the problem, but I am unlikely to try them again.
 

Added two Kansas Travel web pages devoted to Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas and the Naismith Memorial in the adjacent Memorial Park Cemetery.

 

Moutherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph Lourdes Park & Grotto

1899 stone bridge in Rice, Kansas Rice, Kansas stone bridge

POW Camp Concordia POW Camp Concordia

Friday - May 2, 2008:   Left work an hour early and headed straight west to Concordia, Kansas. I checked into the Econo Lodge, which had many small problems: wifi didn't reach my room, wifi didn't work at all on Saturday & Sunday, room not very clean, toilet not flushing properly, electrical outlets in the bathroom not working, and lots of noise from the other rooms.

After changing at the motel, I went downtown for the Concordia business community party for Sampler Festival exhibitors, and members of the Kansas Explorers Club. But the first business I visited was out of treats, the next two were closed, and the fourth had only a small bowl of candy for its open house. The weather was cold, wet and windy, so it seemed like a good time to cut my loses and go to dinner.

For supper, I drove about 20 miles to Trappers Bar and Grill in Simpson, Kansas. The restaurant structure is unusual (combining two or three old buildings) and the servers couldn't have been more friendly. But the food was just average. The mountain oysters were pre prepared coming from the same distributor that supplies two other Kansas restaurants I have visited. The chicken fried steak was pretty good, but they were out of the mashed potatoes that the restaurant is famous for. The fried potatoes that I tried instead, were not very good.

I probably need to give Trappers a second chance but it may be a long time before I get another chance.

 

Trappers Bar and Grill - Simpson, Kansas Trappers Bar and Grill

Trappers Bar and Grill in Simpson, Kansas
 

chicken fried steak at Trappers Bar and Grill.

Thursday - May 1, 2008:   Started this Kansas Travel Blog. I was going to just add a "What's New" page to help people returning to KansasTravel.org, but have decided to detail some of my travel adventures exploring Kansas.

 

 
 
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