changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration
& photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals
and art. Contact him.
- June 6, 2020: With a special event to celebrate, we decided to have
our first meal in a restaurant since March. Sierra Grill in Lenexa, Kansas
is our favorite nice restaurant nearby and their web site made it clear
that they are making their customers' and employees' safety a priority.
Dining was by reservation only and we called from the parking lot to find
out when we could enter and go straight to our prepared table.
go in the main entrance and leave by the fire exit. We wore masks until
ordering. The menus are single use and already at the table when you are
seated. The number of tables has been reduced to allow enough space between
had the rib eye, which was perfect, with a wonderful sauce which goes well
with the steak and pureed potatoes. Linda had the grilled pork chop. We
took home enough food for two more meals.
- June 11, 2020: We are off too explore Kansas overnight for the first
time since February.
first stop of the day was the Historic Ritchie House in Topeka. It was
built by John and Mary Jane Ritchie in 1857 and was a stop on the underground
railroad. The small home is sparsely furnished and would take 5 minutes
to see, but there are displays in the adjacent building and our guide spent
over 30 minutes giving us history of the Ritchies and Topeka.
staff at the Ritchie house seemed serious about being COVID19 cautious.
We and our guide were all masked.
north on Kansas Avenue, we stopped to photograph street art and the mural
which was painted last year on the police parking garage.
stopped at C W Porubsky Grocery
& Meats, a family market which opened in the Little Russia neighborhood
of north Topeka in 1947. The marker and deli is sell meals only to go,
The staff were all wearing masks, the floor was marked with one way aisles
and there was sanitizer at the check out.
bought pimento cheese spread and some sausage and beef sticks from Fanestil
Meats in Emporia, Kansas. I love their "hot" pimento spread, which has
lots of jalapeños and I only recommend it to fans of hot spices.
next stop was Alma Creamery in Alma, Kansas. I wanted to pick up some of
their oldest, sharper cheeses, which are not available at their outlets.
We got extra sharp cheese made in 2014, 2013 and 2010. So far we have tried
only the 2014, which is is quite sharp and crumbly. You have to pick up
small pieces of the cheese as a slice will not hold together.
only ways that Alma Creamery appeared
to recognize Covid-19 is the option of calling in and having an order brought
out to your vehicle, and they have eliminated samples.
north, we drove through Wamego, stopping only to get a photo of the restored
old Dutch windmill which was damaged in a storm last year, and turned west
to tiny St. George, Kansas,
was at Willie's Hideaway in St. George. The rustic K-State bar's only acknowledgment
of Covid-19 appeared to be the sanitizer available on the bar. It is possible
that they have spread tables farther apart, but different parties couldn't
get quite 6' apart and the stools were packed together at the bar.
staff was friendly and the food ranged from average to very good. The French
fries were average, the BLT was good and the onion rings were very good.
favorite item was the Philly Cheese Steak (steak, pepper jack cheese, 5
blend cheese mix, roasted peppers, and sautéed onions. Topped with
cheese whiz served open face.) The cheese whiz almost scared me off, but
it is just a little extra flavor on top. The bun was soft and good as well.
I would love to be able to have this sandwich more often!
George has no major attractions, but there are a bunch of minor attractions
within a couple of blocks of Willie's Hideout. Some cool old grain elevators
(including the last wooden silos in Kansas), Black Jack Spring, a mural,
a nice view of the Kansas River and the largest Bur Oak tree in Kansas.
drove for over an hour to Prairie Lavender Farm near Bennington, Kansas.
Things are quiet right now and the gift shop is presently only open on
Saturday, but they agreed to let us visit today. Mike Neustrom showed us
around the gardens, small gift shop and the drying area where Lavender,
sage and other herbs were hanging.
bought a number of toiletries, a lavender spice mix and a chocolate bar
containing lavender oil, produced by Cocoa Dolce in Wichita. Mike and we
wore masks during the tour.
continued north and then west, stopping in Delphos, Kansas to photograph
the church where actor Milburn Stone was married and driving southwest
of town to the Zebulon Pike Monument and its nice view of the Solomon River
also photographed the 1884 Pott's Ford Bridge, southwest of Glasco. The
310' truss bridge is still in use today.
was at Trapper Joe's in Simpson, Kansas. The restaurant is spread through
three buildings which have been built together. I dined there in 2008 when
it was Trappers, but Trappers closed and the new restaurant opened about
5 years ago with new owners and a new name. The young owners have two extremely
well behaved small children who were playing in the front of the restaurant.
were no apparent COVID19 related precautions, but tables were well spaced.
had chicken fried steak and a grilled chicken breast (loaded with white
cheese, bacon, green onions and sour cream). The meals were reasonably
priced. Good, but the dishes we tried did not stand out.
leaving town, we took many photos of the nearby, decrepit railroad depot.
It is very photogenic!
spent the night at the Old Station Inn Cawker City. The one room building
is an Air B&B in and old service station. Tiny, but comfortable with
very nice towels. It is a fun place to stay, across the street from the
Largest Ball of Twine. We spent some time at the ball of twine, adding
some twine to the ball, meeting travelers from Washington DC and Las Vegas,
and having a long chat with Twine Ball Caretaker, Linda Clover, who had
brought the twine for folks to add. She keeps a record of how much is added.
The ball now weights 27,000 lb.. Linda wore a face mask wile interacting
with the visitors.
enjoyed our stay at the Old Station Inn, sitting outside and catching up
on the internet with the wifi in the evening. It wasn't obvious what was
being done for COVID19, but we had inquired before booking and Pamela told
us that they have been removing and washing all bedding and towels between
guests (everything). They have also taken extra care to wipe all surfaces
more days of trip report to follow!
Historic Ritchie House
C W Porubsky Grocery & Meats
Prairie Lavender Farm
Pott's Ford Bridge
Old Station Inn
- June 12, 2020: Despite being just a few feet from US-24, the highway
noise did not keep is awake in the night.
our way out of town, we stopped to photograph Red Crown Inn, a second Air
B&B in another old gas station and its associated art. A few miles
down the road, we drove into Downs to photograph a nice looking railroad
depot and the outside of the City Offices in a former lumber yard across
up was the Geodetic Center of North America in a roadside park at US -81
and US-24, Actually a historical marker about it. The actual Geodetic Center
is on the Meades Ranch, with no public access, about 18 miles farther south.
There is a replica of the bronze disk which marks the real center, and
a guest register which appears to be only used a few times a year.
Geodetic Center is similar to the geographic center, but takes into account
that the Earth is a sphere, rather than flat.
retraced a few miles of US-24, driving on to Portis, Kansas the birthplace
of animator Tubby Millar, who was a writer for Looney Tunes and Merrie
Melodies. He was particularly associated with Porky Pig. There is a stone
sign about Tubby in the Portis City Park.
stops in Gaylord, Kansas to photograph a wrought iron park entrance built
of metal from an old bridge and in Cedar Kansas to photograph the Missouri
Pacific Depot, we had an early lunch at the Triple C Cafe in Glade, Kansas.
The Triple C was packed, without social distancing or other obvious precautions.
had the signature Triple C Burger (2 half pound bacon cheeseburgers with
fries) and a hot roast beef sandwich. The food was good and quite reasonable.
The Triple C Burger was way too much food. I ate most of the meat and barely
touched the fries. Although there were two huge patties, there was just
one slice of cheese.
C was busy and lunch took much longer than we anticipated, so we hurried
north to Phillipsburg, to visit The Shepherd's Mill, which they say is
the only fiber processing facility in Kansas. They turn hair from sheep,
yak, alpaca, goat and other animals into thread and yarn. There is an attractive
gift shop and the mill shares a wall with several windows where the work
can be watched. The mill manager explained what the various stations were
leaving, we purchased a Christmas gift for a family member.
running late, we crossed town to the C & R Railroad Museum, which is
part of the Huck Boyd Community Center. The museum is only open by appointment
and we were met by three docent engineers: Bill Schick, Merlyn Schick and
Mike James. Before seeing the museum, they showed us around the community
center, which has an impressive 500 seat theater and a reproduction of
Huck Boyd's office. Huck was a politician and newspaper publisher.
C & R Railroad is a large O-scale layout which includes a community,
57' mountain range, 1,200' of track, 94 engines, 170 cars and 34 cabooses.
They showed us many of the specialty cars and buildings and ran several
of the trains for us, giving Linda a chance to operate a train. The room
also houses 136 railroad lanterns and other train memorabilia.
adjacent room houses the Rachel Martin's photo gallery.
saw no obvious signs of social distancing or other efforts to prevent Covid-19
on the road, we stopped at the ghost town of Densmore, where we photographed
the beautiful little St. Mary's Catholic Church, tucked behind some evergreen
trees, then were back on the road to Bow Creek Ranch, a few miles south
of Lenora, Kansas.
and Doug David showed us around the ranch, where they raise Angus cattle,
yak, and long haired heritage pigs. They sell meat by appointment at the
ranch, but primarily sell the meat and yak hair/hide clothing at shows
and online. We purchased an assortment of yak Polish sausage, steak, and
hamburger, as well as bacon and beef sticks.
were running late again and raced to Selden, Kansas to make our 5PM reservation
at the Elephant Bistro And Bar. The Bistro is a surprisingly nice restaurant
for a community of just over 200 people. We split a Korean chicken wing
appetizer and had the Italian pork chop agrodolce and bison Philly sandwich.
The wings were less spicy than I wanted, the Philly and pork chops were
quite good. The thick twice fried house cut fries were a little over done.
restaurant has reduced their seating to allow for social distancing and
is accepting customers by reservation only.
made a few more brief stops for photos, before spending the night at the
Days Inn and Ellis. The hotel is in good repair and the prices were reasonable,
however there was no acknowledgment of COVID and no signs of taking precautions.
Although some customers wore masks, no one working in the motel did. The
desk clerk just handled the keys and other documents & pens, handing
them to us. There was no sanitizer available to use after checking in.
Replica bronze disk
Triple C Burger
The Shepherd's Mill
C & R Railroad Museum
Bow Creek Ranch Yaks
Elephant Bistro & Bar
- June 13, 2020: It had been several years since my last visit to the
Museum of Natural History in Hays and the current temporary exhibit,
Prairie Ocean: Long Time, No Sea, sounded interesting
Prairie Ocean exhibit was created by Chuck Bonner and Ray Troll, and is
on display at the Kansas until September 8th. The exhibit highlights
stories of the Bonner family, and their family legacy as fossil hunters,
and also focuses on Kansas and its natural history. It features a variety
of Chuck and Ray's artwork, and fossils found here in Kansas.
tickets cashier was was wearing a mask so were a portion of the customers.
Most of the customers who did wear masks, took them off when there was
no one near them in the galleries.
had lunch at Vernie's Hamburger House. I had been wanting to try them for
some time, but they had not been open when I wanted to dine there. They
got the highest marks for Covid-19 precautions during our trip. There were
new shields at the cashiers stations, there were sanitation stations, the
condiments had been removed from the tables with individual packs available,
and tables had been made unavailable so that there was plenty of distance
between the tables in use.
food was standard drive-in fare, at what seemed a fair price. Vernie's
has been in business since since 1969.
on I-70, we pulled off at Victoria, Kansas to revisit the Cathedral
of the Plains. The sanctuary was in use the last couple of times I
stopped so it had been many years since I had been inside the church. I
was looking for exterior signs calling it the Basilica of St. Fidelis,
but found only signs calling it St. Fidelis Church.
stop was Russell, Kansas, where I photographed the historic Dream Theater
and the 2011 mural in Cecil Bricker Park.
final stop of the trip was to photograph the Chicago, Rock Island, &
Pacific Railway depot in McFarland, Kansas. I need to return some day when
we can see the museum inside. They don't have regular hours and it is hard
to schedule an appointment for a time in the middle of a long day of stops,
when I don't know what time I would be in town.
The Prairie Ocean
Vernie's Hamburger House
Historic Russell Mural
- June 20, 2020: Added a new page devoted to the Vieux
Cemetery & Homestead in Pottawatomie County. The photos were taken
in 2015, but the page was just completed.
- June 22, 2020: Added a new page devoted to the Vieux
Crossing in Pottawatomie County. The photos were taken in 2015, but
the page was just completed.
- June 26, 2020: We are back on the road again, starting out headed
down I-35, stopping just before Emporia to photograph the burial site of
Edward J. Alexander, "The Children's Friend" at Camp Alexander. A former
slave, he operated a farm at this location and sold produce from a wagon,
door to door in Emporia, giving away as much produce to children as he
after his death, it was discovered that he had donated his estate to children
of Emporia, reserving one acre for his burial and for others too poor to
afford plots. If there are other burials present, there is no sign of them
drove on through Emporia to Fanestils Fresh Local Market, on US-50, just
west of town. We had recently purchased a couple of their products at C
W Porubsky Grocery & Meats in Topeka, and particularly the beef sticks.
We loaded a large cooler with 2 types of beef sticks, 3 types of sausages
(Italian, Mesquite, Apple Gouda), 2 kinds of beef jerky, a large slice
of bone in ham. So far we had tried the ham (good), Italian sausage (very
good) and hot jerky (tough with no flavor other than the heat). We learned
that tours are available at Fanestils Meats processing facility on the
south side of Emporia, but photography is not permitted.
had an early lunch at Cassoday Country Store. just off the Kansas Turnpike
in Cassoday, Kansas. An old gas station (you pump the gas before you pay)
and restaurant with some convenience store items. The menu was on a chalk
board on the wall
had a butterfly shrimp basket and a double cheeseburger with onion rings.
All of the food was good, but nothing stood out, but part of the point
is that there is any restaurant at all in a community of 129 people and
no other communities nearby.
house cut fries were my favorite item. We also loved Maizie, the restaurant
only acknowledgment of Covid19 was a sign on the door asking people to
wash their hands when they entered.
have been wanting to photograph wild horses near Cassoday for a number
of years. We've known that there are several thousand kept at ranches in
the area, but did not know where to them. Today we were armed with Jim
Grills directions to a large herd south of town and a mention in the Kansas
Guidebook for Explorers 2, that they may be visible in the distance from
south from Cassoday, we had only driven about 3 miles before seeing a small
group of wild horses in the distance. After taking photos, we continued
on, seeing several small groups, perhaps 70 or 80 total. All were fairly
returned to town and headed east out of town on NE 150th Street, where
we were delighted to find 2 groups of about 15 wild horse, on of which
groups was right near the fence of the road/ They were not spooked by my
presence and let me get out of the car and come within 30 feet to take
photos and video.
continued on to Teterville & Teter Rock, turning off of the gravel
road, over a cattle guard onto a two rut road. The road was very rough
and we could only drive 10 miles per hour or slower. It winds through the
ruins that are all that remain of Teterville, Kansas, a small community
which formed near the Teter Oil Fields in the 1920s.
worked our way to the high point where James Teter erected a pile of local
rocks on his land as a guidepost for homesteaders searching for the Cottonwood
River. As Teterville grew, the original rocks were used in the construction
of several of the buildings and the Teter marker disappeared. Teter Rock
was reconstructed in 1954, when a 16' slab of rocks was erected in honor
of Mr. Teter.
has always been windy when I have been to Teter Rock and that was true
today. The view is impressive and (sure enough) we saw a far distant group
of over 50 wild horses.
took back roads south and east, making just a couple of brief stops and
eventually getting to Eureka Lake Falls.
falls is in the outflow from the lake and has either had very little water
or and enormous amount whenever I have been there. Today it was a small
flow and local young people were having fun in the water and not social
Eureka, we toured the restored former Santa Fe Depot which is now the offices
of Invena Corporation, an energy and aerospace engineering and fabricating
company. Cammi Wilson took a break from her duties to show thorough the
entire building and tell us what was restored, replace or reinvented. The
building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
photographed several other buildings before stopping a the Lo-Mar Drive
In for a snack. Lo-Mar was built in 1955. It does not have car hops and
food is ordered at window in an enclosed foyer. When we had passed Lo-Mar
before visiting the rest of town, the foyer was packed with people, making
no effort to self distance.
we returned, the foyer was no longer packed, but the kitchen had not recovered.
We waited nearly 40 minutes for our mushroom Swiss burger, twisters and
a chocolate malt. The twisters, which are fresh, spiral cut potato chips,
were my favorite item by far. Next time I would go with regular, rather
next stop was in Yates Center, where we photographed an 1899 stone jail
and two murals. Then on to Fredonia, where we spent the night at the Americas
Best Value Inn.
was a long awaited revisit of Stockyard Restaurant, which is in the same
building as the Fredonia Livestock Auction. There lunch menu is sandwich
oriented, but in the evening, it lives up to its name and is a steakhouse.
were signs at the entrance, encouraging people to social distance. Some
booths were not in use, to allow for space between different parties and
we saw tables being sanitized between parties.
brought a nice sized loaf of very good, warm sweet brown bread with honey
butter before the meal. I'm not that much of a bread person, but was very
impressed with theirs.
had beef tips with baked potato and mixed vegetables and I had rib eye
with salad and ranch fries (large fresh cut, fried potato wedge. The rib
tips were cooked with mushrooms and grilled vegetables, but the serving
was almost exclusively meat. The rib eye was cooked exactly to the medium
which I requested. The ranch fries would have been better if they had been
cooked a little shorter time, something I almost never say.
followed dinner with a drive through town, photographing many of the murals
which have been sponsored over the years by the Fredonia Art Council.
Edward J. Alexander Grave
Fanestils Fresh Local Market
Cassoday Country Store
Wild horses in the distance from Teter Rock
Eureka Lake Falls
Mushroom Swiss Burger
Rib eye & ranch fries
- June 27, 2020: We had a family event in Fredonia, but were back on
the road in the mid afternoon. Our first stop was Chanute Art Gallery.
The public art gallery has three display galleries and has a different
guest artist each month. There ar no permanent displays The water colors
of Diane Barton are on exhibit until July 11th. Masks were being worn and
there was a sanitation station.
continued north to Iola, to visit John Brown's Cave at Lehigh Portland
Trails. We parked as close as we could and hiked about a quarter mile.
The trail was in pretty good shape, just a little muddy. We picked up a
tick during the hike.
is no known connection to John Brown, other than his having lived in eastern
entrance to the cave is along a 10-20' high stone bluff in an area which
reminds me of the Ozarks. It appeared that it was just a short opening,
but if we had pushed on, it opens out into about a 200' long space with
an exit at the far end. It is reported that you can't go through the cave
without getting wet and 3 light sources are recommended, so we weren't
prepared to explore it. It was still an interesting spot.
only the briefest of stops for photos, we drove on to Council Grove, and
had an early supper at the newly reopened Hays
House Restaurant in Council Grove, the oldest (1857) restaurant in
Kansas. It had closed in December, there was fear that it might be closed
for good, but they reopened with new owners 3 weeks ago.
were sanitation stations near the entrance and (at least while we were
there) parties were seated at tables which were at least 6 feet apart.
Condiments and all other things had been removed from the tables.
young man who appeared to be about 10 years old seated us. Near the end
of the meal, he returned to ask how our meal was. The menu was shorter
than the last time we dined here, but had a large enough selection. We
were happy with the service and there was no evidence that the present
version of the restaurant was less than three weeks old.
had chicken fried steak ($15 with choice of potato and a side) and prime
rib ($28 for the smaller 12 ounce cut with potato and a side). The chicken
fried steak was hand breaded, with much more meat than breading. The coating
was crisp and delicious, and the steak was tender and beefy flavored. One
of the best chicken fried steaks I have had. We didn't really notice the
garlic in the mashed potatoes, but that was fine with this dish and gravy.
prime rib appeared larger than the 12 ounce "The Pilgrim" cut. I thought
they hit the medium I requested right on. It was a little more fatty than
I would choose, but with the generous serving, I could avoid that and still
have plenty of meat. It was tender, but I did need the steak knife. It
was well flavored as well. There is a larger 18 ounce "The Duke" cut available
for $4 more.
HH fries, are house cut, slender fries. They were crispy and not greasy.
I would have liked a little more seasoning on the shaved Brussels sprouts.
split a large blueberry cobbler ($5 with whipped cream). The cobbler was
more cake like than we are used to with cobbler.
spent the night at Cottage House Hotel, just around the corner. The Hotel
began as a three room cottage and blacksmith shop, built in 1867. We stayed
in the main building, where there are 26 rooms. The room was reasonable
comfortable for an older hotel. The clerk wore a face mask and there was
a Plexiglas shield between her and the customers.
was no refrigerator in the room and no ice machine. I was able to request
ice from the clerk. When I requested another bucket of ice in the morning,
all they has left was a third bucket of old ice and frost.
settling in, we went back out to photograph some of the sites on the Council
Grove list of 25 historic sites. On the door of the old Carnegie Library
which is now the Morris County Archive. we found a list of people to call
to make an appointment to use the Morris County Historical Society and
I took a chance and called several of the numbers, where I found someone
willing to to show us their museum the next day.
the evening with sunset photos at Council Grove Lake, we called it a day.
Chanute Art Gallery
John Brown's Cave
Hays House Restaurant
Cottage House Hotel
- June 28, 2020: I walked over to Hays House
for breakfast. There was a different staff and I had a chat with Randall
Dickson. one of the three new partners in the restaurant and former chef
at Six Mile Chop House and Tavern, near Lawrence, Kansas.
are a few less expensive items, but most breakfast meals are $10-15. I
had the Carnivore 3 egg scramble ($12) made with bacon, sausage, ham, cheddar
& Swiss cheese, breakfast potatoes and choice of toast. I enjoyed the
meaty scrambled eggs and the wheat toast. I would have liked the potatoes
a little crisper.
was still early and downtown was quiet. I took some photos on Main Street,
then walked along some of the Riverwalk, before returning to the hotel.
checking out, we drove west, stopping briefly for more photos, before arriving
at Hope Community Historical Museum in Hope, Kansas. The museum wouldn't
have been open at this time, but Joe Hirsch met us to show us around. Joe
is a history teacher who (in addition to volunteering at the museum) operates
Sunflower State Tours with Kansas travel and history tours.
gave us a fascinating tour of the small museum which wills a former church.
We liked the ways he related the exhibits to the history of Hope and enjoyed
hearing him play a wax cylinder on a Edison Cylinder Phonograph, and a
Regina Disc Music Box. They have manage to include a lot in this two room
of the displays was the Eisenhower family connection to Hope. Joe also
told us that the final rest place of Margaret Rebecca Matter Eisenhower
& Jacob Frederick Eisenhower, grandparents of President Dwight David
Eisenhower, was nearby and we photographed the grave in Belle Spring Cemetery,
about 10 miles west and north of Hope.
to town, lunch was a revisit of Gridiron
Café. Although the changes were subtle, they had clearly taken
care to make dinning more COVID safe, for example, removing chairs from
some tables to permit social distancing. We had catfish and chicken fried
steak. Near the end of the meal, the owner, Fred French, stopped to talk
to us. I have only been to this restaurant twice before (2016 & 2018),
but he remembered me from the previous visits.
back to Council Grove, we drove into Herington to photograph the mural
showing the (now gone) railroad depot, as well some of the beautiful old
were met by Kelley Judd of the Morris County Historical Society, at the
Post Office Oak Museum The museum is in a classic old stone building which
was built in 1864 and housed a brewery in the basement. The name of the
museum comes from the stump of the Post Office Oak in the front yard, which
local tradition says was used to leave messages and letters during the
days of the Santa Fe Trail.
touring the museum, we each drove to the Seth Hays Home, which was built
in 1867 the founder of Council Grove, Seth M. Hays. It is now furnished
with period furniture and only open by appointment.
was the end of the day's explorations.
Hope Community Historical Museum
Seth Hays Home
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