Last fall, Gail and I had a trip planned in Arkansas to hike but due to weather conditions we ended up on a Kansas tour instead. It was through a process of elimination we eventually decided to travel the state.
The week we had planned to travel, there was a huge storm out of the gulf. The southern and southeastern states all had five day forecasts of rain so we opted out of traveling in that direction. We then searched for interesting locations north of us but the temperatures were colder than we wanted to deal with that week.
The Kansas weather forecast was predicted to be beautiful during the days we wanted to travel and was truly our best option. This decision was fine with me because I was born and raised in Kansas. I was aware of some places I wanted to visit and had never seen before.
The Kansas Sky
To appreciate Kansas, you have to have a respect for vastness and understated aesthetics. After living in the state most of my life and traveling through it on numerous business trips, I have come to this conclusion: The beauty of Kansas is primarily in the sky. If you judge Kansas solely by what’s on the ground you will miss the grandeur of the prairie. The vivid blue skies, the cloud formations and sunsets can be spectacular here.
Our route began with a late afternoon departure driving west out of Kansas City on I-70 to spend the night at Wilson Lake. This overnight location made sense for our first stop because it’s about 3 hours west of our home. Wilson Lake is also a central location in the state to find some quirky points of interest. Visiting odd and beautiful places is the reason we purchased our sprinter van Alice.
The next day, Lucas, Kansas met the criteria we were looking for.
The Garden of Eden
The town of Lucas is a 20-minute drive north of Wilson Lake and is the home of the Garden of Eden. If you are traveling I-70 take highway 232 north to highway 18 and turn left to the small community.
This bizarre home was built by Civil War veteran Samuel Perry who started construction in 1907 at the age of 67. The exterior finishes, statues and artwork are made of reinforced concrete and have both biblical and political messages for the viewer. Within the interior of the home, all the wooden doors, trim and stair parts were hand made by Perry.
As if all that was not enough, Mr. Perry also built a mausoleum to house his mummified remains which visitors can view if they choose. The Garden of Eden is a fun and one of a kind structure of artwork and is a true Kansas destination.
The Largest Ball of Twine
Yes, it’s true, Kansas claims to have the largest ball of twine in the world. More specifically, they have the largest ball of Sisal twine in the world. Apparently, there is another huge ball of twine somewhere in the world but you only have to find your way to Kansas to see this one!
This landmark is located in Cawker City and is only a 20 minute drive from Lucas and the Garden of Eden. What can I say? If you’re going to visit one of these sites, visit them both!
The Geographic Center of the United States
Having seen an icon for the contiguous center of the United States on a travel map, we drove to this marker near Smith Center and photographed the event for our archives.
However, we have learned since that this location was only the proclaimed center of the USA from 1894 to 1918. Apparently, in those days, finding an exact latitude/longitude position included some guesswork on the part of those who were responsible for pinpointing the exact spot.
To our dismay, the true center of the Contiguous United States is northwest of Lebanon, Kansas which is near the Kansas / Nebraska border and maybe an hour north of the pictured marker.
All this to say, the center of the contiguous USA is still in Kansas but not near Smith Center. We will leave the true location on our list of places to visit for another trip.
For your information, the center of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii is in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. We haven’t been there either!
The state of Kansas is not likely to be on most people’s top ten places to visit on their vacation. However, with some research and curiosity there are definitely points of interest in the state that are fun destinations to visit.
The state is also rich with history as it was the primary crossroad during the early western expansion. If you are interested in the travels of Coronado, Lewis and Clark, the Santa Fe trail settlers or American Indian history, Kansas is full of stories and landmarks.
Whether you live in the area or are just passing through Kansas, we think taking a detour to unique and unusual places is always a good idea.
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