Kansas Is So NOT a Fly-Over State

I went to Kansas to accomplish my 44th state, and was not at all prepared to have some of the best experiences of the trip so far. One day blew me away–both from powerful wind and from stunning beauty. I finally saw wheat AND met a new crop. Plus, I have every intention of returning. To Kansas. Can you believe it?

They Work Hard for the Money

The fields are groomed, the fences aligned, piles of dead limbs and tree roots are evidence of constant maintenance. Roadside signs boast “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” And others take pride that “One Kansas farmer feeds 155 people.” Fields–that extend for acres upon acres–alternate between crops and grasslands to feed cattle.

Wheat

I saw wheat for the first time in my life!

Milo

Milo is a new crop to me; it’s a feed crop.

Not So Flat

I’m sure places are, but the Flint Hills, where I spent most of my time, undulates.

Flint Hills in Kansas

 

Natural water drainage in the Flint Hills

Natural water drainage makes pretty patterns

As Far as the Eye Can See

The expanse is diminishing. A windmill is grand. A windmill in context of all the land is like a toothpick on the kitchen counter. A gate is obvious for a fence. But you can barely see a barbed wire fence, and there’s no road beyond the fence: you only know to enter right there because of the fence, which I suppose is why the fence is there to begin with.

Windmill in Kansas

Fencing in the cattle

Flowers are only on one side of the fence. The other side has been grazed.

Trees on the Kansas Prairie

Who Said It Wasn’t Going to be a Pretty Fall?

Our wickedly hot summer theoretically meant a dull autumn. I’m here to tell ya, folks, ain’t so.

Autumn in the Kansas Flint Hills

 

Autumn in the Kansas Flint Hills

There’s A Lot of Wind Here

While the 40mph gusts made driving quite scary (I slowed down to 49 mph) it was fun to experience while on two feet. Although sometimes it was actually hard to stay on two feet! And the wind is not seasonal; it’s like this year round, although (thankfully) not daily.

Why is the wind so strong? Natural weather patterns from geography, the large spaces of the Great Plains, and the lack of urban areas with many trees and buildings.  In some places, trees are permanently bent in the direction they are continuously blown.

And then, since it was hot AND windy, my weather app sent alert of a grassland fire warning. Yeah, that’s scary, but I was thrilled to have experienced something I never had before!

Prairie Fire Warning in Kansas

The Coolest Mailbox. Ever.

For a while I was obsessed with mailbox personalities. Widemouth Bass. John Deere tractors. Swans. You can see the pictures. This one wins. Hands down.

Cowboy Mailbox

Destination: Kansas

I’m coming back! In the summer the cattle are feeding, the grass is emerald green, and the sunflowers are blooming.

Kansas is not a fly-over state. It’s a fly-to state.

***

What destination surprised you by being so much better than you expected it to be?

28 Responses

10.26.12

Missouri surprised me. I went when I was a kid with my whole family and one of the most memorable trips. The St. Louis Arch, The St. Louis Zoo, Anheiser Busch museum, the Tom Sawyer fence and Mark Twain’s home town. Very interesting. Lots to do in Missouri and that is only what I remember from 30 years ago.

Hillary – what great memories!

10.26.12

The picture of the natural water drainage and the tree with the red flowers in front of it are inspiring. They will be my next watercolor muse. Thank you!

Did being in Kansas make you miss your old Toto dog?

Jef – please send pics of your watercolors (of the pics). I did miss toto, but was so relieved that house fell on Jake’s sister. Phew.

10.26.12

That stuff is milo! It’s growing on farms in south Georgia now, and neither Robert nor I could identify it. Thank you for the continuing education and entertainment to go with it.

10.26.12

I am originally from Germany…The first time I visited Kansas was in 2008. I was driving from Oklahoma where I visited my sister to Kansas City and went from one WOW to another. What impressed me the most was the green that seemed to be endless when driving through the Flint Hills. I fell in love with Kansas that day and can’t wait to be back for good. Funnily enough my favorite flower is the sunflower…

Bianca – i’ve heard that the spring and summer grass is so green it’s like emeralds. I can’t wait to experience that! You’re so lucky to have already done it!

Charleston, South Carolina was my biggest surprise. We had recently moved to the South and decided to take a weekend trip. I knew very little about the city and I was just mesmerized by its history and beauty. Every step brought another wonderful sight, whether it was the ironwork fences and decorative elements or a glimpse of a garden on the long side of the house (the short side faces the street, since homes are taxed on street frontage). Savannah is lovely as well, but having been to Charleston first, it is iconic to me of a genteel, sleepy, charming, beautiful, totally Southern city.

Karen, my extended family is from Charleston, so I’ve gone multiple times a year since a baby. I think i take it’s magic for granted. Thanks for reminding me!

10.26.12

Thanks for your lovely post about Kansas. I am a native Kansan and wanted out of here when I graduated from college. I finally learned that Dorothy Gale was right–There’s no place like home! I’ve been back for the last 20 years. Kansas has a beauty of its own. So glad you appreciated it and if you come back, come see us in the far NW corner of Kansas. You need to see “the Breaks”–a natural mini grand canyon with great history associated with it. Stop into our coffee shop in St. Francis, Cuppa Joe Espresso. We’d love to show you around and treat you to some great coffee and food! We specialize in local and regional food–our coffee is roasted in Kansas! Blessings on your continued journey!

Kim – thanks for the invitation to your region. I’ll add it to my list for the return visit!

Your Comments

I left Kansas 64 years ago (now 87) but had gone back almost every year since……I have been telling people here in Michigan all those years that the
“real” people all live west of the Mississippi River……They all have Kansas pictured has one huge, flat wheat field………can’t convince that there is more change in elevation in the state of Kansas than here in Michigan……still miss Kansas…..still love the beauty of the state….

Wade – interesting. I hadn’t thought of Michigan as a flat state, but I guess it is. Good point!

10.26.12

I have been to Kansas again this April/May and it was amazing. The colors you get to see are awsome at that time of year.

10.26.12

This is a wonderful post. The pics are great. Keep up the great travelogue.

10.26.12

Thank you for visiting Kansas. I am so pleased that you had a wonderful time here and saw some of it’s great beauty. I’m not sure where you got that wheat picture in October. We are Kansas farmers. Wheat in Kansas is harvested in June. We are just completing the drilling (planting) of the wheat now. It makes the earth green in the fall, then goes into a dormant stage during the winter months and grows again in the spring. About May it begins to ripen and turn the golden color. You must come back in June and experience a Kansas wheat harvest.

In fact you should make appoint of being in Manhattan, Kansas June, 22. 2013 for the National Festival of Breads. At that time you can experience a Kansas harvest, then learn so much about the milling of Kansas wheat, and then baking the bread.

One should also see other areas of Kansas. The flint hills are inspiring, as well as the red rock hills in the Medicine Lodge area. Now we have a large wind farm on the Kingman / Harper County line west of Highway 14.

Please do come back.

Janice – I’m almost certain I took that wheat picture coming back from Cawker City toward to Lucas. Did I label it correctly? Is it really wheat? Thanks for letting me know about the festival of breads – it’s now on my list!

Just made a trip to Kansas City thru the Flint Hills last month at a time when they are usually brown but were surprised to see them Emerald Green (Sept.)There’s a beauty all its own.

10.26.12

So glad that you enjoyed your visit here! The Flint Hills are simply amazing!
Winter wheat is being planted now. You’ll have to come back when it is being harvested in June. One of my favorite times of year!
Enjoy the rest of your travels!

Susan – there’s seasonal wheat? winter wheat and [xxx] wheat? Does the waving wheat really sure smell sweet?

10.26.12

What you have shown as wheat is actually corn.

Connie-thanks for checking. Ill just have to come back to see wheat!

10.26.12

My husband believes that your picture may be of a field of very short, failed, burnt corn; perhaps we are seeing corn tassels in the picture on the left.

You might like to visit http://www.kswheat.com

Hard Red Winter Wheat and some Hard White Winter Wheat is grown in Kansas and used for bread baking. (Yes, there is also Hard Red Spring Wheat grown in ND, MT, and MN and about three other kinds of wheat such as durum used for pasta and soft wheat used for cake flour.)

Janice-thanks for taking the time to check and for the insight!

10.26.12

Your Comments
I agree that the photos at the top of your blog is some drought stricken corn. Has been a hard year for corn in most areas of the state!
There is some wheat that has recently been sown and it would resemble green tufts of grass and it is all about waist high when harvested mid-June to early July. I spent many hours growing up driving loads of grain to our grain bins or to the elevators in town or combining. Always grabbed a handful to chew on! Seeing the fields of wheat swaying in the wind is a beautiful sight.
Don’t feel bad though about not knowing the difference! I’m excited that you enjoyed your visit and plan to come back.

Susan-thanks for the education. I did a google check and was close, but clearly not close enough! 😉

10.26.12

you can find the flat parts on I-70 heading west from Salina, as long as you STAY on I-70. If you get off of it, you will find canyons and cliffs and sandstone towers out in the middle of nowhere. Almost anywhere in Kansas, if you get off the interstate you will find all sorts of things to look at and visit.

10.26.12

Best time of year in my old home state – awesome colors, cooler temps, no humidity!

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