Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Third Sunday Drive, Day Five: Kansas

I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
--Jimmy Web (sung by Glen Campbell)

The Sedgwick County Courthouse
Wichita, Kansas

John had some business to finish before he could leave Wichita, so we spent the morning driving around Kansas' largest city, and the seat of Sedgwick County.  One of his appointments was at a building built on the banks of the Arkansas River, and I spent my waiting time out with my camera, until the angry homeless people in the area drove me back to the safety of my locked car.  I missed getting any river shots, or shots of the eagles flying over the river.  In fact, I missed getting any shots at all in this city of 400,000 people, with the exception of the county court house, seen above.  After lunch at a local burger bar, Spangles, where I had one of the best gyros I've ever had, we headed north out of town on I-135 toward Salina, where we would catch I-70 and drive west into Colorado.  With the exception of the city streets of Wichita, all my Kansas driving would be on interstate highways, a decision I don't regret as frankly, I didn't see all that much of interest in the landscape.

Abandoned farm along I-70 
West of Salina, Kansas
(Note the TV antenna)

We did, however, see many fascinating buildings as we drove along, and I made several stops in towns along the road, even pulling over on the side of I-70 to take some photos of an abandoned farm.  The first town we visited, stretching our legs and snapping photos, was Bunker Hill, a town of less than 100 residents in Russell County.  The town was founded by a group of people from Ohio, and one building I photographed had a large sign which didn't say a word about the building itself, but went on at length about Mother Bickerdyke who was born in 1817 in Knox County, Ohio--the same county where my great-great grandfather lived and was married.  There's a considerable amount of information about this remarkable woman on-line, and you can start by reading what Kansapedia has to say if you click on her name, above.

They don't build 'em like that any more
Bunker Hill, Kansas

Bunker Hill served as the first seat of Russell County, but in the late 1800s, the seat moved to the town of Russell, some seven miles west.  Many townspeople followed the government, and Bunker Hill ceased to grow.  Russell, on the other hand, seemed to be a thriving community.  I swear that while I was photographing the Russell County Court House, Jason Stackhouse got out of the car next to us to enter the building.  Other buildings I photographed while in Russell were Trinity United Methodist Church (regular readers will know how much I love photographing Methodist Churches), and the Fossil Station Museum.  While, apparently, there are fossils to be found in the museum, the name comes from the fact that Russell was originally called Fossil Station, and the museum is more of the small town history and genealogy type than an archeological treasure trove.  One special note is that this town of approximately 4,500 people is the home town of two US Senators, Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. 
Fossil Station Museum
Russell, Kansas

Just west of Russell, across the Ellis County line, we saw a large structure beckoning us to leave the interstate and drive into the town of Victoria.  The town was founded in 1873 by English and Scottish settlers, including George Grant, the man considered responsible for introducing Aberdeen Angus cattle to the U.S.  These early settlers named the town for Queen Victoria, but they didn't stay long in the area.  A group of Volga Germans settled in the area in 1876, bringing their Roman Catholic faith with them.  In time, they built St. Fidelis Church in Victoria.  Built between 1908 and 1911, the church seats 1100 parishioners and was the largest church west of the Mississippi at the time of its dedication.  Although it is not the home to a bishop, and therefore not, techically speaking, a cathedral, William Jennings Bryant called it "The Cathedral of the Plains" when he visited the area in 1912.  With twin towers reaching 141 feet high, the church can easily be seen from miles away on Interstate 70.
St. Fidelis R.C. Church
The Cathedral of the Plains
Victoria, Kansas
On a side note:  The Volga Germans settled in a community they named Herzog in honor of their Volga River hometown.  Herzog, Kansas was located a few miles north of Victoria.  As the English and Scottish residents left the area and the Germans became more numerous, Herzog grew to encompass Victoria.  For some reason, they decided to take the English name and in 1913 Herzog was officially renamed Victoria.

Back on the highway, we bypassed whatever wonders Hays had to offer, and drove on out of Kansas into Colorado.  The last several miles of I-70 in Kansas were a construction zone, so once again I missed photographing any "Welcome to Kansas" sign that might be present.  Kansas now joins Georgia as one of the only two states I've driven through in the last half-dozen years where I've not been able to photograph the entry sign.

We pulled off the road in Burlington, Colorado, the seat of Kit Carson County.  While I tried to photograph the court house, it was getting late enough in the day that the light just didn't allow for a good shot.  Dinner, on the other hand, was wonderful.  Relying once again on Yelp, we stopped at a Thai Restaurant, Chen Vuong Thai,  and ate way too much excellent food.

It was completely dark by the time we approached Limon, Colorado.  To the north we saw row upon row of bright red lights, stretching for miles across the prairie. Now I've been told that Denver International Airport is practically in Nebraska, but really, this seemed a bit far out of town for that.  The clerk at our motel couldn't tell me what we'd seen, but by light of the next morning, it was obviously an enormous wind farm with the towers lit for the safety of any low-flying craft.

All told, we drove a total of  468 miles and took 142 photographs on this day after Labor Day.

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