Toto, I think Kansas is pretty awesome (2020)

Kansas gets a bad rap. Yes, it's part of the Midwest and Great Plains, yes it's pretty flat. But inside the nooks and crannies are hidden some awesome places. I think it's one of my favorite underrated states. So I decided to take a quick trip up to check out all that Kansas has to offer.

Day 1: Dallas to South Haven

STOPS: none

Not a good day. Got out of work late with a plan of driving all the way to Wichita and spending the night. After crossing the Kansas/Oklahoma border, I got off the highway to get gas near South Haven Kansas. As I went to turn into the gas station, a car I hadn't seen behind me went to pass on my left and we hit. Fortunately they and I were okay, the police came and checked everything out, and I left. Only after everyone left did I realize my car wouldn't drive...not good. The one positive was that the accident happened right next to a motel, so I got a room for the night. Reportedly there was an autoshop nearby.

Today's distance: 283

Total distance: 283 (283/day)

Day 2: South Haven to Salina

STOPS: South Haven, Muffin Top Bakery, Keeper of the Plains, Strataca, Coronado Heights Castle, WWII POW Camp, Rock City, Ad Astra, Martinelli

Couldn't sleep. Drove my car at 10mph to the auto shop 4 miles down the road in South Haven. The guys there figured out what was wrong (bent tie rod), got the part, and had me back on the road in 2-3 hours. I thought my trip was over, but they pretty much made my car run just like before. Besides the cosmetic damage, we were back in business. I considered driving back to Dallas, but talking to my parents (and getting cleared by the shop), I decided to make the most of the situation and finish the trip. Unfortunately, I'd already cancelled my AirBNBs, but I'd now discovered the joy of motels. Before leaving town, I went to Muffin Top Bakery to pick up some human fuel for the road.

I headed north to Wichita to see the Keeper of the Plains in all its glory. From there, headed to Hutchinson (home of the Cosmosphere!) to head down a mineshaft to Strataca, the only active salt mine in the world(!) that you can take a tour of. Got to mine a piece of salt! Moving on, checked out the Coronado Heights Castle, built by the WPA in the 1930s. It provides a great view for miles around, and I even saw a (military) helicopter! Further north (past Salina) was the remnants of a WWII POW camp where German prisoners were housed, who knew? Last, drove back to Rock City Park, home of a couple hundred small rocks, where I was able to peacefully watch the sun set on a very eventful day. As it darkened, I drove back to Salina, picked up some coffee beans (Free Space Coffee) from Ad Astra Books, then got dinner from Martinelli's before finding a motel to stay at.

Today's distance: 246

Total distance: 529 (265/day)

Day 3: Salina to Dodge City

STOPS: Mushroom Rock State Park, Sternberg Natural History Museum, Gella's, Fick Fossil and History Museum, Castle Rock, Monument Rocks, Little Jerusalem State Park, Flat Mountain Brewhouse, Dodge City

Got up early to head to Mushroom Rock State Park and watch the sunrise, one of the best I've ever seen. From there, headed to I-70 to Hays, to the Sternberg Natural History Museum. It's a surprisingly full museum with loads of fossils, awesome dioramas, and even some live animals to see! Picked up a bierock (try one) from Gella's, then headed farther west to the farthest point of the trip, the Fick Fossil and History Museum. It's small but free, with a ton of cool fossils obtained locally and even a sweet poster. The rest of the day was spent checking out Castle Rock, Monument Rocks, and Little Jerusalem through the back roads. Thank goodness for all-wheel drive. Castle Rocks was surprisingly fun to hike around, and Monument Rocks was the perfect place to watch the sunset. I then drove through Garden City (getting dinner at Flat Mountain Brewhouse) and landed in Dodge City for the night.

Today's distance: 452

Total distance: 981 (327/day)

Day 4: Dodge City to Dallas

STOPS: St Jacobs Well, Shattuck Windmill Museum, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Woke up to very cold, windy, gray weather. I took a quick look at downtown, then officially got out of Dodge (City). Drove south to meander around St Jacobs Well, where I was the only person around, just me and the wind. Continuing south into Oklahoma, I stopped by the Windmill Museum to see the many windmills of years past. The last stop of the trip was in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, home to longhorns, bison, and prairie dogs! Whoa!!! From there, it was onwards to Dallas. Not the best start, but a good end.

Today's distance: 488

Total distance: 1469 (367/day)