Country cruising


After several weeks in Manhattan, the atmosphere and attractions can become familiar and an itch might develop to escape the monotony and find excitement elsewhere. Students can find options for one-day road trips throughout the state that require just one tank of gas. Chuck Martin, associate professor of geography, had some suggestions for traveling in Kansas. Martin said he thought three hours was the maximum traveling distance to fit in activities for a one-day road trip. “When I was in graduate school, we did things like this as sort of a tour,” he said. Clint Patry, junior in agronomy, said he has gone on road trips with his friends and most recently traveled to sand dunes in Oklahoma. “It’s just to get away and get out of town,” he said. Patry said he usually takes a camera, plenty to drink and sometimes a map, although he usually travels to places that are familiar to him. Paige Domoney, freshman in family studies and human services, said she took a two-day road trip over spring break to Soldier, Kan. She said leaving without set plans made her trip both exciting and interesting. “Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” Domoney said.

The odd road trip | 314 miles Prepare to see some unusual sites in Kansas when you start driving 101 miles west to Delphos, Kan. According to the Kansas Travel and Tourism Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce Web site, the town has a monument for Grace Bedell, who wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln suggesting he grow a beard. Next, travel 47 miles to the town of Cawker City, Kan., where the World’s Largest Ball of Twine sits for all to see along Kansas Highway 24. According to the Web site, the man-made exhibit was started by a farmer and later given to the city. The size of the ball continues to grow with an annual twine-a-thon event. Then drive 39 miles to Lucas, Kan. After checking out the World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Version of World’s Largest Things traveling museum, view recycled-material exhibits at the Grassroots Art Center. Martin suggests also seeing the Garden of Eden. “Probably the oddest of all odd ones is the Garden of Eden,” he said. “It’s worth visiting once. I can’t say you’d want to go a dozen times, but it’s interesting.” Martin said the exhibit features a log cabin surrounded by statues made out of concrete that portray different aspects of the Garden of Eden.

Historical Road Trip | 246 miles Besides the business of Lawrence and Kansas City, Kan., a road trip spent in the extreme east area of Kansas also offers a variety of historical sites. First, take a 122-mile drive to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to start an educational day. According to the travel and tourism division Web site, Fort Leavenworth offers a historical tour of sites on the post that is the “oldest Army installation in continuous services west of the Mississippi River,” but remember to bring photo ID. Next, travel 36 miles to Jayhawk territory to find history from Bleeding Kansas and museums at the University of Kansas, Martin said. According to the Lawrence Conventions and Visitors Bureau Web site, the city has a number of historical tours to choose from, such as the Dole Institute of Politics located on KU’s West Campus. The institute displays exhibits dating back half a century of Kansas and American history. After seeing enough of Lawrence, Martin suggests stopping by Topeka, which is a 27-mile drive from Lawrence, before continuing back to Manhattan. He said sites to see in the capital city include the Brown v. Board National Historical Site and Museum, Kansas Museum of History and murals in the Kansas State Capitol.

The scenic road trip | 137 miles Start the day driving 27 miles southeast of Manhattan to the town of Alma, Kan., where the trip begins. Martin said Alma is an interesting town with German heritage, but its landscape is the main attraction. He said he likes driving from Alma to Alta Vista, Kan., on the Mill Creek-Skyline Drive because of the scenery. “It’s really a pretty road,” he said. “You get a sense of what the Flint Hills really look like.” Martin has driven the road between the two towns several times and said it is about 10 miles. Then, head 15 miles south toward Council Grove, Kan., to experience part of the ready-made adventure suggested on the travel and tourism division Web site. According to the site, tourists should visit the Allegawaho Heritage Memorial Park and walk the 2 1/2-mile trail of the first Kaw Indian village in Kansas. Visitors also can walk the self-guided tour of the Santa Fe Trail in the town and see 24 sites like the Hermit’s Cave and eat at the Hays House. If still in the mood for exercise and scenery, head 20 miles farther south to Strong City, Kan., to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where visitors can hike trails and tour one of the tallest barns in the state.

The random road trip | 391 miles Be aware, this trip will likely require an extra stop to the gas station. According to the Roadside America Web site, the southeast area of the state has several off-the-beaten-path attractions, and most of them happen to be free. First, head toward Independence, Kan., but plan on leaving early as it is a 187-mile drive. Starting around 8 or 9 a.m., drive southeast for the Little House on the Prairie log cabin, which is located near the former home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Next, travel to the Ralph Mitchell Zoo that has a Monkey Island, the site that formerly housed Miss Able, a rhesus monkey who had the opportunity to travel to outer space. Admission to the zoo is free. Finally, go 41 miles southwest to Chanute, Kan., to view the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum that displays the works of these two Kansans who explored Africa.

All of the driving distances were calculated using the Google Maps.