Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dare to do Dirt - Miami and Linn Counties, Kansas

Last week I had the opportunity to travel some backroads in Miami and Linn counties in eastern Kansas.

I had made a loop around most of Miami County on a past visit, but wanted to see the easternmost part of the county, so I entered Miami County in the northeast corner and visited the community of Bucyrus for a few minutes, then headed east and found the beautiful Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Wea. I also visited the cemetery out back.

Then, I headed southeast around the town of Louisburg, then south to visit the wood deck pony truss bridge over South Wea Creek. I continued on south into the southeast corner of Miami County and stopped to view the pony truss bridge over an arm of LaCygne Lake on 399th Street. This was a very beautiful area that I would have liked to see a few weeks earlier in full fall color.

I then went on south into the northeast part of Linn County. First stop was the town of LaCygne, the city of swans. There were swan statues all over town. I had a good hamburger steak with great grilled onions at the Family Cafe just east of town.

From LaCygne, I traveled southeast to the Marais des Cygnes Massacre historic site, where in 1858, 11 free state people were rounded up by pro-slavery ruffians, lined up along a ravine, shot and left for dead. Interpretive signs help tell the story about this incident. The beautiful stone Hadsell house used as a museum was closed for the season.

Next up was a visit to Trading Post Cemetery. Settlement in this area began with French traders in 1825. The museum was closed for the season, but I saw evidence of many early settlers in the cemetery.

I continued on south past Pleasanton and visited the Rainbow Arch bridge over Mine Creek. I did not visit Mine Creek Battlefield Park on this visit, but intend to do so on another trip. The next town was Prescott, where I noticed the school which has been converted into the town library, and the beautiful brick elementary school which in now City Hall. Not far southwest of Prescott, I found a beautiful triple arch stone bridge over East Laberdie Creek.

After going on west across the southern part of Linn County, I turned north and visited the communities of Centerville, Goodrich, and Parker. I was happy to find the active Matthes Farm and Field store in Centerville which obviously served the farms in that area. In Goodrich, I noticed the stone church at the south end of town and visited the elegant Five (5!!) arch stone bridge at the end of the lane. The bar and grill in Parker is now closed, but I did see a couple of churches there and a large Christmas lights display at one house.

All in all, I had a great day exploring parts of two counties. To view more of my photos see the following links to my galleries:

There is Still a Rural Johnson County

Last week I made a trip to northeast Kansas. While there, I took a couple of loops around the western and southern parts of Johnson County in order to complete my "Dare to do Dirt" quest for the county. I found that suburbia is fast encroaching as it is in Sedgwick County around Wichita, my home. I was pleased to still find some rural areas in Johnson County.

I began by entering the southwest corner of the county and stopping at the Edgerton Cemetery, then heading into town. I admired the architecture including the historic Grange Hall, and the public library, with it's sign "Bank of Knowledge", along with several churches.

After leaving Edgerton, I drove out to the Lanesfield School site which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This school, dating back to 1869, has been restored to it's 1904 version. I also enjoyed visiting the museum building to learn about the one room schools all over Kansas over the years.
I then continued north into the western part of Johnson County near the border with Douglas County. I visited a beautiful pony truss bridge over Captain Creek on west 127th Street near the Sunflower Army Ammunition plant. Then, I went around the corner and up the hill to visit the somewhat remote Prairie Center Cemetery, which was on a hill with mature cedar trees.

On another day, I made a loop across the southern part of Johnson County. I found a number of horse farms in this area and saw one dairy farm too. I did go east to State Line Road to the Missouri border for a few miles then headed back west across the far southern part of the county. A couple of gems I found were a low water bridge giving a great view of Camp Branch Creek on 175th Street near the Missouri border and a unique wagon wheel fence along a sod grass farm not far from Stillwell.

For a gallery of my favorite images and videos from Johnson County, please visit the following link to my Smugmug gallery:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Great Cuisine in Northeast Kansas

This past week, I had the opportunity to take a 3 day trip to northeast Kansas. During this time, I had some memorable meals.

I had a smoked chicken meal at Smokey's BBQ in Wellsville in northeast Franklin County. I ordered my meal with potato salad and baked beans. The chicken was wafer sliced, contained a very generous serving and was well smoked. The baked beans contained chunks of ham and were very good. I enjoyed the chunky medium sauce on the chicken. They also serve a good apple bread that is the consistency of cornbread. Smokey's is open daily at 510 Main in Wellsville. Phone 785-883-4119.

Based on a recommendation of Keith Stokes restaurant guide for Olathe, I had a meal at Chapala Mexican Restaurant. I ordered my favorite tacos de carne asada, and they were good, comparing favorably to any I've had at other Kansas restaurants. I did enjoy the salsa and chips too. Chapala is located just off I-35 at exit 218. See Keith's extensive guides at the following link: 

Keith Stokes Kansas Travel, Tourism & Restaurants

I visited Hillsdale Bank Bar B-Q, located in a 100 year old red brick bank building in Hillsdale, northern Miami County. This facility also features a caboose which has been converted with dining areas. I've had their smoked meats on previous visits and enjoyed their fine sauce at home. This time, I tried a pizza with smoked chicken, red onions, banana peppers and tomatoes. The 8 inch square pizza was cooked in a wood fired oven and served on a pizza stone. It was sliced on a diagonal into 8 pieces. The pizza was excellent with a thin crispy crust, fresh toppings and good sauce. I would highly recommend it.

For more information, see the following link:

Hillsdale Bank Bar B-Q

Also, I had the opportunity to visit Guy and Mae's Tavern in Williamsburg in western Franklin County to try some of their famous pork spare ribs. This family run business has been operating since 1973, and serves half and full rack ribs on foil and newspapers. I found the ribs to be very tender - they almost fell off the bone. The mild sauce was good, although not really needed on the ribs. The atmosphere was friendly in the tavern too. Guy and Mae's tavern was voted as one of the 8 wonders of Kansas cuisine during the contest coordinated by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

For more information about Guy and Mae's Tavern, visit the following link:

Try any of these fine restaurants.

No "Dare to do Dirt" in Wyandotte County

I've been on an Explorer Quest for 3 1/2 years now. My stated goal is to drive at least 25 miles of unpaved roads in each of the 105 counties in Kansas. These can be earth, sand, or gravel, just not asphalt or concrete.

Last week, I had the opportunity to get to a rural area in extreme southwest Wyandotte County. This area is bounded by 142nd Street on the West, the Kansas River along the east and south, and up to the city limits of Bonner Springs on the north. Loring Drive is along the east.

This area is still rural, but I found no unpaved roads. Every road even in this area is asphalt. I found active farms in this area and one farmer was cutting his soybeans. I saw a couple of UP trains passing while I was there and noted that the Little Kaw Creek passes through this area.

This area was the last bit of unincorporated area that was shown on my KDOT map for Wyandotte County. Therefore, I'm not optimistic that I can find any unpaved roads in this county, and I will probably not search further unless anyone reading this can direct me elsewhere.

For a few photos I took in this area, please see my gallery at the following link:

Wyandotte Rural

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Dirt Road Exploring in Southeast Kansas

Recently I had the chance to take a day trip to explore parts of Labette and Cherokee counties in southeast Kansas.

I began by following the Neosho River valley in far eastern Labette County. I headed south from the small town of Strauss and crossed Litup Creek a number of times. Shortly, I arrived at Oswego.

I spent some time exploring around Oswego noting some of the murals, the 1867 log cabin, the Labette County Courthouse, John Matthews park, and the Carnegie Library. I noted that Commercial Street was wide enough for people to park in the middle of the street.

Also in Oswego, I was amazed at the view off the bluff above the Neosho River in Riverside Park. This is one of the most picturesque spots for a city park that I've seen.

After leaving Oswego, I headed over into the southwest corner of Cherokee County to finish my Dare to Do Dirt loop. I had made a previous trip around the northern, eastern, and southeastern parts of the county in 2007.

This afternoon, I visited three old cemeteries, and the communities of Faulkner, Melrose, Treece, Neutral, Sherwin, and Hallowell. This will perhaps be my last visit to Treece, as the residents are now eligible to receive buyouts of their property and be relocated out of this area that is contaminated from the former mining activities. Then the town will be closed.

During the afternoon, I found two (2) low water bridges that I photographed. The Cherry Creek bridge southwest of Hallowell was flowing a substantial amount of water; so much so that I didn't try to cross it.

In the extreme southwest corner of Cherokee County, I came upon a low water bridge over Fly Creek. The most interesting aspect of this site was the remnants of an Iron Truss bridge left there beside the concrete slab of the low water bridge.

I finished my loop around Cherokee County, then headed west on US-160 back across the rolling hills of Labette County.

I decided to stop in Independence for dinner at the Brothers Railroad Inn. I had tried their Italian food the last time I was there, so this time I tried a steak dinner. I was very impressed with the filet mignon. It was very tender and cooked just right. It was well worth the wait on a Saturday evening since I didn't have a reservation.

Then, I had a 2 hour drive back home to Wichita. It was a long daytrip of about 380 miles that ended at 9:45 PM, but was very satisfying anyway.

For more information:


My photo galleries:

Labette County:  Labette County Dirt

Cherokee County: Cherokee County Dirt