A bit north of Oklahoma's Glass Mountains, just across the Kansas border, are Kansas's Gypsum Hills. They're not quite as colorful as the glass mountains, but make for some lovely roadside scenery nonetheless. You can explore the hills on a short scenic byway leading west from the town of Medicine Lodge. Kansas has a reputation for being flat, but that's clearly not the case!
When I visited northwestern Oklahoma for the first time earlier this month, I was completely blown away by the scenery. The area is full of tall mesas with red cliffs, and it's something that's really unexpected. The surrounding areas of Kansas and central Oklahoma are mostly made up of hilly grasslands, so the appearance of these brilliant red hills and cliffs really takes you by surprise.
I spent the afternoon and evening before I went to Greensburg touring one of Kansas's most vital wetlands: Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Wetlands are crucial for many kinds of wildlife, especially migratory birds who rely on wetlands to find food as they migrate. Quivira is one of the biggest and most important in the plains region.
Visiting late in the day, I had the place almost all to myself - I only saw one other car while I was there. This sense of tranquility followed me throughout the evening. My last stop was the largest lake in the Refuge at its far northern end, where I watched the sunset across the water. My attention was caught by this interesting cloud, which almost seemed to radiate out from the setting sun.
Like many others before me, I came to Greensburg, Kansas to see its major claim-to-fame: the world's largest hand-dug well. I was expecting another odd roadside attraction, but what I got instead was a much more meaningful connection to a small town that I will now always remember. Not just for its record-holding well, but for its inspiring rejuvenation in the wake of a great tragedy.
In 2007, an EF5 tornado devastated the town of Greensburg, killing eleven people, and leveling almost every building in town.
About half of the town's population ended up moving away after the tornado, and for a time things looked bleak for Greensburg. But then something remarkable happened.
The remaining residents got together and decided to rebuild their community. But they didn't want to simply recreate what was lost; they wanted to remake a better Greensburg. A greener Greensburg.
It wasn't a quick decision or an easy process, but eventually, using environmentally-friendly construction techniques, they built a new town that is sustainable. They were so successful, in fact, that Greensburg is now considered one of the most sustainable small towns in the world. Many other towns now use Greensburg as a model for ways that they can make their own towns greener and more sustainable.
If you drive 10 minutes west from Greensburg, Kansas, you'll come to the small, quiet town of Mullinville. Mullinville looks much like any other small Kansas town, until you arrive at Mr. Liggett's property on the western edge of town. Situated right on highway 400, at the last intersection in town before the highway continues on into uninterrupted farmland, is this stretch of fence which is covered in hundreds of pieces of metal art.
I must be hungry this week.
Here's a little trivia for your Friday:
In what city can you find this statue of Chef Boyardee?
Click "Read More" to find out!
It comes from Switzerland, my child.
Or at least Gruyere cheese does.
Being an aficionado of all things cheesy, a visit to the Maison du Gruyere was an absolute must on my visit to Switzerland last summer.
The Maison is located just below the lovely hilltop town of Gruyeres in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. Inside you'll find informative displays about the cheese-making process, a restaurant, and a gift shop. But best of all, you can actually watch cheese being made. I know. I was excited too.
So this was kind of an unplanned stop on my last road trip. I knew I wanted to take the long way home (cutting south into Kansas instead of taking the highway east) from seeing the sandhill cranes so that I could see the world's largest ball of twine. Because, obviously. It's an 18,000 pound ball of twine, of course I'm going there.
So I'm in my hotel in Nebraska the night before, looking at my road atlas to make sure I understand the highways I'll need to take to get to the twineball, and I see this little red mark on the map labelled "Geographic Center of the 48 Contiguous States." And it's literally right on my way to the twine, so I figure why not stop?
And so I did.
Did you know that a giraffe's tongue is 18 inches long? Or that the tip of it is black? Well now you do. In the wild, giraffes use their long tongue to wrap around a tree branch and strip the leaves off of it. Consequently their tongue has to be very strong and durable. The black color helps them to avoid getting a sunburn, since they spend so much time with their tongue sticking out. Can you imagine getting a sunburned tongue? Ow.
This photo comes from the Milwaukee Zoo, where, at scheduled times, zookeepers hand out biscuits to zoo guests and allow them to feed the giraffes.
Surprisingly enough, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo is home to a number of record-holding exhibits, including the world's largest indoor desert, the world's largest nocturnal exhibit, the world's largest indoor swamp, the world's second-largest free-flight aviary, and America's largest indoor rainforest. Whew!
All of that comes together to make what is, in my opinion, one of the very best zoos in the country. Certainly one of the more unique zoos you could visit.
The zoo is far too big for me to talk about every animal (as much as I might like to), so I'll just highlight the zoo's eight best areas and exhibits. Conveniently arranged for those of you with short attention spans with my favorites first!
Hi, I'm Alex! I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting travel experiences, and am happy to share them with you here!
Take a Tour:
In addition to being a blogger, I'm also a tour operator at Surprising Destinations! On my tours, you can visit many of the fascinating places featured in this blog. This prairie dog sure is happy he took a Surprising Destinations tour!