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!
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.
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.
Well, one of them anyway. Yes, there are four contenders of the title of world's largest ball of twine. This one, located in Cawker City, Kansas, is the world's largest ball of sisal twine, by size, and made by a community (The other three are the world's largest ball of plastic twine in Missouri, the world's heaviest ball of twine in Wisconsin, and the world's largest ball of sisal twine rolled by one man in Minnesota).
Cawker City's ball of twine was started in 1953 by a man named Frank Stoeber. There was a bit of a competition in the early days between this ball of twine and the one in Minnesota. The Minnesota twine ball was in the lead for a while, but the competition shifted after the respective deaths of the men who started each ball. The people of Darwin, Minnesota decided to let the ball stay as it was so it would remain the largest ball of twine rolled by one man, whereas the people of Cawker City decided to carry on Mr. Stoeber's work and continue rolling the twine. As a result, the Cawker City ball is still growing. Every August, in fact, the city holds a twine-a-thon, where residents and visitors alike are allowed to continue rolling twine around the ball.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and most larger cities have a handful of traditional ethnic neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were important for immigrants because they were able to maintain their connection with home while starting a new life in a new country. They were able to live among people who shared their language, music, customs, and other traditions.
The historically Croatian neighborhood of Strawberry Hill is located in Kansas City, KS right across the Kansas River from Kansas City, MO. It was founded in the 1800's, and still preserves a strong Croatian heritage with many second-, third-, and fourth-generation Croatians still living here today.
Croatian immigrants first settled at the bottom of the hill where you could once find strawberry fields. A 1903 flood forced many of them to move up the hill, which they renamed Strawberry Hill.
The neighborhood itself is very charming, with brick sidewalks, rows of old houses, and great views over the surrounding areas.
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!
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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!