A Faces & Places Roadie Blog

We recently set out towards Garden City and I've realized this is one of my favorite drives going from Northeast to Southwestern Kansas. Traveling along I-70 I love to experience the rolling Flint and Smoky Hills regions. One of these days when there is more time, I plan to exit the Interstate and travel through the byways but for now, I will enjoy them in my rush to get from point A to point B.

Our first stop was at Cheyenne Bottoms where we viewed the beautiful Kansas wetlands, did some brief bird watching and admired the endless flowers and brilliant red wetland grasses. Next we hit the Plains. Farmland and crops as far as the eye could see, men in their overalls on the front porch, little farm houses, barns, small town architecture, ever-changing scenery I enjoy looking at as we travel through Kansas.

Once we arrived at our destination we immersed ourselves in the Tumbleweed Festival's activities. We had two of our three children with us so our experience was about family time: participating in their activities, snacking and taking in the zoo. We listened to great performers such as Dino O'Dell (a Topeka favorite) and someone we had not seen before, Wayne Francis. Mr. Francis's act was very entertaining with guests from the audience joining him on stage, ventriloquist acts and overall silliness. My twelve year old was not too old to enjoy the act and by my informal poll, I would say Mr. Francis appealed to all ages.

The Tumbleweed Festival just completed it's 22nd year and has plenty to offer for the entire family. Four stages are set up to keep patrons entertained and there is a variety of food mobiles. My son wanted to try alligator on a stick and thought it was pretty tasty, along with a fried Twinkie from the same vendor. A tent with different craft stations keeps little hands busy with fun crafts and another nearby is designated for Lego engineers. Balloon animals and painted faces can be seen walking around as well. We listed to some of the music that was off from the children's stage but found it hard to sit in any one place with two kids who had been confined to a day-long car ride.

Walking through the sprawling Lee Richardson Zoo we enjoyed the bands in the background mixed with crickets and various animal sounds. We saw both familiar and unfamiliar species and especially enjoyed the walk through aviaries that housed a bald eagle, cuckoos, storks and more.

Homeward bound we saw the same Kansas landscape as we had the day before but this time we pulled off at a historical marker by chance and we found ourselves in the middle of the Santa Fe Trail in the small town of Pawnee Rock. We continued to follow the signs to the Pawnee Rock State Park and were delighted when we found it. The rock was once over 100 feet tall and was chipped away to use for railroad beds but there is still plenty left to admire like the emigrants and settlers before us. A beautiful landmark, we learned a little more American history and experienced another great part of Kansas.