Exploring along I-70 in Kansas
September 13-15, 2002

Day 1 - Friday, September 13

I started this trip straight from work on at 5 PM on Friday, traveling from Olathe to Lawrence, then picking up I-70 in Lawrence and continuing west.

Supper was at the Brookville Hotel. Located originally in Brookville, the actual hotel was in the same family since 1894. They started family style chicken dinners in 1933. Original hotel

A couple of years ago they moved the restaurant next to the freeway in Abilene, reproducing the facade of the original hotel and moving all of the fixtures. Each of the 7 dining rooms is a theme room. I ate in the Spirit of Kansas Room. They serve nothing but skillet fried chicken.

The meal is served family style. ½ chicken, relishes (the bead and butter pickles were good), sweet-sour cole-slaw, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, cream style corn, baking powder biscuits and home style ice cream.

Every thing was very good. The chicken was the best that I have had in years. The milk was served in an iced mug.

Their hours are pretty limited and they are closed Mondays. Reservations are recommended (785) 263-2244

I spent Friday night at the Super 8 just off I-70 in Hays, Kansas. Inexpensive and clean, but I think I could hear everything happening in the motel.

Day 2 - Saturday, September 14

I was on the road by AM. It was pretty foggy and threatening rain, but I planned to spend the morning farther west where rain wasn't forecast.

First stop was Castle Rock about 12 miles south of I-70 near Quinter. The country gets much wilder as soon as you get away from I-70. This interesting chalk formation is on private range land. The two rut path leading back from the dirt road was quite rough, portions of the track having up to 18 inch deep ruts. It took some careful driving, almost like waking a tightrope.

The chalk formation is very fragile and may not last many more years. The tallest portion was about 10 feet taller prior to a thunderstorm last summer. On the way back to the road, I explored the badlands area of similar formations near the bluff, a few hundred yards from the castle.

To get to the Rock, take Exit 107 and turn south and follow the signs. The roads are dirt and may be pretty muddy in wet weather.

(I revisited the Castle Rock Badlands in 2005 and have created a site devoted to them at my new web site: KansasTravel.org)

That is me for scale

badlands near the pyramid

Next stop was the Chalk Pyramids, which I had visited on my one previous visit to this area in 1985. The pyramids are also on private range land and totally undeveloped. It gives a feeling of discovering them.

For years I thought there was another formation near this one, the Kansas State map shows two features, but the Chalk pyramids and Monument Rocks are the same.

The Chalk Pyramids are about 20 miles south of Oakley on US-83, about 4 miles east of the main highway. There are signs at the turn off (more dirt roads). You can see them in the distance from the main road if you know where to look.

layers of shells and other fossils

For lunch I stopped in Oakley, KS. After searching for someplace interesting in the small business district, I gave up and tried Don's Drive-in at the junction of US 40 and US 83. A really unattractive, little, old, drive-in who's only view is the back of a row of old pickups at the Chevy dealer next door. Their specialty is hamburgers, but since I was having burgers for supper, I had a pork tenderloin sandwich with onion rings. Really not bad.

I stopped by the Sternberg Museum of Natural History while passing through Hays on the way back east. It is pretty entertaining, with a major emphasis on the many dinosaur fossils from the area and life size recreations of many
of them. Also some nice hands on exhibits. It looks like it would be a great place for kids!

Sternberg Museum of Natural History - Hays, Kansas

Roadrunner along freeway in Hays
Continuing on to Salina, I stopped at the Smoky Hill Vineyards & Winery. I was interested in their sweeter wines. Their port was a disappointment and they were out of the Blackberry wine which I wanted to try, but I did find some semisweet wines worth picking up. I am sipping their Sweet Lady, a white catawba, while I type.

It is located about 2 miles north of Exit 252 on Highway 143.

Then I continued north to Minneapolis, Kansas to visit Rock City. Rock City is a tiny park which contains about 200 huge Dakota sandstone concretions. The spheres are up to 27 feet in diameter and you are encourage to climb on them and do pretty much whatever you want. The owners claim that there is no place else with so many huge concretions.

Rock City is 3 1/2 miles south of Minneapolis on Hwy. 106. There is a small gift shop where they collect a $3 fee, and a bucket to leave the money when it is closed.

I returned to Salina. After checking into the Best Western Mid-America Inn (which wasn't very well maintained), I headed out for dinner.

Supper tonight was a different treat, a sack of hamburgers from the Cozy Inn 108 N 7th, Salina. The tiny burgers (about 25 to the pound) are prepared on a 80 year old grill that is only used to cook these burgers. The tiny restaurant was then open 24 hours. It has 5 seats at the old counter and permanently smells like hamburger with onions. No cheese is allowed and it is a major error for someone to request it.

In my opinion, much better then White Castle, which started business the same year..

Page 2 - Day Three