Homer's Travels: Kansas Roadtrip - Day Two: Cache, Rocks, Hairballs, And Folkart

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Kansas Roadtrip - Day Two: Cache, Rocks, Hairballs, And Folkart

Day two started in Wakeeney, KS.  We got on interstate 70 and headed west towards Mingo, KS.  Our first destination was not the town but a geocache near the off-ramp.  The "Mingo" cache is a special cache as it was the seventh cache ever placed (May 2000), the first one in Kansas, and is believed to be the oldest active cache.  I took an homemade, trackable, "geocookie" which I'll drop off somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa.

After finding the cache we backtracked on I-70 on our way to Monument Rocks.  Unfortunately we figured out the correct exit after we'd passed it - our second wrong turn on this trip.  The Wife used her navigation skills, skills that were very helpful on this trip, to get us back on track.  We left the interstate and barreled down a dirt road that got us back to a two lane asphalt road heading south.

Twenty minutes later we turned onto another dirt road and headed into another world.  Monument Rocks just doesn't belong in Kansas.  Kansas is supposed to be flat prairie, not this rocky, desert looking place.  The formations reminded me a little of the Pinnacles in California.  There were two outcroppings and we stopped at both to look around and take pictures.  It's kind of surprising that they have survived for so long and the rock is very soft.  As we left the rocks I saw a marker by the road.  The limestone pillar was a marker for the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Stagecoach marker.  (Monument Rocks pictures are here.)

We returned to the asphalt and found a sign for the Keystone Gallery.  With images of magnets dancing in our heads we headed there to see what they had.  The place looked a little odd - dumpy, interesting, eclectic.  There was a house and a gallery building.  As we pulled into the parking lot, a hairy dog trotted up to the car before I was even stopped.  I open my door and it stuck her head in and gave be a good sniffing.  We got out and walked to the gallery.  The was impeded by the friendly dog who rolled on the ground and assumed the rub-my-belly position several times.  We obliged.  In the gallery we found a combination gift shop and archaeological museum.  The owner came in after us and said hi.  We had a good time talking to her.  She and her husband were archaeologists and had dug up a lot of the fossils in the church turned museum/gift shop.  Their place was completely off the grid - this was kind of obvious as there wasn't a power line visible for miles.  The spinning wind generator was another hint.  She didn't have any magnets ... sigh ... but she had some fossils that we could easily make into magnets so we bought some along with t-shirts and earrings.

We then headed farther south to, possibly, the weirdest attraction I have ever consciously seeked out.  We arrived in Garden City and found the Finney County Historical Museum.  Unfortunately it was not going to open for another half hour so our curiosity had to wait.  We found some food and had lunch waiting for the place to open.  We returned and started walking around the now open museum looking for our target.  We were too weirded out to ask.  We came around an exhibit and the wife saw it on the receptionist's desk - The World's Largest Hairball.  It is gray, about the size of a basketball, and has the dense texture of felt.  The receptionist saw us and asked us if we had come to see their hairball.  I guess we aren't the only people who visit just for the 20 pound ball of cow hair.  They even let the Wife pick it up - she agrees that it is very heavy and feels like a felt basketball.  Now, before I get comments, like the ball of twine, the "World's largest" claim is disputed.  There are at least two other hairballs - one in South Dakota and one in Michigan.  Since I have not seen either, I can not be a judge.

Across from the museum is another odd landmark - the largest outdoor municipal concrete swimming pool.  Since it was winter, it was drained.  It was pretty big and I suspect it would be perfect for a hot summer day.

Our next stop was the town of Mullinville located south west of Dodge City.  Along the way we passed a sign talking about an overlook ahead.  Wondering what they would overlook in flat Kansas I looked ahead.  Turned out the pull off overlooked a huge feedlot that reeked of ... money.  We decided not to pull over.

In Mullinville we met M.T. Liggett.  Liggett is a folk artist who makes large welded metal sculpture, many with a political bent.  There are hundreds of his sculptures on his land lined up along the road west of town.  He appears to be a bit controversial but his targets are fairly distributed between the political parties and the local politicians who are trying to shut him down.  They have even tried to use the cartoonish nudity of some of the sculptures to stop him.  After meeting him I doubt anything short of an act of God would shut this guy down. (Mr. Liggett's Folkart pictures are here.)

We said our goodbyes and moved on to Greensburg, the town that was destroyed by the tornado in 2007.  Our target there was the largest hand dug well and a thousand pound meteorite.  Unfortunately the tornado made it dangerous to go down in the well so we have a reason to go back some day.  The meteorite, once housed in the well museum, had been moved to the nearby county building.  It turns out 1,000 pounds of meteoric iron is fairly small and not very impressive or photogenic.

We left and headed for our stop of the night - Russell, KS.  On the way we stopped at Kinsley to see the sign indicating the midpoint of the country (1,561 miles from New York and San Francisco).  We reached Russel after dark - I don't really like driving after dark but I survived - but with plenty of time for food and a soak in the hot tub.

One more thing, Russel, KS is the boyhood home of Bob Dole.  Back when he was running for president, I had a dream that I was playing Hi Ho! Cherry-O with Bob Dole.  I still haven't recovered from that nightmare.


  1. I Love "Hi-ho Cherry-O!" Best game ever.

    World's Largest Hairball sounds kinda gross, but fascinating at the same time. Kinda like when you blow out a big booger and have to look at it.
    I really hope they don't have a World's Largest Booger, don't you?

    I love the sculptures. They look like something I would put in front of my hall and then blink like "What? What do you mean where did it come from?"

  2. I LOVE the randomness of the road trip.

    Was there much hiking around Monument Rocks? Those are some of the best examples of uplifted sedimentary rock I've ever seen!

    So, the world's largest hairball and twine all: why are these things all in the midwest?

  3. Miss McC: It sounds gross but really isn't. Largest booger?!? I have no idea but if I find it, I'll take pictures.

    Liggett sells his sculptures so you could buy one or two if you want.

    GH: It was a random wander around the state and there's more to come onn Day three.

    Because the Midwest is the best ... or we're just bored.