Sunday, May 24, 2009

Classic places found in small towns

The route from Roxbury in McPherson County along U.S. 56 into Marion County took us in and out of the lush pastures of the Smoky Hills and Flint Hills, through the very neat town of Tampa, and to Lost Springs. It's always nice to come across a small town when driving many back roads miles. The diversion they provide is always so interesting and varied.

There are many Santa Fe Trail references along U.S. 56. This granite marker was several miles west of Lost Springs and deserved some out-of-the-car attention. There was a sign across the road from the marker telling the history of Lost Springs. Another sign said "Santa Fe Trail ruts." WenDee walked into the pasture to feel the ghosts of wagon trains long gone.

Even though I miss the old Al's in the little white building with the sagging floors, it's great to see that the long-time Mexican restaurant is still open and doing well, even in a metal building. The food is as good as ever. The wall colors are bright so it's appealing inside. It was good to see that the old stools and counter made it into the new building. It's open Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Vines are growing on the walls of a former church. The "Lost" is almost lost on the top of what was maybe a mechanic garage. Parts of brown bricks formed the town name against the red bricks of the building.

The post office was a beauty. Inside and out. Classic. If you need stamps, either go to Lost Springs or order by mail. Surely the post office in this town of 71 is struggling to make the revenue needed to convince the federal system to keep it open. They could use our business.

Just down the road is the unincorporated town of Burdick. I've always loved the optimism they show in their city limit sign.

To come across these enclaves of homes and a few businesses is always a delight -- even if the towns have shrunk from their heights of prosperity. After all, this isn't a contest but a continual challenge to make due and be the best they can be at this time period. There are lots of stories, no doubt, about the closed doors as well as the open ones. Do some visiting in Lost Springs and Burdick and it will help you "Get Kansas."

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ribs dripping with Wonder

Guy and Mae's Tavern is located in Williamsburg in Franklin County. It's just a couple of miles off I-35 so pretty convenient.

WenDee had never been there so after a day-long meeting about the 2010 Kansas Sampler Festival in Leavenworth, we made a stop at Guy & Mae's. We didn't even need to look at the menu tacked on the wall to know we wanted ribs -- a full rack nonetheless!

The "rack" is wrapped in aluminum foil which comes wrapped in newspaper. When you open up the foil you find slices of white bread placed on top to soak up some of the stuff that needs soaking up. We must have gone through a carton of napkins but finally you just have to go "cave woman" to do it justice. We ate the whole rack plus a side of baked beans.

We even got to go back into the kitchen to see the "pit" where the ribs are smoked -- and see the guys that make it all happen in the back. They go through 12 cords of wood a year to keep the giant pit at just the right temperatures.

Asked how they managed to have the least fatty ribs anywhere, Judy answered that they trim the fat off every morning. That must be alot of work but it sure makes a difference! It was quite a sight to see big jars of Mae's secret sauce, too.

Guy & Mae's is one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. You can vote for it and others at Read more of the history by clicking here.

But whether you vote for it or not, put it on your list of places to go in Kansas. These ribs are some of the best you'll ever find -- a Wonder indeed!

To really "Get Kansas" you've got to eat at Guy & Mae's.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seeing Kansas from a Slow Boat

Whew, somehow we all made it to the Lake Perry site with just latitude and longitude instructions. Sure was good to see the flag. We knew we were on the right path -- and that's about all it was.

The vest tree and rack of canoes were symbols of the day.

With a roaring fire, nice picnic tables, and good food, we managed to prepare ourselves for 2 hours plus on the water.

Bob had made the most clever latrine ever for us, too.

After more lounging around, we finally decided to move towards the water.

Bob gave us instructions on how to enter the canoe without tipping and on how to paddle. Friends of the Kaw "Riverkeeper" Laura Calwell added on to the instructions and we were ready to go.

Some Friends of the Kaw came with kayaks to be our river guardians. Explorers in attendance were Caroline Kern, Denison; Raechel Kelly, Leavenworth; Keyta Kelly, Tonganoxie; Anne Mitchell and Susan Koger, Wilmore; Leader Bob Topping; Jason Camis and Molly, Kansas City; Marci Penner and WenDee LaPlant, Inman.

No camera on the water, no pictures. It was a GREAT time and there was plenty of sun. No one tipped over. Just one paddle water fight. We saw a golden eagle.

Keep it rural. Kansas Explorers Club. Nice hats.

Being on canoes helped us "Get Kansas!" from a different angle. Thanks Bob!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Explorer Window Dressing

As if Susie Haver and Tammy Britt didn't have enough to do having just wrapped up another successful Kansas Sampler Festival in Concordia, they had enough energy and creativity to come up with this clever idea for a window dressing! The Cloud County Tourism office is lucky to have a large display window area facing Concordia's Main Street. They took an Kansas Explorers Club lawn chair and filled it with promotional publications and adorned it with the Kansas Explorers car flag. Behind the chair they created a "Kansas Explorer" complete with the "See Kansas With New Eyes" explorer vest, explorer buttons, more promotional materials and official explorer headgear - a pith helmet - on top of an image of Cloud County Tourism Director, Susie Haver, also known simply as Two Seven (her Kansas Explorer number). The green bags on either side of the chair are the new shopping bags for Kansas Explorers that say "EXPLORE KANSAS" - "SHOP LOCAL". The bright yellow sign says it all.

These two gals really "Get Kansas" and came up with a unique way to tell the world about it! Wouldn't it be great to see other communities use store fronts like this and tell the world how to explore their town and our state?

Thanks Susie and Tammy for using Kansas Explorer gear and the explorer concept to help others "Get Kansas!"


Welcome to Zenda! Zenda is a town of 120 in Kingman County near Nashville and Spivey!

The Zenda Lumber Yard Steakhouse and Supper Club is the hot spot in Zenda on Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays. 620.243.6000. Woody and Beulah Graber opened the restaurant retaining the wooden floors from the 1902 lumberyard. Zenda memorabilia and other antiques are found on the walls -- plus funny signs that have to do with ranching and farming.

Wine bottles rest in horseshoes or in the nail and screw bins.

One customer was very happy with the special, Bourbon Steak. Another customer had a favorite staple on the menu, Bourbon Pork Loin with garlic mashed potatoes. The salad bar was excellent.

Zenda has a historic jail with shackles inside and other buildings that showed a town that once prospered. The Zenda Telephone company has been a great addition to the city. K-8th grade is still located in a nice looking building. If you can find Bonnie Bailey she'll show you 36 model buildings she made to depict turn-of-the-century Zenda.

The post office is found beneath shade trees and looks like a dandy place to go buy lots of stamps.

Zenda is located on the cusp of the Red Hills and High Plains making it a beautiful location to reach.

Find a reason to go to a small town. The experiences will help you Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner