As we headed back East we left the mountains behind. We were back on the long flat roads of middle America. We stopped for brunch at the most iconic on-the-road diner I ever saw, in the middle of nowhere that is Flagler Colorado.
Then it was on, into Kansas, under heavy grey skies and bits of rain. I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz, in the pre-technicolor of Dorothy’s Kansas farm.
You can see a long way in Kansas. We could see bits of rain away across the plains long before it reached us. And farms or other structures jumped out at us from far away, to be held onto in the emptiness, until we reached and passed them. It’s boring. Monotonous. Gradually your imagination strains against the dull emptiness, snatching at whatever it can find. There was a grain store that looked like a castle. I imagined Dorothy being inspired by such a grain store, creating the towering structures of Oz in her mind.
As it got later, the day brightened and the clouds parted. The sky is amazing out West. Birds wheeled and flocked in clouds of smoke, reminding us of the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys…
And then we entered Topeka Kansas.
We had chosen to visit Topeka because R had visited many times for work and had raved to me about their local brew pub, the Blind Tiger. I own a t-shirt from this brew pub, so I was keen to actually visit it. Apart from this, Topeka has some rather strange aspects to it. We stayed in a very old, very odd old hotel – the Senate Suites, right by the state capitol building. It reminded me slightly of the hotel in the Shining…
But more interestingly, Topeka is home to the Westboro Baptist Church. You might have heard of them – they’re an unaffiliated ‘church’ made up mainly of family members of the founder Fred Phelps and they have famously protested at funerals of gay men and also at military funerals. They are basically a hate group. Having heard about them on TV I was surprised when we drove past and saw it was just a house in a quiet residential area of Topeka. The best thing about it is that the residents who live across the road from the ‘church’ have painted their house in rainbow colours.
After this weirdness, I must say I was very happy to find myself in the Blind Tiger brew pub for dinner. Their ‘burnt ends’ are truly worth driving across the state for!
I’ll leave you with some of our driving music. Although the first is about Oklahoma, we heard it in Kansas and found it quite appropriate.
We actually heard this next one on a previous road trip, but I love it:
And this is one of R’s favourites: