After the achievement of reaching the quarter way mark (and on schedule), and all the activity surrounding the Ragbrai, Kansas started out as a bit of an anticlimax. The striking big wide horizon was replaced by ordinary rolling hills. The industrial strength agriculture was replaced by either patchy crops or patchy fields of grassland without much in the way of cattle. There were also many signs of a rural decline. Many of the wooden houses along the road outside of the towns were in a poor state of repair. In fact is was sometimes impossible to tell if a house had been abandoned, or was still someone’s home. Some had up to a dozen old rusting cars, trucks, farm equipment and maybe an RV. The long grass around them (or growing out of them!) an indication as to how long it was since they’d last been used, and the slim chance them still working. Other signs of decline were businesses that had long since ceased to trade. Sometimes it was obvious – grass growing up through the concrete around a former petrol station, or bushes growing up the side of an old shop. Other times not so obvious – as if when the business went bust, there was no money left to buy a “closed for good” or a “to let” sign. After several instances of these I just looked for a neon “Open” sign – at least this meant that the electricity hadn’t been cut off, so a good chance that the shop was actually open! It looked like this part of this state had “let itself go” a bit, and that enough weedkiller, skips and a wreaking ball could go a long way to help look to a future rather than dwell on the past. But the reality appears to be that the land has little value – no point in clearing a site when you can just build somewhere else nearby. A strange concept for someone living on Jersey! Given that it was obvious that this state wasn’t as prosperous as it once was, I wasn’t surprised to read that it had recently had its credit rating dropped – there are now only 4 states in the USA with a lower rating. This state was an obvious target for the “Make America great again” message – and it certainly seemed to be a popular one.
But the people I chatted with were no less friendly, interesting and kind. From the couple I chatted with briefly while I was having lunch, who paid my bill when they left (so i didn’t get a chance to refuse or thank them). The guy called Craig from Wichita – just another customer at the petrol station, who, after short chat and on parting told me that he was the brother of a Hollywood & TV actress. No way to prove it, but it was so out of the blue, and the way he told me, I’m inclined to believe him. Another guy who pulled up in his car while I was drinking some water (I pour the water that goes luke warm in the heat into a flask of ice for a gloriously refreshing and cooling drink) and asked if I needed anything – food, drink. On saying that I had enough of everything, he got his wallet out and offered to give me some cash (obv I declined that too). Instead I gave him a quick description of my trip that he videod on his phone and he drove off happy. Those will be my lasting memories of Kansas.
Even the dogs were friendly – and happy to pose for a photo:
First night in Kansas at Sabena – motel beside a supermarket – cerial, cold milk and air con: bliss after a long hot day!
Harley dealer in Topeka – complete with it’s own Harley-ville highstreet!
The original Little House on the Prairie :