This week’s stops:
- Kit Carson County Historic Carousel
- Kansas Rest Area’s 1st Rate RV Stops
- Minooka Park: Beautiful and inexpensive Wilson Lake RVing with hookups!
- The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Home, Museum, and Library
- Oz Museum
- Arriving in Kansas City
When we left off last week, I was about to leave Woodland Park, Colorado.
I wasn’t on a schedule but I roughly planned to arrive in Kansas City in more or less a week’s time.
I didn’t want to want to spend an excessive amount of time in Kansas as it is one of 19 states that still heavily prosecutes people for even simple possession of cannabis. The activist in me hates supporting such regimes regardless of whether or not I am actually carrying cannabis.
Nonetheless, I know there are plenty of good people in Kansas and lots of interesting things to do and see. I compromised with myself by going online and planning a few stops, which all turned out to be more than worthwhile, so I’m glad I did.
Last Colorado stop: Riding the Historic Kit Carson County Carousel
One unplanned stop I made on the way to Kansas was in Burlington, Colorado. As I was motoring down I-70 I saw signs alerting travelers to attractions at the next exit, including the “Kit Carson County Historic Carousel.”
I LOVE carousels and anything historic related to circuses, fairs, or amusement parks, so I took the exit and followed signs to the fairgrounds and the carousel.
Of the nearly 2,500 wooden carousels carved in America between 1885 and the 1930s, fewer than 150 are still in existence, and this is one of the finest.
The sixth of 74 carousels manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) between 1904 and 1933, the Kit Carson County Carousel is a three-row, stationary (the animals do not move up and down) machine housed in a 12-sided frame building.
It has the distinction of being the only antique carousel in America still having original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals.
Most impressive is the wide array of animals besides the typical colorful carousel horses. These include goats, giraffes, zebras, and even a half horse/half sea serpent.
Next door is a small but well-organized carousel museum detailing the attraction’s history and how antique carousels and their ornate animals were made.
Admission is a mere $2.00 and it only costs .25 cents to ride the carousel, so this fun little excursion doesn’t cost much.
You’ll find a huge parking lot for RV parking. Even overnight camping with hookups is available as the carousel is attached to the local fairgrounds. Find out more here.
Kansas RVing: Outrunning the weather in the Land of Oz
After riding the carousel, I got back on the road towards Kansas. Not too far past the border in Colby, I found an eastbound rest area with lots of open space in the later afternoon.
For RVers, most of the Kansas rest areas are awesome. They have free dump stations (although no potable water), and large, level parking loops separate from the semi-trucks.
There were also bathrooms and shaded picnic areas, and HUGE grassy areas to walk the dog.
I had a great Verizon internet connection, so after taking Budley, my dog, for a walk, I settled in to do some work.
As the afternoon turned into the early evening, the sky started getting dark and the winds picked up. One thing to keep in mind with Kansas RVing, you always have to watch the weather.
I logged on and checked the local forecast. A storm watch was in effect including high winds and dangerous golf ball-sized hail.
My rest area was barely outside the affected area but the watch was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., which was only a half-hour away. I decided to stay put.
An hour later when I walked Budley again, I noticed no other RVs and only one semi-truck at the rest area. Generally speaking, at rest areas as nice as this, that’s odd.
The sky had significantly darkened and was starting to resemble the one outside of Dorothy’s house before the tornado in the “Wizard of Oz.”
I logged onto the weather site again and saw we were now in the middle of the watch area and it had been extended until 1 a.m.!
I put the dog in the truck and took off down the highway about 40 miles to another rest area with equal amenities.
The wind was a little less intense and we were out of the watch area. That’s where I safely spent the night.
Minooka Park: AMAZING low-cost lakeside Kansas RVing (with hookups)
The next morning, I discovered one of my all-time favorite RV spots, to date!
Minooka Park is situated on the scenic shores of Wilson Lake, billed as the clearest lake in Kansas.
The park’s campground, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is one of the nicest and most well-run campgrounds I have yet encountered. It features LARGE grassy, lakeside tent camping and RV sites, most with electrical and/or water hookups. The campsites are spaced far enough apart so as to provide a respectable level of privacy and quiet. There are clean, hot showers on site, too.
All this costs around $22 a night. If you have a National Parks Pass you can cut that price in half.
Why anyone in this area would ever go to a commercial campground is beyond my comprehension.
I stayed for a couple of nights but could have easily stayed a couple of weeks.
The crystal-clear lake offers all manner of water sports including swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, etc. There are tons of scenic hiking trails here as well as the state park section of Wilson Lake nearby.
Minooka Park is not too far off the interstate, but you would never know it was there just driving by. Make sure to take advantage of this incredible bargain campground if ever you are driving through Kansas on the I-70. I predict you’ll also add it to your list of favorite campgrounds, as the quality and value simply can’t be beat.
Paying respects to President Eisenhower
After leaving the Lake Wilson area, Abilene was next on the agenda. That’s because I love visiting presidential libraries. Abilene, the boyhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is the home of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
The late president’s childhood home sits next to the Eisenhower Museum, although it was undergoing restoration during my visit. The library is only open to researchers, but the museum was open to the public.
Inside I discovered a large and impressive collection of artifacts and memorabilia detailing Eisenhower’s life and achievements, as well as some excellent documentary films running on loops.
Before leaving I paid respects to the late President and Mrs. Eisenhower at their final resting place, which is also part of the complex.
Visitors traveling in RVs will find a large parking lot adjacent to the complex which can accommodate even big rigs.
“Easing on Down the Road” to the Oz Museum
After getting in the truck, I pulled up the soundtrack to “The Wiz” and “eased on down the road” toward Wamego, home of the Oz Museum.
Not too far off I-70, Wamego is a charming little town that has decided to make “The Wizard of Oz” its claim to fame. Not that Wamego has any actual connection to the movie, book, or its author L. Frank Baum.
The small museum that dominates the main street of Wamego is a well-organized collection of delightful “Wizard of Oz” history and memorabilia. The classic movie also runs on a loop if you feel like staying a while. About the only thing I found lacking was any mention of the mysterious Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz connection.
Vignettes of popular movie scenes make excellent photo ops throughout the attraction, and you can find lots of unique Oz-themed souvenirs in the gift shop.
While the museum is undoubtedly the epicenter of Wamego tourism, the entire town seems to be getting in on the fun. For instance, a pedestrian walkway between buildings is decorated as the Yellow Brick Road.
Toto is big around here, too, with artistically decorated statues of the dog greeting visitors all over town. The Toto statues are remnants of a creative fundraiser modeled after other cities that paint cow statues or other local symbols.
Even the taco shop next door to the museum is named for Dorothy’s beloved canine.
The Oz Museum and Wamego make for a fun diversion that will appeal to ALL ages when traveling along I-70.
You’ll have to park on the street, but even those with large rigs will find plenty of parking space within easy walking distance of the museum on the side streets.
After leaving Oz, I continued on toward Kansas City, where I planned to spend time with my niece Madison, who lives on the Kansas side, and my good friend Tom, who lives on the Missouri side. But that is a story for next week.
NEXT WEEK: Kansas City (TWICE), tire blowout EXPLOSION, and an emotional farewell to a friend
I agree, Wilson Lake is the best layover while travling thru KS on the way to CO. (BTW, what’s up with CO hwys? Hold onto your socks, rougher than a cob!!) I would also stay a week if I had the chance. They have great spots for RVs right on the lake. We stayed at Lucas Park. Also check out the town of Wilson, which is just across I70. There is the Worlds Largest Czech Egg on display there, which is very unique. Also, enjoy a nice dinner at the Midland Railroad Hotel, Sample Bar. You won’t be disappointed. This is the film set location for Paper Moon. They also serve BBQ in the barn adjancent to the hotel on the same property. They have the best ribs I’ve ever had. Love this place. Such a hidden gem!
Oooh, I wish I had known about the Paper Moon Hotel. That is a favorite book and movie of mine.
Surprised you didn’t ride the carousel in Abilene KS, we did the first day they had it operating 30 odd years ago, with a steam engine to boot. There was also a phone museum at that time.
I did not see the carousel in Abilene or I would have.
We found amazing cinnamon rolls larger than your hand last summer at The Brew Coffee House nearby in Wamego and brought some to elderly relatives in Blue Rapids. Smiles all around that day!
We are so thankful for cannabis, it saved our daughter and gave her a quality of life she did not have otherwise. I love to see you using your platform like this. I wish more people would use their privilege and voice in a positive way.
Thank you. In my work, I hear miracle stories every day. I cannot not speak up about that.
I could care less if people want to use cannibis or not; it’s up to them, but surely the author was not implying that the folks in Kansas who are against cannibis are bad people, was she?
No ! She did not imply that, reread the two paragraphs slowly and you will see. Happy Trails
We stayed several nights at Minooka Park last summer. Last month, we stayed at another COE campground at Wilson Lake called Sylvan Park. Water and 30/50A electric hookups at a long, pull-thru site, an RV dump, hot showers, huge shade trees covering the entire campground, but no lake views (it’s just below the dam on the river) for $11/night. Since Wilson Lake is a comfortable day’s drive (400 miles) from Denver, it is our go-to campsite when eastbound on I-70.
Cheri, Kansas is tough to avoid living in Colorado with family in Missouri so we have learned to embrace the Kansas state parks. They are pretty amazing all around the state. I have been across I-70 so many times with multiple dogs I can tell you the mile markers of many towns and rest areas. LOL
You did miss two places literally next door to the spots you wrote about. First, in Abilene, the Greyhound Museum is pretty cool (we had a greyhound mix at one point) and near Wilson Lake, Garden of Eden is…….unique….and we found it very interesting, but no dogs allowed.
By the way, first week after legalizing weed in CO we were traveling to family across KS and near Salina ran into a DEA checkpoint. I must say, that was a first for me. Safe travels!
Agreed, avoiding Kansas entirely would have added a LOT of miles to the trip. I don’t think you can travel across the country entirely avoiding the 19 states even if mileage was not an issue as many of them are clumped together.
I will have to check those places out next time. As I said, I wanted to spend some time there, but not too long. Missouri and Illinois were calling. Although Missouri is still only medical.
As to the DEA checkpoint that might have been a ruse. Cops used to pull that (and perhaps maybe still do but the courts have slapped it down pretty hard). They do not have the right to search cars for no reason at a checkpoint. What they do (and this is legal) is put up signs saying there is going to be a checkpoint ahead, then watch for those who exit. Always stay calm and keep driving if you see such a scenario. Kansas and Oklahoma were known for that in the early days of legalization. Times have changed, Oklahoma now has some of the most sensible cannabis laws in the country. Kansas not so much.
We were not carrying anything so the checkpoint was not a problem. Plus, they saw our German Shepherd in the truck and waved us through. I would guess their drug dog probably could have been distracted AND it was about 1 in the morning.
Eisenhower’s birthplace is in Denison, Texas not Abilene, Ks..
THank you. Yes, Abilene was his boyhood home. I have updated the article.
President Eisenhower was born in Texas.
Thank you. I stand corrected. This was his boyhood home but he was born in Denison, TX.
Very informative and interesting article. Found it odd that the writer chose to lead with the fact that she prefers to avoid a place because she cannot flout its laws. Most RVers I’ve met over the past 27 years travel because of a yearning for learning and mutual respect. Seeking or sowing discord accomplishes little for the greater good.
I hardly “flouted their laws.” Read the article. BUT, I do and will continue to avoid places when possible that continue to incarcerate people over immoral laws that should never have been on the books in the first place. Thankfully MOST of the country is recognizing that wrong and has changed. But all things being equal, I will always choose NOT to spend lots of time or money in states that choose to continue prohibition on a healing plant so that they can continue to profit by exploiting otherwise law abiding citizens. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and there is nothing different with cannabis prohibition.
Great article, Cheri! Thankfully MOST are recognizing and hopefully more will too.