So after a beautiful weekend in Longmont, CO I headed east for my next stop in Topeka, KS.
Unfortunately, I forgot to check my camera settings and ended up passing through Denver and a little ways east with mostly blank overexposed photos. I’ll tell you though, there were some good ones! The one I hated missing was the ice cream truck driving along a dirt road adjacent to the highway. These little slice-of-life photos are what my road photography is all about. This is all I got….
Kansas isn’t known for being the most impressive place to visit. It isn’t called a flyover state for nothing. But I would say rather than completely skipping it, it’s worth at least ONE drive-through. More importantly to me, southeast Kansas is where my dad was born and raised, and although he got out as soon as he could by joining the Air Force shortly after graduating high school in Chanute, I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents as a kid. They’ve since passed away but I still have family there on my mom’s side so that was enough of a reason to drive through rather than taking a northern route across Nebraska. Even without the family connection I’m not sure which is less interesting. And I’ve tried to limit my driving to 5 hours in any one day, but as I looked at the map I couldn’t find a place worth stopping for the night between Denver and Topeka, so it was going to be an 8 or 9 hour haul.
Before getting to the border I stopped in Burlington, CO to fill up. It’s here where I heard my first ever tornado siren. I walked out of the store and heard it going, looked around, and nobody seemed to care. The weather didn’t look very threatening so I wasn’t sure what was going on. I’d later find out they test the sirens every Monday around noon, which cleared it all up for me.
There was another chance of thunderstorms in the Denver area as I left, but the skies were looking beautiful in Kansas. Sometimes that’s all you need to make you feel like things are going to be okay.
Dun DUn DUN! Tim warned me about cops waiting at the border for folks traveling out of Colorado. He said it may have something to do with the legalization of a certain substance there. Well, I was a little further into the state, but they eventually caught up with me. The officer was really friendly and said the reason he pulled me over was because I didn’t have a front plate, and then went on to mention my cracked windshield, too. We chatted about my road trip, he took a look at my papers, and let me go. Probably one of the friendliest cops I’ve ever had the pleasure(?) of getting pulled over by.
I have to say this was the most pleasant drive I’ve had to date. No rain! And just gorgeous big skies. Some of it reminded me of the default wallpapers that come with our computers.
There was one attraction that caught my eye- the world’s largest Czech Egg. Almost got a picture for my good buddy Mike, but kept on plowing ahead in the end.
Time and again I saw cattle gathered like this in the corners of huge lots adjacent to the freeway. I wonder what it is that makes them do it. It’s like they’re all backed in and facing away from the traffic, just showing off that ass.
Didn’t expect to see wind turbines out here, but they were much more spread out than the farms in Palm Springs.
The best of both?
It’s hard finding a radio station that isn’t referencing the gospel, so I was also surprised to see this…
And this one’s for my grandma. She loved Russell Stover candy until the day she died.
I was about 10-15 miles east of Topeka when things took a nasty turn. This…
….turned into this within minutes. I knew it was too good to be true!
I’ve encountered rain everyday I’ve been on the road. Thankfully, I was already close to Topeka and really looking forward to seeing my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Armida, who I haven’t seen since my grandpa died over 15 years ago. I can’t even believe it had been so long.
And they had this waiting for me. YES! Oh my goodness it hit the spot.
My uncle Johnny is one of 8 of my mom’s siblings. He moved from southern California in the early 90s for work- after 41 years with the Santa Fe railroad (just like my grandpa in Colton, CA for his entire adult life coming from Vera Cruz, Mexico) he and my Aunt Armida are enjoying retirement these days.
I arrived a little later than I wanted so after some catching up it was time for bed. I’d get the grand tour of Topeka the following day.
Started off at Lake Shawnee where they do a bit of fishing and playing with their grandkids.
Then over to the rail yard where my uncle never turned down overtime.
Topeka’s a pretty sleepy state capitol. My cousin is a Capitol police officer and from the sounds of it, he doesn’t get a whole lot of big action. I’d say that’s a good thing, and I think my aunt and uncle would agree.
Yeah, so that was the tour, haha. I’m positive they forgot to show me a few things 🙂
The only kid left in their house now is (Mad) Max. He’s quite a little character.
And to see my uncle’s affection for him is really sweet because he’s a very strong and proud Mexican-American man (and who volunteered into the army infantry to defend this country back in Vietnam). In fact, due to a recent shoulder strain while working out in his basement gym…the “room of pain, ARRRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!” is the way he introduced me to it on the tour of the house after which my aunt Armida says “Johnny, why do you have to yell like that?”….he says he’s only at the strength of 1 and a half men, whereas usually it’s 3. He’s also very quick to remind me of the Mayan blood flowing through my own veins. I really appreciate his machismo, and he likes to play it up, but his love of Max exposes the act and lets you see he’s really a big softy inside. Man, I have really great memories of my dad and uncles drinking, philosophizing, and playing chess way back when. Little did they know how much of an impression it made on their many nieces and nephews.
Even Max played up his ferocity a bit. He barked big, and then turned into Mr. Bashful once I got my camera out.
We ended up hanging out drinking a few beers, barbecuing, and listening to Alfredo Jimenez later into the evening. While we were out there, a couple other things reminded me of my childhood visits to Kansas- locust and fireflies. The locust are everywhere, and they’re loud. I know they don’t bite or anything, but I still get creeped out when one flies into me.
It was short and sweet, and so good to see my aunt and uncle. I’m hoping it won’t be so long before the next time, and I think it’s their turn to come down to Arizona soon (in the winter time, of course).
I made a more formal portrait of them that I still have to edit when I get more time, but this was one last snap before I hit the road again. Love you guys! You make Kansas worth the drive!!