Sound the trumpets to the tune of ”ta-dah!” We did it! We completed all of the 11 items we said we would complete by August 1. Check it, #1-11 are complete!
Our final item was crossed off this weekend. Number 1: “World’s Largest Ball of Twine.”
We also hit a few other Kansas roadside oddities along the way. This was probably my favorite road trip of all time. I’ve always wanted to have the time while traveling to stop and see the attractions along the way, but there’s never time because “we have to get there!” I loved that our destination was the trip itself. The only negative side to this trip was that we didn’t have enough time to see all the oddities on our route. There are more than you’d imagine in Kansas alone. I hope one day I can travel coast to coast with these two boys and see all of the best roadside attractions in the nation.
Here are the gems we hit on Saturday.
According to the internet, which is always correct, this statue was erected in 1942 as one of the last WPA projects. It was dedicated to the city of Newton,KS to commemorate the wheat farmer’s history in that area. He was supposed to be the tallest limestone Mennonite in the world, so we stopped to gawk.
I’ve heard about this castle for most of my life, yet I’ve never had the time to see it. As we were driving up the path Judah chimes in, “Oh, yeah, I”ve been here before. Papa took me.” That kid has seen everything and done it all, I swear. Never the less we were all excited to see it for the first time or for the second, whatever.
Supposedly the Spanish explorer, Coronado, passed near this location in the 16th century. The WPA assigned the task of building a castle to commemorate that expedition.
Judah and I love the miniature museum inside Exploration Place. We always noticed the Mushroom Rock in the museum and loved it. However, seeing it in person was much more fun.
The roadside app said that these formations came as a result of sandstone and sedimentary rock fusing together and forming the mushroom shapes. Judah was more interrested in climbing them and jumping off, either way, we loved it.
We used the Roadside America App to find many of our little gems along the way. One random stop was in Glen Elder, Kansas. A teeny tiny town. The app said they had a tiny church in the town square, so we went to check it out. Not sure of it’s back story other than it’s been in the town square since the 70s. Ok, good enough for us.
A replica of the Statue of Liberty was located right behind the Tiny Church and warranted a picture. According to the Glen Elder website, Mrs. Emily Slaven donated the statue to the city in 1950. The Legion and Auxiliary raised the funds for the base. Uh, we just took a picture.
Glen Elder is just moments away from Cawker City, the home of the World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine. When you hear phrases about small towns like, “don’t blink or you’ll miss it,” they were talking about Cawker City. We drove in and just as we nearly drove out the long-awaited bounty caught our eye. We had made it!
I’ve known of this Kansas “landmark” all my life. It was referenced by Chevy Chase in “Vacation” as he and his family trucked through our great state. Clearly this Hollywood worthy sight had to be witnessed first hand. We looked around, signed the guest book, and then noticed the “Ball of Twine Gift Shop” across the street. We came all this way, we NEEDED a souvenir.
The shop and, by the appearance, the entire town was closed up for the day. However, the hand painted sign on the door stated that we could buy souvenirs at the “Almost Done Inn” two blocks up the street. We headed that way and found the “Inn” to be a home. We had nothing to lose so we knocked and were greeted by a little kid. “Yeah?” He said. “We’re here to buy souvenirs,” said Kenton. The kid turned and yelled, “Grandma! Customers!” – This was better than I could have ever hopped for!
A little lady greeted us and welcomed us in her entry-way/gift shop. She turned on the light and turned on the charm. She let us know that she had designed all the items and told us we had to make sure we got twine to add to the ball before we left. We bought a shirt, a ceramic ball of twine, and a magnet. And then she proceeded to roll Judah out a long piece of twine.
Her instruction to Judah: “Hold here and run out to the mailbox.”
She explained how they weigh and measure the spools in order to keep track of the length and weight and then she taught him how to properly add his piece to the giant ball.
Before our heads exploded from geeky glee, we headed back down to the ball and left our mark on history.
I was busting with excitement. Our first 11 items were complete and we’d had so many new experiences; unforgettable experiences. We headed back towards home. We had to hit one more stop though. This was technically one of our first sights, but it was on the opposite side of the highway, so we had to wait until we were heading home to stop.
The beloved Chimney Sweep on I-135 was actually a former Happy Chef advertisement. Happy Chef was a popular chain of diner/pancake house restaurants in the 60s and 70s. There are still a few operating, but the chefs are all almost gone. This one was turned into a chimney sweep at one point to advertise for another company. I’ve passed this guy a million times, never knew he was so special. I think he might be one of my favorite Kansas attractions of all time.
I had a smile all day. I can’t wait to do this again and see more things. This list has really added so much richness to our lives.