In Which Kansas Is Flat and I Am Cheap

I drove through most of the state of Kansas today and found it to not be too different from driving through most of Indiana and Illinois. Corn fields everywhere, and they’re all a really nice deep green now because they’re still growing. One thing I was surprised about was the abundance of Jesus signs on the roadside. I never knew Kansas was such a religious state, but from the Colorado border to about Manhattan, Kansas, there’s signs about trusting in Jesus and Jesus saving all over the place. All the ones with pictures had Jesus as a white American man with blue eyes, of course. This is middle America, what else would you want?

Another thing I thought was strange was this little town called Victoria. I saw a sign for “The Famous Cathedral of the Plains” and of course had to pull off. You don’t just pass up something with a name as grandiose as “Cathedral of the Plains,” you know? So I get off the highway and it’s this tiny little town (Wikipedia says population of 1,208) with one big Catholic cathedral and a graveyard. It’s seriously out in the middle of absolutely nowhere and there’s a few house, a big church, and a graveyard with tons of graves and a lot of really interesting wrought-iron crosses obviously all made by the same person or company. It was really surreal. The more I’m reading about it right now online, the more I’m realizing it’s pretty much exactly middle White America. It’s half a mile square, 99.5% white, age demographics are split almost evenly across all ages (except only 9% from 18-24), almost 50/50 male and female, average family size of 2.86 persons, median income of 30k, and it’s in the middle of Kansas and has a church and a graveyard. I don’t think you can get more exactly middle-of-the-road than that. Seeing little places like that, places I’d never heard of and never would have except I drove through it on a whim, help make all this driving worthwhile.

Somehow I also completely missed the Rocky Mountains. I was in Greely, and I drove into Denver, and I always sort of expected Denver to be in the mountains. But it wasn’t, so I thought maybe I’d drive through them after I left Denver, but I got on I-70 east and all of a sudden they were behind me. I honestly have no idea what happened, unless going through Wyoming from Salt Lake City made me miss them. But I was really looking forward to driving through them, and somehow I totally didn’t at all. I really don’t understand what happened. (EDIT: after looking at a map, since I drove through Wyoming and Greely is almost directly north of Denver, I completely drove around the big parts of the mountains on the west side of Denver. I was north of them, and then I got was east of them as I was driving south to Denver. I did drive through parts of the Rockies (I passed the Continental Divide at 7000 feet) but missed all the big snow-covered peaks, unfortunately. Maybe on another trip sometime.

And now I’m just outside of Topeka at a rest stop getting free wi-fi. Thanks Kansas Highway System! This is also where I’m sleeping tonight because hotels are too expensive and there aren’t any hostels in the entire state of Kansas. Tomorrow I’m driving to Fay Jones’ Thorncrown Chapel, which will be both an architectural and a spiritual pilgrimage since it’s been called the best American building built since 1980, and it’s also a functioning church building. I’m really excited.

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