100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die book tour recap

The 100 Things to Do in Kansas book tour recap

With 30-plus events around Kansas, the last two months are mostly a blur. I only had time to visit a few attractions, but those I saw were memorable. This is my book tour recap. I am deeply grateful to the communities who hosted me on my book tour for 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die. All opinions are my own.

The North Pole Mound in 100 Things Kansas book tour.
Looking south from the North Pole Mound.

A Kansas book tour recap: North Pole Mound

Did you know that the North Pole is in Kansas? I didn’t until the polar owner approached me during my signing at Small World Gallery, Lindsborg. He invited me to visit on my way to my next signing stop. So, of course, I accepted the invitation. Who could resist a chance to see the North Pole — without breaking Arctic Ocean ice? Such an invitation is red meat to a travel writer, and my favorite stop on my Kansas book tour recap.

The North Pole Mound is the northernmost of seven Smoky Hills summits. The hills are made from sandstone. Beach sands and sediment drained from rivers into the Western Interior Sea, eventually becoming stone. The mound is 1,463 feet high and is shaped like a giant dune. The northern side slopes steeply upward, while the southern side has a sharp drop. The southern escarpment offers fabulous views for miles around. The current owners’ grandmother climbed the hill to spot her cattle in the pastures when she owned the property. Small concretions dot the surface.

Related: Rock City in Minneapolis is one of our seven best Kansas rock formations.

KSAL Radio’s tower stands atop the hill. They advertise that the station comes from the North Pole. I always thought that was hyperbole. It’s not. Without an invitation, don’t climb the North Pole. The hill is not open to visitors.

Related: Learn more about Kansas geography oddities.
Smoky Valley Distillery storefront
Enter here for delicious spirits.

Smoky Hill Distillery

At the same event, a lady told me to visit Smoky Hill Distillery in Marquette. Oh, yeah! Stan and Michele von Strohe came home to Marquette and opened the distillery in January of 2020. They remodeled a historic grocery store into their distillery. I especially enjoyed their Smoky Valley Bourbon. They smoke the bottle before filling it with bourbon.

They served a Bloody Mary during the free tasting, made with their jalapeño vodka. Although I’m generally not a Bloody Mary fan, Smoky Valley’s version is delicious. Also, try the loganberry vodka.

Roxie’s recommendation: Cross the street to visit the Kansas Motorcycle Museum.

A rooster painting is part of the 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die book tour recap.
See Lester Raymer’s final painting at the Red Barn Studio.

Red Barn Studio Museum

We’ve visited Lindsborg numerous times. My husband Eric is a Bethany College alumnus, so we go there often. But somehow, I have never seen the Red Barn Studio Museum. The museum is in a brick house south of Lindsborg’s central business district. The home sits well back from the street, with only a small sign designating it.

Holly from Visit Lindsborg recommended that I visit. Every Christmas, the museum displays artist Lester Raymer’s toys for his wife. The toys are clever and fun. But the range of Raymer’s creativity and skill defies belief. Enjoy his furniture, sculpture, and paintings. The works’ quality could grace a major city’s art museum.

With three stops from my Lindsborg signing, Little Sweden USA was the most productive Kansas book tour recap signing stop.

Roxie’s recommendation: Visit the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery on the Bethany campus. To properly appreciate Sandzén’s works, first view them from a distance and then examine them more closely.

Related: Shop until you drop in Lindsborg, one of our 12 best places in Kansas.
C.L. Hoover Opera House in Junction City, part of our 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die book tour recap.
Junction City’s C.L. Hoover Opera House combines the best of both worlds: a vintage exterior and an up-to-date interior.

C.L. Hoover Opera House

The Junction City area offers so much more than I realized. And the C.L. Hoover Opera House is one of Junction City’s gems. The opera house building has a red brick frontage, and the rest of the building is native stone. Initially, the red brick portion was city offices, including the fire department. Ironically, a fire started in the fire department and gutted the building. While a fire is tragic, it provides benefits. The rebuild includes technology and accessibility upgrades. The opera house hosts events across numerous musical genres, plus non-music events. The opera house is also home to the Junction City Arts Council and the Junction City Little Theater.

The First Infantry Division Band covers the Trans-Siberian Orchestra during their Christmas concert at the C.L. Hoover Opera House.

Donna of Geary County Convention & Visitors Bureau and I attended a Christmas concert there, and the memory is a cherished part of my Kansas book tour recap. You’ll be reading more about Geary County soon.

Rabbits on the C.W. Parker Carousel, Leavenworth.
Ride the rabbits or the horses on the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, Leavenworth.

C.W. Parker Carousel Museum

Kristi from Visit Leavenworth wanted me to sign books at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. After the signing, I whirled around on the 1913 C.W. Parker Carousel. On my first trip, I tightly clung to the pole holding the horse onto the carousel. Trying to shoot video on the spinning platform while sitting astride the jumping animal was intimidating. On my second ride, I ignored the video and enjoyed the ride.

Related: Ride the crown jewel of American carousels, the Kit Carson County Carousel in Burlington, Colo.
A primitive carousel at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, Leavenworth, on the 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die book tour recap.
Note the primitive carousel’s lightweight construction and the hand crank at right.

But the thrill of the vintage carousel ride doesn’t compare to the delight of seeing the primitive carousel. The horses are simple, and they reminded me of Shaker furniture. The horses’ paint is faded, and the metal straps holding them together are visible. Authenticity is part of their charm. The horses hang from swings, so they flew outward during the ride.

The primitive carousel gave its operators a workout. Two cranks turned the gears that operated the carousel. Imagine doing that for hours in summer’s heat. Rock hard abs, anyone?

Related: Walk your 10,000 steps on Leavenworth’s walking trails.
A tentacle snake from Rolling Hills Zoo, part of the 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die.
A Rolling Hills Zoo reptile keeper holds a tentacle snake.

Rolling Hills Zoo, a book tour recap

Did you know that giraffes have purple tongues? I had no clue. That was only one of the fascinating facts that I learned at Rolling Hills Zoo. I asked Sylvia of Visit Salina to arrange a back-of-the-house tour there. What a delightful experience!

Early in the tour, I met a tentacled snake. With that name, I expected the creature to look like a cross between a snake and an octopus. Instead, the pair of tentacles on its head reminded me of Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian, the campy 1960s TV show. The tentacles detect nearby animals through touch and vision, and the snake herds prey into its trap.

But the highlight was feeding the giraffes. The food was about the same size, color, and texture as mozzarella sticks. I held out the food and the giraffes leaned their long necks gracefully downward to take the pellets into their mouths. Their beautiful brown eyes framed by enviously long lashes looked into mine. Every time, the giraffe opened its mouth, showing a spade-shaped purple tongue, and gently accepted the food. The tongue wrapped around the food. A couple of times, the giraffe’s moist, soft lips closed on my fingers. Some of the pellets fell on the floor.

I was so enchanted that I forgot to take pictures of the giraffes’ lovely faces. But my memory will hold them forever — with this Kansas book tour recap to remind me.

Bust of Sgt. Edward Botzer, the final trooper discovered at the Little Bighorn battlefield. Jerry Thomas Gallery & Collection is part of the 100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die book tour recap.
Artifacts surround the bust of Edward Botzer, the last soldier’s remains discovered at Little Bighorn.

Jerry Thomas Gallery & Collection

My friend Jerry Thomas is a skilled artist in many media and is a well-known collector. He specializes in wildlife and Western art. After my signing in Scott City, I toured the gallery with its director. Most people aren’t allowed to photograph the gallery, but I received that privilege.

The only known portrait of Lt. Col. William H. Lewis hangs in the gallery. The officer’s main claim to fame is a dubious one. He was the final soldier to die in the Kansas Indian Wars. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork north of Scott City.

Related: The final soldier killed in Kansas dies after the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork.

Other items include a bust of The Last Trooper, Sgt. Edward Botzer of the Seventh Cavalry. During excavations at the battle of Little Bighorn, volunteer Monte Kloberdanz found his skull and other bones in 1989. Forensic facial reconstruction and photo matching identified the remains as Botzer’s.

Related: Visit Little Bighorn as part of our circle tour around Billings, Montana.

While most of Thomas’s military collection is devoted to Western heroes, the gallery honors World War II hero Staff Sgt. Walter D. Ehlers. Ehlers earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Normandy after D-Day.

Related: Jack Weinstein earned the Medal of Honor in Korea, but racism prevented him from receiving it until 2014.

Dry Lake Brewing Co., Great Bend’s book tour recap

The word “dry” doesn’t seem to fit in a brewery’s name. “Dry” was the descriptive name for those who supported the Prohibition of alcohol drinking. And pairing “dry” with “lake” seems odd, too. While the ironic reference to Prohibition is probably unintentional, Dry Lake refers to Lake Barton north of Great Bend, which dried up and now houses a popular trail network. Christina of Explore Great Bend invited me to a meeting at the brewery, which I of course accepted.

Dry Lake Brewing‘s amusing name goes with amusing beer names like Cheyenne Bottoms Up, City Fighter Sour, and 5-0 Wheat. The wheat beer started with a visit from the police. At the time, the brewer was a beer hobbyist. He decided to upgrade his beer-making gear. When his new equipment arrived, he was so excited that he set it up in his front yard. The neighbors believed the beer gear was a drug lab and reported him for drug violations. When the cop arrived, the brewer explained the equipment’s purpose. The police officer told him to carry on and left.

The 5-0 beer is creamy and citrusy. It goes down smoothly. I recommend it. Just like the cop, I advise you to drink up and carry on.

Related: The best things to do in alluring Great Bend.

More to explore

Learn more about the Sunflower State.


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