"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
Dorothy's lament in "The Wizard of Oz" seems misplaced when you visit Kansas. I found it a dreary state and can imagine how soldiers returning from the First World War would inspire the lyrics to "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?)". How indeed.
Kansas does have one redeeming feature, and that is the 13 mile section of Route 66 that passes through it's South-Eastern corner. The three small towns on the route - Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs - are compelling for all sorts of reasons. I also found myself in Chetopa, the desolate, self-proclaimed pecan and catfish capital of Kansas on Route 166 just off historic 66. And then there is the beautiful Rainbow Bridge, just outside of Baxter Springs.
Baxter Springs is steeped in history, featuring a bank robbed by Jesse James and the scene of a massacre by Quantrill's Raiders in the Civil War. Galena feels like a ghost town as you approach it from the East, with the eerie black outline of what is claimed to be an old brothel against a backdrop of disused railway sidings and a desolate landscape. Rising up the derelict path of Route 66 towards the modest downtown area of Galena, you might double take as you spot a truck that looks just like one from the Cars movie. And indeed, there is a garage and some trucks associated with the movie. However, apart from some weird stores, a quirky museum, piped music in the empty streets and nicely renovated buildings the real surprise in Galena was to come across around 50 pre-war Fords, parked around the town with no apparent purpose in sight.
Next stop: Nebraska.