Monthly Archives: March 2014

Wichita, Kansas –> St. Louis, Missouri: a slow road trip


I’ve read a few articles and books lately that used the phrase ‘slow food movement’ – the idea of eating food that is locally grown versus fast foods of which you don’t know the origins. It’s a part of the larger ‘slow movement’ that is all about slowing down the pace of life.

So here’s my attempt at extending that philosophy to the road trip. If I were practicing a slow road trip and following Wichita State University’s men’s basketball team to the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis this weekend, here are some places I might stop along the route.

Please pass this along to anyone you know driving there and back – maybe they can pick one or two spots to get out and stretch their legs or have a bite to eat.

Wichita to St. Louis – 442 miles with no stops, see below for the mileage along my slow road trip

78 miles into the trip: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City, Kan.

Now that I know not to expect REALLY tall grass, I go here with realistic expectations to see a beautiful part of the Flinthills. Plus, it gets me off the turnpike for a bit. Some of the tour options are unavailable right now, but I could do a short hike and take a few photos. 

102 miles: The Sweet Granada, Emporia, Kan.

Stopping at this chocolatier next to the historic Granada Theatre in downtown Emporia to get snacks made on-site with premium ingredients. A few best-sellers: Pop-Choc – buttery Kansas-made Velvet Creme popcorn drizzled with milk chocolate and white chocolate – or the Granada Goo – a peanut butter, rice crispy bar topped with chocolate.

192 miles: Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que, Olathe, Kan.

Don’t let the name fool ya, it’s Kansas City barbeque & it’s one of my favorite options. Maybe you’ll get lucky and stop on a day they serve burnt ends.

222 miles: Leila Hair Museum, Independence, Mo.

Yes, you could stop in Independence to visit a Harry S. Truman attraction … or you could visit the ONLY hair museum in the world. Confession: I haven’t yet visited, but I’ve been waiting for some extra time to stop when I’m in the area. The collection includes more than 600 hair wreaths and 2,000+ pieces of jewelry made of human hair. The oddity attracts me.

rearview_mirror_sunset232 miles: Russell Stover, Blue Springs, Mo.

Thankfully, there’s no food served at the hair museum…so off to Russell Stover, which is headquartered in the Kansas City area. There are quite a few shops throughout the region EXCEPT Wichita. So now’s my chance to get a scoop of Blue Bell Ice Cream, or something made on-site in the Russell Stover Candy Kitchen.

307 miles: Sierra Bullets, Sedalia, Mo.

Didn’t peg me for a hunter or a gun enthusiast? Sure, the factory tour at Sierra Bullets attracts those groups but also people who like to see how things are made. That’s the category I fall into. The tour can run 30 minutes to an hour – just tell them how long you have and a ballistician will get you through.

364 miles: Rocheport, Mo.

Confession: My aunt and uncle lived here and ran an antique shop so this place is sentimental to me.

But biases aside, it’s a great stop that gets you off I-70 and down to the Missouri River. You can walk or rent a bike to see one of the most scenic segments of the Katy Trail (the rails to trails project that follows the Missouri-Kansas-Texas tracks), take a canoe out on the Missouri, shop at the antique and gift shops, grab a bite to eat, passengers can taste wine at Les Bourgeois Vineyards or just take in the bluff top views. There are several bed & breakfasts here, too, if you want to make this a two-day road trip.

Stop at Stockton Mercantile or next door at the General Store & Café and tell my cousins I sent you.

379 miles: Columbia, Mo.

It should be against the law to drive across Missouri on I-70 and not stop in one of the best college towns on the planet! Stop in Columbia! And don’t just stop at Exit 127 for gas at the QT or the Cracker Barrel. The whole city is wrapped around I-70 so it doesn’t take long to get to some great local eateries: Shakespeare’s Pizza, Flat Branch Brewery. Instead of going through all my suggestions here, you can read this post I wrote for a first-time visitor to CoMo.

Some famous person is probably visiting at the same time you’re driving through or there’s likely an awesome event happening – check out the calendar at

sunny_day_road402 miles: National Churchill Museum, Fulton, Mo.

Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College in Fulton, and President Truman introduced him. I just visited this museum for the first time and recommend this stop to everyone – really interesting to learn more about how the speech came to happen here. The museum also provides a comprehensive look at Churchill’s life. Plus, the building that houses the museum is a church from England that was moved brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Fulton. Artwork outside includes eight panels of the Berlin Wall built into a sculpture by Churchill’s granddaughter.

454 miles: Hermann, Mo.

I visited Hermann once while in college for this German community’s infamous Oktoberfest. Have I mentioned that I’m so thankful there were no cell phones in the early 1990s that made taking video and photos possible? Nobody needs to see me doing the duck dance.

You’ll find plenty of history, beautiful views, restaurants and wine here.

513 miles: Saint Charles, Mo.

They’ve got the 3 C’s – casinos, cars, Clark … as in Lewis & Clark. Fast Lane Classic Cars buys and sells cars, but also has about 5,000 weekly visitors to view its show rooms and memorabilia. Another unique stop is the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center, where you can see the spot on the Missouri River where the explorers began their journey west.

* Notice I didn’t cover the destination – St. Louis is celebrating 250 years of history this year and there are so many things to do there that it needs to be a separate post. For now, visit for ideas.


This is not an exhaustive list – just some spots that come to mind as I think about a slow road trip. I’d love to hear any other suggestions along the same route — just add them in the comments section.


Posted in Sports, travel

Lee’s memories from 365 home Wichita State basketball games

Guest post by Lee

last team standing

image by shockernation

UNDEFEATED. Who would have thought those would be the last words of the fans at the end of a Wichita State basketball season. I made it to 15 of the 17 home games this year and not many were close. The longtime Wichita State fan in me is used to nail-biters that have previously ended in a bad way.

Earlier in the year the WSU athletic department highlighted a man who had been going to Shockers games for more than 50 years, and this got me curious about how many games I’ve been to in my life. I don’t fall into the category of the super fan who attends every game home and away but I’ve definitely rode the ups and downs of the Shockers for the last 30 years.

Being the sports nerd that I am, I not only have saved all my ticket stubs from games but have kept track of them in an Excel spreadsheet – so it would be easy to determine how many games I’ve attended. Yes, MeLinda still married me even after I disclosed this information…she has learned to tune out my weird sports quirks.

At the end of the 2014 Shocker basketball season I have attended 365 homes games. So I’ve spent a year of my life going to games. Then the other question that popped into my head was: does it make a difference if I go to the game. Am I lucky to the Shockers?

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> Lee in our seats at Charles Koch Arena, with the 2013 Final Four sign in the background.

Yes, the Shockers have played their usual list of patsies through the years: Hardin Simmons, Monmouth, Rockhurst, Prairie View A&M and the PUMP California All-Stars. Though in those years we have had some embarrassing loses: Appalachian State, UT-Arlington, Coppin State, Hampton (no, not the hotel chain) and even by 35 points to Southern Illinois.

After adding up all the numbers, the Shockers win 78% of the games I attend. So going home happy on a regular basis is a good thing. Here are a few of the memories as I look back through my WSU ticket stubs:

I have seen some great games over the years, though the most memorable game I have been to was early on in my Shocker days. Eddie Fogler was the coach and the team was still relevant and hadn’t hit the terrible years highlighted by Scott Thompson. The date was Feb. 2, 1988, and the Shockers were facing the top player in the nation, Hersey Hawkins, who finished the year averaging 36 points a game for Bradley. This also ended up being the highest scoring game I’ve attended as the Shockers put up 116 points and won by 24. The other highlight/lowlight was when one of the Shockers cheerleaders was dropped and you heard a big thud when she hit the ground (she wasn’t hurt so it was okay to laugh about it).

In 2004, the Shockers were finally back in the postseason and played a great game vs. the Florida State Seminoles in the NIT. Yes, the Shockers lost in overtime but the environment was great and most people at the game remember it being the loudest Koch Arena has ever been.

The last time the Shockers played Kansas State at home was 2002 and ended in a loss but two years earlier the Shockers beat both Kansas State and Oklahoma State at home.

In 1996 we beat Virginia Commonwealth by 30. VCU later repaid us by winning in a Koch Arena Bracketbusters game to keep WSU out of the NCAA tournament and then beating us in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament. Before Bucknell became known for beating Kansas, the Shockers beat them by 19 points in 1995. Gonzaga hadn’t started its run to national prominence but the Bulldogs did visit Wichita in 1994 and lost by one.

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> Lee with his cousin and aunt at the Roundhouse.

In 1990 the Shockers dispatched of Oklahoma State and Alabama. The Crimson Tide were led by Robert Horry, one of my all-time Houston Rocket favorites. In 1988 we beat George Mason by 21 points and those wounds never healed and they came back for revenge in 2006 when they beat us at home and then ended our Sweet Sixteen run in D.C.

The year of the shirt was 2009-2010, when the Shockers won all their regular-season games at home until falling to Nevada in the first round of the NIT. I had worn the same Shocker shirt without washing it for the majority of the season – from the point when I realized we had a streak going. I did wear a shirt underneath it so it wasn’t that disgusting. I’m sure MeLinda enjoyed sitting next to me during that season.

So there have been a lot of good things that I’ve seen but there were also 15 years where the Shockers didn’t make the postseason and we had to sit through the coaching exploits of Mike Cohen, Scott Thompson and Randy Smithson. Scratching our heads over what happened to big John Smith and Boo Craft, why couldn’t Smithson and Maurice Evans get along or how did every top City League player during the last 25 years leave Wichita.

Slowly those bad memories have been erased and over the last five years the Shockers have been 72-3 at home when I’m in attendance and this season have had the best regular season of anytime in the history of the NCAA, which is a trivia question no one outside of Wichita will be able to answer in a few years.

These days there are 10,506 fans at every game and even my parents, who rarely seem interested in sports, are keeping tabs on the Shockers. The one crowning achievement to my Wichita State basketball viewing career would be to see the high and mighty Jayhawks make a visit to the friendly confines of Koch Arena and, of course, for the Shockers to kick their ass.

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> View from our seats of the cool striping idea that the WSU marketing team coordinated and fans pulled off at a game this season.

Posted in Lee, Sports