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

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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.
http://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm 

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.
http://www.sweetgranada.com/

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.
http://oklahomajoesbbq.com/

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.
http://www.leilashairmuseum.net/index.html

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.
http://www.russellstover.com/storeLocator/?storeid=168

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.
http://www.sierrabullets.com/about-us/tour-sierra-bullets/

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.
http://www.rocheport-mo.com/

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 http://www.visitcolumbiamo.com/

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.
https://www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org/

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.
http://www.hermannmissouri.com/

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.
http://www.historicstcharles.com/

* 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 http://explorestlouis.com/ for ideas.

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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.

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