Saturday, June 21, 2008

Toto, We Must be in Kansas Now – or is it Nebraska?

We dodged tornadoes in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. Then trying to leave Missouri, we had to sidestep some flooding on the Missouri River, so we headed for Kansas. Did that help? Thunder, lightening, rain, hail, but none of it bothered us more than just a little. Better than floods and tornadoes, at least.


We found a $12 a night park in Paxico, KS. As we drove in, we saw a sign pointing north to the Sacred Heart Church, the “Cathedral of the Flint Hills.” Right away we knew we had to visit, so we put in for two nights at the Mill Creek RV Park in Paxico.

Paxico is a former almost ghost town that rebuilt itself as the Antique Capital of Kansas. There are several antique stores in the little town center, each specializing in a major category. At one, the Sisters Store, they also offered sandwiches, sodas, and ice cream. We tried the “Paxico Sausage sandwich” and were delighted with this mild German sausage..

The Cathedral of the Flint Hills sits a mile and a half away from the center of this town of 251 population. The parish was founded in 1874, and the church was built in 1922.

Today it sits in the middle of a bunch of cornfields, with its auxiliary buildings and a few local homes around it.

The weekly collection recently was $935.15. The priest also serves two smaller parishes nearby. The Knights of Columbus hold a monthly pancake breakfast, and the annual chicken dinner netted the parish $8,630.18!


Our next stop was at Russell, Kansas. On the way, we stopped at Grandma Hoerner’s plant, warehouse and store. Grandma Hoerner sells the Paxico Sausages as well as a wide selection of chunky foods like applesauce, preserves, salsas, all natural ingredients, no preservatives. She also packs private label products for Trader Joe’s. We bought some of that fine sausage, sugar free blackberry jam, and a couple of other little things.

In Russell we stayed two nights at a $10 a night park called Fossil Creek RV Park. Kinda funky, but pleasing to us, not just for the cost. Russell is the heart of “Post Rock Country.” The early settlers solved their fencing problems on the treeless plains by quarrying rock to use as posts.

The rock was taken from bedrock near the surface, a chalky limestone of rather uniform thickness. When freshly quarried, it is soft enough to be sawed, notched, drilled or shaped with hand tools. After prolonged exposure to air it hardens and becomes weather-resistant. There are many buildings, homes, and yard ornaments in the area built from this native limestone, commonly referred to as “post rock.”

For the politically minded, Russell, KS, is the home of Senators Bob Dole and Arlen Specter.

Just a few miles west of Russell is Hays, KS. This is the town that developed around Fort Hays (memorialized in Dances With Wolves.)

Fort Hays was abandoned in 1889. Only a few buildings remain from the old fort, and we didn’t take the $3 tour ($2 for children and seniors) because of threatening thunderstorms. But we got a few pictures anyway.

The white buildings are Officers' Quarters, the other is the Blockhouse.

We moved back eastward to Victoria, KS, a former British colony, to see the “Cathedral of the Plains.”

Victoria was settled and named by a group of British gentlemen farmers who arrived in 1873, bent on replicating their aristocratic lives in spite of harsh weather and rough ground. They were joined in 1875 by a group of poor immigrants from southern Russia known as Volga-Germans. The British gentlemen farmers didn't succeed and returned to England, but the Volga-Germans stayed, buoyed up by their strong Catholic faith.

Over the years they built three churches, the first one in 1876, a wooden lean-to attached to a home. In 1877 they built a church of stone, and in 1884 a larger stone church with a seating capacity of 600.

The present church was begun in 1908 and completed in 1911, built of native limestone, more than 125,000 cubic feet of rock.

Eighteen granite pillars came from Vermont. The church has been completing itself ever since, with the altar stones dedicated in 1986.

It was William Jennings Bryan, during his presidential campaign tour of 1912, who visited the church and named it the “Cathedral of the Plains.” Its real name is St. Fidelis,

and the St. Fidelis Cemetery is worth a visit itself.


We turned north onto US 183 Friday heading for a little town called Holdredge where there is said to be a city park with RV sites for a few bucks. When we followed the directions to the park, we never found it. Instead we ended up heading east on another highway. Suzy drove on while we were trying to figure out what to do next, when all of a sudden we heard an extraordinarily loud rattling roar from the front of our coach! Suzy expertly kept her cool while getting us off the road. I inspected everything I could find to inspect: all the tires were fine, nothing was falling off the coach, nothing and no one was being dragged beneath. We proceeded on, but with shallow breathing and white knuckles, and haven’t heard the same noise since.

We finally stopped at a Cabela’s store in Kearney, Nebraska, where we spent the night boondocking on their parking lot. Cabela’s is very nice about that in all their stores around the country.

Saturday we moved westward to North Platte, NE, where we’ll stay a couple of nights before heading north once again.

Some roads are more exciting than others as we travel along … Our Life on Wheels.

1 comment:

  1. Jerry and Suzy,

    Thanks so much for the neat photos and stories of your visit through Kansas. We hope you will return regularly. There is much more to see in the Flint Hills region of the state, for sure. We hope you and your readers will check it out!

    Dr. Bill ;-)

    Personal Blog:

    Our 22 county Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. promotes experiential tourism visits to the Kansas Flint Hills – the website is:


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