Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: 7 Unusual Destinations in Day Trips Around the 2 Kansas Cities!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

7 Unusual Destinations in Day Trips Around the 2 Kansas Cities!

Kris and Kate's Ice Cream Treats
Upon returning from a day trip, people would invariably ask us, “Well, what quirky places did you see today?” There are many synonyms of “quirky”, but I chose to use the subtle “unusual” in the title so that I won’t scare some people from reading this fun post! But, it is true. When you have exhausted the traditional tourist spots in a place, you tend to look for the unusual (another synonym) ones. Here are seven from the four towns we went to on day trips around Kansas City.

St. Joseph, Missouri

What drew us to this town is a museum cited in the book A Thousand Places to See Before You Die.

Glore Psychiatric Museum
The most visited of the four St. Joseph Museums, the Glore Psychiatric Museum describes the 130-year history of the St. Joseph State Hospital through exhibits of surgical tools and equipment and artwork from patients that speak volumes about their condition. It is named after George Glore, a hospital employee who constructed full-size replicas of primitive 16th, 17th, and 18th-century devices for a 1968 Mental Health Awareness Week open house. They became the foundation of the museum.

Funeral Museum
Then we found out that Jesse James, the famous outlaw of the west, lived about an hour away from St. Joseph in Kearney, Missouri. We were lucky that, when he was gunned down in his home, he was brought to the Heaton-Bowman-Smith Funeral Home right there in St. Joseph. His body was carried in a wicker basket that is now part of an exhibit of antique coffins and burial implements housed in the Funeral Museum, a room at the back of the Funeral Home. What a find!

The summer heat next drove us to the pink ice cream cone building right on 2330 N 36th St, St Joseph, MO, as featured on Roadside America. It is called Kris & Kate's Ice Cream Treats and features a huge selection. Adding to the fun are '50s tunes blaring that almost got Bill and me dancing in the parking lot where there is this warning: "violators will be all shook up."

Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp
When we were driving to St. Joseph, we caught a glimpse of a huge sign that said KC Chiefs Training Camp. KC Chiefs is the National Football League franchise of Kansas City.  An avid football fan and an enthusiastic member of his high school football team in Pittsburg, Kansas just two hours away. Bill found a way to get there, but he wished he had more time to spend at the Camp instead of just a photo-op!

Atchison, Kansas

Amelia Earhart Earthworks, Birthplace, and Bridge
Atchison is just thirty minutes from St. Joseph, Missouri. It is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, the American aviation pioneer and author who disappeared mysteriously over the central Pacific on a circumnavigation flight in 1937. An unusual tribute to her drew us to this town. The Amelia Earhart Earthwork is a unique work by Stan Herd, using the earth as his canvas and farm tools as his brushes. It is a 42,000 square foot image of Amelia on the berm of a hill next to Warnock Lake. The portrait is a living thing made of grasses, plants, earth and stone. It is best seen from the air where Amelia belongs.

Leavenworth, Kansas

On the way to Olathe, Kansas, we passed by Leavenworth. We wanted to see Carousel Museum. Early in our dating life, Bill and I have had a fascination for carousels and the museum has a Primitive Carousel dated to 1850-1860. Unfortunately, it was closed!

US Penitentiary
But we found that there is a US Penitentiary, a medium-security federal prison for male inmates stood in Leavenworth with a satellite federal prison camp (FPC) for minimum-security male offenders. Bill suddenly remembered that the one in nearby Lansing, Kansas was where his step-grandfather worked as a guard. His grandma said that is where Bill had his first haircut and where they bought for him his wooden toys made by inmates.

Olathe, Kansas

Kansas School for the Deaf, left, Deaf Cultural Center, right
Deaf Mona Lisa
Near Bill’s fraternity brother Ollie and his wife Kris’ home in Olathe, Kansas is the William J. Marra Deaf Cultural Center. I am so interested in institutions for the deaf since my mother was a former Principal of the Philippine School for the Deaf and the Blind and made a distinguished career out of helping the deaf speak. Also, in her honor, my sister Julie now runs the non-profit Philippine Institute for the Deaf.

The Center is the only museum of Deaf history and Deaf Culture in the US that is not affiliated with a school. There is a digital library, community education and outreach programs, and a showcase of art pieces created by deaf /hard-of-hearing artists as well as a small collection of De’VIA or Deaf View/Image Art, representing deaf artists and/or perceptions based on their deaf experiences.

I hope you have found one or more of these unusual day trips of particular interest to you, especially if you are around Kansas City. Just remember, quirky isn’t bad. It’s quite interesting!