Monday, June 24, 2019

A Great Route through History: Kansas Route 18

Over the last 10 days, I drove through the American heartland 3200 miles. Saw my mother in Wisconsin, caught Trout in the Rocky Mountains and saw a couple of National Historic Sites. The plains are fascinating to me, the loneliness and the attachment to the land. Driving back from Colorado it is always good to get off I70 and see the real plains.

 This time I got off in Colby on US Highway 24, which eventually turned into Kansas Route 18.  I70 turns south at Colby and then comes back up to Junction city like a half moon.  KR 18 shoots straight across following the Solomon River Valley.  This road has a lot of unseen beauty compared to I70.

My first stop was at the Cottonwood Ranch a Kansas State Historic Site. This ranch was constructed by Abraham Pratt, a middle-class Englishman who first came to the United States during the years of the Colorado Gold Rush. After returning to England, he immigrated to Kansas with his sons John Fenton and Tom and settled in the Studley vicinity. His wife at the time had a hard time adjusting to life on the plains after being used to her middle-class English lifestyle. This one of the most unique homesteads I have ever been too, given that it is an original stone structure to the period.

Sometimes a place that doesn’t seem that special, but has a special feeling. This is the whole reason I took this road.  The town of Nicodemus is a National Historic site. The oldest active black settlement west of the Mississippi.  It was established in 1877 by former slaves from Kentucky and Tennessee. At its height 650 lived here today about 50. Every year they have an emancipation celebration that draws 500 - 1000 decedents. Gale Sayers is decadent who played college football at KU. Nicodemus never gained more residents because the railroad missed them by 4 miles. This was a great stop with a tour by actual decadence of Nicodemus.

It's always good to get off the Interstate especially Interstate 70.  When they built that road they must have intentionally tried to make one the most boring roads in America.  Following the Solomon River on Kansas Route 18 was a great experience.  The river has created valleys and greenery that I did not know existed in Western Kansas.