Kansas Scenic Highway 18

            Kansas scenic state highway 18 has come a long way since 1941 when the family moved to Bennington.  Bennington was located at the intersection of US Highway 81, a north-south route through Wichita and Salina, and Kansas state highway 18, an east west road across northwest Kansas.  All the highways of that era followed the surveyed mile-section lines.  Even U.S. highways turned square corners every 10 miles or so with the adjustments required to place square boxes on a round earth.  All self-respecting highways went from town to town, the better to feed and water the horses in the earlier days.  Highway 18 was virtually a straight shot for 70 miles from Junction City on the east to Lincoln on the west with a single jog to the south across the Saline River in Bennington. 

            The highway's original route is still intact to Lincoln, but from Lincoln on west little remains of the highway as it was in 1941.  The square corners have been removed, and the new road skirts the little towns scattered from Lincoln to US highway 24 east of Hill City, another 150 miles to the west.  While interstate 70 a few miles to the south makes for an easy drive west, the artistic enhancements along Kansas 18 offer a pleasant and entertaining alternative.  With almost no traffic, the trip west from Junction City to Hill City is virtually painless. 

            The stretch of road from Bennington to Plainville has been enhanced considerably with the addition of roadside art every few miles.  Pictures of the more interesting artifacts were taken this past summer.  The first picture was snapped at 9:37am just east of Lincoln.  The picture taking continued for two hours on the drive to Plainville.  The scenes in the first group of pictures below are from this two hour drive. 

9:37am Sabertooth wolf formerly peeking below a billboard on oil well drill stem poles

9:38am A magnificent dragon fashioned from an old farm combine

9:50am Silhouette of lone Indian on horseback

10:05am Post rock (limestone) entry sign into Lincoln

10:34am Silhouette of Indian chief on horseback

10:38am Whiteface Herford cattle cooling in the shade of a tree

10:39am Limestone fence posts along the highway

10:43am Meitler's cattle raising farm-business sign

10:47am Lucas sign as grassroots arts center

10:50am Lucas' apple welcomes visitors to its Garden of Eden

10:54am Garden of Eden memorial museum and mausoleum

11:29am Hackmeister's hard hat mailbox

11:32am Kansas leaning tower barn sagging from prevailing west wind

11:33am Homestead well beyond repair

            Having thoroughly enjoyed the roadside art, we stopped at Plainville's livestock sale barn, the location of one of the little city's more popular eateries.  With my wife's sweet tooth still undernourished, we left the restaurant with a dozen frozen cinnamon rolls for later consumption.  

            Just off of highway 18 are a number of other points of interest and features that warm the cockles of every Kansan's heart.  Parts of the 1955 movie Picnic with William Holden and Kim Novak were filmed next to the high rise elevators near Salina.  A little known geologic wonder is Kansas' Rock City, a large collection of concretions, huge spherical boulders which are almost perfectly round.  One could envision that this is where Paul Bunyon lost all his marbles, and all of them were shooters!!! This collection is located north of highway 18 toward Minneapolis. 

Salina's skyscraper grain elevator beyond wild sunflowers

15 foot concretion estimated to weigh 300,000 pounds, 150 tons, 100 cars

Paul Bunyon's lost marble collection

More concretions scattered around the field

Cultivated sunflowers, which always face Kansas City, Kansas (the morning sun)

Graphic illustration of Western Kansas diversified farming

Round hay bales randomly dropped in field

Plainville business which will customize any sign in limestone

Leo's memorial headstone, which doubles as sign for liquor store

Auto salvage sign north of Hays

Lone wolf howling under cactus north of Hays

Cowpoke mailbox north of Hays

Bickle's fisherman waiting for the rural route mail carrier

Elk art replicas being hauled west on interstate 70 near Hays

             For those folks whose primary interest is in getting out of Kansas, interstate 70 going rapidly in both directions is the right choice.  For those who wish to enjoy the trip and learn something of the character and the culture of the good folks in Kansas are better served by taking Kansas scenic highway 18, just a few miles off the beaten path. 

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