Garnett native Lee Ann Simon and her husband Larry now live in Galveston, Texas, but she rediscovered her home state this month by joining Biking Across Kansas. Along the way she encountered a portion of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway which, according to one tour guide, “greets its visitors with picturesque windmills, abundant wildflowers and native grasses, ever changing agricultural crops, grazing cattle, and unique limestone bluffs as well as stories of the past.” The byway is about 60 miles long and passes through the Smoky Hill River Valley in Trego and Ness counties. From Interstate 70’s Ogallah Exit 135 travel south on K-147 to K4 east of Brownell, turn west on K-4 to U.S. 283 east of Ransom, and finally turn north on U.S. 283 to WaKeeney at I-70 Exit 127.
The first few days of Simon’s journey are provided here, with some tips for others who want to head west from Barton County for a short adventure.
Biking Across Kansas
Simon’s bicycle adventure started June 9 at the Colorado boarder, with Larry in the support vehicle. At Tribune she reported, “Beautiful weather, great scenery, and outstanding support! I love my Sherpa, Larry Simon.”
“Coolest little stop in Leoti this morning,” Simon wrote at the first stop. She found a park with a piano statue, “dedicated to someone who believed in the arts.”
If you want to go: Wichita County also has the Museum of the Great Plains with Chuck Bonner murals, a “plantation-style” courthouse built in 1917, and the Wichita County Fair and Carnival offering rides and games for 25 cents each. This year’s fair is July 26-29.
“My dear friend Linda Malvern gave me a wonderful prayer before this ride began,” Simon wrote on June 11. “Part of that (prayer) was to take the time to enjoy the scenery God put before me. Today was the day: I saw the change in the wheat from fields still a bit green to ripening into the golden wheat fields I love. Two deer were frolicking in a field. I was on a road called the Smoky (Valley) Scenic Byway where you could see hills and valleys for miles.
“Then I entered this cute little town WaKeeney with the friendliest people. They call themselves the Christmas City of the High Plains and they decorate year-round for this. My camera could not capture the beauty I saw today, but enjoy the Christmas in WaKeeney. Now if the thought of Christmas would cool things down a bit.”
June 12 at Hill City
“No pictures today because today my sense of smell reawakened. The first part of my ride was through beautiful farmland and suddenly there was an overwhelming smell of fresh. Not sure what crops were around; I only saw wheat, but mixed in with this aroma was a bit of lilac. I find it amazing that it has taken several days to clear the city out and allow me to experience the fresh.”
“I am in love with a little place, Lucas, Kansas,” Simon wrote on June 13. On Main street they have a public restroom with an entrance that is unbelievable: it is shaped like a toilet seat and when you go in the walls are all mosaic. Next to the restrooms there is a statue of a toilet paper roll — turning into a sidewalk. And if that is not enough they have a Fork Garden. Americana at its best.”
When in Lucas, a must-see is the Garden of Eden, the limestone house and concrete sculptures of Civil War veteran S.P. Dinsmoor. There’s also the Grassroots Arts Center.
Paradise is a short drive from Lucas. At the intersection of Waldo and Main Street is a limestone “Welcome to Paradise” sign next to the 1938 WPA stone water tower.