July 16, 2010

Kansas Information Center - Wellington, Kansas

Just before you cross the border from Kansas to Oklahoma on I-35, you will see the Kansas Visitor Information Center in a small town called Wellington, just outside of Wichita. I love information centers because they are the best place to find out about all the weird tourist attractions of a place. In a desperate bid for tourist dollars, states and cities will fill their information centers to the brim with every single possible site of interest - no matter how big or small.

The Kansas Information Center focuses primarily on two points of pride: the Chisholm Trail and the aviation industry. Wichita was along the Chisholm Trail and so cattle drives headed north to the railroads would pass through. As a result of the Chisholm trail, Wichita became a cattle drive destination from Southwest points throughout the country, especially Texas. (Fun Fact: This is how Wichita became known as "Cowtown.") However, along with cattle drives comes cowboys and cowboys were not exactly known for their decorum when on the trail. Wichita developed a wild reputation where cowboys could let loose in Cowtown. The city employed a number of famous lawmen to try and control the rambunctious cowboys - including Wyatt Earp.

Just outside of Wichita is the little town Wellington, where the actual information center is. Wellington was also part of the Chisholm trail and while Wichita was the cattle destination, Wellington was a stopping point for settlers. Located just along the Oklahoma border, eager settlers would wait in Wellington for the landruns in Oklahoma to begin. Or they would wait until they could sneak across and stake their claims a little early. (Fun Fact: The Oklahoma University "Sooners" are named after the "sooners" who cheated during the landruns and staked their claims before the runs actually had begun.)

The second point of pride is Wichita and Kansas' participation in the aviation industry. Amelia Earhart, one of the country's most famous aviators, is a native Kansan. (You can see my visit to her birthplace museum in Atchison, Kansas here.) But Kansas continues to be a huge part of the aviation industry. Wichita's nickname - the Air Capital of the World - is well earned. Multiple aviation companies are based in Wichita, including: Learjet, Cessna, and Hawker Beechcraft. Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus and Boeing all maintain workforces in Wichita.

While at the information center, I grabbed a few brochures about roadside attractions I hadn't heard about. But then I had to hit the road. I still had a couple hours to go before I would get to Oklahoma City and the weather was not cooperating.

Total Distance Traveled: 190 miles
Total Time Traveled: 3 hours
Soundtrack: "Live and Loud" Cross Canadian Ragweed, "Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions" Shannon Curfman


1 comment:

  1. As an artist myself, I enjoy reading Philip Koch's sensitive writing about Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, who along with Whistler and Rothko, are my favorite American painters.
    I don't live in the United States but have traveled and passed a short time there. But even with the little time spent in your beautiful country, especially in small-town America, I can relate to some of the poetical feel that Hopper and Wyeth had captured in their art, which is for me part of the attraction of their paintings.
    Browsing at wahooart.com the other day, as I do now and then, I find a good selection of Edward Hopper's work, http://EN.WahooArt.com/@/EdwardHopper ,in the big archive of Western Art, that customers can order online for canvas prints and even hand-painted, oil-painting reproductions can be made and sent to them.
    Hopper's surrealistic and depersonalized world is there again. Timeless, yes, as it is still there now in the roadside cafes and diners that I ate at all over America.