A Brief Visit to Wichita, KA

Newton, KS  (north of Wichita)

We dropping our daughter, Jessica, off at the Denver Airport on Wednesday morning for her return flight to Baltimore, returned to the motorhome, finished packing up, and headed east on I-70.  After about 250 miles we pulled into High Plains RV Park in Oakley, KS for the night.  We had stopped here two years ago so we knew it was a good spot for an overnight stay.

The next morning we were ready to head out early but a thunderstorm moving across central Kansas caused us to delay a couple of hours.  But just before 11:00 we were back on the highway continuing to the east.  At Salinas we turned south on I-135, headed for Wichita.  After another 250 miles we stopped for the night at Payne Oil RV Park.  OK, the name sounds a little strange but it turned out to be a decent place.  Years back the owner of the oil company decided to add a small RV park and a nine hole golf course to his property across from the oil company office.  The golf course doesn’t seem to exist any more but there are about 15 RV sites offered on a first come first served basis.  If you arrive before five you pay at the oil company office.  Arrive later and you put your money in a metal container next to the door.  There are no amenities, but the sites are level,  the full hook-ups work well, and it’s only $20 a night.

We intended to just stay here one night but, since Wichita is only 20 miles down the road, we decided to stay another night and spend a day looking around the city on our bikes.  Wichita has many miles of bike paths and one runs right along the Arkansas River.  We parked near the convention center and quickly road across the river.

Once on the other side we biked upstream along the river bank.  Friends Steve and MonaLiza were here just a couple of days ago and said the river was very high from all the recent rains.  We could see debris on the path in spots indicating the water had recently covered it, but the river has returned back to within its normal banks.

At the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers is a beautiful statue called The Keeper of the Plains.  The statue is a 44 foot high steel sculpture by Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin. It stands adjacent to the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Surrounding the base of the statue are multiple displays which describe the local tribes that used to inhabit this area.

We continued north on a bike trail a few miles before heading east on a surface street headed for a visit to the campus of Wichita State University.

The name for the school’s athletic teams is the Shockers and, collectively, students are also referred to as being “Shockers.”  The name reflects the university’s heritage. Early students at what was then Fairmount College earned money by shocking, or harvesting, wheat in nearby fields.  Early football games were played on a stubbled wheat field.  Pep club members were known as Wheaties.  Tradition has it that in 1904 football manager and student R.J. Kirk came up with the nickname Wheatshockers.  Although the Wheatshockers name was never officially adopted by the university, it caught on among the fan base.  Newspaper writers also liked it because it was easily shortened to “Shockers” in headlines, and the shorter name was officially adopted by around the time Fairmount became the Municipal University of Wichita in 1926.

While the men’s basketball team has had great success in the past couple of seasons, baseball is the top sport here.  The men’s baseball team is college baseball’s highest winning team for the past 31 years, with numerous conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances.  The baseball team won the national championship in 1989, and was runner-up in 1982, 1991, and 1993.  They play home games in a beautiful little ball park.

After exploring the campus, we rode back downtown to enjoy a late lunch.  MonaLiza had recommended a stop at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen on Douglas Street and we were not disappointed.  We enjoyed a large cup of soup and a sandwich and both were delicious!

Tomorrow we continue our journey with a stop in Shawnee, Oklahoma, just east of Oklahoma City.  A check of the weather forecast shows no tornadoes or  heavy rains for the next few days, so we should be safe to visit the city without drowning or being blown away!

More on that later . . .

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27 Responses to A Brief Visit to Wichita, KA

  1. Kathy says:

    I stayed in that same little tv park 2years ago while visiting my nephew at the college in Newton. It would be nice if there were more spots like it.

  2. Laurel says:

    You guys made some serious headway on your trip east with 500 miles in two days! Glad you stayed over an extra night in Wichita to show us around. 🙂 It looks like an interesting city — we would definitely enjoy exploring by bike. I think I’d prefer traveling through Kansas when there isn’t the threat of tornados or heavy rains, though (if that’s even possible).

    • placestheygo says:

      Laurel, I’m not sure there is a good time to travel across Kansas when there may not be a weather problem. I guess this big basically flat state brings all the “best” weather:) We are in a clear time for weather right now but we do listen carefully to the local forecast.

      Since our reason for this trip across country is to visit family be aren’t doing long tourist stops as we go. We are, however, checking out towns and cities along the way. We want to head back west mid August.

  3. explorvistas says:

    I had to fly into Wichita for work one time, and I was astounded that their airport was headquarters for both Learjet and Cessna. I understand that they were going to open up a new terminal, which was sorely needed.

    If you ever get find yourself near Abilene, KS, check out the Eisenhour presidential sites. Dwight and Mamie are buried there. Very nice museum.

    Jim

    • placestheygo says:

      Witicha was nicknamed The Air Capital of the World at one time and still remains a major center in the sircraft industry. There was just an article in the paper about the university trying to get Airbus to bring their headquarters there. And their new airport terminal just opened our son informed us. He was wondering if we went to see it! He is an airline pilot and flies into Wichita frequently.

      Last year when we made this journey across Kansas we stopped and toured both Presidential sites. They would not be missed by a history buff:)

  4. Janna says:

    I think in Shawnee, OK there is a big lake–as a teenager my cousins and I spent many happy hours in that lake.

  5. Fascinating history on the school team names! Looks like a very pretty area and a great stopover. Fingers crossed you make it all the way through tornado alley unscathed!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      We actually did our initial reseach on the mascot when the team made the NCAA Basketball tournament. We couldn’t figure out what that strange thing was ont he mascots head. Turns out it is wheat!! Very strange, but interesting history.

      So far the weather is clear…and very hot for the several days.

  6. Marsha says:

    What an exciting header photo…hehe

    The Keeper of the Plains statue is beautiful. Your bike ride looks like to took you along some beautiful country. You had a perfect day for it.

    Paul and I always wondered why they were called the Shockers but were too lazy to look it up. Thanks for the heads up. The campus looks lovely.

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad we could explain who the Shockers are:) We actually did our research during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when we saw that weird thing on the mascots head.

      We actually did have a nice day considering how warm it was. We were lucky the humidity wasn’t too bad so the breeze keep us comfortable.

      Glad you enjoyed the creative banner!!!!

  7. LuAnn says:

    Thanks for showing us around Wichita, as I am guessing we will not be making a drive out there. I think we have had our fill of dodging tornados and earthquakes in the midwest. Be safe when passing through OK, particularly around the OK City area. They seem to have some of the worst weather around.

    • placestheygo says:

      Luckily, we timed it so we didn’t arrive in OK until after the tropical storm moved through and the river was down:) Weather looks good for the next week. Let’s hope it holds!

  8. Jodee Gravel says:

    While your hikes are incredible to follow, I have missed your unique city and campus tours. This one was fun as well. Blackbear’s statue is beautiful, thanks for including it. We were in Santa Cruz the other day where the university mascot is the banana slug. “Once a slug, always a slug” is probably a parent’s worse nightmare after paying for four years of college! Safe travels across the plains 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Well, Jodee, we should have lots of city tours and university visits as we travel towards the northeast. Some schools have the strangest mascots, but the slug…really! What were they thinking!! Our weather looks good for awhile, thank goodness, just lots of heat and humidity:)

  9. Wichita looks like a nice city. The bike trail reminds me of the one we did at Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s always a weather crapshoot when crossing the midwest!

  10. Sarah says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your tour of Wichita. The sculpture is beautiful, and I’m also intrigued with the bridge that is adjacent to it. We were in Wichita last November, but just stopped for the night as we were heading south to try and outrun the Polar Vortex that was about to grip the Midwest. It seems like a return visit might be in order when we visit my friend in Salina.

  11. I wished we had our bicycle when we were there. Instead we just followed the trail around the park and did a decent 6 miles on flat land.
    Im also glad that you like the food at Tanyas, we enjoyed their tomato bisque soup and turkey sandwich.

  12. Nancy says:

    Neat area. Loved hearing about the mascot and how it got its name! Stay safe!

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