After reading an article in which the author put down the great state of Kansas, I became defensive about the state I called home for eighteen years. It seems that this author traveled with his family from Kansas City to Denver on Interstate 70 while he was in a very negative frame of mind. Probably a nagging wife and irritating kids were the real source of his problem, but he seemed to associate creative Kansans and their attempt to make an honest living with his pessimistic mindset.
The trip from Kansas City to Denver on I-70 is long, really long. Each mile driven across the plains is roughly equivalent to five miles driving along a curving, beautiful highway in, say, Michigan. At least that’s how it seems.
Folks who occupy the vast prairie lands of Kansas are extremely intelligent people who no doubt said to themselves, “Those people out there on that long stretch of interstate are going to be bored. How can we make money while fixing that for them?” And that’s exactly what they set out to do. So as you travel across Kansas you will be enticed by signs that suggest you visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center, tour the boyhood home of Walter P. Chrysler, learn history while you explore the Museum of Independent Telephony, stop to see a 24’ X 32’ rendition of a Vincent Van Gough painting (next to the town’s eating places, of course), and detour over to The Garden of Eden with its “visionary sculptures created from concrete and native post rock.”
If heading east to west, by the time travelers can see Oakley in the distance they are bound to be dog-tired and have totally worn-down defenses. This is where the sign that points to the World’s Largest Prairie Dog appears along the roadside. And this is apparently where negative author, tired of nagging wife and irritating kids, gave in to temptation and paid to see a huge “prairie dog” constructed of concrete.
But lest you think I don’t appreciate the I-70 corridor and the trip across the plains, there is a Kansas “gem” that I think anyone traveling that route should take the time to stop and see. The sign before the little town of Victoria announces that the Cathedral of the Plains is located there. Only a minute or two from the highway, anyone taking the time to do so will find a beautiful early twentieth century Romanesque design church that seats over a thousand people. This beautiful structure, constructed with native limestone blocks, has towers that are 141 feet tall, and it features amazing German stained glass windows and works of art, Austrian hand-carved Stations of the Cross, and an Italian marble altar.
So you don’t need to take a trip to Europe, or even to New York City, to see a beautiful cathedral. The next time you motor across Kansas on Interstate 70, just pull off at Victoria and tour majestic Saint Fidelis (open to the public from dawn to dusk).