Last weekend, my friends and I took a road trip to the middle of nowhere Kansas. (Yes, the Snapchat location filter literally said “middle of nowhere.”) Our friend is attending Kansas State University, and life was calling for a girl’s weekend, so off we headed across the Midwest.
After five and a half hours of singing in the car, we were approaching the town of Manhattan, Kansas. At this point, it was that only-achievable-in-Kansas dark outside, and we were desperately looking for any sign of civilization.
However, our GPS said we were only ten minutes away, and we still saw nothing. It wasn’t until the five-minute mark that we started to see establishments.
“They have a Texas Roadhouse!” my friend exclaimed from the driver’s seat. We marveled at the mall and the Chick-Fil-A, and concluded that this was the town people from even smaller towns traveled to for events.
The irony of the name “Manhattan” was not lost on us. The town refers to itself as “The Little Apple,” and apparently there have been a few instances where international students actually thought they were going to be attending university in Manhattan, New York. Now THAT would be quite a shock.
We settled in at our friend’s house that night and began to map out our itinerary for our one day in Kansas. One of her roommates—a Kansas native—suggested we go to Manhattan Hill.
“It has letters like the Hollywood Sign, so it’s basically the same thing.”
“What do you do on the hill?” We asked.
“Oh, you just sit,” she laughed.
Our day in Kansas began with a trip to Wamego—a town whose slogan is “Small town. Big experience.” Wamego has somehow claimed rights to the Wizard of Oz fame, so there are statues of Toto all around town. After enjoying a breakfast of comfort food, we went looking for our next stop: the Oz Museum.
Locating the museum turned out to be as easy as: “Let’s see if we can find it!”…*turns head… “There it is!”
We were the only visitors at the museum (the whole time we were there) and it was thoroughly entertaining. Full of memorabilia, and (rather creepy) recreations of the characters, it was an iconic tribute to the first American fairytale. And it was so Kansas.
The rest of the day was spent touring Manhattan, and everywhere we went, people stared at us. Apparently we didn’t look quite “Kansas” enough to fit in. We walked around a part of town called Aggieville (Aggie→ Ag→ Agriculture) and purchased souvenirs that read “Kansas, “It’s not that bad!” and “No coast, No problem.”
Our last stop of the day was the country bar in town—aka the hotspot for line and swing dancing. Within the first thirty seconds of being inside, I had already counted five camouflage baseball hats.
“All of these people own animals,” my local friend said, being completely serious. Everyone’s dancing was amazing—they grew up doing it—and we enjoyed some of the best people watching of the day.
Needless to say, our preconceived notions of Kansas were all confirmed, but we all walked away affirming that Kansas—full of genuinely kind and hard-working people—is truly, not all that bad.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business (human resources) and writing. She is currently living and working in Grand Rapids but is eager to find a new city and a new adventure.