Friday, June 17, 2011

Topeka Treasures

I was searching for a bike trail in Kansas not too far from my quarters in Stilwell and landed on the Landon Nature Trail in Topeka, which happens to be the state capitol. From what I could tell the trail is a bit short for my 50km threshold, but what caught my attention is the location of the trail head: right next to the Brown vs. Board of Education National Monument.

As a kid who attended three years of high school in FL, SC and TN between 1956 and '59 I was keenly aware of the Supreme Court ruling that is widely credited with reversing the "separate but equal" doctrine and led to the integration of "public" schools throughout the country.

The National Park Service arm of the Department of the Interior operates the facility in the Monroe School building. The presentations are expertly designed using multi-media storytelling and archival displays of key documents along with sustinct interpretations and followup facts.  The memorial is easy to find off the major highways through Topeka, which is less than 100 miles from Kansas City.  Do bookmark this place in your heartland travel plans.

Ah yes, the bike trail. A very ambitious and well executed trail that essentially connects downtown Topeka with the outlying urban core.  The bad news #1 is that there are no signs or route maps in evidence and it more or less ends abruptly at a food processing plant after about 8 miles. But mind you, the trail itself is beautiful and there is very little street traffic interface.

When the trail ended at the food factory I just started poking around, riding up one boulevard and down a little parkway, then following a sign to an RV park on the presumption that RV parks are in fun places.  Finally took a right simply to avoid a monster hill, then after passing a honky tonk and a C store I came upon a carving next to an interesting bridge. That carving was the key to second not-so-hidden Treasure.

I went to the intersection and took a left to cross over that beckoning bridge, and discovered.....

Lake Shawnee County Park

Whatever your image of a county park, prepare to re-set your expectations.  Get this.....

Gardens - plural - to die for.

Bank fishing.

Did I mention gardens?
A real pretty lake complete with wildlife.

And are ready for this... a sports complex with fields for baseball, football, soccer with bleachers and grandstands; an RV and camping park, a marina, a Frisbee golf course!, an Inn, of course the 7 mile bike way around the whole park, and.....

.....a championship golf course.

I'm sure I've left some things out, but you get the picture.  A real treasure, and being well used on a Thursday.  I made my way back to the trail head and noted that there was one more spur on the Landon Trail, which I needed to ride to top off my mileage.  So I peeled off at the clever little biking traffic circle and headed out with high expectations for a great finish and maybe even some more treasure hunting, when I came upon.......

OH NO, bad news #2. And all I needed was two more miles!

You know, I'm just going to leave this ride at 47km and be good with it.  I couldn't be happier with the whole experience today.  It reaffirms my belief that if you put yourself in a place and in the moment for something nice to happen it usually does.  Mind you there was nothing simple about plopping myself down in Topeka, Kansas this morning, but thanks to my generous cousin Fred and the support of my friends and family I did get my booty to that trail head today.  And as we have all heard, ninety percent of success is simply showing up.  

Tomorrow I intend to show up at my favorite President's house.

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