Lawrence, Kansas

Photo: cstover via stock.xchng
Photo: cstover via stock.xchng

You’re halfway across the country. For hours, you’ve seen nothing but wheat fields, a cloudless blue sky, and the endless prairie. The same five songs keep repeating on the radio. The fun first third of your cross-country road trip—the California coast, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon—feels like a lifetime ago. You’re bored.

It’s time for a detour in the Sunflower State. Lawrence is just off Route 70, in between Topeka and Kansas City, Missouri. Once a resting point along the Oregon Trail, the city was established by pioneers from Boston in 1855. Lawrence quickly became a base for abolitionists. It was attacked multiple times during the Civil War; much of the city was destroyed during Quantrill’s Raid in 1863. Today, battles continue, though they tend to be confined to the basketball court—Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas.

Photo: The Eldridge Hotel
Photo: The Eldridge Hotel

If the Jayhawks’ home is the heart of Lawrence, Massachusetts Street is its backbone. The main street is lined with Civil War-era brick buildings, the Beaux-Arts-style Liberty Hall, and the Eldridge Hotel. Your resting point for the night has been rebuilt many times, but the ghost of Colonel Shalor Eldridge supposedly still lives here. He won’t stop you from enjoying your large suite or a martini at the Jayhawker bar, though.

When you’re ready to stretch your legs, walk along Mass Street to find the Dusty Bookshelf, Love Garden Sounds record store, and the Free State Brewing Company. Visit the Spencer Museum of Art to see works by artists as varied as Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ansel Adams. The museum may be small, but it’s considered one of the best university art museums in the country. Stop at sites like the Robert Miller House that were once part of the Underground Railroad. Follow the waterfront trail along the Kansas River in Riverfront Park. Or ride a bike out to peaceful Clinton Lake in Clinton State Park. You’ll probably see white-tailed deer, turkeys, and wildflowers along the North Shore Trail.

There’s no need to dress up tonight. Dinner is a casual—and messy—affair at Biemer’s BBQ with baby back ribs, beef brisket, and baked beans. Basketball season is, unfortunately, over, so head to the Replay Lounge to play pinball, drink a few pints, and listen to an up-and-coming indie rock band. You’re starting to feel young again until you notice how young the college kids really look. At least you have new music to get you through the next part of your road trip.

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