Epic Summer Roadtrip – Day 3 Continued

by JP on Apr.05, 2010, under Day 3

Kansas – The Center of the United States

Having left St. Joseph we began one of the most boring drives of the entire trip. The drive through northern Kansas and southern Nebraska was little more than a long rolling hill of two lane highway, broken up by three  roadside oddities.

Road through Kansas to Marysville, KS (2)

Road through Kansas to Marysville, KS (3)

Marysville, KS –

Our drive out of St. Joseph took us along the Pony Express highway. Most of this stretch of road is little more than farmland. In fact, the sign of any sort of town, Marysville, KS, isn’t for over a hundred miles.

Marysville, KS (5)

Besides being another Pony Express town, there is one interesting sight in Marysville, it is home to the rare black squirrel.

True Black Squirrels are only located in a handful of places in the United States, and those locations seem to have a continuous running debate over who had the first black squirrels. Nevertheless, these squirrels are best seen in the downtown park, scampering around with the other “regular” squirrels.

Marysville, KS (11)

After having lunch at the Wagon Wheel, a downtown restaurant, and one of the few restaurants we saw on this drive, we continued along Highway 36 to Lebanon, KS.


The drive to Lebanon is another 100+ miles of farmland. Be very careful coming down some of these rolling hills, it can get all too easy to gradual start increasing your speed, and get a pulled over by one of the few vehicles actually driving along this stretch of road, the highway patrol.

We found this out the hard way, but were fortunate to receive a very polite warning from Kansas’ finest. The officer was very nice, and we do thank him for keeping the roads safe (and for only giving us a warning).

Lebanon, KS Center of 48 (3)

Lebanon itself is not a notably large town, and it would be easy to pass, except we were looking for another one of our roadside oddities off of Highway 81. This one is a stone marker marking the geographic center of the 48 states.

After searching for 30 minutes or so for the road to this marker, we realized the attraction directions were wrong, and the road was just north of Lebanon, and down a small country road.

The marker sits in a park containing a picnic table, and a tiny open chapel for visitors to stop and reflect on their location with God.

After taking several pictures of the marker, the farmland, and the chapel, we entered the chapel and took a few moments to pray.  Although this small piece of farmland seemed somewhat irrelevant, it did give us pause to realize how blessed we had been to be able to see and continue seeing God’s varying creations across this country.

Lebanon, KS Center of 48 (12) Lebanon, KS Center of 48 (15)

Hastings, Nebraska

Road to Hastings, NE (3)

Next, we headed due north into Nebraska. The first town north of the state line is the town of Red Cloud, home of novelist Willa Cather. We, however, to the town of Hastings, and fortunately it was straight along Highway 81 as well. The town of Hastings was actually a very pretty town. Around the town were several large parks, and numerous elaborate fountains. It would be a very nice town to relax and picnic in, but we were there for a Museum, and had to get there before it closed.

Oh Yea – The Kool-Aid Museum

Hastings, NE (118)

Hastings, NE (120)

The Museum is technically called the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History, but we call it the Kool-Aid Museum. I was initially a little disappointed in this museum because I had assumed it was going to be some sort of elaborate interactive Kool-Aid museum (like the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta). It did, however, contain some excellent exhibits and artifacts from a variety of times.

The museum really begins with its display on natural history, which is about two stories of taxidermy stuffed animals arranged on displays. These animals were from all over the world, and were arranged very well. Next, the museum contains numerous vehicles and weapons from all time periods.

Hastings, NE (87) Hastings, NE (3)

Finally, though, we arrived on the lower floor of the museum, the Kool-Aid floor. Hastings was the original home to the inventor of Kool-Aid, Edwin Perkins. The museum exhibit takes visitors from Perkin’s boyhood fascination with Chemistry sets, through his entrepreneurial experiments with perfumes, and finally to his creation of Kool-Aid. From there, the exhibit contains thousands of artifacts displaying Kool-Aid’s marketing and production. Unfortunately, though, no free samples.

Hastings, NE (46) Hastings, NE (47)

Hastings, NE (61) Hastings, NE (66)

Kearney and Gothenberg, Nebraska

Kearney, NE

We ended day 3 by stopping at a local brewery in Kearney, Nebraska, just down interstate 80. Thunderhead Brewery was a small restaurant with lots of local character. After ordering a beer sampler, we noticed this brewery had won numerous international awards for their beer. This was definitely one of my favorite finds for dinner. Great beer and great pizza.

Kearney, NE (10) Kearney, NE (6)

Kearney is also the location of the second great Arch on the trip, the Great Platte River Road Archway is a log structured arch spanning across Interstate 80. It is designed to commemorate the old wagon trail, and the pioneers that crossed the prairies so many years ago. Inside the arch is an interactive museum, but it was closed by the time we arrived.

Kearney, NE (2)

Our resting place for the night was the KOA Campground in Gothenberg. The campground was really well laid out and somewhat empty. We had our pick of the primitive camp sites, and were situated just alongside a beautiful creek. What had began as a boring day of driving turned out to be a day of relaxing fun.

Gothenberg, NE (4)

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