After enjoying lunch at the Cozy Inn on Saturday, I set out to explore more of Salina, Kansas. You can read about the first part of my day here.
For a town of about 50,000 it has a TON of beautiful architecture. The United Building, just a few doors down from the Cozy Inn, was built in 1929; the terracotta facade reminded me a lot of Tulsa. The downtown district had several cool neon signs, a few sculptures, and a GORGEOUS old theatre!
The Stiefel Theatre was built in 1931 as the Fox-Watson, which was a movie house for sixty years. It also served as a live venue, something which continues today. The art deco gem was restored in 2003 and operates as a non-profit.
After a few circuits of downtown Salina, I drove south to Coronado Heights. A fellow at the Cozy Inn had recommended it and I’m glad he did. Atop a hill outside of Lindsborg KS sits a little limestone castle, built by the WPA in the 1930s. Many people were taking advantage of the walking/biking trails that surround the hilltop park but I just walked around the main building and took in the scenic view. The clouds I’d seen in Salina looked a lot more impressive…or perhaps they had grown a lot in the last hour. They were far away, so no big deal.
I made a quick stop in Lindsborg afterwards. It’s known as Little Sweden thanks to the nationality of the original founders and the town’s continued embrace of that heritage. Gentle music flowed from hidden speakers as I walked Main Street; murals and storefronts all gave a strong Nordic vibe. The old truss bridge on the south side of town (now a pedestrian crossing) proudly exclaims VALKOMMEN! I gotta bring Sam back here for a weekend, perhaps in the winter.
The storm clouds I’d seen at a distance weren’t so far away when I arrived in Wichita, but the sun was still shining. I pulled into the empty parking lot at the Wichita North High School and stared in wonder at the architecture. It was somewhat reminiscent of the Will Rogers High School back home with the intricate design elements, which consisted of Native American imagery. Likewise, the historic Minisa Bridge next to the school was lined with bison and Native American motifs. They were sculpted out of Carthalite, a local material made of sand and crushed glass. When the bridge was replaced in 2008, they saved the historic artwork. I’m so glad they did! I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
By the time I left Wichita, it had started sprinkling. I was hammered with an intermittent deluge as I continued south; thankfully, it quieted down for a few minutes as I drew closer to my final stop. The Ninnescah River Bridge near Belle Plaine was down four miles of gravel road; with the rain, the lane had turned to rocky slush. I drove the Mustang carefully, avoiding areas that looked eager to claim a vehicular victim. I made it to the bridge and was able to take a few photos before it started raining again. After a stressful multi-point turn in the middle of nowhere, I headed back down the saturated street and made it to pavement without getting stuck.
Right as I returned to I-35, a big storm hit. I had to pull off to the shoulder several times due to poor visibility and/or hail. Once it would clear, I’d drive on for a few miles and encounter another pocket of storm. At one point, I was driving at a steady 40 mph (hazard lights on, of course) when I saw a peculiar flicker of light in front of me, at the edge of my visibility. It happened again, and then I realized it was a car spinning out-of-control. It slammed into the concrete guardrail and came to a stop, sitting horizontally across the southbound lanes. The left front end was completely smashed. I was prepared to stop and offer aid, but the driver pointed the car in the right direction and kept driving, albeit much slower. I guess everything inside was okay.
Storms continued to fire after I crossed the Oklahoma border, but I-35 was spared from them. I pulled into a rest area to get a shot of the beautiful sunset. It had been a wonderful day of travel, one that exceeded my expectations. By the time I arrived home at 9:30, I’d been on the road for fourteen hours. Sam had baked a cake, a piece of which I eagerly devoured before going to bed.