Road to Nowhere

Cutting across America’s heartland, US‑83 remains a must-do long-distance byway—transnavigating this broad, odd nation without once grazing a conventional tourist destination.

Kansas

The Sunflower State

Kansas is no mere geographical expression, but a “state of mind,” a religion, and a philosophy in one.
—Carl Becker, Kansas (1910)

I like Kansas—that is, natural Kansas—better than I had expected to.
—Horace Greeley, An Overland Journey (1859)

The clichés have told you wrong: US‑83 across much of Kansas—surprise, surprise—is actually a treat, not at all the interminable tedium of grain-field stretches you might expect. Yes, the physiography through most of the intrastate span is still predominantly flat, dry northern high plains, but it’s compensated for, particularly in the north, with extensive irrigation that coaxes lusher patches of vegetation out of the dark rich soil.

US‑83, much of which has been officially proclaimed the “Western Vistas Historic Byway,” ushers you along gaping, horizon-filled stretches broken by isolated lakes and occasional oases such as Oberlin and Oakley. Continuing south across the windblown plains and limestone hills, US‑83 passes through the cow towns of Scott City and Garden City before crossing the Arkansas River into the baked-clay watercolor that stretches south into Oklahoma and Texas. One final Kansas stop is perhaps the best: Liberal, the self-declared home of fictional Dorothy from the celluloid Wizard of Oz.


Map of the Road to Nowhere through Kansas and Oklahoma.

Map of the Road to Nowhere through Kansas and Oklahoma.