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.

Oberlin

All across northwest Kansas, US-83 sweeps across beautiful rolling farmlands, paralleling railroad tracks and passing through low, one-horse towns with towering feed elevators. Funky little Oberlin, 12 miles south of the Nebraska state line, is definitely worth a stop. It’s a picture-postcard town, with a Social Realist native limestone statue of a pioneering family marking its northern edge and a mini movie theater called the Sunflower (220 N. Penn Ave., 785/470-2200)—in honor of the Kansas state flower—playing Hollywood hits amid awning-covered storefronts along the two blocks of redbrick downtown streets.

The peace and quiet of today’s Oberlin is in stark contrast to its past: Oberlin was the site of the last Indian raid in Kansas on September 30, 1878, after a fierce skirmish had erupted between Chief Dull Knife’s Northern Cheyenne, heading to regain their lands in the Dakotas, and an infantry contingent from Fort Dodge at what is today Lake Scott State Park, near Scott City, 80 miles to the south. The Oberlin cemetery contains a memorial to the 19 settlers who were killed in the Cheyenne attacks, and the town has the early-October Mini-Sapa Celebration, commemorating the event.

Sunflower (220 N. Penn Ave.)