Saturday, May 29, 2010

An eye opening trip to Rural Middle America

Recently I joined my parents for a trip to visit family and little did we know how far our travels would take us from our daily amenities. I have traveled to other countries, some poor, some small, some remote, but my trip to Goodland Kansas took me for a spin!

After a long 3hr drive from Denver Colorado, seeing nothing more than flat farmland and the occasional tree, we finally arrived to Goodland Kansas and luckily had a room at the newest hotel in the City, the Holiday Inn. We settled into our room and made our way out to visit some family. I could not believe how many empty buildings, stores, and hotels were just sitting as if they were abandoned one day out of the blue. Some stores appeared open, but they were not and the only places that were available were of course the local Wal-Mart and a few food joints. Yet this sleepy town occupies just over 4,000 residents and has its own community college and schools. With more residents dying than being born each year, this town appears to be in a slow decline.

So what did we do in Goodland?  Besides visiting family we took our own little tour of the 4 mile wide by 4 mile long city in about an hour. We were able to literally stop in the middle of the brick paved Main Street to capture a photo of the historic buildings and broken down classic cars. My parents and I got excited when we saw playground toys even they remember playing with as children - still planted in the local parks. Remember the merry-go-rounds you’d spin on until you fell off or got sick, and the spring loaded bouncing animal rides? They still have them and they were fun to play on! Something that would most definitely be deemed as “unsafe” in my fast paced city and removed immediately.

My eyes were opened to the fact that even though I live in a growing and very populated city that there are places right here in America that are living in the past - and yet stuck in the present hard economical times. Travel is usually about fun for me, but this time it was also an eye opening experience that places in need are not just in other countries, but in our own backyard!



Jen said...

These are great photos! You did a great job capturing the essence of the area.

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing your experience in Goodland, KS. I’m glad your eyes were opened. Life has been tough in communities like Goodland for decades; sadly few urbanites notice, let alone care.

I was disappointed, however, to read that you found the area void of interest. Your story reminded of a trip I took down a lightly traveled highway in rural South Dakota a few years ago.

My travel companion, a former retired college administrator who had grown up in the region, turned the trip into a “Did you know” tour, schooling me on the finer points of what we saw outside our car’s windows. Living in the region, I thought I knew the place. But this man showed me that “fields of nothingness” contain incredible history and geographic diversity.

The next time you travel to rural Kansas, I hope you will work harder to discover what’s outside your car windows. The Kansas Sampler Foundation might be a place to start. Their blog highlights many unique and interesting places in the region.

Again, thanks for sharing.

Travelers Barista said...

Hi Mike, Thank you for your comment, I enjoy receiving them.
I believe every city, town, piece of land in this country has a history to be told, but even my family living there feels secluded from the rest of the world.
Stores and shops in this town were not even open on a Sunday afternoon. Something I had never heard of. If they want to share the history of their unique town, they were not making it easy. Their very own City Museum was not open and I guess is only open 3 months out of the year.

Although I will say that with my own research I found out this City was established in 1887 and was the first patent the helicopter in America.

My article was to merely show that for me being a City dweller, I hadn't payed much attention to the fact that places like this still exist and it's not just in other countries, but towns in our own Country are in need of our support.

Mike said...

Although I was disappointed you found the area uninteresting, it certainly doesn't surprise me -- nor do I consider it your fault. Sadly, those of us who live in rural places haven't done a good job of sharing stories of interest with others. Often we don't even know they exist, let alone know how to share them.

That's why I'm so impressed with the Kansas Sampler Foundation. They are helping rural people discover ways to share stories of interest so that fewer people similar experiences to yours in Goodland.

I look forward to reading your next post about visiting a rural community, and hope it's better. :-)

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