Note: The following is a column written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams following a recent visit to Oakley, KS. All content in this post is credited to them, including photos.
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS WORLD
-SMALL TOWNS CAN BE FUN AND INTERESTING –
By Donald Pile and Ray Williams
Ever go to a town with a population of about 2,000 to have a fun and interesting time when you absolutely know no one ? We did a couple of weeks ago and had a fabulous time and met some really, REALLY wonderful and interesting people. Oakley, Kansas is located on Interstate 70 in western Kansas, 350 miles west of Kansas City and 250 miles east of Denver.
We checked out the motels ahead of time and chose the Kansas Country Inn, www.kansascountryinn.com which turned out to be the best one in town. Amanda was the Manager and had a personality perfect for her job description. She was fun, funny, very professional and made everyone staying at the motel feel right at home. She was a ‘hands on’ manager who knows what is going on and is on top of everything. More motels around the country needs to hire more people like her and they would get a lot more business. We could not have asked for a better place to stay out in western Kansas. She directed us to the best places to see and dine. There were some oil rig workers staying at the motel and we had a great conversation on the history and workings on what they do which was extremely interesting. They are such hard workers. They deserve double the salaries that they receive.
The first afternoon, we toured the Fick Fossil Museum, www.discoveroakley.com/167/Fick-Fossil-Museum. Kansas was a very different place 80 million years ago and an inland sea stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and Kansas was under water. In 1964 Ernest and Vi Fick began collecting fossils left by ancient sea creatures that inhabited this prehistoric sea. After collecting thousands of items, it was time to establish a museum. Any museum or town or anything is only as good as the staff or people involved. The receptionist, Donnette was a REAL JEWEL ! She explained about the museum, the town and surrounding area. We enjoyed talking with everyone in Oakley but she was our favorite. We wish her well. She was ‘born FABULOUS’ and she is staying that way!
Our next stop was the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center, www.buffalobilloakley.org/ which has a 2X life size Bronze statue of Buffalo Bill and a Buffalo. Like kissing the Blarney Stone one is supposed to kiss the Buffalo. They have a great Center adjoining the statue. We met a wonderful lady who works there, Alice and she was extremely interesting to talk with. She also gave us recommendations on where to go in the area and also where to dine.
Our first night we dined at the Buffalo Bill Bar and Grill downtown. The food was exceptional and our server Audra was very proficient and friendly. The next day we drove 20 some miles south of town to visit The Chalk Pyramids and Monument Rocks, www.kansastravel.org/monumentrocks.htm
Out here in the middle of nowhere are these absolutely wonderful rock creations which you can park your auto and walk all around. One has to go the Grand Canyon or someplace like that to see this type of a scenic vista. They do not go for miles and miles however it is certainly worth the trip to see these extra ordinary structures. Do be careful because this on private land (the owners are very nice to allow visitors drive on their property for free,) but there are dozens of cattle walking all around and they do leave ‘droppings’ NOT to step in ! Be sure and check out the photos on their website.
Back to Oakley we had lunch at the Dairy King and had a delicious cheeseburger and chocolate milk shake. Our clerk, Leesa was a delight to talk with. She actually is a cousin to Amanda, the motel manager. Needless to say the cheeseburger and milk shake was made from scratch unlike at the fast food restaurants. Then off to Russell Springs, Kansas about 30 miles southwest. The population is 24, yes, 24 ! It was the original county seat of Logan Country until 1963 which it was moved to Oakley. The beautiful county court house is now the Butterfield Trail Museum, www.butterfieldtrailmuseum.org/ which is full of history as well as hundreds of artifacts and relics from the area. Debbie who was in charge of the Museum was great! She loves her town and it’s rich history. A ‘friend’ of hers, Kendal walked in from town like one block away and he was equally interesting to talk with about the town and it’s history. They were perfect together and we think that they should get married. Needless to say the town has no grocery stores or service stations or anything other than it’s residents. On cold winter nights one needs to stock up on groceries and beer/liquor from another town far away.
That night we dined THE BLUFF restaurant in Oakley which was highly recommended to us by several people. The food was excellent ! Our server, Jessie was friendly and professional. The two guys in the kitchen (and owners) certainly knew what they were doing and our food was outstanding ! Three more people we want to mention was John at the Meat Processing business across the street from the motel. They process all of their own meat. Large cities needs a place like this. Unfortunately we were running late when we left and didn’t have time to purchase some meat to bring home. They have a wonderful grocery store in Oakley. Heartland Foods, where everyone is super friendly, especially Jack and Matthew. If you are ever driving along I-70, take a couple of days and stay in Oakley. You will be glad that you did. You will also meet some of the friendliest people around. Thanks again to Amanda at the motel for being so fabulous! For more information about Oakley, Kansas, check www.discoveroakley.com/
Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone.
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-Winning, Celebrity Travel Columnists who write for publications from coast to coast for the past 18 years. Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at [email protected]