"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Little Bits-o-Heaven in Topeka

We didn't expect to find heaven here, not even a little bit, but grace gets you by surprise, doesn't it?

We pulled into Deer Creek Valley RV Park and Rick said "Look at all that beautiful concrete!"  

Okay, so maybe that's a weird thing to say, but each to his own, right? He was so happy to be in a clean, level site after a long stretch on dust, dirt and gravel. (I knew he was going to love it. That's why we're here.)  Turns out the RV park owner is also the owner of a concrete company, so he loves concrete too.

The roomy sites are all perfectly lined up off the wide concrete roads. The lush, green grass has perfect diagonal stripes marking the perfectly mowed lawn.  I think it could use a few trees, but the dog park is big, the pool is clean and the playground is perfect for little campers.

The pool was open when we got here, but there's been a cold snap

Rick is happy here for the week, and Honey and I have found another perfect place that we think qualifies as doggy heaven.

I almost hate to write about it, because I want it to stay the well kept secret that it seems to be. It's 80 beautiful, natural, prairie acres, called Iliff Commons that was created and is still maintained by Dr. and Mrs. Iliff for public use. (What an incredible contribution to their community!)

It has over 5 kilometers of trails mowed through wildflower filled prairie and forest, over rolling hills and through some steep valleys with creeks running along the bottom.

It even has a small clean pond. 

Although not a designated dog park, some locals know it as a safe (fenced around the wide perimeter) and clean place to walk their unleashed dogs. It's also used by runners, walkers, mountain bikers and cross country skiers.  Honey has loved running down the clearly marked trails to her heart's content, and I can relax while walking, knowing she's safe. We've encountered only a few other runners and a few dog walkers, and everyone got along. 

Though perhaps not heavenly, I think probably the most popular thing for visitors to do in Topeka is visit the state capitol. 

This is our third since our friend Gena turned us on to capitol building visits. It's fascinating to see the differences and the similarities between them. And the difference between this one and it's neighbor in Lincoln, Nebraska is immense.  Where Nebraska's capitol is dark and gothic, this one glows like a sunflower in the Kansas sun brought inside. The interior is all warm yellows with bronze, brass and copper railings, columns and balustrades that make the whole place shine.

The Rotunda

Murals on the first floor

Kansan President Dwight D. Eisenhower figured predominantly throughout

Beautifully polished surfaces everywhere

Where Lincoln's symbolic themes in the art and architecture were primarily prehistorical, cosmic and universal, Kansas' themes are mostly historical and cultural. 

Statues of notable Kansans and the flags of the nations of which Kansas has been a part

Curry's controversial mural of John Brown 

Architectural detail of the state flower - the wild sunflower

A rather cartoonish and romanticized mural from the 1950's of Kansas pioneers

The architecture is typical capitol in design, with a central rotunda and wings and promenades at right angles.

This capitol has its own library open to the public. 

While it has the usual rooms for the house of representatives, governor and state supreme court, the senate hall was the most dazzling.  

The Kansas Senate

Hidden amidst the grand decor were air vents in the pillars.

Seven different kinds of marble (if I recall correctly) and copper pillars

What is most remarkable about the Kansas State Capitol is that it has recently undergone a complete restoration costing $325 million!!! When our guide told us about all the covering, hiding, painting over, remodeling and removing over time, out of seeming necessity to remodel and gain more space - basically obliterating the beauty of the building - it was just shocking. It was almost as if the generations after the original construction were ashamed of it, blinded by the drive to "modernize."  Really, it's hard to know what they were thinking. We have seen a similar process of "modernization" and now restoration in all the capitols we've visited. What has been going on this past century? And why now are we in this historical restoration phase throughout the country? 

Lonnie Q's BBQ on 21st St., Topeka
Anyway, the final slice of heaven here in Topeka is Lonnie Q's BBQ. Right next door to Deer Creek Valley RV Park (5 minute walk from our site at the most) is one of the best BBQ places we've ever tasted, and we've tasted a few.  We marvel at it's efficiency, cleanliness, generosity, and most of all, it's incredible food. OMG - juicy, tender, flavorful brisket, pulled pork, and our favorite - baby back ribs. This is moist barbecue, not the dry rub kind. (We like both.) They serve only three sides in addition to the four meats (turkey was temporarily off the menu): cole slaw, cheesy "taters" and baked beans, and each one was fabulous.  They are open only for lunch, M-F, and dinner on Fridays. Yes, they are closed on the weekends. There is always a line, but so worth the wait. Believe me, we got some ribs to go so we can take Lonnie's down the road with us to Oklahoma.


  1. Yes, it does seem to be the year of capitol restoration. Every capitol we have seen recently is or just was renovated. I guess there is more ou there than one thinks! The Kansas capitol building is beautiful!! I agree with your assement of Nebraska's capitol building.

    We LOVE concrete!! I wouls have been thrilled to be in that park. We may come to Topeka just to stay at that great park.

    1. Oh, that's funny - about the concrete. I love that there are so many ways to live this life. I've never seen a concrete lovers' forum, but maybe we should start one. : )

  2. This summer was the first time I can remember experiencing trails that are created by mowing the grass! I like that! Looks like a terrific stopover, and the BBQ sounds amazing!

    1. I like the grassy paths too (soft and pretty) except in the morning when we walk the dog. Wet!

  3. I'm putting Topeka on my go-to list! Thx for wonderful photos and write-up.

    1. You're welcome. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Glad to see all three of you found a place that seems perfect. Honey looks very happy on those trails. We first encountered those mowed trails this past summer and agree they are wonderful except for first thing in the morning when they're wet. Beautiful architecture!


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