Glancing out of your window while flying down I-35 South to Kansas City, you might think Northwest Missouri is little more than a vast, empty space for farmers to raise soybeans and corn. However, venture off of the interstate and you’ll discover so much more. Along the undulating hills there’s a whole world of new experiences waiting to be discovered.
Earlier this summer I attended a meeting in King City, and it reminded me of all the treasures along Highway 136. Starting off from Bethany, it only took me a few miles to feel like I had left the everyday world behind. The hills roll like gentle sea swells, and the landscape is vast and open, like being out in the middle of water. Wind turbines dot the landscape, with several next to the highway.
As I passed through Albany I saw the Girratono Meat Company and Deli. Going to Girratono’s is like going to the neighborhood butcher shop. It’s also a full service deli. They offer fresh-cut quality meats like off-the-bone ham or prime roast beef. Also available are Amish baked goods and Shatto Milk Company dairy products.
The next town, Stanberry, has another great restaurant called Wabash Junction which offers first-class cuisine made from organic products raised by local farmers. Peppered rib-eye, emu meatballs, and hand-cut fries covered in cheddar, bacon and ranch are just some of the delicacies offered at Wabash Junction. Since the restaurant uses locally raised products, the menu changes weekly.
Some time ago I ate at the Wabash Junction with a group of friends and sampled the Reuben sandwich, with a side of carrots and parsnips in honey sauce. Everything was delicious, including most of my neighbor’s hand-cut fries (she didn’t want them, I promise.) For those old enough, Wabash Junction also offers a variety of cocktails and mixed drinks, with a selection you would be more likely to find in Kansas City’s Power and Light District rather than the rural Northwest.
But, unfortunately, there was no time for lunch on the trip to King City. One thing I could enjoy without stopping was the sculptures outside of Jensen Manufacturing, a manufacturer of special equipment, located on US Hwy 136. Farm machinery and septic tanks were used to create larger-than-life sized animals, a totem pole, and even an old Volkswagen is elevated on stilts and painted to resemble a lady bug. As far as I know, none of it is for sale.
Heading south on Highway 169 out of Stanberry put me back into wind farm country. King City is surrounded by wind farms, like Bluegrass Ridge, so it makes sense that it is the home of the Tri-County Alternative Energy Education and Visitors Center, located on the grounds of the Tri-County Museum. The Tri-County museum preserves historic buildings, local artifacts, and the world’s largest gas pump (which is actually a building.) After our meeting we had the opportunity to tour the recently opened Tri-County Alternative Energy Education and Visitors Center.
Although it is not yet open on regular hours, the Visitors Center offers tours for school groups, or by appointment. This Visitors Center offers what every kid wants in a museum; interactive exhibits you can touch, and play on. You can pedal a bicycle to see how much energy is needed to power a light bulb, use wind to send scarves racing through a series of pipes, and even create a tornado. For kids, this Education and Visitors Center is more like a playground than a museum. Adults would enjoy the large observation windows that provide an impressive view of the wind farms surrounding the Visitors Center. To schedule a tour of the facility, call 660-535-4527.
I left King City refreshed in what our corner of the state has to offer.
So the next time you are traveling along I-35, slow down and visit the local, unique attractions of Northwest Missouri. Better yet, make those attractions your destination. Northwest Missouri has a lot more to offer than corn and soybeans.
Written by Sally Anton, welcome center supervisor for the Missouri Division of Tourism.