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Eastern Kansas

Wednesday, 6 July

Several times on Tuesday, and then again on the morning I was leaving Kansas City, Missouri for points west, I had managed to miss a turn on the interstate intersections because Garmin was too late. And I took the same steps each time to rectify it. In any case, up at 8, out before 9 and headed across the Kansas River (I’d crossed the Missouri River coming into KCMo from the airport) on a five mile ride to west. The Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle sits in the center of a block, the campus including the rectory and the school with a huge parking lot. As I walked around the 5+ story tower set off to the side of the tall stone cathedral, I was checking doors unsuccessfully. To the west end a woman was tending to the gardens, and suggested that I check the rectory/office.

Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle, Kansas City, KS

After explaining my purpose, Val, the youth ministry leader (and all of 21) was kind enough to escort me into the nave and altar space. With a single main aisle and side aisles along the stained-glass bearing walls, the vault rose about 4-stories with white, unadorned walls and ceiling, showing ribbing. From our entry in the southwest corner, I took in the triple openings of the east entry with classic wooden carved arches supporting the organ in the choir loft. The double panel stained-glass windows in the nave were filled with intense blue, mostly backed with geometric ornamentation, church symbols, and small depictions of scenes from Christ’s life.

Venturing up on the altar, a stately wooden cathedra backed onto the curved wall under a half-dome lighted by 7 arched stain-glass windows. The pre-Vatican II high altar of white marble held the tabernacle, with multiple panels of relics on display. The modern altar sits closer to the nave. The curved dome and supports are covered with light stenciling.

After Val returned to the office, and I was finishing up on one last outside shot, a young woman tried the doors. She had an appointment, and when her teacher arrived, they went in for a singing lesson. To the south southwest about 20 miles, next on my list was in Olathe.

Cathedral Church of the King, Olathe, KS

A Charismatic Episcopal Church, the Cathedral Church of the King sits on a slight rise in a suburban neighborhood. Again, a brick-faced building, four white columns support an overhang up a set of stairs to the entrance. A locked building, I noted that there appeared to be functional spaces below the nave, a possible high basement. There was a nice dry garden alongside the south side of the church.

Ready for breakfast, I stopped at Sweet Tea’s Coffee Shop, in a small strip mall with a gym and pawn shop as anchors. Raspberry mocha iced decaf coffee and a piece of chocolate chip banana bread gave me enough energy to push on to my next destination: Lawrence. No cathedrals there, but my “across the grass” neighbor Barbara had emphasized that I needed to see this town. Home to the University of Kansas, I found an address on Massachusetts Street, which seems to be the main drag through the city. Full of quaint shops, the street runs north-south and I joined about the 1000-block and headed north towards City Hall. A delightful pause in the start of my journey, reminiscent of college towns of my youth, I then headed west to Topeka.

Grace Cathedral, Topeka, KS

First stop and three blocks from the state capitol was Grace Cathedral, on a north-south axis in a classic cruciform layout. A majestic limestone building with twin square towers at the north entrance, I gained access through the office. Passing the baptistry, set off by carved wooden rails, I first checked out the quire. With individual linen-colored cushioned chairs, pipes for the organ rise on either side wall with the 4-console keyboard to the right. Back behind a railing, half a hexagonal space has the bishop’s cathedra, the altar, and the dean’s seat, all backed by wood carvings. This space has very clean lines, with clerestory windows providing light from the sides.

Turning around and gazing down the central aisle of the nave beyond the transept, heavy carved wooden arches supported the vault, providing wide side aisles and walls with more clerestory stained-glass. Coming into the nave, the rood screen portrayed Calvary with Christ on the cross, Mary and John. Seeking out the thirteenth station, I found a framed drawing, perhaps in charcoal or pastels, in an Impressionist style that I find quite moving. Above and to the side, the numerous stained-glass windows looked mid-century, with multiple blues used as background. My favorite was the Resurrection window in the transept, opposite the Nativity scene.

Returning to advise I was leaving, I stuck my head into the Prayer Ministry’s chapel, which had a charming small 2-console organ built into the wainscotting. Earlier timed stained glass added light to the space. Returning to the car, I plugged the address in for my lodgings, only to find it was about 2 blocks away.

Senate Luxury Suites is quite aptly named – the bedroom had a king-sized bed with 4 king-sized pillows, a dresser and an armoire; one enters a sitting room with a couch and chair, a set-in desk space, the TV and doors opening out onto a balcony facing the capitol building. There is even a small kitchenette with mini-fridge, microwave and a round table with two chairs. Only downside: no shampoo or washcloths in the bath, or service items in the kitchen.

After a quick settling in, I decided to head to the Capitol. I arrived in time to join the 2pm dome tour, and after using the elevator to get to the fifth floor, we began our physical ascent of 295 steps. We circled the inside dome, viewing the four lower floors and the chandelier at the center of the ribbed inner dome. Another flight, and we moved into non-air-conditioned space, stairs and walkways along the outer wall. A side jaunt to top the inner dome, where the motor that raises and lowers the chandelier is mounted. Then we began the circular stairs to reach the building’s top and exit into open air. It was a clear day, and walking around the top allowed for great views. However, being quite acrophobic, the descent boded terror. Going up I could focus on the steps in front, but on the way down, I needed to watch my foot placement, and tunnel-vision to avoid looking over the railing wasn’t an effective option. Stopping to hold the camera over the railing and pointing it at the dome below, I made it down. (One pair backed out before we started up to the opening.)

Taking my time to walk down the stairs within the building, I poked into both the House and Senate chambers, the library. Great paintings had been mounted about the walls, as well as statuary, which were of some interest. These were mainly historic murals, tracing the history of Kansas from territory to admission as the 34th state, just before the beginning of the American War between the States. When I reached the lower level (visitor entry is below the main floor,) it was time for the next hourly building tour, and I was lucky to have it solo. Besides the places I’d visited on my descent through the structure, we went into the governor’s ceremonial office and the old judiciary chambers. My guide graciously spent time explaining many of the paintings, including pointing out some of the more obscure, hidden elements.

Leaving at 4, I crossed the street to see if I could visit the First Presbyterian Church, as I’d been told that it has some beautiful Tiffany Studio stained-glass. Unfortunately, it was closed. Returning to my suite, I wrote a very brief journal entry – in retrospect, it was much too brief. I had a dinner date with Barbara, my neighbor who was spending the summer in her original hometown. Unsure of my timing, I headed out for the Noto Arts and Entertainment District, crossing the Kansas River and finding easy street parking just down from The Wheel Barrel.

Galleries and crafty shops lined the sidewalks at street level. Inside the bar with its top a sheet of glass over an array of Lincoln pennies, I spotted a Glasgow-distilled single malt scotch, Auchentoshan 12. The bartender poured me the last of the bottle, and it went down smoothly, but quickly. Getting a Brouerji der Trappisten von Westmalk, I spotted Barbara and her beau Marty approaching. We stood briefly at the bar before settling at a table. Known for its grilled cheese offerings, I had a roast beef and blue cheese grill with a small side salad, and another beer, a KC Bier Dunkel. Barbara and I decided that an after-dinner whisky was in order, so we both had an Oban 14. We chatted all through the meal, catching up on the doings both in Florida and Kansas, and set our rendezvous for the week of their wedding in November.

Getting back to the hotel was simple, reversing my route rather than having Garmin bring me on an alternate tour. Topeka is a nice, quaint town and deserves more time, so I think I will return. I read a bit before heading to bed, knowing that my next day would be a long one.

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