By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
“Is there anything to do in Kansas?”
“Oh, yes. There are a HUNDRED things to do in Kansas!”
If you don’t believe me, take the word of author Roxie Yonkey. She recently wrote a book titled “100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die.”
Roxie was born and raised in Nebraska and always enjoyed writing. At college in Virginia, she became a staff writer.
Roxie came to Kansas for a job opportunity at the Goodland newspaper. Her plan was to stay for a year. More than 30 years later, she’s still here.
When Roxie took the job in Goodland, she met a good-looking guy at the next desk. Four years later, they would be married. Roxie and Eric bought a newspaper in Syracuse and sold it in 2000.
They came back to northwest Kansas. Roxie found that she enjoyed writing about Kansas attractions. She designed the regional travel guide called the Ultimate Guide to Northwest Kansas, worked for the Sherman County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and became administrator for the Kansas I-70 Association.
When those positions ended, she was not sure what to do next. “I was sitting and staring at my computer, asking myself, `What do I do now?’ Then it was as if a voice said to me, `What do you have in your hand?’ I answered, `A computer mouse…’ I realized I could become a travel writer and blogger,” Roxie said.
In 2019, Roxie launched a website called www.roxieontheroad.com of which she is the Chief Exploration Officer. Her first post was about the Butterfield Trail Museum in the rural community of Russell Springs, population 24 people. Now, that’s rural.
Roxie traveled the state extensively to research a book. “I would wake in the night and visualize how the book would go,” Roxie said. “It was writing itself.”
In 2021, Roxie published her book, titled “100 Things to Do in Kansas Before You Die.” The cover features Kansas sunflowers plus a picture of a tin bucket, to remind you of a bucket list.
“I wanted things from every portion of the state,” Roxie said. The book describes Kansas from corner to corner, from Atchison to Point of Rocks and from Route 66 to the Arikaree Breaks.
“You just have to include certain things, such as Eisenhower and Amelia Earhart,” Roxie said. The book includes big city attractions such as Legends in Kansas City, Old Town in Wichita, and the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, plus many, many rural events such as the Outhouse tour in Elk Falls (I am not making this up).
Descriptions include natural wonders such as the new Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park and Cheyenne Bottoms, plus historic landmarks like the Brown v. Board of Education site and John Brown mural at the state capitol. Then there are distinctly Kansas activities such as visiting the Little House on the Prairie or singing the state song at the Home on the Range cabin.
The book is conveniently organized into sections on Food and Drink, Music and Entertainment, Sports and Recreation, Culture and History, and Shopping and Fashion. She even created an index of suggested itineraries and a list of seasonal activities to be best pursued in the winter, spring, summer or fall.
Ultimately, the book includes much more than 100 things to do. There are photos and descriptions of each of the 100 things, which Roxie augmented with many additional related tips and venue lists. She hopes her book will make a positive difference for the state.
“I would like people to flock to these attractions,” Roxie said. She has already had book orders from California to Connecticut. For more information or to order, go to www.roxieontheroad.com.
Is there anything to do in Kansas? Roxie wrote in her preface: “Kansas is subtle. The Sunflower State doesn’t overwhelm visitors with its mountains or its oceans. We have neither. Instead, Kansas sneaks up on its guests, and before they realize it, they’ve fallen in love with the state, its friendly people, fascinating history, beauty, and fun activities.
“I know this,” Roxie wrote, “because it happened to me.”