"To me, food is as much about the moment, the occasion,
the location and the company as it is about the taste"
State 35: Kansas - March 29, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Topeka well rested but in immense pain! Yesterday, we climbed up 296 stairs to the top of the dome of the Kansas Statehouse, and our calf muscles were on fire! Hopefully today's activities would be less strenuous. After popping a few Motrin and lathering our legs with Bengay, we drove across town to the Monroe Elementary School for the Cross Country Couple's “Historic Location” for Kansas; Brown v. Board of Education National Monument.
In 1951, thirteen African American parents on behalf of their collective 20 children filed a class action suit against the Topeka Board of Education to reverse its policy of racial segregation. The District Court in Kansas ruled in favor of the Board of Education finding:
"Segregation in public education has a detrimental effect on negro children, but deny any difference between the quality of education in the negro and white schools of Topeka.”
Brown V. Board of Ed was combined with five cases of similar merit, and heard before the US Supreme Court in 1953. On May 17, 1954, The US Supreme Court rendered a unanimous verdict:
“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
The high court ruled separate schools for black and white students violated the 14th amendment, and furthermore ordered states to desegregate schools “with all deliberate speed”. The most significant outcome of Brown v. Board of Ed was the establishment of a judicial precedent leading to challenging segregation in other aspects of society.
Established on October 26, 1992, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site preserves the Monroe Elementary School: one of the four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka. The plaintiff whose name the case bears, Oliver Brown was the parent of an African American 3rd grader named Linda enrolled in the segregated Monroe Elementary School. Linda Brown passed away on March 26, 2018 at the age of 76, three days prior to our arrival. It sure would have been an honor to have had the opportunity to have personally meet her!
The Monroe Elementary School has been restored to its 1950’s appearance. Upon entering, we were greeted by two signs hanging from the ceiling in the hall. One of which read “Whites”, and the other read, “Colored”. What a poignant and shocking reminder we were currently in a segregated African American Elementary School. First, I headed into the auditorium to watch a movie on overhead screens offering a brief overview of the Civil Rights Movement. I then spent the next two hours exploring the displays describing the Brown v. Board of Ed case, and a classroom restored to its 1950’s segregated appearance. Please see the pictures below.
The most powerful display consisted of a long narrow hallway with three floor to ceiling screens on either side. The six screens played videos of people who were against the integration of schools in a continuous loop. The images and words of hate these people expressed was shocking and repulsing. The audio-visual display successfully reproduced a feeling of being thrusted into the tumultuous times of the Civil Rights Movement. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my cross country trip! Please see the pictures below.
Lori and I both grew up attending integrated schools, and feel diversity enriched our education. Important qualities we look for in a potential new home state are equality, tolerance and diversity. Sadly, America still struggles with such issues even to this day. We find it unfathomable segregation was once the law of the land, which is why sites such as Monroe Elementary School must be preserved for future generations. Only by learning from our nations struggles of the past, can we all collectively work towards our brighter tomorrow.
After departing the Monroe Elementary School, we drove 176 miles Northeast to Wichita for the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Food" for Kansas: Bierock. Brought to the US by 19th century German immigrants, a bierock is a yeast dough pastry pocket filled with seasoned ground beef, shredded cabbage, onions, and carrots then oven baked until the dough is golden brown. Since a bierock traditionally contains beef, I needed to find a vegan version of this old world recipe. After an intense google search, I was tickled pink to discover a food truck in Wichita called Kind Kravings. Kind Kraving's mission is to serve 100% natural, non-GMO, vegan, organic, chemical free food, which is healthy, cruelty-free, and wholesomely delicious for the body and soul. Kind Kravings version of the bierock includes cabbage, carrots, lentils, onion, garlic & a signature sauce lovingly placed inside a baked bread pocket! Sounds great to me!!!
We have had mixed results with prior food trucks on our cross country journey. On one hand, we discovered “THE BEST” vegan veggie burger at Arlo’s Food Truck in Austin, which you can read about by clicking here. On the other hand, we also had an extremely disappointing experience with the food trucks of Portland, which you can also read about by clicking here. The biggest challenge we face with food trucks is actually finding them! Just like our Rosie, food trucks are on wheels and always on the go! Although most food trucks have their schedules posted online, breakdowns, bad weather, ever changing menus, and out of stock items, are just a few of the roadblocks of our prior visits to food trucks. Since Kind Kravings was the only place we could find in Kansas offering a vegan bierock, we are all in!!! Wish us luck!
Kind Kraving's online schedule said they would be located in Wichita’s Pop-Up Urban Park on the day of our visit. What in the world is a Pop-Up Urban Park? The property on 121 E. Douglas Ave., in Wichita was once an eyesore consisting of a deep hole in the ground left behind by a defunct developer in 2007. Due to a joint effort by local residents, community leaders, and city officials, a grassroots campaign began prompting a plan of action to “FILL THE HOLE”! The result of the “FILL THE HOLE” campaign was the creation of a Pop-Up Urban Park. This would be public space where the community comes to enjoy a bright thriving environment with colorful furnishings, planters and trees for shade, strings of lights for ambiance at night and free wifi! I have never heard of Pop-Up Urban Park, but I had a feeling I was about to become well acquainted! After parking Rosie, we walked two blocks West to the Pop-Up Urban Park, and were shocked by what we saw! We had crashed a full on block party! Children were playing on jungle gyms! Adults engaged in a mean game of ping-pong on cement tables! Live music was performed on a stage, and hundreds of people were literally dancing in the street! It was certainly unexpected, and quite the sight to see! Please see the pictures below!
After taking a few moments to take in my surroundings, I found Kind Kravings among five other food trucks serving delicious food to a long line of eagerly awaiting patrons. After navigating through the masses, I made yet another surprising discovery! I expected Kind Kravings to be a food truck, but it was actually a double decker bus! The food is cooked on the first floor, and restaurant seating is on the second! We took our place in a long meandering line anxiously awaiting our very first bierock! After 30 minutes in line, we placed an order for a single vegan bierock with a side of potato chips for $10.50, and walked upstairs to the upper deck of the bus to await its delivery. Soon thereafter, our bierock finally arrived! The external crust was a crispy golden brown and expertly handcrafted. The interior of the poofy pastry contained proportionate amounts of finely minced cabbage, carrots, lentils, onion, and garlic allowing all of the ingredients to blend together in harmony. I did find the sauce and/or seasoning to be quite overwhelming, and more reminiscent of Indian cuisine instead of what is a traditionally a German entree. Albeit my first bierock, perhaps such robust seasoning is typical, but I found it overpowering. Nevertheless, sitting on the top deck of the bus with the window open and listening to live music was a memorable moment. Please see the pictures below of our visit to Kind Kravings double decker vegan food truck bus!
In addition to www.crosscountrycouple.com, I am the Founder and Admin for the Facebook group; “Traveling Cross Country in your Van or RV”. This group is about the joys and difficulties of living on the road, and provides full-timers, part-timers, or potential vagabonds an avenue to learn from each other and about each other. I was contacted by one of the group’s members Johnnie with a special request. Johnnie has a musician friend from his college days named Mike who owns a bakery called The Donut Whole. Johnnie asked us to stop by to surprise Mike, and say hello for him when Rosie rolled through Wichita.
I am all for random acts of kindness, but could not ignore the reality of my current situation. I had never met Mike or Johnnie before, and I had no idea of the dynamics of their relationship. Perhaps Mike and Johnnie were old friends, but they could also have been arch enemies with reciprocal restraining orders! I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into! Since I had never heard of anything particularly awful happening in a donut shop, I opted to give the goodness of humanity the benefit of the doubt. Besides, it was pretty cool to be able to do this for someone!
After finishing our Bierock, we departed Wichita’s Block Party, and drove across town to The Donut Whole . Opened in 2009 The Donut Whole is a coffeehouse, donut shop, art gallery, live music venue, and much more!
The moment I entered The Donut Whole, I instantly knew I had found a local gem! The vibes were great, the ambiance was shiek, the employees were friendly, and the aroma of freshly baked excellence instantly overwhelmed my senses. The Donut Whole is the type of place where you enter and instantly feel like family! Let’s start by talking about the donuts! First and foremost, it would be an insult to call these “donuts”. Krispy Kreme makes donuts. What the Donut Whole creates are baked works of art! Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself in the pictures below.
These baked works of art are made everyday from scratch. Every good recipe begins with quality ingredients. Buttermilk, eggs, and wheat grown and milled in Kansas form the foundation of these tasty treats. Now it is time for the real creative fun to begin by transforming these baked goods into masterpieces. The Donut Whole features over 40+ varieties with titillating names and enticing flavors, such as:
PBG: peanut butter & grape
King Mitus: vanilla salted peanuts & Lyle golden syrup
Old School: cinnamon & sugar
Sunshine Citrus Crunch: citrus glaze and fruity cereal
Homer J: mixed berry & sprinkles
Root Beer Float
Most exciting of all, vegan varieties are offered every Wednesday!!! I ordered the chocolate mint donut, and Nate had a triple chocolate donut! I am quite a chocolate snob, and can instantly tell when low quality ingredients or previously frozen items are used. Every aspect of these donuts were of the highest quality, and it was as beautiful as it was delicious! The external frosting was proportionally sweet as not to overpower the chocolate flavor. The interior of the donut was rich, moist and cakelike. There was simply nothing to change or improve upon! It was love at first bite, and the best damn donut I ever ate! Please see the pictures below!
I was so distracted by my artisan donut, I almost forgot why I had come here in first place! I asked the friendly young lady behind the counter if I may speak to the owner Mike, and he emerged a few moments later. After introducing myself, I told Mike we were here to say hello from an old friend of his named Johnnie, and instantly his face lit up with a smile! After spending a few moments pleasantly chatting, I posed for a picture with Mike to send to Johnnie.
Artisan donuts with vegan options! Live music on the weekends! Local art shows! Free Wifi! If Wichita ends up being the new home of the Cross Country Couple, I would be a regular customer at The Donut Whole! However, I do have one point of critique! It is a travesty to keep your culinary works of art hidden on bakers racks behind the counter! It is the equivalent of placing a Warhol or Monet painting in the closet! I have traveled 35,000 miles across 34 states over the past 9 months, and nowhere else have I encountered a donut of your caliber! Please do not deprive the world of viewing your beautiful and delicious creations up close and personal!
When dining out, I try to avoid chain restaurants as much as possible. I can walk into any Applebee’s, and always eat the same meal! Boring!!! In addition, I want to patronize small local businesses to keep money in the community. I want to find the mom and pop shops serving freshly made local delicacies! I want to eat at the café that has been in business for over 100 years! Most of the time on my cross country journey, I seek out such places with great effort, but occasionally such places find me! Thank you Johnnie for your suggestion!
If you ever find yourself traveling through Wichita, make a point to stop by “The Donut Whole” for a live music jamming, creative artistic displaying, fresh coffee roasting, lightening fast wifi-ing, artisan donut eating experience you will never EVER forget!
After departing The Donut Whole, we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend our last night in Kansas.