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Kansas: An Explorer’s Guide

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Recognized by National Geographic Traveler as “A classy series with encyclopedic coverage,” Kansas: An Explorer’s Guide—which celebrates wineries, military forts, urban enclaves, cowboy country and more in the Sunflower State—was a labor of love for author Lisa Waterman Gray, a 28-year resident of the state who moved here after marrying a Kansas native.

What sets Kansas: An Explorer’s Guide apart from the git-go, is that all attractions, inns, and restaurants included were chosen based on personal experience rather than paid advertising. That automatically, in my view, makes her research and observations of the nation’s 34th state more thoughtful, introspective and detailed than what one might find in other guidebooks.

Waterman Gray’s introduction provides a wonderful overview of Kansas—the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states—spanning nearly 83,000 square miles with a population of less than three million people. Additionally, more than 400 towns have less than 1,000 denizens and 330 of those have less than 500.

To create the work, she accomplished some amazing feats:

– Traveled 13,000+ solo road miles
– Spent 100+ nights on the road
– Took more than 4,000 photos
– Outran a tornado in south central Kansas
– Watched at least 100 buffalo following her pickup truck
– Captured a ghostly orb on film, at a renovated vintage theater
– Visited a high school straight out of Harry Potter
– Traveled the last 13 miles of Route 66 that remain in Kansas
– Walked a real Yellow Brick Road
– Viewed Colorado from the highest point in Kansas
– Visited one of the nation’s largest wetlands and bird habitats
– Watched a beautifully orchestrated prairie burn
– Ate her way through the Kansas State Fair

Through these adventures she experienced a unique community of, as she states in the guidebook, “Kansans [that] are proud of where they live, and family and heritage means a great deal to them.”

Chocked full of striking black and white photographs, maps and subcategories, depending on the city (i.e. shopping, the arts, B&B’s, special events and so on), Kansas: An Explorer’s Guide is divided into eight sections:

· The Kansas City Area: Urban Enclave

· Northeast Kansas: Cozy Corner

· Southeast Kansas: Outdoors Destination

· North-Central Kansas: Melting Pot

· Wichita and Beyond: From Cowboy Country to Air Capital

· South-Central Kansas: Flint Hills Country

· Northwest Kansas: Wide-Open Spaces

· Southwest Kansas: The Old West

What readers will find, Waterman Gray says, is that “Kansas is full of diversity, whether you’re exploring the outdoors and attending festivals or learning about American Indians, immigrants, and Western pioneers who settle here. You’re bound to make some delightful discoveries. Enjoy the ride.”

Lisa Waterman Gray is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in more than three dozen national, regional and local publications including Midwest Living, three AAA magazines, KANSAS!magazine, Missouri Life, New Mexico Magazine, Relish, Delta Sky, and others. Her images have also appeared in many of these publications.


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