"I've got a harebrained idea," my wife said one afternoon. "How would you feel about trying to visit every town in Kansas?"
"That's a lot of towns," I said.
"How many?" she asked.
"I'd guess around 300."*
"So, if we averaged three per month, we'd be able to visit them all in the next nine years."
"OK, sounds fun."Now, you might be asking yourself what kind of family would have time to visit every town in Kansas. You might also ask what kind of family would commit to such a big project after so little consideration. If I told you we had three little boys under the age of five, you might further wonder what kind of parents would inflict such long weekly car rides on themselves and their toddlers.
The answer: Our kind of family.
At this point, some background information is in order.
I was the third of 11 children. My mother was born and raised in Kansas, and she had married an East Coast transplant who cherished her home state as much as she did.
Much of my childhood was spent in station wagons or vans, traversing dusty backroads. In my early 20s, I loved the music of a long, lonely road beneath my Camry's well-worn tires. I grew up in Kansas, but I am unfamiliar with its southeast corner, as well as most every county west of Salina.
My wife, Magen, was born to two native Kansans in the same town where my mother grew up. She was the second of two children.
Magen's dad has worked for a large road construction company since her first birthday. He has helped to build or repair most of Kansas's major highways. Sometimes, the family visited his construction sites, occasionally even staying with him in his camper. Though Magen has been to towns all around the state, she hasn't been down many backroads.
We live in Kansas because we think it is one of the best places on earth. We're reasonably well-traveled, both in the U.S. and abroad, but, like Dorothy Gale in Oz, we always find ourselves wishing for Kansas by the time our journey is over.
We want to rediscover the wonder of our home state, and we want the same thing for our boys. That's what this crazy project is really about. As we visit each town on the map, we expect to learn important new things about the land where we live and its residents (including ourselves). We also hope to cultivate a spirit of wonder and adventure in our little ones.
Thanks for joining us on our journey -- we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
P.S. If you're interested in Kansas history and geography, you might find this to be a valuable source: Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc.
* I was wrong - it's actually more like 1200. And, yes, this totally throws off Magen's quick math. C'est la vie.