Another scooter ride report, this time I left from Lawrence and headed mostly South. The goal was twofold: cross the border to say I’ve been to Oklahoma and to check out the ghost town of Picher. I drove the route below counter-clockwise (took the path on the left down and the one on the right back).
Pictures from the trip below, but I highly recommend taking a detour and reading about Picher on Wikipedia and maybe taking a look at it on Google Maps. Picher was a mining town that brought up a bunch of lead and zinc and basically dumped the extra dirt and chat in the middle of their town. Those white splotches on the map? They look like huge blueish-white sand dunes. The EPA eventually said, “um, y’all are full of lead, move away” and turned the town into a superfund site. Add a tornado a few years later and there are only a handful of folks left. Most of the town has been bulldozed and all that remains are deserted city streets in what looks like a young forest.
If you go there be warned that large sections are closed off and appear to discourage investigation via. boulders, barbed wire and signs on the road. All that being said, first you have to get there and so let the photos begin.
Abandoned tire shop on the side of the road. Rural Kansas is full of old buildings in various states of decay.
When you see a giant sheep sculpture it’s time to stop for a break.
Picher is almost on the border to Kansas so I knew I was getting close.
I’ve already mentioned that Picher is effectively a ghost town. One of the few exceptions is this well maintained statue downtown. It sits in front of a fenced off park (also doubling as rusty machine storage) across from the closed off zone where all the structures have been demolished. Yet it’s still obviously cared for and recently painted. There’s a nearish town of Pittsburg in Kansas with a college team named the Gorillas, not sure if that inspired the (previous) high school here or not.
A “block” or two inside the demolished area someone had set up these boards on one of the roads. I took a picture and stared at them trying to puzzle out what they were for. My father guessed the answer almost instantly upon seeing the picture but it took me turning around and driving half a block further.
Bee hives! Just down the road another set of boards, this one full of bee hives. Which were quite full of bees. I have no idea what’s going on here, if someone is just trying to help bees thrive or if they’re selling honey filled with lead. It also presented me with a tactical decision; I didn’t want to turn around but there were a lot of bees where I wanted to drive. I just shut my visor, ducked down and drove somewhat slowly through (I didn’t want to end up squashing a bunch of bees). It was hot, in the upper 90’s and humid, and I was wearing my usual gear of armored jacket, pants, gloves, boots and a full faced helmet. Handy when driving through bees!
This is what a city looks like poisoned, demolished and overgrown. You can see a telephone on the right.
Abandoned toys lay in the grass.
An abandoned Batman boxing glove sits with a pile of poisonous chat in the background. Oh, and my scooter.
Did I mention it was cruelly hot out? I’m not sure if it was related to the heat but my camera started to do this shimmery effect when I’d first turn it on (open the app, it’s on a cellphone). I snapped one photo quickly before it vanished. What follows are a few other pictures of this church. It was outside the abandoned zone, a block away from an occupied house. Which looked totally normal, trash cans out front, trimmed green grass, and a wildly optimistic “For Sale” sign out front.
The demolished zone is about a block away, through the windows. It’s just trees from here.
Judging from the parking lots, there were two stores demolished here. Now only the phone box remains. In the background a water tower that has been recently painted to say, “PICHER / Gorillas / Since 1918”.
Abandoned but not demolished.
Another area outside the demolished zone. You can drive around Devillers Circle, which from a distance looks like a normal suburban circle. When I got closer the missing windows and doors and giant “Keep Out” signs spray-painted on the side of each house became apparent.
At this point I took off. I was baking in my armor and a bit worried about the long drive home. In addition I kept seeing the same car circling me again and again. I suspect they were doing the same thing I was, and we were probably thinking “who is that creepy vehicle that keeps following me?” Still, it was time to go.
The journey was around 335 miles round trip and took 7 hours, including exploring Picher. I had some extremely strange dreams that night.