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Travel through Kansas, and you'll be left with the enduring image of fields of grain waving in the wind -- Kansas is the nation's largest producer of wheat. The state's elevation rises 3,000 feet between the eastern and western ends, but the transition is so gradual that it's imperceptible, and from some vantages the flat fields extend outwards, acre after acre, mile after mile, as level and infinite as an ocean.

Breaking up the wheatfields periodically are ranchlands. Cattle raising remains an important industry in Kansas, and the Kansas City stockyards are still some of the busiest in the world. Kansas City, Abilene, and Dodge City were all important destinations for the cattle drives of the Olde West, and their cowtown aura lingers on into the 21st century. Dodge City's western heritage was popularized by the TV Show Gunsmoke; it's real-life personalities included Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson, all of whom are immortalized in numerous museums and tourist attractions around town.

Gunslingers aren't the only colorful characters that Kansas has produced. For whatever reason -- it might be the hypnotic rhythm of the wheatscape, or the colorful expanse of the big sky -- the state seems to nourish creative eccentricity. The biggest ball of twine in the world -- 12 feet across, 8-1/2 tons -- is located in Cawker City. The town of Russell Springs has declared itself the "Cow Chip Capital of the World", and a cow-chip hurling contest takes place there every Labor Day. But perhaps the most impressive of all is the "Garden of Eden" in Lucas, a one-hundred ton concrete socio-political-themed sculpture garden erected by Samuel P. Dinsmoor, a schoolteacher and Civil War veteran. This monument to personal idiosyncracy, begun when Dinsmoor was 64, comes complete with a concrete American flag mounted on heavy-duty hinges.