God bless Kansas and the city of Leavenworth
The first time I mentioned going to Leavenworth, Kansas, I immediately got a blank stare and response of “You do know it’s known for its federal prison.” Of course, not knowing, I quickly Google searched my Airbnb to see where it was in relation to the prison.
My Airbnb was borderline directly across from the prison. Not exactly across the street, but I could see barb wire fence.
I definitely wasn’t going to let that put a damper on my trip. Was I uneasy? Maybe, but then I realized I used to live in Huntsville, Texas, and we had five prisons.
Leavenworth may be known for its federal prison but did you know that it was the first city of Kansas in 1854? As history would have it, they had the choice of having the first university or first federal prison. Apparently, the prison was a much popular vote back in the day.
I arrived to this lovely town at 8:30 p.m. I had driven 11 hours from Houston. Part of me was delirious and the other part needed an adult beverage to realize what I had just done. As I quickly checked into my Airbnb, managing to throw myself together to go grab a bite to eat, I remember looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m going to meet some great people here.” And out the door I went.
Right down the road was a little place called The Suburban. This is where it all started. The universe allowed me to meet two fabulous women in this lovely little place – Sabrina and Theresa. They would become like family within an hour.
The night ended up with drinks at a local bar called Ross’s where I thoroughly enjoyed putting all my cash into the jukebox until midnight. But the real kicker was joking that if there was karaoke, I’d definitely rock out some Melissa Etheridge. Of course, the very second I mentioned this, Theresa, Sabrina, Glenn and Jack all threw their hands up as if I had won the golden ticket. They all yelled with joy that Melissa was from Leavenworth. I mean, come on. That was not a coincidence. It was a feeling of serendipity for I knew in that very moment I was exactly where I was meant to be.
Leavenworth is just special. It’s more than the federal prison – which is surprisingly beautiful to observe when lit up at night. If you’re ever so lucky to get on post at Fort Leavenworth, it’s probably one of the most picturesque bases you’ll ever witness. Downtown is full of old buildings and all the historic feels you can imagine. And you can’t miss the Missouri River that borders this little town. It completely soothes your soul with just a glance.
But most importantly, it’s the people. Genuine, loving people. God love Sabrina for commenting on my purse that started all of this. God love “Mother” Theresa for being the genuine, loving soul she is. God love Glenn, who claims to have the best cannolis this side of New York at his local bakery. God love Jack for his fun Irish pub called Bailey’s, which he named after his beloved dog. God love Candace and her eclectic Modern Muse store and being my twin flame sister the night we met. God love Lou, a local instructor on base for filling me in on all the history of Leavenworth. God love Ted for sharing his passion on his career as a musician and song writer. God love Shelby, Jori, Anna and Stephanie for their kindness in serving fabulous food and drinks.
There is so much more to write. I will let my photography speak for the rest of me. To the beautiful souls who touched my heart, I thank you. Your generosity is more than appreciated. God bless Kansas and the city of Leavenworth.
Photojournalist Celeste Rickert lives in Tomball, Texas.