Between Council Grove and Kansas City, US-56 passes through the lovely cattle-ranching grasslands of the northern Flint Hills, zig-zagging at 90-degree angles through one-time coal-mining towns like Worden, Overbrook, and Scranton. Burlingame (pop. 2,735), the largest of this bunch, is noteworthy for its very broad, brick-paved 20-mph Main Street (US-56), lined by diverse 100-year-old buildings painted with a barrage of signs advertising player pianos as well as the usual liquor, food and auto parts.
<\f\f>At the northeast edge of the Flint Hills, 13 miles west of the I-35 freeway from Kansas City, US-56 skirts the leafy, brick-paved streets of Baldwin City (pop. 2,961), a small town that was once a main rest-and-repair stop on the Santa Fe Trail--four days travel west of Independence. In 1858, the first college on the western frontier was founded here in a three-story sandstone building now preserved as "The Castle," alongside a combination general store and post office on the east side of the pleasant campus of Methodist-run Baker University. The library (8am-5pm Mon-Fri; free) three blocks west displays the Quayle Collection of rare religious texts, including clay tablets dating from Old Testament times, and a range of hand-bound bibles, arranged to trace the development of printing techniques and typography styles.
<\f\f>For the rest of the way east to Kansas City, US-56 parallels the I-35 freeway across the lush rolling grassland pastures and farms, marked in places by signs reading "Old US-50." Along this route, two miles west of Gardner, an historical marker stands on the site where the westbound Santa Fe and Oregon trails once divided: for many years, a crude wooden sign pointed travelers in the proper direction: left to Santa Fe, right to Oregon.