The drive to the state of Kansas from Omaha, Nebraska on August 28, 2016 was pretty intense. Almost as soon as we crossed the border into Kansas, we saw a dark wall of clouds. Actually, it wasn’t multiple clouds, it was more like one huge unending cloud.
Marlaina was driving and before we made it into the great wall of cloud, she exited the highway and we filled up on gas and used the restroom, and it was a good thing that we did. When we entered the clouded area it became dark and the outrageous thunder and lightning started. And then the rain, oh the rain. It was the most violent downpour either of us had ever seen. Marlaina drove slow and careful, it is what she does well. Visibility was very low due to the unbelievable volume of water falling from the sky. Becky’s wipers were on warp speed and that still did little to aid the view. Cars started pulling over on the side of the road to wait it out. DB suggested we do the same as the lighting got closer and closer to the highway. Marlaina refused, she just wanted to get out of there as soon and as safely as possible. She kept her steady but cautious pace and suddenly, we crossed out of the dark cloud and the thunder and lightning were left behind.
The rest of the way to Kansas we saw some drizzle, but it was nothing compared to what we had just experienced.
We finally arrived in Kansas City, Kansas! When we got to the Airbnb nobody was there, but we were able to get in with a keypad. We got our stuff settled and found a place to eat, which is not easy to do in the midwest on a Sunday. Thankfully, El Camino Real was open and we had ourselves a satisfying and affordable Mexican meal.
Next we went back to the Airbnb to relax and we were able to meet our host and her two cute pups. Turns out, she used to live in Chatsworth! Small world!
After we were finished chatting with our host, we did a bit of sightseeing. We visited the historic Kaw Point Park, where the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet. We got to see a great view of the more famous Kansas City in Missouri. Bugs were buzzing around everywhere, so we did not stay long.
Our next stop was the Rosedale Memorial Arch which is an impressive memorial dedicated to the local military veterans who served in WWI. We did not stay there long either as the sun was starting to set and there were bugs looking for dinner.
It started to sprinkle and it got dark very fast, but we were not ready to go back to our room. Marlaina found a cool little dive bar called the 403 Club. We watched some baseball on the big screen TVs, had some micro brews from Kansas and Missouri, and played a couple rounds of Game of Thrones pinball.
After our fun times at the bar, we headed back to our room and fell asleep to the sound of rain and the occasional rumble of distant thunder.
The next morning, we had the Airbnb house to ourselves. We had a leisurely breakfast downstairs and helped ourselves to the bagels and tea the host offered to us. We also took the opportunity to do some laundry.
After we folded our clothes, it was time for us to have some Kansas City BBQ. We consulted Yelp and we visited Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. The line was long when we arrived and only got longer as we were there. However, it did move efficiently enough. They had a burnt ends lunch special. While watching the Food Network in a hotel a couple weeks prior, we had just discovered what burnt ends were: the outer pieces of a BBQ brisket that get sliced off so the large hunk of meat cooks properly. At Joe’s these little bits are set aside, sold separately, and apparently sell out often. We got the lunch special with beans, a salad, and a 1/2 rack of ribs. The ribs were pretty good, but those burnt ends stole the show!
We then headed over to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. We both enjoyed learning about his early life, his time serving in WWI, and his interesting rise to political power. We also appreciated how the library presented the full scope of his legacy, both the positive and the negative perspectives.
Next, we headed back to our rented room to relax and wash up from spending the day in the hot humidity. Then we headed to Kaufman Stadium to watch the 2015 World Series Champions, the Kansas City Royals play the NY Yankees. We were impressed with the stadium, it’s layout and its food and beer selections. For dinner, we got a chicken skewer wrap from celebrity chef, Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen and it was super tasty.
We rooted for the home team and they won the game 8-5. Then we headed back to our room to get some sleep.
The next morning, we headed to the other Kansas City, in Missouri.
Our first stop was the Nelson-Aktins Museum of Art. The museum itself was closed, but the grounds surrounding the building have many outdoor installations.
We then stopped at the adorable retail area called Country Club Plaza. DB got a couple things at Forever 21, but mostly we admired the mosaic covered architecture.
Then we paid a visit to the Hallmark Corporate Headquarters. They have a museum documenting the history of their company and their diverse and innovative product lines. We were surprised at how much fun we had at a museum featuring greeting cards, holiday ointments, and cheesy Emmy winning TV movies!
Once we were finished at Hallmark, we headed to the National WWI Memorial.
Our final stop in KC was a quick visit to the Performing Arts Center to admire its design. Then we hit the road to St. Louis.
When we arrived in St. Louis we were famished. DB found Fitz’s, a restaurant and soda factory. Unfortunately, the soda factory wasn’t producing that day so we did not get to see all the machinery in action. However, we did get to check out their limited edition election year root beer. We enjoyed our veggie and hummus plate, and the BBQ chicken dinner we ordered.
St. Louis is full of free museums and attractions, so we hurried over to the Missouri History Museum to get there before they closed. We arrived with about 30 minutes to look around – we were able to check out 2 exhibits and we enjoyed them both. One was “Little Black Dress” and one about Route 66.
Next, we checked in to our dingy hotel just a couple blocks from the famous arch.
The next morning, we drove to a nice suburb of St. Louis called Manchester to stay with our very good friend Theresa who we met in high school marching band (Go Vikings!).
We were introduced to her 3 year old daughter, who we call Little T. Theresa made us coffee and we ate some snacks and did some catching up as it had been about 8 years since we have seen each other.
Theresa piled us all into her mom-mobile and we went to the zoo. As Marlaina always says, “If it’s free, it’s for me!”
There were plenty of amazing animals to view, but the best part was when we had lunch at the food court:
Theresa was sharing chicken strips and fries with her daughter. DB and I were having nachos. While Theresa is in the middle of telling us a story, Little T gets up and says “I’m going to sit with my friends,” and she sits herself two tables away with a very nice Asian family. She then asks very politely if she can have some of their fries. Turns out, those were not her “friends” she calls everyone her friend. So cute and funny!
After we were done with the zoo, we went to the grocery store. When we got there Little T was knocked out so DB stayed in the car and Marlaina went in the store with Theresa to help her shop for groceries for a study group dinner she was hosting at her house.
When we got back to the house to help Theresa and her awesome husband Mario, Marlaina busted out her Latina skills (she has few, but the ones she has are excelente). She made a big bowl of guacamole to go with the fajitas they were going to serve to their guests. Not wanting to interfere with the study group and not wanting to bore Theresa with seeing the arch for the millionth time, we went downtown for the evening by ourselves.
We paid a visit to the capital building and then we went inside the famous Gateway Arch and we watched the documentary video called “Monument to the Dream.” We were being frugal and slightly claustrophobic and decided not go to up to the top, which was fine because we got the idea of how high the thing is by watching the video and by standing under it. It is certainly a marvel!
For dinner, we consulted Yelp and ate at Pho Grand. It was grand! DB got some pho, which she is a big fan of and Marlaina ordered a spicy seafood noodle dish that she really enjoyed.
After dinner, we headed back to Theresa and Mario’s. We had so much fun hanging out with them! By the way, Mario is the Super Mario of multi-tasking. He put their 3 kids to bed, did a homework assignment, drank beer with Marlaina, and helped Theresa from setting the kitchen on fire when she made us popcorn.
The next morning, we went on what we named the “sweet treat adventure” with Theresa and her daughter. First we had a late breakfast at the French bakery and cafe called La Bonne Bouchee. After we were all finished eating, we walked over to the bakery counter and spent way too much time drooling over all of the goodies. We ended up with a few macarons and some of these cute cookies.
Up next on the sweet treat adventure was a tour at a chocolate factory. We didn’t see Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp, but we saw tons of chocolate at the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company! And the free samples were fantastic!
The final stop on the sweet treat adventure, and our last destination in St. Louis was the world famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. We had a vanilla with Oreo and it was good, but it only made us miss the epic custard we had in Utah at Nielsen’s.
It was time to say farewell to Theresa and Little T, and by coincidence, Mario’s mom, who just happened to be getting some custard with a friend at the same time we were.
A HUGE thanks goes out to our friends Theresa and Mario for the great times and amazing hospitality!
We left St. Louis and headed for Illinois. Our next blog post will be about our time in Illinois and Michigan.