Wednesday, July 8, 2009

4th of July Weekend in Kansas City

My first 4th of July in the Midwest ended up being a great weekend as I headed up to Kansas City with my friends Kasey, Jason and Todd. We left OKC on Friday morning and made the 5 hour drive up to KC for a weekend of fun.

For the first time in 9 years I didn't have to work on the 4th of July. I have spent 8 consecutive Independence Days at Evergreen Speedway, had 2000 off and then worked at the Space Needle on the 4th during 1999, 1998 and 1997. I enjoyed my Independence Day celebration at both jobs but have to say it was nice to be on the other side of things this year.

We left Friday morning and our first stop was in Wichita, Kansas at the Old Mill Tasty Shop, an old greasy spoon that has been serving folks for over 70 years. The waitress was a real character who was probably 70 years old and had the energy of someone half her age. She knew we were making our first trip in and spoiled us with various samples of food and sauces. I ate a huge burrito and had an old fashioned fountain Coke with added vanilla flavor. We then decided that we needed to try one of their famous shakes which were also generous portions. Great meal.

We drove straight to our hotel in downtown Kansas City and were given a complimentary glass of champagne. Not my favorite beverage but it was a nice way to start the weekend. Our next stop was Kauffman Stadium for a baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox. We picked a great night for a game and the crowd was huge for a few reasons. Royals pitcher Zack Greinke was pitching that night and he is having a Cy Young type of year. The crowds have really been showing up when he pitches. It was July 3rd however the two teams were playing an afternoon game the following day so this was the night of their big fireworks show. It was also $1 Night which meant that hot dogs, sodas and programs were all $1. I took advantage of the promotion by enjoying 3 dogs, 2 sodas and a program. We also had complimentary tickets as Jason knows one of the Royals Directors. Gotta like those prices.

We had great seats at the game to begin with however they got even better in the 4th inning when our Royals friend upgraded us to a suite. Nice place to watch the game. In the 8th inning we decided to make a quick lap around the concourses to check out the outfield before the fireworks show. The game went quick and we were able to make it back up to the suite just in time to see a great fireworks show. Greinke is having a great year but this wasn't his night as Chicago pitcher John Danks was the star of the game and shut down the Royals for a 5-0 Sox victory. The fireworks went off without a hitch however the rain that we had all feared all day finally arrived about a minute before the end of the show and we walked back to the car in a downpour.

Got back to our hotel and had to change clothes as we were all soaked from the rain. Not good for a few of us as we mostly brought just enough clothes for a 3 day weekend. Fortunately Jason brought some extra shirts which meant I didn't have to wear one of mine 2 days in a row. The rain stopped and we walked down to the Power and Light District to enjoy some of the Kansas City nightlife. KC has a great set up with many bars and clubs all located within a couple of blocks and there is an open area with a large cover that acts as the hub of everything. Great time.

Started off our 4th of July by heading down to Ted's Montana Grill (owned by Ted Turner) for my first ever bison burger. All 4 of us are affiliated with the OKC Thunder and our mascot is a bison so of course we all had to send text messages to our mascot friend "Rumble" to let him know we were about to eat one of his kind. The burger's texture was very soft and the meat is gamey. I had the blue cheese burger which really drowned out the taste of the bison so I'm still not sure I know what bison truly taste like. Did I mention the burger was 11 ozs. The crew wanted to check out a bar called the Flying Saucer so we then walked over there for a quick beer. I was full!!

Next stop was the College Basketball Experience, a hands on exhibit where people of all ages can look at college basketball memorabilia as well as participate in various basketball contests. We shot free throws, had 3 point contests, dunked on short baskets and played a little pop a shot. Jason then came up with this brilliant idea of challenging these kids (guessing they were about 13 years old) to a little 3 on 3 game. I haven't played a game of basketball of any kind in years. We were going to play to 11 points however one of the kids got a text message and had to leave when we trailed 2-1. Probably just as well as we were all worn out and I don't know how we would have made it to 11 points. Keep in mind we had just eaten a huge burger and drank a beer before playing. I have to admit that it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.

Grinders was the next stop as we needed to try some more KC cuisine. Grinders is a small restaurant that has also been featured on a couple Food TV shows so it was a must. Basketball, bison and beer left me stuffed and nauseated so I wasn't even hungry but we had to squeeze it in. We ordered a large pizza to share as well as a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. That was way too much food for the way I was feeling so my 3 friends at the sandwich and I just tried a small bite. It was an incredible sandwich and would get a strong recommendation from all of us. We got a pizza that was half "Bengal Tiger" which has an India theme with a green sauce, tandori chicken, crab meat and other things and half "Le Hog", a white sauce, meatballs, ham, canadian bacon and bacon bits. I think we all liked the Le Hog better than the Bengal Tiger however the pizza didn't quite measure up to the sandwich. Apparently the ownership of Grinders is also into obscure art and there are many interesting items inside, one of which is the beer tap that is made out of an air tank. They also have a pole across the street that has old bicycles piled on top of one another. I was sure to include some of these pictures in here as well.

The crew wanted to check out a well known mall while we had time to kill Saturday afternoon and on the drive over we passed the World War I Museum which I didn't realize was in Kansas City. We had about 90 minutes before we had to hit the road and I told the crew that I really wanted to check out the museum which was right across the street from the mall so we agreed to meet up at the car when it was time to leave. We initally seperated but they decided to join me once we realized that the Hallmark Visitor Center was closed (I didn't realize that the famous card making company was also located in KC until our trip). The museum was just closing up so we didn't get to go into the exhibits but we did make it into the lobby and walked around the large monument outside. It also ended up being a great place for pictures as the museum sits atop a hill that overlooks the city.

Saturday night we drove approx 20 miles on over to Kansas City, Kansas to watch a Major League Soccer game between the Kansas City Wizards and Houston Dynamos. The Wizards play their home games at a minor league baseball stadium which made for some interesting configurations. Unlike my traveling companions, I am not a huge soccer fan so this wasn't the highlight of my trip but I still had a lot of fun watching my first professional outdoor soccer game. Houston scored the only goal of the game and the goal scorer ran off the field onto the pitcher's mound, reached into his shorts, pulled out a white glove and performed a Michael Jackson dance move as a tribute. Wasn't quite as memorable as when I saw Terrell Owens pull out the Sharpee at Qwest Field but it was still creative. The hometown fans didn't like it but I found it to be entertaining. After the game we got to go onto the field where we got to watch another fireworks show.

Sunday we were all tired and slept in a little. Once we woke up we headed over to Arthur Bryant's BBQ, a very famous KC eatery. I ordered a meat platter and had sausage, ham and ribs along with fries, bread and a large Dr. Pepper. This wasn't exactly the healthiest trip I have ever been on (I stepped on my scale upon returning home and found that I gained 5 lbs). After lunch we went down the street to check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which was outstanding. I have tremendous respect for the men who played in the Negro Leagues where some of the greatest baseball players of all time played before Major League Baseball started to integrate in 1947 and wasn't fully integrated until the late 1950's. This was a "bucket list" stop and I'm glad we were able to experience it. The only negative was that they do not permit pictures so a picture of me at the entrance was as good as I could do.

We were only in Kansas City for 48 hours but we packed a lot of fun into our short stay. An amazing trip that I won't soon forget.

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