Friday, March 30 - Sunday, April 8, 2018 Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas
DAY 1: San Francisco, California to Kansas City, Missouri. Our trip officially started when we headed out straight from piano on Friday night to get on our flight from San Francisco from 7pm to 12:45am,which ended up being 1am. Then car rental and drive to hotel, and yet, after sleeping in, we weren't too cranky. I call that a win. Larry was supposed to drive up to the airport, but got an emergency work call. Luckily Brian stepped in and drove us with the promise of chocolate in his future.
DAY 2: Kansas City, Missouri. We started our day at 9:30 by heading over to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which was super cool. It was a sunkin' steamboat (in 1856) that had been recovered from underneath the ground 4 stories in the middle of a farm. One of the men who had dug it up - a real life treasure hunter was there and answered questions all about it. Part of the ship was on display, and ALL of the treasure. It ranged from China, to coins, pins, lots of boots. It was really incredible. When we left we went to an open farmers market (City Market) for some fresh fruit and veggies. We headed over to Joe's Kansas City BBQ, which is in a gas station...ummmm, what? Weird, but true. It has been there since it opened. It was recommended to us by several people and lots of websites. The line was long and the BBQ was fantastic! It may have been the best BBQ we have had and that is saying a lot because we have been to some of the best BBQ places in the United States. The burnt ends, pulled pork, brisket, it was all amazing. The problem with having BBQ that good is: you have to go back to Kansas to get it, you have to wait in long lines, and no BBQ will ever be as good. It was time to get back to the hotel and bundle up with the Royals baseball game in Kauffman Stadium. We got ice cream to start off the game even though the temperature was in the 40s...it's my tradition. We froze our tushies off, especially Vander, who was not dressed warm enough because he didn't bring a jacket on the trip despite being told to do so. Even Ollie was cold and he is never cold. By the end of the game it was about 35 degrees and we were some of the only people left in our section. It was a really good game and ended up 4-3 White sox.
DAY 3: Kansas City, Missouri to Topeka, Kansas. It was Easter morning and we spent it in Legoland. There were fun rides, amazing displays, areas to build and test legos, and a 4D lego movie. Oliven got an activity necklace to earn badges. We had a really good time building with 1x1 legos to make pictures. I made a tree, Oliven made a design. Vander made an angry bird. Justin, with Vander's help created a goomba and a pixilated Mario. It was super fun. By the time we were done, we were all pretty hungry. As we were heading out it was snowing. How fun is that...Legoland and snow in Kansas City on Easter. That is not an everyday occurrence. Plus, the Easter Bunny had dropped of Easter baskets at our house that we found upon our return. We went to Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue for some food. It was good BBQ, but didn't really compare to Joe's Kansas City BBQ. We also stopped by Union Station and did some window shopping. We also picked up some garlic pig ears.
DAY 4: Topeka, Kansas to Wichita, Kansas. We started our day with Brown vs Board of Education National Historic site, where Oliven earned his first of 7 Junior ranger badges on the trip. The fight for desegregation was a long and arduous task. We learned more about that on our trip to Little Rock Central High School later on day 7. We had the best food of the trip that day (in my opinion) at a place called, "Row House". It is literally a row house in Topeka that was turned into a super quaint fancy, small, and unique restaurant. We accidentally walked in the back entrance through the kitchen. The food was incredible. I had seeds and beans. It was so much better than it sounds. I really wish I had that recipe! It was: carrot puree, root veggie noodles, broccoli rice, nuts, lentils, legumes and greens. Wow, what a winning combinations. Vander had a Shephards pie and Oliven's Walnut salsa with his turkey sandwich was sooo good. Justin ordered roots, farro and egg. He then turned to me and commented, "You really are rubbing off on me." After a 2 1/2 hour drive our next stop was the Kansas State Capitol Building. Half way there we stopped at Tallgrass Prairie, another historical site to check it out. It wasn't super special, it was exactly what it was called. We looked at an old house and barn and headed on our way after watching a short video and buying a bonnet. The really neat thing about this Capitol building is that you can walk all the way up to the top of the dome and even go outside at the top. Oliven was super scared, but with Justin's encouragement he still made it most of the way to the top. I started getting pretty anxious when we got to the spiral staircase.
I could have forced myself to walk up the last little bit (we were already over the internal dome), but I decided to stay with Oliven. Justin and Vander went up to the top, but didn't walk around because it was really icy out there. It was a very unique experience, and to the best of my knowledge it is the only Capitol building that you can walk to the top of in the U.S.We went to Walmart to grab cheap Easter candy to take on the rest of the trip. We had a quick and easy dinner at a place called "My Tho". It was Vietnamese noodle bowls.
DAY 5: Wichita, Kansas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We were headed to the Old Cowtown museum, but it was almost all outside and it was super windy and very very cold, so we ended up going next door to the Wichita Art museum. They had a special Monet to Matisse (with Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and other artists) exhibit on display so we decided to spend enjoy some art. They had a super cool glass flower in the floor display. Oliven's favorite painting ended up being the one featured on their brochure so he apparently has very good, and expensive, taste in art. (Claude Monet, Rising Tide at Pourville from 1882). When we arrived in Oklahoma City we went to the Oklahoma Capitol building. It was utter craziness.
The whole building was under construction. Then, when we got in the whole building was packed to the brim with teachers. They were on strike trying to get fair wages. We have been at a Capitol building during conferences before, but this was by far the most people and chaos we have experienced. Good for the teachers. I hope they get what they deserve!
(After this trip we have been to 23 Capitol buildings. The boys have been to 34 states and Justin and I have been to 49 states. We are still missing Delaware).We drove downtown and decided that we were going to go to the Oklahoma City Thunder vs the Golden State Warrior basketball game. We had considered it before, but the ticket prices were astronomical. They dropped in price, and well, the hype in the city was palpable so we couldn't resist. We got an amazing free parking spot right next to the arena. It pays to come 5 hours early. We were in the 2nd row from the back of the amphitheater for $42 per ticket! It was soooo worth it. Justin had been to a pro basketball game before, but the boys and I hadn't. What a blast. It was so much excitement - both the game, the crowd, and the music and chanting, the energy. It was a really close game so it was even more fun. The only thing I didn't like about it was that we were rooting for the away team. It's always more fun to root for the home team. There were a surprising number of Warrior fans in the stands. The game ended up being 111-107 Warrior. But, I am ahead of myself...rewind. Before we went to the game we walked to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. It was just closing, so we couldn't go past the gift shop. We decided that we would eat dinner before the game, so we walked to what is called Bricktown. On the way there we happened by one of the restaurants that was recommended highly on yelp so we decided to have dinner there. It was soooo good. It was called Kitchen 324. It was all farm fresh, original, yummy food. The boys had the chicken pot pie and it had a chicken leg roasted and sticking out of the top. they loved it. It was Justin's favorite restaurant on our trip. Everything was delicious including the Joenut (cronut made by chef Joe). The ambiance was amazing - bright and open with high ceilings. The drink I had was one of my favorite's ever, but it was not something I could replicate without a bunch of fancy alcohol. It had one giant ice cube in it. Very creative, and pretty. We had some ice cream at a marble slab place and walked along the small river walk. Then, we went to the basketball game for a late night of fun.
DAY 6: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This was everyone's least favorite day. After a 5 1/2 hour drive we stopped for lunch at a hole in the wall place called "Next Level Kitchen" to grab lunch and ate it by a fountain downtown. It was not good. I had the worst veggie burger of my life. None of us really liked our food which was too bad, because they had great reviews. Oh well, you can't win them all. Hotsprings National Park's highlight was that Oliven got a Junior Ranger badge, cause when we got there we were told that you had to be 10 to partake since the water is 104 degrees. We thought maybe Vander and I could still go, until they said that we would be separated. We was not interested in that at all. There was really nothing else to do we we went back to the hotel. We had the hotel snacks with our veggies for dinner. Bean dip and salty snacks. Not ideal. Our car tire also got a slow leak in it and we had to have someone from the car rental place come and put a spare tire on it.
DAY 7: Hot Springs, Arkansas to Poplar Bluff, Missouri. It was a rough morning. We had to take the car to the airport to exchange it for a new one because of the tire. On the way there (after eating grapefruit and some other fruits for breakfast) Oliven said his tummy hurt. He threw up all over himself. So, we pulled over and I cleaned him up. We got back on the road and he was clearly going to throw up again so I had Justin pull over on the side of the freeway. As I opened his door he started to really throw up. I was able to get most of it out the door. My scarf and sweater were goners. After that we were able to make it the rest of the way to the airport to exchange the Toyota Corolla, which had a lump where me feet were that was super uncomfortable, for a Jetta, which Justin barely fit in. His head was almost teaching the top of the car. We had lunch at a cafe called "At the Corner". It was simple and good. Oliven skipped lunch. On to the Arkansas state Capitol building. It was much smaller than any of the other Capitol buildings. It was simple with white marble. The vault was truly the highlight. The treasury was in the Capitol building so we got to go up and see it. They let us hold $470,000 in cash! It was made by the Swiss a long time ago. The man who was telling us about it said that they had an exact replica in Japan and when the nuclear bomb was dropped on Japan there was a woman in the vault and she lived. Miles of decimation and she was still alive inside the vault. Justin said that she still probably didn't live much longer due to all the radiation poisoning.
We stopped into a cafe that was simple and the food was good, but nothing special. Oliven said he was starving, but then didn't eat anything cause his tummy was still hurting.
After the Capitol building we headed over to Little Rock Central High School which is a national historic site. It was such a crazy experience to learn all about the cruelty that went on in our recent past. It was in the 1950's when the south was forced to integrate their schools. The white kids were truly cruel. They assigned each of the 9 African American students a white tormentor. This was someone to follow them around all day making their lives miserable. The white kids would hiss at them, throw locks at their heads, try to scald them in the shower and even made them walk on broken glass so that they would cut themselves. The teachers were cruel as well. After a year of integration the white school, Central High School (the nicest, most expensive high school built in the U.S. at that time. It originally housed a college as well), they decided to close all the schools in Little Rock, AR for the year. Lots of people had to move since there were no high schools open. Our tour ended up being over two hours because the tour guide leading it knows several of the African American people who were the first students going to that school, so he had a lot to say.
We took a 3 hour 15 min drive to Poplar Bluff, Missouri for the night. We grabbed a couple burritos at Taco Bell before heading off to bed. Vander was coughing all night, so he slept in the bathroom.
DAY 8: Poplar Bluff, MO to St. Louis, Missouri. We started our drive early because we had a 2hr 15 min drive to get to St. Louis to start our day. We went to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. We got to learn about Ulysses S. Grant, whom I never really knew much about. He was a pretty great president. He did a lot to bring about equality in America. We enjoyed his "Paris Green" house. It was a sign of wealth to paint your house a bright color and his father-in-law was a wealthy man and wanted people to know that. The paint color is called Paris green because in Paris they used to make this paint color with arsenic and would toss it down the sewers to kill the rats!
On to the St. Louis Zoo, which has been voted the number one free attraction in the U.S. It was $10 to park and then we spent several hours enjoying the different animals including the polar bears and the penguins as the highlights.
We went to the City Museum, which I had been waiting to go to for a while. It was voted the best children's museum in the country in Family Fun magazine. It was a VERY disappointing experience unfortunately. The place was super cool, but Oliven ended up having such a bad stomach ache that he couldn't play and we spent an hour talking on the phone to different people at Kaiser trying to figure out if we should drive him to the hospital or not. We ultimately decided to give him some medicine and wait it out. We walked back to the hotel and sat in the lobby since our room wasn't ready. (They were having a huge convention of a African American sorority alumni - Alpha Kappa Alpha). We got Oliven toast and I got a drink and we spent time together while Oliven started to feel better. We talked to Oliven's doctor on the phone who advised him not to have any dairy, spices, or sweets to avoid more tummy trouble. This was very sad as we were planning on going to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (a custard place that many people in the area said it was a must do the next day). Justin and Vander stayed at the City museum a little longer, but apparently everything is made for little people, which is not surprising. Justin is not little and Vander didn't want to go by himself. It was very crowded. They didn't end up staying very long...bummer! When we got into our hotel room we sent Vander and Justin to Bailey's Range for burgers while Oliven took a bath and I stayed with him. The guys brought a burger back for me.
DAY 9: St. Louis, Missouri. We got up early and walked over to the St. Louis Gateway Arch. We had tickets to be some of the first people of the day to go up to the top of the arch. It was in a little 5 person "car" with one glass wall. It was sort of like a small elevator. At the top there were some really great views. The view of St. Louis was really neat with the baseball stadium. On the other side of the Mississippi river was Illinois, which was not as pretty. We spent some time at the top enjoying the views and the novelty of the experience...it is 630 ft wide and 630 ft tall. We watched a video all about it's construction. Afterwards Oliven filled out the National historic Junior Ranger packets for the arch and the old courthouse down the street.
On to the Cardinals baseball game at Busch stadium. We had quite a debauchal as we tried to go in for the game and were told that we needed to put our backpack back into the car so we could come in. No backpacks aloud. So, here's the problem...we had walked there and it wasn't a super quick walk back. One of the ladies saw that we were pretty upset about the situation as I was going to miss a significant amount of the game. She said that we should empty it, roll it up, and put it in a pocket if it fit. Justin had a meltdown moment and I went about trying to make the situation work. We emptied the backpack. We had to eat some things and throw a few away, and stuff our pockets, but we were able to do it and get into the game. It was a bit nerve racking. It ended up being a pretty good game. It was cold, but we were in a sunny section and it was the middle of the day so the weather was delightful compared to the last baseball game. The score ended up being 5-3 Cardinals. We got two bobble heads of _________ at the game as the give away. We gave one of them to the waiter from the day before at the hotel (who got Oliven toast), Dane. He had mentioned in our conversation that he collected bobble heads and wanted to go to the game, but wasn't going to go because of work and the weather. He was stoked that we gave it to him, which was really cool. I'm not sure what Justin is going to do with ours.
I really wanted to go to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Justin and I enjoyed our concrete's (like the really good quality version of a blizzard). Justin had chocolate and pecans and I had butterscotch and pecans. They were really really good. Neither of the boys had one. Ollie was off dairy and Vander was too full. We decided to go to Charlie Gittos for dinner - Italian food. I saved half of my lasagna for breakfast the next day, and then totally forgot to grab it. I'm still a little bummed that I did that. I really wanted to finish that lasagna. :(
DAY 10: St. Louis, to Jefferson City, Missouri to Kansas City, Missouri. We of course had to stop in to Missiour's state Capitol building. There was lots of construction going on. The inside was neat with lots of domes within domes. It was extremely quiet since we were there on a Sunday morning. We stopped outside to see the Lewis and Clark monument. Back on the road for another 2 1/2 hrs to get to the airport. Our flight back to SFO was at 3 o'clock and we were there with plenty of time to spare after grabbing Taco Bell for lunch and walking across the parkinglot to grab subway sandwiches for the airport (We brought Subway on the way out as well, and they swabbed them at security). In general I would say our flight back was pretty uneventful as was our ride home from the airport. Larry picked us up. We were back after 6pm (which felt like 8pm to us), so we went to bed as soon as we could.