Saturday, July 9, 2011

Road Trip: Kansas City, MO by way of Hays, KS

After living large at the Boulder Best Western, it was back to Walmart for the next two nights. The first stop was Hays, Kansas. After cooking up some couscous and Trader Joe's palak paneer in the parking lot, we set out to see what Hays had to offer. We weren't expecting much but were pleasantly surprised in a couple ways. A quick Yelp search suggestd a true gem in diner/brew pub combo of Gella's and Lb. Brewing Co. On the brewing end, they've garnered many international and domestic awards for their beers, and after sampling a few it was clear why. I started off with their seasonal summer ale, the Summer Fling. It was perfectly crisp and refreshing for that hot, sticky Kansas night. Later, I tried their multiple award-winning Oatmeal Stout to go with the chocolate mousse Amanda ordered for desert. Again, it was excellent.

Combo sandwich at Arthur Bryant's BBQ
The second surprise of Hays, Kansas was the wonderful couple we met at the brew pub bar. They hailed from Purdue-area Indiana, he a professor and she a former administrator, and were heading west for a week in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our Vanagon was the conversation starter and we learned that he'd owned two in his lifetime and had enjoyed many VW road trip adventures over the years. After wishing each other smooth travels, we headed back to the parking lot for another night of asphalt camping.

Hays put us in striking distance of Kansas City, Missouri the next day. Our first stop was the Shawnee Mission Park, located a few miles south of town. The acres off-leash hiking and swimming opportunities were the major draws. There's a fee required for the official swimming beach on one side of the lake, but no fee required for the swimming area for dogs on the opposite side. I was perfectly happy joining Parker and the dozen other mutts. It was the same water!

Feeling slightly refreshed in the 93-degree heat, we drove into Kansas City to sample one of its iconic offerings: BBQ. Just as we'd waited until the pacific northwest to enjoy some sushi, we knew that KC and St. Louis would be the only sources for BBQ on this adventure. We simply wanted a small taste of the KC style in order to compare it to St. Louis's offerings, so we headed to the legendary Arthur Bryant's. Splitting one open-face sandwich, a combo of “burnt ends” and pulled pork, seemed like a reasonable approach. The “sandwich” turned out to be two heaping piles of slow-cooked, tender smoked goodness atop white bread, along with a side of beans and stack of pickles. It was a massive plateful and the two of us struggled to finish this single serving. Their variety of housemade sauces were equally delicious. Stuffed, we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring other areas of Kansas City, from the City Market and Riverfront to the Power and Light disctict, finally ending the night downtown at the Penn Valley dog park. We'll visit KC's fantastic museums and jazz scene on another trip (without Parker).

Satisfied with our city tour, we drove east to the 24-hour KC Walmart Supercenter.

Next stop: St. Louis

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