Kansas City – Royals and Museums

Day Two on the “Midsummer Odyssey.” The day I pondered my existence and walked the tightrope between sanity and insanity. No, stop! It wasn’t that bad. We had a difficult time seeing the Kansas City Royals and Museums but maintained our sensibilities and made it to the next day.

Friday Night – Look at The Tickets!

Somewhere between the raindrops, standing ovations, beer, and tornado warnings, Nomad, the Younger decided to check the next day’s schedule. “So the game starts at 1:10 tomorrow?” “Nah,” I respond, “they play tomorrow night.” Sweetly, yet forcefully persistent, Nomad the Younger explains that if they are playing on Saturday night, someone should tell the Royals. “The Royals are playing at 1:10.” Yes, an unforced error by the Nomad.

The Kauffmans

Here’s the problem. The plan was to go to the Negro League Museum and the game, and we don’t have any extra time. Thus, we need to squeeze both into Saturday so that we can see the Field of Dreams movie site on Sunday. We can’t delay because I need to get to the College World Series on Monday. Not to mention the younger Nomad has a plane to catch.

OK, no problem. It’s a three and a half-hour drive to Kansas City, give or take. We’ll leave at 6:30 and be in Kansas City by 10:30, see the museum and make it to the game by 1:00. Who cares if we are a little late?

Saturday Morning – The Drive From Hell

Another inaccurate, overstatement. Hell is probably worse, and I’ve never heard about rain in Hell. The stories I hear refer to fire and heat, not SUVs and pouring rain.

As we leave, it starts to rain. Then it starts to rain harder. For a while, the rain stops, and we begin to make good time. As we talk, the sky starts to darken into an eerie purple. The sky continues to darken, then darken some more. Soon it was the color of eggplant or the center of a nasty bruise.

The purple sky correlates with the wind blowing wildly. I grip the wheel while we look for tornados, houses blowing over, or a woman on a bicycle flying through the sky. Then the heavens open and sheets of rain pour down. This is the type of storm that windshield wipers won’t solve. The wipers simply push water back and forth, the water coming down too fast to actually keep the windshield clear.

Inside Kauffman Stadium

We crawl along – following other slow-moving vehicles. We’re creeping our way through a creepy, artificial night caused by clouds, wind a rain. Finally, I can’t take it anymore, and we take the next exit looking for shelter. The hoped-for shelter is “Ozarkland.” Roadside America describes Ozarkland as “a gift shop/tourist trap.” The description is a tad harsh. There are cute knickknacks, what looks like fantastic fudge and the bathrooms are clean. Most of all, the patient salespeople who let a couple of wet nomads hang around for a while.

We watch the clock and check our weather apps to see if the weather will clear.

The New Plan

Finally, we get back on the road. The skies are clearing, but we’ve lost a lot of time. I suggest that we just head for the hotel which is conveniently across from Kauffman Stadium. This plan should be OK – it’s supposed to start raining around 3:00. That will allow us to catch a few innings and when the rain starts again, we can head for the museum.

The Heat and Humidity

If the wind and rain weren’t hellish, the resulting heat and humidity might have been.

We arrive at the hotel around 11:30 – the sun is beating down. Unfortunately, we can park but not check-in. They had a busy night, and the rooms aren’t ready. So we start our walk to Ewing Kauffman Stadium.

To get out of the parking hotel parking lot, you walk up a short incline. At the top is a four-lane street/ highway. There are a few attendants and police around in case we need help with traffic to get across. Once on the other side, we were looking at “The K” – as the natives call it.

View from the ridge

From our vantage point, Kauffman Stadium is on the right side of a vast parking lot. On its left is Arrowhead Stadium where the Chief’s play football. We need to walk down an incline and around the parking lot to get into the ballpark. I’m starting to notice that it’s hot and I’m sweating profusely. It doesn’t help that I’m wearing my trusty photographer vest and carry my small camera bag.

It’s about a half-mile from the hotel to the Stadium entrance.

A Short, Hot Stay

Long story short, I’ll need to get back to see “The K” at some point. It’s supposed to be a great ballpark. Likely because we were hot, tired, sweaty, and possibly dehydrated, I didn’t feel the greatness.

We entered through one of the outfield gates and walked around the sunny and hot promenade past statues and food outposts looking for merchandise. I needed my cap. For some reason, we didn’t think to follow the walk to the covered section that surrounds the infield.

We get some food, but there is no place to sit. There is a beautiful seating area, but that is reserved for a group. That group either isn’t coming, booked too much room or hasn’t arrived yet. No matter the reason, there are empty seats, but we can’t use them. I stare longingly like a parched man in the desert imagining a mirage. This is not the first I’ve eaten standing up at a baseball stadium.

Finally, we go to our seats which are on the fourth level, right behind home plate. The stadium was a beautiful, modern, suburban ballpark when it was built in the early 1970s. It is still beautiful but isn’t big on sheltered seats. We’re sitting in a short row, in a section that seems to be placed directly under the sun. More of a device to heat your dinner than a place to sit comfortably.

At first, we are alone. Then people fill the rest of the row, and we are cramped. It’s hard to move. A little room would be helpful so that we can dissipate the heat. Nomad the Younger is the first to suggest we find shelter before we pass out. I can’t disagree.

The Leaving

We escape the heat in a very open promenade. Since we are in one of the upper levels and most fans are watching the game, we have a lot of room. Moreover, the walk is shaded and breezy and pleasant. However, there is no place to sit. Most stadiums don’t have a lot of places to sit in what are supposed to be walkways. However, in our mood, the lack of seating seems surprising.

Since it’s close to 2:30 and even though the expected rain is not coming, I suggest we go to the museum.

Outside the park, we start retracing our steps to the curved, incline that will take us around the parking lot. Nomad the Younger is tired and can make the walk but is wishing there was another way.

Security?

Of course, I remember that Mrs. Nomad and I were at Cooperstown Dreams Park earlier in the month. At that park, there were volunteers with carts offering people rides to the parking areas. Additionally, there are similar carts at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. To be fair, the drivers in St. Louis weren’t offering patrons rides.

Since we are approaching a security guard, I figure why not ask if there is a way to get a ride up the hill. I tell Nomad the Younger to look especially weak and ask for help. The guard seems somewhat surprised like this is a new question. He doesn’t know how we can get a ride – since it was so early. However, he suggests we walk the few hundred feet back to the stadium to ask there. We did not want to retrace our steps, so I ask if he could call. He says he can’t do that either almost suggesting that he does not have any way to do so.

We trudge on. All the time, wondering what would happen if there was a real threat to this public building. It seems that tens of thousands are at risk, but what do we know.

The Fountains

Kauffman Stadium is not an awful place to see a baseball game. From my brief experience, I’d say it’s better than most. An excellent suburban stadium in the mold of Dodgers Stadium. I most certainly would go back. I really have to go back and get a better sense of the place.

It’s known a picturesque ballpark, and the beauty is enhanced by the fountains that stretch from right field to mid-left field. I thought they were beautiful. However, I wish that they extended all the way to left field. In so doing, they would be equally sized on either side of the scoreboard. The resulting symmetry would help to draw your attention across the area and not just to right field.

Smoked Kielbasa

Smoked Kielbasa w/ Smoked Gouda, Braised Red Cabbage and Apple Mustard

The hot dog of the day was actually a Kielbasa. I couldn’t find a dog that inspired me, the “Smoked Kielbasa” from the “Specialty Brats” stand was an excellent substitute. The young attendant taking my order asked innocently, “do you want everything on it?” “Everything” was braised red cabbage, smoked gouda, and apple mustard. Who wouldn’t want that!

I’m ranking this one high on my list. The Kielbasa had a great smokey and spicy taste. The mustard and cabbage paired really well with it. I’m not sure the smoked gouda helped – it didn’t seem to stand out against the other flavors.

The Museums at 18th & Vine

18th & Vine 1 is “internationally recognized as one of the cradles of jazz and a historic hub of African-American businesses.” 2 It was where many worked and assembled on Saturday nights.

Mural in 18th and Vine Neighborhood

As we drive, I remember the song “Kansas City,” which references (my memory) “18th and Vine.” One of those lyrics that sounds good but has little meaning until you do some research. Of course, once you do research, you find that the song references “12th and vine” and 12th street no longer crosses Vine since a housing project was built there.

I’m gonna be standing on the corner
Of Twelfth Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby
And a bottle of Kansas City wine.

Leiber and Stoller 3

Anyway, this is what used to be the beating heart of black Kansas City. The area and its businesses were instrumental (as you learn at the museum) in the Civil Rights Movement. For the romantic nomads its where Charlie Parker learned to play, where the Kansas City Monarchs were treated like royalty.

We didn’t spend enough time at the museum and didn’t even get a chance to check out the Jazz side. So I went back a few days later on my way to St. Louis and my flight to London. My post devoted to the museum is here.

We recouped at Arthur Bryant’s with a great slab of ribs an beer. The next day we made the pilgrimage to the Field of Dreams.

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  1. www.visitkc.com Around the Region/Neighborhoods/18th & Vine
  2. Wikipedia – 18th and Vine – Downtown East, Kansas City
  3. Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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