Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quick Trip: Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri

In June 2015 Judy spent more than a week in Kansas City doing AP scoring and I met her at the end in order to re-visit and see for the first time some of the Midwest. I got a flight out of Ontario, CA at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday and had a stop in Phoenix before arriving in Kansas City just before 2:00 p.m. I rented a car and then visited the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, one of the most highly rated activities in Kansas City on Trip Advisor (Judy visited it earlier in the week). It is in an amazing building and one of the best art museums I've ever visited. After visiting the museum I was driving to Judy's hotel to pick her up and saw her walking back from the convention center to her hotel. I picked her up just a block from where we planned to have dinner, at Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue, and so it was an easy drive for dinner. This was my first introduction to Kansas City bbq and it knocked my socks off. Some of my favorite bbq ever. After dinner, we picked up her belongings from her hotel, then headed north to Iowa City, Iowa where we had hotel reservations. This was a long drive, about 308 miles, and took about 4 and 1/2 hours of driving time. On the way, we stopped in Lamoni, Iowa, the location of Graceland University, and a conclave for the Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Thursday morning in Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, we drove to the campus and did the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, what you do when you are married to an English professor, and some other spots on the university campus. Then we drove 14 miles to West Branch, Iowa, to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. I gained an appreciation for some of Hoover's strengths - I'd previously had a pretty negative opinion of him. After lunch at Reid's Beans Coffee Shoppe Cafe, right next door, we visited the Amana Colonies, starting at the visitors center in Amana, a 33 mile drive. Amana was built by German Pietists in the 19th century and consists of seven villages. We spent most of our time in Amana, the largest and main village, and found it very touristy and not particularly unique or enlightening. From there we drove 105 miles to Des Moines, Iowa where we had reservations at Proof, a restaurant run by a 2013 James Beard Award semifinalist. Our expectations were high and they were only partially met, but it was a very good dinner. Afterwards, we walked through the PappaJohn Sculpture Park, right next to Proof, then drove to the Iowa Capitol Building where we walked around the grounds in front of it and enjoyed some spectacular light on that incredibly beautiful building.We stayed at a private home found through Airbnb, my first Airbnb experience.  
     Proof - Des Moines, Iowa  (Bob)

Friday morning, we drove back to the capitol building, did some more walking around the grounds, then went inside. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in.  Then we set out for Council Bluffs, Iowa, 127 miles to the west, about a two hour drive. We visited the Kanesville Tabernacle, a replica of the tabernacle built by the Mormons on their westward trek and where Brigham Young was sustained as president of the LDS Church. From Kanesville, we drove about 13 miles, across the Missouri River, to Florence, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. This is where the Mormons set up Winter Quarters on their trek west. We visited the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, the Pioneer Cemetery and the outside of the Winter Quarters Temple.  Then we had lunch at Mouth of the South Southern Grub in Florence, some decent southern fried food. Our long driving day continued, 63 miles and an hour west to Lincoln, Nebraska, where we visited the Nebraska State Capitol Building, the next door St. Mary's Catholic Church, the University of Nebraska Memorial Stadium, and ate at Sebastian's Table. From Lincoln, it was another 163 miles and almost three hours southwest to Abilene, Kansas where we stayed at a sub-par motel for the night. We got our reservations late and the nicer places in town were already booked.
     Des Moines, Iowa: State Capitol Building Interior  (Judy)
     LDS Church History Sites: Kanesville Tabernacle, Winter Quarters, the Pioneer Cemetery, and an LDS Temple  (Judy)  
     Mouth of the South Southern Grub - Florence, NB  (Bob)
     St. Mary's Catholic Church - Lincoln, NB  (Bob)
     Lincoln, Nebraska: St. Mary's Catholic Church  (Judy)
     Lincoln, Nebraska: State Capitol  Building  (Judy)
     Sebastian's Table - Lincoln, NB  (Bob)

Saturday morning we visited the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene. It focused on Eisenhower's war years and was one of my least favorite presidential libraries. On the road again, this time 64 miles northeast to Wamego, Kansas, a one hour drive, home of the Oz Museum, and Judy is a big Wizard of Oz fan. But first we had to eat and stopped at Friendship House in Wamego which was a fantastic find, wonderful baked goods and a wonderful atmosphere. In my mind, better than the museum, but Judy would disagree. From there, it was a relatively short 40 minute drive to Topeka, Kansas, where we were disappointed to find the Kansas State Capitol Building closed, one of the items on our itinerary. So we visited the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, which we'd had on our itinerary for the next day, then had an absolutely wonderful meal at Row House Restaurant in Topeka. We spent the night at the wonderful Hyatt Place Topeka, a wonderful place for the value.
   Abilene, Kansas: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, Boyhood Home, and Mausoleum  (Judy)
     Friendship House - Wamego, KS  (Bob)
     Wamego, Kansas: The Oz Museum  (Judy)
     Topeka, Kansas: Monroe School and Brown v. Board of Education  (Judy)
     RowHouse Restaurant - Topeka, KS  (Bob)

Sunday morning we visited the Lake Shawnee Ward of the LDS Church in Topeka for a sacrament service, then headed for Kansas City, about an hour's drive. Along the way we took a detour to Lawrence and visited the University of Kansas campus, including an overview look at the football stadium. In Kansas City, we went back to Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue for lunch, then visited the National World War I Memorial, the top rated activity in Kansas City on Trip Advisor. The museum provided a nice summary of the war, giving the background for the beginning of the war, and aspects of the war such as camouflage, machine guns, tanks, etc. We checked into our hotel in Kansas City, then ate an early dinner at Gram & Dun.
     Kansas City, Missouri: National World War I Museum  (Judy)
     Gram & Dun - Kansas City  (Bob)

Monday, we drove back to Topeka to visit the Kansas State Capitol Building which was closed on Saturday and Sunday. It was quite spectacular. Then we went across the street and visited the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka and saw its fabulous Tiffany stained glass windows. Back to Kansas City, Kansas, we ate at Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que, the number one rated restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas on Trip Advisor, located in a gas station, then visited the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in Independence, the Community of Christ Temple, the Community of Christ Stone Church nearby, and finally, the Liberty Jail Historic Site in Liberty, before getting to the airport in Kansas City for our 9:23 p.m. flight to Ontario.
     Topeka, Kansas: State Capitol Building  (Judy)
     Topeka, Kansas: First Presbyterian Church and Tiffany Windows  (Judy)
     First Presbyterian Church of Topeka - Stained Glass  (Bob)
     Joe's Kansas City Barb-B-Que: Kansas City, KS  (Bob)
     Independence, Missouri: Community of Christ Temple  (Judy)
     Community of Christ Temple - Independence, Missouri  (Bob)
     Independence, Missouri: The Temple Lot, the Auditorium, and the Stone Church  (Judy)
     Community of Christ Stone Church - Independence, Missouri  (Bob)
     LDS Church History Sites Near Kansas City, Missouri  (Judy)
This is an area of the country that most people would consider pretty boring. But we found a lot to do and had a fantastic time. We live in an amazing country with lots of interesting places to eat and explore.

April 20, 2016 update:

One of the laments I had in planning the trip was that we were visiting Nebraska at the wrong time of year to see the sandhill cranes on the Platte River. Judy just pointed out to me a poem by Billy Collins called "The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska" from Aimless Love. It so wonderfully reflected my feelings as we travel and miss "can't miss" things in the areas that we visit that I need to share part of it:

"Too bad you weren't here six months ago,
was a lament I heard on my visit to Nebraska.
You could have seen the astonishing spectacle
of the sandhill cranes, thousands of them
feeding and even dancing on the shores of the Platte River.

There was no point in pointing out the impossibility of my being there then because I happened to be somewhere else..." 

Those missed gems are always opportunities to go back. 

1 comment: