In the past few days, I finished my first semester of graduate school (WAHOO!) and I’ve crossed two new state borders: Kansas and Missouri. The country songs that talk about the flat, Kansas wheat fields rang true as I drove across I-70, west to east, in the midst of a dry winter. From Denver all the way to the opposite border, I didn’t pass any towns I would have considered a city, despite the word having been officially included in many of their names (Junction City, Dodge City, Garden City, Park City…). When I ventured into downtown Kansas City, a metropolis of 465,000, I was in fact no longer in Kansas, but in Missouri.
Kansas City is a sprawling metropolis on both sides of the border, straddling the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. On the Kansas side however, there are only about 150,000 people, which is small in comparison, but is the third largest city in Kansas. It makes no sense to me why Missouri would continue to call its largest city by the name of it’s neighboring state. Why not change it and spare the confusion?
We arrived in the dark (which is why I have no pictures of my own), so I didn’t actually see much of either side. We headed straight for downtown (voted one of America’s best downtowns by Forbes in 2012) and Jack’s Stack BBQ (top rated in Zagat for many years), a cozy restaurant in a refurbished freight house with a candlelit, fireside atmosphere and a tasty menu.
Before I arrived in Kansas, my friends mentioned it was the home of America’s BBQ. “I thought Texas was?” I’d argued, having heard of the frequent Top BBQ lists in Texas Monthly. I had never considered Kansas to be a hotspot for…well, anything.
“Haven’t you ever heard of KC Masterpiece?”
“Of course,” I answered, putting two and two together as the words exited my mouth. “Kansas City Masterpiece,” I mumbled. Ah ha! How that was lost on me all these years I have no idea, but I can vouch for the delicious sauce and ribs at Jack’s Stack. The restaurant was the only thing I saw of Kansas City, but it was worth the drive.
This is the first week of an exciting six for me. I’ll be in Kansas nearly one week, then I’ll fly back to Oregon for my good friend’s 28th annual fondue birthday bash (she’s Swiss, after all), before heading home for Christmas (for the first time in two years). Then, shortly after the New Year, I’ll board a jet bound for Colombia, South America for three weeks spent on a motorcycle tour around the country. After all that, I’ll fly back to Fort Collins, Colorado to begin my second semester (albeit a week late) of graduate school.
Take a deep breath. Even I can’t keep up! I hope you’ll be following along.
Kansas City BBQ in Missouri