I followed Route 50 much of the way into Kansas City. I was upset to find that it was an expansive exhibition of roadkill. After the ride I was fairly certain that over my 28 years of life I had seen more dead raccoons, possums and armadillos than live ones. That was a bummer. I just tried to keep my gaze elevated. I did, and I spotted some nice sceneries, like this one.
During the ride I stumbled upon Longview Lake. I looked out at the blue water and spotted several Missourians swimming at its little beach. Seeing the lake caused me to have an internal dialog. Well, it was less of a dialog and more of a declaration. I declared to myself, "Screw it. I'm going swimming." So, that's what I did. I went swimming in my riding bibb. It was totally worth it.
After a good fifty mile ride I was nearing the home of my hostess, Laurie. I was proud of myself for being on time for once. Then, naturally, five miles out I discovered that my rear wheel had gone totally flat. There is nothing I love more than fixing a flat in 90 degree weather after a lengthy ride. To make matters worse, I was in a city that was completely foreign to me. I didn't know if this was a safe part of town or not. I really had no choice, however. I just broke down my bike and patched the tube. I thought of it as the last trial before my few days of rest in Kansas City. Once completed, I was cleared for relaxation.
I was going into Kansas City blind. I didn't know anyone here. All I knew was that the city had good barbecue and that its baseball team won the World Series last year. Despite having so little orientation to the city, I proceeded to have an excellent time in this lonely little farmland metropolis.
On my first night in the city, some drunk old guy tried to give me $100. While eating BBQ at Gates, this guy walks over to me, pulls a crisp $100 note out of his billfold, and tells me, "Here. This is for you. You look like you need it." He then extended the note towards me.
I thought to myself, "You look like you need it? What the heck does that mean?" The situation was too weird. I couldn't accept the money. Again, I was in a new city. I didn't know what I might be getting myself into by accepting the cash. So, much like Ben Wagner in Miami, I declined the cash.
Ms. Jamison, the hostess at Gates, came over to inquire if everything was okay. The guy put the hundred in her hand, pulls out another hundred and placed it in her hand, then made his parting comment, "Make sure he takes this. He needs it." With that statement he walked to the door and left.
Ms. Jamison's eyes lit up. She turned to me, clutched the bills and said, "I need it. "
I responded, "It's all yours." She was overcome by a huge smile. She was so overjoyed that she even gave me a big hug. With the money in her hand, she ran back to the kitchen to tell her colleagues the odd story.
The next day I went to a Royals game. There was a lot of funny stuff going on at the game. First of all, I was looking pretty funny wearing a pink shirt to a Royals game. EVERYONE was wearing blue. I mean everyone. Then, instead of doing the "kiss cam", they do the "Lion King cam". The stadium blasts the Lion King theme song, then the cameraman zooms in on fathers holding their babies. When the father becomes aware of it, he will proceed to host his baby into the air as if he were on Pride Rock. It was brilliant, and of course the crowd went wild everytime. Finally, at Royals games they don't sing "Take me out to the ballgame," they sing "Livin' on a Prayer." They even put the lyrics on the big screen, so the entire stadium turned into a karaoke bar for those few moments.
That evening I caught dinner at McCoy's to watch game 7 of the NBA Finals. At the bar of this brew pub I had a sort of transcendental moment. I got to talking to some locals folks about the game. They asked what I was doing in town, so I divulged my story. They were full of questions. Patrick, one of the gentlemen in the group, asked how I was paying for the journey. I explained that I had saved up enough money to last a few months, so I was on a decently tight budget. He paused. "You know what. Dinner is on me tonight. I got you." He continued, "When I was younger I did a trip through Europe. Man, there was one time I got stuck in Russia without any money. I thought I was screwed. Luckily some local guy said it was no problem and he took care of my train fare for me. I got you tonight. I'm just paying it forward." Man, that was cool of Patrick. What made the moment greater was the fact that my Dad had a similar story of a time when some British fellow in Piccadilly Circus treated him and a friend to theatre tickets, motivated by a similar sense of compassion. I guess this was my moment when some total stranger helped me out, and I looked forward to paying it forward someday.
What else happened in Kansas City? I basically moved into Family Bicycles for half a day to do some upgrades to my rig. The shop owner, Theresa, was super cool. She got me the right parts to resolve my issues and even worked with me to ensure the parts were all properly installed. I spent a good three hours with her, working on the bike and listening to 80's pop and rock. Amazing.
My final adventure in Kansas City was a stormy tour of the city. Man, I really liked this place. The jazz district at 18th and Vine, the City Market, the WWI Memorial, the city was overflowing with character. Its a little bubble of excitement, lost among these endless plains. The craziest part of the tour was when Claus, my roommate, took me to the puppet theatre he volunteered at. He gave me a backstage tour of the facilities, including the workshop where the puppets are manufactured. It was surreal. Kinda like Kansas City.
I was a little bummed as my time in Kansas City wound down. My hostess Laurie, her partner Jeff, their roommate Claus and the crazy dogs Fausto and Zeroh-dog all made me feel really welcome. Someone told me that Kansas City is BOTH a nice place to visit and to live. After spending a little time here, I was starting to understand what they meant.