kansas city barbecue

Barbecue, Baseball, Blues, and…….Badminton? (ah…we must be in the Midwest)

Long, long ago I spent a brief portion of my life in the Midwest;  Kansas City, Missouri, to be exact.  It was my first move away from Arizona, which resulted in a whole slew of homesickness-related issues (let’s just say that Kleenex had a stellar year).  And as I left, exactly 14 months after arriving, I swore that I would never return, never, ever, ever again.

Never.

Fast forward 20 years.  

When Nick and I discussed where would spend our third anniversary, we decided use the trip to continue our Baseball Stadium Tour tradition of the past two years (Seattle last year, Denver the year before).  We’ve visited all the stadiums in the west, so that meant Texas or the Midwest was next.  Wait…the Midwest.  Didn’t I live there before?  How did I never go to a baseball game in Kansas City?  Oh, that’s right.  I was busy being miserable and homesick.  Well, what else did I miss out when I was there?  

It was time to find out.

Barbecue:

I know Kansas City is one of the top barbecue destinations in the US (if you don’t believe me check it out HERE).  But just how good needed to be tested….

kansas city barbecue
The Burnt Ends Sandwich at Joe’s BBQ (the original gas station location) – totally lives up to its hype. But get there early or its gone before you can lick the sauce off your fingertips!

and tried…

barbecue in kansas city
At Gates, it’s the Single, pork, original sauce…the only way to order it!

and evaluated….

kansas city barbecue
At Jack Stack’s, order Jack’s Best for one of the most tasty, finger-lickin’ bbq experiences you’ll ever have. Oh, and their carrot cake is TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!!!!!

several times before determining that yes, Kansas City has some of the best barbecue that I’ve ever had in my life (sorry, Texas).

Baseball:

 This year’s anniversary trip gave me not one but TWO baseball stadiums to add to my list.  The first, naturally, Kauffman Stadium.  And lucky me!  The Royals were taking on the Angels that day.

Kansas City baseball

Go Angels!!

Kansas City Royals

Also known as “The K”, Kauffman Stadium was opened back in 1973 and underwent a renovation back in 2009.  The two biggest eye-catchers in the stadium are easily the beautiful back-field water feature:

baseball in kansas city

 and their MASSIVE scoreboard:

kauffman stadium

The other stadium I managed to put a check-mark next to, was across the road a-ways in St. Louis; Busch Stadium!

Housed in beautiful red brick, the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the oldest National League teams (founded in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings) but with a new stadium that just opened in 2006.  The stadium sports a gorgeous view of the St. Louis skyline, is 4-tiers tall, and has an adjacent “Ballpark Village” area complete with food, museum, and rooftop viewing of the game. 

st louis, missouri

 

 

Interesting fact – the Cardinals are the first team in nearly 100 years to win a World Series Championship in the inaugural season of a new ballpark.

st louis baseball

 

The stadium is also built partially on the site of their old stadium.  “Ballpark Village” is built on the rest of the old site.

So there’s stadiums number 12 and 13 down.  Almost to the half-way mark!!

Blues….(and jazz)

In addition to barbecue, Kansas City is known for being one of the greatest jazz cities in the world.  As one website put it, “While New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz, America’s music grew up in Kansas City.”  And indeed, I learned too late of the great venues in KC where the booze and blues flow freely.  This time around, I made sure to check out as many as possible.

At the legendary, The Phoenix, we enjoyed Saturday Jazz Brunch….

jazz and blues in kansas city

We were steered towards The Majestic for their fabulous steakhouse fare, but struck gold when we found out that not only did it house a jazz club, it was downstairs in the building’s original speakeasy hideout!

jazz and steakhouse kansas city

Our last night in KC, we stumbled upon this nondescript looking door downtown that led to a luscious, red velvet, retro cocktail lounge.  Like stepping back in time, with no cover, doors open until 3am, and a jammin’ quartet in the middle of the room, The Green Lady Lounge easily made the top of the list and fulfilled all of my jazz and blues wishes…

(at least, until we get to New Orleans….but that’s a trip for another time)

A few other highlights:

Overall our visit to the midwest was wonderful.  Nick got to play with some new toys:

downtown kansas city

…and died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail

died of dysentery

I enjoyed one little “beer” in the lively Westport area of Kansas City….

kelly's bar westport

And saw where it came from in St. Louis….

beer in st louis

We drove past national landmarks:

arch st louis

and walked through local..

union station, kansas city

We also tried our hand at badminton….

But something tells me we tried playing with the wrong equipment.

Overall, these 5 days in Missouri more than made up for anything I feel I might have missed the first time around.  Although cleaner, kinder and slower-paced than what I’m used to in La-La Land, I’m still not sure that I’d ever move back there again.  

Probably never. 

But then again…I’ve learned my lesson about saying “never” now, haven’t I?

roadtrip fuel

Cheers!

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A Visit To The Museum Of Neon Art (…It Definitely Deserves A Glowing Review)

She’s always buzzing just like
Neon, neon…
…Who knows how long, how long, how long
She can go before she burns away*

If you simply drive too quickly through the intersection of Brand and Caruso in the city of Glendale, CA you might do a double-take, trying to figure out why there’s a girl diving off a building into the deep blue sky.

MONA

But if you fail to stop and explore this amazing building, you’ll miss one of the most unique and amazing museums in the area: the Museum of Neon Art.

MONA museum
Seriously. Who doesn’t love a neon chicken??

The neon lights may be bright on Broadway, but it turns out that Los Angeles was once the neon capital of the world. At the MONA, you can learn all about the history of neon in Los Angeles, and check out the pieces they’ve rescued and recovered from all over the area. Started in 1981, MONA has inhabited several locations before finally coming to rest in Glendale.  The walls are covered in a wide variety of signs.  Most are working; but some are beyond repair, leaving you wistfully imagining what they must have looked like in their glory days.

MONA Museum
In the background, one of the girls of a tumbling series of signs that used to hang on the boulevard. Most of the lights are missing, but it must have looked incredible when it was all in place and working….

The MONA has made it their mission to collect and preserve these glowing jewels of the metropolis, displaying them for you to enjoy.  There’s also a lab on premises designed to encourage the education of the craft with on sight demonstrations and classes.

MONA museum

It’s a colorless, odorless, inert gas…so what is about the glow from a neon light that evokes such a wide variety of feelings?  Is it nostalgia: do we think about days gone past when streets were lined and lit with signs for everything from motor oil to the corner market, and think it was a simpler time?

economymeats

Or perhaps it’s comfort in the familiarity of a light that reminds us of places we frequent the most…

signs

Maybe we’re enamored in the artistry:  it’s more than a picture, but not quite a sculpture….

MONA

Or maybe it’s just plain fascination about a sign that glows.  Science meets magic, as it were…..

Paratrooper at MONA
By far, one of my favorites at the museum. (This is a single row sign, with individual elements lighting up as the paratrooper glides towards ground – but I wanted you to see it in one panel)

My friend Mollie actually turned me on to the awesomeness of neon signs.  I mean, they were always been around…usually lighting the way to the nearest dive bar for me to haunt.  But one night, as I watched her snap pictures around the skyline at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, she explained the beauty and magic she saw in a neon sign; and how much she loved capturing that on camera.  Seeing what she saw through her lens, I found a greater appreciation for them from then on.

Yes, the real sign from the Hollywood and Vine location!!
Yes, the REAL sign from the Hollywood and Vine location!!

The museum may not be very large, but it is filled with interesting anecdotes, history and awesome, beautifully lit signs.

Neon signs at MONA
It may look small, but you’ll easily get lost in the vast number of stories and history.

So if you find yourself blowing some bucks at The Americana, take a break from the glitz and glamour of shopping and take a walk through history at the Museum of Neon Art.  If you’re able to linger a bit after dark, be sure to check out the pieces that come to “light” nearby.

By the way, MONA also hosts Neon Cruise nights through Hollywood and DTLA; so if you can’t get enough of the lights inside, jump on the bus and see what else the city has to share!  Hopefully I’ll see you there!

PS…Mollie….don’t forget your camera!  😎

The Museum of Neon Art is located at 216 S Brand Blvd in Glendale.  Learn more about the museum HERE!

*Neon” by John Mayer (lyrics by Douglas Clay Cook / John Clayton Mayer)

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Driving the 101

On The Road Again….

Ever since my first time behind the wheel, I’ve been in love with driving.

OK…maybe not the very first time.  The standard “H” clutch in my father’s Camry made the first time a little more challenging than ignition, gas and go.

So….

Ever since I could learn how to adequately shift gears, I’ve been in love with driving.  From the quick jaunt to the store, to early morning drives into work, I love hopping in the car and having the freedom to just go anytime I want.

OK, so in all honesty, rush hour traffic in LA is a bit more challenging to love. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t mind handing over the keys to someone else on a daily basis – but I can’t guarantee I’m going to like their choice of music….

What I love best are road trips.  Hours in the car, never run out of music, wind in your hair road trips.  There’s just something so free and exciting about the open road in front of you.  You can go anywhere and discover anything.  Every trip is different.  I’ve traveled the two hour stretch from LA to San Diego or Tucson to Phoenix countless times, and there’s always something new to see.  Take a left instead of right, use this exit instead of that, suddenly you’re in a whole new area you can explore, get lost, or find yourself in. And the greatest thing about America’s fabulous highway system, there’s never a lack of roads to travel anywhere!  Even if you feel as though you’ve explored all of the avenues and boulevards in your immediate area….

Flying to road trip

…simply start all over again someplace else!

Sometimes a road trip can start off with a specific destination in mind.

Gilroy Garlic Festival Awesomeness
Actual, honest, garlic of Gilroy, CA!!!

 

Other times, you just make up your stops along the way:

Jelly Belly Factory

Perhaps, as you’re driving along, the tiniest sign along the freeway can entice you to exit and discover something you might have otherwise missed altogether.

Blackhawk Museum
The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA

Driving along, you get a chance to enjoy the bounties each neighborhood, region, city boasts – whether it’s as simple as a small piece of local artwork:

Artwork in Napa
“Retro Woman” – by Gordon Heuther – along a wall in Napa, CA

…or grand artwork disguised as infrastructure:

Richmond San Rafael Bridge
Steel beauty in the Bay….

…or infrastructure in agricultural form:

Grapes of Napa
The grapes of Napa

The journey isn’t always carefree.  After all, three things in life are certain…death, taxes and traffic:

Traveling Northern California

But when you do find that one stretch of beautiful, wide-open road to travel, there’s just nothing better than opening all of the windows, and cranking up the tunes – letting all of that fresh, clean air in and your lovely serenading voice out!

Driving the 101

Sorry, cows.

So if you find yourself stuck this weekend with not a whole lot to do, but perhaps a whole tank of gas to do nothing with, might I suggest jumping in the car, choosing a direction, and seeing where the road takes you?

Need a travel partner?  I’ll gladly come along with you!

…provided I get to pick the music.

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