28 June 2006

Trip Log, Day 4; St. Louis to Kansas City to Omaha

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

Day 4 (Sunday) was a travel day, which in this case means -- awake at the butt crack of dawn. When you see the title "St. Louis to Kansas City," a reasonable person would assume that we would be driving. Not exactly. We are flying -- first class! But, American doesn't fly from STL-MCI (yes, Kansas City is MCI...why? I don't know). We have to fly STL-DFW-MCI, because when American fliers die, they connect to heaven through DFW. Two shorthop flights (read: nothing to eat!) and a short connection.

On the other hand, upon landing in Kansas City, I was starved. We had planned on only one meal in KCMO, and it was set up to be a good one. We were going to one of the nation's barbecue treasures -- the legendary Arthur Bryant's. Some will say that Arthur Bryant's has slipped over the years, but I am not one of them. While there are some folks who think that Arthur Bryant's isn't even the best BBQ in Kansas City, others will argue that there is a very good chance that Arthur Bryant's BBQ is the BEST in the country.

This is my second visit to Arthur Bryant's, so I have a pretty good idea as to what I want to eat. AB's is known for a few things, including the KC specialty, burnt ends (the crispy, flavorful end pieces that some places actually discard), but I know that these are some of the finest ribs in the land. The beef brisket is also very good -- which leads me to wonder how similar KC BBQ is to that which you find in central Texas? The two of us decided to split a rack of ribs, a beef sandwich, and an order of homemade, hand-cut fries. I have eaten some pretty good barbecue this year (just checkout the sidebar to the right for some examples), but this may well have been tops.

The ribs were tender, but required just the right amount of "pull" to get the meat off of the bones. Anyone who tells you that their ribs are "fall off the bone tender" is selling you crappy ribs! They should require a little bit of a fight. These do. Compliment the smoky flavor from the meat with some of AB's tangy sauce. There is no need to overpower the flavor of the meat with the sauce, but just a touch makes for the perfect addition. Dipping your fries in a pool of sauce is another time honored Arthur Bryant's tradition. In short time, we had demolished an absolute orgy of food.

Debate the best BBQ for as long as you like, but I would gladly stand in the corner with some Arthur Bryant's as my nominee. I hope to get to KC sometime when I can spend more time in the area and sample some of the other renowned locales (and grab some Stroud's fried chicken, too), but so far my travels to KC have all been one shot deals.

Full and nearly comatose, we pointed the rental car north on I-29 for the nearly three hour trek to our final destination, Omaha, NE. This was one boring drive, and with as much food as I had in my belly, it was all I could do to stay awake the whole drive. Fortunately, my driving responsibilities ended when we dropped off the car in STL, but I didn't want to nap all the way to Omaha, either.

The goal was to make it to Omaha in time for the 6 pm game. My beloved Tar Heels were playing the winner's bracket game against Clemson. This was a BIG game, as whoever emerged victorious would have a serious edge to get to the championship series. In the past, when we have gone to the College World Series, we have never really had any intended rooting interest, so this was a little weird. Usually, we would go and pick which teams we liked or who had the best personalities and we would root for them. This time, I really wanted to see Carolina. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed slightly out of DFW and we were running just a touch late to make the 6 o'clock game. With the foot on the gas, we might make it, but it wasn't a lock.

We approached the exit for the stadium (which was also the exit for the hotel) at about 10 minutes to 6. Upon exiting the highway, it was immediately apparent, based on our past experiences, that we would have a difficult time finding a nearby parking space and a further difficult time navigating the general admission line. The line was already snaked around the stadium, and it appeared that we would not see the inside of the stadium until about the third inning. Since I wanted to actually SEE the game, and we were going to be around for the next few days, we agreed that it made more sense to check into the hotel and watch this game on TV.

We stayed at the Sheraton Omaha Hotel, which is an historic hotel near downtown and the Old Market area. This was one of the oddest hotel rooms in which I have ever stayed. As a Starwood Platinum member, I was upgraded to a full "Club Suite," which was actually a two-story room, with an enormous living area, full kitchen, and separate upstairs bedroom. The room, though, was decorated as though all the furnishings had been acquired at a yard sale. For the right stay, I would recommend this hotel, but in a lot of instances, and depending on what amenities are important to you, this hotel may not work for every traveler. I am also not sure why they are called "Club Suites," as there is no "club" or concierge lounge.

Obviously, my Heels won...and we're off to see Rosenblatt tomorrow!

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