Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 9. Kansas City T-Bones; Kansas City, KS. In Which the Gang Comes Un-Henged, and Kansas Demostrates the Dictionary Definition of Juxtaposition

 I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but before this morning Ben and I had not yet stopped by a Waffle House during our journey. This morning, after breaking down our rain- and mud-soaked tent (again) – and, relatedly, making the call that tonight we'll stay at a hotel – I am happy to report we rectified that.

Then we drove an hour up north of Kansas City to a little town called Smithville and its local park for what was encouragingly termed “Woodhenge.” After getting to the park where it supposedly was and asking the gate attendant and a park ranger where it was, we took 15 minutes to finally stumble across the sign indicating its presence. Excitedly, we marched along the path.

Alack and Alas, what it amounted to was a bunch of stakes in the ground, possibly due to it being a historical sight under rehabilitation. BOOOOOOOOO.
Worst. Henge. Ever.

Fortunately, the day got much, much better very quickly. We sped off for Topeka, where an hour later we saw both Truckhenge and Boathenge. Both are creations of a – I won't call him a hero, but sometimes there's a man – named Ron Lessman. As he describes it, Truckhenge came about after the county came knocking on his door for having dilapidated trucks on his property. When they asked him to pick them up, his response was:
Ron: They told me to pick 'em up, so I *insert rude gesture* picked 'em up!

We were both thrilled with the result, and Boathenge was no slouch, either!

Ron is much more than just Truckhenge, though. The guy's an artist and museum curator rolled into one. Take, for example, his “Boxcar Full of Bones,” or his many sculptures of beer bottles:
The Beergloo. Now that's a living arrangement I can get used to.

And he's painted the entire floor of his house, as well as many blankets.

And the man's sense of humor is top-notch. Take, for example, the world's largest ball of Christmas lights:
Me: That's the world's largest ball of Christmas lights?
Ron: You know of another one?
Me: *Blank stare* Fair enough.

Ron also keeps 3 dogs and an indeterminate number of peacocks on his property. He kindly let us have a feather and a piece of petrified wood. In return, I bought a Truckhenge T-shirt and left a pair of old hiking/work boots up in one his trees for his latest installation, the Tree of Lost Soles.

Musicians, take note: Ron loves to hold heavy metal concerts at Truckhenge, and they tend to come with 100-yard long bonfires. You guys want the most bad-ass venue you'll ever play? I don't know how you could top this.

University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt Judges, take note: WHY THE HELL DID WE NOT GO HERE DURING THE 2007 KANSAS ROADTRIP? I have lost whatever shred of faith I may have had left in you. Ron would love to host us one year, so please, get some teams down to Topeka, k?

As if Ron had not given us a clear enough example of the state's renowned niceness, on our way back down the Kansas Turnpike KDOT decided to thank us for our patience in construction zones with slogans on overpass billboards such as “We Know It's a Pain to Travel in Just One Lane” and (I'm paraphrasing) "We're Really Sorry, but This Road Just Has to be Re-Paved." Oh, Kansas. We love you, too.

After Truckhenge, we hurried back to Kansas City for some Arthur Bryant's BBQ (thanks, Scav Judges!) and Kansas City T-Bones baseball!

1.) The game was almost entirely sold out: there were only general admission lawn seats left by the time we got there a half hour before game time! Impressive, Kansas City, impressive.

2.) The above is only a highlight thanks to our new BFF Mike, a kindly gentlemen who sold us 2 of his 4 season tickets in the front row behind the third base dugout for the game. Mike, if you're ever in Atlanta, I'm happy to return the favor for a Braves game.
3.) Mike provided us an excellent entertaining and informative history of the park's architecture. It was designed with nostalgia in mind. There's a mini Green Monster in left field, as well as a Death Valley design reminiscent of the old Yankee Stadium and a short porch (328') in right field.

4.) You could get a 50/50 mix of the ale and bock of a local KC brewery (whose name unfortunately escapes me). Yum! Never seen mixed beers before, but I can see why it's so popular.

5.) The food: KC BBQ (naturally), steak (they're the T-bones!), and $1 hot dogs all day every day courtesy of a contract they have with Sara Lee's packaged meats division (they have one?)

6.) Many of the food stands are family-owned and operated instead of some heartless corporation like Aramark. The frozen custard, roasted almonds, lemonade, and kettle corn were all locally owned, run, and served. Cool!

7.) Vuvuzelas? Vu-vu-betcha!!

8.) Umbrella-ed picnic tables you could rent in right field. No hot tub, but still, quite nice with tableside service. 

9.) Tonight's promotion: Redneck Olympics! Featured were a John Deere pedal tractor race, redneck dance contest, toilet seat horseshoes, no-hands custard eating and – my personal favorite – a roadkill scooping contest! Other typical competitions include a milking contest. Delightful.

10.) I noted earlier in the evening a serious dearth of T-shirts with steaks on them in my wardrobe. I only had one. This is no longer a problem.
Regularly Scheduled Metrics:
Price of Beer
4.4 pts: $7 for 20 oz of anything at the park, pretty much, including the delicious local brew.

Most Caloric Concession Item
4 pts: Nothing leapt out at us, but some of the BBQ plates were quite sizeable. The nachos also looked spectacular. But we ate beforehand.

Minor League Personalities
5 pts: Family Out for a Nice Night and Teenagers on a Date? Check, as usual. Minor League Diehards? Mike, you get the nod for this one! The Drunkard? Congratulations, guys 2 rows behind us! Little League team? Oh yeah. KC is baseball crazy.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats
4 pts: It wasn't the box office, but Mike was Major League cool.

7 pts: Lots of it! More than we'd seen anywhere else: grills, beer, large groups, the whole shebang. They gave the Royals game a run for its money. KC baseball culture is most definitely as advertised.

Funniest Roster Name
5 pts: Tie between T.J. Large and Rico Washington. I think I saw them both in fine straight-to-Internet releases recently. Honorable mention to the shortstop, who sparked Ben's order in the 7th of "A thousand Jimmy Mojicas."

Promotion Quality
4 pts: We didn't leave with anything in hand, but the fireworks after the game were pretttttty sweet! And not nearly as dangerous as the Royals. Otherwise I would've given it 8.

0 pts: Avalaaaaaaaaaanche!

Men's Room
4 pts: What happened to trough culture in this country?

Bonus points
+2 for mixing beers, +2 for the family-owned food stands, +1 for the Chick-Fil-A strikeout contest (if a given opposing batsman strikes out, a whole section gets free sandwiches!), +1 for Toby Keith on the PA (where's he been all trip?), +3 for the Goth kids hanging out depressingly behind one of the stadium columns, +1 for Homer's D'oh! On the PA, -1 for Ye Olde Ball Game (look, Kansas, you're not Kentucky, but you ain't exactly Connecticut either, you dig?), +5 for our first legit sell out!, +1 for my steak T-shirt

Total: 51.4

Final take: A great wrap up to our time in K.C. The crowd was better than the Royals game, and the friendly locals, K.C. baseball culture, and our second consecutive night of fireworks made it extra awesome. 7.5/10.


  1. I think we judges have made it clear exactly what we think of Topeka.

    That said, we did have toilet seat horseshoes at olympics this year, so NOW who's ahead of the game??


  2. If you wanna say "fuck it" to Truckhenge, Ezra, that's your bidness, but my respect for you plummets.

    Also, if it makes you feel any better, it's a good number of miles outside Topeka. I just say Topeka for easy geographical reference.