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Friday, April 12th 2013

7:55 PM

The Biker Poet, Barbecue, and Beer Adventures 2013


Not that I won’t go to any rallies, but after years of doing the ‘Rally’ scene I’ve decided to change the focus of my adventures this year. This will allow me to travel on my own schedule instead of on Rally dates and coordinate with the ever-changing weather. 

There’s three things that I truly enjoy in life. One, of course, is riding my motorcycle. The second is good grub from local establishments wherever I go, and third is sampling local micro-brewed beers along the way. I thought to myself……..”Self” (I do that when I talk to myself), “what better way to do all three than doing brewery tours and sampling the local quinine, mainly barbecue, at the different places that I go.  Shazam, what a good idea!

The first place I decided to go that I’ve been thinking about for a long time is Kansas City to do the tour at Boulevard Brewery and sample some of the world-famous Arthur Bryant’s dry rub barbecue.

So in early April when the weather was chilly to start but warmed up in the afternoons, I decided to take off to Kansas City. I started out about 8 o’clock in the morning at a brisk 30 degrees outside. But the sun was shining – in other words it was ‘leather weather’.

I headed out on I540/Hwy 71 North. When I reached Missouri the temperature was starting to rise a little and 540 turns into Hwy 71. It’s straight interstate road. When I got to Joplin I had to jaunt to the east on I44 to head back north on I49/US71. I made my first fuel and coffee stop at Carthage, Missouri where I met several interesting people and made some new fans performing my poetry.  Miracle upon miracles, my buddy Greg called me at the exact time I stopped to get fuel. He said, “are you headed to Kansas City?” and I replied, “Yep, I am!” I told him I couldn’t really talk and got back on the road.

By the time I got to Butler, Missouri, the chilled wind was penetrating to my bones and I was beginning to shiver – not a good thing while riding a bike. So I pulled over to fill up and drink a hot cup of coffee. Then I jumped on my bike again on the last leg of the trip on into Kansas City. It is kind of a boring ride and straight all the way up. Not what I’m used to riding on the beautiful curving roads of the Ozarks. Just to hunker down and straight ride is not a whole lot of fun. But yeah, now I’m in Kansas City, and lost.

Kansas City, for anyone who hasn’t been there, is a very confusing city to get around in. The interstates snarl through it like a writhing entanglement of snakes and many of the city streets are diagonal instead of parallel. I was looking for the Boulevard Brewery so I pulled over at a warehouse that had the Boulevard sign on it. It was closed, with nobody there, so I walked across the street to a garage where there were some workers standing around to ask them for directions to the brewery.

One dude stepped up and told me really good directions. I told him what my plan was and he said “that’s a great idea.” I also made mention that the next day I planned to go to Weston, Missouri (just north of KC) and do a brewery tour there also. So then I headed up Southwest Bvd (one of those diagonal streets) looking for the large smokestack that said ‘Boulevard’ on it. Finding that, I pulled right into the parking lot where they had specified motorcycle parking – isn’t that great. Took some pictures of the outside and followed the signs (see the pics in the album) to the brewery tour where I met this nice young man who works for Boulevard Brewery and he signed me up for the tour. I did the tour of the Boulevard Brewery and found it was a very interesting story of how they came to be and how they concoct their different brews. It’s definitely worth the time to do the tour if you’re ever in the area.

The tour ended up at the tasting room that was set up like an old Irish pub. I got to taste a couple of their experimental beers that are not on the market yet. One which is aged in Jack Daniels, once used for whiskey, charred barrels. Every brew I sampled was quite unique and excellent. I was asked by the young man guiding our tour if I would do some of my poetry for the group. I was glad to oblige.  The people that I met on the tour were awesome and a group that had come together for the tour invited me to join them at their table. It was wonderful conversation and they were a very friendly group.

When I finished there I headed off to find the original Arthur Bryant’s famous dry-rub barbecue. As the map showed, I should have been able to just travel up to 18th street  and head East to Arthur Bryant’s, but when I got up to 18th street, much to my chagrin, it was a one-way street heading the wrong way so I continued on down to 16th Street but it only went two blocks at that point so I headed back towards 18th street and turned to the east on 17th. It only went a couple of blocks before it ended and I had to turn left or right. By this time the confusion is starting to set in. I’m in a ‘foreign’ city to me and I’m thinking, “am I ever going to get to Arthur Bryant’s?!”. So I turn back towards 18th street and found that it had become a 2-way street at that point. A few blocks down and I saw the big Arthur Bryant’s sign – yeah, I finally made it.

Met a rock-and-roll band that had stopped in their van to sample the barbecue also. Us both being artist, I shared some of my poems with them. They were really cool and, by the way, the rib tips are divine at Arthur Bryant’s. If you’re ever in KC and can find an Arthur Bryant’s (there are 3 of them) it is worth stopping in.

Now… trying to get out of KC without any malfunctions or entanglements, I headed up into the snarl of interstates that intertwine through the heart of KC. What a confusing mess! They had exits to the right, exits to the left, and five lanes of traffic with exit signs in a banner across all five lanes of interstate with arrows denoting which lane you needed to be in for each destination. People were driving like maniacs, knowing full well where they were going, trying as hard as they could to keep me from going where I needed to go.

The hotel I was going to stay at was in Platte City, which I knew was a suburb of KC near the airport, so I used the Airport signs to guide me north. Oh, and by the way, US71 is now Interstate 29 - same road, different number.

I finally arrived at the Travel Lodge in Platte City, Missouri. The people who managed it were very nice and the room was clean. It was becoming nightfall and after the stress almost causing me a nervous breakdown trying to go through KC, I decided to hunker down for the night.

The hotel Manager, an East Indian named R.P. and I had a transcendental conversation about theology and philosophy after I shared a couple of my poems with him. It was a very enlightening conversation and I enjoyed it immensely.

Kansas City Barbecue and Beer-The Adventure Continues – Day 2

The sun beamed across the horizon through my motel window, beckoning me to rise to greet a new day of exploration. First thing I did was get all my gear stowed on my bike. Then I made my way to the hotel lobby area where my continental breakfast was waiting for me.

Continental breakfast, they make it sound so international. I guess if you call bagels and cereal international, then it was OK.

Getting on my bike, I said my farewells to R.P. (the Manager of the hotel) and headed out on a very clear and somewhat brisk morning ride. I hooked on to Hwy 92 West toward the next stop on my adventure, a quaint little town on the Missouri/Kansas border called Weston.

Arriving in this little town felt like stepping back in time to the 1950’s. It’s as if time had stood still for this little hamlet since then. The main street had quite a few vintage automobiles, as if they had been parked there for the past 60 years. The brick facades were very reminiscent of movies I had seen from that era. The people that I met seemed very friendly and eagerly gave me directions to the places I wanted to see. I half expected to see Andy Griffith and Opie walking up the street with Barney trailing behind. This may have been a Missouri town, but it was very reminiscent of Mayberry.

The focal point of my travels to this unique little town was the Weston Brewery, which was slightly off Main Street. It has two claims to fame – one - When the mainland US was half the size it is now, it was the furthest west brewery in the whole United States at that time. It was built in 1842 before the Civil War, and two – it’s an interesting fact that it’s the tallest building in the town, though five stories of it are underground.

Originally it was the Royal Brewery up until Prohibition. When it re-opened after Prohibition it was renamed the ‘Weston Brewing Company’. As far as breweries go, this micro-brewery is small in size but large in history.

I took the tour of the brewery and found that the chambers below ground were constructed with arched stone ceilings that were very similar to ancient Roman architecture. As I descended to the different levels of the brewery I felt much like Jules Verne traveling toward the center of the earth. It was surreal.

At one of the lower levels the arched hallway opened up into a larger chamber and I found myself in O’Malley and Sons Pub which looked to me very much like a classic pub in Ireland and had a small stage for music and entertainment. They brought me multiple samples of the micro-brewed ales and beers that they produce. I found all of them very delectable and the atmosphere was charming.

I struggled to climb back up all the stairs (my back and hips were hurting pretty bad from previous injuries from a motorcycle accident). When I broke into the sunlight for the first time after the tour, I was completely blinded after being in the dimly-lit confines of the old brewery. Then I made my way over to the restaurant on the brewery complex. I found they had several different dining areas, each one painted a different color and carrying different memorabilia and portraits on every wall. I was intrigued by the décor and the art, much dating back to the pre-Civil War era. I ordered bangers and ale for lunch (by the way, bangers are an Irish sausage sandwich, heavy on the Irish – aarrrggh. Hahaha)

As I came out of the restaurant there were several people walking toward me on the Beer Garden deck. Now, you have to remember, I’m far away from home and thinking I’m in a place where nobody knows me. Out of the middle of the group a voice resonates, “Hey, Sharpie! How are ya’ doin’?” This caused me to pause and I looked and found in the middle of the group the dude that I had met the day before at the garage in Kansas City where I had asked for directions to the Boulevard Brewery. I had told him my plan to come to Weston the next day and he must have liked the idea ‘cause here he was. We talked for a while and I noticed the day was waning and I still had miles to go before I slept. So I mounted up on my faithful iron horse and headed out of Weston and back towards Kansas City on I-29/US-70.

Not wanting to head into the snarled mess of highways in Kansas City, I caught 435 which is a bypass around most of the city then turned east on I-70. Another straight and uneventful highway; nothing more than a way to get from point A to point B at an accelerated rate of speed.

Then I turned south off the interstate on the Hwy 13. Unbeknownst to me, and the people who made my map, this is actually two different roads. The business route goes through every Podunk little town in that part of Missouri, and the other which takes a more direct route bypassing the townships. Now there’s one interesting thing I found with Hwy 13 south, approximately every 10 to 20 miles, instead of having a standard intersection where highways cross each other, they built these roundabouts. I, not being very familiar with these, once or twice headed off in the wrong direction. I found them somewhat confusing until I figured out how they work.

It started to get later in the day and the sun was dipping closer to the horizon. This route was taking quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. I really did not want to hit the curvy backwoods byways of southern Missouri and NW Arkansas in the nighttime hours. Deer and other animals are known to cross the road frequently and unexpectedly in these areas.

So I headed west on Hwy 52 towards I-49/US-71 for a safer and more direct passage. By the time I got to the outskirts of Joplin, MO, it was dark and I had to make a jog to the West on I-44 then go back south again on Hwy 71. This road I’m very familiar with and knew precisely where I was at all times.

It was about 9:30pm by the time I pulled back into Rogers. Even though I had a fairly good trip, it was sure good to be home again.


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