I’m a bit of a sap. There’s not much I enjoy more than surprising Samantha with some kind of romantic gesture. Since 2016 marked our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, I wanted it to be something special. A few weeks ago, I started looking at potential weekend getaways…and quickly discovered that I had waited WAY too long to start researching. Most of the destinations I’d originally had in mind were booked up already. Finally, I found a little bed and breakfast in Kansas City that had availability. Furthermore, it appeared to be RIGHT up our alley with style and decor. I booked it for a few nights without hesitation. We were both excited as we left Tulsa last Friday, heading to Kansas City. I hadn’t been in about ten years and this would be our first visit together.
As usual, I looked up the roads to-and-from our destination to see what might be interesting on the journey. I had marked about a dozen spots in Kansas and Missouri with stops in small towns throughout both states. Before we even left Oklahoma, though, I had marked a stop in the town of Nowata. A local man named Chris Barbee had been featured in the Tulsa World newspaper recently regarding his extensive collection of ‘Bowling Ball Yard Art’ and I had to see it for myself. It was just the kind of place I loved to stop and admire. It was a quiet, cold morning on the outskirts of town when we pulled into Mr. Barbee’s welcoming acreage. What had started as a few fence decorations a decade ago had grown into dozens of sculptures, comprised of thousands of bowling balls across the property. There’s even a little building that houses a guestbook and more decor, including a map to showcase the far reach of this little attraction. All fifty states & seventeen foreign countries have had people stop by to admire the bowling ball collection over the years. It’s a sight to see and an easy trip from Tulsa!
Our first stop in Kansas was the small town of Humbolt; or, more accurately, a Marsh Arch bridge on the western side of Humboldt. These bridges are all over eastern Kansas and nowhere in Oklahoma; I try to stop and see them whenever I’m traveling in the Sunflower State. We stopped to see a salvaged courthouse clock in Iola and the existing brick courthouse in Garnett before stopping at another bridge near Greeley. Spencer’s Crossing Bridge was closed in 2001 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The surrounding countryside was quiet as I walked the wooden deck, admiring the rusting iron truss. I’d love to know why it’s listed on the National Register, as it appeared to be a normal through truss construction. The cows nearby didn’t seem to have any answers for me.
We made a few more stops as we continued north, but the big find of the day was a beautiful, unique bridge in the town of Osawatomie. At the end of a forgotten roadway right in the middle of town is an overgrown iron bridge; it was impassable due to a fairly solid gate preventing anyone from crossing the closed structure. The creek bank below was easy to get to, though, and I scrambled around to get a better look. It’s known as ‘Asylum Bridge’ as it was originally connected the town with the Osawatomie State Mental Hospital, the first mental hospital west of the Mississippi River. I really wish this bridge was restored for pedestrian access; it’s gorgeous and I’ve never seen one quite like it. I imagine it’s almost completely obscured in the summer time.
Just before 5:00 PM, we arrived in Kansas City. Our lodging was northeast of downtown in a historic neighborhood, which we found easily enough. The house itself was built in 1888 and has been recently restored; we fell in love immediately. We were welcomed inside the grand foyer by Stephan, one of the owners, and were given a tour of the house. Each room has been lovingly decorated, each featuring a wealth of antique furniture. It was unbelievable; the attention to detail was stunning. Furthermore, the owners (Stephan and Carl) were exceedingly hospitable. They had many suggestions for entertainment and dining, though we already had dinner reservations downtown. We met another couple staying that night, two horn players from the city, and enjoyed drinks together in the parlor. After that relaxing welcome, Sam and I changed into more formal attire & caught an Uber downtown to 801 Chophouse.
This is going to sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it isn’t: my steak that night was the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. It’s an expensive restaurant, to be sure, but I was blown away by everything I ate and found that it was worth the price tag. Samantha, too, was highly impressed. She orders her steak well-done and was expecting an eye roll or some other disparaging remark about her choice, as that’s happened at other places in the past. Our waitress just smiled and recommended the steak be butterflied to achieve what Sam wanted, which Sam had never heard of. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her enjoy a steak more. We both ate in reverence to the quality of our meal, speaking between bites of Valentine’s memories and our future together. For dessert, we had what they called ‘Smores Baked Alaska’ which comprised of a graham cracker torte, topped with chocolate chip ice cream and marshmallow meringue. It was divine!
We returned to the B&B as two people full of delicious food and love for one another. It was a long but rewarding day of travel and new experiences. In my next post, I’ll tell you about our day exploring Kansas City and a few surrounding suburbs.