Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'm Not In Kansas Anymore...

Arrival in to Kansas City is pretty late at night, well, maybe it wasn't all that late but as tired as I was it seemed so. I get to my cousins address and come to the realization that its one of those "complex" places. I call her and ask her to meet me at the gate. Mentally I'm wasted by the time I arrive here and can't bear the thought of trying to find her place amidst this unchanging pattern of condos, apartments, townhouses and duplexes. She agrees while chatting on the phone and soon I can hear her voice across the darkness until I can see her clearly. I'm so happy to see her. Hugs and kisses.

When I was growing up, our house was a rally point. So many of my older cousins after arriving to America or Boston would often stay with us for an extended period of time. My mom and dad helped them get settled, learn English, learn to drive and begin on their path of Independence. Kamissa's mom was one of those older cousins, technically Kamissa who I am meeting here is my second cousin...but among Haitians that's all just too much to say and be bothered with. Most of my first cousins have kids old enough for me to buy drinks at the bar. And when she asks me what are we gonna do...that's exactly my response. I need a BEER. :)

I dump my bags, wash my hands and I am ready. Her boyfriend joins us and we head for a local dive bar. They tell me about the local night life and recent events and we chit chat about plans for the next day. She asks more details about my trip and a bar mate to my right over hears and chimes in. Apparently he runs a shipping company so I half jokingly comment he should ship my bike for me for free - since he likes to ear drop and interrupt other peoples conversations, but alas, no dice. He jokes it off as well and we talk bikes, work and life for a spell. But I do like the way people are more tangible in this part of the country. There are places where it seems people are seemingly friendlier at first glance but its a shallow layer of kindness that at times can be met with a plastic. In other places people come off calloused and indifferent and only after breaking past the rough exterior do you find a sensitive core. I remember reading about the agricultural history of the different regions in the United States. How long the growing seasons were, how it affected the manner in which people worked together or individually as it relates to their ability to grow the food they needed for the year and its interesting how that affects what becomes the culture of the people or their ways and temperaments which of course are passed down long after the agricultural confines have passed.

I wake up in Kansas City still pretty tired. My sleeping pattern up to this point has been one of sleeping about 4 hours on the road at night from midnight or so till 4am or so. And then catching a 2-4 hour nap mid day sometime later. These few opportunities to sleep in a real bed like a real boy afford me the luxury of 8-10 hours and I gladly accept! We slept in late the next morning and even after getting up I still felt pretty low on energy. I did some writing in bed while we watched ratchet TV. :P

By the time we finally leave the house my body is feeling much better. My hands are still a little swollen from riding in the cold night air but my back feels great. Later we would have a late lunch around 2pm or so at Mesob Pikliz a husband and wife owned Haitian and Ethiopian fusion resto in Kansas City. (Mesob Pikliz) My cousins boyfriend had been dieing to go back here. The last time he had a spoon full of the mushroom rice off of her plate and was determined to get his own plate to himself. This was an amazing surprise. I literally hadn't had food like this in years. I will be back. The husband wasn't there but his wife, who is Ethiopian and a doll was, and she tended to us with great care. Here are a few pics.

 The interior reminded me of a place in the french Caribbean, the decor and colors
 I had the mushroom rice, what we call "jon jon" and some stewed spicy goat :@)
 My cousin had the fried pork or "griot" and I stole her plantains and "pikliz" :)

I cleaned my plate WELL. I knew pretty soon I would be on the road with my cans of sardines in my saddle bags. Eating granola bars and raw fruits and veggies. Regarding the name of the restaurant, Mesob Pikliz: Mesob is the traditional Ethiopian table made out of woven straw. It has an hour glass shape and is circular as people sit around it to eat communally the traditional Ethiopian way. Pikliz is very spicy vinegar based coleslaw which consists of cabbage, carrot, vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper, and spices. Its a staple on any Haitian table and it often says as much about the cook as the meal will. To me its a statement of joining us at our table and get to know us thru our food and the fact that the place is a result of this couples marriage is equally inviting.

After eating we head out to the downtown area. My cousin wanted to show me Westport and the Country Club Plaza area. (Country Club Plaza) Its an area known for its high end shops and the areas architecture is planned to resemble the city of Madrid in Spain with all its fountains. There are also plenty of music festivals that come thru this region and I would love to come back for the folk and bluegrass events in the summer next year.
I was particularly fond of this lil fountain...I think It kind of captured my spirit on this trip. :)

While walking thru town I noticed a bicycle in the window of one of the shops across the street. It was pretty iconic and reminded me of an article I read a while back regarding Detroit. We crossed over and sure enough it was Shinola. Shinola was in the past a polish brand but the newly revitalized company is essentially a watch company in Detroit. In addition to watches they make bikes, leather goods, etc.  Very well done and not cheap. If I recall correctly the owner or one of the owners was a previous founder at Fossil and the sales clerk confirms some type of connection there but I was too distracted to get the story straight to say the least. This area had plenty of eye candy. :) I encouraged them to make some motorcycle accessories as well and moved on. It was getting late and I still had a lot of miles to cover.

I left by 8pm from my cousins place. Hugs and kisses and onto the business of making up lost time. The sun had set no sooner after I headed out. The sky was dark and littered with stars. I took to a small state road and altered my plan a bit to work my way towards the old route 66. Since the Fed was stopping my visit to Mount Rushmore, I wanted to see as much of the actual country as possible.

These small towns late at night are like traveling back in time. (Main St USA) Enchanted and sad at the same time. Some struggle with all local businesses visibly resisting the large corps from owning everything while others are nothing more than major chains and franchises. Here I found one of those towns trapped in time. Maybe I should rephrase that. Not "trapped"... maybe freed. Free of large corporation owning the total exchange of funds in the town. $-)

Also, I realized recently that I haven't thoroughly bored you guys with my bike maintenance rituals. Just as in Boston, Albany, Chicago and now here my usual ritual continues: checking and/or changing the oil, tightening the new chain, tightened bolts and now after my rain episodes I flipped the fender. I would do this at my cousins place before heading out again on to this last leg of the trip. At this point I'm over the halfway mark but not quite 2/3rds of the way yet.

Nearing midnight I felt the fatigue creeping in and started looking for a likely place to crash. I spotted a church right on the main road. (High Prairie Church) I circled it once to make sure I wouldn't be startling any live-in pastors. Again I found a carport to shelter my bike and laid out my sleeping bag under the canopy of a large tree. Directly adjacent was a large field that appeared to have been recently harvested of its corn. I briefly recalled some friends warning me of snakes, eh. Here I crashed at midnight. Four hours later I woke up to a local cop and flashlight at 4am. I think he was more interested in the bike than me. I rubbed my eyes and asked him, "am I alright here?" and he responded, "yes, just making sure everything is OK. You're far away from home. And its pretty cold out here. Isn't it a little late in the year for a trip like this?" I responded in agreement and told him my story. My trip and why so late in the year. We talked bikes and he shared a story of his own. He asked for ID and admitted he already ran my plates and everything checked out. I rolled up my bag and handed him my ID while telling him his timing was perfect I was hoping to get on the road right about now. We walked over to the bike and showed him around it. Started her up and let him rev the throttle a bit. He seemed tickled and said he might have to convince the wife to let him get another bike again. :)

Along the road to Tulsa I stopped for gas and shortly after the the sun joined me in all its glory with the big rigs and morning commuters following suit. I casually followed and encouraged them to pass me by when they hovered behind me assuming I was just getting up to speed...but I had no desire to do more than 55. I was in no hurry and I didn't envy theirs.

I arrived in Tulsa by 8am, the last time I was in Tulsa I was designing packaging for an industrial outfit and a large portion of our business was power generation. We are talking large product in excess of hundred of thousands of pounds. In some cases our specifications needed structural engineer stamps before production. In Tulsa one of our crates on a rail car was clipped by an over eager engine coming in the opposite direction when it should have yielded on a curve. I had spent a week with a crew ensuring the crate and customers product, a large rotor, was not compromised in any way and could continue on to installation at a power plant. I recall being impressed with Tulsa's downtown. Local ordinance prohibited any large fast food corps from taking over. No McDonald's, Burger Kinds or Domino's in town, instead all local businesses and mom and pops like Joe Momma's .I was joined my last night in Tulsa by a young engineer on the project who represented the power company and a seasoned consultant that represented the rail road. We walked the strip and ate and drank and soon we had the company of many locals as well.
This time I breezed thru Tulsa, I circled the downtown once for good measure but I moved on to territory I wasn't at all familiar with, yet...


  1. Oh, the food! Good goat is hard ti find in Bay. Had some back home this summer which made me know how much I miss it. Nice writing.