Day 9, Heart of America, Kansas City

 We found ourselves another bright and sunny morning in Kansas City, and this time it was warm too. While many of the establishments close in Kansas on Sundays, there is still ample to see and enjoy, especially after a slightly slow start, as most places aren’t even open till noon. We decided to rest in the morning in the hotel and head out late. We started off by visiting the Liberty Memorial Tower, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the entire Kansas City. While it is sunny and warm, on the top of the tower it can get very windy. 

After that, we visited the City Market area, which is officially labeled as a farmer’s market, but it is a bit more than that. You can get yourself lunch, coffee, snacks etc. After grabbing a good lunch, we headed off to the Steamboat Arabia Museum.

Steamboat Arabia Museum is an unassuming museum and it seems about a single steamboat when you read about it on Google. But it is more, a lot more. This museum talks about the experiences of Sailboats in Missouri River in the 1820s to civil war (most of them hit snags and went down with an average age of 5 years), but more importantly, a single group of 5 people decided to discover and unearth one such boat. 

Over many months of work, they found that the steamboat drowned in the Missouri River in 1856, but the river itself changed course and now the steamboat lay under a functioning farmland. They found the boat (with some interesting technology), dug in and excavated away, all on their own personal dime, in 1988. While they did all this so they could sell whatever they found (including barrels of Kentucky bourbon), what they found amazed them enough that they decided to construct a museum instead. 

The stuff they recovered will stun you. They got crockery, food (many jars of pickles still edible), clothing, equipment, guns, shoes and so on and so forth. All of this was being transported on the steamboat for trade. The material is either still in intact state, or can be restored to its restored state, that we put together, it feels like a modern day store. Imagine excavating together material from 130 years ago and being able to put together a modern store out of it!

Out of 200 tonnes of material excavated, in 30+ years of curating, they have only managed to restore 160 tonnes, while the work on the remainder carries on even today. They have also managed to get one of the two sternwheelers (I think that’s what they are called) to function and is currently operational at the museum.

All in all, Steamboat Arabia Museum is an absolutely wonderful place to visit!

After this we checked out the Kansas City Public Library housed in the old First National Building. This is a magnificent building where the collectibles (paintings, furnishings) alone could be from a museum, the decor can be from a five star hotel, and on top the library has a wide collection of literature and audio-visuals to come out as a top-notch destination for bibliophiles on its own merit.

I have been to many libraries, many museums and many cleanly maintained buildings, but never have I seen all of them come together to present such a uniquely rich combination. To just think that this is a public library accessible to all Kansas Citians makes me quite jealous of the residents here.

We also stopped by the Missouri riverside which is a splendid place to relax for the locals.

Speaking of Kansas City itself, of the cities we have visited so far on this trip, it is by far the easiest city I can be convinced to move to. It boasts of a nice vibrant downtown, the Missouri riverside is rich, the city has some nice murals and the weather is moderate. I haven’t looked at economic opportunities, or crime, or public education, but from the exterior, Kansas is clearly an impressive place.

One other point to note is that public transportation in Kansas City is entirely free. You can ride both the buses and the street cars for free. On this trip alone, we have enjoyed streetcars in two cities (Pittsburgh and Kansas City) and both are incidentally free. While the Pittsburgh Streetcar, what they call as Lightrail, is only free in the downtown area and becomes paid as it snakes out of the city, Kansas Streetcars are entirely free to ride, though the extent of the streetcar is in itself just around the downtown for the moment. For someone who considers America as the extreme version of capitalism, finding two places where public services of note are being offered for free, is an enlightening experience.

By night time, we board the 3 Southwest Chief again to head further westwards. Next destination is Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Next Chapter

Food Tip: Try out the Burritos Bros at the City Market


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