The Great American Road Trip - 25 - Archway Monument And Kansas City
Our first stop of the day was the Archway Monument, a building that Interstate 80 goes directly under. It is at - or at the very least, near - the geographic center of the United States. It opened in 2000 and had to be lifted over the highway in one piece, shutting down I-80 for eight hours as they used specialized equipment to place it in its proper location. Its interior is a well-done museum dedicated to the pioneers going west, from the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, to the Pony Express, to the Transcontinental Telegraph and the later Transcontinental Railroad, all the way to the first tourists who toured the country from their cars and, finally, the creation of I-80 itself. We were greeted by a man in period costume who must have had more than his fair share of professional acting lessons, for his long, scraggly, white beard, his semi-waddling gait, and his goin'-west semi-southernish accent all added to the feeling of going back in time. (The others who were there in period costume were not as hilarious as this guy was.) We were presented with wireless headphones that changed what they were playing as you moved from room to room.
I've always considered the pioneers who went westward as being a little nutty, and this didn't change my perspective on them. However, I also knew that they had to be brave to tough it out over the vast distances which they had to cross. Their life back east was hard, and life in the wagon trains, while somewhat tougher, was not the increase in toughness that I had expected. After all, they had to have had a pretty hard life in the east to want to go west so badly.
Those who came out looking for gold often ran out of luck. The traders, who sold them supplies, were the smart and shrewd ones. While supply was low and demand was high, they still jacked up the prices of various foodstuffs to absolutely astronomical levels. The price of one egg was regularly set at fifty cents, which is about double the price that they are today - and that's not even accounting for inflation. But the 49ers had to eat, so they paid up or perished. Even the ones that found gold often were forced to use it all on necessities. Often, the ones that went to California ended up in San Francisco, which, in its day, was booming. It was mainly a city of tents and houses of ill repute. It would regularly burn, but its citizens would work the next day on building it up again, just so it'd burn down again.
Exiting the monument with more knowledge than we had entered with, we got back on the road. The wind was, once again, quite brutal, and I am unsure as to whether or not it ever dies down. We briefly went into Iowa before coming down into Missouri, where we reached Kansas City. The place we had investigated online was called Woodyard BBQ, and was on the Kansas side of Kansas City. (Kansas makes this our 20th state thus far.) Woodyard started out as - what else? - a yard full of wood, where the proprietor would sell folks various kinds of wood. Eventually, he decided to throw a piece of pork on a smoker and let it cook low and slow throughout the day so he'd have something to eat by the end of the day. He ended up giving out free food to his customers, so much so that they told him to open a restaurant.
He didn't - but his descendants did.
It's not a very nice looking place; it looks like it's been used over and over again, an indicator that it's pretty good. It is two buildings, one a home and one that appears to have been a building that housed wood. We walked around for a little bit before someone who worked there gave us some menus, and we decided what we'd get. Having never been there before, it was rather hard to figure out, especially considering that everyone assumed that we had. After the food is prepared in the back, someone comes out and calls the name that you provided to the counter. If you're not around, that person had to go outside to find you.
While I didn't particularly care for any of the sides that we got, the pork was soft and delicious. it was served piled high in what appeared to be a bizarre fusion of a hot dog bun and a hoagie roll. I finished it off in short order.
Tomorrow: On to St. Louis, where we'll see the Gateway Arch as well as maybe catch a Cardinals game.