Another outstanding trip back to the motherland of Kansas City. My thanks to all of those who hosted me, dined with me, provided Royals tickets, etc. Chris N., John and Christie N., Erick and Ann R., Sean and Sarah M., Dave V., Omar E., Billy and Stacey B., Steve and Jennifer B., Mary and Derek Y. I think that’s everyone. Forgive me if I left your name out.

We’ll run through some details quickly.

I did quite well dining.

Friday lunch: Ted’s Montana Grill. I know it’s not a local place – we have one here in Carmel that I’ve managed not to visit in four years – but it did allow me to check out the Power & Light district for the first time.

Friday dinner before Royals game – Gates. After being denied on my last two visits, they finally had some burnt ends for me. Worth the wait. Although our party did learn that you shouldn’t order the turkey leg and yam dinner until the fall, despite it being on the menu.

Lunch Saturday – Oklahoma Joe’s. Carolina Style and Fries. Classic.

Dinner Saturday at Royals game – Sheboygan brat. I thought about doing Gates again, but figured I needed a little real ballpark food.

Lunch Sunday – Jack’s Stack. Martin City Mayor and beans.

Dinner Sunday – My step-dad and I went to a little, quick Italian place near his home that is owned by one of the Cascones, so I got some authentic KC Italian food as well.

And at least 11 Boulevard Unfiltered Wheats, at least eight of which game Saturday.

Speaking of Boulevard, one of the highlights of my visit was getting the worst hangover I’ve had in years. I thought my guys’ weekend at the lake in May prepared me for a busy night at the K and on the Plaza afterwards. Not true. I think I was still hanging on Monday. I know I’ve had one bad hangover since moving here. The last time I remember feeling as crappy as I did Sunday was December 1998, after the first Sinatra Party.

I got to see the Royals extend their winning streak on Friday with a fine win over the Cardinals, then I saw the streak end Saturday night with a bad loss. I liked the changes to the ballpark and will be eager to see it again when everything has been completed.

I’m sure a certain segment of my friends is annoyed by having to deal with this every day, but I enjoyed all the KU fans who are walking around with their chests puffed up a little while wearing their crimson and blue gear. I made a purchase for the girls so they can show off when preschool begins in the spring.

I think normally in these posts I say a little something about what it’s like to return to KC and how things have changed since my most recent visit, since I lived there, and so on. I’m not sure if I’ve had this revelation before, but I really noticed this time that I can’t always have the trip I planned before my visit. I think I still expect for my experience to be like living there again. Here’s the best way I can explain it: since I came without the wife and kids this time, I thought I would have lots of free time to do the little things I used to do when I was a resident. I figured I’d walk around the Plaza each day, maybe take a walk on the Trolley Trail one morning (since I don’t run anymore), etc. The small things I took for granted when I could just walk out my door and do them. Even with the extra time that comes with traveling alone, I wasn’t able to do those things. I was busy visiting with friends, commuting, and nursing my hangover (admittedly that’s my own fault). But as with every vacation, time just flies too fast. I can’t complain, because I spent a lot of quality time with friends and family, which is the most important reason for making the visit. I guess this is the final element of coming to terms with the fact I’ve moved, five years later. While I can cram in a lot of fun stuff on a visit, there will always be things that I just can’t get to.

I have a couple fun travel stories. I flew through Chicago O’Hare both ways. I expected to have a lengthy lay-over coming back, but when I landed I saw there was an earlier flight to Indy. I got on the stand-by list and I was listed as fourth on the screens at the gate. The screens also said the flight was full, but I hung around just in case. At the last moment, they started calling stand-by names and hustling people on-board. They called my name, gave me a new boarding pass, and basically ran me down the jet-way. I got on and saw the flight attendant was blocking the path to where my seat was, which I assumed meant all the seats behind her were full. Great, I thought, they made a mistake. She checked and saw someone had decided to switch seats on their own and was refusing to move, so she asked me if I would take his seat. No problem. I sit down, send a quick text message to let the people in Indy know I’d be early, and look up to see the gate agent is running by me, back to where I was supposed to be sitting, calling my name. I got his attention and he said they had to take me off the flight. I made a noise of disappointment and he began apologizing loudly and profusely. Turned out one of the people who didn’t show up was an unattended minor. Since United agents were bringing her from her earlier flight, and she was their responsibility, they had to let her on. Understandable. But the guy apologized about four times once we got back out to the gate. I think he thought I was really pissed. I kept telling him it was no problem and that I’d just go eat some lunch. Other than that, my flights were uneventful.

When I dropped off my car at KCI, the young man helping me noticed the Jayhawk on my shirt and made a joke about how he doesn’t see too many North Carolina shirts since the Final Four. We talked about that for a few minutes and then he asked me if I went to KU and when I graduated. I said yes. He then asked me if I had a Master’s degree and where I got it. He told me he was attending Park University but wanted to transfer to KU. He asked me, “Please give me your honest opinion: would that be a good idea?” I should point out the young man was from Kenya and had a lovely east African accent. We talked through that a bit and I asked what part of Kenya he was from. He is from Nairobi and I told him my wife spent some time in Eldoret when she was in medical school. He got really excited about that and we talked about that for a few moments. Finally, sensing he needed to get back to work, he said, “I have enjoyed our conversation. Thank you.” I forget his name (Ronald? Roland?), but if any of you encounter a nice Kenyan lad at the Kansas City Avis office, tell him hello for me.

Thanks again to all who adjusted their weekend plans to hang out with me. It was great seeing you all and I hope we can do it again soon.