Today is going to be the most tiring driving day in our trip so far, made a bit easier as a result of our decision to get a bit of a head‐start right after the Denver show. Spent the night at a hotel in the town of Limon, CO—a town consisting of nothing more than a few hotels and restaurants, maybe a neighbourhood or two. One of these towns that exist primarily for passer‐by’s to spend the night in, on their way to a more interesting destination.
“Walk of Life” woke us up at 6:30am (not the best song to wake up to; I prefer Eddie Vedder’s “Rise”), and after half an hour we were having breakfast at the hotel. The name of the game today is saving time as we have a long drive ahead of us, plus a time‐zone change which makes things 1 hour worse for us; we were not going to scour this little town for decent breakfast. Gotta hit the road…
By 7:30am we were back on the I‐70E driving towards Kansas City, MO. For the first half an hour, I was driving through moderate‐to‐severe fog; the temperature was way too cold for a convertible ride (50℉ / 9℃), light drizzle and way too many clouds.
Checking the GPS out for the next coffee place on our route, results came back with a Starbucks, 211km east in Colby, KS. And the next one after that?
Borrowing an expression from my friend Bill Miller… four‐letter‐word!
And the ride… Well, what can I say. Just when I thought that I’m through with such boring roads for this trip, came the I‐70E and showed me how wrong I have been. OK, this has to be one of the most boring rides on earth, if not the most boring one. Equivalent in its nothingness only to the prairie drives in Saskatoon and Manitoba, this road is a challenge to anyone’s ability to stay awake while driving. Within an hour of driving with the convertible’s roof up, I couldn’t stand it anymore and handed the wheel to Jeroen. Lord, is this going to be a long day.
(the small blue car is us; the orange flag is our via point at Starbucks; the purple line marks our route to the checkered flag)
I think I was sleeping while Jeroen was driving; what I can remember is that I opened my eyes about 9km west of Starbucks, our destination for a short refreshment. Within seconds, Jeroen said that we have to pull over.
Looking to my side, failing to notice anything interesting worth stopping for, I asked the inevitable question.
“I think because I was speeding.”
A Kansas highway patrol caught Jeroen driving 12 mph over the speed limit (82 mph instead of 70 mph, in a road so boring, plain and straight that I can’t really blame him). I instructed Jeroen about what is expected of him (park the car, open the window) and what isn’t (DON’T GET OUT OF THE CAR).
The police officer approached us, greeted us, let Jeroen know his speed and asked for his license / registration / rental car agreement.
PO: “Where are you guys headed to?”
Jeroen: “Kansas City”.
PO: “And where are you from?”
Jeroen: “I’m from the Netherlands”.
PO: “And what are you going to do in Kansas City?”
Jeroen didn’t even hesitate: “We’re following a concert tour in North America.”
PO: “Come again?”
Jeroen: “We’re following Mark Knopfler’s concert tour in North America.”
PO: “Oh. Have you seen any show already?”
Jeroen: “Yes, yesterday was the 11th one.”
PO: “Wow, that should be an interesting concert to go to. Alright guys, I’m letting you go. Drive carefully”.
Not entirely unlike our experience at the USA border at the beginning of the tour, it appears that the PO was caught completely off‐guard by our explanation. “Following a concert tour in North America” is not the response a typical officer would expect. I was actually quite surprised that we were let go without any warning and / or fine.
Stopped at Starbucks in Colby, KS for refreshments. Another one of those pass‐by little towns, we spent less time there than the time it took me to write the last two sentences. Weather became sunny (albeit a bit cold), so we decided to take the roof down otherwise the ride is going to be to tiring to complete in one day.
After some seriously boring drive, we arrived at Topeka, the capital city of Kansas, and decided to have lunch in a place called Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant. The place has received very good reviews in Google. Once I started chewing on the food I reached the conclusion that the reviews must have been written by the restaurant’s owner, or his family. No way this food is “great”. Edible? Yes, to some extent; unlikely to make you vomit. The awfully‐located, dusty‐looking Johnny’s Authentic Mexican Kitchen in Las Vegas, New‐Mexico was much better. I ate for the sole purpose of survival, then we were back in the car for the last 100km of travel.
I should admit that, as you leave Topeka towards Kansas City, the road becomes more interesting, with quite a few hills, colourful trees, farms and other views I’m so accustomed to, being a resident of south‐western Ontario. FINALLY, at 5:00pm sharp, we arrived at Kansas City, MO.
What’s interesting there is that we encountered no traffic whatsoever, in either direction. It was 5:00pm, working day. Bizarre. Anyway, finding the hotel (Holiday Inn, about 3 minutes walk from the Midland Theatre where the concert took place) was easy and within 10 minutes we were at the hotel room, unwinding after an extremely long driving day.
Kudos to the tour’s bus drivers who manage to drive these distances at night.
Apparently, the hotel’s staff have too much free time:
Plus, tell me what’s wrong in this picture:
Quick shower (made even quicker with two showerheads, for those who didn’t understand what’s wrong with the picture above), and we went to the venue.
I had to skip Pieta’s show today as I had to catch up with just about a million of things; and what’s a better place to do that than a coffee shop? that in mind, I started looking around the Midland Theatre for a coffee place.
Not too coffee places in downtown Kansas City—at least not where I was looking. Sad and disappointed, I opted at the last resort—Starbucks, located inside the Crowne Plaza hotel.
A tall, mature guy welcomes me with the classic “what do YOU want” expression on his face. Cold… I need something cold and refreshing. Already dreaming of the moment in which my lips touches the cold plastic straw, the guy went away, and returned after a minute saying that he ran out of whatever it is that puts the banana taste in “Strawberry Banana Smoothie”.
Hmmmmmmm. OK. “So I’ll have an iced coffee, with whole milk please.”
The guy grins. “Actually I already threw out all of the ice already, as well as all of the teas. Once every two weeks comes a customer that asks for those, so I usually throw those away about half an hour before closing”.
I gotta say, that made me feel oh so special. For a second I considered taking the smart‐ass approach and ask him to add “only available up to 30 minutes before closing” on the menu, next to each item he deliberately gets rid of before closing.
The Midland Theatre, located in downtown Kansas City, seats ~ 3,600 and is certainly striking. I was as impressed with the interior of this venue as I was with Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre—big, spacious, featuring eye‐catching decor. One of this venue’s nice (or disturbing, depending how you look at it) features is that it has a bar at the back, meaning that you don’t have to get out of the hall in order to get a drink.
Before the concert started, I met with a guy named Joe with whom I had exchanged a few emails before—nice to meet you, Joe, was a pleasure speaking with you. Minutes later, I found myself amidst an intense conversation with one of the stage guards, whose job is to prevent people from becoming “too happy”. The guy told me about Kansas City, and how nice city it is but transportation in it sucks bad (the residents keep declining any plan for improving public transit, etc). I like conversations like these, you know, learning about all‐new places; and who are better to speak with than locals?
Then, the concert started.
JBL is a famous American manufacturer of loudspeakers. Owned by Harman International (the makers of the Harman‐Kardon speakers, very popular for laptops), it has been making loudspeakers since 1946. Certain Toyota vehicles ship nowadays with JBL speakers built into them.
But I will never buy a JBL speaker. Not because it’s not good… but because it’s haunting me. Here is a picture of what I was looking at for almost the entire show:
For the first time this tour, my seat was in a terrible, terrible place: orchestra pit, row 1, second seat from the right. And the reason it was terrible didn’t have anything to do with the view—conversely, it gave me excellent opportunity to stare at Richard Bennett’s hands and learn a few things; it had to do with the sound. Not only was the sound terrible at that spot (being no fault of the crew, I should say; what can you do, sometimes you have to make compromises for the general good), but that particular speaker, conveniently parked right in front of my face, threatened to kill my ears.
For the first few songs, I simply had to stare at it. Whenever I was looking to my left, to see the centre of the stage, that cursed JBL speaker threw some painful high frequencies into my right ear’s canal, making me shriek. So I had to look straight, and that’s where the speaker happened to be (had to stretch my neck to look at Richard’s guitar playing; and how long can you stretch your neck for?).
After a while I got sick of it and pushed some plugs into my ears. That killed the sound altogether for me, but at least I will be able to hear tomorrow.
A family was seated to my left; the Missus, seated next to me, revealed absolutely no interest in the show and used her smart phone for text‐messaging during almost the entire show. It was obvious that she was dragged to the concert by her husband, who was seated next to her and cheered pretty much continuously. Behind me, people were talking loudly during the songs; and the aisle separating the front‐row from the stage has turned into some sort of a walkway as some inconsiderate guests decided to go to the bar multiple times during the show.
But the concert itself was very good. The crowd expressed a significant amount of love towards the band; a rather aging crowd, it still went bananas after Sultans of Swing—so bananas that it made Mark comment something along the lines of “Come on, you don’t really like that old stuff, do you?”, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. A particularly funny instrumental dialogue between Tim & Mark during Donegan’s Gone—how these guys broadcast humour using musical instruments and body language is nothing short of amazing.
Today’s performance of Piper to the End featured Mark again yielding to the band members during the outro solo, which, for me, makes the song.
Another good concert is over.
Concert ended at around 10:30pm; time for a pre‐sleep snack, so we explored the downtown area a little bit and came across an area called Kansas City Live (or KC Live), which features a stage for live shows (there was none; maybe in weekends?) and a few nice‐looking restaurants. Very neat, I liked it. A pizza slice and a drink, and I was ready to hit bed.
Tomorrow’s concert is in St. Louis, MO—about 4 hours drive east. Will most likely take it easy tomorrow; 4 hours of driving are peanuts for me now.