Michael W. Smith said it best, “…a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” Suzanne and her friend Tricia have been friends for more than 30 years, which is really strange since they are still so young. How could they have been friends for more then 30 years already? Are they even that old? Regardless, Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever” meant something to the two of them during COR retreats in high school. It also meant something to them a few years later when they sang it during karaoke with a random guy named Jody and someone we’ll call “crop top girl” at a dive bar in Louisville, Kentucky. And it still rings true today. That’s why when we pulled into Tricia’s driveway in Kansas City, Missouri, it felt like we were coming home.
The whole Johnson family was waiting for us when we rounded the corner onto W. 70th Street last week: Tricia, Dean, Daniella and Hope. Even Tiga, their Indonesian street cat, was there to greet us. It was wonderful to see their smiling faces as we pulled into the driveway and prepared to settle down for a few days. Tricia and Dean actually share a driveway with their neighbors, Ed and Shelly, but Ed and Shelly were kind enough to give up their half of the driveway for a few days so we would have enough room to park. We loved connecting with Ed and Shelly and the rest of the neighbors during the Friday night front yard BBQ. Everyone made it clear that “…a friend will not say never, ’cause the welcome will not end.” We really did feel welcome and, in hindsight, should have sung “Friends are Friends Forever” with all of our new friends on W. 70th Street that night. Maybe next time.
We do have some sad news to report from Kansas City. Our loyal palm tree, who has been with us on the road for 8 weeks now and is the symbol of love and laughter and all that is right in the world, finally met his match at the Friday night BBQ. He’s met a lot of kids along the road since leaving Seattle but had managed to hold his own until Kansas City. Alas, he was fatally injured during the party and deflated before our very eyes. It is an image that will forever remained etched in our minds. We haven’t given up on him though. He is an important member of this team and we’re determined to bring him back to life. We’ve already purchased a bike tube repair kit and we hope to have good news to report in our next blog post. Long live the inflatable palm tree!
One of the highlights of the Kansas City visit for us was the opportunity to spend time with Dean and Tricia’s beautiful daughters, Daniella and Hope. They really seemed to love the RV and love having us parked in the driveway. We do worry that as they get older they’ll start having strange flashbacks about the gypsy people who lived in their driveway for a few days during their childhood years, but there’s not much we can do about that now. In return for us letting them jump up and down on the bed inside the RV (Tricia and Dean: we apologize if we started any bad habits) they let us ride around town in the back of the minivan with them. We visited the City Market on Saturday morning, which is the largest farmer’s market in the midwest. We ate lunch at the world-famous Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. We ate dinner at one of their favorite local restaurants and we just enjoyed hanging around the house with the girls. Daniella is Suzanne’s Goddaughter, so obviously she’s awesome and talented and amazing. And Hope is one of the happiest little girls we have ever met and was so good with the dogs. She seemed to take a particular liking to Wylie and it was fun to watch her snuggle him.
Another highlight for us was visiting Crossroads Academy of Kansas City, a tuition-free charter school that Dean is opening with his colleague, Tysie. A lot of people do a lot of incredible things with their lives, but seriously, who starts their own charter school? That’s amazing. The vision of Crossroads Academy is “to be the premier urban school serving Kansas City’s youth and a destination for other educators seeking inspiration and best practices.” We had the opportunity to tour the building and hear about the progress they have made so far and the work they have left to do before the school opens this fall. If you are in the Kansas City area you should check out their upcoming fundraisers and if you’re not in the Kansas City area but want to support a good cause you can make a donation online. It’s really fantastic to see people you care about using their talents to do something good for the world.
Another highlight of the Kansas City visit for us (Yes, there were so many highlights!) was getting a chance to visit our friend Carrie Taylor’s donut shop. Carrie and Suzanne used to work together and you can’t meet Carrie Taylor and not immediately love her (her brother Jeff‘s not too bad either). Their parents own and run a LaMar’s donut franchise in Blue Springs, Missouri and their store is ranked #1 in the whole LaMar’s family for customer sales. We didn’t have a chance to meet Carrie’s parents but we did enjoy a few of their delicious donuts and we can see why they are #1!
After a few days of fun and friendship and delicious food in Kansas City, it was time to move on. We packed up and headed east, spending the next night in Jefferson City, Missouri. Suzanne learned something new on this trip: Jefferson City is the state capitol of Missouri. How did she not know that? Apparently someone needs to go back to 4th grade. (Maybe Crossroads Academy will take her, although she might be a little bit taller than the rest of the kids).
After Jefferson City we continued east to Hermann, Missouri. This was a recommendation from Tricia and Dean and we’re glad we stopped here. Hermann is a German-community on the banks of the Missouri River. It was established in 1837 and has been chosen several times as “Missouri’s most beautiful city.” We found a place to overnight at Hermann City Park and walked up the street to take a tour of Stone Hill Winery that evening. Before Prohibition in the 1920s, Stone Hill Winery was the second largest winery in the United States and the third largest in the world. Wine in Missouri? Who knew? And it was actually quite good!
From Hermann we headed east into St. Louis, Missouri, and stayed with our friend Diane “Tom’s Mom” Stern. Suzanne and Diane first met in 2001 when Suzanne and her friend Cheryl were roadtripping across the country. Cheryl was being pursued by a young suitor named Tom at the time and his mom offered to let them stay with her. Diane eventually became Cheryl’s mother-in-law, but she also became Suzanne’s country music buddy and the two of them attended a Dixie Chicks concert together in Chicago a few years later (Tom and Cheryl weren’t invited but they don’t like country music anyway so they probably weren’t too upset about it). Back to present day: we enjoyed a delicious meal with Diane and then Kevin took off to meet up with his friend Mary Beth and Diane treated Suzanne to a delicious dessert at Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard. It’s a really good thing we don’t live anywhere near one of those, it could be dangerous for our waistlines.
After dessert Suzanne caught up with Kevin and Mary Beth at a neighborhood pub and we spent a few hours talking and laughing. Kevin knows Mary Beth from Kellogg School of Management and she is actually the third Kellogg alum we’ve met up with on this trip (and probably won’t be the last). She lived in Louisville when we first met her but she and her husband moved to St. Louis for work and are enjoying getting to know their new city. We’re really glad our paths crossed with hers. It’s always great to see a friendly face on the road!
The next morning Diane had breakfast ready and waiting for us when we got up. She also made a few roadtrip CDs for us out of her vast music collection. We would have loved to have stayed longer at Diane’s RV B’n’B but our time in St. Louis was much too short and we were soon back on the road heading east towards Kentucky via southern Illinois and Indiana.
As you can see from our updated route map we are now east of the Mississippi River and have traveled beyond the state of Missouri. We’ll leave you here for now though at the Missouri/Illinois border and let you wonder about our most recent adventures in Kentucky and Ohio. Did we reunite with Jody and Crop Top Girl in Louisville and do a reunion tour of “Friends are Friends Forever”? Did we need to buy larger clothes after eating all of that delicious BBQ and donuts and frozen custard in Missouri? You’ll just have to wait and see in our next blog post. For now, we’ll see you on down the road!