Twenty years ago a contractor and his two sons heard the story of the Steamboat Arabia and how it sank (fully loaded) in the Missouri River in 1856. Given how men will be boys when it comes to adventure and lost treasure they soon joined forces with a local Restaurant owner and with a friend who owned an excavating company and bet all their pooled life savings on finding the Arabia. Their wives for some unknown reason hardily agreed.
They gathered all the written accounts of the sinking and began to map the possible location of the wreck. Since the Missouri had changed course in that area their best guess was that it sat below a farmer’s cornfield. Luckily the farmer had always wondered where the Arabia might be and granted them the desired permission to dig up his cornfield. Using ground penetrating metal detectors they found the location of a shape in the cornfield that matched the dimensions of the Arabia. Then brought in the heavy equipment. Four months later they had unearthed the Arabia and began to bring its 220 tons of cargo up to the surface. Their original notion was that they would sell the artifacts. But once they saw what they had they all agreed to keep it together and open a museum.
To view the contents of the Arabia is to step back in time and understand what life was like in the new settlements along the river. The hold of the Arabia contained a wide variety of goods needed by settlers in the 1860’s. Everything from fine china to carpenters tools, household furnishings and French perfume.
The museum is located smack dap in the center of the City Market and we luckily were there on Saturday at midday. The place was hopping. Fruit and vegetable sellers, spice vendors, flowers and plants, and an assortment of ethnic eateries. We chose the Middle Eastern restaurant because of the line waiting to order and the terrific aromas emanating from within. This indeed was a wise choice as each and every item on the combo plate we shared was very tasty. Sitting at a table outside and discovering that middle America is a very diverse place this days.
Before leaving Kansas City we stopped by Arthur Bryant’s Famous Barbeque Restaurant and got takeout. We drove a few hours after leaving Kansas City. Kansas is a pretty stark place and Interstate 70 stretches straight ahead for hundreds of miles. What more perfect time to listen to Prairie Home Companion. We spent the night in Hays, Kansas. Hays is home to the Rans Bicycle Company. The folks who made our wonderful crank forward bicycles.
It was a long day that was capped off perfectly by a swim in the pool, a soak in the Jacuzzi and eating the aforementioned takeout.