Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kansas City Again

After just being there two weeks before, I made the drive north for a second visit to Kansas City last weekend. The reason for this trip was to go to a soccer game at the brand-new Livestrong Sporting Park. And also, hopefully, to get in a bit more sightseeing and eat a lot of BBQ.

I headed up there with my friend Dave, an old friend from college who introduced me to FC Dallas (and is partially responsible for my sad and fanatic love of the team). We left Little Rock around noon, taking the scenic drive up Hwy. 65 through the Ozarks. It was a long drive – over seven hours spent in the car. But we got into town and immediately headed to the home of my cousin, who lives in Kansas City.

We then tried to find a place to get dinner, and of course we wanted to get BBQ. We decided to visit Arthur Bryant's, one of the most well-known BBQ places in KC. I ordered ribs, and have to say, I wasn't all that impressed. Perhaps I'm spoiled by Whole Hog in Little Rock, but the ribs were underwhelming and disappointing. The potato salad at Arthur Bryant's was good, but not as yummy as Whole Hog's either.

But the next day, we headed out to explore Kansas City. Our first stop was the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This is a very large and impressive art museum. There is a ton of stuff there to see, and I was impressed with the ancient works there, like sculptures from Greece that are centuries old. Or the many pieces from ancient Egypt. The only problem is that we didn't have much time to fully explore the place. So we missed some of the galleries and didn't read all the info about all the paintings and stuff. It's a lot to take in, especially when you're in a hurry. But it's free to get in.

And they did have a photography exhibit there. They didn't have all that much on display, and it was shunted off to the side. But I was happy to see photography there, nonetheless. And if the museum wanted to expand their offerings, I would be more than happy to sell a few prints....

From the museum, we drove into downtown and stopped by the Power and Light District. So now the decision was where to stop and get a late lunch. There was an Irish pub called the Dubliner, which of course piqued my interest. So we went in and were sent to a table and handed the menu. Which was small, offering a token burger, chicken fingers and fish and chips (among a few other options, but it wasn't impressive). I would have settled for the burger, but when no one bothered to take our drink order after 10 minutes we gave up. We walked out and went to find another place to eat...

It was a Sunday afternoon, so not many places were open. After almost going to eat at the Genghis Grill there (which is a great place, but we have one in Little Rock), we headed to a place called Gordon Biersch. I ate there during my previous visit a few weeks back, and it was great (if a bit pricey). But the waitress was quick to take our order, and the meal was delicious (as was the microbrew beer).

This is the view of downtown Kansas City, from the walk back to the car:

After that, we drove across the border into Kansas and made our way to Livestrong Sporting Park, the home of Kansas City's soccer team. Now the FC Dallas stadium in Texas will always be my first love, but I have to admit that the stadium in Kansas City is nice. Not just nice, but awesome. Actually annoyingly awesome.

I have made a few trips up to Kansas City before for soccer games, back when the team played in a minor-league baseball stadium. The location was temporarily, so that the team could eventually move into their new stadium. As an outside observer, the new stadium is light-years ahead of the old place in terms of quality. It isn't easy to squeeze a soccer pitch onto a baseball outfield. This was the view of one of the games I visited back in the olden days:
Community America Ballpark

Compare that to the view we had last weekend:
Which was much, much better.

After getting to the stadium, we made our way to our seats. We decided to splurge and get some seats near the center of the pitch. The downside was that we would be two lonely FC Dallas fans lurking in the middle of a bunch of Kansas City supporters. I wondered if we would encounter any hooligans out there...

But actually the people sitting around us were nice. Although they did start out heckling us with some Texas insults (which didn't faze me). We probably weren't too popular after FC Dallas scored the first goal of the game. Which, I admit, surprised me. Going into the game, I predicted that my beloved FC Dallas would lose the game 2-0. The team was missing too many of its best players to injury or national team call-ups (David Ferriera, Brek Shea, Fabian Castillo). And Kansas City is a good team.

After briefly chastising us for celebrating during the Dallas goal, the KC supporters began chit-chatting with us. They asked us about our visit to Kansas City, and actually asked if we had gotten any good BBQ up there. They didn't ask us what we thought about the food (mostly because Kansas City scored a goal a few seconds later). But I was glad that they didn't, since I didn't want to admit that I found the BBQ there underwhelming. I'm sure I could get away with badmouthing their soccer team, but insulting their BBQ would definitely get me beaten up.

After the game (which resulted in a Dallas loss, so I don't care to mention it anymore), we went to one of the best features of Livestrong Sporting Park – the bar located in the stadium that is devoted to soccer supporters. I did appreciate the comments from my fellow MLS fans there, who all wished us a safe drive back home.

The next morning, I woke up with a hangover at 8:00 am. It didn't help that I was to spend the next 7 hours driving back to Arkansas. It was a fun trip, even if my favorite team lost...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dogtown Falls & Emerald Park

A massive storm passed through Arkansas this past week, which meant that the waterfalls were running like crazy all over the state. But I'm trying to carefully conserve my vacation time, so I was sequestered at work when the prime waterfall conditions were happening.

But luckily, there is a waterfall in central Arkansas. One that is just a short drive from my apartment. So on Thursday night, I headed out to Emerald Park in North Little Rock to pay a visit to Dogtown Falls (aka Emerald Falls). These falls aren't the tallest, or the most scenic, but are great since you can visit them after you get off work...

Zack was in town, so I met up with him and we made the short hike to the falls. The waterfall is located in a somewhat hidden niche along the side of the hill. It's a short walk to the falls, although it does require a bit of a steep hike.

After taking a few pictures of the waterfall, we drove up to the top of the hill to the main entrance to Emerald Park. The park has paved trails that run along the steep bluffs along the "Big Rock," which stands high above what was once a large quarry.

I hadn't been to the park recently, and I had forgotten how great the view was here. There is an amazing overlook that shows the curve of the Arkansas River, with Pinnacle Mountain and the low hills of the Ouachita Mountains in the distance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Exploring the Ouachitas

The Ouachita Mountains stretch from just outside of Little Rock all the way into Oklahoma. But for some reason, it doesn't seem like the Ouachitas see as many visitors as the Ozarks do. I guess because there aren't as many waterfalls there. Or perhaps because the Ouachitas lack a landmark restaurant like the Ozark Cafe...

But last weekend we headed out to explore the Ouachitas, and even saw a few waterfalls. The trip started out with meeting Zack in Conway, where we stopped along Donnell Ridge for a few shots of what turned out to be a pretty cool sunset:

From there we drove down into some low-lands called Lollie Bottoms. My shots from here didn't turn out at all, but I'm mentioning it because saying "Bottoms" makes me giggle.

From there we drove south and into the Ouachita National Forest. We drove into the Flatside Wilderness and found a spot to camp along the Winona Scenic Drive. It was a perfect night for camping, and also for sitting by a campfire drinking a few beers.

Early the next morning, we broke camp and headed out to find a good spot to take pictures of the sunrise. I usually despise being awake before Noon on Saturdays, but it worked out this time because the sunrise was quite nice. But alas, none of my pictures really turned out.

We met Matt in Perryville and then drove further west on Hwy. 10. This is a great drive to take - it passes by tons of old barns and runs in the shadow of Mount Magazine. We stopped at this old house, which was surrounded by a phalanx of yellow flowers, for a few shots. It had since clouded up, and was starting to rain...

After driving for a bit, we finally made it to our first waterfall of the day - Mitchell Branch Falls. This 39 foot tall waterfall is reached by a short hike (rated as a moderate bushwhack) along a creek. The waterfall itself was pretty, although it could have used a bit more water in it. But the clouds were breaking up, so we had to rush to get a few shots before the sun came out.

This is small cascade below Mitchell Branch Falls. I liked how the rocks above the creek were covered with moss:

And another waterfall along Mitchell Branch:

There were a ton of butterflies fluttering around, so we all pointed the cameras at them for a few minutes. These guys aren't easy to take pictures of since they never stand still...

We got back in the car and continued our drive through the woods. And soon enough, we found another waterfall. This one was easy to get to, since you could actually see it from the road. It wasn't very tall, but a nice little place to spend some time.


But the few clouds in the sky were drifting away now, and the woods were bathed in sunlight. Which is nice, except if you're trying to take pictures of waterfalls. But we continued on, and went to visit a few other waterfalls. These falls were also very easy to reach, only requiring a short hike along an old road. Since the sun was out, we sat by the falls and waited for any clouds to show up.

After waiting for a bit, a few small clouds started to drift above us. Finally! And eventually, the clouds drifted in front of the sun, creating some nice even light for pictures. The nice light lasted for maybe 10 seconds, before the clouds drifted past and the full sun was bearing down on the falls. But I got at least one decent shot of this waterfall (Middle Kirkwood Falls):

We went to another waterfall along the creek, which you can actually drive right up to. But no one bothered taking pictures in the bright sunlight. So we headed back to the car and drove up to the top of a nearby mountain. The view from here overlooked a lake and Mount Magazine.

And then we headed back home. Which worked out, since I was back in Little Rock with just enough time to watch the FC Dallas game that night...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kansas City

Last Sunday, my brother and I made a quick trip up to Kansas City. Our visit was brief, really only one night, in order to take in a Radiohead concert. When we finally made it to Kansas City, it was cold and rainy. But despite the weather, we managed to find some time for some sightseeing.

The first stop was the Liberty Memorial at the National World War I Museum. The memorial consists of a museum and a tower commemorating the first world war. Both sit on a hill overlooking the city, and provides a great overlook of downtown Kansas City. I awkwardly stood there, trying to shield the camera with an umbrella, to take a few pictures.

The large building in the foreground is the old Union Train Station, which opened back in 1914. This was our next visit, since it would be indoors and away from the rain. This was taken from inside the station:

From there we made the short drive into the Central Business District and checked into our hotel. The hotel was very conveniently located, just a few blocks away from the arena where Radiohead would be playing. The view from the window was ok, mostly of the convention center below.
(I must admit that this was my brother's idea for a shot, and I stole it from him. I don't think he'd mind).

We then went to get dinner in the Power and Light District, and soon made our way to the arena. I was surprised to see protesters lined up across the street from the Sprint Center. How strange, who would protest Radiohead? Ah, but of course, it would turn out to be the crazy Westboro Baptist Church. Apparently there were no soldier's funerals going on that day, so they decided to protest here instead. Why? I thought it must have been because Radiohead are British, maybe?

But no, apparently, the church was there because the band is a bunch of "freak monkeys with mediocre tunes." They also noted that "God is undoing this nation and effecting all of your lives, with the moth that quietly eats the very fabric of your national garment. Radiohead is just such an event." Oh, so there. By the way, if I were to ever start a band, I want it to be named "Freak Monkeys."

It was strange to see the protesters in person, after hearing about them on the news over and over again. It seemed like they were being ignored by the people streaming into the arena.

Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, and I was thrilled that they'd be in concert in a nearby city. They were actually one of the last bands remaining on my bucket lists of acts to see in concert (the only one left, alas, is Weird Al Yankovic). The concert was awesome...

This is a shot taken during the concert:
My brother and I were passing his camera back and forth, so he may have been the one who took this. I guess it's ok to post it here, since this site is called "Cormackphotos" and he's a Cormack...

We left the next morning and headed back to Arkansas. While my visit to Kansas City was short, I'll be making another trip up there soon...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


After visiting Nimrod, I turned around and headed back towards Perryville. My next stop was Houston (the one in Arkansas, population 159). There is also a neat old church there, so I pulled over for a few pictures:

During my drive, I passed through a lot of smoke. I wasn't sure if it was farmers burning their fields, or forest fires. But I would pass through random clouds of smoke that blanketed everything like a fog. As the sun began to set, it hit the layer of smoke in the sky and turned it a deep red. I was driving home and immediately tried to find a good vantage point of the smoky sunset. My goal was to find a neat tree or something to have in the foreground. I turned off the main road, hoping to find something good. And amazingly, I actually found a nice tree sitting in a field with the sunset behind it.

Monday, March 5, 2012


On Saturday afternoon, I decided to add a few miles to the car by aimlessly driving around rural Arkansas. The ultimate goal, besides burning through a half-tank of gas, was to find something out there to get a few pictures of. I went west on Highway 10 to Perryville, and then turned on a random road and decided to follow it. Eventually, I found myself in the small but delightfully named community of Nimrod, Ark.

There is an old church/community center there that is nestled in a bunch of tall pine trees. Here is a shot from there - I wish I knew how old this building is: