Kansas City – A Fortunate Breakdown

A great way to save money for travel is to lower your transportation costs at home.

This is one of our secrets to how we launched into this nomadic adventure. We’ve never made a car payment! In fact, we’ve only bought one brand new vehicle – and we paid cash for it.

That means that we’ve spent less overall on cars throughout our lives. But that also means we’ve had some adventurous breakdowns.

On one particular trip we set off from Minneapolis to return home to Austin driving in a Honda we had previously dumped lovingly donated to Joel’s family to be used solely as a “winter beater”. Back when salt was used to melt ice on the roadways, it had the effect of melting the cars as well so there had been a long tradition of keeping a second sacrificial car.

Joel’s dad, Jack, had declared the Honda back in action for year-round use after a series of repairs he had made. Jack predicted several more years of useful service from the sedan.

At some level, we should have known better. Alas, our frugality trumped our better judgement. The first clue not to retake possession was that Joel’s sister had refused graciously declined the gift for winter use.

For some context, Austin is a straight shot south on IH-35. It can be done in one brutal 18-hour effort or if absolutely necessary take a quick overnight somewhere near the Oklahoma / Texas border.

As we reached the outskirts of Kansas City, the Honda decided for us that we really needed to stop for a visit right then and there. Apparently the toothpick that Jack had stuffed into a hole that should have had a hose attached to it had become soaked to the point of gas flooding the carburetor. For some reason, we did not have any spare toothpicks in the trunk. Thank goodness we had AAA towing coverage. (Something we don’t skimp on…)

I wouldn’t call us stranded but the forced two night stay meant that we now had some time to explore Kansas City. We started with some basic sites on that first trip that have become a routine for us over the years. Kansas City is now a “must stop” on every trip.

I usually look up the local art museums to give a sense of a city. That strategy gave us our favorite Kansas City find, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A walk around the sculpture garden stretches the legs and the imagination.



For a longer walk, we will leave the car and make our way along the Brush Creek parkland toward Main St.  While searching Yelp for a dinner spot I’m guessing that we were drawn to SPIN Pizza by it’s bicycling theme. This is a must-stop for the delicious salads and pizza with the bonus of a nice selection of wines by the glass.


I have Kansas City’s cultural district on my summer travel radar again with hopes to catch two upcoming exhibits at the Nelson-Atkins: 15-foot sculptural versions of The Four Seasons in the garden by contemporary artist Philip Haas and the indoor exhibit World War I and the Rise of Modernism.

At the time I was cursing the lure of cheap wheels but looking back, I think of that Honda escapade as a fortunate breakdown.