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A Journey to Oz

Posted Friday, April 12th, 2013 12:01 pm GMT -5 in Casinos, Food, Friends, Golf, Travel

Last week I accepted a last minute invitation to tag along on a road trip to Kansas to visit one of my former co-workers. Jason now works at a property called Prairie Band Casino and Resort, which is located just north of Topeka and also includes a very nice Jeffrey Brauer-designed golf course called Firekeeper.

I got picked up in Eagan on Wednesday and we headed south on I-35 through Des Moines and on to Kansas City. We broke up the six and a half hour drive with a stop at Diamond Jo Casino in Iowa, which was a much nicer property than I expected. I’m not that familiar with the gaming laws of Iowa, but that location is managed by Boyd Gaming and it’s not a riverboat.

Turns out Jason and his family live in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the KU Jayhawks. It’s about 45 minutes from Lawrence to Prairie Band, but Jason said the schools are better in Lawrence and it has other benefits over Topeka too. I really liked Massachussetts Street (bars, restaurants, venues), which seemed like a mini State Street. The overall vibe of the town reminded me a lot of Northfield.

We had tickets to see Awolnation at Liberty Hall, which was a pretty cool college town music venue. Pretty sure the seats were built for munchkins, though – no knee room whatsoever in the balcony. Stopped at the Jayhawker Bar in the haunted Eldridge Hotel across the street for dinner before the show. Menu highlight for me was the cherry cheesecake martini: Svedka vanilla, cranberry juice and grenadine with graham cracker rim.

The concert was fun, even though I didn’t really know much about the band beyond their hit Sail. Missed the first opener (Mother, Mother), but thought Blondfire was good. Mic sound was horrible – couldn’t hear the very cute Erica Driscoll at all from my seat in the back row. Sound was better during the Awolnation set, but the lighting (or lack thereof) adversely impacted them. Aaron Bruno at times sounded like Kurt Cobain, while overall I thought they seemed like a cross between Muse and Linkin Park.

We stayed at Jason’s house on Wednesday night and tried to get in to Free State Brewing after the show, but they actually closed at midnight and wouldn’t let us in. Stopped for breakfast at Perkins on Thursday morning before heading out to Prairie Band. We checked into the very nice hotel and headed across the road to Firekeeper for our afternoon tee time.

The course has similar features to other Brauer courses, but the front nine is very much an open, farm-style course. There are more trees on the back nine and water comes into play on a number of holes (mainly meandering streams). There isn’t a ton of elevation change (not surprising for Kansas), but there is definitely some rolling hills action going on here. Greens were in great condition for this time of year (I guess they never shut down over the winter) and the course lived up to its name, as officials were conducting a controlled burn right along the main road.

After shooting my blazing 95 from the buffalo tees, we headed back to the casino to play and have dinner with Jason at Three Fires Steakhouse. Excellent food and service, including a lovely Kansas City filet. Played some hundred hand poker with very little success, but hit a nice hand-pay jackpot on a Bally Quick Hits slot. Aside from no exercise room, I really like the property overall (and Jason said they will be expanding next year and may add that feature).

We hit the road on Friday after a quick breakfast at the resort and stopped back at Diamond Jo too. Snow reappeared once we hit the Minnesota state line and has continued to plague us even as I sit here and watch the Masters. I’d be surprised if there is any Minnesota golf being played this month at all, at least in the Northland. And to think it was 66F when we left Oz…

Originally published by DK on April 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

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Husband, dad and stadium IT director

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