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Arkansas, I have returned

ROGERS, Ark. — Let the record show at 14:35 on 13 April 2022, David Steinle is eating in the dining room of a fast-food establishment.
That was impossible throughout most of 2020 and 2021, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in part due to a lack of employees who decided they’d rather draw unemployment rather than go back to work.
During the pandemic, customers were banned from all interior areas of many restaurants. You could not go in to pick up an order, complain about your order being wrong, or use the restroom. You had to use the drive-thru, or if you were technologically advanced enough, the app to pick up curbside.
The app was wonderful if you craved McDonald’s. Never a problem.
Chick-Fil-A? Great. Sonic? Excellent. Wendy’s? A few bugs at first, but it got its act together.
If you wanted Arby’s, you were out of luck. Arby’s did not roll out online ordering until late last year, and only a fraction of their locations have it now.

I did not miss not being able to eat inside a fast food joint. Since moving to Kansas, I hardly ever did it when I was alone prior to the pandemic, unless I was going to plug in somewhere to get work done.
In Kansas City, most of my restaurant time has been spent in Buffalo Wild Wings and Minsky’s Pizza, which are conducive to eating at a table and working if I so choose.
On the road, I hardly eat at fast food places anymore. Why eat at McDonald’s when it’s in Russell? I may go to Chick-Fil-A occasionally, but I can get that in Salina on the way to and from Russell, and if I’m craving it that bad, it’s only a 75-minute drive.

Today is different. Today is special.
For the first time since July 2008, I have ventured to beautiful northwest Arkansas.
When you think of northwest Arkansas, three things usually come to mind: (a) the Ozarks; (b) Walmart, whose world headquarters are in Bentonville; and (c) the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, home of the Razorbacks.
I ventured to Fayetteville three times during my association with the LSU baseball team. The Razorbacks have a beautiful stadium, one which has been named the best in college baseball by numerous publciations on numerous occasions. When it opened in April 1996, it became the blueprint for almost every other collegiate stadium, including the new Alex Box Stadium at LSU, which came online in 2009.
Baum-Walker Stadium is one km (0.6 miles) south of the main campus. Since Arkansas was smart enough to build from scratch instead of retrofitting its stadium into an existing space, it would build something bigger and better. It did, and the stadium has been upgraded significantly since my last visit in 2003.

When I departed Russell Monday morning, I was determined my first food stop in Arkansas would be Whataburger.
Yes, I ate at Whataburger in Independence last December.
However, the three Whataburger locations in the Kansas City area have significant flaws.
First, the menu is very limited. Several items found in locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana are not available in Kansas and Missouri.
Second, online ordering does not work in the KC metro. The last thing I want to do is sit in a drive-thru line for a long time, or wait in a long line in the restaurant. I waited 50 minutes for my food in December.
Third, I refuse to support Patrick Mahomes II. He is the main proprietor of the KC locations. I have had it with Chiefs fans and media who cover the team treating him as our Lord and Savior.
I reached the boiling point the Tuesday before the AFC championship game as I was driving in Des Moines.
Former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard compared Mahomes to Michael Jordan.
Okay, Tim. Whatever you say.
I don’t like Jordan. However, to compare a quarterback who just completed his fourth season as an NFL starter to one of the most iconic athletes in the history of sport is ludicrous.
Then The Kansas City Star showed its true colors by running dozens of photos of Mahomes’ wedding last month.
For a team which has won one Super Bowl over the last 52 seasons, Chiefs fans have become quite entitled and spoiled. I guess the 2-14 seasons of 2008 and 2012 don’t exist anymore, and anything before Andy Reid’s hiring in 2013 was part of an alternate universe.

I ventured south on Interstate 49 today from Kansas City to northwest Arkansas. the sun broke through the clouds near Joplin, and it turned into a nice day. Not too hot, not too cold.
My first thought was go to the hotel in Fayetteville, then order from Whataburger there, since there is one just down the road.
When I crossed the state line, I decided I couldn’t wait for Whataburger.
I pulled off I-49, and the Whataburger app pointed me to one in Rogers. There is also a Walmart nearby, so I figured I could eat and shop before heading south.

I can tell you the last time I was inside a Whataburger: 16 April 2008, when my dad and I stopped in Shreveport driving from Baton Rouge to Oklahoma.
Wait, now I remember the last time I ate inside a fast food joint: October at the Russell Subway with Peggy.
However, I cannot remember the last time I did it alone.

Thank you for reading this pointless post. At least it shows I’m not six feet under.