When the journey began a few years ago, it felt like I was seeking something. An answer, maybe. Something else, maybe. But as the journey has unfolded, it turns out I wasn’t seeking anything in particular at all. It turns out that on the abk journey of self discovery, I discovered that the process of seeking is a huge part of who I am. I’m constantly seeking. I’m a seeker. I seek.
Learning and free thinking have always been so important to me, so it makes perfect sense that having the freedom to seek would be at the top of my personal needs list. Not knowing, denying, or simply not acting on that was a bit uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Now knowing and having the courage to act on it is freedom.
To some extent, we are all looking for answers to something. While the act of seeking does provide some of those, I find the new questions that the process proposes equally, if not more, enchanting.
I mean, for God’s sake, I recently grinded through 382 days of golf to achieve a zero handicap only to decide that I needed to step back, rethink, and recalibrate my strategy to become better at golf. Again.
I’m going to seek. It’s who I am. Denying that was, and if ever again, would be painful.
The seeking began last week in El Dorado, Arkansas. If you know where that is, you are lying. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and the golf course located there was my first stop on the journey. Mystic Creek Golf Club, ranked the #1 course you can play in the state, was a treat. How a course of this caliber gets dropped out in the sticks poses a great question to my seeking mind. It was like Augusta times Pinehurst, minus the exclusivity and large greens fees. $59 got me the round, range balls, some swag, and a nutritious and less than filling lunch of Pringles and Gatorade. From the tees I played (75.6/143) and the fact that I am still in 10 steps backwards mode, I was giddy with my 79, a birdie on 18 to finish.
From there, I had about 2.5 hours to the cleanest hotel room you will ever find. But first, I had to stop at the Whole Hog Cafe. I have no picture to show because my BBQ sandwich lasted for all of about 2.3 seconds. Pringles as lunch is something my 5 year old son should do, not his older, wiser 38 year old father. Anyways, I do love the efficiency with which you can check into a hotel room during the unusual 2020 times, bypassing everyone and everything and just walking in to your hermetically sealed room. Check in online, get a digital key, and bam! Notre Dame vs Clemson was on before I knew it.
Living in southern Mississippi now, I don’t get much, if any, fall foliage, and I miss that. I love the fall colors. They speak to me. So Saturday morning’s drive from Arkansas to Missouri through the Ozarks was just what the doctor ordered. My destination for the day was the Tiger Woods designed Payne’s Valley, possibly the hottest course in America right now. Booked solid for the foreseeable future, a single spot magically opened up on Saturday at noon, which I snagged faster than I ate that first BBQ sandwich. To say the day was an experience would be an understatement.
Buffalo greet you as you enter the property. You arrive to the mountaintop clubhouse via a suspension bridge. You have to sign a waiver to play. The course is breathtaking and super stout from the Tiger Tees (75.6/136) in 20 mph winds.
It was actually a bit too long for me in those conditions, with the 267 yard par 3 and 643 yard par 5 that played directly into the wind.
As such, my playing partners and I turned the back 9 into a bit of a party. We enjoyed each other’s company, we enjoyed the scenery, and I taught them a little about golf. In turn, they bought me some delicious Missouri IPAs, which may explain the 4 putt on hole 16.
The course is becoming famous for its 19th hole, a short par 3 with a floating green that plays into a waterfall. Make a hole in one? Win a thousand dollars. Me? Left it about 8 feet right, but made the birdie putt, which was completely meaningless. I shot a 90 on the big, bad 18 holes, then made a 2 on the 19th hole. To finish, you drive through the waterfall, through the caverns, and up the mountain. I guess that’s why you sign the waiver.
The sneaky winners amongst all the abk travel are midwest cities. I love them. Cleveland, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, to name a few. And Sunday, for my 3rd time, Kansas City. As I drove in from Branson, I noticed the midwestern clouds, which are ominous and beautiful.
My first stop was to pay my respects at Swope Soccer Village, the scene of the crime for the 2016 men’s soccer national championship for my Wingate Bulldogs.
Then it was to Arrowhead Stadium to see my buddy Jay, his friend and son, and my Carolina Panthers.
We tailgated, enjoyed the game, and then I miraculously watched us try a 67 yard field goal at the death to try and beat the Chiefs. I thought I was back in New Orleans two weeks ago, but then again, that field goal attempt was a mere 65 yards.
Luckily, after another close loss, I had Kansas City BBQ to wash away my tears. My only regret was that the legendary LC’s close to the stadium gave us so much food that some went to waste. But damn, it was good.
On the way home, I got a few more hours of peak Arkansas fall foliage. Just before I crossed the mighty Mississippi River, I found Hoots BBQ, an apparent mainstay on the Arkansas BBQ Trail.
As I devoured the tender brisket, the land turned flat. The pines started to reappear. And soon enough, I was back home. Ready to recenter, recalibrate, and see what’s next.
Have a great week.-Benj
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