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The Midway - Farewell to a Great Biker Bar

Written by  January 31, 2005

Last August, I wrote a bike night review about a little bar in Lake Lotawana that is owned by a biker couple, Jerry and Chris Bowlin. I discovered the Midway Bar & Grill like most of our readers, through the Cycle Connections Bike Nights listings when I first moved to Kansas City in December 2003. But being December, I waited for the riding season to begin or the first thaw if you will, and after my first visit I knew I had found my new home. I fell in love with this little biker bar with its eclectic mix of well-to-do lake people, bikers, cowboys, farmers, and somebody from every walk of life, but mostly bikers. You’d often find up to 50 bikes parked out front on a Sunday Bike Day/Night, with people spilling outside onto the patio to enjoy the sun and a cold beer with their fellow riders. The Midway isn’t really much as far as size goes with just twelve barstools, one pool table, two dart boards, a few tables and a jukebox that I don’t think has ever had its CDs changed. But size really didn’t matter in this case, due to a lot of warmth; comfort and character that made me, and obviously everyone else who stopped in, feel right at home.

On my first ride out to the Midway I met Jeff and Kathy Spencer. After throwing on my fork lock, Jeff informed me there was no need to lock my bike as we were all brothers here. But being a newbie, I explained I just did it out of habit no matter where I am. Jeff told me he worked at the Harley plant and offered to give me the lowdown on the biker scene in Kansas City. Kathy asked if I was single and then proceeded to call her girlfriend, Tina, to come down and meet me. And she did! We all instantly became fast friends. Once inside, I was greeted by Pam, or Pamela Jean Marlowe, as Jerry affectionately calls her. She offered me a cold beer and requested that I smile as I was among friends and could relax; as if it would improve my tough biker exterior. She was soon to find out, I always looked that way, grumpy that is.

There was always Mark, a.k.a. Mack Daddy or Jim cooking up something good and greasy to coat your stomach after much alcohol consumption or one of Mark’s famous steaks to kill those hunger pangs after a long ride. And if you were lucky enough to be there on Smokin’ Sundays, Jerry himself, would man the smoker, serving up some of his freshly choked chicken and mouth watering ribs, not to mention the bikini clad girls washing bikes - speaking of mouth watering. Everyone always pitched in at the Midway, whether it was greeting newbies, running to the shed to help stock beer, or even just answering the phone when things got too busy or someone was just hiding from it.

I recently received the following e-mail from the owners Jerry & Chris Bowlin, and wanted to share it with all of you:

The Midway has lost its lease and will be closing in mid Feb. We are going to take a break for a while and reopen someplace when a good location and building can be found. Chris and I want to thank all who came out the last few summers and we hope you had a good time. We want to thank Cycle Connections for their support and look forward to seeing them at our new place when up and going. Till then ride safe, party hard and watch out for those deer.

Things and people I will miss:
I’ll miss Roadkill challenging everyone to beat him at pool and his jokes (some girls saw him peeing outside once and said it looked just like a penis, only smaller) or Jerry getting Parker to drown himself in shots of Jim Beam, which none of us can stand to drink except Jerry, including Parker. The free shots during football season every time the Chiefs scored a touchdown. The random shouts of “Aflac!” between me and Mack Daddy when things got silly. And then there were Chris and Pam’s impromptu late night dart tournaments. My thanks to Pam, the only remaining bartender, for getting me hooked on playing darts again. Plus the cast of regulars, like Dub, Tom, Coach, Bob, Kay, Kelly, Bruce, The Fat Bastards Dart Team, Debbie and Vickie, Chris and Kristen, my good friends Terry and Gyla, Sammy, Scott, John, Buzz, Brandon, Karen, Bob and Bob, Dave, and Donna and her grandkids. The local FORR Chapter One holding their meetings there. Steve playing endless Frank Sinatra till you swore you’d kill him or blowup the jukebox. I will miss them all dearly. And with such a bevy of characters you were always guaranteed a good conversation, a bit of gossip or a floor show, so to speak.

I bid a sad farewell to my favorite watering hole and all of my friends whom I made and hope to see again soon. As of publishing, Chris and Jerry weren’t sure when their last day was, but till then, stop in at the Midway, have a cold one and make some memories of your own before it’s gone.

Story and Photos By Wayne Thompson