A 5 Day Midwest Adventure: Day 5 – Columbia, St. Louis, Ra66it Ranch and a Fire Breathing Dragon

University of Missouri - Columbia, Missouri
University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri

The final day of our five day whirlwind trip to Nebraska and back began in Columbia, Missouri and took us through St. Louis and then some interesting spots in Illinois along old Route 66 and then eventually home to Lexington.  Following is our final day route:


View Larger Map – Columbia, MO to Lexington, KY

Columbia was a pleasant surprise.  A beautiful college town with lots of murals and color and historical buildings, like the administration building for the University of Missouri (shown above).  Before we headed down the road towards St. Louis, we took a brief drive around Columbia.  Here are a few shots:

Colorful Phone Booth in downtown Columbia, MO
Colorful Phone Booth in downtown Columbia, MO
Sunrise in Columbia, MO
Sunrise in Columbia, MO

We drove by Shakespeare’s Pizza and they have a very unique long painted wall of art on the outside of the shop.  Here are a few close-ups of bits of the wall. This wall was painted by Columbia artist Ned Vail and members of some of his art classes.

Politician and School Leader - portion of Shakespeare's wall mural - Columbia, MO
Politician and School Leader – portion of Shakespeare’s wall mural – Columbia, MO
Drawing of Inside of the Pizza Shop
Drawing of Inside of the Pizza Shop – Ned Vail, 2003
Shakespeare Pizza Wall At by Ned Vail
Shakespeare Pizza Wall At by Ned Vail

Besides Shakespeare’s Pizza there were a few other colorful items in town:

Wall Mural - Columbia, MO
Wall Mural – Columbia, MO
Keys to the City by Howard Meehan
Keys to the City by Howard Meehan

New Mexico artist Howard Meehan built Keys to the City in 2010 for the city of Columbia. The 19-foot-tall, 16-foot-wide sculpture, one of 11 Columbia Percent for Art projects, is made of structural steel and placed atop concrete bases holding color-changing LEDs.

People by Don Bartlett
People by Don Bartlett
Mosaic Art - Columbia, MO
Mosaic Art – Columbia, MO
Lit Pillars at Courthouse in Columbia, MO
Lit Pillars at Courthouse in Columbia, MO

From Columbia it was time to head eastward towards St. Louis.  I have driven this stretch of Interstate 70 well over a dozen times, so we pressed forward to our next destination – The Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Garden in Chesterfield, Missouri’s Faust Park.

Butterfly House Gate - Faust Park, Chesterfield, MO
Butterfly House Gate – Faust Park, Chesterfield, MO
Butterfly House at Faust Park in Chesterfield, MO
Butterfly House at Faust Park in Chesterfield, MO

In the front seasonal gardens is a giant butterfly sculpture called the Mysterious Monarch, which is a 28-foot tall butterfly created by St. Louis sculptor Bob Cassilly in 1997 and given to the Butterfly House by Rosemary and Joe Shaughnessy in honor of their grandchildren.

Sumoflam and Giant Butterfly at the Butterfly House
Sumoflam and Giant Butterfly at the Butterfly House

The Butterfly House is GREAT and absolutely fascinating. It is well worth a visit, especially if you are with kids.  The museum section has a number of kid-friendly exhibits and an extraordinary video presentation about butterflies.  But the best part is the tropical conservatory.  It has a controlled environment that houses nearly 2,000 tropical butterflies in free flight and a number of unique tropical plants not seen in most locales in the U.S.  As many as 80 butterfly species and 150 tropical plant species can be seen. Following are a number of shots we got of butterflies and plants while in the conservatory.

Colorful Butterfly statue in front of the Butterfly House
Colorful Butterfly statue in front of the Butterfly House
Grandkids play on the 30 foot long "Lopatapillar", a creation by artist Bob Cassilly
Grandkids play on the 30 foot long “Lopatapillar”, a creation by artist Bob Cassilly
Flower at Butterfly House
Flower at Butterfly House
Flowers at Butterfly House
Flowers at Butterfly House
Tropical Flowers at the Butterfly House
Tropical Flowers at the Butterfly House
Blue Morpho Butterfly (morpho peleides) at the Butterfly House
Blue Morpho Butterfly (morpho peleides) at the Butterfly House
Granddaughter holding Blue Morphos
Granddaughter holding Blue Morphos

The Blue Morphos is common to South and Central America. The blue only shows when they fly; the underside of their wings is brown with several eyespots.

Postman Butterfly (Heliconius erato)
Postman Butterfly (Heliconius erato)
Striking Blue Butterfly on pink flowers
Striking Blue Butterfly on pink flowers
Lovely Tropical Flowers at Butterfly House
Lovely Tropical Flowers at Butterfly House
Paper Kite Butterfly (Idea leuconoe) from Southeast Asia
Paper Kite Butterfly (Idea leuconoe) from Southeast Asia
Great Mormon Butterfly (Papilio memnon) from Southeast Asia
Great Mormon Butterfly (Papilio memnon) from South Asia
White Swallowtail Butterfly
White Swallowtail Butterfly
Giant Owl Butterfly
Giant Owl Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly seen n outdoor garden at Butterfly House
Monarch Butterfly seen in outdoor garden at Butterfly House
Butterfly and Red Flowers
Butterfly and Red Flowers
Black Butterfly
Black Butterfly
Butterfly landing
Butterfly landing
Beautiful Purple Flower
Beautiful Purple Orchid at Butterfly House

Just a short walk from the Butterfly House is the St. Louis Carousel, an original carousel created by the Dentzel Company of Philadelphia in the 1920s. The Carousel was installed in 1929 at the Forest Park Highlands. When the Highlands burned to the ground in 1963, the carousel was the only thing left standing. Howard C. Ohlendorf purchased the carousel to prevent it from being dismantled and donated it to St. Louis County Parks in 1965.  It is a throwback to the olden days….my grandkids got to enjoy the ride on this old fashioned wonder.

St. Louis Carousel Building in Faust Park, Chesterfield, MO
St. Louis Carousel Building in Faust Park, Chesterfield, MO
The 1920s St. Louis Carousel at Faust Park
The 1920s St. Louis Carousel at Faust Park
Riding the Carousel at Faust Park
Riding the Carousel at Faust Park

After a few rides on the Carousel, it was back on the road.  We headed into St. Louis for a stop at the Brown Shoe Company. This company is the home company for a number of shoe brands (inclduing Famous Footwear, Dr. Scholl’s, Naturalizer, Life Stride and more) , but we were only going to visit to see ONE shoe…..

Giant Shoe at Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis
Giant Shoe made of shoes at Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis
Shoes in the Giant Shoe
Shoes in the Giant Shoe
Sumoflam and the Big Shoe
Sumoflam and the Big Shoe

From the Big Shoe it was on to Downtown St. Louis.  All of us were excited to visit the Gateway Arch (no link since the US Government is still shut down as I write this).  On the way we made one more stop at a unique, quirky place…The Christman Studio and Sculpture Park and Joe’s Cafe in the Skinker Neighborhood of St. Louis. This is like the birthplace of quirky art and other kitsch.

Joe's Cafe - a performance venue attached to the Christman Gallery in St. Louis
Joe’s Cafe – a performance venue attached to the Christman Gallery in St. Louis

Bill Christman was trained as an artist, has taught and made art, and has worked for years in the design and production of signs, murals, billboards, exhibits, sculptures, assemblages and theatrical scenery. He’s the Proprietor of Beatnik Bob’s, and the Director of the Museum of Mirth, Mystery, & Mayhem at St. Louis’ Ultra Quirky and Offbeat City Museum (I wish we had gone there on this trip!!!!!!  See more here). He is also the owner of Christman Studios and the Impresario of Thursday Nite Music at Joe’s Café in the Skinker/DeBaliviere Neighborhood.

Big Pants at the entrance to Christman Gallery in St. Louis
Big Pants at the entrance to Christman Gallery in St. Louis
Giant Rooster greets you at Joe's Cafe entrance
Giant Rooster greets you at Joe’s Cafe entrance
A Thing-a-ma-jigger at Christman Studio in St. Louis
A Thing-a-ma-jigger at Christman Studio in St. Louis

The studio is apparently closed except on Thursday evenings, but you can at least take a peak through the gates of the back yard.  What a menagerie awaits as you gander at all of the goodies behind the fence and around the fence.

Backyard view of Christman's gallery - including a giant head
Backyard view of Christman’s gallery – including a giant Muffler Man head (probably the upper half of the legs in the front yard)
Hydrant Collection at back yard gate
Hydrant Collection at back yard gate
Another view of the back yard with a Big Boy Head
Another view of the back yard with a Big Boy Head
A HandBurger (probably from the Big Boy)
A HandBurger (probably from the Big Boy)
Rusty Cans line the top of the fence.  Who need's barbed wire?
Rusty Cans line the top of the fence. Who need’s barbed wire?
This must be his guest house.  "It Ain't Home 'til You Take the Wheels Off"
This must be his guest house. “It Ain’t Home ’til You Take the Wheels Off”
A White Buffalo Guards the Gate at Christman's Studio
A White Buffalo Guards the Gate at Christman’s Studio
Buddha Head adorns the top of the Front Door to the Gallery
Buddha Head adorns the top of the Front Door to the Gallery
A Skink on a Sign
A Skink on a Sign for the Skinker neighborhood

Finally, on to downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch….

Arch as seen from Downtown
Arch as seen from Downtown
Arch Reflection on a mirrored Building
Arch Reflection on a mirrored Building

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a 630-foot tall (and 630 foot wide) monument and is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. It is also the world’s tallest arch. The Gateway Arch was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. Construction began on February 12, 1963, and ended on October 28, 1965,costing US $13 million at the time. The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967. Currently, the Gateway Arch is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world with over four million visitors annually,of which around one million travel to the top.  I had the opportunity to go to the top in 1997 and what an adventure that was.  Here is what I saw back then…

View of Capital Building from top of St. Louis Arch, taken Sept. 1997
View of Capital Building from top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, taken Sept. 1997
View of downtown St. Louis form the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997
View of downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch in Sept. 1997

Much of St. Louis has changed over the last 16 years.  It is interesting that the photos above were taken on Sept 14, 1997.  Our visit this time was on Sept 13, 2013, almost exactly 16 years later.

My children under the Arch on Sept. 14, 1997
My children under the Gateway Arch on Sept. 14, 1997 (L-R Marissa -16, Barbara G – French Exchange Student -17, Amaree -17, Seth-10, Solomon-8)

Our visit this time was on a beautiful sunny day with a few clouds. I got a few shots of the arch closeup and then we were on our way across the Mississippi River.

Gateway Arch in the clouds
Gateway Arch in the clouds
Gateway Arch - St. Louis
Gateway Arch – St. Louis
Side shot of Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Side shot of Gateway Arch in St. Louis

From the Arch parking we lot we headed down the river and took a drive around the arch to get us back on to Memorial Drive heading north.  We then took the Eads Bridge across the river.

Lewis and Clark wave to us from the River as we passed by
Lewis and Clark wave to us from the River as we passed by
Martin Luther King Bridge in St. Louis
Martin Luther King Bridge in St. Louis

We figured there has to be a park on the other side of the river that would give us a view.  So, after crossing the Eads Bridge it put us onto Riverpark Dr. in East St. Louis, Illinois. We followed Riverpark Dr. to S. Main St. and took a right. We followed Main to W. Trendley Avenue and took a right.  This took us right into Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, which offered us a spectacular view of the Gateway Arch and St. Louis.  Though we got to see the Arch, we were not there at the right time to see the Gateway Geyser which explodes 8000 gallons of water per minute to a height of 630 feet (the height of the Gateway Arch), which makes it the tallest water fountain in the United States.

Gateway Arch as seen from Malcolm W. Marin Memorial Park in E. St. Louis, IL
Gateway Arch as seen from Malcolm W. Marin Memorial Park in E. St. Louis, IL
Gateway Geyser (photo from illinoisbeautiful.com)
Gateway Geyser (photo from illinoisbeautiful.com)

After a nice visit to the big city to see the big arch, we veered eastward toward Staunton, Illinois to the famous Henry’s Ra66it Ranch on Old Highway 66.

Historic Route 66 in Illinois
Historic Route 66 in Illinois

Henry’s Ra66it Ranch (the 66 is intentional) celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell’s Trucklines “Humpin’ to Please” trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station.

Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, IL
Reminiscent of Cadillac Ranch, Ra66it Ranch has their own buried cars
Reminiscent of Cadillac Ranch, Ra66it Ranch has their own buried cars

I have created a separate post about this here as it is deserving of its own post!  Please check it out. From Staunton we headed east towards Vandalia, Illinois to see the famed “Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

Corn Fields on Old Route 66 near Staunton, IL
Corn Fields on Old Route 66 near Staunton, IL
Slow Down - Its Pokey Road - near Pochahontas, IL
Slow Down – Its Pokey Road – near Pocahontas, IL
Pochahontas, IL - "Pokey" - Home of Country Singer Gretchen Wilson (Gimme a Hell Ya!)
Pocahontas, IL – “Pokey” – Home of Country Singer Gretchen Wilson (Gimme a Hell Ya!)
Giant Golden Grapes at a Winery in Pocahontas, IL
Giant Copper Grapes at a Copper Dock Winery in Pocahontas, IL

Copper Dock Winery is on Pokey Road and has a 15 foot tall Giant bunch of Copper Grapes, ripe for the picking!!  From Pokey we headed NE on I-70 (along the old National Road) towards Vandalia, about a 30 minute drive.

Vandalia Water Tower with Lincoln on it
Vandalia Water Tower with Lincoln on it

Vandalia is a historical Illinois town.  From 1819 to 1839 it served as the state capital of Illinois. And, early on, it was the terminus for the legendary National Road. The road, also known as the “Road That Built the Nation”, was created in 1806 by legislation signed by President Thomas Jefferson. Sometimes called “The Cumberland Road” and “The Old Pike”, it was the only road completely built with federal funds. Originally winding from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, the National Road opened Illinois to settlement. Today, the Illinois National Road stretches 164 miles from Marshall to East St. Louis and is mirrored by U.S. Route 40 and Interstate 70.  Today the National Road stretches 824 miles.

Vandalia State House in Vandalia, IL
Vandalia State House in Vandalia, IL

The Vandalia State House was the fourth Illinois state house (The first (1818-1820) was at Kaskaskia, the state’s first capital. The second (1820-1823), third (1824-1836), and fourth (1836-1839) were at Vandalia.). The present one is the oldest surviving capital building in Illinois.  It is significant because of its association with Abraham Lincoln, who served in the House of Representatives at the time.

Madonna of the Trail Statue in Vandalia, IL
Madonna of the Trail Statue in Vandalia, IL

The “Madonna of the Trail” statues are a series of 12 statues that can be found along the original National Road and now all the way into California.  I have only visited one, but they are now on my “To Do” list as I travel to different destinations. They honor the pioneer heritage of the mothers that traveled across the country.  The following is from Wikipedia’s article on these monuments.

There is one monument in each of the 12 states along the National Old Trails Highway The monuments in order of dedication are:

  1. Springfield, Ohio—July 4, 1928
  2. Wheeling, West Virginia—July 7, 1928
  3. Council Grove, Kansas—September 7, 1928
  4. Lexington, Missouri—September 17, 1928
  5. Lamar, Colorado—September 24, 1928
  6. Albuquerque, New Mexico—September 27, 1928
  7. Springerville, Arizona—September 29, 1928
  8. Vandalia, Illinois—October 26, 1928
  9. Richmond, Indiana—October 28, 1928
  10. Beallsville, Pennsylvania—December 8, 1928
  11. Upland, California—February 1, 1929
  12. Bethesda, Maryland—April 19, 1929

As of 2005, all 12 monuments are still available for public viewing, although several have been relocated short distances due to highway improvements, etc.

Old Liberty Theater in Vandalia
Old Liberty Theater in Vandalia

From downtown we made our way to the…..

Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon
….Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon

One of our trip highlights and, significantly, the last stop on our long 5 day trip, is the huge Kaskaskia Fire Breathing Dragon in Vandalia.  This monster was the brainchild of Kaskaskia Supply owner Walt Barenfanger. This 35 foot long beast is not only a nice piece of metal art, it is also FIRE BREATHING! Yes, go across the street to the Liquor Store or over to the Kaskaskia Hardware store and get a token for One Dollar, stick it into the self-service coin box and this guy’s eyes light up red and he breathes REAL fire for about 10 seconds!!

Kaskaskia Dragon Breathes Fire in Vandalia, IL
Kaskaskia Dragon Breathes Fire in Vandalia, IL
Breathing Fire in Vandalia
Breathing Fire in Vandalia
A closeup of the fire!
A closeup of the fire!

Since 2001 the Dragon has been anchored on the corner of Rock Island Ave and Progress Way, just off of US 40/Veteran’s Avenue. (see complete details at Roadside America).

Sumoflam and Paula Barenfanger, owner of the Kaskaskia Dragon and Kaskaskia Supply
Sumoflam and Paula Barenfanger, owner of the Kaskaskia Dragon and Kaskaskia Supply
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL
Sumoflam and the Fire Breathing Dragon of Kaskaskia in Vandalia, IL

And thus the five day Midwest Adventure comes to a close as my daughter, three grandchildren and I make our way back to Lexington.  I did get tired, so I thought I would let my little Lyla drive the rest of the way home.  What a great trip this was!!

Lyla driving us home
Lyla driving us home

Some roadside assistance provided by our friends at……

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 1: Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

Danville, Illinois
Danville, Illinois

On September 9, 2013 I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter and three grand kids on a an adventure across the midwest from Kentucky to Omaha, Nebraska.  She wanted to visit her close friend there and needed a “tour planner and driver.”  I was free and able to make the journey.  All totaled, we spent 5 days on the road visiting spots in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.  This post covers our adventures on Day 1 as we made our way to Walcott, Iowa, home of the World’s Largest Truck Stop.


View Larger Map – Lexington, KY to Walcott, IA

We left plenty early so that we could hit Indianapolis by early morning with the intent to surprise the three grand kids with a “Dinosaur Sighting”.  As we arrived in downtown Indy near the Lucas Field, I saw my first “Football” Wall Art.  There was an entire wall of a building dedicated to the Indianapolis Colts.  Here are a few shots:

Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural
Indianapolis Colts Wall Mural

A few blocks later we arrived at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Unfortunately, it was the first Monday after Labor Day, so the museum was closed.  But, our main concern was seeing the amazing dinosaurs busting out of the building.  Needless to say, the kids were thrilled!!

Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Giant Dinosaur at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children's Museum
Dinosaurs peek into the Children’s Museum
Dinosaurs "breaking out" of building
Dinosaurs “breaking out” of building
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!
About to be squished by a giant dino!!!

After looking at the dinosaurs, we were walking past the building and peeking in.  The kids got all excited as there was a GIANT Transformer in the lobby.  To our total delight, one of the staff members came to the door and invited us in to see the Autobot “Bumblebee.”   This huge model was actually a prop from the original 2007 Transformers movie.

Transformer "Bumblebee" movie prop at Children's Museum
Transformer “Bumblebee” movie prop at Children’s Museum
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Grandson Landen is loving his visit with Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee
Sumoflam and Bumblebee

The outside of the museum also has a couple of nice bronze sculptures of kids at play and a nice “Walk through History” of some of the unique buildings of the world…

Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children's Museum
Kids Playing at Indianapolis Children’s Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children's Museum
My grandkids emulate the statue at Indy Children’s Museum
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Great Wall in the Walk of History
The Sphinx and grandkids
The Sphinx and grandkids
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Wall Art on a hardware store in Indy
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis
Colorful Building Graffiti in Indianapolis

This first part of our trip was a real splash for the kids and got us on the fast lane for the remainder of the day.   From Indy we headed west to Danville, Illinois.  Danville has put in a great deal of effort to color up the town with beautiful murals and the Lindley Signpost Forest.

Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy
Traveling I-74 west towards Danville, IL from Indy

Danville, Illinois is a town of a bit over 33,000 people.  It is literally on the border of Inidana. The town has a colorful history and was the home to famous actors Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman.  The Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount was also born in Danville.

Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville...60's neon.
Old Drive-In Burger place in Danville…60’s neon
Royal Donut in Danville, IL.  Great prices and old fashioned goodness
Royal Donut in Danville, IL. Great prices and old fashioned goodness

Today the charming town features antique shops and other shopping, a number of historical museums and a smattering of colorful Wall Murals created by Walldogs. In August of 2010, one hundred and sixty-two Walldog artists traveled to Danville from all over the world for a four day meet (see a complete Gallery here). During that span, they forever changed and enhanced the city with sixteen murals in a 7 block area.

Tiger Head Malt Syrup
Tiger Head Malt Syrup mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Hot Rod Lincoln mural by The Walldogs
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Historical mural in Danville, IL
Colorful mural depicting Balloon Classic
Colorful full wall mural depicting Balloon Classic
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Evel Knievel Wall Mural in Danville
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it....
Chuckles Ad with Evel Knievel flying over it….

And perhaps the best one of all of them….

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke
Sumoflam and Dick Van Dyke

Along with the numerous murals in town, Danville also set a park aside downtown to create the Lindley Sign Post Forest. This was created in honor of Danville resident Carl Lindley. He was a soldier who became homesick while working on the Alaska Highway in 1942. While there, Lindley erected a sign at Watson Lake in the Yukon showing how far it was to his hometown of Danville — 2835 miles. Since that time more than 40,000 signs have been added to it at Watson Lake. The Danville version of the Sign Post Forest was originally built in 2010 along with the painting of the Walldog murals.

Carl Lindley and his wife at the original Sign Post Forest in Alaska (photo from www.signpostforest.com)
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest Sign
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest

And following are a few more sign posts….

Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest
Another Long View of the Lindley Sign Post Forest

And a few more scenes from Danville….

The Old Fisher Theater in downtown Danville
The Old Fischer Theater in downtown Danville
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

More on Danville USA Sculpture here

Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Colorful Birdhouses in a park next door to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
Interesting Jazz-themed mosaic sculpture in the small park next to the Fischer Theater
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone
AMBUCS Playground for Everyone

We let the kids play at the AMBUCS Playground for Everyone, which has been specifically designed to accommodate not only children, but also handicapped individuals and adults.  It was actually quite unique.

Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard
Fresh Pumpkins at Curtis Orchard

From Danville, it was westward to Champaign, Illinois.  Obviously, with the kids, I had hoped to get them to the Curtis Orchard Pumpkin Farm to see the Wizard of Oz themed things and for them to “follow the yellow brick road”.  Unfortunately, only the youngest, little Lyla, was awake.

Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Granddaughter Lyla follows the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Giant Indian at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards
Emerald City Mural on barn at Curtis Orchards

From Champaign we continued northwest on I-74 through the windfarms near Bloomington and onward into Morton, Illinois, the Pumpkin Capital of the World and home of the Libby’s Pumpkin Canning Plant.

Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
Wind Farm near Bloomington, IL
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
I-74 west of Normal, Illinois
Welcome to Morton, Illinois - Pumpkin Capital of the World
Welcome to Morton, Illinois – Pumpkin Capital of the World
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days.
We missed the Morton Pumpkin Festival by only a few days

From Morton it was up I-74 into East Peoria.  This was a very hot day (around 100 degrees) and the kids needed some cooling off.  Where better than to go to the M & M’s Twistee Treat?  This is one of those iconic Ice Cream/Hot Dog places where going there is as much fun as eating the ice cream.

Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
Sumoflam and Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL
M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, IL
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, IL

Though built in the 1980s, there are flashbacks to the 1960s in here and also a collection of M & M stuff….

Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Starlight Drive-in Clock in Twistee Treat
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Old style counter and lots of M & M stuff
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat
Big Ice Cream Cones at Twistee Treat

Just down the street from the Twistee Treat is Carl’s Bakery, home of the giant Rooster with a Top Hat.

Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl's Bakery in E. Peoria
Sumoflam with the giant Rooster with a Top Hat at Carl’s Bakery in E. Peoria

From Peoria is was north to Le Claire, Iowa.  My daughter Marissa was keen on visiting Antique Archeaology, home of the American Pickers TV Show.  So, we zoomed on up the freeway.

Peoria, Illinois skyline
Peoria, Illinois skyline
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Murray Baker Bridge crossing over the Illinois River
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74
Rural Scene in eastern Iowa as seen from I-74

We arrived in LeClaire around 5 PM knowing that Antique Archaeology closed at 6 PM.  Marissa was very excited to visit.  But, lo and behold, on this, my third visit and her first, we saw the following sign when we got there….

Antique Archaeology closed for filming
Antique Archaeology closed for filming

That did not stop us from taking a few shots from the outside.  We also got a chance to meet Mike Wolfe’s brother Rob, who was on hand for the filming that day.  Danielle Colby was nowhere to be found, likely because she is running her clothing shop in Chicago.  Last year I did get a chance to visit her as well (and I have included that photo for fun).

American Pickers production staff takes a break
American Pickers production staff takes a break
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology Car as seen on American Pickers
Antique Archaeology picks
Antique Archaeology picks
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam and Rob Wolfe at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam with Danielle from American Pickers (taken June 2012)
Sumoflam with Danielle Colby from American Pickers (taken June 2012)

And the best picture of all….

My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash
My Grandkidz at with the old Antique Archaeology Nash as seen on American Pickers

Of course, LeClaire is not only known for American Pickers. It is also the birthplace of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in April 1846.  The family left LeClaire in 1853 to move to Leavenworth, Kansas.  Eventually, Buffalo Bill made his way west.  Cody, Wyoming is named after him and has a large museum (which I visited earlier this year).  We dropped by the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire for a couple of shots to round off my visit to Buffalo Bill Cody Museums in two locations!

Buffalo Bill Museum - LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bill Museum – LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa
Buffalo Bull Museum in LeClaire, Iowa

After our brief visit to LeClaire, we were hot, tired and ready to settle down, so we headed straight to our motel in Walcott, IA, next door to the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – the World’s Largest Truck Stop.

Sunset in Walcott, IA at the World's Largest Truck Stop
Sunset in Walcott, IA at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop – World’s Largest Truck Stop

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Living in Horse Country – The Scenery and the Art

Horse Country - Lexington, Kentucky
Horse Country – Lexington, Kentucky

We have lived in Central Kentucky for just over 20 years.  The Lexington area is known as the Horse Capital of the World, and for good reason, the area is noted for its limestone enriched fertile soil, its excellent pastureland and the perfect place for bluegrass to grow.  The area is known for its scenic beauty and  manicured landscapes.  Sometimes one needs only go into their own backyard to enjoy the ride..  Following are a few “Horse Photos” that I have taken around Central Kentucky, some scenic, but mainly horse art that I come across.

HORSE FARMS AND HORSES OF CENTRAL KENTUCKY

Horse Racing at Keeneland
Horse Racing at Keeneland in Lexington, one of the premier tracks in the U.S.

With hundreds of horse farms in the area supporting it, Thoroughbred Racing is a huge industry in Central Kentucky.  But there are many other events that occur here as well, especially with the world famous Kentucky Horse Park.

Show Jumping at Kentucky Horse Park
Show Jumping at Kentucky Horse Park
Polocross at the Kentucky horse Park
Polocross at the Kentucky horse Park

Along with the horse activities are the expansive horse farms with their signature black plank fences and their massive horse barns.

Typical scene in Horse Country
Typical scene in Horse Country
Winter scene in horse country
Winter scene in horse country
Fall in Horse Country
Fall in Horse Country
Large Horse barn on Yarnelton Rd. near Lexington
Large Horse barn on Yarnelton Rd. near Lexington
Grazing horse on a farm south of Lexington
Grazing horse on a farm south of Lexington
A road near Lexington KY with the shadows of the famed plank fences
A road near Lexington KY with the shadows of the famed plank fences
Thoroughbreds frolicking in the snow in Woodford County, KY
Thoroughbreds frolicking in the snow in Woodford County, KY
A playful horse gives me the eye
A playful horse gives me the eye

HORSE ART IN CENTRAL KENTUCKY

Part of a mural in Lexington, Kentucky
Part of a mural in Lexington, Kentucky

With so much involved around horses in Central Kentucky, it is no wonder that there is an abundance of horse art to be found in the area.  There are numerous paintings and murals and dozens of horse statues dotting the region.  Here is just a smattering of what I have come across in my travels around Lexington and the surrounding area.

Angry Horse statue in Hamburg shopping area in Lexington.
Angry Horse statue in Hamburg shopping area in Lexington.
Girl with a foal, also in Hamburg shopping area
Girl with a foal, also in Hamburg shopping area
Horse and rider outside of Rebecca Ruth Candy Shop in Frankfort, Kentucky
Horse and jockey outside of Rebecca Ruth Candy Shop in Frankfort, Kentucky
Foal Statue on a Gate Post on Cleveland Road near Lexington, KY
Foal Statue on a Gate Post on Cleveland Road near Lexington, KY
Scrap Metal Horse at Woodford Reserve near Versailles, Kentucky
Scrap Metal Horse at Woodford Reserve near Versailles, Kentucky
Horse Statue at an upscale apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky
Horse Statue at an upscale apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky
This is a large horse mural on a water tower off of I-75 north of Lexington
This is a large horse mural on a water tower off of I-75 north of Lexington
A giant horse made out of wire that stands in front of the courthouse in Lexington
A giant horse made out of wire that stands in front of the courthouse in Lexington
Another view of the horse through a fountain with the courthouse in the background
Another view of the horse through a fountain with the courthouse in the background
A Chinese Horse statue in front of a bank in downtown Lexington
A Chinese Horse statue in front of a bank in downtown Lexington
Show Jumpers at shopping center in Lexington
Show Jumpers at shopping center in Lexington
Another set of jumpers in the same shopping center
Another set of jumpers in the same shopping center
Part of a mural on a wall on a building in downtown Lexington
Part of a mural on a wall on a building in downtown Lexington
A mural on a water tower in Versailles, Kentucky
A mural on a water tower in Versailles, Kentucky
A rustic horse head on a building in downtown Lexington
A rustic horse head on a building in downtown Lexington
Horse and Rider in downtown Lexington
John Hunt Morgan statue in downtown Lexington
John B. Castleman Statue in Cherokee Triangle in Louisville
John B. Castleman Statue in Cherokee Triangle in Louisville

As a side note on the above two photos of Morgan and Castleman.  These are both on the National Register of Historic Places and are the only two Civil War Monuments in Kentucky with equestrians.

THOROUGHBRED PARK – LEXINGTON

Thoroughbred Park in Downtown Lexington
Thoroughbred Park in Downtown Lexington

Perhaps the shining monument of horse art in Lexington (and Central Kentucky) is Thoroughbred Park. This 2.5 acre park, with its fountains and benches and walking paths offers a splendid retreat.  It also provides a unique history of the thoroughbred. The park contains 42 plaques honoring historic figures in the thoroughbred industry, and has 13 life-sized horse sculptures, including the seven horses storming down a track towards the finish line of a race.  All of the horse art in this park was done by Lexington artist Gwen Reardon. Following are a few scenes from the park.

Horse and rider racing down the track. Perhaps my favorite photo of all from Thoroughbred Park
Horse and jockey racing down the track. Perhaps my favorite photo of all from Thoroughbred Park
Top view of the horses racing
Top view of the horses racing
Jockey pushing his horse at Thoroughbred Park
Jockey pushing his horse at Thoroughbred Park
Frolicking Foals in Thoroughbred Park
Frolicking Foals in Thoroughbred Park
Grazing mare on a hill in Thoroughbred Park
Grazing mare on a hill in Thoroughbred Park
Monument of a 1800s race horse and sire named "Lexington" at Thoroughbred Park
Monument of a 1800s race horse and sire named “Lexington” at Thoroughbred Park
New foal promises the future of the industry
New foal promises the future of the industry
A final view - front view of the horses...you can almost hear and feel them
A final view – front view of the horses…you can almost hear and feel them

ARTSY HORSES – HORSE MANIA 2010 AND MORE

Lady's Godiva's Horse - created by Jean Isaacs Bramlette and Audwin Price
Lady’s Godiva’s Horse – created by Jean Isaacs Bramlette and Audwin Price

In July 2010, LexArts, a community organization dedicated to the promotion of art in Lexington, created a fund raising project called Horse Mania 2010, which featured 82  painted fiberglass horses that dotted the streets of Lexington. Since that time, many of these were purchased and added to private collections in Kentucky and elsewhere, but some are still visible on the streets of the city. The complete set can be seen HERE and all are clickable to see the whole story behind each one.  Following are a few that I have captured over the past three years.

Madame Ivory by Kelly Rice Welker
Madame Ivory by Kelly Rice Welker
Running Around in Circles by Blake Eames
Running Around in Circles by Blake Eames
Color Bars by Martha Chute and Jamie Pyles
Color Bars by Martha Chute and Jamie Pyles
Fionghan by Megan Gilvin
Fionghan by Megan Gilvin
Cloisonneigh by Priscilla Roberts Fallon & Family
Cloisonneigh by Priscilla Roberts Fallon & Family
It's Rocking Lexington by Lloyd Hughes
It’s Rocking Lexington by Lloyd Hughes
Lexington Landmarks by Jennifer Conrad-Barber
Lexington Landmarks by Jennifer Conrad-Barber
This one is in Chevy Chase, but can't find the name
This one is in Chevy Chase, but can’t find the name
This colorful Zebra is in Hamburg Shopping area, but is not on the list
This colorful Zebra is in Hamburg Shopping area, but is not on the list
This horse was in downtown Lexington during Horse Mania, but is not on the list either
This horse was in downtown Lexington during Horse Mania, but is not on the list either
Then there is the unusual Toaster Horse at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville
Then there is the unusual Toaster Horse at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville

Obviously, there is much more art to be found.  The Kentucky Horse Park has a dozen or more outdoor sculptures, photos of which can be seen here.  There are also more to be found in surrounding towns such as Paris, Versailles, Cynthiana, Richmond, Danville and more.  Its a great place to visit and an even better place to live!!

 

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