D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.

 

Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

 

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Travel #TBT: Jan. 2010 – A Weekend in KC and St. Louis

A weekend in St. Louis/Kansas City – Jan. 14-17, 2010

January 14, 2010: ROAD TRIP!!  After quite a hiatus on road trips, I finally took one.  Now that I am working for iHigh.com (was until 2012) I do have occasion to take a trip or two for support.  In this instance I was to travel to Kirkwood High School in St. Louis to Live Stream a basketball tournament on January 15, and then travel to Kansas City to Live Stream a large wrestling tournament at Center High School.  Naturally, along the way both there and back I made some side trips, as is always my custom, but in this case I did not veer too far off the beaten path.

Lexington, KY to Santa Claus, IN then St. Louis then Kansas City and back via Liberty, Independence and Lexington, MO

My first stop along the way was in Santa Claus, Indiana.  Yes, there really is a Santa Claus, Indiana and I believe it is the only town named Santa Claus anywhere.  According to the Wikipedia article about Santa Claus, the town was established in 1854. In 1856, when the town (then known as Santa Fe, pronounced “fee”) was working to
establish a Post Office, the US Postal Service refused their first application as there was already another Santa Fe, Indiana. Several town meetings were held, during which the name Santa Claus was selected.  Currently the town claims to have the world’s only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, Indiana
Welcome to Santa Claus, Indiana
Santa Claus, Indiana Post Office
Santa Claus, Indiana

 Santa Claus is a small town, but does have an amusement park a unique shopping center and Santa Claus statues everywhere.

Santa Claus lamp post…great even in the summer!
Santa’s Lodge Resort in Santa Claus, IN
A grumpy Santa statue in Santa Claus, IN
Santa Claus Town Hall
Santa Claus benches
Yes, there is a Christmas Store in Santa Claus…surprise, surprise
Giant Santa Claus statue on top of a hill in Santa Claus, IN
The roller coaster at Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, IN
There is even a large Frosty the Snowman statue in town

After filling my eyes with Santa Claus and filling the car’s tank with fuel, I was back on I-64 heading west to St. Louis.  The drive was fairly
uneventful.  I had to be at Kirkwood High School in time for an evening basketball game which was part of the Denver Miller
Tournament
, in honor of the former Kirkwood basketball coach.  The
funny part of the story is that one of my college roommates from BYU back in 1978 had graduated from here and also had been a kicker.  I searched the high school for any sign of Ray Heyman’s name and actually found it on a plaque of football lettermen from 1973.  Ray is now an attorney in Arizona and doing very well.

After the game, I headed off to the hotel for the night.

January 15, 2010: I was up early the next morning to head to St. Louis to meet one of my friends who had moved from Lexington.  We headed out to a diner in St. Louis known as Goody Goody Diner.
As with all other adventures I take, I look for interesting locations to chow down and this one was a doozy!!  Located on Natural Bridge Rd., it appears to be in the industrial part of town.  The Diner has been around since 1948 and has gone through numerous hands.  It is purportedly in the same location as the original A & W Root Beer stand in St. Louis, which was opened in 1931. The A & W had car hops and the tradition continued with Goody Goody diner until the early 1970s. Currently the diner is owned by Richard and Laura Connelly. Richard’s father purchased the diner in 1954 and it has been in the
family ever since.

Goody Goody’s Old Fashioned Neon Sign
Richard Connelly, owner of Goody Goody
The traditional old diner coffee cup sign at Goody Goody Diner

The diner has typical diner fare, but they also have their own specialties.  They are famous for their “Wilbur” omelet,  which is filled with hash brown potatoes, green peppers, onions and tomatoes.  Then it is covered with chili and Cheddar cheese.  It also comes with sides…I ordered the grits and an English muffin.  The omelet was FABULOUS and really not too costly either.  My friend Steve tried the fried chicken and waffles. That looked pretty good as well.

Goody Goody’s Wilbur omelet, with grits and an English Muffin
The “Wilbur” omelet
Traditional chicken and waffles at Goody Goody
Sumoflam getting ready to enjoy his “Wilbur” omelet
Traditional diner counter seating is still in use at Goody Goody
Goody Goody sign
Clientele fill the seats at Goody Goody
Not sure where it got the name, but the atmosphere and food were both deserving of the name Goody Goody!!
In my continuing quest for murals and wall art, I saw two pieces on the same wall on a building next door to Goody Goody’s (see other one below)
Trumpet Wall Art – St. Louis Jazz

After a good meal and some time with my friend Steve, I was back on my way Kirkwood for another game.  Along the way I visited the quaint town of Kirkwood and drove to the Laumeier Sculpture Park which had some large art.  It was a pleasant diversion. The Laumeier Park was established in 1972 and over the years has grown to over 105 acres.  It was one of just a few open air art museums in the world.  I took numerous photos of the art work.  Following are just a few samples. There is a map of the entire outdoor park/museum
here
.

Laumeier Sculpture Park in Kirkwood, MO
Ernest Trova – Profile Canto VI, 1974
Armand P. Arman – La Libellule, 1996
Mark di Suvero – Tumbleweed, 1978-95
Anthony Caro – Java, 1976
Mark di Suvero – Destino, 2003
Bro. Mel Meyer – Chairs, 1996 (located downtown Kirkwood)

After the little drive I then went and videoed the basketball games and then drove most of the evening to Kansas City, arriving there shortly after midnight.

January 16, 2010: It was another early day for me…to bed at 1 AM and up at 6 AM.  This entire day would be spent at Center High School in Kansas City to coordinate and manage live streaming a 16 team wrestling tournament on 6 mats.  We would be trying something not done before by iHigh…basically run 6 Live Streams from one location simultaneously for nearly 9 hours.  After we got all set up and cleared up a few glitches, we were rolling.   Center HS had provided some football players to assist in manning the cameras.  Athletic Director Brad Sweeten worked with me most of the day in the coordination and monitoring.  It was a great success.  We had some great stories, like the father in Afghanistan who got to watch or the grandfather in Ohio who saw his grandson wrestle (and win the championship in his weight class) for the first time ever.  This is why I love my job!! 

After the tournament was over, Coach Sweeten and I headed to a local restaurant to enjoy what Kansas City is famous for…Barbecue.  It was great and so was the company.  Finally, by 11 PM I was back in bed at the hotel. The next day would be an early departure to head back home via a few more places.

January 17, 2010: I would head back home to Lexington today, but once again would hit a few back roads and catch a few more bits of America as I like to see it.  My first stop was heading north into
Kansas City for a drive by the art museums there.  Like St. Louis, there is some interesting out door artwork…more specifically giant shuttlecocks (or badminton birdies).  In July 1994, Shuttlecocks, the first outdoor sculpture commissioned for the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, was installed in the Kansas City Sculpture Park, which is part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The shuttlecocks were created by internationally known Dutch artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and were a  gift to the Museum.  Altogether there are four shuttlecocks, each 17 ft. 11 in. high x 15 ft. 1 in. crown diameter and 4 ft. nose diameter, located in different positions on the grounds of the museum. Oldenburg and van Bruggen have done all sorts of large and whimsical works around the world.  I sure hope to see more in the future!!

“Shuttlecocks” by Claes Oldenburg & Cossje van Bruggen at Kansas City Sculpture Park
“Shuttlecocks” by Claes Oldenburg & Cossje van Bruggen at Kansas City Sculpture Park
“Shuttlecocks” by Claes Oldenburg & Cossje van Bruggen at Kansas City Sculpture Park

There were a number of other unique works of art surrounding the old and new sections of the art museum.  I did not venture in as it was still fairly early on a Sunday morning, but I did see a couple more interesting pieces.  The first of the pieces to catch anyone’s eye is the gigantic “Spider” sculpture by French artist Louis Bourgeois. This eerie bronze sculpture was built in 1996 and sits at the entrance of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.  It stands over 11 feet tall and really is spooky.

“Spider” by Louis Bourgeois at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City
Another view of “Spider” by Louis Bourgeois at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City
Another interesting sculpture at Kemper (name and artist unknown)

After seeing just a few of the works of art at the sculpture parks in St. Louis and Kansas City, I am determined to get to others in the U.S. on my travels in the future.  I hope to see the Franconica Sculpture Park
in Franconica, MN and the Porter Sculpture Park near Montrose, SD (which I did see in 2012), among others.

After the interesting venture into art, I headed north to Independence, MO, site of some Mormon Church History.  Along the way I came across the somewhat famous and unique Leila’s Hair
Museum
.  I have seen this place noted in Roadside America and also on Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Well, I found the place, but it is closed on
Sundays.  The only sign is the one below…it was in a plastic folder taped on the door.

Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, MO

Also on my drive thru Independence I came across this all painting.
Independence is the home of President Harry Truman and this wall painting depicts the famous Chicago Tribune article that mistakenly proclaimed that Dewey had defeated Truman.  The mural sits on the side of the Welch, Martin and Albano law office in downtown Independence.

Harry Truman wall mural in Independence, MO

From Independence I then drove to Liberty, MO.  My main objective there was to see the Liberty Jail Historic Site, where Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was held. Unfortunately, I pulled into Liberty at 8:30 AM and the Visitor’s Center didn’t open until 9, so I didn’t get the chance to go in.  But, it was nice to finally get there.  Joseph Smith spent almost 5 months in this jail while awaiting trial and received three revelations (Sections 121, 122 and 123) which are included in the Church’s Doctrine and CovenantsOne of the scriptures has always been inspirational to me: in D&C 121:7-8 “. . . if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”  Joseph Smith suffered some tortuous times in his life and this was definitely one of them.

Liberty Jail in Liberty, MO

Not too far from the Liberty Jail are some interesting murals on the Clay County Offices. On one corner is a painting that appears to depict Lewis and Clark. Then there are some unique ceramic murals that adorn the walls of the office building. Each ceramic mural,  originally installed in 1984, depicts figures and events from Clay County’s past.

Lewis & Clark Mural painted by Liberty artist David McClain
A portion of Lewis & Clark Mural painted by Liberty artist David McClain Located on the side of the Clay County Detention Center
These are some of the ten ceramic murals on the wall of the Clay County Public Safety Building in Liberty, MO. They depict the history of the county. Above is “Scales and Rails” which depicts the Watkins Mill of 1860, Cook Paint & Varnish in 1913, Ralston Purina in the 1940s, Claycomo Ford Assembly Plant in 1951, and the A.S.B. Bridge built in 1912.
This is the Clay Country War Memorial which shows the white doves of Anguish (on the left) and Serenity (on the right). Flanked by the white doves, soldiers from Missouri in all the great wars remind us of the price freedom requires — death. As the North gestures to the South, the sallow image of Col. Alexander Doniphan and his entourage march into history.
The shots above and below are closeups of some portions of the ceramic murals that depict many of the former residents of Clay County

After the visit to Liberty, my next stop was in Lexington, Missouri, famed for the Civil War Battle of Lexington.  I drove by the visitor’s center but did not have time to go in.  That’ll have to be on another trip.

Battle of Lexington Visitor’s Center and Plaque commemorating the battle

Click here for a brief of history of this battle. The town of Lexington had a few other notable things, including a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.

An eagle was the centerpiece of a war heroes monument
Lady Liberty stood watch in downtown Lexington, MO
A mural found in Lexington, MO depicting the some of the history of this river town

Perhaps the most delightful thing about driving the less beaten paths of America are the rustic and natural sites along the way.  As we speed by on the freeways we miss so much.  Here are just a few of the things I saw along the way home from Lexington, MO to Lexington, KY.

An old vine entwined windmill sits lonely in a field on a backroad east of Liberty, MO
Saw this old tree shrouded in fog on a back road in Missouri
Found this interesting tree on a clump of dirt. The fog made it more mysterious
Along the way on back roads we see the history of this country. This is an old Maid-Rite Sandwiches sign near Lexington, MO
An old rural ruin along the road…someone’s dream home at one time

And finally, along the road I came across a flock of Flamingos.  As a true Trailer Park Troubadour Flamingohead, I could not pass up the opportunity to capture a few shots of these silly pink birds at what appeared to be a Biker Joint.

Pink flamingos at the Hawgs and Heifers Bar
More pink
This is a biker bar and grill located in Fayette, MO. They claim to have good food (unlike Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana)

Some roadside guidance provided by……

 

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