O is for Offbeat Oddities – #atozchallenge

For me there is a difference between “Offbeat” and “Quirky.”  I like to look at things that are offbeat as being similar to something conventional or recognizable, but just somewhat off.  On the other hand, quirky is closer to non-conventional and sometimes even absurd (my Q post will focus on Quirky).

Oddville, Kentucky

When I am traveling I love looking at the beauty and nature around me, but I also seek out the offbeat and quirky.  One source I always use to help me find these locations is the Roadside America app. This app covers all 50 states and most of Canada and includes almost anything offbeat, odd, quirky and even downright outlandish and ridiculous. There are literally 1000s of sites and things to find and this makes for something fun on a roadtrip.

Sumoflam at the Mushroom House in Cincinnati
Mushroom House front side

So, what do I mean by offbeat?  Let’s take houses for instance.  The normal home is brick and mortar, or a trailer home.  But how about a flying saucer or a house that looks like mushrooms?  A trip to the Cincinnati area offers up both of these.

First, there is a house in Cincinnati literally referred to as the “Mushroom House.”  It is built almost completely out of either natural materials or recycled materials.

It is like a house…it is a house.  But it certainly looks different than the “normal” human abode.

A view of Cincinnati’s Mushroom House
Beam Me Up Scotty at the Front Door of Futuro House

Then there are the homes that look like flying saucers.  Called “Futuro” homes, there were many built in the 1960s by a company in Finland.

Across the river from Cincinnati, on a hill in Covington, KY overlooking the Ohio River and US Interstate 75, sits a Futuro House.  It is in a regular neighborhood and stands out like a sore thumb.  If you look carefully off to your right from the Interstate driving south out of Cincinnati right after crossing the Ohio River, you will see it.

The Futuro House in Covington, KY
Beer Can House, Houston, TX

Finally, take a tripdown to Houston for another Offbeat house…the house built totally out of Beer Cans!

Basically done as an art project, this house is also lived in and is built out of 1000s of aluminum beer cans.

I think the owner’s name must be Bud Weiser??

Beer Can House Front
Beer Can House
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon

But houses aren’t the only offbeat places.  If one looks hard the discovery of offbeat eateries can also come to the fore.  Like the houses, these are normal in most respects, but there is just something a tad different.

For instance, there is a great place in Portland, Oregon called Voodoo Doughnut.  The main shop (yes, there are now a few of them) is located downtown and there are lines there 24/7.  They make a great variety of doughnuts and even a few offbeat ones, such as the actual Voodoo Doughnut, which is a person shaped doughnut, covered with chocolate and filled with raspberry filling.  It is stabbed with a pretzel stick…yes, like a Voodoo Doll!

The Voodoo Doll – Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stick!
It is no wonder there are always lines at Voodoo Doughnut – 24/7

Then there is the other offbeat thing…the original shop also has a chapel and some of the bakers are ALSO ordained ministers.  You can be married at Voodoo Doughnut legally and be surrounded by chapel-esque stained glass and everything!

Voodoo Doughnut Stained Glass
Voodoo Doughnut in Portland — lost my selfie
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

Head on over to Missouri for another unique treat.  There is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri (and another near Branson) called Lambert’s Cafe.  These huge facilities cater to tourists and buses.  They offer a variety of yummy meals and have a few things served “home style” – wheeled in on carts and served out of pots at the table (including black-eyed peas, potatoes, tomato stew and more).

But what really makes them famous are their “Throwed Rolls.” And this is where they fit into the Offbeat category.  Literally, they come to the middle of an area in the restaurant, ask who wants rolls and then throw them across the room to you.  You miss them, too bad…

Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
The Throwed Rolls with Sorghum – yummy!

Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…

Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Mammy’s Cupboard Dining Room – Much bigger than it looks on the outside
Sumoflam and MSR Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

Convention gets thrown out the door when visiting a facility just outside of Nekoma, ND.  There is a huge cement pyramid in the middle of nowhere.  Seemingly deserted (but fenced off), this used to be an old military facility.

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.  The pyramid included radar and other defense systems.  Now unused, it sits in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota and is an imposing offbeat site.

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The famed North Dakota pyramid, a vestige of the cold war, as seen from ND Hwy 1 south of Nekoma, ND

And a bank is a bank is a bank…right?  What about one for tightwads?

Then there is place called Tightwad in MO and they even have a bank!
National Mustard Museum Sign, Middleton, WI

Next are museums.  There are hundreds of museums in the United States, but some are more offbeat and unique than others.  Take the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI.  Chock full of mustards from around the world, one can buy a lifetime supply of mustards and never have the same flavor twice.

The original Mustard Museum was located in Mt. Horeb, WI, but later moved to Middleton, to be in a much larger facility. A condiment lover’s  dream.

Mustard Display – Plastic Bottles – Mustard Museum in Wisconsin
MBA Degree (Master of Bad Attitude) from the Mustard Museum’s Poupon University (Poupon U)

There are also other fun museums out there.  How about these?

Jell-o Museum in LeRoy, New York
Spoon Ceiling at JELL-O Museum
Sumoflam at Spam Museum in Austin, MN
Spam Museum Billboard – Austin, MN
Spam Museum – Austin, MN
At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013 – Blackfoot, ID
World’s Largest Potato Chip – 23″ x 14.5″ at the Idaho Potato Museum

And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”

Visiting Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront in Seattle
This guy greets you at the door at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle
A two headed sheep in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA

Finally, what’s in a town?  There are some offbeat towns out there.  Many towns have unique names, but some of these are really offbeat and odd.

Odd, West Virginia Post Office
Oddville United Methodist Church, Oddville, KY
Peculiar, Missouri
A Peculiar Church

Some are totally Uncertain….

Finding Uncertainty in Uncertain, TX
Yes, there is a Church of Uncertain!!

And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.

DISH Town Hall, DISH, Texas
DISH, Texas

Indeed, there is much offbeat in America and this is just a small sampling of the savory and unsavory offbeat oddities of our wonderful country.  Is there anything Normal?

Normal, IL

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A to Z Challenge: The P Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

PThe P Towns

 

Pella, Iowa

Welcome to Pella
Welcome to Pella
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA - the largest working windmill in the United States
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Jaarsma Bakery - Pella, Iowa
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Unique building corner in Pella, IA
Unique building corner in Pella, IA

There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa.  Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit.  It is also home to the Pella Window Factory!  See a more complete post about Pella HERE.

Peculiar, Missouri

Welcome to Peculiar, MO
Welcome to Peculiar, MO
And let's not forget...A Peculiar Water Tower
And let’s not forget…A Peculiar Water Tower
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Church
A Peculiar Police Car
A Peculiar Police Car
Peculiar Post Office
Peculiar Post Office

In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts,  I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia.  Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri.  Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way.  The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868.  See my original 2012 post HERE.

Pierre Part, Louisiana

Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Swamp People Truck at Duffy's Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Swamp People Truck at Duffy’s Bait Shop in Pierre Part
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
Visiting Troy Landry in Pierre Part, LA in 2014
P'MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
P’MAWS Bait Shack in Pierre Part, LA (Notice it is SWAMP spelled backwards)
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part
This was the closest thing I saw resembling a gator when in Pierre Part

Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize.  But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”.  You can read the whole story HERE.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
Mothman Museuam in Point Pleasant, WV
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
The Mothman by Robert Roach, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Dafford's History Mural in Point Pleasant.
Dafford’s History Mural in Point Pleasant.

A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit.  Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2.  The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman.  The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph.  See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.

A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris

Welcome to Paris, Kentucky
Welcome to Paris, Kentucky

I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up.  Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River .  I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times.  There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link).  The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.

Paris, Ontario

Welcome to Paris, Ontario
Welcome to Paris, Ontario A nice place to live
Downtown Paris, Ontario
Downtown Paris, Ontario
A view of Paris and the river
A view of Paris and the river
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Homes and businesses along the river in Paris
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell received first long distance phone call in Paris in 1876
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que - Paris, Ontario
Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario

During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time.  Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty.  There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place.  Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.

Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The Paris, TX Eiffel Tower replica.
The famed "Jesus in Cowboy Boots" monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
The famed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, TX
I bid farewell to Paris...that's me in the reflection...
I bid farewell to Paris…that’s me in the reflection…

I have been to Paris, Texas three times.  There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993.  For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S.  See my post about this battle HERE.  It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery.  (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.)   called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.

Paris, Tennessee

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris Catfish
Welcome to Paris Catfish
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower

On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S.  Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers.  Read more HERE.

Port Orchard, Washington

Welcome to Port Orchard
Welcome to Port Orchard
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Easy Street in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
Bethel Saloon in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
One of a few large murals to be found in Port Orchard, WA
The Mattress Ranch "pasture" in Port Orchard
The Mattress Ranch “pasture” in Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard
A Blue Heron relaxes in the waters of Port Orchard

In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days.  We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle.  There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.

Powder River, Wyoming

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming

On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre.   It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace.  See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.

Paducah, Kentucky

Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Lewis and Clark Statues with Sacajawea and some Indians in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Part of Flood Wall Murals in Paducah
Paducah, Kentucky
Paducah, Kentucky
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY
Scene from a River Wall mural in Paducah, KY

Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town.  Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin.  There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river.  Their chief was named Paduke.  This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on.  He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did.  Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi.  Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856.  It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub.  Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.

Port Gibson, Mississippi

Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Welcome to Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
Large Wall Mural in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
A man on porch in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Rabbit Foot Minstrel marker in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Unique Steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson
Old Gemiluth Chassed synagogue in Port Gibson

As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns).  One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well.  Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above.  Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures.  And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple!  See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.

Palmyra, New York

Hill Cumorah
Hill Cumorah
Book of Mormon Publication site
Historical location of the publishing of the first Book of Mormon took place in Palmyra, NY
Hill Cumorah Monument
Hill Cumorah Monument commemorating the location where Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the Angel Moroni. The plates were translated and later became the Book of Mormon
Hill Cumorah MOnument with Moroni
Angel Moroni sits atop the Hill Cumorah Monument
The home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra
A replica of the home Joseph Smith lived in while in Palmyra

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon.  Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon.  Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing.  My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013.  You can see my full writeup HERE.

Perryville, Kentucky

Welcome to Perryville
Welcome to Perryville
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Perryville Battlefield ReEnactment
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
Seth and Solomon with Civil War reenactors in Perryville, KY October 1994
One of many unique shops in Perryville
One of many unique shops in Perryville

Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment.  The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.

Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)

Ole's Big Game Steakhouse - Paxton, Nebraska
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse – Paxton, Nebraska
Big Moose at Ole's (and one with antlers too)
Big Moose at Ole’s (and one with antlers too)

On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska.  The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants.  Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.

Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)

Pembroke, New York
Pembroke, New York
Kutter's Cheese in Corfu, New York
Kutter’s Cheese in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter's Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York
Mural at Kutter’s Cheese Factory in Corfu, New York

On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY.  I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me.  And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.

Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)

Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY
Birkett Mills Griddle, Penn Yan, NY

On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York.  One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc.  They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.

Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Ponder, Texas
Ponder, Texas
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don't Ponder about going to a fire.
The Ponder Volunteer Fire Department. I hope they don’t Ponder about going to a fire.
This is a church that has Ponder in the name....Ponder your eternal future
This is a church that has Ponder in the name….Ponder your eternal future
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder...ponder away!
And a Water Tower that reminds you to Ponder…ponder away!

And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area?  Think about it ok?

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Maybe not strange, but Peculiar…

Peculiar, MO

Just as there is a Normal in Illinois, there is a Peculiar in Missouri.  Yes, this is more than a strange name for a town, it is a Peculiar name.  On a trip to Kansas City in January 2011, I made my way to Peculiar.

Peculiar welcome sign

I love hitting places like this.  According to legend, Peculiar received its name when the first postmaster, Edgar Thomson, had his first choice, Excelsior, rejected because it already existed in Atchison County, MO. Apparently, a number of  other choices were also rejected. So, the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post officewas established on June 22, 1868.  Peculiar was later incorporated in 1953.

Peculiar Post Office

It is fun to drive around a town like Peculiar and notice all of the peculiar things.  Here are a few.

A Peculiar Police Car
A Peculiar Elementary School
A Peculiar Drive In
A Peculiar Church
And let’s not forget…A Peculiar Water Tower

Getting to Peculiar is actually quite easy if you are on the freeway heading to Kansas City from St. Louis.  Here is a map:

View Larger Map

Peculiar, Missouri

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