Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Family Travel – Pt 3

Joselyn on the Beach - Hilton Head Island, South Carolina summer 2013
Joselyn on the Beach – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina summer 2013

This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1  Part 2 )

Autumn in Rhinelander, WI Aug 2012
Autumn in Rhinelander, WI  with the Hodag – Aug 2012

After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year.  In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones.  These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah.  Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another.  It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….

Solomon in Toad Suck, Arkansas June 2007
Solomon in Toad Suck, Arkansas June 2007

In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed).  So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington.  Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:


View Larger Map – Kentucky to Texas and Back

This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time.  We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took.  Along the way we saw a few fun things…

Solomon at the Memphis Egg at the Memphis Visitor's Center, June 2007
Solomon at the Memphis Egg at the Memphis Visitor’s Center, June 2007
Solomon in two states - Texas and Arkansas, Texarkana, Texas June 2007
Solomon in two states – Texas and Arkansas, Texarkana, Texas June 2007

After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.

Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007
Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007

After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.

Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat in Paris, Texas - June 2007
Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat in Paris, Texas – June 2007
Solomon with Popeye in Alma, Arkansas - home of Popeye brand Spinach June 2007
Solomon with Popeye in Alma, Arkansas – home of Popeye brand Spinach June 2007

The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together.  This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie.  As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well.  Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)

Our Route to Washington and Back - September 2007
Our 6000 mile route to Washington and back – September 2007

The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride.  We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike.  This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL.  It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video.  In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.

Solomon and "Spindle" by Dustin Shuler, originally at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL. Taken Sept 2007.
Solomon and “Spindle” by Dustin Shuler, originally at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL. Taken Sept 2007

From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota.  We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!

Solomon with a Big Orange Moose in Black River Falls, WI Sept 2007
Solomon with a Big Orange Moose in Black River Falls, WI Sept 2007
Solomon hanging with James Frank Kotera "JFK" the Twine Ball Man in Lake Nebagamon, WI.  Largest Twine Ball in the World. Sept 2007
Solomon hanging with James Frank Kotera “JFK” the Twine Ball Man in Lake Nebagamon, WI. Largest Twine Ball in the World. Sept 2007
Solomon has picked one of his favorite giant wooden trolls in Mt. Horeb, WI.  There are over 30 in town. Sept 2007
Solomon, an “American Picker”, has picked one of his favorite giant wooden trolls in Mt. Horeb, WI. There are over 30 in town. Sept 2007
Solomon at the Lake Superior Overlook near Duluth, MN
Solomon at the Lake Superior Overlook near Duluth, MN
Near Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota, Solomon found a deer to feed
Near Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota, Solomon found a deer to feed
Solomon riding the Big Fish at Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota - Sept. 2007
Solomon riding the Big Fish at Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota – Sept. 2007

Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN

Solomon is dwarfed by the World's Largest Walleye in Baudette, MN Sept 2007
Solomon is dwarfed by the World’s Largest Walleye in Baudette, MN Sept 2007

From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta.  It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….

Solomon at the Saskatchewan Provincial Border Sept 2007
Solomon at the Saskatchewan Provincial Border Sept 2007
Solomon at Indiana Head, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon at Indiana Head, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon visits with the World's Largest Moose Statue in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon visits with the World’s Largest Moose Statue in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Sept 2007

I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain.  We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…

Solomon with the Trailercana Guitar hand-crafted by Crafty Jack
Solomon with the Trailercana Guitar hand-crafted by Crafty Jack

We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…

Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
A StarStruck "Starship Sol" with some new pals in Vulcan, Alberta Sept. 2007
A StarStruck “Starship Sol” with some new pals in Vulcan, Alberta Sept. 2007
Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007

We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie.  During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass.  We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…

The family at Kings Hill Pass near Meagher, MT - Amaree, Charlie, Sumoflam, Kade, Julianne and Solomon - Sept 2007
The family at Kings Hill Pass near Meagher, MT – Amaree, Charlie, Sumoflam, Kade, Julianne and Solomon – Sept 2007

We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls.  Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…

Climbing up to the top of Memorial Falls in Montana - Julianne, Aaron (son in law), Kade and Solomon - Sept 2007
Climbing up to the top of Memorial Falls in Montana – Julianne, Aaron (son in law), Kade and Solomon – Sept 2007
Solomon up high on a cliff near Memorial Falls in Montana, Sept 2007
Solomon up high on a cliff near Memorial Falls in Montana, Sept 2007

During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out).  But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington.  Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook.  John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody).  Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie.  So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh.  It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.

Solomon with Rock and Roll Radio icon John Rook at his home in Couer D'Alene, ID in Sept 2007
Solomon with Rock and Roll Radio icon John Rook at his home in Couer D’Alene, ID in Sept 2007

This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me.  We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management.  After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.

Solomon at the overlook of Hell's Canyon in Oregon - Sept. 2007
Solomon at the overlook of Hell’s Canyon in Oregon – Sept. 2007

From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!).  It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”

Visiting "Elder Kravetz" in Sandy, Utah in Sept 2007
Visiting “Elder Kravetz” in Sandy, Utah in Sept 2007

We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky.  More unique stops were made along the way…

Solomon with a giant jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming, the "Jackalope Capital of the World" - Sept 2007
Solomon with a giant jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming, the “Jackalope Capital of the World” – Sept 2007
Solomon and his new friend at Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, NE - Sept 2007
Solomon and his new friend at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, NE – Sept 2007

After a long trip, we finally made it home.  This was to be the last of my trips with just my children.  All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips.  I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.

The family visits Jakeman's a working Maple Syrup facility near Woodstock, Ontario - July 2008
The family visits Jakeman’s a working Maple Syrup facility near Woodstock, Ontario – July 2008
Adam, Marissa and Joselyn at Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario July 2008
Adam, Marissa and Joselyn at Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario July 2008

Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…

Autumn - Green Bay Packers in Pink - at Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay, WI Aug. 2012
Autumn – Green Bay Packers in Pink – at Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay, WI Aug. 2012

In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin.  We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)

Spicing it up at the National Mustard Museum - Middleton, WI
Spicing it up at the National Mustard Museum – Middleton, WI
Chelsea and Autumn follow the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards in Champagne, IL - Aug 2012
Chelsea and Autumn follow the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards in Champaigne, IL – Aug 2012
Autumn tackles the “Beast” – a scrap metal sculpture by the late Wally Keller located in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Autumn and "Grampz" with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI
Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI
Chelsea and Autumn know they love Kraft Macaroni at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Chelsea and Autumn know they love Kraft Macaroni at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL

On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more.  See more here.

Autumn and Savannah (my niece) at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY in Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah (my niece) at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY in Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah with my sister Sherry and her husband Brian - Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah with my sister Sherry and her husband Brian – Aug. 2009

We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.

Grandson Kade at the Louisville Children's Museum - Dec. 2012
Grandson Kade at the Louisville Children’s Museum – Dec. 2012

I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them.  However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us.  I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips.  Here are a few scenes…

Kade and Charlie, with their Dad Aaron at Leaning Tree Cafe in Babb, MT at the base of Glacier National Park – March 2013
Kade, Charlie and cousin Autumn in the vacuum at Louisville Children's Museum - Dec. 2012
Kade, Charlie and cousin Autumn in the vacuum at Louisville Children’s Museum – Dec. 2012
Charlie at the giant wind farm near Shelby, Montana - Feb. 2012
Charlie at the giant wind farm near Shelby, Montana – Feb. 2012
Olivia at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY - Dec. 2012
Olivia at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY – Dec. 2012
My youngest grandchild Benson with his Dad Aaron at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Dec 2012
My youngest grandchild Benson with his Dad Aaron at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Dec 2012
Grandson Charlie is dwarfed by the giant penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Grandson Charlie is dwarfed by the giant penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Charlie at Jerusalem Rocks in Northern Montana
Charlie at Jerusalem Rocks in Northern Montana

My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18.  Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between.  Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well.  Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.

Little Joselyn hanging with Uncle Solomon at San Xavier del Bac Church in Tucson, Arizona - April 2011
Little Joselyn hanging with Uncle Solomon at San Xavier del Bac Church in Tucson, Arizona – April 2011
Joselyn with her mother at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, April 2011
Joselyn with her mother at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, April 2011
Joselyn with her cousin Autumn and Second Cousin Savannah at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2010
Joselyn with her cousin Autumn and Second Cousin Savannah at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2010
Joselyn and sister Lyla with Grandma Julianne on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island, April 2013
Joselyn and sister Lyla with Grandma Julianne on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island, April 2013
Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM
Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM
Running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
Running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
Joselyn makes a visit to Earth (TX) in April 2011
Joselyn makes a visit to Earth (TX) in April 2011
Jos with Grampz at rest area n North Carolina - April 2013
Jos with Grampz at rest area n North Carolina – April 2013
Cussling with an alien in Roswell, New Mexico - April 2011
Cussling with an alien in Roswell, New Mexico – April 2011
Jos and her mother Marissa at Stone Mountain in Georgia, April 2013
Jos and her mother Marissa at Stone Mountain in Georgia, April 2013
Joselyn at Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 2013
Joselyn at Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 2013
Holding a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis
Holding a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis
Joselyn and Landen at Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers TV Show in LeClaire, IA - Sept. 2013
Joselyn and Landen at Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers TV Show in LeClaire, IA – Sept. 2013
Jos and Landen at Gothic House in Eldon, IA - Sept 2013
Jos and Landen at Gothic House in Eldon, IA – Sept 2013
Joselyn as a baby at Niagara Falls with her parents in July 2008
Joselyn as a baby at Niagara Falls with her parents in July 2008

Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!

Landen with the Transformer "Bumblebee" at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis (told you he "caught the bug") - Sept 2013
Landen with the Transformer “Bumblebee” at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis (told you he “caught the bug”) – Sept 2013
Landen with a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis (caught the bug again!!)
Landen with a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis (caught the bug again!!)
Landen goes Dutch in Pella, Iowa - Sept. 2013
Landen goes Dutch in Pella, Iowa – Sept. 2013
Landen with the corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio, July 2011
Landen with the corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio, July 2011
Landen the beach bum at Cave Run Lake, KY in June 2013
Landen the beach bum at Cave Run Lake, KY in June 2013
Landen and Joselyn visit their Great Aunt Nicole in Cleveland, OH July 2011
Landen and Joselyn visit their Great Aunt Nicole in Cleveland, OH July 2011

Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.

Lyla follows in the footsteps of her cousin Autumn by following the Yellow Brick Road Champaign, IL
Lyla follows in the footsteps of her cousin Autumn by following the Yellow Brick Road Champaign, IL
Lyla rides the old 1930s St. Louis Carousel in Sept. 2013
Lyla rides the old 1930s St. Louis Carousel in Sept. 2013
Sumoflam teaches granddaughter Lyla how to drive the backroads of America at an early age
Sumoflam teaches granddaughter Lyla how to drive the backroads of America at an early age

Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly.  That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….

Grampz and RockE
Grampz and RockE
Rockwell in West Chester, OH - 2012
Rockwell in West Chester, OH – 2012

Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!

Sumoflam - Enjoy the Ride
Sumoflam – Enjoy the Ride
Sumoflam - An Okay Parent
Sumoflam – An Okay Parent
Sumoflam - Helluva Grandparent
Sumoflam – Helluva Grandparent

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Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Back Roads Travel with Family – Pt 2

Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999
Akela Flats near Deming, New Mexico, December 1999

This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them.  You can see Part 1 here.

During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.

Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky 1996
Chelsea and Seth at the Lincoln Birthplace monument in Hodgenville, Kentucky July 4, 1997
Kid s with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1996
Kids with Grandpa Kravetz at Cumberland Gap in 1997

The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more.  This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world.  She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)

St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Art Museum Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
St. Louis Science Museum, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997
Marissa, Barbara, Amaree, Seth, Solomon under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 1997

The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other.  It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.

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

Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998.  This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe.  Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed.  At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France.  Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris.  Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)

Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA June 1998
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey Chocolate World
Amaree, Seth and Marissa at Hersey’s Chocolate World, June 1998

We took three trips to the east during 1998.  The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility.  While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail.  Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us.  In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.

Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Eaton, PA
Seth and Amaree play with GIANT Crayons at the Crayola Museum in Easton, PA

From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit).  It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.

Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA
Amaree and Seth at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA

So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.).  This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off.  But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents.  It was pretty “in-tents”!!

Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Solomon got a big bang out of the cannons in Gettysburg in July 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998
Seth and Solomon at the Gettysburg Museum, July 4 1998

We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one.  However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.

Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998

We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……

National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998
National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, July 1998

Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip.  But, it was not the last trip east.  A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa.  Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background.  Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.

Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998
Sister Sherry, Chelsea and Solomon with WTC in background, August 1998

Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!

Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998
Solomon, Julianne, Marissa and Seth in Lexington, VA Summer 1998

In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University.  While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia.  We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West  as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…

Abe Lincoln Monument near Laramie, Wyoming 1999
Abe Lincoln Monument at Summit Rest Area on I-80 near Laramie, Wyoming Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth, Solomon, Marissa and Julianne at Winter Quarters monument at Mormon Trail Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s.  Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Seth and Sol Practice their handcart skills. These came in handy when they did an actual three day adventure in the early 2000s. Taken at Mormon Trail Center, Omaha in Summer 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ  in late 1999
Visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument, near Cottonwood, AZ Dec. 30, 1999

A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Akela Flats, NM near Deming - Dec. 22, 1999
Akela Flats, NM near Deming – Dec. 22, 1999

Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff.  In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky.  I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.

Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999
Amaree, Solomon and Seth at Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, OH Fall 1999

During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio.  Giant picnic basket!

Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth at LDS Nashville Temple Dedication, May 2000

The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us.  Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips.  We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.

On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum.  We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Family visits "Sue" the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Family visits “Sue” the T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago in May 2000
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon, Julianne, Amaree and Seth on one of the huge pillars at the Field Museum in Chicago
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum.
Solomon about to get chomped by Sue at the Field Museum

Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!

Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Seth and Solomon with friends from Murray, UT visiting Beale Street in Memphis, January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001
Going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee January 2001

Travel continued that year with a couple more trips.  Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites.  Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.


View Larger Map – Map of our 2001 trip to Nauvoo

Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
Family inside the Clark Memorial with George Rogers Clark and the seven murals, Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001
The kids learn about an Old Printing Press in Vincennes, Indiana. Summer 2001

In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana.  This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory.  The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.

Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001
Seth and Marissa walking with Lincoln at Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois in the Summer of 2001

From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument.  This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.

Traveling in the van, Summer 2001
Traveling in the van, Summer 2001

Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites.  Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.

Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer's Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001
Seth and Solomon at Tom Sawyer’s Fence in Hannibal, Missouri., Summer 2001

From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy.  Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln).  We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.

Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois.
Amaree taking an etching of the grave marker of her great-great-great-great grandfather Joseph Hanks in Quincy, Illinois

There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.

The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001.
The family at Carthage, location where the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Taken in the summer of 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Family at the Nauvoo Temple under construction in Nauvoo, Illinois. Summer 2001
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Solomon at the memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL
Amaree at the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statue in Carthage, IL

On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).

Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2000
Family climbs aboard a dino at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, Summer 2001
The Family Pulling Together at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Summer 2001

On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds.  When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…

My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children's Museum in 2013
My grandchildren at Indianapolis Children’s Museum in 2013

The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan.  Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved.  Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.

Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, Utah
Seth with a dinosaur fossil at Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur, CO, summer 2002

In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents.  It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.

Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002
Solomon, Marissa and Sumoflam at Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, Colorado, summer 2002

With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things.  Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.

Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).

Traveling Siblings - Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in July 2004
Traveling Siblings – Amaree and Seth on their way to Montana in August 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Seth ponders what life would be like as a Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota, summer 2004
Amaree with the Jolly Green Giant (HO HO HO) in Blue Earth, Minnesota, August 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN July 2004
Seth at the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Seth at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
Amaree and Seth at Mt. Rushmore National Monument, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004
A BADMAN in the Badlands! Seth in the expanses of South Dakota, August 2004

We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005.  I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters.  By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings.  In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.

Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth and Solomon crashed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005
Seth outside the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN May 2005

After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana.  This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way.  Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!!  We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)

June 2005 "Montana Wedding" Roadtrip
June 2005 HUGE “Montana Wedding” Roadtrip

Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously.  It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.

Roadside guidance provided by……

Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days.  We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province.  We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well.  We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well.  But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun.  Here are a few of the better shots.  So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!!  Many memories were made…

Millenium Park, Chicago
The kids at Anish Kappor’s “Cloud Gate in Millenium Park in Chicago. June 2005
Say Cheese
Say Cheese – We were in Wisconsin after all – June 2005
Pink Elephant, DeForest, WI
Marissa outdoing Seth (who visited in 2004) at the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI – June 2005 (By the way, Marissa’s favorite animal has always been the elephant)
Solomon in Minnesota
Solomon in Minnesota – June 2005
Space Aliens Bar and Grill
Seth and Solomon finish off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens Bar and Grill near St. Cloud, MN

Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN.  The second day was another doozy….

Largest Pile of Cans - Casselton, ND
Marissa at World’s Largest Pile of Cans in Casselton, ND. This has since been taken down. June 2005

Along with visits to some of the “World’s Biggest” things (the giant Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, MN, the giant Sand Crane in Steele, ND and the giant Buffalo in Jamestown, ND), we also visited the world’s largest Holstein Cow “Salem Sue” in New Salem, North Dakota.  This was utterly fun!

Salem Sue in North Dakota
Milkin’ it for all its worth at “Salem Sue” statue in New Salem, North Dakota – June 2005

We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest.  The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…

Glacier National Park
Seth, Julianne (who flew out) and Marissa enjoy the expansive views at Glacier National Park in Montana. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at Glacier National Park, June 2005
Chiptymonk
Solomon tries to feed a “chiptymonk” in Glacier National Park in Montana – June 2005

The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004).  We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….

Marissa and Seth's Last Stand at the location whereGeorge Custer is buried at Little Big Horn National Monument, Montana June 2005
Marissa and Seth’s Last Stand at the location where George Custer is buried at Little Bighorn National Battlefield, Montana June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana.  A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Solomon, Marissa and Seth at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana. A biker bar literally in the middle of nowhere. June 2005
Stoneville Saloon
Stoneville Saloon – Cheap Drinks, Lousy Food, Conveniently located in the Middle of Nowhere….
Mt. Rushmore, SD
Marissa shows off Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota – June 2005

After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.

Jackalope at Wall Drug, SD
Solomon rides a Jackalope at Wall Drug in Wall, SD
Wall Drug, SD
Mt. Sethmore at Wall Drug in South Dakota – June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota - June 2005
Marissa and Solomon enjoy Badlands National Park in South Dakota – June 2005
Cactus Flats, SD
Marissa feeds the prairie dogs at Cactus Flats, SD
The "Soulman" withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD - June 2005
The “Soulman” withe the Blues Brothers outside a shop in Mitchell, SD – June 2005
Corn Palace, MItchell, SD
Marissa at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD – June 2005

After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways.  We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area.  After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest.  We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip…  then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.

Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad
Three Weddings and a Tired Happy Dad – June 24, 2005

And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz.  The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!

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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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