A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 4: Omaha, Council Bluffs and offbeat Central Missouri

Home of Sliced Bread - Chillicothe, Missouri
Home of Sliced Bread – Chillicothe, Missouri

After a good day of rest in Nebraska City, we were off the next morning.  My daughter was to meet her friends at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha (which by many reports is one of the Top Ten Zoos in America) and I was going to visit some places in Council Bluffs while they were all at the zoo.  I actually visited the Henry Doorly Zoo in 2012 during the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials though I didn’t write any blog posts about the visit.  So, I will include some of my photos from my visit as well as a couple of my daughter’s photos.  After my visit to Council Bluffs we were then to make our way east  into central Missouri with a planned overnight stay in Columbia. Following is a map of our adventures!


View Larger Map – Nebraska City – Omaha- Columbia, MO

The early morning drive to Omaha from Nebraska City on Interstate 29 afforded us an opportunity to enjoy a Nebraska sunrise.

Sunrise in Western Nebraska
Sunrise in Western Nebraska
Sunrise over Western Nebraska
Sunrise over Western Nebraska
Sunrise colors behind the Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City, NE
Sunrise colors behind the Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City, NE
I-29 north heading to Council Bluffs
I-29 north heading to Council Bluffs

Before we hit the zoo, we had to make sure the kids got some breakfast.  We saved up for a visit to the International Bakery in the Little Mexico part of Omaha.  This is the ultimate in Mexican Panderias….the protocol consists of picking up a tray and tong by the entrance, and look around the large interior at the myriad choices and then get what you want. Pay the cashier in cash only, but items are either 50 cents or one dollar.  Really cheap and ultra tasty.

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bolillos - to die for!!
Cream Cheese Jalapeno Bolillos – to die for!!
International Bakery - Omaha, NE
International Bakery – Omaha, NE
Mexican Cake Rolls at the International Bakery
Mexican Cake Rolls at the International Bakery
Mexican Sweets
Mexican Sweets
Shelves of Mexican pastries and breads at the International Bakery in Omaha
Shelves of Mexican pastries and breads at the International Bakery in Omaha
Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles - only 50 cents!!
Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles – only 50 cents!!

Little Mexico not only has this tongue tantalizing bakery, but there is also plenty of eye-filling goodness in the district with beautiful architecture, amazing wall murals and some interesting artwork.

Giant Wall Mural in Little Mexico district of Omaha
Giant Wall Mural in Little Mexico district of Omaha
Close up of a Tom Selleck-esque Bandito
Close up of a Tom Selleck-esque Bandito
Another Little Mexico Wall Mural in Omaha
Another Little Mexico Wall Mural in Omaha
Closeup of an Aztec shooting an arrow
Closeup of an Aztec shooting an arrow
Colorful Buildings in Little Mexico district of Omaha make you feel like you are in Mexico
Colorful Buildings in Little Mexico district of Omaha make you feel like you are in Mexico
Mexican Pottery shop in Little Mexico
Mexican Pottery shop in Little Mexico

Then there are the pieces of art and tile work in the six block area

Tile work on a fountain in Little Mexico
Tile work on a fountain in Little Mexico
Interesting Tree Sculpture in Little Mexico
Interesting Tree of Life Sculpture in Little Mexico
Closeup of the designs on the tree
Closeup of the designs on the tree

The “Tree of Life” was designed and built by RDG Dahlquist Art Studio with Iowa Metal Fabrication.  It is 36 feet tall.  The Tree is actually just the main center piece to a more comprehensive streetscape project that was finally completed in 2013.

One of the Pillars along 24th Street
One of the Pillars along 24th Street

The tree and many of the pillars light up in the evening to add color.  These have become a good drawing card in bringing people to this cultural district of Omaha.

Old Wall Advertisement in Little Mexico District
Old Wall Advertisement in Little Mexico District

After some pastries and a quick jaunt through the cultural district, it was off to the zoo. I had the opportunity  to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo back in June 2012, so I opted out of this so Marissa could enjoy her friends.  But, along with her photos, I am including some that I took last year.

Famous dome for the Desert Exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Famous dome for the Desert Exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Meep Meep - Roadrunners at the Omaha Zoo
Meep Meep – Roadrunners at the Omaha Zoo
The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo.  This one posed for me!
The Meerkats are my favorite animal at the zoo. This one posed for me!
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo
Lounging Meerkats at Henry Doorly Zoo

Another great feature of this zoo is the penguins

Penguins at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha
Penguins at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha
Grand daughter Joselyn face to face with a Penguin (photo by Marissa Noe)
Grand daughter Joselyn face to face with a Penguin (photo by Marissa Noe)
A Stately Penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo
A Stately Penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo
Sculpture outside the Henry Doorly Zoo's aquarium exhibit
Sculpture outside the Henry Doorly Zoo’s aquarium exhibit

During their visit to the zoo, Marissa and friends made their way to the tropical rainforest exhibit.  I didn’t see this one on my visit.  Here are a couple of pix.

Rainforest bridge at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Kids cross over the Rainforest bridge at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Monkeys in the Rainforest (photo by Marissa Noe)
Monkeys in the Rainforest (photo by Marissa Noe)

The aquarium has a number of great things besides the penguins.  The Jellyfish are always amazing….

Amazing Jellyfish at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)
Amazing Jellyfish at Henry Doorly Zoo (photo by Marissa Noe)

Just outside of the zoo were too photo-ops – a giant burger clasping King Kong (for King Kong Burgers) and an old Zesto Ice Cream sign at a closed location.  Zesto now only has three locations, all in southern Indiana, where they actually got their start.  King Kong Burger has four locations in Nebraska.  The two were kitty corner from each other at the entrance to the zoo.

Old Zesto Neon near the Omaha Zoo
Old Zesto Neon near the Omaha Zoo
King Kong Burgers in Omaha, near the Omaha Zoo
King Kong Burgers in Omaha, near the Omaha Zoo

As noted above, I didn’t visit the zoo with them, but made my way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the twin city to Omaha.  It is the county seat of Pottawattamie County (I love that County Name!!!) and is also considered the starting point for the historic Mormon Trail, which is also known as the Emigrant Trail since the Oregon Trail and the California Trail tend to follow the same route for much of the way west.

Welcome to Council Bluffs
Welcome to Council Bluffs

As is evidenced from the Welcome Sign above, Council Bluffs was and is a railroad town. With the completion of the Chicago and North Western Railway into Council Bluffs in 1867, the transcontinental railroad in 1869, and the opening of the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1872, Council Bluffs became a major railroad center. Other railroads operating in the city came to include the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, Chicago Great Western Railway, Wabash Railroad, Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.  Today there is a nice Railroad Museum and more.

Old Council Bluffs Railway Station
Old Council Bluffs Railway Station
Wide view of Council Bluffs Station
Wide view of Council Bluffs Station
Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Finally, as a tribute to the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Rail Lines which were joined together in May 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah with a Golden Spike, the town of Council Bluffs has a commemorative Golden Spike Monument, which was erected in 1939 and stands 56 feet tall.  It can be found at South 21st Street and 9th Avenue in Council Bluffs.

Golden Spike Monument - Council Bluffs, Iowa
Golden Spike Monument – Council Bluffs, Iowa
Sumoflam and the Golden Spike in Council Bluffs, IA
Sumoflam and the Golden Spike in Council Bluffs, IA

More than the railroad, the most striking aspect of Council Bluffs is its collection of outdoor modern art.  That was the drawing card for me. Driving along Interstate 29/80 from the east and towards Omaha, one gets a real glimpse of the artwork.  From a distance one can see what appears to be like 4  giant “Decepticons” from the Transformers movies.  In fact, my 4 year old grandson even said so!!  Actually, the four huge rusty works of steel, named Odyssey, are the handiwork of metal artist Albert Paley.

Odyssey by Albert Paley on 24th Street Bridge in Council Bluffs, IA
Odyssey by Albert Paley on 24th Street Bridge in Council Bluffs, IA

These huge weathering steel structures are from 46 feet tall to 60 feet tall and can be seen from a long ways away.  Each of them is unique.  These were assembled and added here in 2010.

Odyssey by Albert Paley
Odyssey by Albert Paley
Odyssey by Albert Paley, Council Bluffs, IA
Odyssey by Albert Paley, Council Bluffs, IA

The Odyssey pieces were just a small piece of a much larger set of projects carried out by the Public Art and Practice, LLC out of Indianapolis and St. Louis.  In Council Bluffs they created Master Plans for three areas – Bayliss Park, the Haymarket District and the Mid-America Center.  They also oversaw the 24th Street project (above) and the Broadway Viaduct. I made it a point to visit all of these places and got some great shots of the massive art works that were completed.

Mid-America Center Art and Sumoflam
Mid-America Center Art and Sumoflam

The Mid-America Center is right off of the 24th Street Bridge so it was my first stop.  Three different artists were commissioned for work in this Convention Center, Shopping Center and Entertainment district. The first of these was Jun Kaneko, a Nagoya, Japan born artist and now based in Omaha (since 1986). His work at the Mid-America Center is in the form of a sculpture garden and is named Rhythm (see a slide show of the entire plan here). His commissioned sculpture garden includes 21 works of art on 400 feet of patterned granite. These 21 works include 11 columnar-shaped Dangos, 5 wedge-shaped Dangos, 3 bronze heads, and 2 large ceramic walls.

Jun Kaneko's Dangos at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.
Jun Kaneko’s Dangos at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs
Jun Kaneko Bronze Heads at the Mid-American Center
Jun Kaneko Bronze Heads at the Mid-American Center

The second sculptor with works at the Mid-American Center is New York artist William King, who has three pieces at the center. His three works (Sunrise, Circus, and Interstate) are fabricated of 1″ thick plate aluminum and were installed in October 2007.

Sunrise by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs
Sunrise by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs

One of my favorites pieces from all of my travels, Sunrise memorializes the pioneers.  I like how they have let grass grow around it to give the appearance of the pioneer couple walking through the prairie. This work is 24 feet tall.

Interstate by William King at entrance to Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Interstate by William King at entrance to Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Another view of Interstate
Another view of Interstate

Interstate gives the appearance of a driver in a convertible with his hair blowing in the wind. This work is almost 16 feet tall and sits at the corner of 24th Street and Mid-American Drive adjacent to Interstate 80.

Circus by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Circus by William King at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA

The last William King piece is called Circus and is at the West Arena Entrance. This fun piece is 23 feet tall and brings to mind the acrobats of a circus.

Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA

Jonathan Borofsky is a sculptor who currently lives in Maine, but graduated in art from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  I have actually seen two other pieces of his:

Man With Briefcase by Jonathan Borofsky - Fort Worth, Texas
Man With Briefcase by Jonathan Borofsky – Fort Worth, Texas
Walking to the Sky by Jonathan Borofsky in Pittsburgh, PA
Walking to the Sky by Jonathan Borofsky in Pittsburgh, PA

Borofsky’s Molecule Man is immense with each of the three human figures standing 50 feet tall.  The originals of this sculpture were done in Los Angeles and Berlin. Both are 100 feet tall.

Sumoflam and Molecule Man in Council Bluffs, IA
Sumoflam and Molecule Man in Council Bluffs, IA

Just outside of the Mid-America Center is another Sapp Brothers Truck Stop, the ones famous for the Coffee Pot Water Towers.  The one in Council Bluffs is a bit smaller but I was able to get closer.

Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs, IA
Sapp Brothers Water Tower in Council Bluffs

I left the Mid-America Center and then headed into town for a few more sites.  My first stop along the way was to take the Broadway Viaduct and see one of the most unusual pieces of bridge art I have ever seen.

Broadway Viaduct by Ed Carpenter
Broadway Viaduct by Ed Carpenter

The Broadway Viaduct was completed in October 2012 by Portland, Oregon artist Ed Carpenter.

Wellspring by Brower Hatcher in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, IA
Wellspring by Brower Hatcher in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, IA

Bayliss Park is in downtown Council Bluffs and has been a focal point of the downtown Council Bluffs area since the mid-1800’s Since a renovation in 2007, the park is now filled with unique art, much of which was done by Providence , Rhode Island artist Brower Hatcher. The centerpiece of the park is the amazing Wellspring water fountain. It is not only unique during the day, but has LED lights at night for amazing color shows.

Oculus by Broward Hatcher, at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs
Oculus by Broward Hatcher, at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs

Oculus provides entertainment opportunities for the community such as large swing band concerts, and local ballet and theatre performances.

Black Squirrels in Bayliss Park
Black Squirrels in Bayliss Park

Broward Hatcher also designed six black squirrels which are “touchable art”.  The children’s interactive water area includes the six cast black squirrels (in bronze) standing nearly 30″ tall. Integral to the design is a water feature that turns on when activated by children.

Black Squirrel in Bayliss Park
Black Squirrel in Bayliss Park
Sumoflam and Squirrel
Sumoflam and Squirrel

To the side of Bayliss Park is a nice Veteran’s Plaza with a wall that includes the names of all residents who gave their lives to war.  Some unique statues are there, including one of a couple looking at the wall.

Veteran's Plaza in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran’s Plaza in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran's Plaza - Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs
Veteran’s Plaza – Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs

Just a couple of blocks from Bayliss Park is the Haymarket Square District of Council Bluffs. This is a historical shopping district with unique shops, antique stores and old storefronts. Like other parts of Council Bluffs, it has had some unique artwork installed in recent years.

Haymarket District Sign - Council Bluffs
Haymarket District Sign – Council Bluffs
Haymarket District Storefronts - COuncil Bluffs
Haymarket District Storefronts – Council Bluffs

The artwork of Omaha artist Deborah Masuoka has been placed in Haymarket. Masuoka is most recognized for her large-scale “Rabbit Head” sculptures, which are painted in stone-like colors such as cobalt blue, green, rust, burnt orange and yellow. These sculptures can weigh as much as 1200 pounds and are over seven feet in height. Three of these sculptures adorn the island flower beds of the district.

Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Head - Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head – Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head - Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Head – Deborah Masuoka
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs
Rabbit Heads by Deborah Masuoka in Haymarket Square, Council Bluffs

Just a couple more blocks away from Haymarket Square is the Council Bluffs Library.  This site also has a couple of unique pieces of artwork.  The most unique is the stack of books called Imagination Takes Flight by Omaha artist Matthew Placzek.

Imagination Takes Flight - Matthew Placzek in front of Council Bluffs Public Library
Imagination Takes Flight – Matthew Placzek in front of Council Bluffs Public Library
Sumoflam at Imagination Takes Flight
Sumoflam at Imagination Takes Flight
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library
Pioneer Relief Sculpture at Council Bluffs Library

Council Bluffs is truly a wonderful, clean town to visit and see some of the great artwork.  I am glad I had the opportunity to do so.  But, I had to head back to Omaha to get the kids so that we could head east to Missouri.  Along the way in to the zoo I ran across some slick Wall Art….

Urban Wall Art in Omaha
Urban Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha
Wall Art in Omaha

We finally got away from the zoo and commenced to head east to Council Bluffs and then south on I-29. Along the way we passed the Sapp Brothers BIG Coffee Pot Water tower….

Sapp's Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City
Sapp’s Coffee Pot Water Tower in Nebraska City

And we also passed the small town of Hamburg, Iowa.  I wanted to stop, but we didn’t have time. On a previous trip I did drive into town just to get a photo of this place.  Since I have not included it in a blog in the past, I’ll add it here…

Welcome to Hamburg, Iowa
Welcome to Hamburg, Iowa
Stoner Drug - Hamburg, Iowa - what a name for a drug store
Stoner Drug – Hamburg, Iowa – what a name for a drug store

The drive down I-29 soon had us into the far northwestern corner of Missouri and through some scenic countryside, even for an interstate!!

South on I-29 past cornfields and farmland of NW Missouri
South on I-29 past cornfields and farmland of NW Missouri

After a fairly long drive we were at our next destination – Chillicothe, Missouri.  I wanted to stop here specifically for this….

Chillicothe, Missouri - The Home of Sliced Bread
Chillicothe, Missouri – The Home of Sliced Bread – by Kelly Poling

Yes, Chillicothe is officially the “Home of Sliced Bread” and they are proud of it. They even have a page dedicated to the making of the above mural.  It is HERE. And there is also a page with a pictorial history.  Basically, the story goes that sliced bread was first offered for sale in Chillicothe in 1928. A product of the Chillicothe Baking Company, it was sliced on a Rohwedder Bread Slicer which was invented by Iowa inventor Otto Rohwedder. The owner of the bakery, Frank Bench, became the first commercial baker to slice bread mechanically.  Though I thought this would be the best thing since sliced bread, I was doubly happy to discover that there are many other murals in Chillicothe.  As a “collector” of murals, this was a blast.

Old Chillicothe Train Station Mural
Going Somewhere – by Kelly Poling This is a reproduction of the old Milwaukee Train Depot

Chillicothe mural artist Kelly Poling is responsible for painting at least 17 of the more than 20 larger than life murals in Chillicothe.  Here are a few more of the paintings we discovered while driving around the town.  See more details about the murals HERE.

Chillicothe Business College mural by Kelly Poling
Chillicothe Business College mural by Kelly Poling
Chillicothe Business College as seen with building
Chillicothe Business College as seen with building
Locust Street View - Kelly Poling
Locust Street View – Kelly Poling
The Wave in Chillicothe
The Wave in Chillicothe
Milbank Mills - Kelly Poling
Milbank Mills – Kelly Poling
Portion of Window in Time
Portion of Window in Time
Part of Window in Time -Glove Capital of the World
Part of Window in Time -Glove Capital of the World

Apparently, the Midwest Glove Company was moved from Milwaukee to Chillicothe in 1962.  By the 1970s there were three glove factories in Chillicothe, and it got the name of the Glove Capital of the World.

Silver Moon Plaza in Chillicothe, MO
Silver Moon Plaza in Chillicothe, MO

Silver Moon Plaza is a small park in downtown Chillicothe.  We stopped here to let the kids run around.  It was a wonderfully pleasant day and the kids needed the break.  I did some research about the park and the entry gate, which in and of itself is a unique piece of art. The park was begun in 2007 as part of a revitalization program called DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri). The town worked with PGAV Planners, an Urban Planning and Development Company out of St. Louis to work on this project. The focal point is an ornamental metalwork composition depicting local crops: corn, soybeans and wheat. An abstracted lunar cycle icon completes the arrangement and adds a sense of whimsy to the plaza.

Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Silver Moon Plaza Ornamental Metal Work in Chillicothe, MO
Old First National Bank Building in Chillicothe
Old First National Bank Building in Chillicothe
Mural in Chillicothe
Mural in Chillicothe
Railroad Boom mural in Chillicothe
Railroad Boom mural in Chillicothe

After our brief stop n Chillicothe, we had two more stops along the way.  The first was to book it to a place just north of Centralia to see something I really wanted to see.  My plan was to visit Larry Vennard’s Metal Sculpture Park, which is actually in Wilson, MO on County Hwy T a bit north of Centralia. So,  we headed east on US Hwy 35 towards Macon, south though Moberly on US 63 and then east on MO Hwy 22 near Sturgeon, MO.  From there we eventually made our way to Larry’s Place.

US Highway 35 East
US Highway 35 East
Rural Scene in Central Missouri
Rural Scene in Central Missouri
Sunset near Centralia, Missouri
Sunset near Centralia, Missouri

Larry Vennard is one of those quiet types who loves what he does and loves seeing his work’s impact on others.  In the same breath as Jurustic Park in Wisconsin, the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose and a few others around the statesm Larry Vennard’s scrapa metal art would certainly need to be included.  Recently I posted Yard Art: Creativity with Scrap Metal, Chain Saw Art and “stuff” collections about a number of these from around the US and Canada.  I had not yet been to Larry’s and his most certainly fits in.  As such, I am doing a dual post this time with a separate post on Larry Vennard and only a couple of photos here to finish off this post.  See my complete Post HERE.

Larry Vennard - Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard – Scrap Metal Artist, Centralia, Missouri
Larry Vennard's Highway "T" Rex near Centralia, MO
Larry Vennard’s Highway ‘T’ Rex near Centralia, MO

After our visit with Larry we were off to our overnight stay in Columbia, MO and planned on the last leg of the trip back to Kentucky…

(1812)

Road Trip: Dallas to Lexington, KY via Branson, MO

Metals Horses in Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen in Durant, Oklahoma

After being gone for nearly a month in Idaho and then a few days in Dallas for work in mid June (2013), I took the final leg of this adventure and a two day trip to return home to Lexington via Branson, Missouri, where my wife was visiting with her sister.  This would turn out to be another fun adventure as I traveled through Oklahoma and the Ozarks.  Following is the route I took for the trip.  I left in the afternoon and arrived about midnight in Branson.


View Larger Map – Dallas, TX to Branson, MO

I headed straight up US 75 to Denison and while there at least got a glimpse of the HUGE Eisenhower statue that can be seen off of the freeway.  I took a photo of it while driving by, so it is not as good as I would have hoped.

Eisenhower statue in Denison, TX - Burthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower statue in Denison, TX – Birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower

I continued north on US 75 until it turned into US 69 as I crossed into Oklahoma and made my way into Durant, Oklahoma. Durant is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.

Bench in Durant, Oklahoma
Bench in Durant, Oklahoma

Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.  It is in a very nice area near lakes and rolling hills.  There are colorful horses dotting the town and some other surprises as well!!

Painted Horse in Durant, Oklahoma
Painted Horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse with Native American designs in Durant, Oklahoma
A painted horse with Native American designs in Durant, Oklahoma
Old Wall Advertisement in Durant, Oklahoma
Old Wall Advertisement in Durant, Oklahoma

Turns out that Durant, Oklahoma is also home to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.

World's Largest Peanut
World’s Largest Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant's Giant Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant’s Giant Peanut

Finally, on the way out of town I ran into these unique scrap metal horses in a park in Durant. These appear to be the handiwork of South Dakota “found metal sculptor” Doug Owen.

Scrap Metal Horses - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen – Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap metal horse - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap metal horse by Doug Owen – Durant, Oklahoma

From Durant I headed north on US 69/75 through a number of small towns until I got to Atoka, Oklahoma.

US Routes 69/75 north of Durant, Oklahoma
US Routes 69/75 north of Durant, Oklahoma

Atoka, Oklahoma is a town of a little over 3000 people.  It was settled in the mid-1800s and was an important stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Road.  The small town was considered the capital of the Choctaw Nation in the late 1800s and was named after Captain Atoka who led his people here during the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830s.

Large White Buffalo statue in Atoka, OK
Large White Buffalo statue in Atoka, OK

Due to my time constraints, I didn’t have a lot of time to stop along the road on this trip, but I did make my way past the beautiful Atoka Reservoir and into McAlester, Oklahoma.

US Route 69 north out of Atoka, Oklahoma
US Route 69 north out of Atoka, Oklahoma
US 69 heading towards Atoka Reservoir
US 69 heading towards Atoka Reservoir

Upon arrival in McAlester I got to see a throwback to the 1950s…at the Happy Days Hotel there are 50s themed rooms including the “Elvis Suite,” “I Love Lucy,” James Dean and Marilyn Monroe rooms at the hotel.

Happy Days Hotel and Angel's Diner - McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel and Angel’s Diner – McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel - McAlester, OK
Happy Days Hotel – McAlester, OK
Angel's Diner store front - McAlester, Oklahoma
Angel’s Diner store front – McAlester, Oklahoma

Angel’s Diner has the black and white checkerboard floors, diner seating and more.  I wish I would have had time to stop in…..but I had to continue on to Branson

Eufaula Lake, Oklahoma
OK Hwy 9 bridge across Eufaula Reservoir, Oklahoma

One of the more spectacular sights along the drive north on US 69 is the huge Eufaula Lake, with over 600 miles of shoreline, it is the largest lake in Oklahoma.   It was beautiful as I approached close to sunset.

Another shot of Lake Eufaula
Another shot of Lake Eufaula

Shortly after passing by the lake I arrived in Checotah, Oklahoma and then headed west on Interstate 40.  It was getting dark, so I zipped my way on to Branson, Missouri through Arkansas.  Sorry…too dark for photos…

Branson, Missouri water tower
Branson, Missouri water tower

The next morning my wife and I took two cars and drive back from Branson to Lexington, Kentucky.  We had to get back, so we didn’t have much time to see anything in Branson.  I did get a photo of a huge guitar sticking out of a building….

Grand Country Fun Spot - Big Guitar neck - Branson, Missouri
Grand Country Fun Spot – Big Guitar neck – Branson, Missouri

Our route from Branson to Lexington was not a direct route as I wanted to take my wife by Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MO for lunch, as you will see later on.  Here is our nearly 600 mile route for Day 2:


View Larger Map – Branson, MO to Lexington, KY

The drive across southern Missouri is always nicer OFF of the freeways.  I had been on US 60 between Branson and Sikeston three or four times.  But, of course, there are always interesting things to see along the way.

US 65 North near Busiek State Forest south of Springfield, Missouri
US 65 North near Busiek State Forest south of Springfield, Missouri
Uncle Rooster's Restaurant near Seymour, Missouri on US 60 East
Uncle Rooster’s Restaurant near Seymour, Missouri on US 60 East

Gotta love a name like Uncle Rooster’s!!  They even have a giant rooster out front….

Uncle Rooster's Big Rooster on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri
Uncle Rooster’s Big Rooster (ROHO) on US 60 near Seymour, Missouri

From Seymour, the countryside becomes mainly farmland until about Mountain View and Cabool.  We saw thousands of rolled bales of hay and other nice rural scenery along the way.

Rolled hay bales on US 60 east of Seymour, Missouri
Rolled hay bales on US 60 east of Seymour, Missouri
Long Train Running along US 60 near Norwood, Missouri
Long Train Running along US 60 near Norwood, Missouri
US Route 60 west of Mountain Home, Missouri
US Route 60 west of Mountain View, Missouri
More bales of hay near Mountain Home, Missouri
More bales of hay near Mountain View, Missouri

We stopped in Mountain View, Missouri for a quick rest break and a drink.  While there, lo and behold, I saw some scrap metal horse sculptures that looked amazingly similar to the ones I had seen in Durant, Oklahoma the day before.  I believe they are the work of South Dakota artist Doug Owen.

Scrap Metal Horses in Missouri
Scrap Metal Horses by Doug Owen in Mountain View, Missouri

From Mountain View we proceeded eastward on US Route 60.  Here are a couple more scenes from the road:

US Route 60 east of Mountain View, Missouri
US Route 60 east of Mountain View, Missouri
Low flying plane near Dexter, Missouri (aerial spraying)
Low flying plane near Dexter, Missouri (aerial spraying)
Aerial Spray plane rounding a turn near Dexter, Missouri
Aerial Spray plane rounding a turn near Dexter, Missouri

Not soon after seeing the aerial acrobatics of the plane above, we made our way into Sikeston, Missouri.  Sikeston is at a major junction of US 60 from the west, Interstate 55 (N-S thru Sikeston) and Interstate 57 from the east.  But for me, the real highlight was being able to once again visit Lambert’s Cafe.  I had been to the one in Ozark, Missouri a number of years ago, but never to this one.

Sumoflam and wife at Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls
Sumoflam and wife at Lambert’s Cafe – Home of Throwed Rolls

Lambert’s is one of those places that buses full of tourists stop at, highway drivers stop and more.  All sorts of Kitsch with license plates everywhere, old photos and, most importantly – good food and LOTS of it.  But, perhaps the real drawing card is the “Throwed Rolls”, a tradition at these stops since the beginning.

The Throwed Rolls Guy - Lambert's Cafe, Sikeston, Missouri
The Throwed Rolls Guy – Lambert’s Cafe, Sikeston, Missouri
Throwing Roll's at Lamberts - this guy chucked them clear across the room
Throwing Roll’s at Lamberts – this guy chucked them clear across the room

To get a roll you must raise your hand and they throw it to you.  You miss and hits the floor….too bad!

Throwed Rolls soaked in Sorghum Molasses
Throwed Rolls soaked in Sorghum Molasses

Sometimes the roll throwers do miss.  We saw some up on the overhangs…

Oops - missed
Oops – missed

The unique thing about this place is the Family Style servings.  You order your food and a side and then they bring you a number of other sides – fried potatoes, fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas and more.  These are as much as you care to eat.

Bringing around the potatoes at Lambert's
Bringing around the potatoes at Lambert’s
More throwed rolls!!
More throwed rolls!!

The environment there is fun as well….

Flags hang in front of Lambert's Cafe
Flags hang in front of Lambert’s Cafe
Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri - big place
Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri – big place
Walkway in Lambert's Cafe - Sikeston, Missouri
Walkway in Lambert’s Cafe – Sikeston, Missouri
The Original Roll Thrower
The Original Roll Thrower
Eagle at Lambert's
Eagle at Lambert’s
Big Metal Chicken on overhang at Lambert's
Big Metal Chicken on overhang at Lambert’s
Need a big cup? Plenty of souvenirs at Lambert's!!
Need a big cup? Plenty of souvenirs at Lambert’s!!

After a hefty lunch, we really wanted a nap, but we actually had to scoot onwards towards home.  Just a short zip up I-57 and we were in Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet for one of the biggest confluences in the country.  There are two big bridges to cross at this point.

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois
Crossing the Mighty Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois

One moment you are in Missouri, a few minutes later you go through Illinois and straight into Kentucky.

Welcome to Wickliffe, Kentucky - just after crossing over the second bridge
Welcome to Wickliffe, Kentucky – just after crossing over the second bridge
I love it when Kentucky welcomes me home with flowers
I love it when Kentucky welcomes me home with flowers after being gone for a month
Sign to Future City, Illinois...I guess it is not there yet??
Sign to Future City, Illinois…I guess it is not there yet?? Or have I come “Back to the Future?”

After driving the narrow KY Hwy 286 to Paducah, we were excited to get on the freeway, but, I got a taste of Dallas in rural Kentucky as we were stuck in non-moving freeway traffic for well over 30 minutes.

Stuck in traffic on I-24 east of Paducah - shades of Dallas....
Stuck in traffic on I-24 east of Paducah – shades of Dallas….

But, after it all cleared up, we were on I-69 breezing away and then eventually onto the Bluegrass Parkway.

Bluegrass Parkway near Bardstown, Kentucky
Bluegrass Parkway near Bardstown, Kentucky

And, finally, back home in Kentucky after being away and on the road for over 5500 miles, 33 days and driving through 15 different states during that time.

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