Z is for Zeal – #atozchallenge

I am a zealous traveler. I travel passion and with all the gusto I can.  A roadtrip with me can be grueling, but it is always fun.  Indeed, I travel with the intent of creating many good memories.  Many call me a Road Warrior. Well, I love that term. I travel with zeal.

When on roadtrips, I like to be up with the sun and travel until the sun goes down.  I stop for the night wherever I am at sundown…I can’t take many pictures at night now can I?

Taking photos along the way
Sumoflam and the FREE Stamp in Cleveland

In my zealous travels, I have visited all 50 states and a few Canadian Provinces. I have at least one photo of me in almost all of them…a few exceptions where I traveled to those places years ago and the photos either were lost or were never taken (Nevada, Rhode Island, Massachusetts…at least).  But in recent years, I have become the “Shamelessly Self-Proclaimed Selfie King” and have tried to record my travels digitally, and include selfies along the way.

Without further adieu, following are selfies/photos of me in every state and Canadian Province I have visited (where I have photos).  I have throw some “Road Warrior” and “Traveling with Zeal” pics in along the way for fun.

Sumoflam at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ
Am I Normal? Who knows?

ALABAMA

Visiting Alabama with some of my grandchildren in early 2017

ALASKA

On Glacier Bay in Alaska in 2004

ARIZONA

Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1983
Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona in 1983

ARKANSAS

Welcome to Arkansas
Found Friendship in Arkansas

CALIFORNIA

At Golden Gate Bridge in in San Francisco, CA May 2015

COLORADO

Welcome to Colorado WY 789 and CO 13
Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake

CONNECTICUT

Mystic, CT Amtrak Station in Sept 2015

DELAWARE

Welcome to Delaware…first time since 1986. Visited in 2016 during Christmas Holiday

FLORIDA

Sumoflam at the Everglades in Florida in July 1990

GEORGIA

Stone Mountain, GA in 2015

HAWAII

Well…I used to have a photo of me hitting a golf ball at Mililani Golf Course in Honolulu.  Can’t find it…..

IDAHO

At the Idaho Potato Museum in 2013 – Blackfoot, ID

ILLINOIS

A visit to Illinois in 2014
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL in 2014

INDIANA

Santa Claus, IN, Christmas 2015
Story General Store, Story, IN

IOWA

World’s Largest truckstop is in Iowa. Been there three times

KANSAS

Little House on the Prairie in Eastern Kansas with the family in 1993

KENTUCKY – My Home Sweet Home since 1993

Visiting Cumberland Falls in Kentucky with grandchildren in 2016
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November 2016

LOUISIANA

Entering Louisiana in 2014
Visiting Troy Landry of Swamp People fame in Pierre Part, LA in 2014

MAINE

Visiting the beautiful lighthouse on the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine in 2015

MARYLAND

Ocean City, MD in December 2016

MASSACHUSETTS – I last visited Massachusetts in 1990 on a trip to Boston.  Photos were taken, but got long lost….

MICHIGAN

On the blazing Hell Bench in Hell, MI
Sumoflam with Hiawatha, America’s tallest Indian Statue at over 50 feet in Ironwood, MI

MINNESOTA

Sumoflam in Floodwood, Minnesota
Bemidji, MN in 2014 — one of my bucket list places

MISSISSIPPI

On the Blues highway in Mississippi in 2014
One of my favorite shots…Alligator, MS
Chunky, MS

MISSOURI

Welcome to Missouri
At the St. Louis Arch in Missouri
Finding Success in Missouri

MONTANA – Lived in this wonderful state from 1970-1973

Hitting Montana on a road trip in 2014
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana

NEBRASKA

Visiting Nebraska in 2015
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

NEVADA – I have visited a few times but don’t think I ever got any photos.  Oh well.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Welcome to New Hampshire in Sept 2015 – State #49!

NEW JERSEY

Welcome to Hoboken, NJ
Photo of NYC taken from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ

NEW MEXICO

Welcome to New Mexico at Raton Pass
Have a Coke and a Smile?? Coke machine in Roswell…

NEW YORK

In New York City in 1990 before the World Trade Center Twin Towers met their demise
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990

NORTH CAROLINA

Jos with Grampz at rest area in North Carolina – April 2013

NORTH DAKOTA

Welcome to North Dakota
On the Enchanted Highway in Western North Dakota in 2013
Rugby, ND in 2014

OHIO – I was born in Little Italy in Cleveland.  Home sweet home.

My first home – 2072 Murray Hill Road, now home of the Murray Hill Market
Sumoflam at the place of his birth
I found Novelty in Ohio

OKLAHOMA

Visiting Oklahoma in 2014
Okay, Oklahoma in 2012

OREGON

At Multnomah Falls in Oregon

PENNSYLVANIA

Smile…you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled!
Found Prosperity in PA

RHODE ISLAND – Only visited once way back in 1988.  No photos.  Actually drove through.  Need to stop again!!

SOUTH CAROLINA

On the beach in Hilton Head, South Carolina in 2013

SOUTH DAKOTA

Visiting South Dakota for the 4th or 5th time in 2013
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD

TENNESSEE

Visiting Tennessee in 2014 on my way to Galveston
Welcome to Bristol. I took this from the Tennessee side of the road.

TEXAS

Visiting Texas in 2014
We visited Texas in October 2016. This was in Texarkana, TX
Sumoflam visits Austin, Texas

UTAH – Graduated High School in Murray, UT in 1974

Graduated from Murray High School in 1974
At Monument Valley in Utah in 1982
Welcome to Salt Lake

VERMONT – My 50th state visited — made it in 2016

State Number 50 – At NH/VT border in Brattleboro, VT

VIRGINIA

Welcome to Virginia…taken in early August 2016
At the Cross Roads of the Virginia Creeper and Appalachian Trails

WASHINGTON

Neah Bay, Washington – the northwestern most point in the continental US
Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market – what a place!

WEST VIRGINIA

Welcome to West Virginia!
Meeting a Friendly guy outside the Friendly, WV Post Office

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin welcomes Sumoflam on US Route 2
With the famed Hodag in Rhinelander, WI

WYOMING

Wyoming’s Wildlife?
Sumoflam at Top of the World on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming

WASHINGTON DC

Sumoflam at the White House – July 1990
Washington DC 2016

ONTARIO, CANADA

Sumoflam at Screaming Heads in Burk’s Falls, Ontario
Customers Needed – Toronto, Ontario

SASKATCHEWAN

Welcome to Saskatchewan

MANITOBA

Virden, Manitoba
At an oil well display in Virden, Manitoba

ALBERTA

Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)

 

 

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L is for Love Traveling With Grandchildren – #atozchallenge

I am rich…very rich.  Not in money, but rather rich in experiences and rich in grandchildren.  As the Proverb says “Children are like arrows. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

At age 60 I have been blessed to have 10 grandchildren (so far). These are my joy and I am so grateful. And, besides loving them to death, I have also passed on the fascination of wanderlust.  Most of my grandchildren are already well traveled thanks to my daughters and sons that have continued the tradition of getting on the road and seeing the world.

With some family and geandkidz in Port Orchard, WA
Heading east with the grandkidz!

I have had numerous opportunities to join my grandchildren on roadtrips.  It is absolutely amazing to see their reactions to the world around them, to watch them scamper on a beach, to play with butterflies or to hold a baby gator.

Following are a few photos of my travels with the “grandkidz” as I refer to them. They represent travel all over the country from the past few years.

Grandkidz Rawk! Enjoy the Ride!

Grandkidz enjoy their first look at the Atlantic Ocean on Old Orchard Beach in Maine
On the road with da grandkidz in New England
The Grandkidz all made the Good List in Santa Claus, IN (photo by Marissa Noe)
The grandkidz get a view of Manhattan from Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ. (Photo by Marissa Noe)
Hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington
Running on the Pacific Ocean Beach in Neah Bay, WA
Hanging out in St. Louis, MO
Welcome to West Virginia
Becoming a Packers Fan in Green Bay, WI
Biking the Little Miami Rail Trail near Xenia, OH
Playing in White Sands National Monument, NM
Watching animals in Tacoma Zoo in Washington
Going Gothic at American Gothic house in Eldon, IA
Rock Climbing at Jerusalem Rocks in Montana
Getting a Hershey Kiss grandkid style in Hershey, PA
Having fun at the beach house in Old Orchard, ME
Riding the ferry in Puget Sound, WA
Climbing up to the top of Memorial Falls in Montana, Aaron (son in law), Kade and Solomon
Grandson Benson enjoys handling a budgie at Tacoma Zoo
Holding butterflies in Missouri
Visiting Cumberland Falls in Kentucky
Riding the luggage cart in Pennsylvania
Walking the Yellow Brick Road in Champaigne, IL
Heading out on road trip to Pittsburgh
Getting goodies at the Fish Market in Seattle
Looking at Pittsburgh
Going alien in Roswell, NM

And there are many many more!!

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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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