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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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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