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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D is for Diners, Dives and Drive-ins – #atozchallenge

What is April A to Z?

Every April, bloggers from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then visit as many other bloggers as you can.

Road trips would never be the same without the opportunity to stop at local diners, dives and drive-ins (OK…I gotta give credit to Guy Fieri). Food is such an important part of a road trip. Obviously, no matter where one drives they always come across the chain shops like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc. With those places, the food you get is always the same.

At Nashville’s oldest eatery – Elliston Place Diner – Featured in Antsy McClain’s video
Midway Diner sign on a barn

But, for me, the real joy is stopping at a local Mom and Pop shop or local Drive-In and trying out the fare. Someplace well known in that little town or region, but maybe not known anywhere else.

My good friend, singer/songwriter/storyteller/artist Antsy McClain did a song a few years ago called “Mom and Pop Don’t Work Here No More” in respect for these places that are quickly becoming a dying breed.  (see the video)

Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis

There used to be more flavor in this country that I roam
I feel like I’m a stranger, no place to call my home
I can eat the same cheeseburger from New Mexico to Main
The same darn cup of coffee, just to link in someone’s chain
No, mom-and-pop don’t work here no more
Antsy McClain

You Are What you Eat Cafe – Boring, Oregon

So, when I am on the road I really make an effort to find the local places to eat and I have found many of them across this wonderful country of ours. For example, there is “Cozy Drive-In” in Springfield, IL which supposedly is famous because of its creation of the corndog.

Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
Lambert’s Cafe – The Home of Throwed Rolls – in Ozark, Missouri
Throwing Rolls at Lambert’s

Then there’s the place in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe that is famous for its “Throwed Rolls.” Or how about the diner outside of Natchez, Mississippi that looks like an old 1930s black woman servant on the outside and service homemade sandwiches on homemade bread with deserts of homemade pie and cake? And how can I forget “Hillbilly Hotdog” in West Virginia or the unique burger joint called Fat Smitty’s that is plastered with dollar bills in Washington. And what about The Shack Burger Resort in Cypress, Texas?

Hillbilly Hot Dogs – Lesage, West Virginia
Hillbilly Hot Dogs, home of the Homewrecker
Fat Smitty’s, a burger joint near Port Townsend, WA.
Fat Smitty’s ceiling covered with money.
The Shack Burger Resort storefront – Texas style fun in Cypress, TX
Outdoor eating area at The Shack
Mammy’s Cupboard south of Natchez, MS on US 61
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Commerce, Oklahoma

Along the road there are always the burger joints, the ice cream places, and the roadside cafés. One never knows what they will get in some of these places.  But, chances are the food will be much better than what one will get at a fast food chain place.

And each of these local places has their “speciality,” such as the Ku-Ku burger at Waylan’s in Commerce, OK on Route 66.

Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Wimpy’s Burgers – Keller, Texas
Big Jud’s Gourmet Burgers, Rexburg, ID
Total indulgence in a Big Jud’s “small” burger
Tightwad Cafe – Tightwad, Missouri
Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe

I recall visiting the “Tightwad Café” in Tightwad, MO. Amazing breakfast made for a king and not a miserly tightwad. The only indication that it was a “tightwad” type of place was that they only took cash — no credit cards.

But check out the food.  This giant breakfast was very affordable and kept me filled up for a good part of the day.

Breakfast at Tightwad Cafe
Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

Of course, there are the barbecue places. Oh yes, the myriad barbecue places across this country. I have had barbecue in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, one of my favorites was in Paris, Ontario in Canada!! And they’re all different and wonderful.

 

Camp 31 Bar-B-Que – Paris, Ontario
Oklahoma Joe’s Neon in Kansas City, KS

One such great barbecue place is Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. The café is inside a gas station and people are always waiting in line out the door to get their famous barbecue. And when I finished, my friend Brad Sweeten, and athletic director at one of the high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, took me to a local ice cream place that makes ice cream cones as tall is the Empire State building.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Giant Ice Cream Cone at Paul’s Drive In – Kansas City
Sumoflam gnoshing on pig tails at Olde Heidelberg in Heidelberg, ON

Honestly, I could write about the dozens and dozens of places I’ve visited over the years. Every single place has its own personality and tasty cuisine.

Following are a few of the photos of the diners, dives and drive-ins that I visited over the years.  I have dozens that you can read about in my blog.  I only have room to include a few.  One piece of advice though… don’t go looking for a sandwich in Sandwich, NH.  Been there…failed that.  No sandwiches in Sandwich.

Olde Heidelberg Restaurant – Heidelberg, Ontario
Trailer Park Eatery in Austin — a hybrid “food truck” type of place comprised of trailers that are actually like food trucks
In the Country Bakery and Eatery on the outskirts of Damascus, VA
A Pal’s Sudden Service building. Lots of fun and it looks like the food is great too. Bristol, TN
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Story Inn, Story, Indiana
Stoneville Saloon – Alzada, Montana (Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food)
Sumoflam at Mel’s Drive-in in San Francisco
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

 

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Taking the Long Way Home from Nebraska – 800 miles in a day

Clouds over Concordia
Giant Clouds over Concordia, Missouri

The best and worst part of a long road trip is the coming home part.  Its always nice to be at home in my own bed after a grueling trip across the country.  But, it is bittersweet.  All of the adventures, sights, sounds and exhilaration are behind me.  The last leg of the trip is usually on the Interstates to get home as quickly as possible (with a few brief stops along the way).  This trip was no different.  My trip home was the “long way home” as it covered over 870 miles on the last day as I traveled straight from Grand Island, Nebraska to Lexington (via Kansas City and St. Louis in order to visit a friend in KC).

The Last Leg of a nine day trip - 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
The Last Leg of a nine day trip – 870 miles from Grand Island, NE to Lexington, KY
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE
Starting off at sunrise in Grand Island, NE

I started off early on this May 29 (Thursday) morning cruising east on Interstate 80.  It was a beautiful morning drive with a bit of mist in the air providing for some nice scenes from the highway.

Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Heading east on I-80 from Grand Island
Early morning in the heartland of America...east central Nebraska on I-80
Early morning in the heartland of America…east central Nebraska on I-80

My first stop was in York, Nebraska.  I had to stop for a rest stop and to get a photo of the uniquely colored water tower.

Water tower in York, Nebraska
Water tower in York, Nebraska

From York the interstate continued east to Lincoln, the capitol city of Nebraska.  It is home to the historic Capitol Building, a towering 400 foot tall building that can be seen for miles. Construction began in 1922 and was completed in 1932.  The building is not the tallest state capitol in the country.  That goes to the Louisiana State Capitol, which is 450 feet tall.  Nonetheless, the “Skyscraper of the Plains” is quite impressive.

The "Skyscraper of the Plains", Nebraska's State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
The “Skyscraper of the Plains”, Nebraska’s State Capitol in Lincoln, can be seen for miles
And this is a closer look at the impressive "Skyscraper of the Plains"
And this is a closer look at the impressive “Skyscraper of the Plains”

Of course, Nebraska is the “Cornhusker State” and there are plenty of corn fields to be seen from the highway.

Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska
Rolling corn fields in Eastern Nebraska

From Lincoln, I continued into Nebraska City, a place I have visited and stayed in (see my blog post about this lovely town). When there, I always have to stop at Sapp Brothers on the southside of town (actually in Percival, IA) off of Interstate 29….they have the cleanest restrooms on I-29!

Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the "Cleanest Restrooms on I-29"
Sapp Brothers in Nebraska City, the “Cleanest Restrooms on I-29”
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City
The famous Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot Water tower in Nebraska City

Not too far south of Nebraska City, I-29 crosses into the far southwest corner of Iowa and through the small town of Hamburg, which basically hugs the borders of Missouri to the south and Nebraska to the west.

This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
This is a shot of downtown Hamburg, IA
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg
There is a nice wall mural on the side of the Blue Moon Bar and Grille in Hamburg

Perhaps the real treat in Hamburg is Stoner Drug…yes, a strange name for a drug store.  But this particular shop also houses an old fashioned Soda Fountain, which is rare to find nowadays.  Even has the little spinning chairs and they make MALTS too.

Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
The old fashioned soda fountain inside of Stoner Drug
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats.  I almost got one, but I had used my "hat money" on a Carhenge hat the previous day
Stoner Drug even sells T-shirts and hats. I almost got one, but I had used my “hat money” on a Carhenge hat the previous day

Heading south from Hamburg you are almost in Missouri immediately.

Welcome to Missouri
Welcome to Missouri

My main purpose for heading south to Kansas City was to visit with my good friend Brad Sweeten, the Athletic Director at Center High School in Kansas City, MO.  I stopped in for a visit and lunch at one of his favorite places (and mine too), Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que.  My last trip we visited their store in a gas station.  This time it was at their new place…still plenty of lines.

Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe's
Stopping in KC to enjoy lunch with my good friend Brad Sweeten at Oklahoma Joe’s
Inside of Oklahoma Joe's - nice atmosphere, great food and big portions
Inside of Oklahoma Joe’s – nice atmosphere, great food and big portions

After my brief stopover in Kansas City is was time to fly on home down the Interstate.  As I drove through Missouri, the clouds were amazing…giant cumulonimbus clouds were framed by the blue background of the sky.

Large clouds over central Missouri
Large clouds over central Missouri
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone...
Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…

After a hearty meal, a short night of sleep and a lot of driving already, it was time for a nap….even Road Warriors need to sleep!!

Nap time in Missouri - even Road Warriors gotta sleep
Nap time in Missouri – even Road Warriors gotta sleep

After my brief 30 minute power snooze, I was back on the road with only one other planned stop to see a Paul Bunyan looking Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO.

I went to Wentsville!
I went to Wentzville, the Crossroads of the Nation
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, IL
Paul Bunyan Muffler Man just off of the interstate in Wentzville, MO

If you are really interested in Muffler Men and Uniroyal Gals and their variations, you MUST see Roadside America’s Muffler Man Page.  It is chock full of info, history and even a location map of these big guys and gals.

Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO
Sumoflam and Muffler Man in Wentzville, MO

I have seen many of these guys in my travels and you’ll run across them in my blogs.  (HERE are some in Texas; a Uniroyal gal in Idaho; a Native American Muffler Man in Bemidji, MN; a Big John in Metropolis, IL; another Big John in Great Falls, MT and there are more.)

Approach to St. Louis, MO - heavy traffic!
Approach to St. Louis, MO – heavy traffic!

On the way into St. Louis I got slowed down considerably by heavy late afternoon traffic.  I was really glad when I finally go to Cardinals Stadium, which meant I was soon across the river…

Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Cardinals Stadium and Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

I still had quite a trip as a drove home with the sunset to my back…

Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
Sunset as seen from southern Illinois
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip
And this was the final sunset as seen in my rear view mirror as I finished off my trip

Finally, the last leg of a trip covering 9 days, 12 states, 4500+ miles and numerous amazing adventures was over with at about 1 AM EST.  Time for a rest….

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