Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Nebraska, The Cornhusker State

Are you sick of me talking about the heat? The day we arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the thermometer in our car registered 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius)! – of course, that was in a parking lot, after the car had sat for a bit (the store, Camping World, let us bring the puppies into the store with us), but that’s HOT!!!  We were tired. We were sick of the heat. We were on our way home and wishing we were already there.  (Now, as I wriNE Postcardte this, it’s winter, and it’s cold & snowing, and I can’t remember what I was complaining about in the summer…no…I remember … I love summer, but I’m like Goldilocks – “too hot, too cold, just right”.)

Last time we were in Nebraska, we were on a one way road trip from Calgary to Halifax (mentioned in my Jolly Green Giant blog, Oct. 17, 2012). We went into Nebraska just to say we were there, and I bought a postcard IN Nebraska that says on the back: “There’s a reason it’s called a plain state. Road-weary pioneers just gave up and stayed.”

But, despite the intriguing sales pitch, I read somewhere that there was, in fact, a “Big Ball of String” reason to go to Nebraska – Chimney Rock.

We stayed at the West Omaha KOA (http://koa.com/campgrounds/west-omaha/), and I got caught up on laundry.  (I have had interesting visits with other travellers in the laundry rooms at the KOA’s. The people in this one were reading a murder mystery romance book out loud, to pass the time. I was torn between leaving the laundry room (which was like a sauna) and staying and listening to the story!! I did leave, though, because, for one thing, I realized that I wouldn’t get to hear the end anyway…and the other compelling reason is that we were having pizza delivered.)

Yes! Made-to-order pizza and delivery is actually something that THAT particular KOA offered/offers! It was great! (Technically, I was right beside the kitchen when I was doing laundry, and could’ve picked it up, but didn’t want to miss out on the experience of having the pizza delivered to the Airstream!

That night, a miracle happened. The temperature dropped to a tolerable mid-90’s range.  It was aMAZing!!! Who could’ve guessed that one of the biggest highlights of a 8000+ km road trip was going to be the temperature cooling down!!

That morning, we headed west – tLincolnowards Chimney Rock.  First things first, though – with “cooler” temperatures, we celebrated by finding the closest Starbucks, which happened to be in Lincoln, Nebraska. The one we chose had no parking, but we didn’t care – Peter circled the block while I picked up our coffee. Mmmmmmmmm.  (I had a venti white mocha with a shot of raspberry.)

I had no expectations of the drive across Nebraska, and to tell the truth, we had planned to go through South Dakota and decided to go across Nebraska as sort of a whim, when we saw “Chimney Rock” in a brochure I picked up at a gas station, so I hadn’t researched it properly.

Pony Express enrouteI was very excited to discover that somewhere around Kearney, NE, we were on the Pony Express Route! (Which is also the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail!!)  http://www.ponyexpressdoc.com/pages/the-pony-expressMemorial Archway

The first interesting place that we passed was the Great Platte River Road Archway, somewhere near Kearney. The Archway pays tribute to the pioneers who travelled along that route from 1843 to 1869, highlighting their perseverance and determination.  (We didn’t stop, and I had to Google it, to find out what it is…but a piece of history I hadn’t expected to see out there! http://www.archway.org/)

The next place we came across was an original Pony Express Station, in Gothenburg.  In its hay-day, it was actually at another area in Gothenburg, but was moved to a new location (Ehman Park) in 1931. It is now a museum and a post office, so OF COURSE, I had to mail myself a Pony Express postcard from the Station! (They have a leather mail bag hanging on the wall beside the door, into which you just drop your mail.)

For those of you who don’t know all about the Pony Express, the link above is pretty informative, but if you don’t have time to look it up, here’s a few details in summary:

The Pony Express was a relay system of horses and their riders, who carried mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California (and back again), from April 1860 through October 1861.  It was the fastest way to deliver mail at that time, taking an average of 10 days from one end to the other (almost 2000 miles), but the fastest time recorded was 7 days, 13 hours, and carried Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. Riders typically rode 75-100 miles before another rider took over, and horses usually were changed out every 10-15 miles.
Pony Express StationPony express postcard

There were between 100-200 Pony Express Stations enroute (I’ve read “over 100”, “approximately 165” and “184 stations” – so, I don’t really know) ~ this is one of them!Buffalo Bill Ranch

After that, and back out on the highway, we passed a sign for Buffalo Bill Ranch…

Technically, I “know” about Buffalo Bill (who’s real name is William F. Cody), but not really.   Apparently, he’s mostly famous because of his acting troupe “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” (which is portrayed in the movie Hidalgo http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317648/), which performed all over the US and Europe.

A few other things for which he is known:

  • He got his nickname because he killed over 4,000 buffalo within 18 months (so says reports), apparently for food for the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers (1867-1868)
  • He was a Pony Express rider when he was around 14 years old, in 1860
  • He was an advocate for Women’s Rights, including the right to vote.  In 1898, he’s quoted as saying: “Set [it] down in big black type that Buffalo Bill favors woman’s suffrage.…Mind you, I believe in marriage and children and home, but I’m not one of the kind that think that God made women to do nothing but sit at home in the ashes and tend to babies…If a woman can do the same work that a man can do and do it just as well she should have the same pay.”
  • Although he was involved in the Indian Wars, he had a high regard for the Indian tribes around him and credited them with fighting to protect their families and ways of life.  He was close friends with many –  in fact, when Sitting Bull was introduced to the US people, Buffalo Bill was always beside him.  Chief Red Fox is quoted as saying after Buffalo Bill had died: “In my imagination, I can see his noble spirit winging over the lofty peak, and I bow my head in memory of one who always impressed me with kindness and compassion, and enriched me with the deeply entrenched integrity of his character.”
  • Guest starring on his show “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” (and/or personal friends of his) include the likes of: Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok (who was shot & killed in Deadwood – the subject of a future blog, since we did visit his grave site on the previously mentioned 1-way roadtrip of 2005), and Gustave Eiffel (who designed the Eiffel Tower!!!)

There are thousands of articles about him, and I just read probably…30, but here’s a couple… http://www.biography.com/people/buffalo-bill-cody-9252268 and http://www.buffalobill.org/

After all of that…I know you’ll be shocked to know that we didn’t even stop at the Buffalo Bill Ranch. Another regret, but I didn’t know what we were missing. We’ll have to go back.  Hopefully, we’ll just be passing that way – I don’t think I want to make a special trip to Nebraska.  (That being said, this was my 3rd time in the State, and thought I’d only be there once, for 2 minutes, just to say “I’ve been there”.)

I feel that I’ve talked enough today.  I really thought we’d make it all the way to Chimney Rock, but I didn’t realize I’d have so much to talk about!chimney rock

So, Sunday! We’ll start with Chimney Rock!

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Kansas City Public Library and other sights

We left the Giant Eyeball and drove to Kansas City. We had a nice, easy, straight drive, directly West.  Somehow, I have no pictures of that trip, so there was either nothing to see or I fell asleep…

I was really looking forward to going to Kansas City, though.   Someone had, at some point, posted a picture on Facebook of a building that looked like giant books, and so I Google searched it, and found that it was the Kansas City Public Library parking garage! What an amazing idea! What an inspiring piece of art!! How encouraging!  In fact, I instantly wanted to read (most) of the books that were represented (or re-read the books represented that I had already read!)

First, though, I had to convince Peter that we had to go off the beaten path, pulling a trailer, though the core of Kansas City to take pictures of a building.  Which, he agreed to do. Once again, GPS did NOT help!! I typed in Kansas City Public Library and it guided us through narrow streets, the wrong way down a one-way (a big giant truck was coming the other way, but stopped to wait for us to make it through- probably had some choice words about “tourists”), through construction (in which we actually had to run over those orange cones… we finally arrived, and THIS is what we saw:
Public Library but not THE
A beautiful building, A Kansas City Public Library, but not THE Kansas City Public Library… (Apparently this is the Central library – if someone knows otherwise, please let me know!)

Somehow, I convinced Peter that, even though we were driving around and around for…way too long…we had to try to find the other one! At that point, really, it was too hot (again, with the “too hot”) to do anything else anyway, so we drove around Kansas City. We did find THE Library – I forget how. Maybe we broke down and turned on the roaming on our cell phones, so we could Google…KC

It’s a good size city (approximately 460,000 people) and has ALOT to offer/see. For starters, and the most advertised, their sports teams – starting with: Kansas City Chiefs (National Football League)! (Also, Kansas Speedway for Nascar races, of which they host 3 times a year; Kansas City Royals (Major League Baseball); and Sporting Kansas City (Formerly, the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer).

One of the best things about the Visit Kansas City website is that under “things to do” they include a category of “quirky attractions”.  😀
(http://www.visitkc.com/things-to-do/suggested-itineraries/quirky-attractions/index.aspx)

When I look back about each of the places we’ve been, and not just on this trip, but all of them, and I review the things we miss, I remember that each trip is like a “sample platter”.  Tasty little bits of a few different things ~ see what we like, and come back for those next time, and add a few other tidbits, too!

A couple of the things we missed (as per roadsideamerica.com and other websites):

  • The world’s largest concrete soccer ball (5801 NE 76th St)
  • The world’s largest shuttlecocks (sculpture at 4525 Oak St)
  • Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant (diner style, food delivered by model train (east side of Grand Blvd at E. 25th St.)
  • The house in which Jesse James was shot is an hour north, in St. Joseph, and you can visit the house (they’ve left the hole in the wall, apparently, but it’s grown over the years as people continue to take pieces of the wall…)
    (http://www.ci.st-joseph.mo.us/history/jameshome.cfm)

Also listed is The Kansas City Public Library parking garage.  Here’s the problem: we were pulling a trailer and there was no parking, so Peter just slowed down so I could take pictures out of the window, and they are… not good…in that trees blocked most of the view!! Still, good enough for me, but Google it, to see the full spectrum of the building! It’s a great building! http://www.strangebuildings.com/kansas-city-public-library-parking-garage-kansas-city-usa/THE publ libr 1
The Public Library Parking Garage  THE publ libr 2
Kansas City has alot of beautiful and/or buildings, and I don’t really know what most of them were, so anyone who sees my pictures and happens to know what the building are, please tell me!!

The one that LOOKS like an Opera House IS the Opera House (Muriel Kauffman Theatre), but the rest I don’t know…Kansas City Architecture KC 6KC 7Kansas City Opera House

Many people think that Kansas City is in Kansas and are surprised to find out that it is, in fact, in Missouri.  That’s why I was surprised to find out that Kansas city is also in Kansas. Technically, they are separate cities, but we drove from one to the other and didn’t notice. There was probably a sign, but we didn’t see it.

We drove through the Northeast corner of Kansas, so we could cross it off our list of “states and provinces we still need to visit”, and then turned North towards Nebraska. (More on Nebraska on Wednesday.)

However, I have another trip planned for Kansas – but I want to go to Liberal, which is, of course, where Dorothy Gale lived, from Wizard of Oz.  You know, the Dorothy who said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

We almost made it there a few years ago, when were just South, in Oklahoma, but we couldn’t go.  I do have my ruby red slippers, though, all ready for that trip!
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2815

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St. Louis Arch and the Giant Eyeball, in Missouri

Moon over st. louisWe arrived in St. Louis late, as we hoped – hoping it to be cool enough to set up camp.  It wasn’t. We didn’t even unhook the trailer! We just plugged in the power so we could have air conditioning for the night!

(There were, tragically, reports of heat related deaths, from power failures or air conditioning malfunctions… 😦 very scary.  I’ve heard of that before, but never been so near. Poor people. We decided if the power went out during the night, we’d have to just get in the truck and keep driving.)

We planned to get up early the next morning and go up the St. Louis Arch. (http://www.stlouisarch.com)  I’ve heard that it’s best to go to the Arch early, anyway, before the school kids get there (the sight seeing windows are still relatively finger print and nose print free early in the morning!!)

SL 2I was also told to be aware that the elevator lurches and creaks as it goes up, at an angle, to the top of the Arch. I guess that makes sense, and I’m glad for the warning, because I imagined the elevator moving more like the glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367594/) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4bydZrQzYA)

Again, with the heat! Because we were pulling a trailer, we had to park about 1/4 of a mile away, which might have been ok (although the temperature by 8am was already around 104 degrees), but we had the two little puppies and they would’ve had to sit in the trailer, with no air conditioning on, during the time we walked to the Arch, took the elevator to the top, looked around & took pictures, and walked back… so, we had to skip it. Bridge

We did drive around and around the Arch, though – partly because we wanted to, partly because some of the roads were closed due to the Fourth of July celebrations, and partly because we ended up lost when we detoured.

In fact, we crossed the Mississippi river… 5 times!Bridge to St. Louis

Later, in Wyoming, we met a man who lived in St. Louis, and he told us if we wanted moderate weather, the best time to go visit is between November and February…

Wish we could’ve done more there, but I’m happy with the sights we saw!
St. Louis ArchwaySL 8St. Louis ArchwaySkylineJust outside of St. Louis a couple of miles, at Laumeier Sculpture Park (still considered part of St. Louis) on 12580 Rott Rd (another find on roadsideamerica.com), is a sculpture of a Giant Eyeball. (There are many sculptures there, but that one was the reason we went out of our way.)

Once upon a time, when Evan was maybe 7 years old (see previous posts about Evan), he was mad at all of the adults (us, and his parents). I forget what the problem was, but whatever it was was causing him to be sassy, and he wasn’t getting away with it.  Or something like that.  Bottom line is: he was making me giggle, which made him more mad.

He finally said in his angry little 7 year old voice: “STOP IT! OR I’M GOING TO HIT YOU WITH MY EYEBALL!! uhhhh I mean ELBOW!!”   So so funny! That was it – hysterical laughter. (He didn’t think it was funny at all, until finally, after he saw this picture, he appreciated it – of course, as I found out in the last blog – he’s 10 now, so that probably helps.)GE

We went out of our way to take THIS picture for Evan!  That being said, it’s pretty impressive, if you ask me!  It was really worth the trip!

Sunday’s post will be about Kansas City, Missouri.

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Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln’s nose, and Mr. Accordian

Our original plan was to leave Jellystone and stay the night in Springfield, IL.  That would give us a chance to do all the things I wanted to do and see all the things I wanted to see… But, as is becoming a common thread in all of my blogs, it was way too hot!

In fact, the headline that ran in the State Journal-Register was “Springfield sweats through hottest day in more than 40 years”… The last time the temperature was that hot (104 degrees Farenheit/40 degrees Celsius) was July 13, 1966!! (http://www.sj-r.com/archive/x537696878/For-Springfield-could-be-hottest-day-in-more-than-50-years)

We arrived around 4:30pm, I think, and it was so hot, there was no way we could even set up camp, so we decided to stop and see one or two of the sights I felt I would regret not seeing, and then head off to St. Louis (hoping to arrive there after the weather had cooled down a little.)Tomb

I chose the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln (who was born in Kentucky in 1809) moved to Springfield in 1837, where he worked as a lawyer for Illinois State Legislature.  He and Mary Todd got engaged in 1842.  (Mary was born in Kentucky but had moved to Springfield in 1839 and lived with her sister.)

They lived in Springfield, until 1861, when Lincoln was elected President (actual election date of Nov. 6, 1960), and they moved to Washington DC….which, as we know, is where he lived until his assassination, April 1865.

Lincoln's NoseAbraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and lived through a very important part in history.  I could never say everything that had to be said about him in one tiny little blog, so if you didn’t study all about him in school, you should look him up!  Fascinating history!  (Also, there’s a movie just released this year called “Lincoln” starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham and Sally Field as Mary, and directed by Steven Spielberg! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/  I haven’t seen it yet, but I assume it’ll be factual enough to get the basics of this part of history in a 120 minutes.)

Since Springfield’s biggest claim-to-fame is (or should be) Abraham Lincoln, I THOUGHT finding his tomb would be easy.  (We couldn’t find it on GPS and we had our phones turned off because we didn’t want to pay international roaming charges.)  So, we made an “educated” guess, that we would find his tomb at the National Cemetery (Camp Butler National Cemetery, to be precise).  There were signs for the National Cemetery for miles, so THAT was easy to find!!

We arrived at the cemetery and, although it was interesting, and under different circumstances, I would’ve liked to have walked through, but I was trying to find the Tomb.  Again, you’d think it’d be easy, but I saw nothing but row after row of white headstones.National cemetery

I went to the information center, but, of course, it was closed.  There was a computer index, so technically, you could type in the name of the person’s grave you wanted to visit, BUT it was out of service…

However, they still had a pre-technology book with actual worn pages! Someone else was examining it, so I waited..and waited… Finally, I just went to ask if they happened to know where Lincoln’s tomb was and they did! Well, they had a general idea, anyway.  And it wasn’t at the National Cemetery.  It’s at the Oak Ridge Cemetery….(I don’t think I could’ve guessed that.)

Anyway, it was too complicated for them to explain, so despite the fact that they were at the National Cemetery for a reason, they offered to leave and drive to the Tomb, so that we could follow them! We (eventually) accepted their offer, and it’s a good thing that we did, because the route was a labyrinth of streets. We would never find our way without their help.Rt 66

Can you imagine such nice people? After we arrived at the Tomb, they were worried we didn’t have a good enough map to navigate without GPS (we had GPS, it just didn’t find “Lincoln’s Tomb”), so insisted we take their roadmap! (Also, a cold compress… it was so hot and they were kind of used to it.)  They were so insistent, that we started to feel ungrateful, so accepted!

Oak Ridge Cemetery is a beautiful cemetery!  (http://www.oakridgecemetery.org/) There are small markers and beautiful old carved monuments, an abbey, a chapel, gardens… apparently, it’s the second most visited cemetery in the United States (the first being Arlington National Cemetery.)

My focus was Lincoln’s Tomb, but I think you could probably spend a whole day there.Memorial Memorial

A plaque outside the Tomb tells us that this structure marks the graves of Abraham, Mary, and three of their four sons (the oldest son is buried in Arlington). The site was chosen by the Lincoln family in May 1865.

Down the hill (on the north side, is the old receiving vault.  (The vault held remains that awaited burial, either during the winter while the ground was frozen, or while burial plans were being made.  It also briefly held the remains of Abraham and one of his sons.)vault 1

If you arrive at the right time of day, you can actually take tours and go inside the Tomb. Of course, we didn’t. It was closed by the time we arrived.  If ever we are in the vicinity again, though, I will go back.

(www.illinoishistory.gov/hs/lincoln_tomb.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_Tomb)

Also, at the entrance of the Oak Ridge Cemetery, is the tomb of a man named Roy Bertelli (1910-2003), also known as Mr. Accordian.  In the background, you can see Lincoln’s Tomb. Mr. AccordianMr. A

Apparently, the story goes something like: Roy Bertelli was an entertainer and really wanted to be buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery. However, the cemetery was for “posh” clientele, and he didn’t qualify. He decided to go inquire anyway, and found out that there was actually a burial plot available, near the entrance.  He bought it!

Shortly after his purchase, the people in charge realized who had purchased the plot and wrote him that a mistake had been made, and he couldn’t, after all, be buried there.  They were rude about it, so he absolutely refused to give up his spot.  Not only that, but he built this above ground crypt, so it’d be impossible to ignore it, when coming into the cemetery.

In the end, he kept his crypt, but it’s empty.  He requested to be buried in a different cemetery, outside of town.

His tomb is listed under RoadsideAmerica as “The Defiant Tomb of Mr. Accordian”.
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/19409

Wednesday – St. Louis, Missouri.

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The Shanty (Diners Drive ins and Dives)

Well, it finally came to our last morning with Richard, Shannan, and the boys..  😦  We wanted to just spend the time visiting, but instead, of course, we had to pack up the trailers, get everything organized, get the puppies and kids settled in their respectable vehicles…

Oh, AND, we had to clean up after a pesky raccoon from the night before! (Which, I kinda was excited about, having never been a victim of a raccoon’s mischief before, and Daisy & Coco (the puppies, if you are reading for the first time) were REALLY excited about it!!) (We thought we’d taken care of all of the food items, but apparently we’d missed a plate…)
RaccoonCoco Raccoon hunting

By the time we had time to sit around and visit…we had nothing to sit on…

But, Shannan and Richard had one final surprise for us.  We were instructed to follow them down the highway, towards Chicago – no questions asked.

Well! It was a GREAT surprise (PLUS, it lengthened our visit by another hour or so) – you probably have guessed what it was, based on my blog title…Shanty

They found a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, from the Food Network – The Shanty, in Wadsworth, Illinois.

We arrived just before lunchtime, and were seated right away.  There were a few other people there, but it certainly wasn’t crowded.  And, we had the personal attention of the servers…which is good, because we felt like visiting with them.

First, of course, we ordered.  I don’t remember exactly what I had for an entree, but it was a yummy burger of some sort.  I think maybe we all had burgers, actually.  hamburgerCheeseburger

I DO know exactly what we had for appetizers, though!  I had the Whiskey Shrimp (the menu describes: “Four fresh jumbo shrimp flamed in our signature Jack Daniels cream sauce served over garlic toast points with sautéed vegetables”).  MMmmmmmmm.. We also had Alligator Tail, which I’m sure was yummy, too, but the shrimp was really my favorite!  We must’ve gotten a few orders, too, because I don’t remember sharing.
alligatorWhiskey Shrimp

While we waited for our food, we had a nice talk with the server – about:

    • the impact of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the business and the design of the building – (Since The Shanty episode aired on The Food Network, the Shanty had to double the size of their eating area, and change their kitchen around – I think they had to expand the kitchen and add more cooking area, but I don’t exactly remember those details…)
  • Reclaimedthe wood covering the walls – (in the main eating area, the wood is all “reclaimed” wood, so weathered and multi colored – reclaimed barnwood from local farms – I love that look!)
  • Olive Oil – (the owners of The Shanty,
    the Kallianis family, have their own olive oil, imported from their own grove in Sparta, Greece.  It’s called “The Lonely Olive Tree”, so named because in 1910, the grove was destroyed by frost – all except the one lonely tree… Parts of that tree were used to replant the grove.) (There’s a nice article about that at
    http://newssun.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/12866741-417/olive-oil-brand-next-project-for-shanty-owners.html).

Of course, we had to take home a bottle of this very special olive oil!Oil

Unfortunately, we did eventually have to leave, and after a tearful “see-you-soon” in the parking lot, we were back on the highway, heading towards St. Louis, Missouri.

Sunday – Springfield, Illinois and the tomb of Abraham Lincoln.

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“If life gives you limes, make margaritas” ~ Jimmy Buffett (Off to the Jelly Belly Factory)

Still at Jellystone, one of the days, Shannan and I decided to take a mini day-road-trip.  The ultimate destination? Well! Keep in mind, we were travelling with 2 little boys.  We didn’t tell anyone, but we headed out for the Jelly Belly Factory, which includes a train ride through the factory (warehouse).Lake Michigan

It was around 105 degrees Farenheit, and we needed air conditioning – the kids were up to a road trip, so we headed south, with Lake Michigan to our East.

We went right through Racine, Wisconsin, to Kenosha.  Does Racine sound familiar? You can watch “A League of Their Own” and see why that matters! (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104694/,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racine_Belles). It was kind of ironic, because we’d been around so many baseball movies sites and themes, this was just an extra bonus!  (No pictures – just happy thought that we were there!)

killer margarita signOn our way, we saw from afar a sign that said “Warning! Killer Margaritas!”  Well! mix together extreme heat and vacation mode, and no particular destination (well, particular destination with no deadline – as long as we got there before it closed) with “margarita” equals “pulling over for lunch!”  (extrKiller margaritaeme heat+vacation+no deadline=killer margarita)

Not ONLY did La Fogata have  DELICIOUS Mexican food  (which, by the way, is sadly lacking in Calgary*, and generally abundant in the States, and is an off-and-on topic throughout this particular trip),  which was ALSO very picturesque (Mexican food rarely looks as delicious in pictures as it tastes in real life), BUT they also have “Killer-ritas”! (THIS, according to the menu,  is a 22 oz margarita, with a Corona or Dos Equis inverted and inserted).  GREAT STOP!  (http://www.eatatlafogata.com/)
yummy food

yummy food 2fried ice cream
MUCH later, we continued along to…drum roll… the Jelly Belly Factory! (http://www.jellybelly.com/).

Oh, were the boys (ALL of them) EVER excited!! The adult boys were trying to be all “cool” about it, but they were pretty excited to get into their factory hats! (OK, me too!)

FamBecause it’s a factory, you have to wear a hat, and because they are constantly creating fascinating and delicious new tastes, there’s no pictures allowed once the tour starts… but, I did find the tour very interesting!

Did you know that Ronald Reagan was a lover of Jelly Bellys? not only were there Blueberry Jelly Belly’s created for his presidential inauguration in 1981, BUT during his presidency, Jelly Bellys were served in the Oval Office AND (this is my favorite part), on Air Force One, there’s a special Jelly Belly holder that was designed so that the Jelly Bellys wouldn’t spill! He’s quoted as saying ““You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by the way he eats jelly beans.”  I bet that’s true – one at a time, by the handful… I just don’t know how to translate the message…JB sign 2

(Apparently, there’s a portrait of Ronald, in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, made of 10,000 Jelly Bellys…)

(OH! LOOK WHAT I FOUND!
YOUR OWN PICTURES IN JELLY BELLYS!!! http://www.jellybelly.com/fun_stuff/bean_art_maker.aspx !!! )

After the highly informative train tour, we were greeted with a sample bag of Jelly Bellys, which I LOVE! and dropped off at the gift shop.

There is a sample bar in there of every flavor they’ve ever invented. They have everything!! and there are some yummy flavors! YUMMY! My all-time favorite is Buttered Popcorn, and then there’s the classics (cinnamon, very cherry, and watermelon), there’s the “icky” flavors..  (They can be found (on line) in the “BeanBoozled” section.) They include: Canned Dog Food, Pencil Shavings, Barf, Vomit, Baby Wipes, Booger, and the list goes on…
Icky JB

Now, on the tour, they specifically tell us that they spend aLOT of time making certain that their flavors are accurate… and I canNOT even imagine how they test those things with the icky flavors, but… I believed them when they said they prided themselves on accurate taste matches…

SO! When we got to go for samples… Peter decided to try – yeah – uh huh DOG FOOD!! FIVE HOURS LATER, he was still complaining about the taste of dog food!!! Nobody else could tease him tho – Shannan tried “Baby Wipes”!!  I’m serious!!

I, on the other had, believed the tour guide when they explained that their flavor names matched their actual tastes – and chose (and here’s where the theme of the blog comes in) MARGARITA!!! WHY would I choose “Vomit” when I could have “Margarita” and “Kiwi”!!ceiling

YAY ME! Everyone else had icky flavors stuck in their palates, and I got Margarita! woooooo hoooooo!

However, my experience was far less funny than theirs.  The 10 year old boy, after trying “Booger” flavor, confessed to his mother that he had to “spit it out” cuz he “thought it would taste better than it did!”  (SO FUNNY, and SO GROSS all at once!!) Oh goodness – makes me laugh even still.

The rest of the day was spent back at Jellystone Park… Wednesday, we are heading off towards St. Louis, and Rich & Shannan and crew go back towards Michigan…

*(I did just hear, today, of a Mexican restaurant in Calgary, called Paloma, that is getting great reviews! I’m excited! Will be trying that out as soon as possible.)

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Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park (Caledonia, Wisconsin – Milwaukee area)

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park was the midpoint of our trip – our turn around point, but for the little boys, it was the highlight! andHeat index for them, the grand climax, since they went home to Michigan after.

The heat was UNbearable – crazy hot! Heat advisories in effect – apparently, this particular road trip was through a record-breaking heatwave. Yay, us.

Thanks to that, we didn’t get to do some of the things I wanted to do in Milwaukee – first and foremost – skipping down Knapp Street, chanting “one two three four five six seven eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!'”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRmKzxhMzwo

I had convinced Shannan to dress up as Laverne (as if she needed “convincing”) but Peter and Richard absolutely refused to dress up like Lenny and Squiggy.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074016/)  In the end, it didn’t matter, since temperatures were between 102 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 and 39.4 degrees Celsius)!

Jellystone ParkGood thing we had a few days at Jellystone Park – which had Cindy’s Ice cream Shoppe, Yogi Bear’s Water Zone, mini golf and outdoor movie theater.  (Also, we had air conditioning in our Airstream AND a mist-er outside.)Water park

The Park is great – at check-in, you receive a security pass and the gate is locked so nobody else can come in.  This is really good, considering there are children EVERYWHERE! Everywhere! But with enough activities, by the time they get to the “residential” area, they are exhausted, quiet, and ready for their naps!

Boo  Boo's pondAnd, it’s a campground that adults can find things to do – Peter even spent an evening fishing at Boo Boo’s pond.Booboos pond

Besides,
who doesn’t
love
Yogi Bear and Boo Boo?

Next,  we are going on a tour around the area to some of the local  (and air conditioned) sites.

Yogi and Boo Boo

See you Sunday!

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Chocolate, Cheese and Trucks in Trees

Remember when I mentioned the little Swiss Miss lady in the field? (last blog – October 31). Well! the reason that wasn’t odd (apparently) is because we were in Swiss Colony territory.Wisconsin farm

AND, as you know, the Swiss are famous for (in amongst other important things like…the Alps…and… being a neutral country) CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE!!! Mmmmm yep!!Swiss Colony

“Kid in a Candy Shop” on the Food Network, in his episode “Bake, Batter, and Roll” encouraged a trip to the Swiss Colony Market in Monroe, WI.  Not that we needed alot of convincing – Cheese & Chocolate!  And, how perfect was it, then, that we were driving right passed!
http://goo.gl/maps/rwyGR

The adult boys weren’t that excited about it (we didn’t even tell the children), but had to stop anyway to … I forget what… refuel, I think… and right there, from the gas station, Shannan and I spotted the Swiss Colony Market and went “window shopping”.  http://www.swisscolony.com/

Swiss ColonyYes, we were just like kids in a candy shop.  I wished I had’ve made a list of everything we got, but I remember we did get a variety of cheeses, a variety of meats (like pepperoni type), honey (I’ve been saving the honey), some special mustard… and, of course, chocolates!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LkJ9uDB24o

OH! and petit fours! Mmmmmm Petit Fours! Shannan bought a bag (which she shared-thank you, Shannan! If any of you have ever had them, you’ll understand what a wonderful thing that was – such a great friend!) and they were so delicious, I can still taste them….you can order on-line…maybe I’ll have to do that.  (We also bought some smaller beautiful little gift boxes of Petit Fours, to give out when we got home-and most of them even made it…)

Eventually, we noticed that the boys were all parked outside in the parking lot, waiting “patiently”, so we finalized our shopping choices, took one last look around the store, just to make sure, and (unwillingly) left the store.

Back on the road, about 45 miles east of Monroe, on Hwy 81, is a Truck in a Tree, near Clinton WI.Truck in Tree (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/9349).  Yes.  A Truck in a Tree.   Alice in Wonderland said it best when she said: “Curiouser and curiouser!”  Truck in Tree

Very interesting. A must-see “roadside attraction” that needs to be on “the biggest ball of string” road trip.  The owner of the truck and tree has a site, so you can read about his inspiration! http://truckinthetree.com/

Wednesday, we’re visiting Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park.

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