Category Archives: Travel

A (short) look back to Iowa

So much for avoiding Outback Steakhouse. I got takeout last night, but no steak. Lobster tails and grilled shrimp. Unfortunately, the shrimp was not on a bed of garlic toast like I’m accustomed to, and the mixed veggies was only broccoli. Can’t be perfect.
Today, I made the 30 km (18 mile) trip northwest from my hotel to Boulder. There is a bar just off US 36, the highway connecting the western Denver suburbs to Boulder, whichwa also serves Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Great call. Oysters were excellent. I’m getting a second order to go. I am also going to hang around Boulder, going to Safeway just down the street and then to the University of Colorado campus to see Folsom Field and Coors Events Center.
I made another reservation at the Buckhorn Exchange tonight, but I’m guessing I will either cancel or only order takeout. I’m not in the mood for another $127 meal ($97 plus a hefty tip; I make sure the ladies are taken care of, and Andrea deserved extra for suggesting the elk/bison combination), as tempting as it sounds. Worse is the traffic from Westminster to downtown; I couldn’t go last night because (a) I had a prior engagement from 1700 to 1900, and (b) the Avalanche played the Blackhawks at Ball Arena (formerly Pepsi Center) in their NHL opener last night. No way I wanted to fight Interstate 25, which is a parking lot much of the time between rush hour and the four sports teams playing at facilities on the highway.
Back to Russell tomorrow. Will be so weird going east to get home, plus the time change will get me.
I’m convinced it’s easier to go from Central to Eastern or Mountain to Central, then come back home than the other way around. I went from Central to Eastern in April 2017 on my trip to Kentucky. I was grateful to get that hour back on the long drive from Lexington to Kansas City. If I leave the hotel at 1200, I figure I’m back at 1830 in Russell.

One week ago, I was in another state for the first time.
Okay, it was not my first time in Iowa, but it was the first time I stopped in Iowa. Prior to last Tuesday, when I drove north on I-35 from northeast Kansas City to West Des Moines, the only times I had been in the Hawkeye State was on I-29 between Kansas City and Omaha.
One time going from Omaha to KC, I bypassed Iowa completely, driving south on US 75, then taking US 136 over the Missouri River at the Nebraska-Missouri state line.
I got to experience a quirky Iowa law during my five days there.
In 1979, Iowa adopted a law which requires consumers to place a nickel deposit on bottled and canned beverages. The deposit can be recovered by returning the containers to a recycling center. They’re not hard to find in Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf), but in rural areas, many counties don’t have places to recycle.
I’m old enough to remember a small food store near my residence in New Orleans which placed deposits on glass bottles, but when plastic replaced glass, there was no need for it.
Iowa is one of a few states with a “bottle bill”, and the only one between the Continental Divide and Mississippi River. I wonder if many Council Bluffs residents buy drinks in Nebraska, or those in the Quad Cities go into Illinois, to avoid the deposit.
It would be akin to Wyandotte and Johnson County residents in Kansas going into Missouri (or Metro East in Illinois going to St. Louis) to buy cancer sticks, because Missouri refuses to tax cancer sticks at a reasonable rate (17 cents? That was unreasonably low in 1971, much less 2021).
I was lucky to receive a great rate for the lovely Sheraton in West Des Moines. I had a two-room suite at a lower price than it usually is for a standard room, and it was only seven steps from the elevator to the door.
It is one of the few hotels I’ve lodged where the rooms all overlook an atrium. There are two glass elevators on the east side of the hotel, and that creates a lot of problems when there is a large number of guests, as it was when I was trying to check out Sunday morning.
Check out was hell. Luggage carts were being hoarded by elderly guests, and elevators were jammed. I have always hated riding elevators with strangers, but I have hated it exponentially more since COVID. I had to be a jerk during one ride down, shutting the door on three different floors (from the seventh) to avoid others. Lucky for me, the final ride down was alone, and I was on my way back.
There was one jerk from Kossmuth County who parked his Equinox so far right his passenger side tires were one meter over the yellow line. JERK.
I didn’t see the Iowa State Capitol. I didn’t venture to Ames to see Iowa State. I didn’t drive to Clear Lake to see the location of the plane carsh that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson. I didn’t venture east on I-80 to see the world’s largest truck stop, somewhere between Iowa City and the Quad Citites.
No, my long outing was to Omaha of all places to buy ten cases of Pibb Zero (formerly Diet Mr. Pibb). The addition of Interstate 880 allows motorists to bypass Council Bluffs and downtown Omaha, something I was grateful for.
I was also grateful for Kum & Go and their rib patty sandwiches, which are superior to QuikTrip.
I may be back in Iowa sooner rather than later.

The patty melt at the Boulder bar was awesome. Now I have my Mountain Oysters for tonight. I still crave the kinds you find in the ocean. I need to get back to Louisiana. Soon.

Your lazy blogger returns

Call me lazy, disinterested, whatever you will. I deserve those epithets for going almost three months without writing something, anything.
The last time I posted was 20 July, the night the Bucks won their first NBA championship in 50 years.
Today, Milwaukee is in mourning. The Brewers were ousted from the National League Division Series in four games by the Braves, the team which occupied that city from 1953-65.
Milwaukee’s offense was putrid, which negated possibly the best pitching staff in the franchise’s 53 seasons (counting the first as the Seattle Pilots).
That was the reverse of 1982, when “Harvey’s Wallbangers” terrorized American League pitching, winning the pennant and blowing the last two games of the World Series to the Cardinals.

My first trip to Colorado was going great…then it wasn’t.
I returned to my room this afternoon and discovered the order of Rocky Mountain Oysters I got to go from the Buckhorn Exchange, the oldest and most famous restaurant in Denver and possible all of Colorado, were gone.
Housekeeping at the Marriott Westminster threw them away.
First, I had no idea housekeeping was coming into the room. I have stayed in at least 15 different Marriott properties in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and other locales, and only once or twice did housekeeping come in, and that was only after I had been at the hotel for three days.
Second, housekeeping is not supposed to touch anything in the room except dirty towels on the bathroom floor.
I made sure the front desk realized it. I would settle for two orders of oysters (not the kind I inhaled in Louisiana). I thought about asking for having at least one night of my stay comped, but I am not that greedy.

The good news was I did get to eat oysters last night at the Buckhorn, as well as elk and bison. I love beef, but I told Andrea, the lovely waitress who took care of me, that I can eat beef anywhere, and it was time to try something different. Great move.
I do well grilling steaks on my George Foreman grill in Russell, just as long as I take them off the grill after three minutes. I can’t remember the last time I ate a restaurant steak. Outback used to be my go-to- in Kansas City and Wichita, and before that, Baton Rouge, but not now. Ruth’s Chris is in Denver, but I’m more than halfway to Boulder, and both locations are a good drive.

Gas is EXPENSIVE in Denver.
When I bought gas this morning, the price listed on the marquee in front of the station was $3.40.
Unfortunately, that was for 85 octane, which is okay in higher elevations, but in almost all of Kansas (except Goodland and a few places which border Colorado), it’s no go.
The 87 octane cost $3.75 a gallon, making it the most expensive fill-up since 2008, when gas was north of $4 a gallon.

Sorry for burying the lead, but I turned 45 at 08:16 MDT (09:16 CDT). I figured I’ve had too many birthdays in Kansas City and it was time for something different.
I was born in the same hospital in the same year as Reese Witherspoon and Peyton Manning. I feel like apologizing to them, not to mention Archie and Olivia Manning, for tarnishing the hospital’s good name.

Last week, I spent time in another state for the first time. More on that later. I promise it won’t be three months.

Return to the Gateway City

NOTE: I am now posting this Sunday, two days after most of the action below occurred.

Is there a new rule which says I will encounter trouble driving to St. Louis?

Today, it wasn’t my car—thank God. The air conditioner is still humming one month after the compressor replacement on the other side of Missouri.
The problem occurred in Callaway County near the tiny hamlet of Williamsburg, 58 kilometers (35 miles) east of Columbia and 140 km (90 miles) west of the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium.
Traffic began to slow down shortly past the US 54 exit. Ten miles later, Interstate 70 eastbound became a parking lot.
It got to the point where I turned off my car for three minutes. Nothing moved.
I called the Missouri Highway Patrol (each state has a quick dial to its highway patrol; Missouri is star 55 and Kansas is star 47. The nice lady on the other end of the line told me a semi was on fire. I just sighed “oh boy” and hung up. No need to vent my frustrations on anyone.
The cab was no more. It was black rubble. I wonder how the driver got out without suffering serious burns.

I was about to turn east on Interstate 64 at Wentzville, but traffic was backed up onto I-70. I decided I wasn’t going to sit in any more traffic jams if I could help it, even if it meant wasting a little gas.
The good news—traffic moved steadily east on I-70 through O’Fallon and St. Peters.
The bad news—I didn’t realize Missouri Highway 370, which is a six-laned, controlled access route, veered north and not south toward I-64.
I figured what the heck, I’m here until very early Wednesday morning, why not take a tour of some unseen land in the St. Louis metro.
It rained HARD on 370 from I-70 across the Missouri River to I-270, where I wanted to get to in the first place in order to find my hotel. At one point I was down to 60 km/h (37 MPH), but some figured it was still okay to go 60 MPH (97 km/h) even with water ponding.

The rain has abated, so it looks like the Cardinals and Giants will get to play at Busch tonight.
Herb Vincent, my mentor at LSU who now works in the Southeastern Conference office in Birmingham, attempts to see the Cardinals every summer. I’m going to inquire about us getting together in 2022.
Larry, my trivia pal, is a huge Cardinals fan stuck in Kansas City. So is Lisa.
I went to the old Busch Stadium in 1992 to see the Cardinals play the Braves. The first game found my dad, brother and I stuck in the bleachers in dead center field, more than 150 meters (440 feet) from the plate. It was like watching ants. We had tickets for the second game behind home plate, but almost at the top of the stadium. Back then, I could not handle heights as well as I can now, so I was too afraid to watch and just walked around the concourse while my brother braved those bad seats. We all agreed we wouldn’t miss Busch when it was torn down in late 2005.
Busch Stadium was one of the three worst MLB stadiums I’ve been to. The others were the Astrodome and the first Rangers stadium in Arlington. At least the Astrodome was air conditioned. I won’t go into just how awful the original Arlington Stadium was—at least now.
The best MLB stadium? Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, with Houston’s Minute Maid Park a close second. Kauffman in Kansas City is far better than the ones I went to in St. Louis, Arlington and Houston, but well behind the current one in Houston and Pittsburgh.

Speaking of awful, this hotel is AWFUL. Cannot stream through the television. I have been able to do that at EVERY OTHER HOTEL I have stayed at in the past year except one—the Courtyard which is connected to this Residence Inn. Not saying it is life or death, but it would be nice to have that option in 2021. Worse, Amazon Prime is not offered as a streaming option through the hotel; only Netflix, which I find terrible, and HBO, which I am not paying an arm and a leg for.

UPDATE 1: I have figured out the TV situation. I have to unplug the main HDMI cable from the back of the TV and plug in the cable for my device. Not as easy as I would like, but it gets the job done.

UPDATE 2: As usual, St. Louis is giving me self-inflicted indigestion. White Castle, Imo’s Pizza, sushi (I’m partial to tuna and salmon) and a few other things do that. But I love them too much not to eat it, considering I cannot get it in Kansas City, much less anywhere in western and central Kansas…although Whataburger will be in KC by November (thank you, Jesus, I mean Patrick Mahomes II).

UPDATE 3: The Bucks are one win away from their first NBA championship in 50 years. More on that in the next post.

UPDATE 4: The Giants and Cardinals have split so far this weekend: San Francisco 7-2 Friday and St. Louis 3-1 Saturday. The Brewers have won their first two in Cincinnati against the wretched Reds. I have hated the Reds ever since I started watching MLB over 35 years ago for (a) Marge Schott, the racist anti-Semitic C**T who owned them at the time and (b) glorifying degenerate gambler and child rapist Peter Edward Rose. Very sad, because I have grown to admire Johnny Bench from watching highlights.

Foots is alive…somehow

If there were any rumors regarding the demise of the author of the Foots Prints blog, they were well-founded, but not true.
Yes, I had surgery on my right foot exactly three months ago. No, it isn’t an excuse for going this long without posting.

The surgery came quickly. I was at my usual Monday morning treatment on 15 March with Kelly Miller at the wound care center in Hays when she called Dr. Kirk Potter to set up surgery. Eight days later, I was under the knife.
I almost changed my mind. The Saturday before surgery, I had a terrible experience at the White Castle in Columbia, and I left a message for wound care stating I would not have the surgery three days later.
Fortunately, it got much better when I got to the White Castle in Wentzville, 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of Columbia. I then decided to go through with the surgery.
I won’t be frequenting the White Castle in Columbia anymore. Not only did they lose my online order—which was confirmed by the company’s app—they told me to get lost and not come back. What the heck?
It was the first time I went under general anesthesia since I was in the hospital in late 2004 for pneumonia and a collapsed lung, a serious ailment which almost put me 2.3 meters (six feet) under less than two months after my 28th birthday.

Following the surgery, there was hyperbaric oxygen treatment in Hays and twice-daily IVs in Russell. The IVs were seven days a week; at least with the oxygen, I got the weekends off.
I had to interrupt oxygen treatment for two weeks when my left eardrum came close to rupturing. I had to have tubes placed in my ears to make sure they could handle the change in pressure in the chamber. They did, and my last treatment was 4 June.

Right now, things are looking up. I have an IV treatment this Tuesday (29 June) and another appointment with Dr. Potter 6 July. Then comes more routine medical appointments, Dr. Custer and Dr. Jones 14-15 July.

I was in hell—almost literally—last Wednesday.
I was planning to go to St. Louis for a few days to enjoy the things I can’t in Kansas City or points west: White Castle, Imo’s Pizza, shopping at Schnuck’s and Dierberg’s.
Everything was great until Columbia.
That’s when the air conditioner in my car dead.
I won’t repeat the obscenities I blurted.
I begged a Buick dealership in St. Louis to repair my car, but they said no, then accused me of screaming, which I wasn’t. I realize I have a loud voice and when I get accused of screaming, I feel worse than I already do.
By time this played out, I was at New Florence, 80 km (50 miles) west of St. Louis. I was sweating profusely by time I made it into town, and of course, I got lost trying to find the hotel.
The only good thing: White Castle.
As bad as Columbia to St. Louis was, St. Louis to Kansas City was worse.
Of course, there was a record heat wave over Missouri last week. The heat index above 40 C (104 F), and I sweated more than I have since my trip to Baton Rouge in June 2010.
I was LUCKY to get an appointment at Cable Dahmer, my regular service location in Kansas City, last Friday. Four hours and $1,500 later, life was back to normal, or at least as normal as it can be for me.

Time for a (short) break from KC

The first half of two weeks (almost) in Kansas City ends tomorrow morning. I have to return to Russell to pick up another week’s worth of prescription meds, go to an appointment Monday in Hays, and get clean clothes. I return to the big city by Monday night.
Friday was a major bust. Larry was too busy to meet at Minsky’s for lunch; besides, I had another case of indigestion, and I woke up very late. Must have taken two Seroquel by accident. I had enough energy to go to Overland Park and pick up an Amazon shipment at Whole Foods, then go to Best Buy to replace the keyboard I bought last week in Topeka, which malfunctioned after eight days. I bought the two-year warranty, so it didn’t cost anything.
When I got back to the room, I was spent. I ordered in, watched the new Bunk’d, then aimlessly sat in the chair at the desk watching TV and typing up work things.
Today I’m back at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek for the second time in three days. I’m seriously considering not coming back. It is very, very painful right now.

I am going to stop staying at that SpringHill Suites on I-435 across the highway from Worlds of Fun, probably for the rest of this year.
The biggest problem is the location. I-435 in that area is under severe construction over the Missouri River. When I departed the hotel just before noon, southbound traffic was backed up to the exit at Parvin Road/48th Street and slow all the way to the river, and probably south of it too.
If I want to go back into Kansas, or even to Columbia, this is problematic. I found a way around it when I went to Overland Park and Leawood Wednesday and Friday, but it is a pain in the rear. Going north on I-435 isn’t as bad, but southbound stinks. Really stinks. I’ve already devised a detour tomorrow morning.
The television is antiquated compared to some other Marriott properties, notably the SpringHill Suites in Leawood—where I’ve stayed twice this year. The Leawood hotel now has Chromecast, where I can cast any app, except AppleTV, to the TV from one of my devices and watch. The same thing is also available at an older property, the Courtyard in St. Louis County off I-270 in the Westport area.
I purchased a Chromecast unit for my basement TV. Love it. Going to install it for my parents in the living room soon, and maybe in my mother’s bedroom.
I decided Wednesday I couldn’t live without Chromecast so I bought one to carry around with me and plug in to the TV at the hotels without it, which includes the TownePlace Briarcliff, where my next stay is. Love the hotel, but the TV is a little outdated, plus it hangs from the wall, which means I’ll have to run an extension cord. That’s life.

I want to go to Columbia and/or St. Louis (actually, Wentzville will suffice) this week. Tuesday is out because of my appointment, and Wednesday would have to wait until I’m done with work. Then there’s Larry’s plans. I need White Castle right now. I’m hurting. Badly.

Thirty days of crazy

My 44th year of existence ended three days after the LSU-Missouri football game in Columbia.

Now that I’ve seen LSU and Mizzou play since, the result—a 45-41 victory for the Tigers in Black—was not surprising in the least. The Bayou Bengals’ defense has struggled mightily, and Mizzou has shown enough on both sides of the ball to stay competitive in its first season under Eli Drinkwitz.

LSU was beyond dreadful in losing 48-11 at Auburn two weeks ago. It was Auburn’s largest margin against LSU since the series began over a century ago. The Bayou Bengals were supposed to host Alabama Saturday, but an outbreak of COVID-19 at LSU forced the game to be postponed.

Alabama was favored by 28 points just before the game went off the board at the sports books. This means the “sharps” think Alabama would have won by 31, since the home team gets three points for home field.

How the mighty have fallen. But that’s college football.

Mizzou is also idle this week. The Tigers were slated to host Georgia, but Columbia has been hit hard again by COVID. CoMo and Boone County have been hot spots in the Show-Me State, and it’s not hard to see why: large population, small geographical footprint, flagship university.

Texas A&M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State were also victims of COVID in the SEC, while Ohio State at Maryland was cancelled and will not be made up. Nothing surprises me anymore.

The first month of my 45th year has been quite crazy. An incident in the last 24 hours demonstrates why.

Last night at 23:15, I went to the garage, hoping to load some things into my car so I could leave early for Kansas City.

Much to my shock, the Buick was locked.

I never lock my car when I’m parked in the garage, but my mother locked it for some reason when she came home from the American Legion post last night.

I have two sets of keys, but I carry both sets. This is for hot weather, so I can dart inside somewhere and leave the A/C running. It also comes in handy when it’s bitterly cold, although I haven’t had to start the Buick on a day when the temperature was below minus-15 Celsius (10 Fahrenheit).

There was nothing I could do late last night (or in the first hour of this morning), so I tried to sleep as best I could—not well—before getting AAA on the horn to unlock the car.

I put in the service call through the app at 8:45.

Ten minutes later, my car was unlocked, but not because AAA arrived in record time.

My dad found a gray key to a GM vehicle in a desk drawer in the kitchen. I thought it was to my old Impala, but I figured it would not hurt to try.

Turn the key…OPEN! Phew.

The trouble with my Buick has been a recurring theme of the last month.

The “Service Engine Light” had been on constantly since mid-September, even though I thought I had it fixed then. Three other notices kept coming on “gas cap loose”, “engine oil low” and “low tire pressure”.

Before I could get any of that taken care of, I had another emergency with my grandfather’s old ride.

The latch to the trunk broke in the parking lot of the Schnucks in Lake St. Louis. What was stunning about this is I went to Dierberg’s in Wentzville less than an hour before that, and the trunk closed just fine.

Since it’s me, the latch would have to break while the trunk was stuffed. I somehow got everything inside the car then had to drive 30 minutes through St. Charles County with the trunk flapping before reaching Lou Fusz Buick on Page Avenue in Maryland Heights.

The latch was not available from GM, so I had to leave the Buick in St. Louis that weekend and drive a rental back to Russell. The rental was a Toyota Corolla, a fine car, but too small for yours truly. I hit my head every time I entered and exited, and could not use my seat cushion, since my scalp was butting up against the roof.

I made an intemperate remark while driving around St. Louis about how I felt people who drive small cars are clueless. I should have said people who can afford large cars yet drive small ones are clueless. Sometimes, a person can only afford a small one. Also, most Americans are not grossly overweight like me.

The good thing about the second trip to St. Louis was discovering Imo’s Pizza.

Imo’s Pizza has been a St. Louis institution since Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were starring for the baseball Cardinals. I can see why.

The pizza is served on a crispy cracker-style crust. Topping go all the way to the edge. And the slices are small enough to where intake is easily managed.

I devoured three Imo’s pizzas in the space of a week during my travels to St. Louis—two after the trunk latch broke, and a third to return the rental after the Buick was fixed.

I also had a lot of White Castle. Good stuff, but I may need a break. Lot of indigestion.

The next to last day of October was mostly spent at Cable Dahmer Buick. I waited seven and a half hours to see if the engine light and other warnings could be fixed.

After less than 500 km of driving, the service engine and loose gas cap warnings were back in full force. I made another trip to Kansas City last week. So far, the lights are staying off.

I also have discovered Springfield. More on that in another post.

I love you Caitlyn!

Missouri redux

My 44th birthday Tuesday was uneventful. That’s good some of the things which have happened on birthdays past, notably first quarter exams my junior year of high school (1992) and the quarter I was attending a “special” school for children with outlandish behavioral problems and/or juvenile criminal records, simply because my parents thought I couldn’t handle a regular school (1987). THANK GOD I was enrolled at Arabi Park Middle on 26 October 1987. Public school wasn’t my favorite thing, but given where I was in September and October 1987, it was heaven. And I met some wonderful people at APM, including my first crush, Stacie Dauterive (Seube). Stacie is gorgeous, but I now realize I crushed on her because she is so kind and intelligent.

I’ve been at Saints games (1996) and high school football games (2000). I bounced between tennis and football in 2006. There were a few years in Kansas City, with Robb and Dawn in 2015, and with Robb, Dawn and some others two years later. I was at Ottawa University with the Cox family in 2018, then rushed home late at night to beat forecast snow. Last year I left KC early to make it home for lunch.

This year, since my birthday was on a Tuesday, I had work to finish up. I stayed up past 02:00 to get it all done, got a little sleep, then did a little more work. I didn’t eat anything special, even though I still have four USDA Prime strip steaks in my freezer. I think we’ll have those for my dad’s birthday next month.

I’m back in Missouri, this time at the far end of the state—at least from Kansas’ perspective.

I planned to go to Columbia to retrieve my iPod from the Springhill Suites. Then it dawned upon me to go to the Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis since I had the time. Besides, I was halfway across the Show-Me State, so why not?

I haven’t had fresh oysters since Acme Oyster House in Baton Rouge when my dad and I went two and a half years ago. I seriously looked into ordering oysters online and frying them at home, but the cost and hassle were both too much.

I wanted to go to Broadway Oyster in May, but it was closed due to COVID-19. No takeout even. I could have come last Friday, but my main focus was the game in Columbia, not cuisine, even though I made the two trips to Wentzville for White Castle.

I like my oysters cooked—fried, chargrilled, baked. I have never eaten them raw. I probably would like them, but why take the health risk? I don’t know if Dr. Custer would approve with my diabetes and high blood pressure.

I fell in love with chargrilled oysters when I lived in Louisiana. It was at Zeke’s, a seafood restaurant and bar on Metairie Road in the oldest section of the Jefferson Parish community (it is not an incorporated city, but it if it was, it would be larger than every Louisiana city except New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette). The last time I was there, a little less than five months before Hurricane Katrina, I ate two dozen. A few of my older friends were stunned. They knew I could eat, but didn’t know I had the stomach for that many oysters. I ended up with the largest bill, naturally.

I had Oysters Rockefeller, the dish made famous by Antoine’s in the French Quarter, at Ruth’s Chris in Kansas City in 2008. It’s now closed, as is Morton’s. Bunch of snobbish pricks who frequent the Country Club Plaza turned their nose up at both steakhouses, since Ruth’s Chris is from New Orleans and Morton’s is from Chicago. They thought the out-of-town people couldn’t do it as well as the locals at Plaza III. Ironically, Plaza III is gone, too, so the only decent steakhouse in Kansas City—not counting Outback—is Hereford House, which I found not up to par compared to Ruth’s Chris.

I am very happy to report the Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville at Broadway Oyster were outstanding. I was an oyster junkie needing my fix, and I got it. I’m getting 12 chargrilled oysters to enjoy back at my hotel. I am seriously considering 12 on the half shell before leaving.

I had some more White Castle in Columbia on the way over. Ironically, there’s a White Castle across the street, and it does a bang-up business. I’ve had my White Castle fix for October and probably November.

So long, St. Louis–for the time being

St. Louis (both the city itself and the county) will re-open tomorrow, just as I’m heading back to Russell. Even though I would like to stay, there comes a time when travelers must return home. Tomorrow will be that day for yours truly.

Even though there wasn’t much to do, this venture was a success. I got what I came for (White Castle, Pibb Zero, Vienna Beef Polish sausage, Nathan’s Famous bagel dogs, capicola and mortadella, steaks for Father’s Day), discovered some new things (provel cheese, soap at Whole Foods) and rediscovered something I really like (sushi, as long as it doesn’t have cream cheese).

The bad news? I won’t be eating White Castle or provel again until I return to St. Louis, save for the leftover White Castle I eat on I-70 west tomorrow and the 24 slices of provel I’m bringing back. The good news? Dillons in Hays sells sushi, Pibb Zero and the cold cuts are available in Salina (as long as Dillons keeps them in stock), and Whole Foods is in Wichita. I can also order soap online.

The hotel in Chesterfield is isolated from restaurants and stores, but I’m used to that at two of the hotels I frequent in Kansas City, one at Briarcliff and the other near Kansas City International Airport. There’s easy access to Interstate 64 from the Chesterfield hotel the same way I-29 is easily accessible from KCI and US 169 is easily accessible from Briarcliff to get me to I-29 or I-35.

I usually don’t like first floor rooms, but this week, it has made life easy. It’s near a side entrance AND the dumpster, a daily double. I bring my trash out each day and throw it over the doors instead of leaving it in the hallway and/or letting it pile up. The doors to the dumpster have been open the last two days, allowing me to dispose of boxes and the cartons the Pibb Zero came in. It will make loading the Buick much easier tomorrow–I won’t need a cart. With all the things I’m loading, it’s great to have a first floor room near a side entrance!

Here’s hoping the Cardinals will be playing at Busch Stadium by this time in July, and the Blues will be on their way to successfully defending the Stanley Cup. St. Louis loves its sports more than nearly every other major city in America, and without the Cardinals and Blues, something seems off in the Gateway City.

Coincidentally, I’ll pass by the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City (unless I detour at Interstate 470 in Independence and go around the south side of the metro area on Interstate 435 to Kansas Highway 10). The Royals are hoping to be playing at Kauffman soon, and the Chiefs want to start on time, which means they host the NFL’s first game of the 2020 regular season on 10 September vs. the Texans.

That’s it for me from St. Louis. But as MacArthur famously said, I shall return.

Motorcycles more important than a pandemic? Maybe in Missouri

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of a day Boston sports fans treasure…and St. Louis sports fans want to forget.

On Mothers’ Day 1970, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1941 by completing a four-game sweep of the Blues in the Finals. Boston clinched the Cup when Bobby Orr, probably the greatest defenseman (defenceman for the Canadians) to ever lace up a pair of skates, scored 40 seconds into overtime of the fourth game.

The game-winning goal wrapped up a phenomenal season for the 22-year old, who became the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (goals and assists), then took home the Norris (best defenseman), Hart (Most Valuable Player) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies, becoming the first player to win four major awards in one season.

Orr’s backhand beat one of the game’s greatest goaltenders, Glenn Hall, but what was more memorable was the photo captured a split second after the goal. It shows Orr suspended in flight after he was tripped by the Blues’ Noel Picard. It is the most iconic photo in NHL history, and certainly one of the best-known photos in North American sport.

It took the Blues 49 years, one month and two days to even the score. Right now, the Blues should be defending the Cup in the playoffs, but of course, COVID-19 has put life as we know it on hold. If the NHL cannot complete the regular season and playoffs, will the Blues keep the Cup, or will the NHL require it go back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto? The hope of commissioner Gary Bettman and every hockey player, coach and fan is the season is completed one way or another.

For once, I agree with Gary Bettman. Mark it down.

Speaking of St. Louis, your lazy blogger got up at 04:45 today and departed 1224 North Brooks at 05:30 for a trip to the far side of Missouri. This comes exactly three weeks after I left Russell for Kansas City.

My parents know nothing of where I am. They know I left this morning, but that’s it. Peggy knows where I am. Larry knows where I am after I just texted him. Crista will know tomorrow at 14:00.

After farting around in Kansas City for an hour filling up my gas tank, buying bread at Hen House in Leawood and purchasing treatment for scars left over from a grease burn at Target in Martin City, I was on my way to the opposite side of the Show-Me State.

One major difference between how Kansas and Missouri have responded to COVID-19 can be seen in the electronic road signs along Interstate 70.

In Kansas, all signs have now been targeted towards reducing the spread of the disease. Signs read “Wash Hands, Cover Mouth, Save Lives”; “If Fever Strikes, Stay Home” and other ominous messages.

Some of the signs say “Stay Home”, but I’m ignoring those. It has nothing to do with my parents. Seriously. It’s all me. They need a break from me every so often. EVERYONE needs a break from me every so often: Peggy, Caitlyn, Crista, Dr. Jones, Dr. Custer, Robb, Larry, Liz, Brenda…whomever. I can only be tolerated in small doses. It’s not their fault. They do their best to put up with me. All of them deserve sainthood.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly went too far too fast by calling off the remainder of the 2019-20 school year when she did. She could have waited a couple of weeks like most states, including the three which border Kansas. I’m surprised Kelly did not extend the stay-at-home order, which expired last Monday.

You would never know there’s a pandemic if you read the road signs on I-70 in Missouri, at least from Blue Springs to Wentzville.

None of this business about washing hands. None of this business about staying home. Instead, the Missouri Department of Transportation reminds drivers constantly to be alert for motorcycles and to share the road with Harleys and Kawasakis.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has been raked over the coals by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for what they see as a lackadaisical response. The Star has praised Kelly while pounding Parson, and the same is true of the Post-Dispatch comparing Parson to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker., whose state is still under severe restrictions; however, if you took the Chicago area out of the equation, Illinois would be much closer to Kansas and Missouri in terms of cases and deaths.

Speaking of Illinois, it is forbidden for Kansans like myself, unless I want to quarantine for 14 days when I return to Russell. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing I want or need in Illinois, although it would have been nice to have the option to zip through on I-64 heading towards Louisville and Lexington.

If Kansas were still governed by Sam Brownback, or worse, Kris Kobach were governor, I can only imagine just how bad it might be in the Sunflower State. I’m guessing neither Brownback nor Kobach would have issued a stay-at-home order, and Kobach might have made it much worse by threatening to sue—or actually suing—the federal government. Notice I didn’t mention Jeff Colyer, who became governor after Brownback became an ambassador in 2017, because Colyer is far more level-headed than Brownback or Kobach and would have done something to head off the virus at the pass.

I don’t particularly like most of Kelly’s stances (I didn’t vote for any of the three major candidates for governor in 2018), and while I wish she would have waited a little longer to close schools—it probably would have happened regardless—her course was probably as balanced an approach as there could be.

The White Castle in Columbia provided a great caper.

I attempted to place an order for pickup before leaving Kansas City. However, I kept getting an error stating the restaurant would not be open at that hour. I was trying to place an order for shortly after noon. I used the app on both my phone and tablet, and then tried to order from the regular website as well, but nothing. I did, however, place a 16:45 order for the O’Fallon location.

I pulled off I-70 at a rest stop and e-mailed White Castle technical support, explaining I was getting a message that the location was closed. When I arrived in Columbia, there were numerous cars in the drive-thru lane at White Castle. I then called their customer support hotline to explain the online ordering snafu. I chose not to wait any longer, and instead got back on the road.

It turned out I was the one with the snafu.

The Columbia location—the farthest west in the United States as far as I know—is now closed on Monday and Tuesday. I received a reply from White Castle headquarters in Cincinnati which mentioned it, but gave no explanation.

I then shot back that there were cars in the drive-thru, but the representative told me the closure was true.

D’oh!

The good news? Wentzville was only 80 miles away. If I waited seven hours of driving (well, seven hours after leaving home; there was a lot of wasted time in Kansas City and at that rest stop 70 miles west of Columbia), I could make it 80 more miles.

Wentzville, a booming town in western St. Charles County 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis, provided me a good laugh or two.

The QuikTrip was one piece good news, two pieces bad.

The good: I could buy a fountain drink! I could not at any Kansas City location during my trip last month, nor could I purchase one today in Overland Park. However, I walked right up to the fountain like the pre-COVID-19 days in Wentzville. The differences: no styrofoam cups and no refills, so I had to buy a new cup and pour it into my black mug.

The bad…

First, the restroom was incredibly dirty. I have never seen a QuikTrip restroom that filthy. Never. And I have been frequenting QuikTrips for 14 years in Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and (once) Tulsa.

Second, NOBODY was wearing a mask other than the boob from Russell. I’ve made the mistake of not wearing a mask at times, although when I nearly entered the QuikTrip in Overland Park, I caught myself and went back to my car to get it.

On to White Castle, and only the boob from Russell was wearing a mask. St. Charles County has greatly loosened its restrictions, so patrons can go into a restaurant to pick up food, although there is no seating. Six employees, no mask. Four other guests, no masks.

I put the maskless people behind me, because I was damn hungry. White Castle never tasted better.

The Schnucks in Lake St. Louis was almost the complete opposite of the QuikTrip and White Castle in Wentzville. Every employee had a mask on, and nearly every customer did, too. However, at the White Castle in O’Fallon, only the boob from Russell wore one, although no other customers entered during the 10 minutes I waited.

The outlet mall in Chesterfield is a ghost town. That’s because St. Louis County still hasn’t loosened its restrictions. But as long as White Castle, Schnucks and Dierberg’s are doing business, I’m a happy camper.

I’ve crossed the Missouri River on I-64 three times already. Over/under is 14 for this trip, which will go until at least Friday, maybe longer. My yellow rain slicker will get a workout. The weathermen and ladies are expecting a lot of rain in the Gateway City this week.

I’m not as tired as I could be after a long day. But it’s time for me to stop blogging for tonight.

Skinned knees, a burned case and the view from high above St. Louis

I’m exhausted. Getting up 0318, driving seven hours, staying up until midnight after almost 21 hours without even a nap, walking in the heat and humidity to visit a national landmark, tripping on stairs, nearly burning my iPad and thinking I left my driver’s license at said landmark within the space of 36 hours does that.

It has been a mostly great 36 hours, though.

Caitlyn has the most to do with it. Seeing her for the first time in 341 days did my heart a lot of good. It seemed to do her heart a lot of good too.

Peggy loved that I went to St. Louis to support Caitlyn. Then she suggested I visit the Gateway Arch.

I’ve been in the shadow of the arch twice in my life.

The second was in 2006, when I met Renetta Rogers and her mother, Elizabeth, in St. Louis. I thought Renetta and I were going to continue what relationship we had. However, I screwed up royally. I don’t really have the time nor the stamina to go into exquisite detail like I normally do. Go back to my very first blog post in June 2014 to read more about Renetta.

Back to the first time I was in the arch’s shadow.

It was July 21, 1992. I was with my family on vacation. For some reason, we chose St. Louis as a vacation spot. We went to Russell to visit my grandparents the previous summer, and my dad felt once every other year (or every three years) was enough. My parents and I have more than made up for it.

My brother and father went to the top of the arch. My mother and I didn’t. It was like this when we went to Astroworld in Houston three years prior; my brother and dad went on a roller coaster, my mother and stayed grounded.

The trip to St. Louis was bad. My dad got lost the first day in a driving rainstorm. Following the visit to the arch, the water pump in our 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 broke, so that consumed a few hours. We went to two Cardinals-Braves games at the old Busch Stadium. The seats were terrible both times; the first we were in center field more than 137 meters (450 feet) from home plate, and the second, the seats were behind home plate at the very top of the stadium. I was deathly afraid of heights when I was (almost) 16, and I refused to sit in the seats. My dad stayed with me on the concourse most of the night, save for a couple of innings when he went to sit with my brother. I feel shame about that a lot.

When I went to Lisa and Jeff’s wedding two years ago, I didn’t go into the city of St. Louis. Last year when I went a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I didn’t seriously consider it, even though I drove into Illinois in search of all things, a certain type of hot dog buns. It took me six stores before I found them in the tiny suburb of St. Ann. Now I discover Hy-Vee in Kansas City has them.

I slept on Peggy’s suggestion. When I got in the shower just before 1000, I decided to go.

I tripped on steps at the old St. Louis courthouse not too far from the arch. I have two skinned knees as a souvenir, but better than blowing a hole in jeans which cost $55. Two gentlemen checked on me, and fortunately, they didn’t have to summon medical assistance.

I was smart to buy my arch ticket online and pick it up at will call. The line to buy tickets must have had at least 50 people. There was time to tour the museum and get a drink (I was parched) before the ride.

The trams which take you up to the top of the arch are cramped, and that’s putting it mildly. The cars barely seat five people. Worse, if you’re taller than 135 centimeters (4 feet, 5 inches), you’ll hit your head if you don’t duck.

I happened to be in the tram with two men from South Carolina and another from Augusta who were in Missouri for tomorrow’s South Carolina-Missouri football game, along with a representative of the National Park Service. The ride took four minutes. When the tram door shut, I was afraid I might faint due to going up, but it didn’t happen.

The observation area has windows to view downtown St. Louis on the west side and the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other. You are allowed to stay in the observation area as long as you like, and I stayed for 40 minutes. I was the last one from the group which boarded the south tram at 1215 to descend.

When I was in Baton Rouge two years ago, I wanted to go to the observation deck at the state capitol, which soars 132 meters (432 feet), the highest in the nation. However, since it was the weekend and we were leaving Monday morning, I didn’t have time.

Following the arch, I went to the old St. Louis King of Francs basilica, which used to be the seat of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The exterior is stone, and the interior is beautiful, just what you would expect from a Catholic basilica.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures.

I went to light candles at the back of the church and pray. Lucky for me, a couple found things of mine were starting to catch fire from the candles.

The iPad was one of the things which was too close to the candles. I was scared the tablet would be ruined.

Thanks to the Targus Corporation and their sturdy case, with an assist from the Lord, my tablet was safe. I almost dropped the tablet in the garage. I’m not used to carrying the thing, since I usually have it in a bag. However, I didn’t want to carry the bag into the arch due to security.

As I walked back to my car in a parking garage between Busch Stadium and the arch, I knew I had to replace the case. I knew there was an Apple store in a mall off of I-270 in St. Louis County. I made a beeline for the store, but as I drove on 270, I thought I might want to see if Best Buy had any cases and if they would offer them at a lower price than Apple, where the basic folio was $99, and the so-called smart case with the keyboard–which I don’t need–cost $199.

The Lord was working for me again.

Not only did Best Buy have cheaper cases, but they had the exact same case I burned. Add in a $20 price reduction (from $75 to $55), and I was on my way. Don’t worry, I didn’t do this as I was driving; i pulled into the mall parking lot, looked it up on the iPad, and made the transaction.

Another near-crisis came up on my drive from the mall to Best Buy.

I discovered I could not find my driver’s license. I took the license out of my wallet at will call to claim my ticket, and absent-minded me didn’t put it back in the window in my wallet I keep it.

My mind was racing. Not only would I face the long drive from St. Louis to Russell without my license, but I would have to gather documents and go to the license station in Hays (the one in Russell is only open one day a week).

In the Best Buy parking lot, I found my license in a tray below my radio. The tray was closed from the time I got in my car in the parking lot. I had to laugh.

I spent the last three hours of the afternoon traipsing around St. Charles County, going to the grocery stores and White Castle. When I got back to the hotel, I wanted to collapse. But I stayed awake long enough to plan my exit tomorrow. And blog..

That’s all from St. Louis. I was hoping to stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in Kansas City to see Ashley, Tina and Rita, but with heavy rain likely there tomorrow, I’m going to have to keep on trucking to Russell. Besides, I’ll be back in Kansas City soon enough.

I love you Peggy and Caitlyn!