Friday, December 14, 2018

Remembrance and Celebration in St. Louis Missouri


Our Thanksgiving travels began on 11/19/18.  We had a busy second day in St. Louis (11/20) before we planned on driving on up to Omaha Nebraska for Thanksgiving with our son and his family…

Unfortunately, our trip was destined to start out on a sad note.  


On Wednesday 11/14/18, we had received the sad news that Laurie’s Aunt Lois, her 'second mom', had passed away peacefully in the early afternoon.  Lois Templeton (McCormick) was 104 years old.  She would have been 105 in January…

It had been our routine and pleasure to visit Aunt Lois every time that we came to St. Louis.  We still paid a visit to the retirement home where Aunt Lois had been living.  Laurie and her sisters Karole and Bonnie delivered cookies to the staff in appreciation of the fine care and attention they’d provided over the past few years.  The staff expressed much appreciation and told the sisters that they really missed Aunt Lois too…

Any of us would be fortunate to live as long as Aunt Lois, who retained her sense of humor and memory until the end. (We should be so lucky!)  She was also the all-time SkipBo  Queen champion!  Karole already misses their regular SkipBo games.  

Aunt Lois told us all that when her time came, she was ready to go.  In the week or so before she passed, she made sure that she got around to all the key folks at the retirement home to thank them for all the quality care that she’d been given during her years in residence. She wouldn't have wanted anyone to be sad that she moved on to a higher calling... A Class Act to the end!





Following our visit to Aunt Lois’s former residence, we all drove over to Friendship Village where Laurie’s oldest sister Glenda and her husband Ken are living.  It was Ken's 83rd birthday and we surprised Karole with a dual action birthday cake.  Her birthday was just a week later and since we were in town, it was a perfect opportunity to sing to both of them and celebrate their birthdays! 

FYI...Ken is the local pool shark!


That evening, Laurie, Bonnie and her husband Bill had been planning to go to St. Louis’s Hill for dinner at one of the classic Italian restaurants that has been operating for many years.  But, we just didn’t feel like it.  No reservations are ever accepted, we all felt like blue jeans, it was the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving and the ladies and I were still recovering from lunch and birthday cake at Ken and Glenda's.

So…off we went to Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Chicken in Maplewood Missouri.  There are 26 Gus’s locations in 12 states including Arkansas, California, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.



Gus’s is a straightforward operation.  It’s all about the spicy fried chicken!  As you can see, the dining area is very basic, very casual and family friendly.

The recipe for Gus’s chicken dates back to 1953 in Mason Tennessee.  The matriarch in the family started selling chicken sandwiches out the back door of a bar where she was cooking.  Locals kicked in for building materials and the patriarch of the family cobbled together the first restaurant…Maggie’s Short Orders which opened in 1973.

The Bonner family continued the business, perfected the recipe and, in 1984, they changed the name to Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Fried Chicken.  Now this growing franchised restaurant chain has spread from coast to coast with lots of room to fill in across the country.



The menu is pretty simple…and it’s mostly chicken!  If you check out the first page above, there are fried pickles, green tomatoes and okra.  Then there are a bunch of chicken options…period!  

Kids can get a grilled cheese sandwich and I guess that you could make a meal from the sides.  There are pies and floats but by the time we finished the chicken, we were too full to even try out a dessert treat!  


It looks like Bonnie, Laurie and Bill were very happy having gone casual and local at Gus’s Famous Chicken for dinner!


Sorry about this photo.  We’d eaten all but 2 of the Fried Pickle Spears before I remembered to take a picture! ($6.50) I thought that they were OK but Laurie, Bonnie and Bill really enjoyed them.



These 2 photos pretty much provide the visual for all of our meals.  The first one is of the Three Piece Dark (2 thighs and a leg) accompanied by fried okra and baked beans. ($9.25) The second photo was my dinner…the Three Piece White (2 breasts and a wing) accompanied by French fries and coleslaw. ($11.50)

We all agreed that the chicken was pretty darn good!  For those who aren’t really into ‘hot’ chicken, Gus’s isn’t really in that category.  While there is a little ‘bit’ of a hot spicy afterglow, it’s not like “Nashville Hot Chicken” which can be intimidating to the average diner.  All chicken is fried in peanut oil. 

The Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Chicken located at 7434 Manchester Road in Maplewood Missouri is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.  Phone: 312-899-9899.  What hadn’t registered in my aged mind until now is that there is a Gus’s Chicken in Knoxville Tennessee. How did we miss that dining opportunity?!  The company’s website is at http://gusfriedchicken.com/. 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dinner and Dessert in St. Louis Missouri


Thanksgiving week and we were on our usual family orientated drive from East Tennessee to St. Louis Missouri, then to Omaha Nebraska and finally, home to East Tennessee.  We always love seeing our families!



Shortly after arriving in St. Louis, we met with Laurie’s sister Bonnie, and Bonnie’s husband Bill for dinner.  I’d looked up the 3 choices that Bonnie had sent me and I’d chosen Olympia Kebob House and Taverna, a local long-time Greek restaurant in the city of St. Louis on the border with Richmond Heights.


As is appropriate for a casual neighborhood Greek Taverna, the dining room is cozy and warm.  It was fairly early on the Monday night before Thanksgiving, so the restaurant was not very busy…

One way to look at any restaurant is to check out its longevity… In this case, Olympia Kebob House definitely measures up, having first opened in 1980!


This dining room photo toward the back of the restaurant captured Bill checking out the menu…with a large mug of beer as a starter.



Laurie chose a Greek red wine for her adult beverage…and she really enjoyed it!  I had a very nice bottle of Greek beer, in this case “Mythos”, a premium Hellenic beer.  It was very nice and I would order it again!  Laurie liked the unicorn on the bottle…


I ordered a bowl of the Avgolemono Soup. (Cup $3.99/Bowl $5.99) This chicken and lemon soup was laced with bits of carrot and quite a bit of orzo pasta.  It was good, but I think that my Greek “taste buds” have been forever ruined by all of the Greek food we ate in Chicago over the years.  I expected a little thicker broth with a little more chicken.


One other thing that I loved to order when we ate at Greek restaurants in Chicago was the Chicken Riganato.  In this case this entrĂ©e came with 2 chicken breasts seasoned with lemon and oregano and it was served with roasted potato wedges. ($10.99)

I was disappointed with my dinner… The chicken was overcooked and dry.  The seasoning lacked enough oregano/Greek seasonings and it could have used a bit of garlic. (An Italian version perhaps?) Still, I would have been happier if some lemon/oregano sauce had been on the plate.  I could have used it to moisten the chicken and add flavor.  As for the potato wedges…they lacked much flavor and one more wedge would have been better. 


Everyone else ordered Olympia Kebob House’s Deluxe Gyros Plate. ($9.99) The gyro meat on pita was covered with a pile of shredded lettuce and some feta cheese.  Laurie, Bonnie and Bill were all happy with their choice but given all the lettuce, Bill wished he hadn’t ordered a big salad to start his meal.

We just have to get back to Chicago for Greek food even if it’s just to confirm or reject my memories of Greek cuisine in that city!

My opinion won’t matter much to the locals who have been patronizing this restaurant for 38 years!  So, don’t listen to me.  If you’re in the area, stop by and check out Olympia Kebob House and Taverna for yourself.  This restaurant is located at 1543 McCausland Avenue in St. Louis Missouri.  Phone: 314-781-1299.  Website: https://olympiakebobandtavern.com/.


Well, we just had to have dessert…and Laurie’s sister Bonnie loves ice cream!  This is Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery in Clayton Missouri. 
So why naughty and nice?  Not only does Clementine’s serve small batch handcrafted ice cream made with scratch ingredients, but they also serve alcohol-infused ice cream made from scratch!


The interior of Clementine’s is cute and compact with a few tables for patrons.  Even though it was cold outside, they seemed to have plenty of business. 


Rather than try to explain the menu at Clementine’s, I just took a photo of the menu board.  Note the naughty flavors at the left.  We didn’t try any of them but the bourbon and fig flavor stood out in my mind.  We all talked about the ‘Featured Flavor’, 'Manchego with truffles and honey', but none of us had the nerve to try it! 


This little grouping were the flavors that we ended up ordering.  While I didn’t make notes regarding exactly what we ordered, most of the selections we chose aren’t seen every day in most ice cream parlors.  They even offer vegan ice cream…  

Clementine’s serves top notch ice cream!  It is even creamier than our favorite ice cream parlor serves back in East Tennessee… Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Ice Cream has 2 locations with another scheduled to open soon.  The Clayton location is located at 730 DeMun Avenue in Clayton Missouri.  Phone: 314-858-6100.  For the company’s website and ice cream menu, go to https://www.clementinescreamery.com/.  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, December 10, 2018

Coastal Maine and Kennebec River Cruise


I love boats, planes, cars and trains.  So here we were on the Maine Coast for several days…seemed like a great time for a bit of coastal exploration.  So after our exploration of the Boothbay Railway Village, we headed down to Boothbay Harbor for our waterborne adventure!

Most Photos Ever!


For tourists in Boothbay Harbor, there are a plethora of boat related options.  The Bennie Alice takes hungry sightseeing crowds to Cabbage Island for clambakes. (Clams, lobsters and the trimmings) Cruises take place from mid-June through roughly the first week in September with 1 trip Monday – Friday and 2 trips on Saturday and Sunday.

To learn more about the cruise, cost, food and schedule, just go to https://www.cabbageislandclambake.com/home-3.


The 47 foot long Novelty is licensed to carry up to 79 passengers on sightseeing cruises including a trip to Squirrel Island.  Squirrel Island is a privately owned island (since 1871) with about 100 homes built between the 1870s and 1920s. (No vehicles on the island) Novelty is the de facto mail boat/ferry boat for the island.

Novelty and a few other tourist boats are operated by Balmy Day Cruises.  To learn more, go to https://www.balmydayscruises.com/.

FYI…Squirrel Island isn’t named for its squirrel population.  Seen from the air, the island resembles a squirrel holding an acorn.



The Pink Lady II (top photo) is part of Cap’n Fish’s ‘Whale Watch’ fleet.  The Harbor Princess (second photo) also cruised by while we waited to board for our cruise.  Cap’n Fish has yet another boat called the Island Lady.  These boats are modern with all the necessary conveniences and they range from 78 to 100 feet long.

Why so many boats?  It’s all about the variety and frequency of cruises.  It’s not just about whale watch trips.  Among others, Cap’n Fish offers puffin, lobster trap/seal, Little Bit of Maine, Harbor and Kennebec River/Bath cruise options.  I chose the latter so we could view the coastline for a bit and then cruise up one channel of the Kennebec and down another… It was all about variety!


If you prefer a wind driven boat, you could opt for the East Wind, a 65 foot long schooner.  It was built and is operated by a couple who sailed around the world twice with their 3 children.  The couple has built 5 schooners by their own hand…

To learn more, go to http://www.schoonereastwind.com/.


We loaded up on the Pink Lady II, obtaining decent seats toward the back of the top deck.  I was on the aisle so I could get out and move around to take photos.  It was a beautiful day…


The coast of Maine is a series of river mouths, bays, inlets, coves, islands, islets and rocks surrounded by water.  Many of the islands are occupied by seasonal cottages…or in this case…right in Boothbay’s harbor, a single cottage.


This is the Independence, one of the small cruise ships operated by American Cruise Lines.  We’d seen her a day earlier in Rockport’s Harbor.  American Cruise Line operates 11 small cruise ships on North American inland and coastal routes.  You can learn more at https://www.americancruiselines.com/small-riverboat-cruise-ships.   



This is the inside cabin area of the Pink Lady II.  Tables, chairs and refreshments are available.  Some folks were stuck inside because the outside/upper deck was full.  Then there are those who don’t seem too interested in the cruise/tour.





Lighthouses are everywhere and they are everything to seafaring folks along this rugged coast!  They range from handsome large structures to small utilitarian lights.  The first one above is the Burnt Island Lighthouse.  The second photo shows the Cuckholds Lighthouse.  I believe that the 3rd photo is the lighthouse on Sequin Island.  The last picture is of a small lighthouse (Pond Island?) that is equipped with solar panels. 

I found one list that showed 65 lighthouses on the Maine coast but it may not have been complete.  If you would like more information about Maine’s lighthouses, here are a couple of options for your review: https://www.visitmaine.net/page/39/lighthouse-directory, and    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lighthouses_in_Maine.

FYI…Our route took us from Boothbay Harbor, out past Squirrel Island, across Sheepscot Bay and then up the Kennebec River between Popham Beach and Stage Island.  To view a map showing the jagged and wild coastline with all of the islands and rocks in the area, go to https://mapcarta.com/22302564.   


Just a local fisherman passing by…


One of the many rocks along the way, some more interesting than others.


I believe that this is a view of Popham Village with its beach… Much of the area is a state park.  I think that the large building with a tower is or was a life-saving station.


A few gulls were hanging around on this rocky islet with a flock of cormorants. 


These are the remnants of Fort Popham, a Civil War era coastal defense fortification at the mouth of the Kennebec River.  It was named for George Popham, founder of the short lived early 1600’s Popham Colony.

A series of these forts were established on both coasts of the USA following the War of 1812.  There was much concern over defending our coasts and shipping…and the forts were less expensive than maintaining a large fleet of ships.  World War II demonstrated that these types of coastal fortifications were obsolete.  Fort Popham was deserted following WWI.


Nice views don’t you think!  Of course, I wouldn’t want to be living here from mid-October until the first of May.


Now that’s a nice big old house on its own island… Note the center chimney.

FYI…According to one source, there are over 4,600 islands off the coast of Maine!  I saw another source that said that the number was closer to 3,200 islands.  In any case, 15 island communities are occupied year around and they are served by ferry boats. 



I took a couple of photos from the front of the upper deck (near the wheelhouse) of our boat back toward the stern.  I zoomed in on Laurie in the second photo… She wasn’t too happy that I didn’t warn her so she’d be smiling!


I had to take one photo of our wake… The Pink Lady II was plowing ahead at a good pace!


As we moved up the Kennebec River, the houses changed and of course so did the scenery.  I really liked this little clapboard cottage on stilts.


What is it with squirrels in this area of Maine?  This lighthouse with accompanying buildings is along the Kennebec River and it’s called the Squirrel Point Lighthouse.  


I think that this church and community across from the Squirrel Point Lighthouse is Phippsburg Maine.



Laurie and I both loved this lone tree with its large nest…probably for an osprey family


As we moved on up the Kennebec River toward the town of Bath, at one bend in the river, we passed the Doubling Point Lighthouse.  Very eye catching don’t you think?


As we approached the town of Bath on the Kennebec River, the Bath Iron Works became everyone’s focus.  The company was incorporated in 1884 by General Thomas W. Hyde, who was from Bath.  He was interested in the growing business of iron shipbuilding.  In 1890, the company won its first contract to build two 190 foot long iron gunboats for the US Navy. 

This shipyard has built far too many military vessels for the US Navy to list here but they have at times designed and built battleships, frigates, cruisers and destroyers.  Since 1995, Bath Iron Works has been a subsidiary of General Dynamics.  During WWII, ships built here were considered to be of superior toughness by sailors and Navy officials.  That gave rise to the phrase, “Bath-built is best-built”.


This is the USS Thomas Hudner.  It is a 553 foot long Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.  The $663,000,000 contract to build this ship was awarded in early 2012.  This is the sixty-sixth ship of the Arleigh Burke class of destroyers.  With 75 ships planned, this class has the longest production run for any US Navy surface combatant.  Construction of this class of vessels was restarted in 2008.  One of the reasons for this will be apparent after the next photo. 

FYI…This ship was named in honor of US Naval aviator Thomas Hudner who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in trying to save the life of his wingman during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.


This strange looking ship (in my mind at least) is the USS Michael Monsoor.  It is the second ship of the Zumwalt class of guided missile destroyers.  These ships were designed as multi-mission surface combatants tailored for advanced land attack and littoral dominance.  The ship is 600 feet long and it will have a crew of 148 officers and sailors.  She is expected to be commissioned in January of 2019.

There is one little problem… This $1,400,000,000 naval warship is or was to be equipped with a pair of Advanced Gun Systems (AGS).  The problem is that the AGS systems aren’t workable and they can’t support naval gunfire support in an advanced land attack!  Furthermore, the ammunition used by the AGS system is exclusive to the 6 guns (2 each) planned for the 3 Zumwalt class ships.  The shells/ammunition for AGS is pegged at between $800,000 and $1,000,000 each!

FYI…The USS Michael Monsoor is named after Master-at-Arms Second Class Michael A. Monsoor, a United States Navy SEAL who was killed during the Iraq War and who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


You would be correct if you thought that this was another Zumwalt class destroyer under construction.  This is the third and last vessel of this design that will be built.  It will be named the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Due to the failure of the AGS (gun) design, only 3 of the original 10 Zumwalt class vessels will be completed.  This is the reason that the Arleigh Burke class of destroyers continue to be built…


There are a number of channels making up the Kennebec estuary system and Pink Lady II headed back toward Boothbay Harbor following a narrower series of channels that occasionally opened up into broader stretches of water.  The boat in this photo followed in our wake for a while and then he blew by at high speed.



These photos of a buoy and a channel marker prove that Ospreys will roost on any convenient surface if there is enough food around! (Note all the lobster pot buoys)



 The houses or cottages along the waterways on our way back to port were less ostentations then the ones we encountered going up the main channel of the Kennebec River.  I like the one with the little bridge…more my style.


The birds seem to prefer the rocky islets without any greenery… Note all the lobster buoys behind the island.  They were everywhere along the coast and up the river too until the freshwater flow diluted the necessary salt water for the lobsters.


I thought that this peaceful little anchorage with a scattering of cottages and larger homes would be a good place to be able to just sit back and relax…



This is the Maine Hwy. 27 swing bridge that we encountered over our channel (here referred to at the Townsend Gut) as we made our way back to Boothbay Harbor.  With a center span of 180 feet, it’s one of the largest in the state.  This through truss swing-bridge operates for boats all year.

This bridge was built in 1939.  Of note is the fact that a local family began working as bridge tenders in the 1940s.  By 2011, twin brothers Dwight and Duane had worked here for 45 years and Duane had put in 43 years.    


As we neared the end of our cruise, we passed this attractive home and the lady gave us all a wave welcoming us back. (In my mind at least!)


…and then we were back in busy Boothbay Harbor!  Cap’n Fish’s building can be seen in the center of the photo with that handsome church at the right.
We had a great time.  The cruise was very scenic and the crew was both informative and helpful.  It’s just too bad that we didn’t have more time for other water borne adventures…but there was just too much else to see in the area.

To learn more about Cap’n Fish’s various cruise options, fares, timing, etc., just go to https://www.boothbayboattrips.com/.

If you stuck with me all the way through this lengthy posting I appreciate your persistence!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave