Friday, December 19, 2014

Groupon Coupons – An Early Dinner

Every once in a while I purchase a “Groupon” coupon on-line.  The discount is usually about half and I really feel good when I use one!  No surprise, my Groupon purchases are generally food based, although I have bought an oil change discount from time to time.

I have a couple of restaurant “Groupons” that I rarely pass up when they become available.  Hot Rod 50s is one of those restaurants!  We’ve eaten here many times, sometimes with friends and family and sometimes it’s just the 2 of us. 

Early on this beautiful late fall day, we’d gone on a scenic drive over to the Cade’s Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (The ‘Cove’ is about an hour from our home) As the shadows lengthened, it was time for an early dinner!

The interior of Hot Rod 50s is pure 1950’s diner kitsch!  Every wall and every booth, be it a 2-seater or a 4-seater, is totally immersed in ‘new’ old advertising signs, funny ones, road signs, records, customer photos, musical instruments, auto parts, gas station memorabilia, etc.  There is plenty to look at while you’re waiting for your food!

I started out with a salad as my side…and skipped the photo because…well, it was OK but it was just a side salad.  We love the hamburgers at Hot Rod 50s, so I ordered the Jalapeno Burger. (Large 2/3 lb. version = $9.99)  This steak burger was perfectly cooked, medium rare, and it was topped with pepper jack cheese and Hot Rod 50s Jalapeno Bottle Caps.  It was excellent!

Hot Rod 50s has a burger menu that goes on and on…for 3 pages.  The overall menu is huge, totaling 8 pages.  One of my favorite non-burger items on the menu is The Hog. ($7.99) This Hot Rods signature sandwich involves a huge thick cut of breaded and pan fried pork tenderloin the size of my head!  It’s so big that I have a hard time finishing it…

Laurie went ‘off the grid’, ordering something that we’d never ordered before.  This is Hot Rod 50s Fried Fish Dinner. ($12.99) There was at least 10 oz. of fresh Tilapia filets that had been beer battered and fried.  The portion was huge!  Better yet, it was some of the best fried fish that either of us had enjoyed anywhere…

Lucky for me, Laurie gave me a bite to prove how good it was.  Even better, she couldn’t finish it all, so I had to take one whole filet home and have it for breakfast with a couple of easy-over eggs!

The ambience at Hot Rod 50s is fun, service is friendly and we’ve never had a bad meal!  Hot Rod 50s is located at 373 Hannum Street in Alcoa Tennessee…just a couple of blocks from downtown Maryville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-984-7171.  This restaurant’s Website can be found at: 

I didn’t have any place else planned where I could feature these photos… Around the time that we made our trip over to Cade’s Cove and Hot Rod 50s, I spent the better part of a nice sunny fall day fishing on Larry, (, and Bev’s dock in a secluded cove on Tellico Lake.  The fishing was just so-so, but given the beautiful weather and the fall setting, I was a happy camper!

Just click on any of these photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Late Fall Drive to Cade’s Cove: Smoky Mountain National Park

It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a hankering for a drive in the country.  We hadn’t been to Cade’s Cove in quite a while, partly because of the hordes of tourists that flood the place in the summer and then again when the autumn colors are at their peak.

It was well past the peak of the fall colors in the mountains when we drove out through Maryville and Townsend Tennessee to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that’s closest to Cade’s Cove…

More than 9 million tourists and visitors traveled to the park in 2010… This is more than twice as many visitors as went to the Grand Canyon, which is the second most visited national park!  Officially, in 2,012, a total of 9,685,829 visitors came to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…

These horses were grazing in a field near the start of the loop drive around the Cade’s Cove section of the Park.  Trail rides are a popular activity in the Cove.  Camping is also very, very popular and the campground here is almost always busy…

Cades Cove is an isolated valley in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Cove is the single most popular destination in the Park, attracting more than 2,000,000 visitors a year!

It may have been past the peak fall color period but with the blue skies and the remaining color offset against the evergreens, it was still beautiful in the Cove.  The loop road for the auto tours is a paved one-way 11 mile route with numerous turn-outs and stops along the way.

Note: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses 522,419 acres or 816.28 square miles, making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States.  This park is only about 424 square miles smaller than the entire State of Rhode Island!

In this photo we were looking across the valley and I used my zoom lens to capture the sight of the traffic on this ‘slow’ tourist day in the Cove.  We have been in the cove at times when traffic was so heavy, it just stopped.  It took us over 2 hours to drive the 11 miles on one occasion!  If a bear is spotted, you can guarantee a traffic jam…but even a deer grazing next to the road can stop traffic.

Note: It’s estimated that over 1,500 black bears live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

The Cove had already had one serious snow fall when we made this drive.  The trees still had leaves on them and we saw quite a few fallen trees and downed limbs…although the Park Service did a nice job of clearing the roads.

Note: Officially dedicated in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the first national park whose land and other costs were paid for in part with federal funds.

Here’s another view all the way across the Cove.  Cades Cove is a type of valley known as a "limestone window".  It was created by erosion that removed the older sandstone, exposing the younger limestone underneath it.  Weathering of the limestone produced deep, fertile soil which made Cades Cove attractive to early farmers.  More weathering-resistant formations, which surround the cove, left it relatively isolated within the mountains.
Note: Elevations in the Great Smoky National Park range from 876 feet to 6,643 feet at the summit of Clingman’s Dome. Within the park a total of 16 mountains are higher than 6,000 feet.

Laurie took this photo of one of homes still standing in Cades Cove.  A total of 7 homesteads, 1 barn, a grist mill and 3 churches can be visited while touring the Cove.  The National Park Service maintains these buildings as a representation of pioneer life in the 19th-century Appalachia.

The entire valley or cove with its early structures and pre-historic sites has been designated as a National Historic District.  There are also 4 other National Historic Districts in the park.  They are the Elkmont Historic District, the Oconaluftee Archaeological District, Noah Ogle Place and the Roaring Fork Historic District.

The facts about how these homes and farms became part of the park are a bit grim and the inclusion of these properties was a huge source of controversy when it happened.

Of all the Smoky Mountain communities, Cades Cove put up the most resistance to the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cove residents were initially assured their land would not be incorporated into the park and they welcomed its formation. 

However, in 1927 the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill approving money to buy land for the national park.  The Assembly gave the Park Commission the power to seize properties within the proposed park boundaries by use of eminent domain.  Needless to say, old time residents of the Cove were outraged.  After a long legal battle, the last settler abandoned his property on Christmas Day in 1937.  The Primitive Baptist Church congregation continued to defy the Park Service, meeting in the Cove until the 1960s…

This old road or lane with trees on either side is one of our favorite views in Cade’s Cove.  The initial plan for the Cove was to let it revert to woodlands but the Park Service was persuaded to maintain the open meadows created by the early farms.  Deer and turkey are abundant in the Cove…

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just one example of land in East Tennessee being seized by the government for “the public good”.  The expanse of land occupied by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the huge amount of land taken over for the dams, reservoirs and facilities of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), are still resented by many long term residents of the area.

The road that leads into Cade’s Cove runs along the side of Laurel Creek.  This stream is the Middle Prong of the Little River…which feeds into Laurel Creek near the beginning of the drive to the Cove. 

The Great Smoky National Park is also an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which in turn are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain.

When we returned from our drive, JD was there to greet us, scold us and to point out that he hadn’t given his personal staff the day off!  Here he’s saying “Hi Mommy”…

To learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cades Cove, you can go to,, and

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for taking a drive with us!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Nebraska Prairie Museum – Part II

In my first posting about this great museum in Holdrege Nebraska, I covered various period vignettes depicting what various aspects of life looked on the prairie back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  In this ‘chapter’ of our visit, it’s all about the myriad and variety of individual exhibits throughout the main building at the museum.

This museum is loaded…jammed with tons of memorabilia, collectables, antiques, photos, posters…a virtual plethora of historical objects taken from life on the prairie.  We were greeted by a museum staffer who gave us a little introduction to the collection…and then we started our self-guided tour.  This big fella was on display at the start of our journey through time… Most of the time, we never saw anyone else visiting the building.  Our visit was within a couple of days after Labor Day.

There were a lot of American Indian artifacts on the walls and in various showcases.  This display of arrowheads, scrapers, spear points, etc. was right next to the teepee visible in the first photo.  We also saw beadwork, moccasins and ancient pots dating back to before Europeans came to the New World.

Going back even further, there was a display of fossils including this mastodon tooth.

Variety, variety, variety!  As you can see this cloth came over with immigrants in the late 1800s.  One thing that made this museum special in our eyes was that most of these ‘day-to-day’ items were donated by the descendants of the settlers who moved to the plains seeking a better life for themselves and their families…  

This ‘basket trunk’ from the 1870s was ‘used by the grandparents of Robert Wiebe’.  I love the handles!  It’s hard to imagine the skill it took for a craftsman to design and build this trunk.

Throughout the museum, a multitude of displays focused on one theme or product.  This railroad baggage cart complete with trunks and suitcases was positioned right outside the ‘railroad ticket office’. 

Not everything dated back to the turn of the 20th century… This display of old televisions is one example.  Toasters, sewing machines, dishware, cookware, 50’s ‘modern’ furniture, toys and a complete display of old vacuum tubes are among the items that I’ve left out of this posting.
Question: Do you think that anyone under the age of 30 has a clue what a vacuum tube was or was used for?

When I said ‘everything’ from life on the prairie was on display, I meant it!  Laurie took this photo of period wallpaper…

You saw that buffalo in the first photo.  Animal skins, trophies and complete mounted animals are displayed here and there throughout the building.  They aren’t all old or from the Prairie either… This feral Russian Wild Boar was shot in East Tennessee in 1980… We do have a lot of wild boar in the mountains around here.

Do you remember when the radio was one of the most important pieces of furniture in your living room?  I recall sitting with the family and listening to the most popular shows.  Among others, I remember George and Gracie, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and Amos n’ Andy.

Wireless phones?  Smart phones?  iPads?  Most kids today have no concept of ‘wired’ phones, much less party lines and big old switchboards like this one!

How about an extensive washing machine collection!  Note the really old ‘washing machines’ mounted on the wall…

This was the latest innovation in 1900.  It’s a Cataract Washing Machine with a copper tub…and it’s electric powered! It was donated by a family from Holdrege Nebraska.

Laurie and I both love the ‘look’ of the old stoves.  This handsome beast is a “Copper Clad” Kitchen Range from the 1920s.  It could be powered by corn cob, wood or coal.  It was used by a family near Minden Nebraska and it was restored in 1987. 

This stove may not be the prettiest one on display in the museum…but I do have a vague connection with it.  We must remember that electricity didn’t come to many farms until after WWII.  This is a 1940 Montgomery Ward Kitchen Range.  It cost $75.00 when it was purchased. (That’s $985.00 in today’s dollars!) The family that bought it used it until it was replaced with an electric stove in the 1960s.  My connection is that I worked for Montgomery Ward until the company closed in 2001.

This is a 1929 Kelvinator Refrigerator.  In 1990, this unit was designated as the oldest working Kelvinator refrigerator in the USA.  It actually made the newspapers!

We saw a bit on television a few weeks ago where kids were put in front of typewriters, given some paper and left to their own devices.  They didn’t have a clue.  It would have been even funnier if they’d been confronted with these ‘ancient’ machines!

More memories or connections for me...  This is an old printing press.  My grandfather had one of these in the rubber stamp/printing shop business he had set up in his garage.

Yikes!  More deja vu… I worked from a type case like this one and I set a lot of type starting at the age of about eleven.  It was slow and dirty work but I was paid for it.  The family firm was the Weed Rubber Stamp Company and it was located on Prospect Street in Jackson Michigan.

If you’re into tools, there is a whole display room devoted to hundreds if not thousands of old tools at the Nebraska Prairie Museum.  They range in age from the 1800s until the mid-1900s. Many are handcrafted as well.

Variety plus…and how about a nice display of the many varieties of barbed wire, the product that tamed the Wild West and, along with the railroads, pretty much eliminated long cattle drives.

This photo of a wedding dress on a manikin is a little blurry but I think that you can appreciate the detailing and work involved in its creation.  The dress was made in 1893.  It was worn by Lydia Maria Winquest in 1895 when she wed Carl Oscar Olson.  As you can see a photo of the happy couple and their wedding certificate accompanies this display.

Continuing with the museum’s theme of variety…covering all aspects of life on the prairie.  Laurie took this photo of a collection of World War I posters exhorting public support of the war effort.  Note the period furnishings in the foreground. 

We both liked this big patriotic display of our military, their uniforms and other related paraphernalia.  Note the cavalry saddle on the upper level as well as the 48 star flag.  There are a lot of folded flags from military funerals for those who made the ultimate sacrifice shown on the shelf along the wall.

This is an example of one little detail of the military display shown in the previous photo… Not everything on the display is based on American wars, but all are based on American’s, (immigrants or natural born), war time experiences.  As I mentioned before, one of the charms of this museum is the fact that it’s about local citizens and their lives, with almost everything on display coming from local families or donors.  

That’s all for this ‘chapter’ of our visit to the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege Nebraska.  The next chapter will be about trucks, automobiles and farm equipment.  To learn more about what this museum has to offer, go to  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and touring the museum with us!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lunch in Hastings Nebraska

As we rambled eastward, returning to our family’s home in Omaha, we stopped for one more lunch on the road.  I’d picked up on this restaurant using our guidebook, “Off the Beaten Path – Nebraska”.  If you’ve been following my blog, you will have noted that I put this travel reference guide to good use…

This is Murphy’s Wagon Wheel in downtown Hastings Nebraska.  As per their website, “…the good times have been rollin’ for over 125 years!”  This building has been a tavern/pub/saloon since 1889.  In 1972, 83 years after the original building was erected, Jim and Shirley Murphy bought the Wagon Wheel.  They named it Murphy’s Wagon Wheel.  Their son, Bob, bought the place from them in 1976 and he has expanded the facility twice since then… 

The inside of Murphy’s Wagon Wheel reminded us both of a typical local bar/restaurant in the lake country of Wisconsin.  It was a bit dark with lots of lighted advertising signs and ‘woodsy’ ceiling mounted lanterns.  Windows were minimal creating a warm but cave-like environment. (The term ‘man-cave’ comes to mind!    

As per our guidebook, Murphy’s is a popular local watering hole… This restaurant’s local nickname is “The Wheel”…as in I’ll meet you at The Wheel!  A plethora of different beers was available, but we had quite a bit of driving ahead of us so we skipped the alcoholic beverages. 

Our guide book recommended the Hot Wings, so Laurie and I started out with this order of 10 wings with “Bob and Tom’s Wing Sauce. ($7.50) The wings were breaded…not usually our favorite preparation…but this version with the spicy sauce was excellent!  …a definite winner!!

The Macho Nacho Plate was another appetizer recommended by our guidebook. (Full order - $9.95) The Beer Battered Onion Rings, (16 rings for $7.25), and the Texas Toothpicks – lightly breaded jalapeno and onion spears, ($7.25) are also popular. 

It was lunchtime and our guidebook recommended the hamburgers.  We love burgers!  Laurie ordered the Mushroom and Swiss Burger. ($8.30) All burgers are 7 oz. hand-formed patties and Murphy’s only uses local beef.  Burgers are served on a Kaiser roll and they come with the customer’s choice of a regular side dish.  Laurie went with cottage cheese.  This was a very good burger…cooked medium rare as requested!

The menu features a large number of sandwiches, both hot and cold.  They all cost $8.30.  There are also dinner salads, chicken, ribs, brisket and baskets. (Including Gizzards and Fries for $7.25) If you really wanted to splurge, you could order the 10 oz. ribeye steak or a 12 oz. New York strip steak with 2 sides for $15.99.

I ordered the Jalapeno Burger with a side of French fries. ($8.30) Heck…we just ‘had’ to test the French fries.  Both my burger and the fries were very good with a bit of a kick from the peppers giving the burger something extra.  Yes…that is mayonnaise on the side.  While it may be anathema to many of you, Laurie has brought me over to the ‘white’ side and we both put mayonnaise on our burgers…

Our waitress was very friendly and talkative.  She told us that Murphy’s is very busy most nights and that it really rocks on the weekends. Checking out the website, I learned a couple of reasons that this place is popular.  Monday through Friday there are low cost lunch and dinner specials.  Monday through Saturday evenings feature drink specials!  How about a bottle of Miller High Life for only $1.25!!  Murphy’s is closed on Sundays.

Murphy’s Wagon Wheel is located at 107 North Lincoln Avenue in Hastings Nebraska.  Phone: 402-463-3011.  Website:

Just click on any of the photographs to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave