Monday, January 15, 2018

The Road Home after Our Thanksgiving Visits

After our family visits in St. Louis Missouri and Omaha Nebraska, we stayed overnight in Mount Vernon Illinois as we made the long trek home to East Tennessee.  Once we crossed the Kentucky/Tennessee state line, we decided to take some ‘back roads’ through part of Tennessee rather than follow the quicker but boring Interstate System…

These are views of part of the Springfield Town Square Historic District in Springfield Tennessee.  Most of the buildings in this hilltop town square were built between 1890 and 1925.  A total of 34 buildings are included in this National Register of Historic Places Historic District.

The first photo shows the architecturally interesting Chandler-Murphy Family Store Building, ca. 1899.  The 5 little ‘windows’ at the top are really hooded decorative vents… 

The ‘buildings’ at the center of the second photo is really one- two and a half story brick building painted to simulate 2 separate structures.  The 6 small circular windows under the matching brick cornice reveal the truth.   For some reason, perhaps for those little windows, this building is called the Hen House Building and it was constructed ca. 1900.

Springfield Tennessee is the County Seat for Robertson County and the courthouse is the centerpiece for the Town Square Historic District.  It is listed separately in the National Register of Historic Places.  Robertson County was established in 1796 and the first courthouse, a log structure, was built here in the town square.  A second courthouse was built in 1819 and it was replaced by the center portion of this imposing structure in 1879.  The wings of the structure were completed in 1930.

Robertson County has about 70,000 residents.  One local attraction is the Bell Witch Cave which is allegedly haunted.  To learn more about the cave, go to  To learn about the only legal hanging that ever took place in Robertson County, (a slave killing his ‘master’ with an axe after being whipped), you can read the full story at 

What the heck…it was time for lunch so we stopped at this Waffle House in White House Tennessee.  Rarely does a road trip go by when we don’t stop at a Waffle House for breakfast or lunch!

As usual, service was efficient and the grill cook was the key to a smooth operation.  I will say that the stress of the Holidays may have been taking a toll as we weren’t greeted when we came in and some of the employees seemed unhappy with life…very unusual for a Waffle House.

Laurie had an Egg and Cheese Melt Sandwich with coffee and a side of crispy hash browns.  The hash brown potatoes were done perfectly!

Waffle House was founded back in 1955 and the company now has over 1,500 locations, all of them open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Curiously enough, the company’s founders, Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner both passed on during 2017... Joe was 97 and Tom was 98!

I had a Double Cheeseburger with a side of hash browns.  For the first time I realized that I could smother my hash browns with sausage gravy!  Hooray!  It was a winner for sure… I just sprinkled a bit of Tabasco over it and perfection was achieved!

The Waffle House website is found at

Moving on down the road, I came to a screeching stop so Laurie could check out this nice little herd of Painted horses…her favorite critter on earth!

She got out of the car and went over to see the horses…and this particular horse seemed enamored with her as he galloped over to see her!  They spent quite a bit of time talking, with Laurie giving out some hands-on petting and kissing as well!

While Laurie was busy with the horses, I noticed some cattle in a pasture up on a hill across the road.  They looked different than most cattle that we see in Tennessee so I zoomed in for a better view…

Yup…Texas Longhorn Cattle in Tennessee!  The Texas Longhorn is known for its characteristic horns which can extend to over 5 feet 9 inches from tip to tip for bulls and 6 feet 9 inches for steers and sometimes even exceptional cows. 

In 1927, the breed was saved from near extinction by members of the United States Forest Service who collected a small herd to breed in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.  They were cared for largely as curiosities for many years but the breed’s longevity, resistance to disease and ability to thrive on marginal pastures quickly revived the breed as beef stock.  Texas Longhorns with elite genetics can often bring $40,000 or more at auction with a record of $380,000 being set for a cow and heifer calf last March at auction in Fort Worth Texas.

Cruising east along state highway 25 through Tennessee in the general direction of the Knoxville, we arrived in town of Gallatin, the county seat for Sumner County.   This handsome old house is the home of the Sumner County Museum.  

The house was built ca. 1813 and it was purchased by William Trousdale in 1836.  Trousdale (1790 – 1872) was a soldier and politician.  He served as governor of Tennessee, was our United States Minister to Brazil, fought under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War, the War of 1812 and the Second Seminole War.  He also commanded the U.S. 14th Infantry in the Mexican-American War.  For his actions at the Battle of Chapultepec, Trousdale was brevetted to Brigadier General by President James K. Polk.

The house was Trousdale’s home until his death in 1872.  After the last member of the family died in 1899, the home was deeded to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and it now serves as a museum.  To learn more about the museum and local history, go to     

Gallatin’s First Presbyterian Church is an American Presbyterian and Reformed Historical Site.  It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  This is the oldest church building in Gallatin that has been in continuous use.  The congregation was organized in October of 1828 and the church was completed in 1837.  The sanctuary of the church was used as a hospital for Union Troops during the Civil War... 

As we moved along TN Hwy. 25 east, we came to a detour that forced us to go north on TN Hwy. 80, then east and then south on TN Hwy. 85.  Parts of Hwy. 85 were a bit twisty…and a sign warned trucks and RV’s to avoid the road.  Along the way we came to a viewpoint overlooking the Cordell Hull Lake/reservoir.  

The 87 foot high Cordell Hull Dam is located about 40 miles east of Nashville Tennessee near the town of Carthage.  The dam is on the Cumberland River and it was completed in 1973.  The lake covers about 12,000 acres.  The dam and lake are not part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s extensive dam and reservoir system, but rather is operated by the United States Corps of Engineers.  It does generate up to 100 megawatts of electricity. 


·         I didn’t know it but the United States Corps of Engineers operates about 300 dams and lakes across the country!  To view the list, go to

·         The Army Corps of Engineers was founded on June 11, 1775, making it 242 years old!  The organization employs 37,000 people and most of them by far, are civilians. 

·         The Army Corps of Engineers facilities produce 24% of all of the United States’ hydroelectricity!

      Just one more photo... Laurie took this picture of the 'super moon from our back deck and I thought that it was a dandy shot!

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a ‘back roads’ tour! 

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Off to in Ireland and a New Travel Experience!

Continuing with our September trip…Bonnie, Bill, Laurie and me took a short shuttle ride over to the Edinburgh Scotland International Airport so we could catch our flight to Dublin Ireland.

Laurie ensured that I take this photo of this sign near our gate in the terminal… We’d like to “Haste” back, that’s for sure!

At least 143 destinations are served by Edinburgh’s Airport!  This includes 8 airports in the USA.  This airport served 12,300,000 passengers in 2016, with Dublin ranking fifth (with almost 600,000 passengers) after 3 London airports as well as Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Laurie and I flew over to Scotland on American Airlines but for the short Edinburgh to Dublin leg of our trip, all four of us flew on an Aer Lingus twin engine propeller driven regional aircraft operated by Stobart Air.  This regional carrier flies to 18 different destinations for Aer Lingus…   

I’ve always liked high wing aircraft because passengers have a good view wherever they’re seated!  In addition to this ATR72-600, I’ve flown in a Short Skyvan, a de Havilland Twin Otter and a BAE 146…with the latter being a small 4-engine jet passenger plane.

Laurie took this photo from just under the wing right after taking off from Edinburgh.  At the right, you can see the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge over the Firth of Forth.  

Still over Scotland on our flight… Laurie captured this photo of a massive windfarm in the Scottish countryside.  I counted about 80 giant wind turbines just in this photo.  I’m all for renewable energy but one negative for wind farms is purely visual and the other is the problem of bird kills.  Wind turbines kill at least 140,000 birds each year in the USA…with some estimates 3 times that number...proving once again that positive change isn't always completely positive.

It didn’t take long before we’d crossed the Irish Sea between the United Kingdom and Ireland…and then we saw the Irish coastline!

Ireland has a population of about 4,800,000 with an area of 26,133 square miles.  In comparison, Scotland has roughly 5,400,000 residents and an area of 30,265 square miles.  We’re from the state of Tennessee in the USA and about 6,650,000 people live in the state.  Tennessee encompasses 42,181 square miles. 

I had avoided traffic around Edinburgh and Glasgow while in Scotland.  I couldn’t dodge it in Dublin!  The drive from Dublin’s International Airport to our hotel, mostly along the M-50 multi-lane highway (motorway) was a touch challenging…and it wasn’t even rush hour!

The Sheldon Park Hotel was our refuge for our first night in Ireland.  This hotel, with 132 rooms, was the largest that we stayed in while we were in the country.  It was fairly close to the M-50 ‘motorway’ which was one of the reasons that I’d chosen it.  Staying away from the city center cut costs and simplified driving.  It was also a great location for our exit from the metropolitan area.

The Sheldon Park Hotel has a huge well-appointed lobby with a very large bar at one side.  There is a restaurant, a leisure center and conference area.  Our only problem was that we arrived early and it took quite a while for our rooms to be readied for check-in. 

Given the fact that we had a wait on our hands, we found a table in Minnie McCabe’s Bar and started our exploration of Irish ‘brews’!  We ended up drinking a fair amount of Smithwick’s Irish Ale when traveling around the country. Very good indeed! We had some snacks in the bar as well, but they weren’t particularly memorable.

Our room was large with 2 queen beds…

The bathroom was adequate for our needs…but I was faced with another of those dang high sided shower tub combinations.  Just getting in and out of these wet showers/tubs is risky business!

The Sheldon Park Hotel is located at 131 Kylemore Road in Dublin Ireland.  Phone: 353 1 4601055.  To see some photos and to learn more about this conveniently located large hotel and its amenities, you can go to

Location, location, location!  The Sheldon Park Hotel is located just a couple of blocks from the Kylemore Stop on one of the Luas (Irish Gaelic for “speed”) light rail lines.  In the photo, Bonnie, Bill and Laurie are trying to figure out how to operate one of the automated ticket vending machines…

Now this tram/trolley ride may not be a new or interesting experience for many of you, but for me this was a chance to ride a modern light rail system...and into a major capital city outside the USA as well!

The Kylemore stop is on the “Red” Line.  There is a Green Line as well.  The Luas light rail system has 22.7 miles of track and 54 stations/stops along the way.  In 2016, Luas’s combined Red and Green Lines carried 34,200,000 passengers…for an average of over 93,000 per day!

Here is our tram arriving to pick-up a small crowd along with us.  It was Saturday night and most of the passengers were headed down to Dublin’s city center. 

This light rail system operates on a 750 V DC overhead power supply.  This silver 'Citadis' trams are manufactured by Alstom in La Rochelle France.  They reach a top speed of about 43 miles per hour wherever conflicts with other vehicles or pedestrians are unlikely.  These trams or trolleys cross through a lot of street intersections so cars and trucks can get in the way…

Our Luas “Citadis” tram car was roomy with some seating but, as you can see, it is primarily set up for standing room passengers.  Like with most big city forms of transportation, most riders don’t make eye contact.  The tram car was very clean and well maintained… 

The Citadis is a family of low-floor trams (streetcars) and light rail vehicles.  As of 2017, over 2,300 Citadis trams have been sold with ongoing operations with these railcars on all 6 inhabited continents.  In North America, operations are limited to Toronto and Ottawa Canada.

As you would expect, most of the areas that we passed through on the tram were residential or commercial, with little industry noted along the way.  I like trains and passenger rail service and, other than when we lived in Chicago, we’ve rarely experienced this mode of transportation.  This was an ‘adventure’ of sorts for all of us…

With a population of roughly 1,900,000, about the same as Nashville Tennessee, the Dublin greater metropolitan area is home to about 40% of Ireland’s population.  Although Dublin isn’t much larger than our state capital, there are major differences.  One fact that comes to mind is that Dublin was founded in the year 988 whereas Nashville was settled in 1779…a difference of ‘only’ 791 years!

In my next posting about our trip to Ireland, we’ll be exploring downtown Dublin on a Saturday night!  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Frosty Mug – Mt. Vernon Illinois

Following our Thanksgiving family visits to St. Louis Missouri and Omaha Nebraska, I’d chosen Mount Vernon Illinois for our overnight stop on our  trek home…

After some research, I found some reviews for the Frosty Mug Bar and Grill in Mount Vernon.  It was a little bit of a drive from our hotel, but after all this is a local neighborhood joint…and it isn’t aimed at passing motorists blowing along on the expressway.

One of the reviews I read told of a potential customer’s frustration as they circled the building at night after not being able to locate the entrance on the street side.  They never did figure out how to get in and they also thought that the place looked ‘sketchy’ in any case…

We circled the building as well and finally determined that the entrance was at the far end of a semi-dark patio with picnic tables in the back… The potential customer just didn’t look hard enough!

The inside dining area of the Frosty Mug Bar and Grill was fairly busy, especially for the Sunday night after Thanksgiving.  It was no surprise that most of the customers were regulars! 

There were tables in the bar area as well.  The bar is separated from the main dining area by a half wall.

One curiosity at the Frosty Mug is the drive-up packaged liquor sales.  They actually prepackage your favorite drinks for you for a party or to just take home to enjoy in the peace and quiet of your own home…

Laurie and I really like neighborhood ‘joints’ like the Frosty Mug.  These types of places are usually very friendly and the prices are usually “right” too!

Was I smiling because I’d seen something that I wanted on the menu?  Perhaps… 

On this occasion, we skipped the appetizers.  However, for your information the 'usual' appetizers included jalapeno poppers, a variety of chicken wings, pickle chips as well as some BBQ Nachos.  Unusual items for a neighborhood bar and grill included a shrimp cocktail, mini tacos, pork rinds, and spinach artichoke Rangoon.  Prices ranged from $4.00 to $9.50 although you could opt for larger baskets of wings.

The Frosty Mug has a special going on with Bloody Marys for only $3.00 each!  The accompanying cheese and olives were almost a meal in themselves.  There is a drink special every day at the Frosty Mug.  How about a 34 oz. mug of domestic beer on Mondays for $3.00!

I ordered something that I had seen on a menu for over 20 years… This is what they call a “Horseshoe”.  It included 2 hamburger patties served open-faced on a thick slice of toast, then covered with French fries with a cheddar cheese sauce over the top.  I added bacon for a little extra flavor. ($8.75) While it was good…the cheese sauce lacked the “pop” that I remembered from my first ‘shoe’ experience. 

FYI…the Horseshoe open faced sandwich was invented in a hotel in Springfield Illinois and the last one I’d had was in a restaurant that occupied a Quonset hut in Springfield.  ‘Shoe’ cheese sauces apparently vary from chef to chef.  The sauce is generally derived from Welsh rarebit and common ingredients include eggs, beer, butter, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.   I like Welsh rarebit but this sauce wasn’t much like it… 

Laurie opted for a half-pound cheeseburger with potato chips. ($7.25) “Sadly”, she couldn’t finish it and I had to come to the rescue!  It was a very nice cheeseburger…

Other sandwiches included pork tenderloin (breaded and fried or smoked), BBQ brisket, bologna or pulled pork and Italian beef.  The Horseshoe that I ate was the most expense sandwich on the menu.  A number of Baskets items and entrees are also available.

We liked the Frosty Mug and we’ll probably eat here again when we stopover in Mount Vernon.  Next time I’m having the fried pork tenderloin!  The Frosty Mug Bar and Grill is located at 1113 Salem Road in Mount Vernon Illinois.  Phone: 618-242-3372.  Their website is found at

That’s it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what was for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, January 8, 2018

Our Last Day in Scotland…

This was our last day in Scotland during our combined Scotland and Ireland adventures…

Appropriately enough, it was a dark and rainy day…with a touch of gloom added in.  Even the beautiful drive back up headed east through Glen Coe seemed to sum up our feelings about our upcoming departure.  It was still beautiful but it was a much more subtle beauty. 

I can’t even remember where this building was along our route.  It was or is a pub or restaurant…but it was the amazing stone work on this big structure that drew our attention.  Click on the photo to see what I'm talking about!

When I planned this trip for us, I’d marked up my map (an actual paper map) showing where we were staying, a number of attractions and every little town along our route that was listed as the most picturesque, charming or scenic.  Killin, located along the River Dochart at the western end of Loch Tay in Stirling (Perthshire) was one of those villages. 

We decided that we deserved a break…some comforting refreshments…before we drove the rest of the way to our hotel near the airport in Edinburgh.  We dropped into Shutters Restaurant on Main Street to relax a wee bit before moving on. 

Some of us had tea and the rest just a bit of coffee.  The surroundings inside Shutters Restaurant were cozy and very clean.

Killin has a population of about 700 residents.  The MacNab Clan used to dominate the area.  Their ancient burial ground is on an island in the River Dochart just below the Falls of Dochart.  Just north of the village, you can find the ruins Finlarig Castle, the former stronghold of the Campbells of Breadalbane.

To learn more about the Clan MacNab, you can go to  

Of course, the Campbell Clan was one of the largest and most powerful of the Highland Clans.  As for the Campbells of Breadalbane, John, the tenth Earl died childless in 1995 and the title has become dormant.  There are those who are trying or have tried to claim the title, to no avail at this point.  To learn more about the Campbells of Breadalbane, just go to

The bakery counter was well stocked and we all snacked on something shown above…but I didn’t take any photos.  We were happy to have stopped here along the road to Edinburgh.  Shutters does not have a website but their reviews on Trip Advisor are very positive…

As we drove east, some of the towns grew a little grittier and the rainfall increased…adding to sort of a downer of a day!

As we worked our way east and a bit south along Hwy. A84, we passed through the town of Callander.  Unfortunately we would miss the local Jazz and Blues Festival because we would be in Ireland… 

If my research is correct, this 19th Century Gothic style church was named after Saint Kessog, an Irish missionary who is said to have preached in the area back in the sixth-century.  The church closed in 1984 and it served as a visitor center between 1990 and 2006.  It’s now the headquarters for The Claranald Trust for Scotland. 


·         To learn about St. Kessog, see

·         For information about the interesting work of the Claranald Trust for Scotland, go to

·         Rob Roy MacGregor, a popular folk hero who has had movies made about him and who has a cocktail named after him was from this area.  To learn more about the ‘real’ Rob Roy, just go to

Laurie just liked the architectural look of this corner facing sandwich shop.  We didn’t stop at Apple Jacks but they are on Facebook if you’d like to learn more.

Do you see that big castle sitting on the bluff looking down on the green field full of sheep?  That is Castle Stirling.  This is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland.  It’s positioned on top of Castle Hill and it’s surrounded on 3 sides by steep cliffs, which offer a strong defensive position.  Until the 1890’s, it was located at the farthest upstream crossing of the River Forth, a true strategic position. 

We were running short of time so we didn’t stop…this time.  Laurie and I visited Stirling Castle on our last trip to Scotland, ‘only’ 31 years earlier! (The next 4 photos are from that visit) Most of the key structures of Stirling Castle date back to the 15th and 16th centuries while a few buildings remain from the 14th century…700 years or so ago!  The first actual record related to the castle dates back to ca. 1110, when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel here.  It must have been an established royal center by this time as Alexander actually died here in 1124.  

There have been at least 8 sieges of Stirling Castle.  Several of them took place during the Wars of Scottish Independence.  The last siege took place in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) unsuccessfully tried to capture the castle.   The nearby town surrendered but the castle’s governor refused to and his cannons destroyed the artillery set up by the attacking Jacobite forces…

Prior to Scotland’s ‘union’ with England, Stirling Castle was used as a home by many members of Scottish royalty.  It was a palace as well as a fortress.  Several Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned here, including Mary, Queen of Scots back in 1542. 

The statue is of King Robert the Bruce, one of Laurie’s ancient Scottish ancestors.  Over the centuries, the castle changed hands many times, but Robert the Bruce captured it in 1299 when King Edward I of England failed to reinforce the English garrison. 

Edward’s forces took it back in 1304, but by 1307 Edward had died and Robert the Bruce was now the King of Scots.  At this point, the English only occupied Stirling and 3 other Scottish Castles.  The castle was retaken by King Robert following the Battle of Bannockburn which took place within sight of the castle.    

I ‘borrowed’ this aerial photo of Stirling Castle from the Internet.  It’s easy to see why this site was chosen as a location for a fortress!  It’s naturally well protected on 3 sides! 

Today Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument…a major tourist attraction managed by Historic Environment Scotland.  To learn more about visiting the castle, go to

As we rolled along the 4-lane M9 limited access highway toward Edinburgh’s international airport, Laurie took this photo of one of the pair of “Kelpies”.  

The Kelpies are horse-head sculptures that are 98.5 feet high and they were completed in 2013.  They form a gateway at the eastern end of the Forth and Clyde Canal.  They are a monument to horse-powered heritage across Scotland.   The Kelpies name reflects the mythological transforming beasts (water horses) possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses…

So much for the most interesting portion of our day.  We arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Doubletree adjacent to the airport and checked in.  Then Laurie and I took the rental car back before relaxing and getting ready for our flight to Ireland the next morning…

I ‘had’ to include a photo of the hallway to our room at the Doubletree.  I’ve stayed in hundreds, if not thousands, of hotels and I’ve never seen a brick inside corridor.  It’s a little narrow too… Weird!

The room was nice…modern and very spacious too!  Of course, given its proximity to the airport and Edinburgh and its overall facilities, it wasn’t a bargain either.  However, it was extremely convenient and I earned points toward a 'free' room somewhere on another trip!

This was the bar/lounge area of our hotel…warm and comfortable.

This was the view from our table in the Doubletree’s restaurant, which is named “The Space”.  Service was friendly and efficient and our table was against a wall, allowing us a quiet place to recap our adventures.

Laurie took this photo of yours truly.  I was sort of smiling…an unusual photographic occurrence! 

Then it was my turn!  I captured this rather nice photo of my better half.  She looked happy even though we were leaving Scotland in the morning.

Then Bonnie joined us for something to eat and I took a photo of the sisters.  Where’s Bill?  As it turned out, he came down with the 12-hour crud and was down for the count!  No dinner for him…

This was the Warm Cheese Flatbread...after a few pieces had been consumed. (5.65 PS/$7.35 US) It came with a trio of dipping sauces.

This was the soup of the day with a nice ciabatta roll…but I don’t recall what kind of soup it was. (5.75 PS/$7.50 US) I do know that it was well received.

This was the Club Sandwich…a triple-decker with French Fries. (13.50 PS/$17.55 US) I had to help finish it and it was good…but pretty pricey for a club sandwich!

What can I say!  I wasn’t in the mood for fish and chips, soup or a sandwich.  This was my entrĂ©e… It’s the Steak and Caledonian Ale Pie with mustard mashed potatoes and green beans. (14.95 PS/$19.45 US) The meat was nicely flavored but the crust over the top was too crispy…

All in all, it was a decent meal…if not up to the quality of most of the local restaurants that we dined in as we explored Scotland’s countryside.  To learn more about The Doubletree by Hilton and its restaurant located at Edinburgh’s international airport, you can go to

Well…that’s about it for our adventures in Scotland!  My first blog from Ireland will be published on January 12, 2018. 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for sticking with me for our tour in Scotland!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave