Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bar-B-Que - KC Style!

Welcome to Jack Stack Barbecue in Martin City Missouri! Over the years, I've worked for both Venture Stores/May Company and Montgomery Ward. Both companies had several stores in the Kansas City Market and the resulting store visits provided ready access to the Kansas City BBQ scene. When I first started coming to Jack Stack in the 70's, it was called Smoke Stack Barbecue... No matter, as it's still operated by a branch of the Fiorella family, actually the 4th generation of the family. Another family member still operates a Barbecue restaurant in Kansas City and that restaurant is named 'Smokestack'.

On our latest personal trip to Kansas City, with limited time available, Laurie and I had to decide whether we should go to Jack Stack or to another non-BBQ place that we really like. In the end, we decided to go to Jack Stack vs. Stroud's with it's pan fried pork chops. We knew that we were going to sample some Memphis BBQ on the way home and we wanted to compare that BBQ with the Memphis version so we could report back to Larry, aka "Big Dude", our local BBQ expert. (

Laurie ordered the 'Three Rib Platter', with Beef, Pork and Lamb Ribs. It was accompanied by a hunk of toast and Jack Stack's Hickory Pit Beans. Her favorite ribs by far were the lamb ribs...she even let me taste one! Next in line were the beef ribs... The pork ribs were good, but they didn't measure up to those smoked for us by Big Dude! The other highlight on her plate was Jack Stack's beans...

I ordered the 'Jack's Best' platter. This included the Crown Prime Beef Rib, Baby Back Pork Ribs and Beef Burnt Ends. I also ordered the Beans and the Cheesy Corn Bake. The Burnt Ends were #1 for me, followed in order by: #2 - the Jack Stack Beans...full of bits of meat and flavor; #3 - the Beef Rib...very nice; #4 - the Baby Backs...better than the ribs that Laurie had, but again not up to the standard set for us in East Tennessee, and; #5, the Cheesy Corn Bake...Laurie liked it but I didn't think that it had a lot of flavor.

We were stuffed when we finished our platters...actually leaving some odds and ends...but we still managed to order a dessert to share. This is the Vanilla Rum Bread Pudding...and it too was excellent!

We would recommend Fiorella's Jack Stack to anyone who enjoys good Barbecue! Good quality and good service. Our very competent waitress has worked for Jack Stack for over 24 years! She said that they're such good people to work for, she's never really considered leaving.

There are 4 Jack Stack locations in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area... Martin City is the original, but other restaurants are located in Country Club Plaza, Overland Park KS, and in the Kansas City Crossroads Art District. In addition to BBQ, we saw some great looking steaks and seafood dishes being served at nearby tables. The phone number for the original Martin City Restaurant is 816-942-9141. Learn more about Jack Stack at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Size Does Matter!!

One of the things we like about cruising the backroads is that we often find little gems or unusual attractions along the way. Look at what we discovered just west of West Mineral Kansas.

Now this is not a little thing! This is Brutus, a 'retired' electric shovel used for strip mining. This 160 ft. tall behemoth was built in 1962. Because of it's size, it had to built in place, that is assmbled on the site. It weighs 11 million tons or 5,500 Tons and it cost 6.5 million dollars to build.

Brutus required a crew of three to operate it. It's top speed was 1/4 of a mile per hour but it's shovel bucket had a 150 ton capacity...with one scoop being enough to fill 3 railroad cars. In it's last month of operation, the electric bill to operate it was $27,000!

How big is this beast!? Look closely at this photo. Do you see the roadgrader in the foreground? That roadgrader is much closer to the camera than Brutus is and it's hard to even notice at first glance.

For more information about Brutus, go to Phone: 620-827-6177.

One other footnote: Brutus is only the second largest electric shovel ever built...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Remember Air Travel in the 50's?

This gem of a museum is located at the old downtown Kansas City Wheeler Airport. Back in 1985, the co-founders were sitting around and one commented on the Lockheed Constellation and what a beautiful aircraft it was. So, they founded a non-profit renamed the Airline History Museum. We both really liked this museum!

This DC-3, in a 8-window/24 passenger configuration, was built in 1941 and delivered to TWA. That airline had this plane in service from 1941 until 1952. In 1939, 90% of all airline passengers world-wide were carried on DC-3s! Over 13,000 of these planes were built...

This plane is fully restored inside and out. Originally it had been recovered from an airplane 'graveyard' in Roswell, New Mexico. During our visit, the engines had been removed so they could be rebuilt. This plane is still flying to airshows and taking passengers up for a real old time flight experience. We'll be watching for our opportunity! Laurie has never flown in a DC-3 and the last time that I flew in one was back in 1958...from Detroit MI to Erie PA to Buffalo NY. It was a real kick...lots of leg room too!

Only 103 Martin 404's were ever built, with 60 of them being delivered to Eastern Airlines and 40 to TWA. Martin built this as a replacement for the DC-3...but it never really caught on. This plane was delivered to Eastern in 1952 and in 1965, Southern Airlines bought it. AHM acquired the plane in 1990 and flew it until 2000, when they put it on static display. It has a fully refurbished interior, complete with a lavatory that has a skylight! There are only 5 surviving Martin 404s in North America. This plane was configured for 40 passengers.

This is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. A total of 856 Lockheed Constellation L-1049s, (civilian version), and the C-121s (military version) were built. This 'Connie' was one of the last three built in 1957. Due to an order cancellation, it sat in a hangar for 2 years. finally being acquired by Slick Airlines in 1959.

This Connie served as a Cargo for the military, race horses, bug sprayer, etc., until she was retired in 1975. The 'Save-A-Connie' organization rescued her from an airline graveyard in Mesa Arizona in 1986. It was bought at auction for the starting and the only bid of $4,000! It's new name is the "Star of America".

The co-founders and over a dozen members of the group spent 9 weeks in Arizona, making it flyable... Then it was shuttled to Kansas City where the real work began. It took over 2 years to finish the initial restoration.

The Constellation has a maximum range of 4,815 miles. This is the only airworthy civilian Constellation in existence. All others are ex-military aircraft.

The interior of the aircraft was completely renovated during the winter of 2002 - 2003. The cabin configuration is a mix of Connie order to show the various possibilities to AHM visitors.

Note: The aircraft boarded from the back... First class was located in the back because the ride was smoother and quieter behind the propellers. These planes also had a lounge area... Just a little different than flying on the 'cattle cars' we're stuck with today!

At the time of our visit, the staff was working toward a renewal of flight certification. This aircraft will be back in the air for appearances at various airshows!

As we finished our tour, (Laurie & I plus a guide), we came across this gentleman with his daughter and granddaughter. They were touring the facility as well. His TWA captains attracted our attention so we introduced ourselves. In 1946, after serving with the Army Air Force during WWII, Bill Graff joined TWA as a pilot. At first he flew DC-3s, then the Connie...but he also delivered the first Lockheed L-1011 for TWA. He ended his career in 1980 flying B-747's.

Bill had just turned 90 years old. Despite the wheelchair, he was as sharp as a tack... He even had his TWA logbook with him. He told us that his daughter had been a Stewardess and had flown on the Connie's a few times.

The Airline History Museum is much more than these 3 planes. There are 3 or 4 large rooms packed with airline memorabilia, parts, uniforms, etc. In January of this year, the AHM also took delivery of a huge Lockheed L-1011. The plan is to refurbish that aircraft as a static display. It's parked on the Tarmac right by the museum. The guides are volunteers and our guide was excellent!

The museum is located in Hangar 9 at the Downtown Wheeler Airport, at 201 Northwest Lou Holland Drive in Kansas City, Missouri. Phone: 816-421-341. For more information and a video of the Connie in flight, go to

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ferry Ride!

Laurie and I love being on or near the water... Add mountains and/or beautiful scenic countryside and the combination is hard to beat!

One of the things that I try to do as I drive the back roads of the country, is to seek out those few ferry boats that still exist and then fit them into our itinerary.

The first photo is of the countryside in northern Arkansas, just south of Bull Shoals Lake. This is on Arkansas Highway 125 headed north towards the lake.

And here comes our ride! This little free ferry is operated by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. It operates year around and it connects Arkansas Highway 125 from Peel AR to a peninsula jutting down into the north side of the lake. The peninsula is part of Arkansas, and it's just south of Protem, MO.

Here the ferry has docked on the south shore of Bull Shoals Lake and it's about to unload. Next, it will be our turn...headed north.

The ferry operates at 20 minute intervals during daylight hours year permitting.

I'm enjoying the ride...watching the water slide by and checking out the scenery.

Here's Laurie, my better half and co-pilot, relaxing on our short journey across the lake.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only ferryboat in operation in Arkansas. Missouri has 4 ferryboat operations on the Mississippi River and one crossing the Current River within the Ozark National Scenic Riverways area.

Moving north and east after the ferry ride, this is a bit of scenery along US Highway 160 in southern Missouri.

This little road trip involved about 2,500 miles of driving...visits with family...a few nights in motels and lots of exploring!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

We learned about Grinders watching Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and it's host, Guy Fieri. The good news is that Grinders lives up to it's TV billing! Thanks Guy!

The neighborhood is a little shabby but it's close to downtown Kansas City, Missouri... Laurie and I met Allen Coleman, a former Montgomery Ward loss prevention teammate, for a 'lite' lunch at Grinders. In the past, Allen and I have broken bread at more than a couple restaurants in the KC metro area...

Grinders is known for it's specialty gourmet pizzas. We each ordered one of these 'little' 10" pizzas.

Laurie's choice was the "Goldberg". This pizza starts with a great Pesto that's topped with smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese. We all tried it...and it was a real winner!

Allen jumped out there and ordered a "Philly Cheese Steak" Pizza. This gem is topped with red sauce, Philly meat, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, provolone and, believe it or not, as per Philadelphia tradition, 'Cheese Wiz'! For some reason, on the menu, it's called 'W.I.T."? (meaning 'with'?) Another winner!

My doctor wouldn't be happy... My choice for lunch was "Le Hog", which was described by Guy Fieri as "a serious flesh feast". This beauty is covered by creamy white sauce, real crispy bacon bits, Canadian bacon, ham and chunks of meatball. Yum! Three hits for three tries!

Laurie loves Crab Rangoon, so we ordered some for an appetizer. (No photo for a reason) The self-described "Real Crabby" Rangoon on the menu is to be avoided. They were not up to the high standards established by the pizzas.

Grinders has an extensive menu. Appetizers, Salads, Philly Cheesesteaks, Grinder's Death Wings, Crazy Calzones, pizza just about any way you'd want it, plus burgers and sandwiches. Thursday's 'Hungarian night' with George... Also, right next door is Grinder's Deli, complete with deli sandwiches, soup, salad and all the trimmings.

Grinders is located at 417 East 18th Street in Kansas City, Missouri. Phone: 816-472-5454 Website:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Really Laid Back!

This is Main Street in bustling downtown Arrow Rock Missouri! This little town of less than 100 people is on the Missouri River, a little north of I-70 and northwest of Columbia.
It was very quiet during our weekday morning visit in late September...and prior to the fall color tours. Arrow Rock was the location where the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Missouri River and, as such it's been a stopover for visitors since 1829. Many of the older Federal-style buildings comprise the Arrow Rock State Historic Site.

There is at least one nice gift shop...attested to by Laurie, (my better half), plus a couple of places to eat, a handful of B&B's and the former home of artist George Caleb Bingham.

Another major attraction in town is the 334-seat Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater, Missouri's oldest professional theater. The theater offers musicals, comedies and dramas from June through Labor Day.

Other nearby attractions include the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge, Boone's Lick State Historical Site and Sappington Cemetery State Historical Site. Close by the latter is Prairie Park, a restored 1844 Greek Revival mansion. The home was built by Dr. John Sappington, the physician who popularized the use of quinine to treat malaria.

This is the Old Tavern, a handsome 2-story Federal-style building that is now occupied by a restaurant.

To visit Arrow Rock, a popular weekend trip for folks from Kansas City, take I-70 east to Exit 89, K Highway, then drive north to MO Highway 41 and continue north to the village. The drive takes about an hour and 40 minutes.

For more information, go to

Friday, October 15, 2010

Missouri...The End of The Line!

While we were in St. Louis, I talked Bill and Ken, Laurie's brother-in-laws, into a day trip to the county's Museum of transport. As Laurie had my camera with her, Ken acted as my photographer. Thanks Ken!

This unusual 2+D+ 2 Class S-2 locomotive was built in 1906 by ALCO-GE for use on electrified tracks between Grand Central Station and Harmon, New York. This locomotive has served as the prototype for thousands of Lionel and Ives electric model trains. I had no idea that electric trains were in use so early in the 20th century.

We saw many interesting and unusual locomotives as well as various units of rolling stock. This is a Class B electric freight B+B locomotive. It was built in 1918 by the Illinois Terminal Railroad in it's Decatur Illinois shops.

Moving a bit further along in railroad history, this E-8au 2,400 HP locomotive was built by General Motor's Electro-Motive Division in 1950. It was delivered to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. It served in both a long-haul passenger and as a Chicago-area commuter role.

The St. Louis County Museum of Transport has over 70 locomotives in it's care, with half of them one-of-a-kind or sole survivors of their type!

The museum is located at 3015 Barrett Station Road in St. Louis, Missouri. Web Site: Phone: 314-965-6885

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wall to Wall Stuff!!

As we travel around North America, we are occasionally surprised by small local museums that far surpass our expectations. This place is apparently the result of a collector gone wild! If it wasn't for the fact that this huge quantity of collectibles is well organized, this would be a prime example of hoarding...good 'stuff' only!

How about Indian pottery, baskets, peace pipes, beads/bead work, 10,000 arrowheads, spear points, tools, grinding stones and other artifacts... Add to that, there are 35 complex imagery pictures formed out of arrowheads!

How about rocks and minerals? The world's largest Turquoise carving...a 2-ton Quartz crystal cluster, a petrified tree and hundreds of mineral specimens from around the world. Then there's a large Amethyst display plus Fluorite and Selenite clusters. This collection just goes on and on...

Or, if Indian artifacts aren't you cup of tea, there is this collection of rose bowls and related items...or the vaseline glass, a huge selection of Carnival Glass, yellow glassware, vases, Custard glass, Black Amethyst Glass, Fenton, Flo Blue and cut/leaded glass. Then there's the hundreds of pieces of pottery in every shape and design that can be imagined.

Do you prefer antique guns? There is a very large collection of rifles, muskets, shotguns, pistols and ammunition. There are also war relics including Civil War items, swords, bayonets, shells and cannon balls.

How about unusual items? A collection of old irons! Or, toothpick holders, a baseball card collection, Elvis and Marilyn memorabilia, coins, a lunchbox collection, Kewpie dolls, etc., etc...

This museum is the result of 2 family collections/museums coming together back in 1993. The Arlis Cogar family from Arkansas had created the "Trail of Tears Museum". It was combined with the wide ranging collections assembled by Prier family in their museum in Golden, Missouri.

Did I mention the Black memorabilia, the collection of glass bells, the barbed wire display, the Chinese items, the eyeglass/optical display, the porcelain bird display or the case full of hand held fans of every variety? The list goes on and on...

One of our favorite displays at the museum was this grouping of face jugs... They're relatively rare, especially in excellent condition.

One of the best parts about this museum is that it's FREE! No charge for admission! They do have a box at the entrance and the exit for donations. What a deal!

The Golden Pioneer Museum is located at the intersection of Missouri Highway 86 and County Road J in Golden Missouri. It's on Table Rock Lake between Branson Missouri and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's open from April 1 through October 31 from 10:30 am until 4:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Phone: 417-271-3300.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Small Plate Dining?!

Now, anyone who knows me is very aware that I'm not a 'small plate' kind of guy. They also know that I have a few food dislikes which can impact fine dining...

Well, all of these 'issues' were blown aside during a recent visit to St. Louis Missouri. Based on a tip from Laurie's sister, Bonnie, we decided to skip one of the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives joints I had in mind and instead, Bonnie and her husband Bill, went with us to the Farmhaus Restaurant. We all shared a number of small plates...and it was a great experience!

We started out with this plate...Beatje Farms Bloomsdale and Marcoot Jersey Creamery Swiss, with damson plum gastrique, local honey, chow chow and crostini. All the taste buds were immediately engaged!

At about the same time, we shared the Farmhaus Local Vegetable Salad. This included beans, corn, tomatoes, grilled okra, zucchini, cucumber, herbs, vinaigrette, beets, Baetje Farms goat's cheese & lavash. Another winner!

We also had the House Mozzarella Bruschetta which included Marcoot Jersey Creamery curds, Fournie Farms tomatoes, all drizzled with a balsamic reduction. If there was a 'miss' among the plates we ordered, this was it... It looked great but we all agreed it lacked much 'pop'.

Then there were the Fried Green Tomatoes...Fournie tomatoes, bacon goat cheese dressing and tomato sauce. We were back on track...another winner!
We also ordered, but failed to photograph, the Local Vegetable Succotash. This was also a hit...and it included corn, tomatillo, peppers, okra, tomatoes, spoon bread and ground cherries in a tomato merlot reduction.

Double Wow!! Next came the Chilled Roast Beef served with horseradish panna cotta, truffle espuma, jus and lavash. The only thing wrong with this creation is that we only ordered one of them! The truffle espuma just kicked this up way above any roast beef dish that we'd ever experienced.

We did order 2 small plates of the Hawaiian Seabass. This delectable fish was cast iron roasted and came with spoon bread, roasted corn, smoked sausage and crawfish tail meat in a spicy butter emulsion. The one downside that we all agreed on was that the sausage was a bit too salty.

How about Basil Ice Cream with Lemon Cake!? Sounds a bit weird...but when you combine the homemade Basil Ice Cream with the moist Lemon Cake, the taste buds had a riot! The chef is a creative genius...

We also shared a great Fried Apple Pie with some terrific homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!

What a meal! This was a great experience... Gourmet food...that this gourmand really enjoyed!

Farmhaus Restaurant is reputed to be the place that area chefs frequent after a long day in their own kitchens. Chef & owner, Kevin Willmann, is from Illinois and he focuses on fresh organic produce and local ingredients wherever possible. He uses local cheese makers, bakers and coffee roasters. We all can attest to the fact that he has a great culinary imagination!

Farmhaus Restaurant is located in an out of the way neighborhood at 3257 Ivanho in St. Louis, Missouri. Website: Phone: 618-980-7306

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Going, Going, Gone...

In this day and age, it's hard to believe that in the not so distant past, a great many small towns across the USA had regular passenger and freight rail service. Many small towns were served by Interurban Cars/self-powered units. Many towns have already lost their symbols of the past...the old railroad depot.

Here are 3 derelict old rail declining health or worse. The photo above is the first example. It's the abandoned Norfolk & Western Depot in Rural Retreat, VA. It's still standing but it is slowly falling apart. It's a shame as it's over 100 years old and handsome in it's own way...

The second example is the not so handsome remains of the former passenger depot in Newstead, KY. It was built by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and in it's final days, it's being used for storage

The last of these fast fading railroad depots is the completely abandoned passenger station located in Grand Junction, TN. It was built by the Illinois Central Railroad.

The ironic part of this depot's story is that the town is called 'Grand Junction' for a reason. Even today, it's a major rail junction for north-south and east-west railroad traffic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bensenville Illinois - CGC RR

This handsome little locomotive is on static display at Veterans Park in Bensenville, Illinois. It's about a mile from the last place I worked just before I retired.

This is a Chicago Gravel Company 1922 ALCO 0-6-0 Locomotive. The sad thing is that this little train is fenced in and while it has stairs for access and I'm sure it must have visitors, I never saw anyone stopping by to check it out.

Originally, this locomotive was built in Schenectady New York for the Studebaker Corporation in South Bend, Indiana. In 1948, it was sold to the East St. Louis Junction Railroad Company before ending up it's working career with the Chicago Gravel Company.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ham AND Bacon!!

Fond of Country Ham? Crazy for Great Bacon!!? We like country ham, but being from the midwest, we aren't quite used to it... We're learning and it works very nicely in casseroles, with scalloped potatoes, etc.

But it's the BACON that knocks our socks off! What a great product... The Hickory smoke flavor is strong, so it is a little much when just eaten along side a couple of over easy eggs. But, put it in a BLT, a bacon cheeseburger or use it in a salad...and life just doesn't get much better than that!

Benton's Smoky Mountain Hams processing facility and 'store' is a hard to notice cinder block structure at 2603 Highway 411 just a bit north of Madisonville, TN. Upon entering the building, you spot an old deli display case, a lot of hanging hams and sides of bacon...and you're immediately greeted by a heavy hickory smoke scent. Allan Benton may be there to greet you...and he's very friendly. He's an ex-educator who purchased Benton's in 1973 from it's founder, a local farmer who started the business back in 1947.

Benton's sells a lot of ham, bacon and prosciutto to gourmet restaurants and high-end chefs across the USA. But, whenever we shop at Benton's, the place always seems to have plenty of walk in customers. In addition to the products already mentioned, they'll cut prime steaks in any thickness you might want. We've also picked up fresh eggs and some great hot dogs. Check out Benton's in person or on-line at Phone: 423-442-5003.