Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guns & Pasta...

With encouragement from Dawn Marie, who was staying with us for the week before Christmas, we decided to combine her desire to go shooting with our plans to take her to Willie's in Seymour Tennessee, for some good Italian food!

So, here we are at our first stop, Coal Creek Armory in Knoxville.

We rented a Kimber .22LR Rim Fire Target Pistol with a 9-shell clip. It supposedly held 10 bullets, but we could only get 9 in the magazine. We rented one firing lane, plus we paid $10.00 extra for 2 extra shooters.

FYI...It's $10.00 to rent a lane, $5.00 for each extra shooter and $15.00 to rent a gun. If you rent a gun to shoot at The Armory, you must purchase the ammunition from them. The target was free. We bought 100 .22LR bullets and spent 90 minutes on the firing range. The total cost was $48.00 and change...or $16.00 each for an hour and a half worth of entertainment. Eye and ear protection are provided...

Here we have yours truly, Big Daddy Dave, testing his eyesight and checking to see just how steady his hand was!

Among the three of us, there is no doubt that Dawn Marie was the best shot! Very steady and very fast on the trigger...

We rented a .22, because it would be more comfortable for Laurie's first time with a handgun. However, there is a wide variety of pistols & revolvers that can be rented for use on the range at the Armory. These include models by Beretta, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Kel-Tec, Kimber, Ruger, SIG, S&W, Springfield Armory & Taurus. Calibers in addition to .22 include 9mm, 10mm, .32, .357, .380, .40, .45, .454 and .50. There were some real 'cannons' being fired on the range while we were there... A couple of them shook the room when they were being fired!

Laurie took her turns and after she settled down and got use to the idea of firing a gun and the setting, she actually enjoyed the experience! Her shooting improved as she gained experience and she started talking about wanting to try a lazer sight on a handgun the next time we go shooting!

The Armory sells guns, has gunsmithing facilities, conducts handgun courses and they also do custom finishing such as bluing, nickel & hard chrome plating. The Coal Creek Armory is located at 10737 Dutchtown Road in Knoxville, TN. Phone: 865-966-4545. Website:

After we finished working up an appetite blowing up a couple of targets at the Armory, we headed down to Seymour TN for dinner at Willie's Italian Restaurant. As many know, Willie's is our favorite Italian resaurant in East far! We'd been talking it up with Dawn Marie so it was time to put up or shut up...
We started out with a large pizza with pepperoni and sausage, ($15.95), planning on a slice or two each as an appetizer with the rest going home with us. The pizza was good...but not as great as the pasta dishes that we've had at Willie's. The flavors didn't quite make it...maybe a bit too much cheese, or was it that the pepperoni was sliced too thin to pick up the flavor or that the sausage lacked any real 'pow' power? As I said, it was good but the Chicken Alfredo Pizza that we'd ordered on a previous visit was significantly superior.

All of the dinners come with yummy Garlic Knots, (rolls), and a salad. For her entree, Dawn Marie ordered the Chicken Alfredo. ($8.95) It was very good...
Laurie ordered her ususal...the Maine Lobster Ravioli in Willie's own Tomato Cream Sauce. (8 ravioli - $10.95) I didn't include a photo as I've published it a couple of times before. As usual, Laurie loved her dinner!

I ordered an old favorite. This is the Shrimp Fra Diavlo...8 shrimp in a spicy marinera sauce over Penne pasta. ($8.95) This may be my favorite dish at Willie's!!
We did answer a question. Willie's doesn't serve alcohol, so could we bring a bottle of wine? The answer was no...the restaurant is too close to a church.

Even with the pizza that was just 'good', Willie's is still far and away the best Italian Restaurant we've found in East Tennessee. Other places may be fancier...and more expensive...but Willie's food and pricing is hard to beat!
Willie's is located at 11612 Chapman Highway in Seymour, TN. Phone: 865-773-0170. Website:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dining Out in Kansas City KS

In late September, when we were in Kansas City Kansas visiting my brother Bob and his wife Clara, we took them out for dinner. We asked them to chose a place that wasn't located to far from their home...and they decided on Granite City Food & Brewery.

OK...there are a lot of places like this, so we didn't expect anything beyond the ordinary. We started out with this cone of French fries as an appetizer. These aren't just any French fries...they're "Truffle Fries". These thin cut fries are cooked to a golden brown, coated in truffle infused oil and then they're tossed in seasoning and hand grated Parmesan cheese. They're served with a side of balsamic vinaigrette dressing. These were some tasty French Fries!

We were off to a good start!

This was my soup... It's the Cream of Potato Bacon and it was good. Lots of flavor...nicely spiced with added croutons, bacon pieces and cheddar cheese. Of course, I kicked it up a notch with a few shots of Tabasco!

Someone else at the table had the Ale & Cheddar Soup. This consisted of creamy cheddar cheese soup simmered with Granite City's Northern Light ale and then garnished with toasted rye croutons. Another winner...

For a main entree, Clara went with the GC Steakhouse CAB New York Strip. This was a 14 oz New York Strip seasoned and grilled, then served on a bed of crispy onion strings. Clara chose the garlic mashed potatoes over the reggiano hash browns and steamed brocolli.

The steak was cooked just as ordered and her feedback on the meal was very positive!

Brother Bob decided to go with the Grilled Pork with Stout Au Jus. This consisted of sliced pork that was charbroiled and served with sauteed spinach, Roma tomatoes, garlic, toasted almonds, sauteed baby red potatoes with the house made GC Stout Au Jus. Bob was very happy with his choice!

This was the one clunker of the meal. Laurie ordered a Flatbread Pizza from the Appetizer Menu. It was described as a thin crispy crust, brushed with freshly made marinara sauce, then topped with sliced pepperoni, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses...then topped with some julienne fresh basil. Laurie reported that it was just too real flavor. She doubted that the sauce was all that fresh or original... I tasted a piece of the 'pie' and I agreed completely on all counts. Just her luck!

And this was my entree... I ordered the Tortellini with Chicken in Creamy Tomato Pesto. This dish consisted of chicken tenderloins sauteed in olive oil, then simmered with sun dried tomato pesto and their creamy alfredo sauce tossed with the tortellini. It was very good...

We would stop by again at one of the 26 Granite City Restaurants that are spread across 11 states in the upper Midwest. (ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, IA, MN, WI, IL, IN & OH) This particular location was at 1701 Village West Parkway in Kansas City Kansas. Phone: 913-334-2255. For further information, go to the Granite City Website:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

More Depots & Trains!

OK...These are the last of the trains and depots that Laurie photographed for me during our St. Louis/Missouri/Kansas Family trip at the end of September and early October.

This is a 1927 "Prairie Type" 2-6-2 Locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Lima Ohio. It weighs 97 tons and is one of only 8 built. It proved to be relatively unstable at speeds over 50 mph. It had considerable pulling power...and staying power as well! It was retired by the Republic Steel Works in Alabama in 1964 and it's now on static display in Lynnville, Tennessee.

This is a replica of the former Lynnville TN Southern Railroad passenger depot. It now serves as the Lynnville Railroad Museum. It has many items of railroad related equipment and memorabilia. Displays include a HO scale model of Lynnville in the 1930's and a 2-ton scale working model of a steam locomotive. For more information go to

There is a 1923 Pullman coach on the tracks adjacent to the depot. It saw service on the City of Memphis passenger express. It has been repainted in "Pullman Green" and it's one of the only 7 known former NC & StL cars remaining today. Located inside this car is the Milky Way Farms Museum. Milky Way Farms was a famous 2,800 acre farm built by Franklin C. Mars, founder of the Mars Candy Company. The farm was famous for it's race horses and its Hereford cattle.

I've included a couple of photos of the Soda Pop Junction Restaurant which is in the center of Lynnville, located immediately across the street from the railroad museum. This restaurant is eclectic to say the least. It's a combination of country and 50's rock 'n roll. It was tempting and it was lunchtime, so we dropped in...

I ordered a double cheeseburger and Laurie ordered a single. We shared a big basket of curly fries. This burger had a lot of potential. It was handsome, the meat was good and there was a lot of it. The problem was that the cook must have come from Canada...where by law they cook burgers to death! Not quite as well done as a Canadian 'puck' Burger, it was still so well done that it was robbed of a lot of flavor. If we go back, I'll get specific re: how to cook the burger.

This is a photo of the counter area of the Soda Pop Cafe. There was a total rock 'n roll feel to about half of the restaurant...but there were also country crafts and what appeared to be the well preserved remains of an old post office window and counter. This place has potential...

This is whats left of the former North Carolina & St. Louis Railroad's Tullahoma Tennessee passenger station. Much of it was demolished over the years, leaving only the center of the building, which contained the ticket office, the telegraph office and the waiting room. The remaining structure is now being used as a line office for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Gathering...

As the Holidays grow closer, it's more meaningful than ever to spend time with family & friends. So we invited Big Dude, (aka Larry), and his better half Beverly over to join Dawn Marie, Laurie and myself at our place for dinner. (Larry is a serious blogger and foodie...check his Blog out at

Laurie slow cooked a couple of pot roasts with carrots, onions and celery. She also oven roasted some red potatoes with grapeseed oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add green beans, beef gravy and Beverly's terrific yeast rolls, and we had a great meal! We might have had a little wine as well...

Pictured above from left to right...Dawn Marie, Beverly, Larry and Laurie. We had a great time! Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Depots & Trains Along the Way

Back in late September when we took our family trip to Missouri, Kansas & back, Laurie took a lot of photos for me. I've been spreading them out and mixing up my blogs so they're not all the same.

This first photo is of the former Southern Railroad station in Germantown TN. This station was built in 1948 to replace one that burned down. The tracks next to the depot are busy...28 trains pass by each day!

This is a 2-8-2 Frisco Locomotive was built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works back in 1912. The locomotive and tender are 84' 4 7/8" long and the combination weighs 530,100 lbs. (26 1/2 tons!) This train is on static display adjacent to the Memphis Transportation Museum in Collierville, TN.

This is the Memphis Transportation Museum. It's based in the former Collierville TN passenger depot built by the Southern Railroad. Note the red antique. For those under the age of 30, this is a phone booth...

The museum's rolling stock includes 2 lounge cars and a dining car. These rail cars have been completely refurbished and they can be rented out for parties.

The Memphis Transportation Museum is located at 123 North Rowlett Street in Collierville, TN. Call ahead for open hours. Phone: 901-853-9447

This is the former Louisville & Nashville Passenger depot in Collinwood Tennessee. It was built in 1916 and it's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, it's serving as both a museum and a public library.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Southern Comfort Food...

This is the Dinner Bell Restaurant. It's located in Tennessee, on the east side of I-75 at Exit 62 (TN Hwy 322) We're speculating that this long standing restaurant, (from the early 70's), was the model for Cracker Barrel. (i.e., a Gift Shop and Restaurant with southern style comfort food) The difference is that we don't like Cracker Barrel Restaurants...

We've eaten here twice now... The first time we had a late lunch. At the Dinner Bell, you can order from the menu or you can partake of the buffet. On this occasion, we went with the buffet. There are something close to 45 different items on the salad/soup bar! This is Laurie's plate full of salad bar goodies. It was all good!

Now...I just skipped the salad bar. I went for the the main course right away. Here I have some mashed potatoes with hamburger steak & gravy, a nice hunk of fried chicken plus some cheesy hash browns and a little sausage and kraut. It was all good...not gourmet by any means...but very satisfying! I made a second trip but I failed to take another photo. Price of the lunch-time about $7.29!

As previously mentioned, we're always looking for a good breakfast! Our second trip to the Dinner Bell was focused on this critical meal. Laurie ordered the basic breakfast, two eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and sawmill gravy. The eggs were done right...over easy...the bacon was very good and the hash browns were done right, with just the right amount of seasoning.

Being Yankees, we hadn't had much experience with 'sawmill' gravy. Laurie decided that she much prefers the white sausage gravy that we're used to. I agreed with her, although this gravy was OK with me. The biscuits were warm and they were very nice. Grits are available as is toast if preferred.

My breakfast was the same as Laurie's, the only difference being that I ordered sausage patties. It was all good! This basic breakfast cost $5.49 plus $1.59 for coffee. There is a breakfast buffet from 7 to 11 am. If I remember correctly, it cost $6.49. Note: Breakfast can be ordered all day long...just ask for the Breakfast menu. This is now our new East Tennessee Breakfast place...

Starting at 4 pm, there is a dinner buffet. The price is a bit higher...still insanely low at $8.79! We haven't tried dinner yet but as we understand it, the meat choices are upgraded and expanded. I'll provide an update on the Dinner Bell when we go for dinner... Note: This isn't gourmet's down home cooking...basic 'vittles' at a really low price.

If you don't like buffets, then you can order from the menu. Examples include: Sandwiches from $2.99 to $5.79; a bowl of Pinto Beans with a vegetable and corn bread for $4.19; 3 biscuits with pork tenderloin and coleslaw or gravy for $5.99; Fried Chicken Dinner, with 2 breasts plus a potato or steamed vegetables AND the soup/salad AND dessert bar, for $8.79; 12-oz Rib-Eye Steak, with the same items as the chicken dinner...for $14.49. You can't eat at home for these prices...and the food is solid comfort food. More verification will be forthcoming...but so far, so good! The prices haven't changed since November of 2009.

The Dinner Bell is located at exit 62 on I-75. Address: 576 Oakland Road, Sweetwater, TN. Phone: 423-337-5825.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crawford Auto + Collection continued...

Here's another grouping of automobiles and other modes of taken during a fall visit to The Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection in Cleveland Ohio.

This is a 1901 Toledo Steamer. It is steam powered and it was built by the American Bicycle Company. It featured a nickel & chrome central 'tiller' and a pair of brass gas headlights. Air & steam gauges are mounted on the floor. Back in the day, it sold for $900.00.

Here is a 1911 Packard Phaeton Model 30. It was one of the "3 P's", the nickname of the most desired luxury autos of the era. The other two were the Peerless and the Pierce-Arrow. James Ward Packard had purchased a 1898 Winton in Cleveland...complained about it's faults...and then opened his own automobile company in Detroit! Only 1,865 of this model were produced. It had a 30 HP engine, a new improvement named shock absorbers and a price tag of $5,550!

The Crawford collection also includes a few early aircraft...and this one sailboat. This is "The Tinkerbell". In 1965, Robert Manry, an editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, decided that he wanted to sail alone across the Atlantic in a small sailboat. He modified this 13.5' boat for his purposes. This is one of the smallest boat to ever cross the North Atlantic Ocean. He fell overboard 6 times...but he completed the trip in 78 days!

Nifty, isn't it! This is a 1919 Harley Davidson Model 19-J. The best thing about this motorcycle is that it is completely original and it still runs! It has a 16 HP 45-degree "V-Twin" air cooled engine. Reportedly, it produces that sound...that Harley thunder...just like the current Harley's do!

This is my favorite from this grouping... It's a 1948 Chrysler Town & Country 4-door sedan. It has Ash framing and Di-Noc "Mahogany" paneling. A very limited number of these autos were produced. They were a bit pricey for 1948 - 49, and even Chrysler told customers that they should think 'yacht maintenance', not just auto maintenance. It was recommended that the wood should be re-varnished every 6 months! I love the rack on top of this car. As for accessories, the heater and the radio each cost an extra $99.00. The Town & Country had a 121.5" wheelbase, developed 114 HP and this particular auto cost it's owner $3,486.15.

The Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society is located at 10825 East Boulevard in Cleveland Ohio. Phone: 216-721-5722. Website:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

St. Louis Italian Eatery...

During our family visit to St. Louis Missouri back in late September, we all went out to Charlie Gitto's for dinner. The original Charlie Gitto's was opened in 1981 on The Hill, an Italian neighborhood on the south side of St. Louis. There are now 4 locations in the metro area. Open Table, Inc. has rated Charlie Gitto's as one of the top 50 Best Italian restaurants in the USA.

Many of us started out with soup, (Lobster Bisque or Minestrone), or with a salad. The Caesar Salad was nice but, in the interest of keeping this blog shorter, I've only pictured the entrees.

This is the Tortellini alla Panna. These are meat filled tortellini with mushrooms, peas, prosciutto and Parmesan cream sauce.

Here we have the Seafood Pasta Suzanne. This nice little dish includes fresh tagliatelle pasta, shrimp, scallops, clams and langostinos, all in a three pepper cream sauce.

Other seafood entrees included Shrimp Scampi, Linguini with Fresh Clams and Porcini Encrusted Sea Bass.

This is Charlie Gitto's Homemade Lasagna...six layers with Tomato Sauce and Cream Sauce.

Other offerings include Rigatoni with Sausage, Penne Primavera, Bucatini Amatriciana, Ziti Fra Diavolo, Penne Borghese and Cannelloni.

Only one member of our group went for a dish that didn't include pasta. Pasta is just not something he likes. He ordered this delicious looking Chicken Marsala. Simple and straight forward, it consists of a boneless breast of chicken sauteed in a sweet Marsala wine sauce with roasted mushrooms and zucchini.

This was my dinner...Rigatoni with Sausage. In addition to the spicy crumbled house recipe sausage in sweet tomato basil sauce, you will note that I went for a nice piece of Italian sausage on top... Then of course, I layered on the Parmesan!

The menu also includes Pork Osso Buco, at least 6 veal dishes, steaks, and brick oven pizzas.

After all of this food, no one felt like they could handle dessert. As you can see, the dessert tray was just a bit tempting! There was also a display case full of pastries and cooking plus a freezer display case with a huge variety of spumoni and ice cream.

If you find yourself traveling through or staying in St. Louis, Charlie Gitto's is a solid choice for some tasty, plentiful and reasonably priced Italian food. We dined at the Chesterfield MO location at 15525 Olive Boulevard. Phone: 314-772-8898. The next time we go to St. Louis, we'll be headed for the original Charlie Gitto's on the Hill. Website:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old Town Shopping in Ohio!

During our late fall trip to Ohio, we hit some back roads over towards Coshocton. Just next door to Coshocton, on the west side of town, is the historic town of Roscoe Village. This is a restored 1830's canal town on what once was the Ohio-Erie Canal. The first canal boat reached Roscoe Village in August of 1830. The village was a nice stop for us along the way north to Cleveland.

Today, Roscoe Village is an attractive, carefully restored tourist attraction. In addition to some nice shops, (for Laurie), there is also the Johnson Humrickhouse Museum. It's an accredited member of the American Association of Museums and it features a Native American collection, an Americana collection, an Oriental Gallery and more.

Check the website,, for a schedule of artisan demonstrations, costumed interpreters, festivals & holiday activities. Among other things, in season, rides are available on a horse drawn canal boat on a restored section of the Ohio-Erie Canal.

Roscoe Village is on Ohio State Route 16 near it's junction with US Highway 36. It doesn't appear on most road maps. It's about 90 minutes east of Columbus and about 2 hours south of Cleveland.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Small to Huge - Depots Along the Road

More depots from our September/October trip... This is the former Missouri-Pacific passenger depot in Carthage Missouri. It now serves as the offices of the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad, a short line railroad with a main line from Kansas City MO to Newport AR. With time at a premium, we didn't locate the former Carthage MOPAC freight depot or the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) passenger station.

This is the former Missouri & Northern Arkansas passenger railway depot in Wheaton MO. As recently as 2006, this depot was falling apart with grass growing on the roof. The community rallied to completely rebuild it. The Barry County Depot Museum is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The former Mound City Kansas Missouri-Pacific passenger station is now part of the Mound City Historical Park. The station was built in 1886. The park includes a number of historical buildings. The last train through Mound City was in July, 1945. Of significance is the fact that this train brought 10,000 light poles for use in completing the Rural Electrification Project in Linn County.

This grand building is the Union Station in Kansas City Missouri. It has 850,000 sq. ft. of space and it had over 900 rooms. At it's peak during WWII, as many as a million passengers came through the station in a year. The north waiting room could hold 10,000 people at a time. The building was closed in the early 1980's but it's renovation was completed in 1999.

This magnificent building now contains an Amtrak Station and a permanent railroad exhibit entitled the "Kansas City Railroad Experience". The building is now home to restaurants, shops, a planetarium, Smithsonian Traveling Exhibits, an interactive science center named "Science City and both movie and live theaters.