Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The Drive Home from St. Louis and More Food and a Bit of History

Just a short posting to my blog site this time… We always look for alternate routes wherever and whenever we have the time and opportunity.  In this case, when we returned home from the St. Louis Missouri metropolitan area after our family trip this past May, we wandered a bit east through Indiana before heading south toward Tennessee.

When we crossed the Ohio River from Indiana into Kentucky, we entered the town of Owensboro.  When I worked for Montgomery Ward stores, we had an “Electric Avenue Store” in Owensboro so I spent a bit of time here.  The concept and the store didn’t last long… It opened in the fall of 1994 and closed in late summer 1997.  Montgomery Ward and all of its operations followed suite within a little more than 3 years.

As we cruised down the local roads headed in the direction of US Hwy I-165, we had our eyes open looking for a likely place to grab some lunch.  That’s when Laurie spotted this old Railway Depot and I made a quick U-turn!

The Union Station in Owensboro is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This limestone and slate structure was built in 1905 and it currently houses several businesses.

Built primarily for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, it was really a joint effort the included the Louisville, Henderson and St. Louis Railroad and the Illinois Central Railroad.  At its height in the 1920s, the depot served as many as 18 daily passenger trains.  Passenger trains ceased serving Owensboro in 1958.  At one point, the old depot was actually occupied by a discotheque.

We had decided to skip one of our favorite restaurants, the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, because they have a huge buffet and I’d eat too much…bar-b-que lamb is a specialty!  If I eat too much, its nap time, not a good thing if one is driving longer distances…

When we spotted this Cheddars Scratch Kitchen along our route, stopping here was a ‘no-brainer’.  This chain doesn’t ‘inspire’ me but we can always count on these restaurants for consistency with solid quality and good prices too.

FYI, Cheddars is part of the Darden Restaurant Group.  Among other restaurants, Darden owns Bahama Breeze, Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse.

For her meal, Laurie selected the Monte Cristo sandwich. ($11.29) It had been quite a while since we’d seen a Monte Cristo on any menus.  This sandwich included smoked ham, smoked turkey and 2 different cheeses and it is battered and fried until golden.  It is dusted with powdered sugar and served with raspberry preserves.  She chose coleslaw as an option over the French fries that are normally served with this creation.  The sandwich was way too big for Laurie to finish!


On August 14, 1936, Owensboro was the site of the last government sanctioned public hanging in the United States.  The surrounding the media and public ‘circus’ that took place contributed to the end of public executions anywhere in the USA. To learn more about the crime involved and the subsequent hanging, click on the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainey_Bethea.

Among other notables, NASCAR drivers/elebrities Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Florence Henderson and Johnny Depp are all from Owensboro.

For my meal, I selected Cheddar’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich with Red Beans and Rice as my side dish instead of the French fries. ($9.99) My sandwich included a hand-breaded buttermilk chicken breast on a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and American cheese.  It was a big sandwich and after the red beans and rice, I was more than comfortably full.

The Cheddars Scratch Kitchen/Restaurant in Owensboro Kentucky is located at 3040 Highland Pointe Drive.  Phone: 270-685-2092.  Website: https://www.cheddars.com/locations/ky/owensboro/owensboro/2139.  

Note: Owensboro was first settled in 1797 but at first it was called “Yellow Bank” based on the color of the soil along the Ohio River.  With a population of over 60,000 in the city itself, Owensboro is the 4th largest city in Kentucky.  As Kentucky is bourbon country, the city is well represented in that regard as the home of the Glenmore Distillery Company.  In addition to the Glenmore brand, the company also produces other bourbons and blended whiskies such as Old Thompson, Kentucky Tavern and Zachariah Harris.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, August 26, 2022

One More Family Gathering and a Family Happening

…concluding our visit to the St. Louis area and Laurie’s family.  Yes, another meal to report on! 

This time, Laurie’s sisters and their husbands gathered for dinner at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in Chesterfield Missouri.  Laurie and I decided that it has been at least 25 years since we’ve dined at a P.F. Chang location.  It’s a little strange as there is one in Knoxville, about 40 minutes from where we live…and we’ve certainly driven further than that for a nice dinner.

Here is a photo of our group…taken by our server Cassidy so I couldn’t avoid being in the picture.  Starting with the ladies…Bonnie is right of center, Karole is just to her left, Laurie is next to her and Glenda is at the back left.  Next to Glenda is Ken, her husband, then yours truly, Karole’s husband Bob and then Bonnie’s husband Bill.

Then of course, to mark this relatively infrequent occasion I had to take a photo of the four sisters…Bonnie, Karole, Laurie and Glenda.  Bonnie is the youngest and Glenda is the oldest of the sisters.

On to the food…

We ordered a plethora of appetizers for the table, including 2 orders of Hand-Folded Crab Wontons with a creamy crab filling, bell pepper and green onion served with a spicy plum sauce. ($10.00 each)

The next appetizer that we ordered was the Pork Egg Rolls. ($7.00) Simple indeed, these egg rolls contain pork and julienned vegetables and they are accompanied by sweet and sour mustard sauce.  These were more up my alley as I’m not into bell pepper or green onion…

An order of Hand-made pan-fried Pork Dumplings also graced our table…put I didn’t take a picture. ($10.00)

The entrees included both Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowl and Honey Chicken Bowl, both from the lunch menu. ($11.00 each) The Sweet and Sour bowl has breaded chicken with rice…the chicken is glazed in sweet and sour sauce and includes pineapple, onion, bell pepper and ginger.  The Honey Chicken is similar with breaded chicken glazed with a tangy honey sauce.

Several options for P.F. Chang’s Signature Lo Mein were on the menu and 2 orders were chosen as entrees by our group.  This was the Lo Mein Shrimp with wok-tossed noodles, mushrooms, Asian vegetables in a savory soy sauce. ($13.50)

This creation was the Signature Lo Mein Combo. ($14.50) In this instance it included vegetables, chicken, beef, pork and shrimp.

No photo once again for this offering… It was the Fire Braised Short Ribs. ($27.00) The beef short ribs are slow braised and served with a savory glaze and accompanied with pineapple fried rice.  I tried the pineapple fried rice and I liked it a lot…

Laurie and I both remember enjoying this entrée/appetizer from those many years ago.  The table shared a total of 3 orders of Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps. ($11.50 each) This ‘secret family recipe’ is P.F. Chang’s signature dish…and we still really like it after all these years!

We ended this gathering with a group photo in front of P.F. Chang’s.  I avoided this photo by being the photographer!  From the left…seated: Ken, Glenda and Karole.  Standing: Bill, Laurie, Bonnie and Bob.  We had a great time and the sisters exchanged a lot of fond memories…

The P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in Chesterfield Missouri is located at 1295 Chesterfield Parkway in East Chesterfield.  Phone: 636-532-0215.  Website: https://www.pfchangs.com/locations/us/mo/chesterfield/1295-chesterfield-pkwy-east/9920-chesterfield.html.

On to a big…really big…family event!

After living in their home in the St. Louis Missouri suburb of Melville for more than 55 years, Karole and Bob put their home up for sale.  Huge change for them!  They will be moving into a home that had belonged to Bob’s parents and they are in the process of updating that property.

One marketing issue was the fact that Bob and Karole’s current home is on a private street in the city with no city maintenance.  Recent flooding rains in the St. Louis area had turned their street into a pitted, rutted byway.  So enough gravel was ordered to fill the ruts and spiff up the road.  Bob and Karole’s son Marc and Marc’s daughter Abby stepped up and between the two of them, they spread all that gravel and enhanced the property.  A lot of work and a nice job indeed!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Casual Italian Dining plus a Fun Birthday!

…almost but not quite winding down our visit with Laurie’s family in St. Louis Missouri in at the end of May.  In this post it’s all about another dining experience and a birthday celebration, not mine this time!

Under the guidance of Laurie’s sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill, we were off to a casual Italian restaurant for dinner.  Laurie and I both love good Italian cuisine!

Farotto’s was founded as a family owned pizzeria in 1956.  The owners were the current owner’s sister and brother-in-law.  He started there at the age of 11 as a busboy.  When his brother-in-law retired in the early 1980s, that busboy…who had worked his way up the ladder and really learned the business…became sole owner of the restaurant.  Several expansions and remodels have taken place and now Farotto’s features a bar, year around patio, dining rooms and a banquet area.  This is a big restaurant!

Between the labor shortage and the fact that Farrotto’s was quite busy, we did have a bit of a wait…but this is a popular St. Louis dining destination.  We were seated in the indoor/outdoor patio dining area.

We started out with an order of Toasted Ravioli. ($13.00/now $14.00) Yes, we had eaten most of the order before we remembered to take a photo! 

Toasted ravioli was created and popularized in a St. Louis Italian-American neighborhood called “The Hill”.  At least 3 different restaurants claim to have ‘invented’ this popular appetizer. 

Usually, some sort of meat is wrapped in square ravioli, then it breaded and deep fried until the pasta shell becomes somewhat crispy, dry and browned.  The toasted ravioli is then served with marinara sauce for dipping.  Parmesan cheese is commonly sprinkled on top of the ravioli.

Laurie and Bonnie ordered a large “Original House Salad” with Iceberg lettuce, green leaf lettuce, provel cheese, cherry tomatoes and the house dressing. ($13.00/now $14.00) The split the salad as they did with their entrée.

The sister’s shared entrée for dinner was the Pasta Farotto. ($19.00/now $22.00) It was penne pasta was topped with grilled chicken, pesto cream sauce, fresh mushrooms, fresh Mozzarella pearls, baby spinach and fresh tomato.

This item isn’t shown on Farotto’s current menu.  This was the Scallop Risotto…Bill’s entrée. ($32.00) In addition to several nice large scallops, this entrée featured baby spinach, tomatoes, onions and as much cheese as was needed.

I ordered the Shrimp Scampi Pasta as my entrée. ($22.00/not on the current on-line menu) It was simple with some nice size shrimp, blistered tomatoes and cheese, all in a light garlic butter sauce.

St. Louis is loaded with Very Good to Excellent Italian restaurants and Farotto’s is one of the most popular.  Faroto’s Pasta and Pizzeria is located at 9525 Manchester Road in Rock Hill Missouri, not far from St. Louis itself.  Phone: 314-962-0048) Website: https://www.farottos.com/.

Now onto a family birthday party in a St. Louis Missouri suburban area!

Laurie’s niece Kasey and her husband Kevin are raising 4 daughters and they invited us to the birthday pool party they were staging for their 2nd youngest, Charley.  I took this photo of the primary party scene prior to all of the guests arriving. 

This was Charley’s 7th birthday!  There were little girls everywhere, more children than Laurie and I have seen in one place in several years.  Charley is a star hockey player and her guests were members of the team.  In addition to her parents and her 3 sisters, there were some cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents plus all of the other little girl’s parents!  

Charley was very happy…both with her presents as well as being the center of attention as the birthday girl.  That cap in the first photo was one of her gifts.  Her friends stayed close as Charley opened her presents.   

This is a photo of Kevin, a dedicated dad, playing his role well!  I can’t even imagine heading a household that features 5 women and 2 dogs…both female!  Kevin and his better half, Kasey, are doing a fine job of parenting, that’s for sure.

Of course I had to take party photos of Great Aunt Laurie as well as Grandpa Bill and Grandma Bonnie.  We spent most of the time just chilling and watching the action, but we did enjoy some great food, birthday cup cakes and one or two adult beverages.

…and this is a photo of Kasey with her parents, Laurie’s sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill.  Kasey is Charley’s mother as well as the mother of Charley’s younger sister Elliot and her older sisters, Avery and Delaney. 

It was a great birthday party and all the guests and their parents had a nice time pool side with food and beverages while their children just had a great time in the pool, playing on a trampoline plus a softball game was started up before we left.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, August 19, 2022

A Historic Little Town along the Mississippi River

Having visited Pere Marquette State Park and its historic lodge, followed by our cable car assent and snack at the Aeries Winery, we continued on south along IL Hwy 100, “The Great River Road”, back toward St. Louis Missouri.

The bluffs along the Mississippi River dramatically tower over The Great River Road.  As we drove along I kept my eyes open for a hard left turn into a piece of history that is basically frozen in time.  Laurie and I had last visited this spot more than 30 years ago.  Had it changed?

Then we spotted the turn off into the village of Elsah Illinois… These ruins were new, part of the damage caused by “The Great Flood of 1993”, but otherwise we didn’t see many changes in this historic village.  Despite major damage by that flood in 1993, the town and its committed residents have persisted and rebuilt/repaired structures as needed. 

This set of ruins is called the “Ice House”.   At one point there were at least 5 ice houses in the village.  This structure was built ca. 1865 and it served as a residence for some time.  The buildings proximity to the river made it idea for storing ice…but it also led to its demise.  Today this ruin is often used to stage photos of families and newlyweds.

While many if not most of the older homes in Elsah were built with stone, this beautiful brick home at 3 Valley Street was originally built ca. 1859 as the parsonage for the local Methodist church.  Today it is known as the Parsonage-Pitchford House.  The current acting mayor in this village of 509 residents is Mike Pitchford. 

Note: Before the great flood of 1993, the 1990 census recorded 851 residents in the village.  By 2000, the population had declined to 635.

This large red brick home is the Keyser-Read House and it was built during the 1850s.  That big satellite TV dish does take away from the home’s authentic look…

Elsah was founded by James Semple, a Scottish emigrant in 1853.  Semple was a lawyer and a US Senator from Illinois...but he also owned a local granite quarry.  He needed workers and since he owned this narrow valley along the bluffs, he offered free lots to anyone who built houses with stone from is quarry.

Note: The entire town of Elsah is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

I must admit that nothing appeared open during our short visit to Elsah so it was quite difficult to identify the various homes I photographed.  I believe that this Handsome home was built in 1853 and it served as the Hotel Elsah for a while.  It should be noted that all of the homes in the village are privately owned.  I found it interesting that the stone homes and other structures were built from rough cut pieces and granite rubble from Semple’s quarry.  The effect is more charming than if the homes had been built from uniformly shaped blocks.

The town prospered for a while as the water borne shipping point for grain from Jersey County Illinois.  In fact, for a time the town was called Jersey Landing.  The rich and notorious “Robber Baron” Jay Gould even used Elsah as a bargaining chip in his effort to control the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis.  He built a railroad into Elsah in order to cut off commerce downriver to St. Louis.  Once he gained control of the bridge, he simply abandoned the rail line into the Village.

The Methodist Church in Elsah was built in 1874 and it was the only house of worship in town until the 1940s.

Elsah also encompasses Principia College, a 4-year liberal-arts private college for Christian Scientists.  The college was established in 1912 but it was relocated to Elsah in the 1930s.  The campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places separately from Elsah itself.  We didn’t visit the college campus, which is home to about 480 students.

Note: Famed actor and Academy Award Winner, Robert Duval, is an alumnus of Principia College in Elsah.

The first photo shows the Stephany-Hoey House.  It was built before 1861 and was expanded several times, with the last addition being made in 1900.

The second photo is of a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home at 27 Mill Street in Elsah.  This stone bungalow was built in 1853 and it is or was for sale with an asking price of $235,000.  I think that its referred to as the Cooper House.  

Elsah’s 1861 ‘look’ is well-preserved despite floods and economic challenges.  The historic commercial district is found along LaSalle Street and extends inward for about 3 blocks.  It primarily of stone buildings and all but one of its pre-1861 structures, including all 4 of the village’s historic taverns, still stand.  The other two districts, found along Mill Street, are primarily residential.

The Elsah Village Hall was built in 1887.  It is now used as a museum that is operated jointly by the Village of Elsah and the Historic Elsah Foundation.  Exhibits include information about James Semple and his family, architectural styles found in the Village, tools, artifacts, a mural of the town and photographs from the 1800s and 1900s.  

Note: Elsah once had a very forceful and strong chapter of the Women’s Temperance Union…and as a consequence the Village is still ‘dry’.

To learn more about Elsah Illinois, you can go to Home - Escape to Elsah, Illinois and/or About Us – Historic Elsah Foundation.  Finding these homes in the Village of Elsah is quite simple as there are only 2 main streets and they are just a few blocks long…

Once we left Elsah, once again headed south to St. Louis, I grabbed an opportunity to snatch this photo of a large towboat aka ‘pusher’ boat.  This twin screw towboat, the M/V Lexington is 40 feet wide and 170 feet long.  She’s powered by twin 5600 HP GM diesel engines.  She was built in 1969 by Jeffboat, Inc., based in Jeffersonville Indiana.  From what I could determine, she is currently owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Towing Company.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Traveling Along the Rivers in Illinois

As previously noted, this past May we visited Laurie’s family in the St. Louis Missouri area.  As usual we were out and about with Laurie’s sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill. 

We’d decided to cross the Mississippi River and drive north to a winery and park that are situated on the Illinois side of the “Big Muddy”.  Laurie and I hadn’t been up that way for decades so it was a real adventure for us…

We crossed the river at Alton Illinois, a river town that had been founded way back in 1818.  But Alton wasn’t our planned destination.

I took this photo of this cabin cruiser from the Pere Marquette State Park, which is located near the town of Grafton Illinois.  At this point, the Illinois River flows into the Mississippi River.

The Illinois River is about 273 miles long and it is one of the major tributaries of the Mississippi.  The Illinois was important to Native Americans and early French traders as the principal water route connecting the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan) with the Mississippi River.  The Illinois River is now the basis for the Illinois Waterway, which allows commercial shipping from the Great Lakes all the way to New Orleans

This is the entrance to the Lodge at Pere Marquette State Park.  The original portion of the lodge was built in the 1930s during the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The lodge was expanded in 1985.  The lodge and the surrounding cabins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Park itself is an 8,050 acre protected area in Jersey County Illinois.  It’s located on IL Hwy 100, which at this point is part of both the ‘Great River Road’ and the ‘Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway’.  Pere Marquette State Park is operated and maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

I really liked the warm and ‘homey’ look of the cabins located near the lodge itself.  Each of these cabins contains 3 separate ‘rooms’ that include a sleeping area and a bathroom.  There isn’t any shared common area in the cabins…hence plenty of privacy.  I checked these cabins/stone cottages out on line and was stunned to learn that they only cost $125.00 plus tax per night…and that includes dinner and breakfast from a select menu…plus 2 drink vouchers!  Quite a deal indeed

It took members of the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 until 1939 to complete the Pere Marquette Lodge.  The lodge opened for business in 1940.  The cost…$352,912.  Those massive timbers, some as much as 3 feet in diameter, are Douglas fir along with western and pecky cypress.  Limestone taken from the nearby Grafton rock quarry, was used to construct the cabins, the floor of the lodge and that massive 700-ton stone fireplace.  The vaulted ceiling is 50 feet high!  Prison inmates built the furniture in the lodge while the CCC did all of the metal work, including the chandeliers, door handles and window locks.

The Lodge is open every day of the year…a quiet place to escape the crowds of the big cities.  This is the dining room in the lodge and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  At dinner time, there are meal choices that are offered for family style dining as well as the usual menu for individual entrees. 

The lodge features a terrace overlooking the Illinois River, an indoor pool, sauna, hot tub, a winery, event space for weddings, business meetings, etc.  To learn more, go to https://wwwpmlodge.net.

So who was Pere Marquette?  Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary, was born in 1637.  He founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Sainte Marie and later founded Saint Ignace.  In 1673, Marquette with Louis Jolliet, (who was born near Quebec City), became the first European to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River Valley.

Then there is the legend of the Piasa Bird… On the bluffs of the Mississippi River, they encountered something that became a local legend. “We saw…two painted monsters which at first made us afraid and upon which the boldest…dare not long rest their eyes.”  The learned from the local Native Americans that the creature was part bird, with the face of a man, scales like a fish, horns like a deer and it had a long black tail.  The creature was called “Piasa”.  To learn more, go to Piasa - Wikipedia.

After leaving Pere Marquette State Park and its lodge, we headed back south toward Grafton Illinois on the Great River Road.  We didn’t have far to go before we came to Aerie’s Resort, our next destination.  This resort, located high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, offers accommodations, a restaurant, the Grafton Zipline and the Grafton SkyTour. 

Upon arrival we learned that we couldn’t just drive to the restaurant on the bluff… The road was closed and our only option available to reach our destination was via the Grafton SkyTour.  Tickets/actually day passes, were $10.00 each…  For me, this wasn’t great, not so much because of the money, but rather it was a matter of balance and coordination.  The gondolas don’t stop to let you get on or off and it was a challenge for yours truly… I wouldn’t do it again.

Since I survived getting into our gondola without a mishap, we decided to take photos of each other.  Bill and Bonnie first, then Laurie and myself.  You will note that we were wearing warm coats as it was fairly chilly, despite it being the end of May...

The preferred level was just below where we ended up sitting for our midday refreshments…but it was closed for remodeling.  There is a deck on this level but it was too cold to sit out there and enjoy our snack…

The dining area is huge as is the bar.  The inside photo only covers a portion of the restaurant.  I would imagine that on a warm day, both this level and the lower level would be packed with visitors and both decks would be overflowing as well.  FYI, no surprise, but there is a gift shop right below the restaurant…

So, what did we order?  Laurie and Bonnie shared a bottle of HBTL White Haven Sauvignon Blanc. ($18.00) A couple of beers also graced our table.  For food, we ordered the Bread and Oil ($10.00), French bread with parmesan seasoned olive oil.  We ordered the bread since few restaurants provide enough bread or crackers to their charcuterie boards.  Aeries’ Charcuterie Board ($18.00) featured cured meats, mixed cheeses, pickled vegetables, fruit and nuts, accompanied with crackers.

Visitors do enjoy the vistas as viewed from Aerie Winery, but in our case, a bit of sunshine would have been nice...  The bluffs along the rivers at this point, and for the 33 miles that comprise the Great River Road, reach 300 feet in height.  Building on the bluff is a smart move as the areas down along the rivers flood fairly regularly.  To learn more about Aerie’s Resort, go to Aerie's Resort | Grafton Illinois (aeriesresort.com).

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave