The Cardinals and the Gateway Arch.
Those are the only two things I knew about St. Louis, Missouri before last weekend.
Considered by many to be just another Midwestern flyover city, St. Louis has been a drive-thru destination for me for the past few years, always a good place to take a quick fifteen leg stretch on a long road trip. But this year, things were different. St. Louis no longer a pit stop, but a holiday destination. We were heading to the Gateway of the West, and we were ready to have some good ol’ fashioned Midwestern fun.
Time to get my TripAdvisor on.
Here’s a few of the St. Louis highlights we hit on our holiday travels:
The “mini-mountains” running through Missouri and Arkansas, known for their unique cultural contributions, picturesque landscapes, and rural identity.
Admittedly, the majority of my Ozark exposure came from binging on Netflix’s Ozark series (loved it!) and watching Jason Hawk and family on the History Channel’s Mountain Man series.
My husband grew up spending summer vacations in the little Arkansas Ozark town of Hardy (population 754), canoeing, listening to folk music, and indulging in all-you-can-eat pancakes. His fond memories of summers spent on the Spring River piqued my interest in the non-televised Ozark community.
While it’s kind of an out of the way destination (you caught the “rural identity” mention, right?), we finally found ourselves in the vicinity of Hardy on a recent road trip and made plans to stretch our traveler’s legs in the hills and springs that surround the quaint mountain town.
Oxford, Mississippi has always held a special place in my heart.
My husband graduated from the University of Mississippi, also known as “Ole Miss”, located in the heart of Oxford, and we spent the majority of our very short (courtesy of Uncle Sam) dating relationship attending concerts, jogging the trails, and frequenting the local watering holes around Ole Miss.
While the military has taken us many places both in the United States and abroad, Oxford is one of the few places that offers that oh-so-elusive feeling of “home”. Connecting with old friends, enjoying Oxford’s infamous southern cuisine, and getting into the spirit of whatever university athletic event is schedule always leaves me flooded with memories of our pre-war life.
This October, my husband and I had the opportunity to schedule our should-be-annual Oxford trip for Ole Miss Homecoming Week, which meant football, tailgating, and catching up with fellow University of Mississippi alum.
Weston, Missouri is a charming historic town located just a few miles outside of the Kansas City metro area.
I first became acquainted with Weston when my family was stationed at FT Leavenworth. Seeking a running route that didn’t include outlines of the massive federal prison, I’d asked local for recommendations from my new neighbors. Weston – a neighboring community – was among the top recs by local yokels, followed by additional directions to Weston’s mouthwatering restaurants and winery to refuel following a long stretch.
While Weston is small, with a population of under 2,000 people, its historic downtown district, neighboring state park, u-pick orchards, and multiple breweries, distilleries, and wineries make it a definite must-see for anyone visiting the Kansas City area.
Can you believe that summer is almost over?
Technically, my summer came to an end with the first day of fall semester classes. I went from riding horses every day to lecturing college students on business and technology. The annual change from a life in cowboy boots to sensible pumps is always a little drastic. I’m still getting saddle time in the afternoons and evenings, just spending most of my mornings discussing economic trends and marketing strategies.
Summer 2017 wasn’t exactly an awesome season for me thanks to unexpected surgeries, moving, and other not-so-glam events. I initially didn’t think the season warranted its very own blog post; however, jotting down a few of the highlights has reminded me that headlining summers don’t have to include Caribbean cruises and blowout weddings. Some – like this past summer – involve some pretty cool, albeit not-so-Instagram-worthy events that shape the year that follows.
So, as we usher in the autumn breath of color changes, football games, and harvest season, here’s five highlights from the Summer of 2017:
This post is brought to you on behalf of Reward Volunteers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring organization.
Immediately following my high school graduation, I bought a one-way ticket to Beijing, China.
I’d only been on an airplane once and had never traveled internationally before, so this travel excursion was quite the adventure. I learned enough Mandarin to greet others, say “Yes” and “No”, and communicate about basic navigation. I’d received a slew-full of additional vaccines from my county health department, and leafed through a few travel books on China’s capital province. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew it was going to be exciting.
Seeking a more meaningful experience than my peer’s Greek rush weeks, I decided to spend the summer volunteering at two poorly-funded orphanages located a few hours outside of the capital city. I was still pretty clueless at this time about what I wanted to do with my life and whether or not I wanted to go to college. I hoped this summer of philanthropy would provide me some direction. Maybe I’d realize the nonprofit sector would be a good fit for me, or I’d make some international relief work contacts; either way, I wanted to help others and understaffed orphanages on the other side of the world seemed like a good place to start.
Kansas City is a unique city, in more than one ways than one.
The barbeque is fabulous, the museums are awesome, and there’s a lot of history for your inner nerd. Oh, and there’s the KC Royals, and the Chiefs (can’t forget those!).
Another Kansas City distinction is that it’s a city spanning two states – Kansas and Missouri.
Although I’m a Kansas resident, I haven’t spent much time on the Kansas side of Kansas City. The majority of the metro’s population, along with a lot of historical development, is on the Missouri side. So, as a KC local, most of my day to day happenings end up being hosted across the state line, on the Show Me State’s side.
Like many residents, I’d heard a lot about must-see attractions in Kansas City, Missouri; however, I was pretty oblivious to the unique art and culture offered over in Kansas City, Kansas (KCKS). Thus, I was just tickled pink when Kansas Tourism announced the June #NoPlaceLikeKS Instameet hosted in Kansas City, Kansas (KCKS), as I was finally going to get to explore the often underrated KC gems of the Sunflower State!
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love to paddle.
Summer’s a little late coming in the Midwest, so June starts my four month season of kayaking in lakes and rivers all across Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Iowa. I’m pretty psyched about getting “Susie” – my budget-friendly, Lifetime® kayak – back in the water. It’s been a while since I felt the “paddle burn” in my forearms, after a long day’s trek upstream; there are few places I’d rather be than in the middle of a peaceful body of water with just my boat, my dog, and my camera.
Maybe you’re thinking about purchasing a kayak, or maybe you just enjoy an annual float and are wondering if it’d be cost effective to invest in your own. Paddling’s a great hobby with fabulous fitness benefits; plus it’s a fun new way to see familiar places or explore new destinations.
In case you’ve been bitten by the summertime paddle bug, here are five questions to ask before buying your first kayak:
There are few things in life I enjoy more than a good road trip.
Where we’re going doesn’t seem to matter near as much as how much fun we have getting there.
Over the years, my husband and I have taken quite a few epic road trips, crisscrossing the country more than once on our quest to find inspiration and serenity.
I’ve learned much about the United States of America from sampling local cuisine, chatting up RVer’s and well-placed rest stops, and adventuring into the true jewel of America – her national parks.
Some of my fondest travel memories stem from road trips; like that time I ended up in Kansas and left with the deed to an abandoned homestead, or driving across Texas with a malfunctioning car horn (it made drive thru’s quite interesting). Continue Reading…
As a 20-something millennial, I’m pretty late to The Bridges of Madison County fan club party.
Pretty sure I was somewhere between binge watching My Little Mermaid VHS’s and leaving my latest lost molar under my pillow for the tooth fairy when “The Bridges” made its daring debut. A love story about an Italian born Midwestern farm wife and a vegetarian National Geographic photographer form the Pacific Northwest would probably have received the same reception from me as the “cooties”.
But fast forward 20-some odd years, to a time in life where my dressing up like Ariel has been replaced with an academic career as a business professor, and I receive a free copy of the bestseller The Bridges of Madison County at our local library book sale. I didn’t think much of the book at the time – looked like a good rainy day read for when our rural Wi-Fi leaves Netflix buffering – but boy, was I in for one of the best reads of my life. Continue Reading…