As described in the Willie Nelson song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, I’ve had “things” for all-things ranching since an early age.
While other girls were playing with Barbies and wearing tutus, I spent my time tending a Breyer horse herd and clambering around in fringed cowboy boots. There was always only one thing I wanted to grow up to be: a cowgirl. Not a poufy hair rodeo queen cowgirl (I ended up doing that briefly, due to my need for scholarships), but a real-life, cowpoke with land, cattle, and horses to her name.
Hence, one of the first places I’d longed to see since we received orders to move to Kansas was the legendary Wild West town of Dodge City.
Chase County, Kansas is one of my favorite places on earth.
It tops the list of places I’d like to live.
While it may not look like much according to its Census Bureau stats (less than 3,000 people, miles away from the closest grocery store, terrible cell reception, almost no infrastructure), Chase County is a community with a whole lot of heart.
Hailed as one of the crown jewels of the picturesque Flint Hills, Chase County’s strategically situated as a quiet hamlet along the Flint Hills Scenic Byway (K-177), nestled up against the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and its impressive buffalo herds. Chase County has a ton of history, a gorgeous Courthouse, and lots of unique cultural events (ever heard of the Symphony in the Flint Hills? It’s amazing.).
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:
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.
This summer Adam Sandoval is hitting the road with Harley-Davidson for a cross-country ride to honor those who have served and give away bikes to eight lucky vets.
Adam is an avid H-D rider, and he and his chihuahua Scooter have crossed the country in support of military vets. His ScootinAmerica initiative has raised awareness for several veterans organizations, and he’s honored to partner with H-D to bring relief to more riders. He understands that riding can be a relaxing, restorative hobby for vets, especially for those suffering from PTSD.
Anyone can nominate an active military member or veteran to MISSION: THANK YOU by submitting their story of sacrifice, strength and courage to http://missionthankyou.com. Adam will be part of the group reviewing and selecting deserving patriots for the award. Continue Reading…
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…
Pella, Iowa is one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets.
A historic Dutch settlement, about forty miles south of Des Moines, Pella offers a glimpse into the “old world” while providing a rich cultural experience to iPhone streaming visitors.
The first weekend of every May, the community of Pella puts on the three day Tulip Festival that is simply beyond words. I’ve attended many regional holiday events all across the United States in my travels, but Pella’s Tulip Festival truly takes the cake.
Before arriving in Pella, I did a little internet searching and was expecting just another Midwestern May Fest, with a crowd somewhere between your traditional county fair crowd and Veteran’s Day roll out. You can imagine my surprise when we rolled into town, only to find almost the entire town shut down to accommodate for the swelling crowd! Continue Reading…