Monthly Archives: January 2017

photo of Jim Experiencing Scenic Point near Jasper, Arkansas

The Ambassador in the Ozarks

photo of the Mimosa trees that are common along the road

Mimosa trees are common along the road

After having lunch at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, it was time to beat feet. It looked like a 4-hour trip to Little Rock, but we didn’t know the roads and couldn’t go quite as fast as travel estimates since we were pulling the Ambassador. It looked pretty doable though, and Marilyn is a master navigator. As she considered various routes, I enjoyed the scenery.

As we crossed the border into Arkansas, Marilyn settled on Highway 7 — a route that would take us through the Ozarks. Based on the National Geographic Road Atlas, it looked like the most direct path and seemed to be on a substantial road. It was very scenic, but the road was winding, narrow and hilly. I was hoping the travel estimates accounted for diminished road speed and began to think we might be a little late into Little Rock. This is part of traveling through new territory. You can’t always predict what you’ll find, and you just have accept it.

photo of The Tower

The Tower

The forest and road seemed to go on forever. We had passed through Harrison some time ago and the road was still narrow and hilly. The dense Ozark forest was interesting though.  Then, we began ascending and had to slow down. After passing through Jasper, we continued up the mountain. In a little while, we broke into a clearing and were on top of the world. Stopping at the Scenic Point Gift Shop, we got out to look around. The views were spectacular, and best of all, there was an old wooden tower to climb. From the top, you could see the Buffalo River basin. Missouri is visible to the north, with views that encompass about 1.3 million acres in all directions. Far from an unwanted delay in our trip, this had turned serendipitous, with the discovery of a place we would have to revisit and explore. Salute!


photo of Buffalo River Canyon

Buffalo River Canyon

photo of One happy gardener!

Seed Geek’s Heaven – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

graphic of Baker Creek Banner

Baker Creek Banner

As we started planning our trip, I noticed that we would be going close to Mansfield, Missouri, the home of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I became aware of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at The Natural Gardener, one of the most unique and beautiful garden centers in the world. I discovered it in 2005, upon my arrival in Austin. A rack of colorful seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds had appeared in the store and I took a few to try. I was hooked. I started searching for more information and discovered some of the interesting facts about the company. The business has grown since it was founded by Jeremiath “Jere” Gettle at age 17, in his bedroom on his family’s civil war-era farm in the rolling hills of the Ozark region. The catalog, lavishly illustrated with vibrant, colorful photographs, offers more than 1,800 varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers from 75 countries.

We drove from Springfield to Mansfield and followed the directions to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have created an old-timey pioneer village that was built with the assistance of Amish and Mennonite carpenters. Bakerville is reminiscent of a late 19th century homestead. We began exploring the village that includes a mercantile, restaurant, a natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, a windmill, speaker and music barns. It is also home to many breeds of historic poultry and livestock. I was amazed by the seed store with hundreds of seeds and wanted one of everything. As we were looking down on test gardens, seed warehouses and the Amish barn where orders are processed, I recognized David Kaiser. He appears in many of the catalogue photographs, videos and on the website and has achieved celebrity status. He was a neighbor who made friends with Jere and has assumed the role of sidekick modeled after “Gabby Hayes.” Dave has been described as a people person. He greeted us and chatted with us as we ate lunch. A true talking icon who made us feel very welcome. Check out Baker Creek’s Whole Seed Catalogue.

photo of Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

photo of Breakfast at Bob Evans

Breakfast at Bob Evans – Not IHOP

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

Crossing Missouri in the rain, we arrived in Springfield and checked into the Econo Lodge. True to the billing on their website, it was a no-frills hotel…. Although we normally seek out interesting local places to eat, after a day driving through the rain we saw a Bob Evans, located conveniently just across the parking lot. One online source observed that if Dennys and Marie Calenders had a child, it would be Bob Evans. The chain started on an Ohio farm and is known for family-style American cuisine. We enjoyed dinner and returned for breakfast the next morning. Bacon and eggs with hash browns. The biscuits were large and fluffy. No, we weren’t at iHOP anymore.

photo of the Darst International Harvester Museum

Darsts’ International Harvester Museum

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23, 2016

movie of Tracto, the Talking Robot

Tracto, the Talking Robot

Next stop – the Darst International Harvester Museum. One online source describes a visit to the museum as a history lesson because the couple, Darrell and Kevin, have a story to go with each item. We met Darrell at our very first Red Power Round Up in 2014 at the State Fair Grounds in Huron, South Dakota. Last year, we had the pleasure of stopping in Madison and seeing both Kevin and Darrell as well as their amazing collection of tractors, thousands of IH keepsakes and memorabilia. Darrell is the editor of Harvester Highlights, the quarterly publication of the International Harvester Collectors Club that provides for the preservation of International Harvester history, products and memorabilia. Tracto, the 8-foot talking robot, built from 227 tractor and implement parts, greets visitors at the museum like he had done at county fairs, state fairs and special events for 60 years. Darst had known Tracto since he was 13 when he met the robot at a corn picking contest and now has lovingly restored him.

Kevin has been described as the queen of IH refrigeration and freezer collectables. She has a corner dedicated to International Harvester refrigerators, freezers, documentation and mementos. My publisher, Lee Klancher introduced us as I began working on Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, the IH “Betty Crocker” spokeswoman for home refrigeration . Kevin had known many of the IH home economists from the promotional team and has letters describing the role of these women in the company. It was good to see the Darsts again as we started discussing another book project.

photo of Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding in the Darst Museum

Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding

photo of The Hoof Family Steakhouse

Lunch at the Hoof Family Steak House

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23

After our trip through the Amish Country, we headed to the small farming community of Madison, founded in 1836 and named after the US president. It was another quintessential Mid-Western town, with a main street that had seen better days.

interior photo of The Hoof restaurant in Madison Missouri

The Hoof resteraunt in Madison, Missouri

We had just enough time for lunch before our meeting at the Darst IH Museum. As we drove past the downtown, we found The Hoof Family Steakhouse. It has a down-home vibe with laid back décor of barn wood and corrugated tin. It seems to be a favorite of family and locals for meetings of social clubs, birthday and other celebrations. Online reviews talked about the crowds on Saturday night, luckily we were there at lunch.

We ordered the Build Your Own Burger. THE FRIES!!! Fresh cut and amazing. We are becoming French Fry aficionados as we travel the Tasty Trail. Who would have guessed that there are so many delicious ways to make French Fries. Great food in a great farm town. Sadly, we had to pass on the fried pickles – next time…..

photo of loads of fries.

Loads of Fries!

photo of An Amish "tractor"

Touring the Amish Country

Teardrop trail log: June 23

photo of A shock of oats

A shock of oats

After the memorable breakfast at Funny Pages, we had a few hours to explore. Our friend Kevin Darst, a mail carrier in the area and International Harvester collector had suggested visiting the Amish country in nearby Clark, Missouri. We set off, expecting to find the businesses located in the center of town but that wasn’t the case. A quick search on the Internet produced a map of the stores in the Amish Community. The colony was founded in 1953 and is one of the three largest in the state. The region is described as “a tightly knit area with Amish farms adjacent to each other for miles along its country roads.” The shops, located at the farms and along the rural roads sell rugs and leather, and other businesses dot the community. Many homes sell eggs, baked goods and produce in season.

photo of Amish buggy

Amish high style transportation

We stopped at South Side Sales, an Amish Grocery. A buggy was parked across from the entrance. They specialize in bulk foods with 16 kinds of beans, 18 kinds of flour and over 100 kinds of spices. They also sell produce from neighboring Amish families. Many of the products sold in the store come from a company in Pennsylvania that sells products from many of the Amish farms in the southeastern part of the state. We picked up some egg noodles to enjoy at home, memories of our trip.

Farming remains an important aspect of life. We watched the farmers cutting and loose stacking the hay in the field with their horse-drawn equipment. What a contrast between men with draft horses doing the tasks and the farm equipment at Red Power Round Up! Watching for the horse-drawn buggies we headed toward Madison.

photo of a horse-drawn buggy

A friendly wave

photo of Chicken Fried Steak

Funny Pages — Chicken Fried Steak and More

Teardrop trail log: June 22

We discovered Funny Pages as we passed through Moberly in north-central Missouri on our way to Red Power Round Up, earlier in the month. Just by chance, I’d seen their sign that advertised baked goods and coffee drinks. It was easy to fall in love with a place that combines a comic and cartoon décor, with the tantalizing smells of amazing baked goods fresh from the oven . . .  We noticed that the staff posted three different silly jokes around the dining room. As the website says, “The jokes will either make you smile and laugh or just shake your head . . .”

photo of Funny Pages Cafe Sign

Funny Pages Cafe Sign

One of our favorite indulgences on the Teardrop Trail is sampling chicken fried steak and we’ve tried out many variations of this road food staple. At Funny Pages, the Chicken Fried Steak, served with peppered gravy did not disappoint.

Dinner at Funny Pages was so much fun that we returned for breakfast. Jim ordered the Junkyard Boss, three scrambled eggs, one biscuit, hashbrowns, all smothered in a sausage gravy with two strips of bacon on the top, complete with Mocha. No, we weren’t at iHop anymore . . .

photo of the "Junk Yard Boss" breakfast, complete with Mocha

“Junk Yard Boss” breakfast, complete with Mocha

photo of car and trailer in Palo Dura State Park

Packing in the Rain

Teardrop trail log: June 22

And the rain came…… Waking up to the pitter patter of little rain drops on the trailer, instills a sense of dread in even the most experienced teardrop camper. Visions of wet chairs, canopy and all the other equipment was enough to make me want to pull the covers up and go back to sleep.

On our inaugural outing with the Ambassador, we had a heavy rain shower on our very first night at Palo Duro State Park. From this experience, we had compiled a long list of lessons learned. The two plastic totes with fold-over lids I had used for condiments and larger items had filled with water on that first trip. The solution was to stack them and place a garbage bag over the top box. Garbage bags became the go-to-solution for wet gear of all descriptions as well as a preventative measure for a leaking water container on the floor inside the trailer. We have gotten better about stowing things in the hatch and under the trailer. Sigh – garbage bags in hand, it was time to dash, pack and move out!

Photo of camp Before the raccoons

Campfire Evening — Another Masked Bandit

Teardrop Trail Log: June 21

Photos of a raccoon

A Raccoon!

We returned to our campsite — still pondering what we had seen at Taliesin. Two days of attractions and history, and I was looking forward to dinner, a campfire and a quiet evening. The weather was clear and comfortable, with none of the famous mosquitos I had heard so much about. It was shaping up to be a perfect evening.

Marilyn began fixing dinner while I built a campfire. Many national and state parks will provide a bundle of firewood for a few dollars since they don’t want campers scrounging the woods, and we had thought to pick one up on the way back to our campsite. With a steel fire ring and the split, seasoned wood, getting the fire started didn’t take long. Tasty beverages in hand, we reviewed the day while cooking dinner provided delicious smells.

The conversation about the wonders of central Wisconsin continued, and pretty soon we were eating dinner. As the tasty beverages worked their magic, we began to think about washing up and a peaceful night in the teardrop. I had to get something out of the Lady, and intending to be right back, left the driver’s side door open. As I walked back to the trailer, I heard noises. Was there something in the car?

With our previous experience in mind, I took my iPhone out and readied the camera. I could see movement in the front seat, and opened the passenger door. Staring at me from the driver’s side was a juvenile raccoon! These critters move fast! Holding its ground, I was able to snap several pictures before shooing it away. Later, we found an opened bag of potato chips — a bold bandit with a taste for junk food!

photo of raccoon looking for potato chips

What have you done with my potato chips?

photo of Arcadia Book Storefront

Spring Green on the Mocha Trail

Teardrop trail log: June 21

With Starbucks conveniently located across the street from Jim’s office at the university, he had developed a Mocha habit. Even after leaving the campus, around 3pm every afternoon, he starts scanning the horizon for a way to indulge in the chocolaty goodness. Starbuck’s, and coffee houses in general are a city thing — we discovered it was much harder to find in rural and small town America. As we travel, I search the Internet for Mocha each day we’re on the road in the hopes of finding his treat.

photo of A #10 Kraut

A #10 Kraut

We returned to Spring Green to continue our exploration. The vibe was special. There were many locally owned businesses, gift shops, galleries, quaint eateries and even a quilt shop. It was fun to explore the small-town hardware store. The organic grocery store had some very interesting selections.

Then, we spotted Arcadia Books, an independent book store that would be the envy of any other small town in America. Not only did they have a great selection for readers of all ages, but stocked all sorts of prepared goodies, made from local ingredients, baked goods, beer, wine and… even Mocha. We looked at each other and smiled. We could be happy here…. except for that four-letter word — snow.

photo of Mocha success at Arcadia Books in Spring Green

Mocha success at Arcadia Books in Spring Green