Category Archives: meals

photo of Camp Des Moines

Navigating Des Moines

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2017

As we drove into Des Moines, we started looking for our destination. Centrally located just off I-80 and I-35 in Des Moines, the Fairgrounds are located at East 30th Street and East University Avenue. We found the entrance.

Iowa State Fair Logo

Since our first Red Power Round Up in Huron, South Dakota in 2014, we had decided that it was a distinct advantage to camp on the fairgrounds. The convenience of walking to a parade or even going back to the teardrop for a nap after lunch was much easier that driving back and forth from a hotel somewhere in the city.

One year, I booked our campsite for the next year even before we broke camp. This year, I started by calling the Iowa State Fair for information on camping. I finally got through to a very nice lady, and learned that there were 160 acres of camping!

Although we had printed out a map, finding our way around the Fairgrounds was no easy task. One-way streets, blocked off sections, locked gates, dodging tractors and people contributed to the difficulty. Eventually we made it to check in. Armed with a map we finally located a site, close to one of the bathhouses but not crowded in amongst other campers. Setting up our camp is always a pleasure. We found a large tree to provide shade during the hotter part of the day.

Since we had been visiting friends and family in Omaha, we decided to put off the purchase meat and other food stuffs that needed refrigeration until we reached Des Moines. We pointed the Lady in the direction of the exit. Jon, Jim’s brother, provided an address of a new market. How simple can this be? We were already on University Avenue so we assumed that we could drive to another destination on University Avenue without problems. We watched the street numbers as we traveled. When we reached the number provided, there was no market in the neighborhood. Out of frustration, we finally ended up asking “The Girl” for directions. The market was in West Des Moines which has its own numbering system for University Avenue. Back on course, we were finally able to buy food for the next few days.

Map of the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds

Map of the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds

photo of Interior Othello's

Another Stop on the Tasty Trail – Edmond, Oklahoma

Teardrop Trail Log: June 10, 2017

Our first night on the Teardrop Trail was spent in Edmund, Oklahoma. On the edge of Oklahoma City, it is a great stopping place about half way from Dripping Springs to Omaha where Jim’s brother and Bob, his high school friend live.

Jim had introduced me to Edmond when stayed at the Best Western on the way to and from his high school reunion in July of 2015. It is conveniently located near I-35. On that trip, we explored a bit before having a wonderful dinner at Moni’s Pasta and Pizza, a culinary gem hiding in a strip mall on North May Avenue with great food and a casual, comfortable atmosphere.

photo of table with candle and check

A Lovely Evening

On the Tasty Trail this trip, we continued to explore the local culinary scene. A short Google search lead us to Othello’s, a family-owned Italian restaurant downtown, located in the building that was the original home of Edmond’s first hospital which was on the second floor of the town’s first movie theater. It is a picturesque dining destination with a classic vibe, complete with a pressed tin ceiling and candles melting over wine bottles. The walls were decorated with colorful murals of the Italian countryside. The service was friendly and we started with glasses of lovely Italian red. The menu contains many Italian favorites. Jim ordered Hellen’s Baked Ravioli and I ordered Nancy’s Penne Tomato Alfredo with Chicken from the Customer Creations section, a unique feature of Othello’s menu.

After dinner, we went in search of a bottle of wine for a night cap, but discovered that the liquor stores closed at 9:00. Disappointed, we returned to the cozy comfort of the Best Western for a much-needed rest. The morning brought a trip through the free continental breakfast buffet before we headed to Omaha.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ in Lampasas

On the Tasty Trail – Lunch at Hart’s Firehouse BBQ

Teardrop Trail log: June 10, 2017

photo of Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Traveling north on US 281, we began to search for lunch. I started looking on my phone for dining options. BBQ – after all we are still in Texas. Hart’s Firehouse BBQ popped up in the Google search. We were not far from Lampasas and spotted the restaurant as we rolled into town. We parked the Lady and the Ambassador behind a rather large RV and as soon as we opened the doors, we were greeted by the heavenly scent that brought back memories from my childhood in west Texas. We explored the quirky exterior, finding the entrance. Approaching the counter, we surveyed all the delicious options! It was hard to choose. The potato salad reminded me of my great grandmother, MaMaw’s recipe and was a must accompaniment for the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. We placed our order and soon added sauce and selected a table inside. Although there were wonderful tables for outdoor dining under the spreading oaks, it was already summer so we chose air conditioning. Looking around the dining room, all the other diners were in BBQ heaven!

There were so many tantalizing options that we will definitely be back. Thank you Google. Finding amazing dining experiences is one of our special pleasures on the Teardrop Trail.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ interior

Food and Fun!

photo of Solar chili complete

Solar Chili

Making good food with limited resources has always been appealing to me, and camping presents a perfect challenge. I still enjoy cooking over an open campfire, but solar power presents a new opportunity to make great food with simple tools.

photo of the Solar-powered system in the galley

Solar-powered system in the galley

With the addition of a slow-cooker to our galley and the upgrade of the teardrop’s solar power system, I began thinking about combining the two. Marilyn’s recipe for “Teardrop Pork Chops” proved we could have dinner ready when we got back to camp in the evening. I wondered if the solar system could effectively power the slow-cooker. Some quick measurements with the “Kill-a-watt” meter showed power usage for the 1 1/2 quart cooker to be well under 100 watts — even on the “high” setting. The “low” setting only consumed about 65 watts. With our 200-watts of solar panels and adequate sun, it should work fine. What to cook for an experiment?

Slow-cookers have always worked well with bean dishes, in fact, they were invented for cooking beans. The combination of low temperatures and long cooking times guarantee tender beans that retain their shape and texture. Chili is an iconic bean dish, and what could be better after a day of camping fun?

Solar Chili

Cooker: 1 1/2 quart oval, powered by a 300-watt Bestek Inverter plugged into a 12-volt, 200-watt solar system
Settings and Cook times: HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, then LOW for 8 to 9 hours

1/2 pound dried pinto beans, cleaned and soaked overnight and drained
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 pound of course-ground lean meat, beef, pork or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ounces of tomato paste or puree
1 1/2 tablespoons of Dixon medium hot (or other high quality) chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For serving:
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Chopped green onions
Warm cornbread or saltine crackers

photo of Starting the beans and garlic

Starting the beans and garlic

Put the soaked and drained beans and whole garlic cloves in the slow cooker, adding enough water to cover. Cover and cook on HIGH until tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Drain and discard the garlic.

photo of

All ingredients cooking

Meanwhile, brown the ground meat and onions in a large skillet and drain off the fat. Mix the meat, onions, partially-cooked beans, tomato paste, chili powder and cumin in the slow-cooker. Add enough water to cover and stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, stirring occasionally. During the last hour, season with salt. Serve with toppings and warm cornbread.

photo of a solar dining experience

A solar dining experience

How did we do? Using the measured slow-cooker wattage on high and low settings, a little quick math showed a total power consumption of about 750 watt-hours — within the production capacity of our 200-watt solar system on a sunny day. With the skillet-baked cornbread, all the fixins’ and a glass or two of wine — delicious.


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 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 Taliesin tour


Teardrop Trail Log: June 21

We left Governor Dodge State Park and headed to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architectural school located in the rolling hills near Spring Green. Visiting Taliesin had been on my bucket list after knowing several friends in Arizona who had attended Taliesin West. The name, Taliesin meaning shining brow, is a nod to Wright’s Welsh heritage. The Visitors Center was originally built as the Riverview Terrace Restaurant in 1953 where we met our tour guide as well as the rest of the folks on the house tour. We drove past the waterfall at the dammed stream and up the winding road of the 490-acre estate. Our knowledgeable tour guide introduced us to the court yard, studio and living quarters. She shared the history and important aspects of his architecture, interior design, furniture and light fixtures. She also discussed the challenge of maintaining the various aspects of the architecture as it was in Wright’s time. He was fond of Asian designs and collected artifacts. But he also collaborated with sculptor Richard Bock on other sculptures. Wright was not a very tall man and he had a fondness for lower ceilings and passage ways that challenged a member of the tour who was seven feet tall.

Wright loved music and felt that music and architecture were closely related. The tour explored the famed living room, complete with the Steinway Art Grand Piano and the unique music stand he designed for a quartet. It had been the scene of nightly concerts. Wright was an accomplished pianist. In addition to the works of many composers, he performed works by his father, William Carey Wright who was a composer, music teacher and itinerant Protestant minister. Please enjoy his 1851 composition, L’ Agréable Réverie, played by Jim for this post.

Stories about the people who had lived in Taliesin were an important part of the tour. From his mother to Mamah Cheney – his mistress, the two later wives, his children, the community of students and clients, the property was the setting of a tempestuous domestic life complete with scandals, murders, fires and other dramas.

After the tour, we returned to the Visitors Center and enjoyed a wonderful lunch in
the Riverview Terrace Café, complete with an awe-inspiring view and equally inspiring meal of local food and beverages.

A view of Taliesen


Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and listen to his father’s music:

Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss

The Music of William C. Wright: Solo Piano and Vocal Works 1847-1893

photo of a Chicken dinner

Spring Green – The Shed

Teardrop trail log: June 20, 2016

The Tasty Trail took us to Spring Green, which was known for its most famous native, architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is thought that Wright’s presence at nearby Taliesin helped establish Spring Green as an artisan community, home to the nationally recognized classical theatre company, the American Players. It was the quintessential, charming American small town.

graphic of The Shed logo

The Shed logo

We had decided to have dinner in Spring Green and found The Shed. They have an outdoor music venue, but we were focused on having a nice dinner. I made a mental note to see who would be playing outside, the next time we visited. The bar was busy, a great gathering place for locals, but the dining room, on the other side of a passage was intimate and friendly. We decided on the special, baked chicken with mashed potatoes, dressing, vegetables and grilled bread. Although the Shed has an amazing selection of local beers, a lovely white wine was the perfect paring with the chicken. Sadly, we didn’t leave room for the amazing pies they had. Next time.

After exploring the Wisconsin country side, this was a relaxing evening. As we headed back to our campsite in Governor Dodge State Park, our conversation turned to how much we liked Spring Green. We speculated that we could happily settle in in this picturesque town, but then we remembered that frightening four-letter word – snow.

photo of Econolodge in Madison

Breakfast at IHOP (Again)

Teardrop trail log: June 19, 2016

graphic of FAST Biryani Logo

FAST Biryani Logo

After exploring Madison, we noticed FAST Biryani. Finding new culinary adventures is one of the reasons we love to travel and this looked like an opportunity to explore a unique restaurant, especially in a neighborhood of chain eateries. Later, we would learn that FAST stands for Flavorful, Aromatic, Spicy and Tasteful, authentic Hyderabadi Indian cuisine in the Nizam tradition. The experience was amazing, the perfect balance of spices in recipes that had been handed down for generations. Conveniently located across the parking lot from the Econo Lodge.

photo of Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani

After dinner it was a short walk across the parking lot and we were back to the motel. As we climbed the stairs, we looked down on the lobby. It always seemed to be awash in activity, busy staff trying to run the hotel complete with an array of eccentric guests speaking lots of different languages – a true international Fawlty Towers.

We awoke from a deep sleep the next morning. Although breakfast came with room, we decided to not dine amidst all the chaos, but sought out the offer of predictability and comfort food of a nearby IHOP, located in a strip mall just down the street. Bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast!

photo of the Classic IHOP breakfast

Classic IHOP breakfast

photo of A real Wisconsin Pub

On the Tasty Trail – Classic Wisconsin Fare

Teardrop Trail Log:  June 19, 2016

We walked through downtown Madison. Jim had visited Madison before but it was my first time. We spotted The Old Fashioned, a tavern and restaurant founded in 2005, serving Wisconsin fare on the Capitol Square. As their website says, it is much more than beers, brats and cheese, they are preserving traditions of Wisconsin taverns. serving local foods and brews. The atmosphere was retro-style with dark wooden walls, warm and cozy.

logo of The Old Fashioned on the Square in Madison

The Old Fashioned on the Square in Madison

photo of Beer and Brats -- A traditional Wisconsin lunch

Beer and Brats — A traditional Wisconsin lunch

We took a table in the bar and ordered Bratwurst with raw onions, pickles and brown mustard on a buttered hard roll. The server recommended some truly amazing local beer to accompany the amazing meal. The only regret – we didn’t have room for beer-battered cheese curds. Soon we were off, fortified and ready to explore Madison.