30 December 2011

The Mother Road in Kansas..

The Christmas lights will come, but sometimes you find yourself off the beaten path.  On the way back from out of town, we found ourselves searching for a new way home...to stave off boredom of a road I've traveled over 40 times.

I like Route66 stuff these days as the iconic Mother Road starts to really disappear.  Travelling through 8 states from Chicago to LA, Route66 only touches the state of Kansas for 13 miles...by far the shortest route through any of the states.  We jumped on the road near Galena, KS and sauntered along the historic pavement through Joplin, MO and back to Interstate 44.

Entering Galena, KS along Main Street...

As you cruise down Main Street (low and slow), you will find a corner Kan-o-Tex gas station on the right.

This gas station was bought by four women intent on restoring the Mother Road to glory in Kansas.  If that sounds a little like the Disney-Pixar movie "Cars," well, you would be correct.  This town provides a lot of the inspiration for the movie, including Mater the tow truck.  The movie creators, while driving Route66, found this station and the tow truck sitting on the corner.  They fell in love with the idea and Tow-Mater was born!  Also inspiring pieces from the movie were some of the buildings in downtown Galena, the worn out road, and the advertising painted on the sides of the brick buildings.

The corner of Route66 is now called "4 Women on the Route."  The future plans are to restore four buildings at the intersection into a Bed and Breakfast, gas station, souvenir shop and diner, and a farmer's market.  The recent economy has slowed things down, and the stores have limited hours in the winter season, so I was unable to talk to anyone and see how the idea is working out.

Other characters from the movie that have made appearances here are Red the fire truck, Lightning McQueen the red mustang, and Sarge the WWII era green jeep.  Only Mater and Red were there at the time of our visit.  However, this is a place I'm sure I will stop through again in a busier season.

I don't know when the gas prices were last at 29 and 31 cents per gallon, but these old pumps show a glimpse of days gone by, too.

If you ever get a chance to travel any part of Route66, I recommend you take the time to do so.  A quickly vanishing and deteriorating road, this was a huge slice of Americana between WWII and the completion of the interstate highway system, although Route66 has been around since and before the 1920s.  Many of the once thriving businesses are just shells scattered along the roadside reminding us of a simpler time.  Almost any stretch, especially through the state of Missouri, is well worth the added time to your drive.

One more piece of trivia for you:  Kansas was the first state to pave it's entire portion of Route66 in 1929.

23 December 2011

Santa's Getting Ready..

A little last minute relaxing before the big night of work.

My favorite part is the smoke/steam.  This actually took a bit of work to get the smoke to show up correctly.

Tomorrow, and over Christmas, I plan to take a break.....like I've been regular lately anyway.  I travel to see family, and with small kids, the holiday can get nutso pretty fast.  I plan to make a few bigger posts showing you some of the best places to see Christmas lights around St. Louis.  Not the "popular" spots where you have to pay by the car....you can find those on your own.  I'm talking about the more intimate spots you find while driving around.  Look for those, intermittently, in the coming days.

22 December 2011

Winter's coming..

Well, there's no snow yet.  But, I thought I'd start getting in the winter mood by posting a couple of wintry photos.

21 December 2011

Budding Musician..

Just outside Busch Stadium this summer sat a man writing music for his saxophone on the street corner.  I liked his music.  I liked his hair.  He seemed like a nice enough guy so we dropped some change in his bucket as we passed by.  Of course, I couldn't resist taking a picture as we left.

19 December 2011

Monday Mystery...

Where in St. Louis am I?

This week should be a pretty easy one.  But, I'm also looking for the event which takes me to this monument every year.  It's fairly unique to St. Louis, although other cities do the same types of things throughout their years, too.

Last week's Monday Mystery was indeed taken at Crown Candy Kitchen in the Old North Neighborhood of St. Louis.  If you've ever seen Man vs. Food on the Discovery Channel, you may have seen the episode where Adam (the show's host) tries to take on the milkshake challenge.  I think he had to finish 6 malts in a certain time period. (If anyone knows the exact challenge, feel free to put it in the comments.)  Of course, it's one of the few challenges he couldn't complete.  This place is known for it's rich malts, candy store, old fashioned fountain sodas, and BLTs....great sandwiches.  Easy enough to google if you are in the St. Louis area.   But, one word of due diligence, weekdays during the day are best....night is not recommended because of the neighborhood.  The daytime is filled with business lunches and plenty of people roaming the street corner.  Here are a couple more shots from Crown Candy Kitchen.

Waiting outside with my mother, wife, and kids.

Store window around the corner from the front door.  It's definitely a St. Louis landmark.

Happy Monday!

16 December 2011

Santa is a Cardinal!

Of course, here in St. Louis, we are dedicated Cardinals fans.  However, once in awhile a Chicago transplant tries to make his presence known.  I was taking pictures for our church's Breakfast with Santa when a friend of mine brought his family up to have their picture taken.  Now, my friend is a Cubs' fan...to his detriment.  And, he made the typical request of placing the cap on Santa's head.  Of course, we obliged. But, I had to get a closer shot of just Santa, looking disgusted, with the hat on his head.  I think the expression alone tells you that.....even Santa prefers the Cardinals!!

14 December 2011

Higher Power..

Today's image came from Forever Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, MO.  Walking through a cemetery on Halloween may be creepy, but at other times of year it can be very peaceful and almost therapeutic.  Taking notice on how those left behind grieve tends to make you think of how you are living your life currently.  Would your loved ones honor you with flowers?  Would they even visit?  Humans are interesting creatures, especially in how they deal with death.

This particular monument caught my eye.  I liked it's simplicity very much.

And, sometimes you find out just how tough it was to have children back just 100 to 200 years ago.

This little guy only made it one day.  He is laid to rest in a very small neighborhood cemetery on Eddie and Park Road near the suburbs of Crestwood and Sunset Hills.  I have no idea which stones belonged to his parents, but most of these folks passed in the mid-1800s.  The names "Eddie" and "Park" must have been prominent landowners out here during that time.  Sad stuff that kind of makes you appreciate modern medicine and the fact that we no longer need to have 8 kids just to see 3 to adulthood.

That's what I draw from cemeteries.  What about you?

13 December 2011

Christmas Photos..

Work in progress, but "bokeh" is really fun to play with this time of year.  Shortly stated, bokeh is "pleasing, intentional blur."  You see it most in portraits or sports photography when the background is rendered out of focus completely.  Christmas lights are really fun to play with in this manner.

I'm sure I'll play with more this time of year.

12 December 2011

The Monday Mystery..

Where in St. Louis am I?

This week is a little harder to guess, even for the locals.

Last week, was The Ruins in Tower Grove Park.  That place is a HUGELY popular backdrop for area weddings.  If you find yourself there between May and October on a Saturday afternoon, you will be lucky to identify the rocky structure.  People are practically climbing on each other to get a picture taken all over the rocks.

These "rocks" are arranged pretty nicely, but it wasn't always this way.  These are actually "the ruins" of the old Lindell Hotel from 1867.  I can't remember if the hotel burned to the ground (I think so), or if it was just demolished in time.  Either way, Henry Shaw had the large stones carted out to Tower Grove Park and placed around the pond commissioned for the miniature sailboating hobby that was extremely popular around the turn of the century.

Truly a man before his time, Henry Shaw was quite famous for recycling old stonework from around town and using it throughout the park.  The Magnolia Street entrance gates are columns from The Old Courthouse.  The balusters surrounding the pond containing The Ruins are from the top of another old building that was being razed downtown.  Several other examples randomly appear around the park.  As time goes, I will try and chronicle what I learn.  The more I learn about the park, the more it, and Henry Shaw, fascinates me.

09 December 2011

Jail Time?

My youngest's Cub Scout pack toured a police station last week as part of a GoSeeIt requirement.  If you could have heard the questions they asked, you would quickly understand why little boys love the game Cops and Robbers.  They came up with every scenario possible to throw a guy in the slammer.

Here, Sgt. LeClerc (also one of the boy's father) shows the scouts who is on duty today and which car they are going to be driving.

This is how a police car works.  Lights on, siren going, and boys just getting past being startled by the sound.  You can't see them, but a bit of a warning to you.....police cars in the U.S. are starting to put cameras around the light bar that scan cars as they drive by.  These cameras can quickly read your license plate, enter you in the computer, and run your background....as the officer drives down the road.  Good luck with expired plates or a hidden warrant!

What do you do when the boys start to act up?  You give them "the lockdown" treatment.  As officer LeClerc shows them the key, they start to throw themselves at the mercy of the police.  My own son came out screaming....."free at last!"  The boys were in there for no more than 2 minutes....lol.

08 December 2011

Hang In There, Santa

Santa clings to the gutter after apparently slipping on the roof of a St. Louis home.

07 December 2011

Shopping...and a Little Rant

This is what bored photographers do when their kids shop at school for their parent's Christmas gifts.  They start taking pictures of rather simple things and start goofing with depth of fields, maybe angles, anything to make a snapshot anything but a snapshot.  Either way, here are a few things my kids saw at the school "Holiday Sale."  I put that in quotes because we all know it's a Christmas sale, but the schools have to remove the religious aspect of it to avoid pissing one or two people off.

It's my opinion that words don't hurt.  Wish me a Happy Hanukkah.  I don't care.  I'll say Merry Christmas. This is the United States of America where you should be free from religious persecution.  Persecution can be defined as:  "The unlawful coercion of another's liberty or his unlawful punishment."  You have your religion, and I have mine.  No reason we should be so easily offended.  

I'll leave you with one of my favorite movie quotes that sums up my belief very well from the movie Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze.  As he explains to his bouncers he wants them to be nice, one of them spouts off, "Well, what if someone calls my Momma a whore?"   Swayze retorts, "Is she?"  I also believe my favorite author, John C. Maxwell, says that words don't cause pain if we don't accept them as truth.  If you wish me happiness through your religion, I will gladly accept the happiness and smile.  In no way will it offend me that you didn't use MY terminology.  It just isn't a big deal.

Well, occasionally, you will get a little rant out of me.  I'm done now...lol.  Here are my bored pictures from the other day.

06 December 2011

St. Nick's Day..

Tradition is to put out your shoe the night of December 5th so St. Nicholas (whom I thought was Santa Claus....what a double dip) can bring small gifts of candy to the children while they sleep.  My kids got some good stuff here...

But, zooming out to include the parents' shoes, too, you will find I scored big time this year.  A whole case of Chip's Ahoy....my favorite cookie.

Seems I may have to rethink this whole St. Nick's Day thing.  That or the wife is getting really, really smart in changing my opinion for me......

05 December 2011

Monday Mystery

Where in St. Louis am I?

Last week's Monday Mystery is indeed the Colossus ferris wheel at Six Flags over Mid-America.  About 20 minutes west of downtown St. Louis on Interstate 44, Colossus stands 18 stories high (~180 feet).  It is currently the tallest ferris wheel in any amusement park.  At night, Colossus puts on a light show with over 2200 lights and can easily be seen by drivers on the old Route 66 (I-44) as they pass.  On a clear day, a rider at the top of Colossus can see 20 miles of Ozark skyline, a ride well worth the visit.

03 December 2011

Ancient Air Conditioning

This weekend's image comes from the historic neighborhood of Soulard in south St. Louis.  The Soulard neighborhood may be known for it's attached homes in long rows, but after the Civil War, some of the wealthier citizens built free standing town houses...some approaching mansion proportions. One such house was built by Dr. Franz Arzt at 2322 S. 12th Street in 1876. It was way ahead of its time because of it's built-in system of natural air conditioning which consisted of groups of flues with vents in floors and ceilings. This provided for efficient air circulation which created cool air currents in the house during the heat of summer. Of course, today, the house needs a little work.

02 December 2011

Sunset on The Mother Road

Staying with the Route 66 theme I suddenly found myself immersed in, here is a picture of last night's sunset as I was driving home from a Cub Scout meeting.

Known in my neighborhood as Watson Road, this was once the main drag of Route 66 as it left the city of St. Louis.  There are still a few motels standing, but most things from that era have been demolished and turned into strip malls, big box stores, urgent care centers, and other forms of "progress" that you can find in any decent sized, sterile city.  I miss the days when towns had personalities....

01 December 2011

From the beginning..

Here is a shot of Chain of Rocks, again, but from Route 66's entry point into Missouri.  The Route 66 sign lies exactly on the state line between Illinois and Missouri.  My kids and I...and the dog....went up one evening when mom had to work late.  Not an artsy photo, just a quick snap...eyes closed and all...lol.  It was getting dark, as you can see, and this isn't the best area of the city to be running around after night falls.

30 November 2011

Chain of Rocks

An old car sits on the deck of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge along Route 66 just north of downtown St. Louis, MO, at sunset.

Built to carry traffic across the Mississippi River and around the downtown bustle of St. Louis, MO, this bridge was the primary crossing along Route 66. A 22 degree bend in the center of the 5,353 foot span posed a continual navigational challenge for automobiles. The bend was originally designed to allow southbound riverboats to align themselves with the current, slide between the bridge’s piers, and avoid the midstream water intake towers that supply St. Louis with fresh water….quite the engineering feat for 1929.

Chain of Rocks earned it’s name from the rocky rapids that made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to travel. A low water dam has since been built to provide adequate depth for river traffic with the rocky shoal only partially visible, today, in low water periods.

The bend in the bridge, however, proved too be too much of an imposition for road traffic, and the bridge was permanently closed in 1967. The bridge feel into disrepair, and also became the location for several murders. Today, though, the Chain of Rocks Bridge is only open to foot and bicycle traffic thanks to the renovation of the area by a national trailway company’s efforts to preserve the site. It now serves as a monument to both modern engineering and The Mother Road, Route 66, and sits on the National Register of Historic Places.
(above text copied from my Flickr posting of the same picture)

29 November 2011

Weekly Birding..

Week 2 of ProjectFeederwatch is done for me.  I wanted to include my counts here instead of on my other blog....with the week's better pictures.  The process is simple in case anyone is interested in getting involved.

11/27-28...hi - 42F...lo - 28...Wx - cloudy, with rain/snow pellet showers, and a little wind.

7 Cardinals, 7 House Finches, 8 Goldfinches, 4 Chickadees, 12 Eurasian Tree Sparrows (only found near St. Louis in North America), 1 House Sparrow, 3 Downy Woodpeckers, 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker, 9 Mourning Doves, 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 2 Dark-eyed Juncos, 1 Mockingbird, 1 Carolina Wren, 1 Blue Jay, 3 Tufted Titmice, 1 Northern Flicker

And, now for a couple images I took during the 2 day period...

Carolina Chickadee

Female House Finch

Northern Cardinal

28 November 2011

Monday Mystery..

Where in St. Louis am I?

Yes, last week's shot was of the geodesic dome in Missouri's Botanical Gardens.  Named "The Climatron," it is the first geodesic dome to be used as a conservatory.  A geodesic dome is a spherical, or partially spherical, shell based on a network of great circles.  The geodesics intersect to form triangular, sometimes hexagonal or octagonal, elements which distribute the stress of the structure in a more balanced fashion.  Perhaps, the most famous geodesic dome is Spaceship Earth in Disney World's Epcot Center.  A conservatory is a large, glass greenhouse.  The Climatron has no interior support and no columns from floor to ceiling.  It rises 70 feet, has 1.3 million cubic feet of volume, and encloses over 24,000 square feet (more than half an acre).

Controlling a tropical rainforest's theme, The Climatron's temperatures range from 64F to 85F with an average humidity of 85%.  It houses more than 2,800 plants and more than 1,400 individual species.  Several species of birds also call The Climatron home.

While I continue to try and take a worthy picture of the structure itself, here are a couple shots I'm proud of that you can find when you go inside...

Enjoy your Monday.  Again, where is the picture at the top from?

26 November 2011

Still recuperating..

What a weekend.  No pics to share.  So, if that's what you are here for, this is one of the very rare times you can just move on.

Family in town this weekend, and we had a blast!  Watching the kids grow up is fun.  Watching/listening to them play is more fun....when we adults are not yelling at them to calm down.  Played a lot of poker with my brother 1 on 1 and learned a lot more about each other's games than the last time we tried this.  Late nights, not a lot of sleep.  The wives did the Black Friday thing, so there's no way I can complain about being tired.

Look for pics to start up again soon.  Hope you had a great weekend whether you celebrated a holiday or not.

23 November 2011

Let the cooking begin...

Not epic photos by any stretch, but these represent a little of the Thanksgiving Dinner we are prepping for tomorrow.  Homegrown tomatoes for the salads (about 8 this size), the box of potatoes (about 2 pounds), and 16 carrots or so for the salad, too.

These all came from my Square Foot Garden, a concept emphasizing less water, less weeds, less work, in less space.  Easiest gardening I've ever done.

Happy (United States) Thanksgiving, all!

22 November 2011

Tis' the Season..

For leaf removal.  This is the bulk of my work these days.  It's a catch as catch can business as the growing season wraps around the St. Louis area.  This is a common place for me right now.....knee deep in leaves and no end in sight.  It won't be long before I am one of the few praying for snow....

21 November 2011

Monday Mystery..

Where in St. Louis am I?

Last week's Monday Mystery was the childhood home of Yogi Berra, legendary Yankees catcher.  Yogi grew up in a St. Louis neighborhood known as The Hill, a predominately Italian neighborhood.  Although originally a German neighborhood, The Hill became mostly Italian around the turn of the 20th century when trains and mass transportation became more accessible.  The Germans moved to other areas a little farther away from the city giving room for Italian immigrants, who mostly worked in industrial and mining environments, to move closer to where they worked.

Yogi Berra's house is denoted with a plaquard in the front on Elizabeth St.  And, across the street is another famous childhood house, and another famous Yankee, Joe Garagiola.  Garagiola also played five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, including their 1946 World Series Championship team.  Yogi's brother, Mickey, also attained celebrity status in St. Louis as the most popular ring announcer for professional wrestling events known as "Wrestling at the Chase."  Any young St. Louis boy from the 60s through the 90s can probably remember hearing of the Saturday night wrestling events at Chase Park Plaza's basement arena.  This event was more of a St. Louis local, almost cult-like, event, but it hosted some very famous names in professional wrestling like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Ted DiBiasi, Harley Race, Dick the Bruiser, and Terry Funk.

The Garagiola house...

Happy Monday.  There's your little knowledge bomb for today.

19 November 2011

Scouting for Food Drive...

Believe it or not, today was a very light day in terms of what we gathered.  Could be the economy.  Could be that the year is sliding away quickly.  Who knows.  But, I still think it was a lot of food....and to a great cause.

Bags of donated food dropped off.

From bags to boxes to storage.

All the kids worked so hard.  It's great to see them learning to take care of others before themselves.

18 November 2011

Puck's Eye View..

A statue of former Blues great Al MacInnis outside Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri....home of the St. Louis Hockey Blues.  MacInnis had one of the hardest slapshots the league had ever seen.  His career spanned 15 years from 1982-2003; he signed with St. Louis in 1994 as a free agent.  The third ranking defensemen in hockey history, in terms of points, MacInnis was put in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.  His jersey now hangs in the rafters of Scottrade Center along side other St. Louis legends.

Which photo, though, do we like better?



17 November 2011

My Favorite Fighter..

For some reason, the F-4U Corsair is my favorite WWII fighter plane.  I just love the curved wings.  One flew through the 4th of July air show in downtown St. Louis this year.  I hadn't been to the air show in years, but I dragged the whole family down in 100+ heat to get the shot.  I also got to see the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  Oh, how I miss the air shows.

16 November 2011

Soulard Market

I need to get out and shoot some more material soon, but here is an old candid I love taken at Soulard Market just south of downtown St. Louis.  I need to get back there soon.  It's great for people watching.

I may give a historical perspective after I gather more material.