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.