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Texas Panhandle – Route 66

Welcome to Texas

The road itself became less desirable as we made our way from the Oklahoma state line to Shamrock, Texas on our “Eastern Texas Panhandle Route 66 Tour”. Here, the route runs next to I-40, which isn’t very exciting because there is nothing unique about driving this part of the route. We stayed true to our plans though and made the 20-minute drive while watching the I-40 traffic whiz by us in the opposite direction.

Shamrock, Texas

For those who have seen the movie “Cars” the highlight of Shamrock will be reminiscent of Ramone’s Auto Body and Paint Shop in the movie. Tower Station, also known as the U-Drop Inn and the Tower Cafe were built in 1936. The gorgeous Art Deco style building passed through several owners until it was foreclosed on in the mid-1990s. Shamrock’s First National Bank gave the building to the city in 1999. The city procured a $1.7 million-dollar federal grant to refurbish its beloved landmark, and restorations were completed in 2006. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Tower Station, Route 66, Shamrock, Texas.
The U-Drop Inn Cafe is located on the opposite end of the building. A Chamber of Commerce visitor center sits between the gas station and the cafe.
A view inside the cafe today. By the way, their food is great!

We are particularly enamored with the Tower Station because we watched it transform over the course of several years during its renovations while traveling I-40 to Oklahoma City.

Ironic twist: This new Tesla charging station is right next to the cafe. Times are certainly changing!

The Tower Station isn’t the only refurbished filling station in Shamrock, we also found this nostalgic Magnolia Station. The station originally opened in 1929.

Magnolia filling station, Shamrock, Texas.

In addition to the sites we’ve highlighted here, Shamrock’s stretch of Route 66 features several vintage hotel properties and other gas stations that are either closed or are being used for other purposes. We spent over an hour checking out the town before grabbing a bite at the U-Drop Inn cafe. Then we were on our way to our next stop, McLean.

McLean, Texas

The tiny town of McLean has an interesting history. An English cattle rancher by the name of Alfred Rowe, who sadly died in the sinking of the Titanic, donated the land for the town in 1901. Prior to that time, there was nothing on the future townsite except for a railroad stop used for loading cattle for transport. The railroad built a water well and the town began to grow when a post office opened in 1902. By 1903, the town claimed two banks, two cafes, and a newspaper, among other thriving businesses. Route 66 came through the town in 1927, and by that time, McLean had established itself as an oil, gas, and agricultural hub. In 1929, McLean became the home of the first Phillips 66 Service Station in Texas.

Though it needs a little TLC now, this Phillips 66 was the first restored station on old Route 66.
We’re kind of enamored with the cottage gas stations.
The name Phillips 66 and their shield shaped signs, which were introduced in 1930, are in honor of Route 66.

Trivia: Barbed wire is also known as devil’s rope. McLean is home to the Devil’s Rope Museum which a contains a large collection of information and examples of different types of barbed wire. The museum is housed in a former brassiere factory and also features some Route 66 memorabilia.

Alanreed, Texas

Alanreed’s townsite was selected because it was on a stagecoach route between two of the Texas Panhandle’s first two towns. Before Alanreed had been formally established, the community had been called Springtown, Spring Tank, Gouge Eye, and Prairie Dog Town. The official name came from the railroad surveying company, Alan and Reed, which laid out the townsite. In 1901, the first school was built, and a post office was moved to Alanreed from six miles away in 1902. At its height in 1927, the town’s population reached 500. Over the next four decades, Alanreed’s population rose and fell but never again surpassed 350 residents. By 2001 there were reportedly only 52 people and a couple of businesses left. We saw no signs of commerce or inhabitants when we visited in 2022.

We found this Texaco service station in what used to be downtown Alanreed. A sign on the building says the service station was built in 1930 by Bradley Kiser. The building with the Merit Feed & Seed sign appears to be an old garage.
This is the landscape around Alanreed and McLean which are just seven miles apart on old Route 66.  The land shown here once belonged to Alfred Rowe’s 100,000-acre RO Ranch. The RO, though now much smaller, still exists today under different ownership.

Groom, Texas

Groom is still a thriving little town with a population of 547 residents. As with many of its neighboring towns, Groom was established on ranchland and grew because of the railroad. Today, the town’s claim to fame is the 190-foot Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the second largest cross in the Western Hemisphere.

The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ was built in 1995.

Around the base of the cross are thirteen stations of the cross, depicting Jesus’ walk to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion, plus the tomb and resurrection site. Other features include a replica of the Shroud of Turin and a gift shop.

Stations of the Cross
The Thirteenth Station.
The beautiful Divine Mercy Fountain.

The leaning Britten USA water tower is on the I-40 access road (old Route 66) on the east side of Groom. Once an advertisement for a truck stop that burned down in the 1980s, the purposely tilted water tower is a favorite Route 66 landmark.

Sixteen miles to our next stop…

Conway, Texas

Conway is a ghost town with little left standing to indicate that a town ever existed. A closed hotel and cafe, an old school that has been closed for years, and a couple of grain elevators are pretty much all that’s left. However, where old Route 66 intersects with I-40, there is one landmark that is a popular stop for Mother Road travelers – Bug Ranch!

Bug Ranch, Route 66, Conway, Texas

Bug Ranch was created as a takeoff on the iconic Cadillac Ranch (located 35 miles away in Amarillo, Texas) to attract travelers to a gas station, trading post, and rattlesnake ranch at Conway. As with Cadillac Ranch, the five Volkswagen Beetles buried nose down have become a place for visitors to express their creativity with spray paint. The spray paint doesn’t stop with the cars though. The surrounding buildings have also become “works of art”, one of which is our featured photo.

Tumbleweeds grow among the cars and buildings of Bug Ranch.

Next stop: Amarillo…

Trivia: Pantex, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, is the nation’s only assembly and disassembly facility for nuclear weapons. The plant is Amarillo’s largest non-school district employer with over 4,000 full-time employees.

Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo was established in 1887 as a cattle shipping center and soon became the largest “cow town” in the world. At times there were 50,000 head of cattle in pens around Amarillo just waiting to be shipped. By 1910, the city was home to almost 10,000 residents, and today’s population tops 200,000. Amarillo means yellow in Spanish.

Route 66, Amarillo, also known as Amarillo Boulevard and Business I-40.

There are several old hotels, gas stations, and other businesses on the old Route 66 through Amarillo, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. The historic 6th Street area boasts of its Mother Road roots, but it is mostly bars, restaurants, a couple of galleries and an antique shop or two. Amarillo does have some great attractions, but most of them are actually on I-40. Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan Steak Ranch are probably the most iconic. Speaking of icons, the beautiful and talented Tula Ellice Finklea was born in Amarillo. 

Cadillac Ranch
Home of the free 72 oz. steak dinner if eaten within an hour!

To see the best things to do in Amarillo, check out our post Amarillo, Texas. We have come to the end of our Route 66 adventure – at least for now. Illinois, and the entire western half of the route are on our list to do at some point. Stay tuned for those posts in the future. Thank you so much for joining us on the Mother Road.

Need more American road trip inspiration? Check out these great destinations:

Rocky Mountain National Park

Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

 

  Safe travels, y’all. We will see you on the road!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2023

 

Featured

Route 66 – The Adventure Continues

Oklahoma City was the halfway point on our Route 66 adventure through Oklahoma, although we didn’t stop there. We have spent a lot of time in Oklahoma City over the years and decided to skip it for the sake of saving time. Though for anyone who has not visited Oklahoma’s capital, we highly recommend spending a few days checking out everything this wonderful destination has to offer.

The Gold Dome Building, Route 66, Oklahoma City. Built as a bank in 1958, and designed by renowned architect, Buckminster Fuller, the building is one of the city’s most iconic sights.

Trivia: The world’s first parking meter was installed in downtown Oklahoma City in 1935. Additionally, shopping carts, bread twist ties, and aerosol cans were all invented in Oklahoma.

Parking meters in downtown Oklahoma City.

Now, back to the route…

Arcadia, Oklahoma

Inside the city limits of Edmond, Oklahoma lies the one square mile town of Arcadia. The tiny town is home to two favorite Route 66 stops: Arcadia Round Barn and Pops.

Round Barn, Route 66, Arcadia, Oklahoma

Arcadia Round Barn

The unique round barn was built in 1898 by William Odor. The reason he went to the trouble to build a round barn: he thought if it was hit by a tornado, the tornado would go around it instead of through it. By the 1970s the structure had almost collapsed, but volunteers in and around Arcadia came together to restore the old barn. Restoration efforts were completed in 1992 and the round barn has been a beloved Route 66 landmark ever since. Admission to the barn, which also features a gift shop, is free.

Pops

Pops is a convenience store, restaurant, and gas station located just around a curve from the round barn. Its claims to fame are its thousands of bottles of soda pop in hundreds of varieties and its landmark pop bottle sign.

Pops iconic 66-foot-tall soda bottle, its height a nod to its Route 66 location.

Colorful sodas on glass shelves line the store’s windows.

Having only been open since 2007, Pops isn’t one of the vintage Route 66 stops, but it has become a very popular one. While there, we opted for a grape soda and a root beer. We don’t usually drink sugary sodas, but when in Rome… Would you try a spaghetti or blue cheese dressing soda?

Spaghetti? Not for us, thanks.

Um…no!

Moving on…

Will Rogers

One of the Route 66 nicknames is the Will Rogers Highway. Oklahomans are passionate about the label because Will Rogers was, and probably still is, their favorite native son. Will Rogers was born a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory (about half of Oklahoma before it became a state) in 1879 to parents of mixed heritages. In his lifetime, Rogers wore many hats: cowboy and rodeo star, humorist, world traveler, and actor. He even took a brief turn as Mayor of Hollywood, California. Rogers was best known for his acting career which found him first in vaudeville shows then in Hollywood where he appeared in seventy-one movies. He also wrote a humorous political column that was syndicated in over 4,000 newspapers. Rogers, along with fellow Oklahoman and aviator Wylie Post, died in 1935 when Post’s plane crashed in Alaska Territory.

One of the many Will Rogers Highway/Route 66 wayside monuments in Oklahoma.

As we made our way along Route 66 in Oklahoma, we found impressive granite “Will Rogers Highway” wayside markers at many of the landmarks. The one above outlines the history of Lucille’s Filling Station near Hydro, Oklahoma.

Lucille’s, Route 66, Hydro, Oklahoma

Clinton, Oklahoma

Our only stop in Clinton was at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum which should not be confused with the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

We found this museum to be exceptional as it truly does tell the story of the route through Oklahoma. Carefully curated displays take visitors through the decades of the Route 66 era complete with vintage vehicles, multimedia presentations, and plenty of other sights and sounds. Click on any image below for full views.

Service stations were such an important part of the history of Route 66

We spent about an hour and a half here, though we could have stayed longer. The Oklahoma Historical Society has done an outstanding job with this museum, and we believe it is a stop that any traveler would enjoy.

Traveling on, we skipped Elk City and Sayer because we had visited those cities on a previous trip.

Erick, Oklahoma

Continuing on the route, we arrived in Erick just after noon on a Saturday. Erick is a neat little town surrounded by ranch land and farms. Sadly, its main street and downtown appeared to be completely deserted when we were there. Erick is the hometown of singer-songwriter, Roger Miller, of “King of the Road” fame. The town once had a museum dedicated to Miller, but it is now closed. We found the mural below featuring Miller on an empty building that may have once been the museum.

Roger Miller mural on Route 66 aka Roger Miller Blvd., Erick, Oklahoma

Erick’s other claim to fame is that it is also the hometown of singer and actor, Sheb Wooley. Wooley’s hit song “The Purple People Eater” hit number one on the Billboard pop charts in 1958. He also co-starred as Pete Nolan on the TV series “Rawhide”, among other acting roles. We didn’t find a mural of Wooley in Erick, however, we did find the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, another source of inspiration for Disney Pixar’s movie “Cars”.

Sandhills Curiosity Shop, just off Route 66, Erick, Oklahoma

Trivia: Sheb Wooley recorded the Wilhelm Scream sound effect that has been used in hundreds of movies and TV shows since 1951 and is still being used today. Check it out here: Wilhelm Scream.

Route 66 between Sayre and Erick was a divided highway and one of the nicest parts of the Mother Road that we experienced on our trip. The four-lane road continued to Texola, Oklahoma (a ghost town) and went back to two lanes just past the Texas border.

Goodbye, Oklahoma. It’s been fun!

Thanks so much for cruising Oklahoma’s Route 66 with us! One more post covering our Mother Road stops in the eastern half of Texas is coming soon.

If you love American road trips as much as we do, check out these other cool places:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Antietam National Battlefield

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do

 

Safe travels, y’all. We’ll see you on the road!

Mike & Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Precipitation

Here in the “almost desert”, we get pretty excited when we are treated to any kind of precipitation. Here is what’s happening in our neighborhood today:

Living in a snow globe.

This is the red oak tree just outside of our front window:

So pretty…

Have a great Tuesday everyone!

Mike and Kellye

 

Featured

More Kicks on Route 66

More Kicks on Route 66 – Eastern Oklahoma

Our recent Route 66 trek began in St. Louis, Missouri and ended in Amarillo, Texas. We drove about 800 miles between the two cities over four days. Traveling Route 66 truly is a kick, but navigating it is sometimes tricky. Although, having to get on and off of the interstate highways when the route ends or backtracking because it’s easy to get lost is just part of the adventure.

Now, on to our first stop…

OK-KS-MO Tri-State Marker

Three state corner – Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma – stand in all three states at once!

Thanks to Google Maps, we had to backtrack to find this off-route site. While Google took us close to it, we kept ending up at a casino and resort in Oklahoma. We finally found it on an almost hidden gravel road next to the resort. Sadly, after all the time and gasoline spent looking for the marker, we found it to be quite unremarkable. We got the cheap thrill of standing in three states at once though, so the stop wasn’t a total failure.

The original marker was built in 1938, but it is about 50 feet from the actual point.

Tired and hungry, we got on the turnpike, paid our toll, and headed west. We couldn’t find a place to eat, so we got back on Route 66 near Afton, Oklahoma hoping to find food. All we found was barbecue, so we paid another turnpike toll and headed to Catoosa which was our stop for the night. Just when we were both on the verge of becoming hangry, we were gifted with a spectacular Oklahoma sunset. Oh, how nature’s beauty soothes the soul!

Shot with an iPhone while driving 80 mph down the interstate! Not too bad for a couple of tired and hungry amateurs.

Catoosa, Oklahoma

Catoosa is located on the banks of the Arkansas River and is home to about 7,100 residents. A couple of museums, the Hard Rock Casino, and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa also call the city home. The reason for our stop? The Blue Whale of Catoosa, of course!

The Blue Whale of Catoosa, Route 66, Catoosa, Oklahoma

In the early 1970s, Hugh Davis built the whale on the edge of his family’s swimming hole as an anniversary gift for his wife Zelta who collected whale figurines. Local residents showed so much interest in the site that the Davis family eventually added a picnic area and opened it to the public. The swimming hole was closed in 1988 due to Hugh’s failing health. He died in 1990. When Zelta died in 2001, the park fell into disrepair, however, local volunteers joined forces to restore the beloved whale. The City of Catoosa purchased the property in 2020, and today it remains a favorite stop for travelers on Route 66.

Signpost showing other Route 66 icons and their distance from the Blue Whale.

Oklahoma, the eastern part of which was known as Indian Territory
prior to becoming a state, has some of the greatest place names ever. Most of them are from Native American names or words, such as: Quapaw, Catoosa, Pawhuska, Chickasha, and Watonga, just to name a few. Our next stop got its name from a derivative of the Creek tribe’s word tallasi which means “old town.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Windshield shot of Tulsa’s skyline as we pulled into town. We apologize for the bugs.

With only a couple of things we wanted to see in Tulsa, we didn’t spend much time there. Our goal was to see relatives who live just south of the city. Luckily, we were able stop long enough to learn about Cyrus Avery, the “Father of Route 66.”

Sculpture “East Meets West” – Robert Summers, 2012 – Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, Tulsa

This beautiful bronze sculpture depicts Avery stopping his Ford on the 11th Street Bridge as the automobile startles two horses pulling a wagon carrying oil barrels.

U.S. Highway 66 Association

In 1927, while serving as a member of a board appointed to create the Federal Highway System, Cyrus Avery successfully advocated for the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. The association was instrumental in ensuring that the road was paved in its entirety, a major undertaking which was completed in 1938. Furthermore, the association continued to promote Route 66 tourism for more than forty years. In 1970 the association changed its name to Main Street of America Association. However, with new interstates bypassing the old highway, or replacing sections of it completely, the association dissolved in 1976. Click here for a short National Park Service article about the origins of Route 66.

The 11th Street Bridge, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Note the art deco railings.

One picture, three eras. The photo above shows the current Route 66 Bridge (left) crossing the Arkansas River, the original Route 66 Bridge (middle) also known as the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge, and Interstate 44 (right). Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pedestrian bridge over Route 66, Tulsa

University Club Tower, Tulsa, Oklahoma

We found the 32-story University Club Tower apartment building to be intriguing with its retro vibe and location overlooking the Arkansas River. Completed in 1966, the tower is supposedly the first major building in the U.S. to be designed using a computer.

Moving on Down the Road

Mainer Ford in Bristow, Oklahoma. The building, while delightfully deco, was actually built in 2010 and features a very cool retro neon sign. We applaud Mainer Ford for keeping the spirit of Route 66 alive.

Here’s the cool retro sign for the Skyliner Motel in Stroud, Oklahoma – an oldie but goodie – and the motel is still in business!

Trivia: Indian Territory, which was comprised of most of the eastern half of Oklahoma, almost became the state of Sequoyah. Tribespeople living in Indian Territory held a constitutional convention and overwhelmingly voted for Sequoyah’s statehood. However, due to party politics on the national level, the plan failed. The people of Indian Territory were forced to see their lands merge with Oklahoma Territory to become the 46th state as Oklahoma officially joined the union on November 16, 1907.

Route 66, The Mother Road, America’s Main Street, Will Rogers Highway – they’re all names for America’s U.S. Highway 66.

Chandler, Oklahoma

Chandler, Oklahoma helps to preserve its Mother Road heritage with the Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center. The center is housed in the Chandler Armory building which was constructed in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the center is part museum, it also has a gallery that features videos and artwork depicting the history of the route. We enjoyed watching the videos from the unique seating the center has installed for the comfort of its guests. It even has vinyl beds to lounge on while watching the videos. Needless to say, it is a very laid back, relaxing experience, especially for weary travelers.

Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center

We found this painting of Chandler’s Phillips 66 Cottage Gas Station in the interpretive center. The actual building is pictured below.

The colorful Phillips 66 Cottage Gas Station in Chandler, Oklahoma was built in 1932 and continued to function as a gas station until 1992.

Warwick, Oklahoma

Eight miles west of Chandler is Warwick, Oklahoma, home of the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum. We spent over an hour in the museum where we saw some unique motorcycles and learned the history of the building as well.

Seaba Station

The building was constructed for use as a gas station in 1921 by John Seaba and his wife, Alice. Later John turned the building into a machine and engine rebuilding shop but sold the business in 1951. In 1995, the building was sold again, refurbished, and reopened as an antiques store. The current owners purchased the property in 2007 and have restored the front to look like the original gas station. The addition of the motorcycle museum was completed in 2010.

Inside the motorcycle museum

This bike is outfitted with a Johnson Motor Wheel which turned an ordinary bicycle into a motorcycle and cost about $80.00. Circa 1920.

Trivia: Oklahoma’s official state meal includes barbecued pork, chicken fried steak, sausages and gravy, fried okra, grits and squash. The state bean is the black-eyed pea, and the state fruit is the strawberry. Pecan pie is the official state dessert.

This is where we close the post but stay tuned for more of our Route 66 adventure coming soon. Thank you so much for joining us on the eastern half of Route 66 Oklahoma.

If you like American road trips, we think you will enjoy these posts:

Route 66 – Missouri

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Death Valley National Park

 

Travel safely, and we will see you on the road!

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2023

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Where is it?

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is located at 5242 S. State Hwy ZZ,
Republic, Missouri.

The thistle and other wildflowers were showing off their end of summer beauty when we visited Wilson’s Creek.

The park features:

  • Visitor center with gift shop
  • Museum
  • Self-guided auto tour
  • Hiking and horseback riding trails
  • Civil War research library – by appointment only

When using Google Maps for directions to this park, be sure to use the address above in Republic, Missouri. This public service announcement is brought to you by our wild goose chase through Springfield, Missouri’s industrial district.

Here is a link to the park’s website: Wilson’s Creek 

Wilson’s Creek

Why is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield significant?

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which took place on August 10, 1861, was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first battle west of the Mississippi River. Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle and was the first Union general to die in action in the Civil War. Confederate troops, who outnumbered the Union troops by almost double, won the battle giving the Confederacy control of southwestern Missouri.

Interesting map showing Civil War battles in the western U.S.

Trivia: Nearly as many men died in Civil War prison camps as died in the Viet Nam War.

Did the battle at Wilson’s Creek result in Missouri’s secession?

No, although the state remained deeply divided throughout the Civil War. While some Missourians wanted to secede from the Union to join the pro-slavery Confederate States, others chose to side with the pro-abolitionist Union. Missouri, according to Wikipedia, “…sent armies, generals, and supplies to both sides, maintained dual governments, and endured a bloody neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war.”

The Ray House

Ray House, Wilson’s Creek

An excerpt describing the Ray family and their house from the National Park Service’s wayside information board:

“The Ray House is the only park structure on its original site that dates back to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Postmaster and farmer John Ray built it in the 1850s. For ten years it served as the Wilson’s Creek Post Office, a stopping place on the old Wire Road that connected Springfield, Missouri with Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1861, twelve people were living here: John and Roxanna Ray, their nine children, and a mail carrier. Their slave “Aunt Rhoda” and her four children occupied a small cabin to the rear of the house. On August 10, 1861, they found themselves in the path of war.”

The Ray’s original springhouse still exists today.

The Ray family used the cool springhouse as a place to store perishable foods, and it also provided them with water. Their house served as a Confederate field hospital during and after the battle. Water from the springhouse was vital to the wounded soldiers as well as to the surgeons tending to their injuries.

John Ray stood on his front porch and watched the battle take place in his cornfield and on Bloody Hill. The rest of the family hid in a cellar, but when they emerged hours later, soldiers who lay wounded and dying were everywhere in and around their house.

Trivia: Senator John J. Crittendon of Kentucky had two sons who became generals during the Civil War – one for the North and one for the South.

Bloody Hill

This is an unnamed section of Bloody Hill where Lyon began his advance. The Ray House is located near the barely visible clearing on the horizon at center right.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek began and ended at Bloody Hill. Union soldiers managed to hold their ground for a while, but they were dreadfully outnumbered. Finally, with a quarter of their men lost after five hours of courageous fighting, the Union soldiers were forced to retreat. Among the dead was their leader, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. Lyon was a fearless warrior though. He was shot in the knee and in the head, and his horse was also killed. Even after suffering two life-threatening wounds, he mounted another horse and continued to lead his men in the battle. A third and final shot to the heart was the mortal wound.

A three-quarter mile trail at Bloody Hill takes visitors through the Union line and other areas where the battle took place.

In the chaotic aftermath of the battle, Lyon’s body was somehow forgotten on the battlefield. Confederate soldiers found his body and took it to the Ray house where they placed it on a bed in their living room so a surgeon could assess the wounds. (The bed is on display in the park’s museum.) Lyon’s final resting place is in a family cemetery in Eastford, Connecticut, although he was initially buried on a farm in Springfield, Missouri. Click here to read some interesting personal recollections of Lyon’s post-mortem and first burial.

Trivia: The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest and most famous speeches of all time, but it contained just 272 words and was only two minutes long.

Thank you for joining us on our visit to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield!

 

Need more road trip inspiration? Click on these great destinations:
Antietam National Battlefield
Portland, Maine
Gettysburg National Military Park

Travel safe, and we will see you on the road.

Mike and Kellye  

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Mammoth Cave National Park

Where is it?

Mammoth Cave National Park is located at 1 Visitor Center Parkway, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

Highlights of the park include:

  • Visitor center, museum, and gift shops
  • Cave tours – most require advance reservations and fees
  • Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails
  • Paddling and fishing
  • Ranger-led programs, including night sky programs
  • Picnic areas
  • Three campgrounds for tents and RVs in addition to backcountry campsites
  • Mammoth Cave Lodge which includes dining options
  • Lodging options also include historic cottages and woodland cottages
  • Grab and go food options near the visitor center
  • Day boarding kennels for dogs and cats

Mammoth Cave is a on the National Register of Historic Places, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and an International Dark Sky Park. Here is the park’s website link: Mammoth Cave

We fell in love with this backroad barn we found just outside the park.

Wi-fi and cell service can be hit and miss at Mammoth Cave, though we had some luck at the visitor center. We also do not recommend using Google Maps for directions to this park. Google took us on a much longer route than necessary. Though the best thing about the Google route is that we got to take the Green River Ferry across the river. That was definitely a first for us!

Mammoth Cave’s Green River Ferry

“Within National Parks is room — glorious room — room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve.”  — Enos Mills

Historic facts about Mammoth Cave

  • The cave has been known since prehistoric times. Artifacts such as bowls and woven sandals have been found inside.
  • An ancient burial site containing the preserved remains of a Native American woman was found in the early 1800s. At one time, the remains were on display for visitors to the cave but are now in the possession of the Smithsonian Institute.
  • In 1935 the remains of another ancient Native American, a man who had been crushed by a large rock, were found by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the cave. His remains were also displayed until public distaste for viewing them caused the park to remove them from view. The man was then buried in a secret location inside the cave.

Beautiful drive through the park.

  • During the War of 1812, saltpeter, an ingredient used in making gun powder, was mined by enslaved African American workers at Mammoth Cave. Remains of the mine can still be seen today at the Historic Entrance.
  • Tourists began arriving at Mammoth Cave as early as 1816, and the former miners who were familiar with the cave served as tour guides.
  • In 1842, Dr. John Croghan established an experimental tuberculosis treatment facility inside Mammoth Cave which he had previously purchased for $10,000.00. After several patients died, Croghan ended his experiment. Dr. Croghan died of tuberculosis in 1849. Two of the huts he built for his patients to live in can still be seen today.
  • Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. About 400 miles of the cave have been explored, with 600 additional miles left unexplored!
  • After years of work went into acquiring the land and creating the park’s infrastructure, Mammoth Cave National Park was dedicated on July 1, 1941.

The Green River really is green.

Green River Bluffs Trail

Our visit to the park started with a hike on the Green River Bluffs Trail, which came recommended by a ranger in the visitor center. We had only a couple of hours to spare before our Frozen Niagara cave tour began, so this turned out to be the perfect hike for us. We were even back at the visitor center in time to enjoy a parking lot picnic lunch.

Although the park was crowded, we only saw one group of three people and a dog on the trail.

On the bluffs overlooking the Green River

Another view of the trail

We found this trail to be easy with only a few steep inclines. After the Green River overlook, we took the Dixon Cave Trail as part of the loop back to the visitor center.

Dixon Cave

According to park information, Dixon Cave was part of Mammoth Cave about a million years ago. The collapse of a sinkhole caused Dixon to be cut off from Mammoth, however, the event created Mammoth’s Historic Entrance. This cave is not accessible to humans due to the endangered Indiana bats that hibernate there in the winter months. Interestingly, Dixon Cave maintains a steady temperature of 44 degrees F (7 degrees C), which makes conditions perfect for the bats to hibernate.

File:Mammoth Cave Historic Entrance NPS.jpg
Historic Entrance – photo courtesy of the National Park Service and Wikimedia Commons

Trivia: There are 14 species of cave dwelling animals in Mammoth Cave that are found nowhere else in the world.

Frozen Niagara Tour

Advance reservations for cave tours are highly recommended and can made through Recreation.gov. Click here to see detailed tour listings as well as pricing for each of the tours. We made our cave tour reservations about a month before our trip and got the last two places in our preferred time slot. To begin many of the cave tours, ticketed visitors meet in a pavilion near the visitor center. Park buses then carry the groups to the cave entrance to begin their tour.

Our ranger-guides told us on the bus ride that we were going to see the most beautiful cave entrance in all of Mammoth Cave National Park. While we envisioned something similar to the Historic Entrance, that is not what it was at all!

Here it is. It sure doesn’t look like a cave entrance, does it? While there are other accesses to Mammoth Cave, the two main entrances are this one, which is manmade and the Historic Entrance, which is natural.

The photos above and below are views from the Frozen Niagara tour. Flash photography is not permitted in the cave, and the guides keep the tour groups moving which makes it difficult to get good shots. Our photos do not do justice to the way it really looks; the cave is much more beautiful and interesting in person.

Unfortunately, our shots of the Frozen Niagara formation did not turn out, so we have borrowed one from the National Park Service and Deb Spillman. Her shot shows the beauty of the incredible formation.

Frozen Niagara flowstone formation.

Thank you so much for joining us on our visit to Mammoth Cave National Park! We hope you will join us again for another great national park or road trip destination.

If you would like to visit more national parks, click on these:
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Devils Tower Road Trip: Things to Do
Death Valley National Park

Travel safe, and we will see you on the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Cahokia Mounds

Where is Cahokia Mounds?

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located at 30 Ramey Street in Collinsville, Illinois. The grounds are open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset. The site features:

  • Interpretive Center, museum, and gift shop
  • Hiking trails
  • Guided tours – reservations required
  • Self-guided tours of the site

Cahokia Mounds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Landmark, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a link to the website: Cahokia

This view of the grounds shows some of the smaller mounds which may have been used for individual residences.

Why is Cahokia Important?

Dating to 1000 AD, Cahokia Mounds is the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico. The site encompasses 2,200 acres of what once was an even larger ancient settlement occupied by a culture of people who were farmers, hunters, and traders. At one time mound complexes reached as far as current day St. Louis, Missouri. Today’s site contains 120 mounds. The Mississippians who built the mounds did so by digging earth from “borrow pits” and hauling it in baskets on their backs or by hand. Cahokia’s mounds contain an estimated 50 million cubic feet of borrowed earth. As the mounds grew, so did the community, and Cahokia became a center of Mississippian life and culture.

Mound view at Cahokia. This may be one of the twin mounds shown at the bottom of the grand plaza in the image below.

Cahokia’s Mounds and Buildings

Most of the mounds at Cahokia are rectangular pyramid shapes with flat tops although there are some round mounds that were used for burials. The people buried in the round mounds were probably chiefs or others of great importance to the community. Cahokians were usually buried in cemeteries. The exception to that point may be Mound 72, which is covered later in the post.

This artist’s rendition shows what Cahokia might have looked like at its peak.

Buildings at Cahokia were constructed of poles and thatch though some were also overlaid with a combination of clay and grass. Archaeological excavations have uncovered lodges, grain storages, and communal buildings. Evidence also shows that residences usually housed one family. The tops of the largest mounds were reserved for ceremonial structures or the homes of rulers.

Another site image showing what the buildings may have looked like as Cahokia grew.

Interestingly, professional anthropological studies and archaeological excavations did not begin at Cahokia until the 1960s. So in the grand scheme of things, what is known about the site is relatively new. Studies continue today, so there is a near constant stream of up-to-date information and theories. Undoubtedly, the examination of Cahokia will go on indefinitely.

Monks Mound

Monks Mound is the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas. Its name comes from the French Trappist monks who lived nearby and farmed the terraces of the mound in the early 1800s. The Cahokian chief, Great Sun is said to have ruled from the top of Monks Mound, therefore, Cahokia is sometimes referred to as City of the Sun.

Monks Mound

While construction of Monks Mound began around 950 AD, workers continued to enlarge it over the next 300 years. The building on the top terrace measured 48 feet by 104 feet and some believe it reached 50 feet high.

Monks Mound:

  • has a base that covers 14 acres
  • is 100 feet tall
  • contains 22 million cubic feet of earth
View of Monks Mound from the second terrace looking toward the stairs that lead to the top. In all, 156 steps lead from ground level to the top.
The “Birdman” is now the historic site’s logo.

Monks Mound once had four terraces. The artist’s rendering below shows how it may have looked at Cahokia’s peak.

Cahokia’s Stockade

The stockade was a two-mile long barrier, most likely used for defense. However, some theorists believe that it may have served as a barrier to separate the elite from the other residents of Cahokia. The portion we see today is obviously a replica, though the Stockade Trial follows the boundary line of where the eastern part of the original stockade stood.

Cahokia’s stockade probably looked similar to this but on a much larger scale.

Mound 72

While Monks Mound is the grandest because of its size, Mound 72 is probably the most anthropologically interesting of all of Cahokia’s mounds. In 1967 excavations of Mound 72 revealed 270 ceremonial burials. The majority of the bodies were discovered in mass graves and were determined to be young women who died sacrificially.

Cahokia’s Mound 72 was reconstructed after extensive excavations.

Excavations of Mound 72 also revealed two bodies, probably great leaders, atop a cache of 20,000 marine shell disc beads formed in the shape of a large falcon. Six additional bodies, which anthropologists determined were elite men, were found with a large number of burial offerings. Offerings included arrowheads, jewelry, and other artifacts, some of which came from as far away as the areas that are now the states of Tennessee and Oklahoma. Further excavations revealed the bodies of 39 people that, unlike the others, had met a violent end. Anthropologists studied their teeth and determined that those 39 unfortunate souls were probably immigrants or enemies of the Cahokians and not locals.

Cahokia’s Woodhenge

Woodhenge is a solar calendar that the ancient Cahokians used to determine the equinoxes and solstices for agricultural purposes and ceremonial dates.

Reconstruction of Cahokia’s Woodhenge

Excerpts from the site’s information board:

“At least five large post-circle monuments were built at this location from AD 1100 to 1200, each with a different diameter and number of posts. Woodhenge III is the circle most extensively excavated and is the one reconstructed here, in the original location.” “The most important alignments are the winter and summer solstices, marking the southernmost and northernmost sunrise positions, and the fall and spring equinoxes, when the sun rises due east, midway between the solstice posts. Also, at the equinoxes the sun appears to emerge from the front of Monks Mound, perhaps confirming a link between the sun and the chief who ruled from the top of the mound.”

Chief Great Sun atop Monks Mound at sunrise

Cahokia’s Demise

Scientific evidence finds that Cahokia’s inhabitants had begun their departure by 1250; however, the city had been completely abandoned by 1350 – 1400. The once thriving City of the Sun had been home to an estimated 20,000 people at its peak. No one really knows what happened to the Cahokians, but one theory suggests that flooding led to the demise of the great city. Another theory suggests that drought caused the residents to move elsewhere to grow their crops. Still others believe that disease or a 13th century earthquake may have been factors. Most likely, we will never know the reason, but the ancients did leave us with their legacy, one that piques our curiosity and inspires our desire to know more.

Trail and small mound

Our visit to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site was great, but it would have been even better if we had been able to visit the Interpretive Center to learn more about the site. Unfortunately, the center which houses the museum is closed for renovations until the spring of 2023. Therefore, in our quest to “pass along the knowledge”, we have included a link to the introductive video from the interpretive center here.

Thanks so much for joining us on our tour of Cahokia Mounds!

We have more Native American history! Check out these interesting sites:

Pecos National Historical Park
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
San Antonio Missions

Travel safely, and we will see you on the road.

  Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022                  

Featured

Gateway Arch National Park

Where is it?

Gateway Arch National Park is in downtown St. Louis, Missouri on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Park highlights include:

  • Visitor center
  • Museum
  • Theater and introductory film
  • Gift shop
  • Cafe
  • Tram rides to the top of the arch – advance reservations recommended
  • Riverboat Cruises – advance reservations recommended
  • Historic Old Courthouse (projected to be closed for renovations until sometime in 2023)

Link to the park’s website here.

Gateway Arch

Why is the park significant?

Gateway Arch National Park, originally the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, commemorates the western expansion of the United States. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchased the land stretching west from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and south from the border of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The $15 million acquisition from France became known as the Louisiana Purchase, and it doubled the size of the United States. One year later, Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on a two-year expedition to explore the lands west of the Mississippi River. The expedition party, known as the Corps of Discovery, included about 45 men, most of whom were in their mid-twenties and single. Their journey began 34 miles north of present-day Gateway Arch National Park at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

The Old Courthouse as seen from the top of the arch.

The Old Courthouse

A significant portion of the park is the old St. Louis County Courthouse, now generally known as the Old Courthouse. It was there in 1847 that Dred Scott, an enslaved man, and his wife, Harriet, sued their owner, Irene Sandford, for the right to be free. The trial was dismissed on a technicality, and the case was retried in 1850. Although the Scotts were awarded their freedom in the second trial, their emancipation was short lived. In 1852, Irene Sandford appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court and won, making Dred, Harriet, and their children enslaved to her once more.

Reflected image of the Old Courthouse dome taken from in front of the courthouse

Scott appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856, but in March of 1857, he lost his quest for freedom once again. In what became known as the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote that all people of African descent, whether enslaved or free, had no right to sue in federal court because they were not citizens of the United States. He also stated that the Fifth Amendment protected slave owners’ rights because slaves were their legal property. The Scotts were eventually freed in 1857 by a man who had purchased them from Irene and her second husband. Sadly, Dred died of tuberculosis just sixteen months later in September of 1858.

Trivia: In an ironic twist, it was Justice Roger Taney who swore in Abraham Lincoln as President in 1861.

Looking west with a shadow of the arch

History of the Park

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt designated a 62-acre tract of land on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis for a national park site. The site would later become the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. While workers began clearing the land to make way for the memorial, it was decided that the Old Courthouse would also become part of the park. In 1948 architect Eero Saarinen won a national competition with his design for a stainless-steel arch. Construction on the arch began in 1963, and it was completed in 1965. The north and south trams would not be completed until 1967 and 1968.

The sun kisses the arch in this mid-morning shot.

Visiting the Park

Upon entering the visitor center, visitors will find the ticket counters where they can pay the entry fee ($3.00). Tickets for the tram, riverboat cruise, and “Monument to the Dream” film, may be purchased at the same time. Advance reservations are highly recommended, however, as they frequently sell out, especially the tram to the top of the arch. Purchase tickets online and see options for package deals on all three of the paid attractions here. Visitors must pass through an airport-style security area before entering the section of the facility where the museum, cafe, trams, theater, and gift shop are located.  The Old Courthouse, park grounds, riverfront trail, and museum are free for everyone to enjoy. Free parking may be found on the streets and along the riverfront near the park, however, most visitors take advantage of paid parking garages. Click here to see the park’s recommended parking options.

The circular building at the bottom center is the underground visitor center as seen from the top of the arch.

Ride to the Top of the Arch

The arch features a north tram and a south tram which both end up in the same place at the top of the arch. Built similarly to a Ferris wheel, tram pods have to shift with the curve of the arch in order to keep passengers upright. Each pod holds five people, and the ride to the top takes about four minutes. The floor of the observation deck arcs upward with the curve of the arch.

Trams to the top of the arch. Each tram car is only five feet in diameter.

At the top there are sixteen windows on each side allowing views east toward the river or west toward downtown St. Louis. Visitors spend about 8 minutes at the top before reboarding their pod and taking the ride back down.

The viewing windows at the top of the arch are 7 inches tall and 27 inches wide. The slanted wall below them allows visitors to lean forward to see the views.
Mississippi River barge as seen from the top of the arch.

The Museum

The museum features six galleries:

  • Colonial St. Louis
  • Jefferson’s Vision
  • Manifest Destiny
  • The Riverfront Era
  • New Frontiers
  • Building the Arch
Beautiful tribute to the builders of the arch.

Note in the above photo that the last piece at the top is missing and there are contraptions attached to the incomplete arch. In order to set the last section into place, engineers had to jack the legs of the arch apart. If the measurements had been off as much as 1/64th of an inch, the final piece would not have fit. Gateway Arch is truly an amazing feat of engineering. Perhaps even more amazing is that no lives were lost during its construction.

The Missouri Fur Company

The Missouri Fur Company was established in St. Louis in 1809 by a group of fur traders and businessmen from Missouri and Illinois. Over the next twenty years, the company’s expeditions explored the upper Missouri River and began trading with Native American tribes. With the navigable Mississippi River on its doorstep and the ability to ship furs north to trade for manufactured goods, Missouri Fur Company was instrumental in the establishment of St. Louis as an important trading center.

Jefferson’s Vision section

With Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and access to riverways to explore the country’s newest lands, St. Louis became known as the “gateway to the west.”

Riverboat Era diorama

In 1817, the first steamboat arrived in St. Louis. By 1840, riverboats began rolling into St. Louis’ port daily. The city had grown into an important distribution center for imported goods from foreign countries as well as other parts of the U.S.

Riverboat Cruise

Gateway Arch National Park is home to two riverboats, the Tom Sawyer and the Becky Thatcher which were brought to the park in 1964 so interested onlookers could watch the construction of the arch. Since that time thousands of park visitors have enjoyed the boats, and it doesn’t look like Tom and Becky are going to retire anytime soon.

The dock features a cafe and bar.

Basic cruises last approximately one hour, but the park offers several other options, including dinner and specialty cruises. Visitors will learn about the points of interest along St. Louis’ waterfront as well as the history of some of the interesting bridges that cross the Mississippi River near the park.

View of the arch from the river
Three bridges and an arch!

The image above shows the Martin Luther King bridge (foreground), Eads Bridge (middle) and MacArthur Bridge (back). Here are some interesting facts about the three bridges:

  • Martin Luther King Bridge was named Veterans Bridge when it opened in 1951. Though after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the name was changed to honor the slain civil rights leader.
  • Historic Eads Bridge opened in 1874 as the world’s first steel arch bridge. Eads Bridge is a combined road and railroad bridge.
  • Originally named St. Louis Municipal Bridge, MacArthur Bridge opened in 1917. Built as a double-deck bridge, one for automobiles and the other for trains, the bridge once carried Route 66 across the Mississippi River. Although the road deck was closed to vehicles in 1981 and eventually removed, railroads continue to use the bridge today.
Bridge number four, the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, opened in 2014.

Thanks so much for visiting Gateway Arch National Park with us! 

While you’re here, check out these other great national parks:

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

10 Amazing Things to See and Do at Big Bend National Park

Happy, safe travels, y’all!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022                  

Featured

Christmas Party Time!

Christmas is our favorite time of year, and when we’re not traveling, we love welcoming family and friends to our home. Today we’re sharing some of our decor and entertaining tips and tricks as well as a few of our favorite party food recipes. Come on in and stay awhile!

Christmas tree full of memories. Not all of the ornaments are from our travels, but we stopped counting them somewhere around 2,000.

Let’s Party

Decide what type of entertaining you want to do, pick a date, and send out the invitations! We enjoy having our friends and neighbors in for come and go open house type parties which avoid meals but include heavy hors d’oeuvres along with drinks and sweets. Our timeframe is usually from 7:00 – 10:00 in the evening, but with open houses anything goes. Think: brunch, cookies and cocoa, s’mores in the back yard, desserts only, or let your imagination run wild. In the following sections, we will show you how we do it at our house.

Photo by Nubia Navarro

The Bar

We put a table in an out of the way area of our living room away from the food and non-alcoholic drink tables. This is to keep traffic flowing and keeps the hard stuff away from the kid-friendly areas. Keep extra ice in a cooler hidden away in the garage, or outside. Tucking a box containing extra mixers under the bar makes them easy to replenish and keeps the bar top from being cluttered with too many bottles and cans.

This folding table bar works well for us, but a bar can be set up anywhere. Think: kitchen counter, entryway, patio or back porch, laundry room, or use a card table or bar cart.

Our bar includes one bottle each of scotch, blended whiskey, bourbon, tequila, gin, vodka. Mixers include still water, tonic and mineral water, ginger ale, and mini cans of Coke, and Sprite. Add cups, a bucket of ice, straws and/or swizzle sticks, napkins, a bar mat, and lemon and lime wedges for a great self-service bar.

Ranch Water: In a highball glass pour 1 shot of tequila, add ice and mineral water (Topo Chico is the brand we use), then finish with a squeeze or two of lime juice, stir and enjoy.

Photo by Timur Saglambilek – Pexels

We serve chilled wines in the kitchen, along with reusable acrylic wine glasses, napkins, and a corkscrew. Finally, we fill a galvanized tub with ice and beer and keep it in the kitchen too, along with an attached-to-the-tub bottle opener, a towel to wipe down the bottles, and plenty of napkins.

Party tip: Don’t chill bottled water. We have found that it cuts down on wasted bottles when guests have to pour it over ice in a cup.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks Bar

Hot cocoa bar along with iced tea, and cookies.

One of our newest holiday traditions is a hot cocoa bar, and now we’re including it in our parties. Try this delicious hot chocolate recipe. (Thank you, Diane!) Keep cocoa hot in a crock pot on low or warm but stir occasionally, then transfer to an airpot for serving. Accompaniments include Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (it’s possible that you will never drink hot chocolate without them again!), peppermint stick stirrers, and mini marshmallows. Serve unsweet iced tea (or hot tea, cider, or coffee) and add a tray with sugar, artificial sweetener, and spoons for stirring. Provide guests with a dish in which to place used spoons.

Party tip: Bar mats under your drink dispensers will keep messy drips off of the table.

Bring On the Food

In this section, we’re sharing some of our favorite dishes to serve on a Christmas open house buffet along with their recipes. Nothing we serve requires silverware.

Christmas party buffet

Hand Helds
  • Mini shrimp cocktails served in shot glasses. Pipe about a tablespoon of cocktail sauce in the bottom of the shot glass, add two chilled shrimp per shooter, and serve on a tray of ice.

Mini shrimp cocktails

  • Make ahead mini cheese balls with pretzel stick handles. Buy ready-made cheese balls, then use a spoon to scoop out enough to make a 1″ ball. Roll into ball with your hands. Insert pretzel sticks just before serving. Two medium store-bought cheese balls should make about 2.5 dozen.

Caprese Skewers

  • Make ahead caprese skewers. Alternate grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls on bamboo skewers. Just before serving, drizzle with store bought balsamic glaze (not vinegar) and sprinkle with fresh chopped or dried basil.
  • Cocktail Meat Balls: 16 oz jar of grape jelly, 16 oz bottle of Heinz chili sauce, 32 oz package of frozen meatballs. Mix jelly and chili sauce together in slow cooker, add frozen meatballs and stir until coated. Cook on low 3-4 hours. Provide toothpicks for serving.
  • Smoky bacon wraps: 1 lb sliced pre-cooked bacon, 16 oz package of little smoky type sausages, 1/3 cup brown sugar. Cut each bacon slice into thirds and stretch to wrap one piece around each sausage. Secure by poking a toothpick through the sausage to hold bacon in place. Place bacon wrapped sausages in a large foil lined baking pan or cookie sheet and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sausage is heated through. Note: we use the pre-cooked bacon because it crisps better and faster than uncooked, but uncooked bacon may be used with a longer cooking time. (Consider doubling the recipe because these will be gone in a flash.)

Party tip: Place a large, labeled tray near your kitchen sink where guests can set reusable items such as the shot glasses and wine glasses.

Grab a Plate
  • Meat and cheese tray. Serve along with mustard, mayonnaise, and slider buns for make-it-yourself sandwiches.

Party tip: If guests will be making their own sandwiches, leave a space on the buffet table for them to set their plate down.

Veggie tray with ranch dip

  • Veggie Tray with store bought ranch dip. We slice the vegetables and arrange them ourselves. Try carrot and celery sticks, three different colors of bell peppers sliced into sticks, mini cucumbers, radishes, sugar snap peas (blanch then refrigerate sugar snaps before adding to the tray).
  • Seven-layer Taco Dip. Layer: one large can of refried beans, one large tub of guacamole dip, one large container of sour cream mixed with 1 package of mild taco seasoning, 2 cups of shredded cheese of choice, chopped tomatoes – blotted dry with paper towels, large can of sliced black olives – drained, sliced green onions including tops. Serve with tortilla chips. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated but wait until just before serving to add the tomatoes, olives, and green onions.)

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

  • Chunky Cranberry Salsa: 12 oz package of fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 6 green onions – chopped, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves – chopped, 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped, 8 oz package of cream cheese – softened. Pulse cranberries and sugar in food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in onions, cilantro and jalapeno. Refrigerate at least two hours but better if refrigerated overnight. Place cream cheese block on serving plate, drain salsa then spoon about half of it over the cream cheese. (The remainder will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but don’t expect it to last long because this stuff is addicting!) Serve with crackers and/or tortilla chips.

Party tip: Place a lined trash can near each drink and food area so guests can easily dispose of their trash.

Other Buffet Table Ideas
  • Mixed nuts and/or mints
  • Chips and salsa
  • Dips, spreads and assorted crackers
  • Pickle/relish tray

Desserts – Photo by Laura James

Oh, How Sweet

Desserts don’t have to be fancy, so we keep ours hand-held and simple. Here are some of our favorite store or bakery bought desserts.

  • Assorted chocolates arranged on a tiered serving tray
  • Brownie bites or fudge – place in pretty Christmas themed paper baking cups and arrange on a tray
  • One bite petit fours or mini cupcakes on a cake stand or tiered tray
  • Christmas cookie assortment

We are fortunate to have a little countertop in our dining room that works perfectly for a small dessert buffet. Dessert buffets can be set up anywhere though. Think: kitchen countertop, coffee table, entry table, desktop, bookcase etc.

Thank you so much for allowing us to share our Christmas entertaining tips and recipes. Whether you celebrate Christmas or other holidays, we hope we’ve given you some ideas that can be used for any party or family get together.

Five of the reasons our Christmases are merry and bright!

We hope each and every one of you are blessed with a joyful and safe holiday season.

Mike and Kellye

 

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!)

©2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

We Are Thankful

We originally made this post in 2019. Nothing has changed with us since then as we are still very thankful – perhaps even more so. For those of you who are not celebrating Thanksgiving this week, we hope that you find time in your busy schedules to reflect on what you are thankful for.

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We are thankful for our freedom, and grateful to those who have served and sacrificed to keep our country free. We are proud to be Americans. We fly the flag proudly, and we pray for the wisdom, judgment, and vision of our leaders so that we and future generations can continue to live happily and peacefully in this land of the free and the home of the brave.

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We are thankful for the freedom to roam. Free to travel with a sense of security. To see for ourselves the beautiful and historic lands that our forefathers preserved for us to admire and explore. Why leave this country when we have such magnificence in our own back yard?

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Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon on a crisp September morning

We are thankful for our home. We are blessed with the good fortune to have a place to land after a trip. A place where we feel at peace after a long day’s work. A place for family to gather.

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We are thankful for you. One for the Money Two for the Road blog would not be worth the time and effort if it weren’t for our friends and followers. Words can’t express how appreciative we are for your support of our site and our posts.

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We are thankful for each other. After forty-six years together, neither of us can imagine being without the other on this crazy journey we call life.

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We are thankful for our friends and family. Our lives are so very blessed with our children, our grandchildren, Kellye’s mother, our siblings, our in-laws, our nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as all of our other wonderful extended family, including good friends who we consider part of the clan.

We give thanks and praise to God. We would have nothing to be thankful for if not for His undeniable grace. May each and every one of you be blessed with a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Mike and Kellye

 

©2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Chasing a November Sunset

We were driving home from Dallas when we saw this spectacular sunset out in the middle of scrub brush and ranch land. We were fortunate that it lasted over an hour, and we got to chase it home! Just wanted to share it with you.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Mike and Kellye