Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day two -- Arkansas to Missouri

We started off nice and early, with a lot of 'big' things to squeeze into the day it was important to get moving!  After leaving the hotel we headed to Mama Carmen's, supposedly the best coffee in North West Arkansas.  Unfortunately it was closed so we headed to good old reliable Starbucks.  Oh well, we tried to support local business!  Our first stop was the world's largest wind chimes. The scenery in NW Arkansas was gorgeous, rolling hills and lush green landscape, not a lot of commercialism.  Which is great, unless you have a three year old who REALLY needs to pee!  We made it to the wind chime stop JUST.IN.TIME, but unfortunately we were 0 for 2 and they were closed down :(  S had her first 'outdoor' peeing experience.  We did get some photos, the building was incredibly odd and seemed to be completely abandoned.

Next stop was a homemade Razorback, very similar to the one seen the day before at the University of Arkansas
Then onto Branson, MO.  Uh not sure what to say about this place.  A bit sketchy, we only spent about 25 minutes and then headed in the direction of St Louis.  Here are some 'interesting' things we saw.

On the way to St Louis, we stopped at Ozarka, MO for some Throwed Rolls , we have visited the Alabama location before and the kids really enjoyed it.  So we decided to visit one of their other locations during this road trip.  We waited just over an hour for our table, this place is hopping!!  I winged it on the gluten free food.  My fingers are crossed.  I went with grilled chicken, coleslaw and potato salad.  They have something they call 'pass arounds' which is additional side dishes that they bring around table side and serve if you would like some.  Black eyed peas, macaroni and tomato, fried okra, sorghum molasses and fried potato and onions were today's pass arounds.  I only tried the potatoes and they were delicious.  I wasn't brave enough to try the black eyed peas and nothing else would have been safe for me.  Here is a pic of my yummy lunch.

After we stuffed ourselves silly at Lambert's CafĂ©, we headed to see a giant fork.   We needed to visit the fork first just to feed ourselves the massive dishes of food at the restaurant :)

We saw a chicken car next.  No explanation needed.
Oldest boy child HAD to have these 'murican sunglasses.  Aren't they fab?

World's largest rocking chair......but wait, there's more!!

That's right folks, not only did the rocking chair have a gift shop, but also a Taxidermy Studio!  Winning!!  Unfortunately it was Sunday evening and they were closed :(

We were in for a longer stretch of road now, finally heading for St Louis after several stops along the way.  However, before we were going to our hotel, we headed to a sculpture garden.  It was really interesting and the kids loved it.  We didn't spend as much time as we would have liked to because the sun was setting and we were all exhausted from our full day.  We did snap some pictures though.

Roadside America had the giant eyeball sculpture as the site to see but we were so pleased to have found so many other really cool sculptures to admire. 
Tomorrow will be another adventure as we head for Chicago, IL.  No lack of excitement and 'big' things to see :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wow school is over! Summer roadtrip!

I can't believe my last post was on the first day of the 2012-2013 school year.  Here I am two days past the end of that same school year and finally logging on to blog again!!  Wowza!  I guess I had trouble finding the time to get much done.  With three of the five in school, as well as multiple activities and me starting work after a 13 year hiatus, life got a little wild to say the least!

So here I find myself, sitting in a hotel room with the kids watching movies and the hubs sorting out paperwork and some TIME to catch up on blogging!  Yeah me!  We are on a massive three week road trip as a last hurrah of sorts.  With a HUGE move planned at the end of the year from the USA to Australia we decided to take the kids to visit some cities that we've wanted to get them back to for some time. 

Along the way we will be trying lots of restaurants with Gluten Free menus and seeing some crazy things thanks to Roadside America :)

Today we started off the morning by leaving the house by 9am and heading out of town (north Texas) via Starbucks and a white chocolate mocha :)  .  First stop was a mere 40 minutes away in Denison, TX.  A big head.  Not just any big head.  A big head of President Eisenhower.  Apparently, he was born in Denison! 

Next stop, World's Largest Peanut!!  Our 6 year old was SO excited.  So off we headed to Durant, OK to see THE.WORLD'S.LARGEST.PEANUT.
Just try to imagine the disappointment one might experience if they thought they were going to see the world's LARGEST peanut.  Six year old on arrival said "I expected it to be bigger".  He actually handled it fine, but he was a little disappointed.  I am sure his imagination of what the largest peanut in the world might look like had likely created a planet sized peanut in his mind.  Of course he was disappointed :)
We didn't stay for long, we were too excited to get to the giant revolver bbq.  :/

As you can see it is an actual bbq!!  I am not sure why it is where it is, nor do I know what the business it was cemented in front of was (if anything) but that didn't stop us from having a close up look and posing for some pictures.  Our teenagers were THRILLED!!
By this time it was lunch time and we were about an hour or so away from our lunch destination.  Hubs did a great job researching gluten free options along the way.  So off to Fort Smith, AR we went.  River City Deli was our destination, with a short stop to see Mr Peanut.  There wasn't really a way to get out and take a picture so we took this one (after a slight trespass onto the Mr Peanut factory property) from the car.  That way if the security guard came after us we had a quick getaway.  Minivans are fantastic get-away cars!! 
River City Deli wasn't too far down the road so the natives weren't too fussed with the Mr Peanut detour.  This particular eatery/restaurant offered gluten free bread for their sandwiches, which while becoming more common is still not always an option or easy to find.  I was able to order a grilled cheese with bacon and with a cheese blend of cheddar and swiss.  Yum.  I tried their potato salad which was different than any potato salad I had tried before but good all the same.  Hubs and oldest son split the New Yorker, which had a whole pound of meat on it.  Not my thing but they seemed to enjoy it :)  Before we ordered the server brought over dill pickles and bread and butter pickled green tomatoes.  I am not a fan of dill pickles and these were actually kind of bland as far as pickles go but the green tomatoes.  Oh, they were delicious, I ate most of the bowl at our end of the table by myself.  SO GOOD!! 

The New Yorker

Dill pickles and pickled green tomatoes

Gluten free grilled cheese with bacon

All in all I was really impressed with this little eatery and would definitely recommend it to anyone, gluten free or not. 
After lunch we headed over to The Park at West End.  This was a strange little park with a carousel, ferris wheel and a restaurant in a trolley.  We took some photos in front of their 'big' things and headed out.  We still aren't sure exactly what this place was but the younger kids enjoyed seeing the big chicken, cow and cowboy on his horse :)

Guess what we saw next!  Popeye!  In all his statuesque glory!  Check out those buns.  He works out!

Princess Soleil had been asking about the hotel ALL.DAY.LONG!  Each time we stopped she asked if we were going to the hotel yet.  When we arrived she was SO excited to see her favourite bedroom (it's a good thing she isn't dramatic)!  As a large family we are limited on where we can stay (without needing two rooms).  We almost always stay at Homewood suites now.  We can get a two bedroom suite (for less than two rooms and we don't have to separate), with a king bed, two queens and a pull out sofa, two bathrooms and a kitchen.  Breakfast is also included which is a huge bonus when you have to get five kids up and moving early!  Our whole trip is booked with this hotel chain, except for two stops (where they weren't available).   Here are some pictures of our suite in Fayetteville, AR.

After checking to our hotel in we headed out for dinner.  Of course on the way we had to stop to see the University of Arkansas Razorback statue.  It was stunning *smirk*, albeit missing some bits and pieces ;)  Our 6 year old makes it look awesome though teehee :)

Hubs had found a little place nearby that was more on the natural side and had a gluten free menu, we generally really enjoy environmentally conscious restaurants because the food is fresher, sourced from reputable farms and just tastes better.  It was called Greenhouse Grille and is located near the University of Arkansas.  Out front of the restaurant is a little garden with edibles.  While oddly placed between the parking lot and the front door it was cute and gives customers a glimpse at their sustainable ideals.  The hostess greeted us, seemed slightly miffed that we didn't make reservations (we did try calling, but their line was constantly busy) but said she could accommodate us anyway.  In her defense it was a Saturday evening, though it wasn't even 6pm yet and the restaurant was practically empty.  They squeezed us into a table for six (probably trying to prove her point about reservations) and we were quickly served water and greeted by our server.  He was very friendly and very knowledgeable about the menu and when asked quickly brought out a gluten free menu.  Though the regular menu was also marked for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan.  We ordered our food, the kids had a hard time because the options were a little more crunchy than they have been used to over the last several years.  Hubs ended up ordering one of the specials, Pork chop with daal, M chose a simple salad with spicy Caesar dressing (her first time eating edible flowers....she's not a fan), O had a bison burger with sweet potato fries, C ordered a black bean burger, F a fruit plate and Princess Soleil ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce.  Poor C thought the burger was a regular beef burger WITH blackbeans.  The server was very accommodating and had the chef prepare him a meat patty as a replacement.  I ordered rosemary marinated chicken with green beans, herb potatoes and balsamic glaze.  To be quite honest with you, the food was not very impressive.  Perhaps I ordered the wrong item on the menu, but I would not go back to this restaurant.  It was not fantastic food and when you pay as much as we did for it, we expect great food!  We left disappointed but had a great day anyway and are glad we chose a place that wasn't a chain restaurant to eat our dinner.    Our server was very friendly and accommodating, we were just disappointed with the hostess and the food, but mostly the food. 

Looking forward to day two of our adventure which will include the world's largest windchimes, homebuilt razorback, world's largest rooster, giant fiddle and banjo, mt rushmore with fake celebrity heads, lambert's throwed rolls, world's largest fork, gigantic papercup, chicken car, world's largest rocking chair, route 66 and a big eyeball.
You should be! :)