Meet Me In St. Louis

I had to change the title of this post, because I have flown through the St. Louis airport more times than I can count, but I have never actually visited the city and it turns out there is a surprising amount of things to do here. Like Portland the town is divided into multiple named neighborhoods and also had a HUGE city park that is twice the size of New York’s Central Park. It is also a very old city and the French influences of its settlers can be seen everywhere.

Once again we had difficulty finding a campsite for our entire stay so Lee decided on the RV Park at Draft Kings at Casino Queen. We have stayed in casino campgrounds with mixed results before, but this one was particularly attractive because it was right across the river from the downtown area and the arch. Even though our section was basically a parking lot we can see the arch from where we are staying and it turns out the 24/7 security and private gate made it completely safe and a great jumping off point to see things. We’re less than five minutes from the other side of the river. We absolutely prefer staying in campgrounds with more nature, but you can’t beat the convenience of the location for doing city activities.

Oh and as an extra benefit we signed up for their free casino card and both won $5 of free play. I doubled my money but Lee won $40 on nickel slots after playing only $1 of his free money!!! That was a nice extra benefit. The casino was really nice for a small one and had a great group of slot machines.

These pictures were taken from the roof of our camper one night.

Because we had easy access to the city we made multiple quick trips across the bridge and were able to really explore. One of our first stops was Union Station which is a remodeled train station turned into a hotel and eating venue. Turns out my sister stayed here for a conference in 2019 and stayed in the hotel which she said was really nice on the inside.

The area has a variety of kid friendly activities including a carousel, huge Ferris wheel, aquarium, mirror maze and ropes course. They even have a small Vegas style water show which starts in the evening. Each activity is separately priced (or you can buy combo tickets) but I really wanted to do the maze. I have been fascinated by the 1904 World’s Fair since I was a kid and the maze was an updated recreation of the one at the event. At only $8 it was a bargain and it was definitely the best mirror maze I have ever been in. There were even some cool alcoves that showed items that were made popular by that World’s Fair and the list of them was pretty astounding.

Just to prove we never stop being little kids, Lee’s favorite part was the machine that made whoopee cushion noises 🙂

That was so fun that I decided I wanted to try the ropes course which I thought was really great. Lee hung in there (he’s not a huge fan of heights) but I loved it, except for the zip lining which was a little scary. It is two stories and allows for multiple routes which was pretty neat.

Then we decided to go ahead and do the indoor ropes course, which was a lot of fun. After ziplining, we had a milkshake and watched the light show. All in all I thought it was a great use of converting unused space and seemed like a fun place to take kids.

It was a nice start to our learning the city, but there is something else I should mention to be completely fair. When we were driving around, we wandered into a neighborhood that was completely falling apart. Building after building was burned out and falling down in a huge predominantly black neighborhood and I was really shocked by what I saw. So much so that I did some research and learned that the city has “abandoned” these areas and allowed outside investors to buy them and allow them to fall down. Once I saw that I started seeing it everywhere and this is definitely a city in transition. There are areas where they are clearly trying to reclaim parts of the city, but others that are absolutely awful. I am not saying that lightly either. All cities have poorer sections but this was row after row of burned out buildings. You aren’t going to see many pictures of that in the next few posts, but keep in mind that it is the other side of the pictures.

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Saying Goodbye to Nashville

When I get to the end of a trip to a city I often have lots of miscellaneous pictures to share that I group all together. These are the “quick hit” visits that we squeeze in around other things and here they are. Overall I would say we liked Nashville, but personally I wouldn’t want to live there. The city is definitely going through some major growing pains and is on the brink of a major transition. That being said I definitely think it is a “must see” city. Here are a few more reasons why.

Although the Bluebird Cafe (as featured in the show Nashville) was closed to music events it was open for two hours one day to look inside and buy souvenirs. It is an incredibly small venue and you could feel the history in the room. The employees were really open about letting us walk around and take pictures and even though it was a short visit I was so happy to see it. This is something I would definitely like to do again post COVID.

When I read about the “to scale” replica of the Parthenon I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be really cool. It is surrounded by a huge lawn for live events and the day we went there were some peaceful protests happening. We chose not to go into the museum inside, but really loved taking pictures.

Really close by there was a beautiful sculpture that honored the Women’s Voter Movement. This is one of the best of these I have ever seen and I was thrilled to learn one of the main women in the Women’s Voter movement was from Nashville.

Another sculpture that is very controversial in Nashville is a huge sculpture in the middle of a main traffic circle. What I like about the statue was every face was a different ethnicity. What I thought was unnecessary was the nudity. Don’t get me wrong, in some contexts nude statues are fine, but this is a huge statue in the middle of a bible belt city and frankly I could have gotten the message without it. Probably more so as it is a distraction from the point imho.

We did see this cool bike rack near the statue though that had the spiraled cord as the place the bikes went.

We did see this cool bike rack near the statue though that had the spiraled cord as the place the bikes went.

The Grand Ole Opry was actually a place we had to go to some trouble to get to. It’s moved a few times in its history and currently is located outside of the main downtown. They have built a really nice shopping center around it (pretty smart) and even though we didn’t pay the $39 for a tour we were able to walk the grounds and take a few pictures.

While we were there I saw a Paula Deen restaurant and since Lee had never eaten there I wanted him to try it. For some reason the experience wasn’t nearly as good as the time I went with my Mom. I am not sure if it is because we are trying to watch our weight or the food wasn’t as good (the service definitely wasn’t.) The gift shop though continues to be a treat and I did pick up an old fashioned magnet egg timer.

Finally I wanted to mention that there are some benefits to staying in a fairground. The weekend before we left there was a race event and Lee decided to walk over. Turns out he really enjoyed it and for only $15 dollars he spent 5 hours watching a variety of car races. He even won a free cheeseburger on their prize wheel!

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Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

As Lee and I travel we try to see a variety of things (National Parks, Museums, local landmarks, etc) and one thing we have added to our list this year is seeing presidential home, libraries or tombs. Really anything presidential. To be honest I was surprised when Lee mentioned Andrew Jackson was buried outside of Nashville, because I had no idea he was even from there. I wasn’t thrilled about taking the time to see his house, because I am not a fan of his, but ultimately decided to check it out and was glad that we did.

The grounds and house were extremely well kept and even though we couldn’t take pictures inside the house itself I enjoyed seeing it. Almost everything in the house is original, and the tour took us upstairs which many of them don’t do. My one complaint was they glossed over many aspects of his presidency. They dealt with his being a slaveholder head on, but they mentioned next to nothing about his forcing the Native Americans out of Florida and Georgia and being president during the Trail of Tears. This post is not meant to be a referendum on his presidency, however, I am just going to share the pictures and say I did feel the value of what we saw was largely worth the admission price.

Andrew and Rachel
Jackson was orphaned at 14 but became a military man and became a hero at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812
As the Seventh President he was the very first who was “common” and he was very popular with the people.

One of the most interesting things I learned about Jackson was how supportive he was of his wife. They never had children and he was her second marriage. He adopted her relatives when she had family members die and ultimately they inherited his house. There was some irregularity about the timing of their marriage and the society women in Washington D.C. largely ostracized her, which he always felt led to her death. From everything I saw and read he was completely devoted to her and did everything he could to make her happy.

The grounds are relatively large and we were able to walk through them
My favorite thing that I saw was this spring house. Cool water from the spring ran underneath which kept it cool enough they could store food.

Unfortunately he was not a kind slave owner. He was adamantly against ending slavery because he felt it would break apart the country and when he died some years before the Civil War he did not free any of his slaves as other landowners did. According to what we read, his slaves all left the area as soon as they were freed and the only reason the grounds and house were undisturbed during the war was because both sides admired him as a military hero and former president.

Because the tours were timed for COVID, we walked the grounds first. Unfortunately his tomb was completely covered and actively being restored but we were able to see the family graveyard and peek in.

This gravestone was in the family graveyard and is the coolest tombstone I have ever seen.

I didn’t expect much from the gardens but they were actually really pretty. All local flowers and beautifully tended, it was a small area, but pleasant to walk through while we were waiting for our tour.

When it was our turn to take the tour we went in the house and right away I noticed the wallpaper. It was incredibly beautiful and hand painted and looked practically new. The house itself was built in two pieces (first the main house and then the wings) and as I stated we were able to see all the original furnishings which was really nice. Here are some pictures supplemented by some that came from our guidebook.

The tour guides were all dressed in traditional costumes, which was a nice touch.
The foyer was gorgeous, especially the spiral staircase
Dining Room
The kitchen was a separate building. Common for the time because of fires.
The smokehouse was actually fascinating. We pushed a button and heard them explain how pigs ran wild in the fields and they would covered them in salt in one of these troughs for several months and then smoke the meat.

Again I felt the tour and grounds were worth the $25 price tag and the gift shop was a really nice one as well. Lee bought this shirt which really suits him!

Update: Turns out James Polk is buried in Nashville also and we totally missed that. Need to do a better job researching in future but this gives us an excuse to go back to Nashville!!

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May 2021 Budget

We spent $6416 this month exceeding our budget by almost $2K. For those of you who are looking at budgets to see if this is affordable, I think it’s important to note that we are spending what we are making and it is a conscious choice. If you would like some examples of what our costs looked like when we were making a lot less money I would recommend going to our budget page and checking out 2018 and 2019. For more details see below:

Campsite Fees – Those were crazy high because we are traveling the summer and chose to stay in campgrounds close to the cities we are visiting, and those are often much more expensive. We feel that the time and hassle we save on the “commute” is worth the extra money.

Clothing – We (well mainly Lee) spent a bunch of money on T Shirts in Nashville. This is definitely an example of an optional expense! (Been there. Done that. got the T-shirt. – Lee)

Entertainment – Again we spent $400 in this category which was all optional. I don’t feel so bad about this one though because we have been sitting for six months and doing very little. It’s nice making more money while we travel so we can do what we want and don’t have to quibble about cost. That being said I did pass on the Grand Ole Opry backstage tour because it was $40 per person for one hour and I just didn’t feel it was worth it to me personally. So we aren’t saying yes to everything.

Dining Out – We did OK in everything except for fast food, and again that was mainly Lee. He was spending a lot of time at our daughters house and was eating out a lot.

Groceries – A stock up trip to Costco contributed to this high ticket item. We have made some changes to our diet though so I am curious to see what happens next month. More when those results come in.

Memberships – We have a gold American Express card and that costs $250 a year for two cards. I’m not 100% sure that the annual fee is worth 100+ Amazon points we get but Lee likes having it so we have kept it all these years. We also renewed our Good Sam Roadside Assistance for $90. Speaking of credit cards, I was able to change our home address to my Mom’s in Florida which has solved a myriad of issues for us. This should also help reduce our mail service costs.

Truck Fuel – Despite traveling we have done great on truck fuel taking advantage of the TSD Logistics card.

Supporting our Blog

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Johnny Cash Museum

Johnny Cash Museum

I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, and although at the time I didn’t really get what was behind the music, as I have gotten older I realize how much his music is part of the soundtrack of my life. So I was very excited when I learned there was a museum in downtown Nashville and I made visiting it a priority. We gave the museum our prime 9am Sunday morning slot (less crowds) and drove down to visit.

Unfortunately even at that time it was crowded, and since the museum itself is small and tight, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like later in the day. It was also $25 per person which I felt was really steep for what they had, and unfortunately unless you are a big fan I can’t really recommend it. That being said, since Lee and I are huge fans I am glad we went.

The layout was tight with memorabilia spread throughout. My favorite parts were these small alcoves where you could sit and watch videos about his life. I had no idea for example he was in so many movies.

They did have some nice memorabilia from his home including his family piano. Since he grew up poor the fact that they had a piano was amazing and this was part of how he developed his love of music.

The Cash family piano
Lee took this picture.

One of my favorite sections was what we wore when he won the National Medal of Arts. The award was there as well and I was happy that he was given it. It was revolutionary that he sang songs in prisons and his advocacy for convicts was life long. He also was a person who didn’t seem to care about color and many of his songs are about the disenfranchised.

Cool outfit huh. Only the Man in Black could pull this off.

There also was a small section on the movie Walk the Line. Lee and I re-watched it when we came home from the museum and it was even better than I remembered. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon won Oscars for their portrayals of John and June Cash and if you have never seen the movie I highly recommend it.

They also had a nice section of Johnny’s art. Later in life he experimented with many art forms and for an amateur I thought they were really good.

My absolute favorite part though was was one of the small alcoves where they were playing a clip of Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag”. If you have never heard this in its entirety I have included a You Tube link. It’s a beautiful poem and one that still gives me chills. Despite this country’s problems I consider myself a patriot, and it is moments like this that formed that within me as a child.

You can watch this in its entirety at this link

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Lane Motor Museum

This post was written by Lee and if you like cars, you will love this one. He went on one of my work days and after seeing the pictures if we are ever in Nashville again I would definitely like to go. – Trace

I’m not really a gear head or motor head, but I do enjoy cars, especially unusual ones, and this place was a fantastic surprise!

While the entire Lane collection is over 500 cars, only around 150 are on display at any given time. The rest can be seen in a very reasonably priced vault tour ($6) on weekend. They also do demonstrations on weekends. I’m guessing there are a LOT more people there on the weekend, but it might be worth that to see the vault. The price for just the museum is only $12. It’s bright, clean, and very well laid out. I loved it.

From their website:

In 2002, Jeff Lane established Lane Motor Museum. Jeff has been an automotive enthusiast since an early age. He began restoring his first car—a 1955 MG TF—when he was a teen. His personal collection was the donation that began the foundation. Lane Motor Museum unveiled its collection to the public in October of 2003. As director, Jeff Lane continues to search out cars for the collection that are technically significant or uniquely different. The goal of Lane Motor Museum is to share in the mission of collection and preserving automotive history for future generations.

The Museum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

Lane Motor Museum is one of the few museums in the U.S. to specialize in European cars. It is a working museum with the goal of maintaining all vehicles in running order. Some cars are in showroom condition, while others represent typical aging. Efforts are made to restore each vehicle to near-original specifications.

The Museum has been developed in a well-known Nashville landmark, the former Sunbeam Bakery at 702 Murfreesboro Pike. Home to the bread company beginning in 1951, the 132,000 square-foot facility was the largest and most modern bakery in the area at the time of its opening. The bakery building, outfitted for the museum’s needs but left with many of its original characteristics, has a high ceiling, natural light, and hand-crafted brick and maple wood flooring. The architectural style complements the age of the cars represented. The main floor has approximately 40,000 square feet of open space, ideal for displaying the collection.

I had a really hard time deciding which cars to exclude, so if you’re not into this stuff, just scroll past. But if you are into it, I think you will really like the post. Because there are so many, I’ve used gallery style for the photos, but you can click on any of them to see larger images. Also, for some of the more interesting ones, I have included YouTube videos. Check those out, they’re pretty cool. ESPECIALLY the one about the one man water skiing!!!

1949 Homemade Streamliner, Dayton, OH, One of a kind

1977 Urba Car “Kit”, USA, $1400

1957 Cyclops, USA, 20mph, $295

1936 Le Carabe, France, 20mph, $28

1964 Peel P-50, Isle of Man, 25mph, 200 pounds sterling

1930 Daix Piano Peddle Car, France

1935 Louvet Pedal Car, France

1953 Ardex, France, 20mph

1931 Vochet Velocar, France

1978 Citroen 2CV Amphibious “Justine”, 50mph, One of a kind

1978 Croco Amphibious, Switzerland

1987 Luaz 967M Amphibious, USSR

1964 Amphicar 700 Amphibious, Germany, 70mph land, 6 knots, $3395

1992 Hobbycar B612 Amphibious, France, 87mph, 5 knots, $45k

1964 Ski Craft GMBH, Germany, 30mph, $700

1978 SEAB Flipper 1, France, 28mph

1957 Zundapp Janus 250, Germany

1974 TVE Citadine Electric Car, France, 18mph

1960 Goggomobile Dart, Australia, 63mph, $1500

1957 BAG Spatz, Germany, 50mph, $350

1957 Messerschmidt KR200, Germany, 50mph

1963 Trojan 200, England, 55mph, $1k

1998 Canta, Netherlans, 45mph (governed), $12k

1949 Crosley Hotshot, England, 97mph

1939 Newmap Baby, France, 30mph

1958 BMW Isetta 300, Germany, 65mph, $1k

1947 Davis Divan, USA, 100mph, $1k

1934 Norris Streamliner, USA, 80mph

1945 Surlesmobile, USA, 70mph, $1k, One of a kind

1933 Dymaxion, USA, 80mph, $7600

1960 Chevrolet Corvair Futura Wagon, USA, One of a kind

1924 Red Bug

1915 Aero Sled

1932 Helicron, France, One of a kind

The narrator of this video is Jeff Lane the owner of the museum. He was there buffing cars the day Lee visited. – Trace

1944 Old Town Yankee Canoe with Aerothrust, USA, $150

1967 Gyro-X, USA, 125mph, $750k, One of a kind

1961 Chevrolet Corphibian, USA, One of a kind

1962 Lotus Elite Series II SE, England, 115mph, $6k

1982 DeLorean DMC-12, USA, 135mph, $25k

1959 LARC (Light Amphibious Resupply Cargo) LX (60 ton capacity)
62′ long, 20′ tall, 26′ wide
9′ tires
97 tons empty

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The Loveless Cafe and Seeing Dave & Sharon

The Loveless Cafe and Seeing Dave & Sharon

When we go to a new area we usually reach out to people and ask where are good places to eat and our friend Mark (and another friend, Jane, who you will remember from our stop in Omaha last summer) recommended The Loveless Cafe. Unfortunately we initially tried to go on a Sunday and the wait to eat was 1 hour and 45 minutes. That is not a typo, so I took an early lunch break on Thursday and we arrived at 11am. The wait was still 10 minutes, but we got in right away and saw immediately why the waits were so long. The restaurant was relatively tiny (smaller than a Cracker Barrel) and with such high demand we understood the wait times.

Its a cool story and I couldn’t wait to try the fried chicken and see what all the fuss was about

So the big question is always “Does the food live up to its press?”. I’m pretty tough on that, but I will say the food was different. All of the items tasted different than any other food I have ever had. Actually (and I could be wrong about this) it was like Cracker Barrel was trying to be like this cafĂ©. The chicken in particular had a very distinctive flavor and crunch. Let me put it this way, we bought the instructions and coating for both the chicken and the fired green tomatoes. In all fairness it wasn’t 1-1/2 hour wait good, but if you can find a time slot that isn’t crazy crowded I definitely recommend it.

We also went and visited the Marathon Motor Works. We were drawn there by the Jack Daniels Store, but I was completely enamored by the interior. We have seen many old factories converted to shop spaces but have never seen the old machinery used as decoration. It was super, super cool and unique.

We knew it was cool when the Redneck Riviera Tour Truck pulled up lol
Giant safe …Lee loved it
This cracked me up.

The stores were just so-so except there was a fantastic Olive Oil Store inside. That being said its worth the trip just to see the interior, but I would definitely go early so you can avoid the crowds.

I have to say though of all the things we have done this week, going one evening and seeing David & Sharon was the absolute best. David’s mom had to go into assisted living and they have been remodeling the cabin she lived in. They are the only people I have seen who didn’t put on the “COVID 15” pounds because they have been working so hard on the remodel. And I have to say the house looks absolutely incredible. They basically gutted it and they have added all these little storage areas everywhere that reminds me so much of living in an RV. It was a lovely evening, here are the pics.

The porch is amazing. They built a new one which wraps around three sides of the house
The inside really blew me away. All the artwork are pictures they took on their travels which is an amazing idea.
Sharon and Dave

It was a lovely visit and on the way we had a chance to stop at a vista point and see a wonderful view of the lake. The entire place was Jack friendly and he had a great time hanging out.

Next up a visit to The Bluebird and Andrew Jacksons home.

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B

Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B

Because I am working during the week now, when we arrive at a new city I am being somewhat choosy about the things I want to do. Not only am I limited to the weekends, but I am also fighting the crowds. I have found that the best way to handle it is to pick my very favorite thing and do it first thing on Sunday morning. That way I can enjoy it and skedaddle out when it starts to get crowded.

After much research I chose the Country Music Hall of Fame and when we arrived we added a special tour of RCA Studio B. All in it was $45 a person with both tickets, but it was definitely worth it. We took more pictures than I can share here, but I will show enough to give you an idea of the place. Again, from my perspective definitely worth the ticket.

Oh and before I start I should probably mention that I grew up with country music, but in my teen years was definitely a rock and pop fan. Later in life (around when Garth became famous) I expanded my listening back to country music, but I am definitely not a super fan or anything. If you are a super fan, you definitely don’t want to miss this museum.

The building is laid out in floors and along the right there were videos playing music. Actually there were videos throughout the museum and they did an excellent job of spacing them so the music could be enjoyed separately from other musical exhibits.

In the middle of this floor they also had two custom cars. I’ve seen tons of cars on my travels, but these were both really special.

After we finished the first floor (which is actually Floor 3 of the museum) we walked down to get on a tour bus to Studio B. Along the walls they had a fabulous selection of gold and platinum records and it was fun taking our pictures in front of them.

In general Lee and I are not big fans of tours, but in some cases they are the only way to get to the cool thing. Along the ride I learned a lot about the history, I did find the tour guide to be a little preachy and repetitive. That being said I still absolutely recommend this tour because It is the only way you can be in this space.

The story is this small studio was built in the 1960’s and 45,000 recordings were made here. Of those 1,000 were certified hits and 240 of those were made by Elvis. The #2 artist who also made recordings in this studio was Charlie Pride. This was the first real studio Elvis recorded in when he was starting out and the space is all original except for the lighting.

This 1942 Steinway is original to the room. The story is Elvis tried to buy it many times, but Chet refused to sell it to him. Thinking about the people who had played it gave me goosebumps.

All in this tour was roughly an hour (including driving to and from), but again totally worth it. When we went back to the museum we asked to start on floor two and they allowed us to ride an elevator to that floor. This started in the 70s and Willie Nelson aside this is not my favorite time in country music.