Travel Log: Las Vegas, NV (part one)

The Vegas Stip in the daytime
The Vegas Stip in the daytime

The Day In Las Vegas

I woke up around 9:30-10:00 A.M to get ready to look around town. I looked on yelp for interesting places to see and one of them was a place called Is Sweet in Chinatown. Actually, there seemed to be a lot of interesting things in the Las Vegas Chinatown area. It also didn’t seem to far from the hotel either. It looked like I just need to exit, turn left and keep walking down and I would eventually be there. So that’s what I did. After leaving the hotel I turned left at the corner store Starbucks thinking that I would eventually hit Chinatown. On the way, the Vegas strip looked interesting and surprisingly much less busy as compared to 3:00 A.M in the morning. It was also extremely hot. Perhaps anywhere from 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit! Literally, when I stepped out of the shade and into the sunlight my skin immediately started to sweat profusely lol! At this point I had no hat or sunglasses so the sun was a bit of a pain. If you’re planning on walking the Vegas strip in the morning make sure to bring either sunglasses or a hat! While walking the strip I saw many things. There was a White Castle Burger place. Interestingly, near the Caesar Palace Forum Market Place there was a bunch of people in costumes. There were two Bumblebees from Transformers, Mickey and Mini Mouse, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Spiderman, and more! The odd thing about them though was that there were buckets next to them. Apparently, they are there so you could take pictures with them and in turn give them a tip. It was really odd. It was essentially like seeing Mickey Mouse or Elsa and Anna panhandling. I myself wanted to take pictures of them but I didn’t want to be accosted for tips. I then headed down the strip. As I was walking I was thinking, “where’s Chinatown?” Nothing in the near distance looked like Chinatown and I started thinking I went the wrong way. I then got in front of the Caesar Palace and asked a tour guide where Chinatown was. He said that I was going the wrong way and that I had to turn back for a mile or so. He also gave me information that I couldn’t walk over or under the interstate to get to Chinatown and that I had to take a bus. Thanks for that information, I thought I could just walk under the interstate or something. I then headed back, through the costume people, and back to the hotel. The bus stop was actually real close to the hotel from the other end that I did not go through. Instead of turning right, I was supposed to turn left out of exiting the hotel. When I got here the bus stop was at the next corner. When I got to the bus stop I was in the opposite end. I found that out from the local I talked to. His name is Jeff and got me some information on the buses. He let me know that the Chinatown bus was on the other side of the highway and that the bus fare was $2 for a one-way ticket and $3 for a two-hour ticket and $5 for a 24-hour ticket. At the time I thought the two-hour ticket would suffice but little did I think ahead. I then headed back and conveniently a CVS was there so I could get change for the bus. I got the change and headed to the other side of the highway to get to the bus stop. Thankfully, when I got to the bus stop the bus has just arrived. When I got inside the bus I asked the bus driver lady if the bus was headed to Chinatown and she said yes. I then got my seat near the middle of the bus. The bus itself was real nice and new as compared to the buses back in Hawaii. It was about a ten to fifteen minute ride to Chinatown. Before I left asked the bus driver where the bus stop was that headed back to the strip and she pointed it out.

A view of the strip from the daytime
A view of the strip from the daytime
White Castle is in one of those small colorful buildings.
White Castle is in one of those small colorful buildings.
This is from the Caesar Palace Forum Marketplace where the people in costumes were
This is from the Caesar Palace Forum Marketplace where the people in costumes were

The Las Vegas Chinatown

Chinatown here in Las Vegas was nice and modernized. It was also spacious and clean. This is compared to the Chinatown back in Honolulu. This Chinatown was not as architecturally or geographically ethnic as the Chinatown in Honolulu as well. Overall, it reminded me of Little Saigon back in San Jose. I walked around the first plaza and there were a lot of restaurants and little stores. I remember seeing a restaurant that had pictures of famous people who ate there; amongst them I could remember seeing Paris Hilton in one of the pictures. In the back of this plaza I also noticed a pizza place that seemed to have good prices on their pizzas. I then walked across the street to the second plaza. This one was interesting because it had a Ranch 99 in it. I wanted to go inside but my two-hour pass was quickly ticking and I wanted to find Is Sweet. Around this area, I remember asking a couple if they knew where it was and they said that they were just tourists also. I then looked around this second plaza a little more. I noticed a place called Volcano Café, which I remember from looking at it in Yelp. I also saw a Taiwanese restaurant that had some interesting dishes on display. I kept this restaurant in mind to eat at later. At the end of this plaza was a place called Chinatown Mall. I was like “Chinatown Mall? What could be there?” I then went inside the Chinatown Mall. Inside was a big set of stairs that led to a massage place and a discount showroom area. In the bottom was a more conventional looking mall area that was a bit narrow and wrapped around the mall in a circular shape. I first went upstairs to check out the discount area. It was a huge show room with a bunch of knick-knacks to look at. Imagine an antique store but with purely oriental stuff. There were cell phone charms, tea sets, dresses, and much more. It was also a bit weird cause I was the only person inside with the workers at their spots. They didn’t really stare at me the whole time so it wasn’t too weird. I felt a bit weird taking a few pictures inside. I was looking for anything interesting that could be a cool souvenir but alas I didn’t see any. I then went downstairs to look at the different stores in the “mall”. I saw a boba place that is called No. 1 Boba Tea. It looked interesting but I held out for Is Sweet. Across from it was a food court like area but with only one food stand. I then headed towards a bookstore like place. It was interesting. It was full of books in Chinese and perhaps some of them were translations too. I also saw a green military cap with a red star. It looked interesting and I was about to get it but oh well. There was also this huge section with a lot of Chinese New Years stuff. Inside the store I looked at a few of the books. Some of them that stuck out were How To Read Chinese books that were pretty pricey. I then saw these bracelets that I remember my friend from Taiwan had. They were these bracelets with small wooden balls around the circumference. I got one in black and one in brown. I asked the cashier girl if they meant anything and she said no. Throughout the whole time she was helping me with stuff too.

Chinatown "Mall"
Chinatown “Mall”
A view from the first plaza
A view from the first plaza
A view from the first plaza
A view from the first plaza
Ranch 99 from the second plaza
Ranch 99 from the second plaza
A view from the second plaza
A view from the second plaza
Inside the "Mall"
Inside the “Mall”
A shot from the discount showroom
A shot from the discount showroom
A shot from the discount showroom
A shot from the discount showroom
No. 1 Boba Tea
No. 1 Boba Tea
A shot from inside the bookstore
A shot from inside the bookstore
A shot from the bookstore
A shot from the bookstore

Taiwanese Restaurant (The Little Kitchen Cafe)

I then finished looking around the “mall”, the only other store that looked interesting was a bakery but I wasn’t too interested in getting bread at the moment. I then headed out and went back to that Taiwanese restaurant since I was getting hungry and it looked interesting. When I got inside this cute Chinese girl sat me at a table near the cash register. The room itself was pretty small. My seat was probably six feet or so away from the entrance and literally to my right is the cash register lol The girl gave me the menu and a cup of water. From the menu two things stuck out. First was the stinky tofu. I remember watching Andrew Zimmern do a special in Taiwan and he ate stinky tofu. He described how rancid it smelled and things like that. So I wanted to try it out also. The second thing that stuck out was Taiwanese sausage. What could that be and how is it different from other sausages? The girl came by to get my order and I ordered a half order of stinky tofu and the Taiwanese sausage plate. I got the half order of stinky tofu because the picture showed twelve pieces and that’s a bit too much for me. I also asked the girl what something was in a picture. It looked like it was a bun with some sort of topping all over it. She said that it was “taro”. And I thought oh it’s a “taro bun”. I then kept it in mind to order later. It didn’t take too long for the food to come. The girl brought over the Taiwanese sausage plate first and then the Stinky Tofu a few minutes after. The stinky tofu itself did not immediately stink. You had to put the tofu to your nose to smell the stink. The tofu plate also came with a dipping sauce with three sauces that I cannot describe. It was a bit like a less salty soy sauce with intricate nuanced flavors from the other sauces in it. Both the stinky tofu and the sausage plate came with Kimchi. The sausage plate came with other sides including two salad like sides and this dark brown egg. It wasn’t a thousand year old egg for sure, but it had a very dark brown color. It tasted fairly normal though. Under the sausages also was a ground beef stir-fry. In terms of taste, the stinky tofu had a crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle texture. It tasted a bit bitter with most of the taste coming from the smell. The smell wasn’t stinky in a sense but it was odorous. Its hard to describe, it was fermented without tasting bad. The sauce added extra flavor and the tofu also went well with the Kimchi. As for the sausages, they tasted both sweet and fermented. The sausages were tasty, easy to eat, and the fermented taste made it edgier to eat. The sides were all good as well. It was so good I ate it all. I then asked the girl if I could get the taro thing and she said “Oh we don’t have any right now, its just a topping.” I was like “just a topping?” I then looked at the picture and next to the buns were sliced taro pieces lol Oh well, perhaps next time again. I then asked the girl for her name. It was pronounced “E-May”, I have no idea how to spell it, perhaps its Emay, or Ymay, or even Imay, I don’t know. I thanked her before I went on my way.

A shot from inside the restaurant. The left picture has a picture of that bun and next to it on the upper right are taro slices lol
A shot from inside the restaurant. The left picture has a picture of that bun and next to it on the upper right are taro slices lol
A shot of the menu
A shot of the menu
Taiwanese sausage in the left and stinky tofu on the right
Taiwanese sausage in the left and stinky tofu on the right

Back to the Hotel

On my way out I went to look for Is Sweet again but alas as I was walking down the road I noticed that my two-hours was almost up. Darn, I then headed back to the bus stop. It kind of sucks because I just missed a bus and since there was heavy traffic I was afraid that my two-hour pass would expire waiting for the bus. It was also amazingly hot and the bus stop had little to no shade. The bus arrived at the nick of time. I think my pass would have expired in five or ten minutes! The bus was a bit more crowded than earlier. I still got the same seat near the middle from earlier though. During the bus ride a guy dropped a pamphlet and he asked the guy in front of him to get it. The guy in front thought the guy behind him was trying to sell something because he kept waving his hand saying “no thank you”. I then took it upon myself to get the pamphlet to return to the old man. The old man said “thank you, God bless”. I said “no problem”. After this, it was about fifteen or twenty minutes back to the strip. I headed out and back to the room to take a short nap.

A shot of the bus I took back
A shot of the bus I took back

Travel Log: From Colorado Springs, CO to Las Vegas, NV

Road out of Grand Junction, CO towards Utah
Road out of Grand Junction, CO towards Utah

Colorado Forever

Well, the day started with a church service early in the morning. The service itself was nice and it was done around 6:40 A.M. Afterwards, when I got home I got ready for the family trip. Our first leg of the trip would be Las Vegas, NV. We left the house around 7:30 A.M. We predicted to be in Vegas around 10 P.M if there was no traffic or anything. The first part of the trip was fairly familiar since it brought us through Denver and up towards Grand Junction, CO. I fell asleep during the first part of the trip. I woke up when we got to Idaho Springs, CO, which is a small mining town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in a narrow valley. We stopped at a gas station/McDonald’s. I was surprised because it was actually pretty busy inside with lots of tourists. I got two McDoubles from McDonald’s and I also got a glass bottle of Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola from the gas station. The locals of Idaho Springs, CO were real nice. We then headed out of this gas station. I noticed as we were leaving all the other cars in the parking lot all had different license plates lol When we left Idaho Springs we headed back West towards Grand Junction. The next stop we would made on I-70 would be in Eagle, CO, which is another small town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. This town was in an open area as compared to Idaho Springs. Also, when you exit into Eagle you have to navigate a bunch of roundabouts to get to where you need in the town. We had to go through two roundabouts to get to the first gas station lol We didn’t gas up yet, but we did use the bathroom and get some snacks. We then headed out and promptly got back on I-70 West. Just a few miles out of Eagle, CO we noticed a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. There must have been a good mile of cars parked on the side going up the exit with no cars on the interstate headed to Grand Junction, CO. Apparently they closed off I-70 for some reason. We got up the exit and asked one of the workers were we had to go to get to Grand Junction. The worker said to turn around and exit off Wolcott up to Steamboat Springs, CO. And so we did. But, before we went around we got some gas at the gas station in the town were they closed off the interstate. This town is Gypsum, CO, which is similar to Eagle in a way. At the gas station there were a lot of people, a motley crew for sure. There were bikers, families, students, and people of all kinds it was interesting. While I was gassing up, I overheard the bikers talking about why the interstate was closed. Apparently there was a rockslide nearby and they had to close the interstate indefinitely. After getting gas we headed back East to find that exit up to Steamboat Springs, CO. On the way back we stopped at that gas station we stopped earlier in Eagle, CO. We stopped here to ask the workers how to use the alternate route back to Grand Junction. She pointed out on an atlas on how to get to Grand Junction. We had to drive back East to a town called Wolcott and head North to Steamboat Springs. At Steamboat Springs we were then to head West to Craig then South to Rifle and then we could get back on I-70 West from Rifle to Grand Junction. In other words, we had to make a real big detour that was estimated to be about four or five hours long! There goes getting to Las Vegas by 10:00 P.M! Oh well, it was the best option at the time. The girl at the Eagle gas station said they were planning on closing the Interstate overnight! Well, we thanked the girl and we went on our way.

A shot of the atlas the girl showed us. You could see the detour we took as compared to just taking I-70 if it was not closed
A shot of the atlas the girl showed us. You could see the detour we took as compared to just taking I-70 if it was not closed

The detour wasn’t too bad. At least it took us through a lot of scenic areas and a lot of Colorado I have never seen before. When we hit North at Wolcott, the views were just spectacular, basically the stuff you see in Colorado postcards or if you Google Colorado and search the images. The only bane of this area is that the roads were narrow, winding, and the speed limit was a bit slow. Worst of all it was only two lanes. One lane going up and the other lane going down. This means, if there’s a slow car in front of you, you either have to go slow too or risk it and over take the slow car. Thankfully, we only encountered a few slow cars and over take situations only a few times. One of the towns on the way to Steamboat Springs that stuck out was Taponas, CO. It was a small farm town in a relatively flat area. Basically the highway split the town in half, or at least that’s what it seemed. There was also this real tall rock nearby called “The Finger” or something like that. I also liked how it looked in the area with the overcast clouds, rolling hills, and rain, it just looked awesome in the area.

Near Toponas, CO
Near Toponas, CO

We eventually got to Steamboat Springs. It was the biggest town we came across during this detour. It kind of surprised me on how big it was, it made me wonder why people lived there and how they made a living. Steamboat Springs was a nice quiet town, it looked a bit like Boulder, CO but more mountain village style. It also was not as busy as Boulder too. Our stop in Steamboat Springs was at a Safeway. The locals seemed real nice here also. We eventually got on our way out of Steamboat Springs down to Craig. I also remember seeing on the road to Steamboat Springs were these little yellow signs that were advertising some Western outfitters place that sold cowboy hats for $6.99 lol While, leaving Steamboat Springs you still see these advertisements. When we got about fifty or so miles out of Steamboat Springs is when I started driving. We made a stop at a little rest area. When I started driving, the road was not too busy. Nor were there much slow cars in front of me. I think I only needed to over take two or three cars on our way to Rifle, CO. From Steamboat Springs to Rifle there isn’t too much to see in terms of towns. You are basically driving through hilly areas and valleys through mountains. It was also very green in the area. When we got to Rifle, CO after such a long time it was a sigh of relief. The speed limit went back to 70-75 mph, which felt so much better than driving the 60-65 mph during the detour. After Rifle, CO we headed out towards Grand Junction, CO. We made a stop at the gas station to fill up. We then also got our dinner at the Wendy’s across the street. We didn’t stay too long here in Grand Junction since it was getting dark already. We then headed out of Grand Junction and into Utah!
On Utah to Las Vegas, NV.

When we got out of Grand Junction it was just a hop and a skip to Utah. Crossing the state line was fairly night and day. Prior to the state line you could see the mountainous area of Colorado and all the greenery and trees and such. But, crossing into Utah, its fairly desolate. There are still mountainous areas but there was not as much greenery here. Just the Interstate and the desert around us. Thankfully we got our gas in Grand Junction because on the road we took there really aren’t a lot of gas stations. I remember seeing a sign that said “next gas station in 230 miles”, which is a long distance and if you go in half tank you might not make it to the other end. So if your driving from Colorado and through Utah you got to keep that in mind. Even the rest areas in between were very desolate looking, some don’t even have lamps and it gets pitch black out here. The first and only town we stopped here in Utah was in Selina, UT to get gas. It’s a small town in the middle of freaken nowhere. I don’t make that statement lightly, in Texas there are towns that could be fifty or so miles away from another town or an hour away from a big city. But dang, Selina was just isolated in the middle of a desert with nothing much for miles.

Welcome sign of Utah
Welcome sign of Utah

Inside of the gas station I got some postcards. The guy working was interesting to say the least. When I got to the cash register he was fixing something near the soda machine and said in a monotonous somewhat robotic voice “I will be there to help you in a second”. Everything he said was in that voice. It was both humorous and odd at the same time. He said stuff every time he did something like “You’re total is $3.65.” Then “I am getting your change of $0.35” and “Would you like a bag” and the eventual “Thanks for coming”. Outside of the gas station I then saw the same worker taking out the trash in a roller trash can and he was taking it out like a freaken robot. Keep in mind Utah is the center of Mormonism and I thought “What did they do to you?” Afterwards, we then got out of Selina and back on the road to Vegas. I remember I drove this stretch of road all the way to the first city in Nevada. The drive towards Nevada was quiet. It was already pitch dark and there were not much cars on the road. I remember we then got into Arizona, which surprised me since I didn’t think we would go through Arizona. The drive through Arizona was short. Perhaps the drive was an hour or so. But, it did take me through narrow construction areas. I mean real narrow. I swear at one point the side of the road is lined up on both sides with Jersey blocks and with just enough room for a car to get by. If I was to swerve even an inch I felt that my side mirror was going to break off from the Jersey blocks. This narrow road was even winding too! Thankfully it only lasted perhaps two or three miles. Out of Arizona we quickly got to Nevada. We made a stop at the first city called Mesquite, NV and right away just a few miles out of the AZ border there was a huge casino in this nowhere town of Mesquite. We got our gas here in Mesquite. Although it was a small town it seemed to be pretty big, perhaps because of that huge casino. We didn’t stay too long; we then got on the road to Las Vegas. From Mesquite, NV to Las Vegas there wasn’t much to see. I remember when we got to the Las Vegas area, the Las Vegas skyline literally lit up the desert. It was very bright even thirty or so miles away from the city. When we got into the city, you could already see the many different hotels and casinos. It was a sight to behold for sure. We then got to our hotel at Treasure Island, which I thought would be really pirate themed but it was a fairly normal hotel. We got there around 2:00-3:00 A.M and there were still a lot of people up and around the Vegas strip. When we got here I was fairly beat and tired. I subsequently went to sleep.

A shot of Vegas from the Interstate
A shot of Vegas from the Interstate

Travel Log: From Independence, MO to Colorado Springs, CO

From a rest area in Kansas
From a rest area in Kansas

The Road To Kansas

From the Truman house I went straight to the highway. Getting out of Independence, MO isn’t too difficult, however, getting out of Kansas City, MO was pretty tough. When I hit Kansas City, MO the road became busy with a bunch of exits going everywhere. Not as difficult at Ft. Worth, TX but it was a bit confusing. Actually, my GPS failed me again and made me miss an exit. Basically, the GPS made me skip an exit and take the next one that led into downtown Kansas City, MO. From there it wanted me to make a U-Turn and take the exit it skipped last time. Oh well, this slight detour took me about a ¼ or ½ mile into the downtown area where a medical school was nearby. I remember seeing students in scrubs walking around. Around this area I turned into a random street that had a parking area and a suburb straight across. I made a U-Turn here and headed back the same way out. From here I was able to get back on the highway and exit off into Interstate-70 West. This interstate would be the road I would take all the way back to Limon, CO.

On Kansas

After getting back on the interstate I made it quickly into Kansas City, KS. This side of Kansas City looks both more modern yet industrial as compared to the Missouri side. The industrial part is on the outskirts of the city and is a sure reminder of the industrial revolution. After leaving Kansas City, KS the road stayed fairly busy. At the city line you then hit a tollbooth where you collect a ticket to pay at an exit or the end of the toll road. I got my ticket and drove on through the toll road. My first stop was actually at a place they call a “service area”, which is weird since its basically a rest area in the middle of the interstate. This service area had a travel center and McDonald’s. I parked right next to the travel center. I went inside to use the bathroom and to look around. I noticed that it had one of those f’real milkshake machines. I never used one and this machine had a limited edition cotton candy flavor so I thought “what the heck, why not?” It was hot anyways. It ended up tasting pretty good and not too synthetic. I also got a few postcards before heading out. Getting back on the interstate is tricky since you exit the service area onto the fast lane (left lane) where cars are literally going 85+ mph (speed limit 80). My car doesn’t accelerate fast and I must have hit that lane at 50 or 60 mph. Thankfully, the interstate wasn’t busy now and I was able to exit without a problem. It didn’t take too long before I got to the end of the toll road. On my way to the end of the toll road I noticed a sign about the “Brown vs. Board of Education” building and that it was close by. When I got to the tollbooth on this end I asked the guy where the building was and he was nice enough to give me directions and print them off too. It was super close by, actually, it was at the next exit past a few turns. The toll itself was $2.50 if anyone’s curious. After getting the directions I headed into Topeka, KS and into that first exit. It wasn’t too hard getting to the building, after the exit I just needed to turn once or twice. When I got to the suburbs I noticed that the roads were named after presidents, such as Jefferson, Madison, etc. I then parked in this dirt parking lot next to a park in front of the Brown vs. Board of Education building. I walked to the building and read the placards about the building. Its really interesting being in a major civil rights area. I walked around the building and I noticed a stray dog following me for a bit. I didn’t make eye contact and walked away. I then headed back to my car. As for the park itself, it was nice and small. It had a basketball court and picnic areas as well. I then headed out and back on the interstate. I was kind of hungry and tried to look for a place in Topeka to eat. I looked on Yelp for something interesting but I didn’t really find anything unique that stuck out. I remember taking an exit into the downtown area and it reminded me of the suburbs of St. Louis. I didn’t stick around too long, I headed back on the interstate out West.

From the Parking Lot
From the Parking Lot
Entrance
Entrance

Beauty at a Rest Area

The next stop I made was at a rest area about fifty or so miles West of Topeka. At this rest area I noticed a biker sitting on a raised concrete platform. When I walked by he said “Hi, how are you doing?” in a heavy Irish accent. It surprised me actually since I was expecting anything but an Irish accent. I said I was doing good and asked how he was and he said he was doing good as well. I then headed inside to use the bathroom and when I went out I noticed a staircase to the side going up. I checked it out and it led to an upper level of the rest area. Interestingly, I also noticed a hiking path up here. It was interesting, at the entrance of the hiking path it said “Guard of the Plains”. It’s a placard about a monument at the end of the path that’s supposed to represent a windmill, since windmills were a part of the livelihood of the people in Kansas. This hiking path was beautiful, and you would not believe that it is hidden in a rest area. It reminded me of some hikes in Hawaii, particularly Manana Trail in Pearl City, HI. Inside the trail, you hike through a forest and through a wooden bridge and then to a narrow path up a steep hill with a narrow path and a few switchbacks. Somewhere along this path there is a bench where you could rest. Near the top of the hill there is a clearing and then it’s a small walk to the monument. The monument itself looks like an abstract windmill. It was nice, the view of the surroundings from the top of this hill was beautiful. You could see the interstate, the railroad with a train passing through, and the vast rolling hills of Kansas. It helps remind you that there is a lot to see in the world. It also reminds you that there is beauty in even the most mundane places like this here rest area. I spent some time up on this hill before jogging down the hill. Overall, the hike is simple, about ½ mile up and ½ mile down or even less! When I got out I headed back to my car. I actually was a bit tired so I closed my eyes for a bit. I probably rested for about 15 minutes, real short but it got me energized. I then got back on the road headed for Abilene, KS.

Entrance to the hike
Entrance to the hike
A bridge in the middle of a forest
A bridge in the middle of a forest
A bench in the middle of the hike
A bench in the middle of the hike
View of the monument at the end of the hike
View of the monument at the end of the hike
View from top the hill
View from top the hill

On Abilene, KS.

I wanted to go to Abilene for a few reasons. First, I knew about the Eisenhower Library in the city. Why not cross out two Presidential Libraries from my bucket list on the same day? Secondly, I was still hungry and was looking for somewhere interesting. Third, it’s interesting to see the town where good ol’ Ike came from. When I exited into Abilene for some reason my GPS gave out on me again. Thankfully, there were signs that lead to the visitor’s center. This drive took me through a typical exit area with gas stations on the side. About a ¼ mile in, it took me through residential area. In this residential I noticed a mansion, it had a placard but it wasn’t Eisenhower’s place. Another ¼ mile took me into the downtown area. It kind of look like a downtown area you would see in a small town in Texas like Memphis, TX’s downtown area or dare I say Post, TX’s downtown area. Basically, it’s a bunch of old school looking two story buildings. The visitor’s center was right next to the downtown area. I made a stop here since I remember seeing a sign for “free cookies and coffee”, I was like “Free cookies and coffee? I’m down!” But, when I got here I noticed that the parking area was empty. I was like “dang, its probably closed”. And it was, when I got to the door I saw the Closed sign. I saw a few pamphlets about Eisenhower and an old school telephone booth. Besides from the cookies and coffee I was hoping to get some information on where the Eisenhower Library was. But oh well, I got back in my car and drove around the downtown area for an open store to ask for directions. While driving around I noticed a pizza joint that was open, it was called “Tossed n Sauce Pizza”. Inside, for some reason it reminded me of a chapel for some reason. I wonder if it was a chapel turned pizza place? When I went inside I first went straight to the bathroom. After using it I asked the girl who was working for directions to the Eisenhower Library. She said “Oh, let’s ask one of the guys, I’m bad with directions.” I was like ok, then the guy in the back helped me out. Very specific directions “you just head down the road and take a right at Buckeye Ave and you will see the library right down the road.” Thanks! I took his directions and got to the Eisenhower library in no time.

Downtown Abilene, KS
Downtown Abilene, KS

It must have been less then a ¼ mile away from the downtown area. I noticed that it was closed, I think the time at the moment was about 6:30 P.M. I then parked in an empty parking lot. Thankfully, the no parking sign said “no parking from 11:00 P.M to 5 A.M” basically no overnight parking. I then started walking around. My first stop was to Eisenhower’s childhood home. It was right in the compound of the Library. It’s a nice house and looked like a typical farmer’s house kind of house. It was very odd being able to be up and close with the house. As compared to the Truman House, which was barricaded with fences, the Eisenhower House was fairly open for you to get up and close to. You just can’t go inside without a tour guide. I walked the area a bit before walking to the museum entrance. It was nice, both the Museum and Library looked like the front side of the Truman Library as well. The different here is that Eisenhower Museum and Library were in two separate buildings. In the middle of the courtyard was a monument of Eisenhower and it was very cool to see it up close and personal. While, I was taking a picture of this monument two ladies approached me and started making conversation. I remember the lady saying “Hi there, well apparently you’re not from around here” with a slight southern accent. I was like “Yeah, I’m from Colorado”. We made small talk about why I was there and how she was taking her niece who was visiting around the town. Their names are Dianne and Katie. Dianne being the aunt and Katie being the niece. Both are very pretty and I remember Dianne saying that she just moved into Abilene, but I forgot to ask where she came from. Dianne also gave me a quick lowdown of the Eisenhower compound, which was nice. She even pointed out that the chapel, where Eisenhower was buried, is open. Thanks for the tip Dianne! We then parted ways. I took a few more pictures around before heading to the chapel. Inside the chapel it was tranquil, all you hear is the sound of a small water fountain near the graves of Eisenhower and his wife and son who unfortunately died at an early age. I stayed in the chapel to take it all in before I headed out. When I headed out I actually used a porta-pottie on the other parking lot. I have no idea why I needed to use the bathroom a lot lol Oh well, afterwards I got back in my car and decided to drive around a bit. I noticed a dirt road that said “Old Abilene this way”. Basically, it took me on a dirt road and into this old school western looking town. All the buildings were closed and made me wonder if the buildings actually open earlier? I then headed out of Abilene. I was still a bit hungry but the only thing open at this time was that pizza place and I didn’t feel like pizza. I then headed out of Abilene back to the interstate out West.

View of Eisenhower's childhood home from the front
View of Eisenhower’s childhood home from the front
View of Eisenhower's childhood home from the side
View of Eisenhower’s childhood home from the side
View from the courtyard
View from the courtyard
The Eisenhower Museum
The Eisenhower Museum
A shot of Eisenhower's statue, right after taking this shot I meet Dianne and Kaite
A shot of Eisenhower’s statue, right after taking this shot I meet Dianne and Kaite
View of the chapel from outside
View of the chapel from outside
Eisenhower and his wife and song
Eisenhower and his wife and song
Old Abilene
Old Abilene

On Russell, KS.

When I got back on the interstate, I was still hungry and noticed a billboard that said “A&W Restaurant Exit In Russell, KS” or something like that. In my head I was like “cool an A&W RESTAURANT? It must be better than those A&W/KFC fast food joints, right?” So I was intrigued and envisioned a diner style restaurant that happens to serve A&W products. Intrigued I drove the ninety some miles from Abilene to Russell, KS. When I got there it must have been around 9:30 P.M. From the exit, the A&W restaurant was about a mile or two from the exit. I drove it and it was pretty dark. I remember not driving through any residential areas though. When I got to the “A&W Restaurant” I noticed immediately that it looked like a Sonic, with the drive in order things. I was like “oh man, its not really a diner style restaurant”. Even worse to my chagrin when I parked at the parking lot and checked the side door, it was locked. I was like “This can’t be right, there’s a lot of people eating inside”. Disenchanted I still walked to the other side of the restaurant and the other door was locked. I then read a sign that said “dine-in closes at 9:30 P.M while drive-up closes at 10:00 P.M” I was a bit pissed off, but oh well. I got in my car and drove to one of the drive-up windows. I took a minute to look at the menu and noticed an interesting shake called a “freeze”, which is a mix between a root beer float and slushy. I remember a friend telling me about how you can’t normally get these anymore so I was like “what the heck, why not?” I then pressed the order button and ordered the Papa Burger with a side of Fries and a large Freeze. My total was around $12, which his actually pretty expensive for fast food. Oh well, I got my food pretty quickly and it was alright. The Freeze really stuck out as awesome. Its hard to describe, but imagine if a root beer float was a slushy/milkshake. I ate my food and still had a lot of the Freeze left. I then headed out and went to the gas station near the exit into Interstate-70 West. At the gas station I gassed up and humorously, these two bikers come out and one says “hey wanna get a milkshake?” and the other says “AW HELL NAH!” loudly with a heavy southern accent. In my head I was laughing because I had a milkshake like thing in my car. I then got in my car and headed out.

The "A&W Restaurant" in Russell, KS
The “A&W Restaurant” in Russell, KS

The Road Back Home To Colorado

From Russell, KS on out I didn’t make much stops. One of the stops was at a rest area where I was pretty tired. It was still in Kansas though. I probably slept there for a solid two hours. I then got on the road and after a hop and a skip I got to Colorado. Thankfully my GPS started working again since I knew I needed to find a specific exit in Limon, CO. When I got to Limon I exited to the first gas station I saw. I gassed up and used the bathroom inside. Humorously, the guy present was asleep in the back room. But you could see him very visibly, when you enter the front door, sleeping on a chair. To be honest, I thought he would wake up after I used the bathroom and walked around the store. To my surprise he was out cold, the door slamming from the bathroom did not waking up. After looking around and getting some postcards I actually had to yell a few times to wake him up. After he got up he literally said “I am so dead”, repeatedly actually. He then apologized repeatedly as well. I said it was ok but he kept on apologizing anyways. I asked him about Limon, CO and he told me that the town really consisted of what you see from the interstate. Basically, it’s a small town. I then headed out back on the interstate. It was a short drive to the exit I needed to make. It took me to a familiar highway, highway 24 West. This highway would actually take me all the way back to Colorado Springs. This highway took me through familiar towns close by, such a Peyton and Falcon. When I hit those towns I knew I was close to home. When I got back to Colorado Springs, there wasn’t much cars on the road. I was tempted to speed it up but I was like “I came way too far to get a ticket now.” Thankfully I drove speed limit since on my way back I noticed a few police cars hidden in some parking lots. When I got home it was around 4:30 A.M. This drive from South Carolina was the longest drive I made up to that point. Two time zones, eight states, and about two thousand miles.

Travel Log: The Archive And Museum In Independence, MO

To The Truman Library

I woke up at around 8:30 A.M and took a shower and got ready to eat breakfast at the buffet. The buffet itself was pretty good, it consisted of biscuits and gravy amongst other things. I got quite a bit to eat before I headed back to my room to check out. I subsequently quickly picked up all my things and headed out. After I checked out from the hotel I headed to the Truman Library.

Biscuits and Gravy!
Biscuits and Gravy!

The Truman Library itself was not far from the hotel, probably about a mile and a half from the hotel. The drive took me through the suburbs into the Library. While driving into the Library it amazed me on how beautiful it looked in real life. Prior to this moment I have only seen the Library in books and on the Internet. I parked on the far side of the building thinking that the library was at the main entrance. Before I entered, however, I took some time to look at a Liberty Bell replica that is one of the few ever made. Supposedly its supposed to be an exact replica with even the same tone as the original Liberty Bell. After looking at the Liberty Bell replica I headed inside. With me I had my messenger bag with my laptop and other random things. When I went inside the security guard had to check my bag as per regulations. I then asked him where the archive was and he pointed it out. This main entrance area was for the museum but the archive was out to the other side of the building. I thanked him and headed towards the archive. Inside the entrance of the archive side was a small executive office looking lobby with a security guard at the reception desk. The security guard helped me sign in and get an appointment with one of the archivists. I remember asking the guard if he met President Truman but he said that he only saw him but not meet him. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. When I was done signing up the archivist came out and greeted me. As per regulation I couldn’t bring my bag and I had to take out my laptop and charger with my laptop on and open. I got a key to locker that was hidden behind a wall that could be opened by sliding it apart. I actually double checked with the guard and was like “so I just slide it apart?” Because it didn’t look like the wall could open, much less anything behind it. To my surprise it slide open from the middle and behind it was locker with many compartments. The compartment was spacious enough for me to put my messenger bag in it with room to spare. After putting my bag away and getting my laptop and charger I went with the archivist to the research room. She was very pleasant and helpful. When we went into the research room she gave me a quick lowdown of everything. First was the main research room itself. Each researcher gets a personal table and chair. There must have been six of these. I was lucky to get one without reserving a spot beforehand. Then the archivist pointed out drawers near the entrance that had both research documents and those old school filing cards of the documents in the archives. She mentioned that he old school filing cards are more accurate and complete than the online directory. Next she pointed out a shelf that is dedicated for student and or beginner researchers. She mentioned that the boxes on this shelf were copies of the originals and were meant to be easy access for students and other researchers into different documents in the archives. She also mentioned that it is useful to get a first look into the kind of documents in the archives. I then mentioned to her that I wanted to look into documents pertaining to the Indochina and how I could look into some of these documents. She then showed me where on the Truman website how I could look at the different documents and how I could find them in their proper boxes. Prior to this, I did check this section but it made no sense to me, but now it was put into context. She then showed me the hallway with the bathrooms to the left and a break room to the right and down the stairs. In this hallway was a bunch of different pictures on the wall related to President Truman. After this brief tour she instructed me to look through a PowerPoint that has the rules and regulations on researching in the archives. It was pretty easy stuff, some stuff to remember is that you could only have one box on your table with only one folder out at a time. Furthermore, you could only view one document at a time. Essentially, be super careful. After this PowerPoint I had to fill out a document with information about my thesis and myself. After I turned it in it wasn’t too long before I got my researcher card, which is good for a year. I then got a slip of paper where I could put information on the boxes I needed. One box was on Indochina and another was on the Korean War. It was pretty funny, I only got two boxes while everyone else got carts full of boxes. If only I had time I would had gotten more boxes.

Liberty Bell Replica
Liberty Bell Replica
Mural in the front of the museum
Mural in the front of the museum

In The Boxes

The boxes I did get had some interesting information. Amongst the Indochina box I found out that the King of Cambodia sent an elephant to President Truman as a gift for recognizing the King’s legitimacy in Cambodia. This elephant was to be placed in a zoo in D.C but unfortunately the elephant died in transit. There were humorous letters to Truman regarding the elephant. I remember reading a letter written by an elementary school teacher that had thoughts from the class. The teacher wrote that the class thinks that President Truman should accept the elephant and that it was rude for Truman to ask for a Tiger instead. In another letter to Truman, it suggested to “send the elephant to the head of the Republican party along with a golden shovel since it was a physical manifestation of the Republican party’s animal” lol! There was another letter that contained photos of the actual elephant but the photos are actually stored elsewhere in the archives. Next time I come back I have to look for these photos. When it came to the Korean War box it had some interesting letters as well. One of them was prior to the Korean War that stated that it was wrong for President Truman to be sending troops to Korea. I believe this letter was dated around 1946-48 well before the outbreak to the Korean War. In another letter that was dated a week or so after the outbreak of the Korean War, I think July 6, 1950 or something like that, it suggested for Truman to “save our man power and use the a-bomb”. Basically, the letter urged Truman to use the atom bomb in Korea, which today is unthinkable but back then it may have been an option for Truman.

View from my seat in the main research room
View from my seat in the main research room

Post-Research

I think I stayed in the main research room area from about 9:45 A.M – 2:00 P.M. When I announced to the archivist that I was done she was like “that’s it?” I then told her that I would be returning around August/September and that I was only here because I was in town and wanted to get an initial feel for the research. She then told me to make sure I make a reservation next time so that the archivist could actually prepare some material prepared for my next arrival. I then got her name, which is Tammy. Thanks Tammy for the help! I’ll be sure to reserve a spot next time. I said thanks to Tammy and the other archivist before heading out. When I got back to the lobby area I got my stuff from the locker and returned the locker key. Afterwards, I talked to a receptionist who wasn’t a security guard. I asked him “so where’s President Truman buried?” He then said “He’s buried at the courtyard, actually hold up, I could show you.” He then got his computer stuff done and then showed me to the courtyard area. The walk to the courtyard took us through the hallway near the main research room and into the museum. During the walk he let me know that researchers could actually look around the museum for free! I did not know this beforehand and was about to pay the $8.00 entrance fee. He then showed me the courtyard where Truman was buried and also Truman’s office in the library. I thanked him and got his name, thanks Todd!

I then checked out the courtyard, it was nice and quiet area with President Truman’s grave alongside his wife’s grave. Across from their grave is the grave of their daughter and son and law. It was a surreal experience being in the area. Especially since I read memoirs written by both President Truman and his daughter Margret Truman. After spending some time near the grave I then headed to Truman’s office in the library. It was a nice exhibit with other information about the library. When it came to Truman’s office, supposedly it was left almost the exact way the day Truman passed away. The only touch I believe they made was turning and stopping the time on the clock to the time Truman passed away.

Grave of Margaret Truman and her husband
Grave of Margaret Truman and her husband
Grave of President Truman and his wife
Grave of President Truman and his wife
Truman's office in the library
Truman’s office in the library

Afterwards, I then headed out to the rest of the museum. I will spare some detail since there is just a ton of things to look at in the museum. I will point out some favorites. One of them was a mural that had some information on Truman’s trip to Oahu. It was nostalgic to read Truman’s recount of arriving in Oahu since I personally lived there for a few years of my life. His recount is “We arrived off Oahu early on the morning of March 29th. It was a lovely day, Diamond Head and then Honolulu with the Pali in the background, rainbows, clouds, sunshine and a beach all in one scene.” This recount just brings back memories of Hawaii for me. Another nice touch to the museum that I liked was the jazzy 1950s music playing in the background. It sounded like they were playing the music off of a record player due to the warm fuzzy sound of the songs. Other parts I really enjoyed about the museum were all the interactive exhibits, in one room you sit in a jury style area and the exhibit showcases information about the McCarthy trials that had a lot of federal employees fired or imprisoned due to suspicious communist activities. I also really enjoyed all the exhibits on the Korean War and the Cold War, it was like my studies coming alive before my eyes. Another interesting exhibit was this exhibit that had a living room modeled after an atomic age living room and it brought to mind Fallout for some reason. I felt instantly transported back in time. The next exhibit I really enjoyed was a replica of Truman’s office in the White House. This exhibit featured a voice recording from Truman where Truman explains the different things in the office and how its an exact replica. What I liked about the office was the legendary globe that was given by General/President Eisenhower to Truman as a gift. General Eisenhower used this globe during WWII while he was planning the legendary Operation Overlord amongst other operations during WWII.

Can you identify them?
Can you identify them?
Truman's recount of Oahu
Truman’s recount of Oahu
An exhibit in the museum
An exhibit in the museum
An exhibit in the museum
An exhibit in the museum
An exhibit in the museum
An exhibit in the museum
The Atomic Age!
The Atomic Age!
The White House office replica
The White House office replica
The famous "The BUCK STOPS here!" sign!
The famous “The BUCK STOPS here!” sign!
On the back of the Buck Stops here! sign it says "I'm from MISSOURI" no doubt to remind Truman of his humble origins while he was in the presidency.
On the back of the Buck Stops here! sign it says “I’m from MISSOURI” no doubt to remind Truman of his humble origins while he was in the presidency.
The legendary globe given to Truman by Eisenhower!
The legendary globe given to Truman by Eisenhower!

Afterwards, I headed downstairs. The downstairs area was actually reserved for special exhibits that are always changing. Luckily for me this time around the special exhibits were dedicated to World War II! There was a lot of displays on World War II and interesting things on display. One of the interesting items on display was a limited ceremonial edition of Mein Kampf. The picture I have below make the book look normal sized but its actually about the size of small coffee table. If I had to guess the dimensions of the book it must have been 30 x 15 inches (L x W)! In other words, it was huge! Other interesting things on display were captured German and Japanese weapons. Overall, the Truman museum is a treat to visit for both history buffs and the general audience. There is so much to see and just being in the museum itself feels like you stepped back to the 1950s!

In the WWII special exhibit
In the WWII special exhibit
Trust me this Mein Kampf book is huge!
Trust me this Mein Kampf book is huge!

2015-06-02 14.49.10

Captured Japanese weapons from WWII
Captured Japanese weapons from WWII

To The Truman House

When I was done looking at the museum I headed to the souvenir shop to see if there was anything interesting to get. There was a lot of Truman memorabilia that ranged from t-shirts to postcards. Of course I had to get some postcards. To my surprise they were cheaper than the postcards I got at Clinton’s the other day. When I got the postcards I asked the cashier where the Truman house was and she mentioned that it was just two blocs away down on the main road. I thanked her and headed out. The drive to the Truman house was short and I was lucky to get parking near the house. I parked right outside an inn. I wasn’t too sure actually if I could park there so I tried to see if I could find someone at the inn who could give me information. There was a Gardner who was bushwhacking so I didn’t bother the guy. I then went to the door and it was locked. I then pressed the button with a speaker on it. A lady asked “Hi, how can I help you?” I then asked if I could park right out front and she said yes. After getting the confirmation I headed out to the Truman house. It was very surreal to be here as well. The house itself was double gated. The first gate I was aware of and was present at the time Truman was living. But the second gate was probably put up after his death since I was not aware of it. The second gate kind of ruined pictures I got but oh well. Apparently you could not go inside unless you pay to go in for a tour. I then got some pictures and went to the side of the house where the garage was. I remember reading that Truman actually scratched the gate and his car while he was backing out. I looked out for those scratches and I think I found a few places where it could have been hit by a car but I had no way to identify if it was the correct place. After getting my pictures I subsequently left and hit the long road back to Colorado.

View of the Truman house from across the road
View of the Truman house from across the road
Close up picture of the Truman house. That steel fence ruins the picture!
Close up picture of the Truman house. That steel fence ruins the picture!
A shot of the Truman garage and iron fence where Truman accidentally scraped his car against
A shot of the Truman garage and iron gate where Truman accidentally scraped his car against

Travel Log: From St. Louis to Independence, MO.

Welcome sign of Missouri, right on the interstate in St. Louis!
Welcome sign of Missouri, right on the interstate in St. Louis!

On St. Louis

The border between St. Louis, MO and Illinois is actually close together. In fact, the state line is situated on the interstate leading into St. Louis. The state line actually catches you off guard since you would think that you were in St. Louis, MO for at least a few miles before you get on the interstate leading into St. Louis.

The Arch
The Arch

When I got into St. Louis I noticed there was a lot of construction going around near the arch. This construction might be new since my GPS did not read or nor did my GPS reroute. I set my GPS to a BBQ restaurant called Bogart’s, which my family and me tried to go to last time we were in the city. However, last time we went on a Sunday and Bogart’s is always closed on a Sunday. Thankfully today was Monday. While I was driving on the interstate my GPS pointed out an exit that was closed due to construction. Since it was closed I headed toward the next exit, which was probably a mile or so away from the exit I was supposed to take. At this point my GPS stopped giving me instructions. I figured it would take some time for it to start up again. In the interim, when I exited I headed toward the general direction where the previous exited was. It took me into downtown St. Louis. The downtown area was a sight to behold. It reminded me of downtown San Francisco but more open and less crowded. I was able to drive slow and not get in anyone’s way. The downtown area was also very metropolitan with tall buildings and bronze statues everywhere. The sight was also beautiful when driving down the main street with tall buildings to the side giving way to the arch and city hall at the end of the main street. While driving down Main Street my GPS was still not working properly, thankfully it had the location still marked and a pinpoint of where I was. I used this as a guide to get myself to Boggart’s, all I had to do was guess which way was North and the rest was simple. I didn’t get lost getting to Boggart’s, the only trouble I had was driving on the right lane, which turned into a left turn only, thankfully it wasn’t too crowded so I just switched over last minute at the traffic signal. After that, it was a hop and a skip from Boggart’s. When I got to Boggart’s I actually parked near the place where my family parked last time. It was next to a park and residential area. It was also a paid parking street that used a machine similar to the machine at the parking lot back in Nashville. I paid my parking and for some reason it took forever to print my receipt. Pro tip to those parking here, you don’t need to print the receipt since when you pay you have to point out your parking spot anyways.

View from where I parked in St. Louis
View from where I parked in St. Louis

After getting my receipt I headed inside Boggart’s. It was weird seeing it open this time around. It wasn’t too crowded when I went inside. The line was about five or so feet away from the door. The walls were covered with different memorabilia ranging from autographed napkins to a napkin with writing from a Japanese exchange student, which stated, “I will tell my friends in Japan that Bogart’s is #1 BBQ place in St. Louis!” I first used the bathroom before I got in line. At this point people started to line up behind me and out the door. I ordered Burnt Tips and a side of potato salad and beans. I think St. Louis is one of the only cities to specialize in Burnt Tips, which are the juiciest and most flavorful part of brisket. Although it was crowded I was able to get a seat inside. It didn’t take too long for my food to arrive. I must have waited less than five minutes to get my food. When I got my food I looked at the BBQ sauce on the table and noticed four kinds of BBQ. There was Mad Maggie’s Vinegar Sauce, Sweet Annie’s Sweet Sauce, Hot Voodoo Sauce, and Pineapple Sauce. I only tried the sweet sauce, hot sauce, and pineapple sauce. For some reason the vinegar sauce didn’t really appeal to me. All of the sauces were good with my favorite being the voodoo sauce and sweet Annie’s sweet sauce. The burnt tips it was very good and the sides were also very good as well. I wished we had a Bogart’s here in Colorado as well!

Outside of Boggart's
Outside of Boggart’s
View from the line at Boggart's
View from the line at Boggart’s
Burnt Tips!
Burnt Tips!
View from my chair in Boggart's
View from my chair in Boggart’s

When I was almost done eating I asked one of the workers for directions on how to get to Kansas City, since my GPS was not working still and Independence is practically in Kansas City. She said she had to take care of something and she will get back to me. I finished up eating and met up with her before I left. She gave me good directions on how to get back on the interstate and avoid the construction near the arch. Her name is Mickey, thanks! I then got back in my car and headed toward the interstate. It was actually really close to Bogart’s and in a few minutes I was on the interstate headed towards Kansas City! On the way to Independence I made a few stops. One of them was a rest area right outside of St. Louis. After eating a lot at Bogart’s I got pretty tired. At the rest area I probably slept for thirty minutes to an hour. Afterwards I headed back on the road. My next stop was at the Ozarks. It was an area we stopped also with my family before. It was weird being back here. This time around I went into this big farmhouse looking place that says that it sells “discounted souvenirs”. Inside was practically every souvenir you could think of, from the most random shirts to hats to postcards to fudge to toys to everything in between. After looking around, the prices didn’t seem too discounted and in fact was pretty expensive. I ended getting a few postcards. One of the postcards was of Mark Twain’s childhood home back in Hannibal, MO. I asked where Hannibal was and the ladies working politely let me know that it was back off the beaten track towards St. Louis. I then left and used the bathroom at McDonald’s right next to the souvenir shop. I subsequently left and got back on the interstate towards Independence.

On Independence, MO

When I got to the city limits of Independence I noticed that the area was pretty busy. There was a lot of cars on the road and presumably I guess they were all headed to Kansas City, which was right next to Independence. When I got to the exit I needed to go to the traffic let up and it wasn’t too long before I got to the hotel. I was glad to be at the hotel after a long time being on the road and being tired all the time. I checked in when I got there and it didn’t take too long. The lady at the reception desk was Jo and she was super friendly. I got my key and parked close to my room. I then put all my things in my room, which I think took two trips from the car to the room. The room itself was very nice. I took a shower and took to Google to look for anything interesting in downtown Independence. Online I found a site that mentions all the stores in downtown Independence, three of them stuck out. The first was a store called Wild About Harry which was basically an upscale Men’s Warehouse. The second was Up Dog, which reminded me of Perfectly Frank’s. The third was an old school soda fountain called Clinton’s Soda Fountain, which is actually where President Truman got his first job back in the day. I called up Up Dog and Clinton’s Soda Fountain to make sure they were open and thankfully they were both open until 8:00 P.M at the moment it was probably 6:15 P.M and I figured I could get to both stores if I went fast enough.

The drive from the hotel to the downtown area wasn’t too long, I’d say it was about three or four miles away on the main road. It was a pleasant drive as well. I imagined that President Truman would see this main road a lot while he was still alive. When I got to the downtown area it was fairly flat with no building taller than two stories. It was also fairly empty on the streets, only me and a few other people could be found walking around. Overall, the downtown area kind of reminded me of Old Colorado Springs but with less trees and more open spaces.

Downtown Independence, MO
Downtown Independence, MO

I first headed to Up Dog to get some dinner. I imagined a Perfectly Frank’s kind of place with a lot of selection but to my chagrin there was only about ten or so kinds of dogs ranging from a Chicago dog to a chilidog and everything in between. Inside Up Dog it reminded me of a 1950s diner as opposed to the Southern back yard porch style of Perfectly Frank’s. The workers were nice and the girl was pretty. She recommended me the Missouri dog, which was probably the most original dog on the menu. It was a frank wrapped in bacon with a pickle wedge, cheese, and mustard on it. I also got fries and a drink. It was all pretty good. Fairly expensive considering I got more for less at Perfectly Frank’s back in Summerville, SC. I thanked them and asked the girl for directions to “the soda fountain”. She pointed to their soda fountain in store and then realized I meant Clinton’s. She then pointed that it was literally right around the corner from Up Dog. I thanked her and the other guys before heading out.

Menu of Up Dog
Menu of Up Dog
Outside of Up Dog
Outside of Up Dog
The Missouri Dog and Fries
The Missouri Dog and Fries

In front of Up Dog was city hall. It was very colonial in design and what stuck out were the statues on the side. On one side was a statue of President Andrew Jackson and on the other side was a statue of President Truman himself. It was odd seeing the Truman statue up close and personal, especially since I am basing my master’s thesis on the Truman administration. After getting some shots of these statues I headed to Clinton’s Soda Fountain.

Statue of President Andrew Jackson
Statue of President Andrew Jackson
Outside of Wild About Harry, unfortunately it was closed, I heard that Truman himself opened up an upscale men's store in downtown Independence, perhaps this might have been it.
Outside of Wild About Harry, unfortunately it was closed, I heard that Truman himself opened up an upscale men’s store in downtown Independence, perhaps this might have been it.
Statue of President Truman
Statue of President Truman

In front of Clinton’s was a mural that stated that Clinton’s was where Truman had his first job. I then headed inside and felt like I was transported back to heck 1950 or even earlier! It felt like I stepped into the Twilight Zone episode Walking Distance, you know the episode about the guy who walks back to his hometown and also the past. I felt like I was in the soda fountain featured in the episode. The girls working were the sweetest and nicest girls ever. Their names were Jessica and Shayna. Jessica was a bit short with brown hair and brown eyes. Shayna was taller with blondish hair. Both were very pretty. We made small talk about working at Clinton’s and how they were “carrying the torch” from President Truman. Jessica mentioned that one day they may become the president’s of the U.S. I think the story to learn from Truman was that a kid from practically a nowhere town started working at a soda fountain and worked his way to the top position in the country. There’s a lot to learn from that alone. I ordered a float since it sounded real interesting. First you have to choose a phosphate and I was like “what’s a phosphate?” And Jessica said it’s what they call sodas in an old school soda fountain. They had a lot of flavors to choose from. I got a mix of vanilla and bubblegum for my phosphate. As for the ice cream they had a lot to choose from also and I settled on birthday cake ice cream. While Jessica and Shayna were making it I looked inside the rest of Clinton’s and it was super retro. They had a lot of other knickknacks for sale, amongst them were postcards. The postcards were pretty pricey but I got some anyways. I think they were like $0.50 each, which I was used to $0.25-$0.30 each. By then the float was ready. It was super good. While I was eating it I made some small talk with Jessica. I actually thought Jessica was cute and I wanted to learn more about her. I asked her if she could recommend some areas to see in town. She recommended a World War I museum in Kansas City. Unfortunately I don’t have time to see that. But Jessica also recommended another place nearby, which was like a mansion of an artist or something like that. I got a brochure about it and thanked Jessica and Shayna before I headed out.

Outside of Clinton's Soda Fountain
Outside of Clinton’s Soda Fountain
Inside of Clinton's Soda Fountain. From left to right: Shayna and Jessica
Inside of Clinton’s Soda Fountain. From left to right: Shayna and Jessica
The back area of Clinton's
The back area of Clinton’s
Vanilla/Bubblegum Phosphate and Birthday Cake Icecream float!
Vanilla/Bubblegum Phosphate and Birthday Cake Icecream float!

Outside I headed to that mansion that Jessica mentioned, which was just about three or so blocks away from Clinton’s. The walk was peaceful; it took me through residential areas that were nice. A few of the houses had dogs barking at me but it was all right. When I got to the mansion it was gated off and closed for the day. It looked very nice and it had some history on it. I then headed back to town. On my way back to town I saw a very nice graffiti wall with the iconic picture of Truman holding the “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper. If there were graffiti in Colorado Springs, I’d like them to be history based like this. I then walked around the downtown area a bit. I noticed a pizza shop, theatre, and a bowling alley, small town stuff. It was nice though since it gave Independence some character. I then got back to my car and headed back to the hotel. When I got back I changed to hit the gym. I worked out for about forty or so minutes before I went to Jo for some beach side towels. She got me the towels and turned on the lights at the pool area. Jo was like “Your gonna swim in that weather?” I was like “yup”. It’s because it was cold out. Jo said that it was usually warmer this time of year but it was cold for some reason. It’s not the first time I swam in cold conditions. A long time ago I took a swim around 5:30 A.M back in Dallas and it was much colder than. When I got in the water it was pretty cold but I got used to it quickly. I probably swam for about thirty or so minutes. On my way back to the room I waved good-bye to Jo. Back in the room I took a shower and subsequently got some sleep.

Downtown Independence
Downtown Independence
That mansion Jessica mentiond
That mansion Jessica mentiond
The graffiti wall with the iconic Truman picture
The graffiti wall with the iconic Truman picture

Travel Log: From Kentucky to Illinois

Welcome sign for Kentucky
Welcome sign for Kentucky

On Kentucky

From the previous night at Nashville, TN I tried to get some sleep at the parking lot I paid $10 for twelve hours. However, it was burning hot even at 1:00 A.M it was insane. It was so hot I couldn’t get any sleep and I drove out to Kentucky. Before I left Nashville I decided to get gas. It was an interesting gas station, pretty big and I remember seeing one of those hummer limos gassing up also. After gassing up my car I headed out to Kentucky.

The drive from Nashville to Kentucky wasn’t difficult at this time of night since there weren’t many cars on the road. I was also worried that it would rain so hard I couldn’t see the road. Thankfully, it didn’t rain too hard. During the drive I was kind of drowsy so I decided to drive fairly slow. I think the speed limit was 65 but I was coasting at around 60. The cars that did come by passed fairly quickly. When I hit the Kentucky state line I was getting tired fast. I then made a stop at the next rest area. It was a nice rest area and there were a good amount of other cars that probably had people sleeping in them too. To sleep I tried to lay down on the back seat which was a bit of a pain since the car was a two door and fairly small. It made do for the night and I was able to get some sleep.

I only slept for a few hours since I got up at about 4:30 A.M. I used the bathroom at the rest area before I headed out. Although I slept for only a few hours I felt fairly rejuvenated. I was thankful that I left when I did since it allowed me to get to a national park in Kentucky at sunrise called Land Between The Lakes.

The drive to the Land Between The Lakes was breathtaking and unlike any other drives I’ve made in the past. To be honest the Land Between The Lakes was off the beaten path and I had to reroute my GPS to get to the Land Between The Lakes since my GPS wanted me to take another route to Illinois that avoided the Land Between The Lakes. It gave the Land Between The Lakes a mysterious quality to me. When exiting the interstate to the Land Between The Lakes you only see one last gas station and a few very small farm towns on a two lane road where one lane goes West and one lane goes East. I was going West. Also, since I left early in the morning, I was able to see the sun rising in the area. The sun rising here gave a remarkable navy blue color that was just entrancing. I have never seen an early morning where everything was being painting with this dark navy blue color that is just awe inspiring. Usually, mornings are painted orange and yellow, but this was indeed different and mystical.

Early morning at Land Between The Lakes
Early morning at Land Between The Lakes
A view from the East bridge
A view from the East bridge

When I got to Land Between the Lakes I quickly found out why it was called as such. You have to cross a long narrow bridge that is suspended two to three hundred feet over a lake. This narrow bridge was rusty and had no shoulder lane. This meant that you had just enough space between your car and the next, one small move could lead to a car spiraling down into the water. Actually, I feared this as I was crossing the East bridge since it was raining and my car was hydroplaning like crazy at twenty miles an hour. The car behind me must have been frustrated as I drove slow. After I got down from the bridge the other car quickly passed by. I then drove up to the first scenic area. It had information about a small ghost town called Golden Pond. It was created sometime in the mid nineteenth century and was abandoned sometime in the mid to late twentieth century. It also had information on the Bison in the area. After reading the signs I noticed that my GPS stopped working. Thankfully this scenic area had a map so I checked it out. The map showed that if I followed the main road I would hit the West exit, which is were I was heading. The map also showed a North exit but I wasn’t going to risk it since it was a fairly long drive to that exit. The map also showed a visitor’s center and a buffalo prairie nearby so I went on to check those out. I headed down the main road towards the visitor’s center. While headed to the visitor’s center I noticed a skunk in the small forest leading to the center. It was probably the first time I have seen a living skunk so close out in the wild. It was fairly big but flat, it resembled a black and white rug walking across the forest floor. I lost sight of it and headed to the visitor’s center. Unfortunately, the visitor’s center doesn’t open until later. It looked like a giant log cabin and it looks like it could have been interesting. I circled the area and headed to the prairie. On my way back to the small forest I saw the skunk again but when I tried to get a picture it disappeared into the forest. I then headed to the buffalo prairie. When I got to the prairie it was unfortunately closed also. It looked like a safari type of prairie where you go through a gated area with your car and follow a path where you could see buffalo. The gate was closed and a sign says that it opens up automatically at sunrise. Well, it was sunrise but it was still closed. Oh well, afterwards I headed back towards the main road. Back on the main road I saw the West bridge leading to the West exit of Land Between The Lakes. It resembled the East bridge but I also noticed that they were building another bridge to the side of it. Give it a year or so and the new bridge should be complete. At this point when I got out of the Land Between The Lakes my GPS was still not working. I new that the road was still headed West but I needed to get North to get back on the interstate. I drove on the West road for about ten or fifteen miles before my GPS started working again. Thankfully, I was not far from the mark, I was just a few miles away from the interstate. During this time when my GPS was not working I was just driving through farmland really. The road was basically empty and it was like three lanes on both sides. It was interesting, I only saw other cars when I turned to the road headed toward the interstate and literally every car was a pickup.

At the first scenic area at Land Between The Lakes
At the first scenic area at Land Between The Lakes
At the first scenic area at Land Between The Lakes
At the first scenic area at Land Between The Lakes

On Illinois

Welcome sign of Illiniois
Welcome sign for Illinois

When I got back on the interstate it was a short drive towards Illinois. It took only about thirty more miles I believe until I got to the small of town of Metropolis, IL. Metropolis is known as the home of Superman. It’s a small farm town that would resemble Clark Kent’s hometown and not the busy Metropolis city that resembles New York. Metropolis is also known for the giant Superman statue in town. Actually, when I got to Metropolis there were signs pointing to the giant Superman statue and these signs look like official signs made by the city. When I got to the statue I was the only one there since it was fairly early still. I got some shots of the statue and it must have stood fifteen or twenty feet tall. The other night I remember seeing a picture of President Obama taking a picture with this statue lol In front of the statue is a small raised platform where you could get a good picture in front of the statue. Also near the statue was the coolest Superman store I have seen. It was just decked out in Superman memorabilia and it was painted blue, red, and gold just like Superman. On the side were also some Superman paintings on the building. Unfortunately, it was closed, who knows what’s inside? I then look around the area and also noticed a Vietnam War memorial on the other side of city hall. I then got back in my car and thought that I could just make a U-Turn and get out the way I came in. But the road was actually a giant one way and in my head I was like “crap, how do I get out?” My GPS stopped working again so I had to use my wits. I went down the road and took a turn thinking it would go back to the interstate. Instead I got into a dead end in another part of town. The road here was basically unpaved and was incredibly bumpy. Thankfully there was a gas station at this dead end. But, since the road was nearly unpaved and the gas station was on paved ground, it felt like I drove up on a curb to get into the gas station. In my head I thought my tires would explode here. At the gas station I noticed and employee outside washing some trashcans. I headed inside and noticed a sign that say’s “fresh donuts made in house” and I was like “cool”. When I got inside I didn’t see anyone and thought that the only worker was the guy outside washing the trashcans. I said “Hello? Is anyone here?” Another worker inside replied “Yes, how can I help?” Have you ever been in a gas station with a little pizza area? She was in the back of this pizza area. I actually asked her about the donuts and she let me know that they were made in house. I got a yeast donut with white icing on it. When I went to the cash register I also noticed another worker there and I can’t believe I didn’t see this one on my way in. I asked her for directions on how to get back to the interstate and she gave me specific instructions such as take a left at the traffic light then take a right at the next corner and then a left and then a right. I remembered those directions and thanked her as I left. But, I kind of forgot the directions or misunderstood them because I took the directions and noticed I wasn’t getting on the main road back to the interstate. Thankfully, I drove near a park with a guy walking his dog. He looked approachable so I rolled down my window and asked “Excuse me, how do I get back on the highway?” And he said “Do you mean the interstate?” And I was like oh “yeah, that’s right”. He said “Just take a right down here and take it all the way down till you see a McDonald’s, then you take a left on the main road and you’ll be headed back to the interstate.” I thanked him and rolled up my windows and headed out. His directions were spot on and I found the main road back to the interstate. Before I headed out, I notice my GPS not working and I still needed to get to St. Louis, MO. So I stopped near a Walgreens next to the McDonald’s. Thankfully Walgreens opens at 5:00 A.M. I went inside and asked to use the bathroom. Afterwards, I asked for directions on how to get to St. Louis, MO. They gave me very good directions and I thanked them before I left. When I left Walgreens it was a short drive to the interstate and I was out of Illinois in no time. Actually, the Illinois and Missouri border are located in St Louis.

Fifteen or twenty foot statue of Superman at Metropolis, IL!
Fifteen or twenty foot statue of Superman at Metropolis, IL!
Vietnam War memorial
Vietnam War memorial
Superman store
Superman store
Side of the Superman store
Side of the Superman store

Travel Log: Nashville, TN

Crossing the NC/TN state line
Crossing the NC/TN state line

Road To Nashville

Tennessee is a darn beautiful state. Its full of rolling hills and mountain passes with breathtaking views. The darn Smoky Mountains are located here, can someone sing “on top of old smoky”? I now understand why its called the Smoky Mountains. The whole area is covered with this surreal fog that is almost smoke like in quality. The smoky fog covering the area makes it feel like you accidentally traveled back in time. Tennessee itself is also full of rustic looking communities, where the houses look like farmhouses. On the road to Nashville I basically only stopped at different gas stations. At one particular point I remember stopping at a gas station with a sign that said “free coffee”! I needed to use the bathroom so I made a stop here. I first used the bathroom and the graffiti was full of profanity, phone numbers, and empty promises. It was kind of weird seeing that kind of graffiti in that small town. Afterwards, I asked the cashier about the free coffee thing and she said that it was for real. Unfortunately, there was about ¼ cup of coffee left in the pot. I let the cashier lady know and she started brewing more. I got what’s left and finished off the pot. I then asked the lady about the downtown area and she said that there was only a theater there. I also asked her for directions on how to get back to the Interstate headed West, since I was not sure how. She was nice enough to give very specific directions on how to get back. Afterwards, I headed out and went towards Nashville.

2015-05-31 18.35.49

Gas station with the Free Coffee sign
Gas station with the Free Coffee sign

Nashville, TN

By the time I got to Nashville it was nighttime and raining very hard. I had my GPS in hand and on the steering wheel as I approached the city. The whole time driving through TN, there weren’t really any big cities until now. Basically, the Nashville skyline lit up the night even five miles away on the Interstate. While approaching Nashville I also saw the exit for The Hermitage, which was President Andrew Jackson’s home back in the day. I wanted to check it out but I knew beforehand that it closed at 6:00 pm and it was about 8:00 pm at the time.
Entering the downtown area wasn’t too difficult. It was about equivalent to entering the downtown area of Denver. When I got downtown I headed to the parking lot I scouted out beforehand. I knew that the parking there would be $10 for twelve hours. When I got there I noticed that the lot was empty and devoid of any parking attendant. It made me second-guess whether or not the lot was open for parking. I parked my car and went to one of those parking ticket machines. I noticed it was off so I called the numbers posted on the machines to verify if parking in the lot was valid or not. I called about three different numbers and each of them did not work since it was not the office hours. I then tried pressing a button on the parking machine and it surprised me when it turned on. I actually felt kind of dumb when that happened. I subsequently got my parking ticket and placed it on my dashboard. Afterwards, I started walking around downtown.

The main street of downtown Nashville is probably the loudest, brightest, and one of the more iconic looking main streets in the U.S. It was loud because in almost every store there was a live band playing at volume 11 lol It was bright due to all the neon signs. This combination of live bands playing, busy streets, and bright neon signs make for an iconic main street that would be recognizable by most anyone in the U.S. I walked up and down both sides of the street and noticed a souvenir store called Dixie Favorites or something like that. I headed inside and there is just about every kind of souvenir you could think of. I noticed the girl working, she was tall, slender, and had long dreads. She was also super nice and sweet. I looked around the store after saying hi to her. Inside I noticed a bunch of Johnny Cash shirts. I also noticed a bunch of Confederate memorabilia, which was quite interesting. It consisted of trucker hats with the Dixie flag on it to Confederate uniforms, which surprised me. Interestingly, I also noticed a Taylor Swift corner that had a bunch of T Swift memorabilia. The T Swift memorabilia ranged from tote bags to posters to guitar pics. I ended up getting a set of T Swift guitar pics. I also got some postcards as well. The girl I mentioned earlier checked me out. I believe her name is Hailey but to be honest I kind of forgot, which is unfortunate. We talked about many things. I remember when I told her that I was from Colorado she told me that she was planning on visiting a place near Denver. I also remember her telling me that she was into making jewelry and she told me that she also made the necklace she was wearing. It was super good and I also made a joke about imagining her with a hammer and anvil making jewelry near a furnace, we both laughed about it. I let her know what I thought about Nashville and how it was supper loud and crazy. She told me that it was crazier on Friday and Saturday night since there was way more people. That surprised me since it felt super crowded already. I also asked Hailey for any recommendations on places to see and cheaper places to eat. She pointed out one of the streets nearby that had some theaters and opera houses. As for places to eat she recommended two places, I only remembered one which was Paradise Park. I thanked Hailey and went on my way.

Inside Dixie Favorites
Inside Dixie Favorites
Main Street, Nashville
Main Street, Nashville

After leaving the Dixie Favorites I looked around the downtown area more. I remember seeing the Opera House, which stuck out since it looked like a museum. While walking to the opera house I also noticed the Johnny Cash museum nearby. When I got to the opera house, I was actually hoping it was a museum but it ended up being an opera house. It was nice anyways and I noticed a lot of people walking out dressed very well. After looking around the area I headed back to my car since it was about to rain and I needed to put my postcards in a safe place. I did so and walked around downtown again. This time I needed to use the bathroom and to my surprise it was harder to find a bathroom than I thought.

Fountain near the opera house
Fountain near the opera house
Statue near the opera house
Statue near the opera house

At least it was an adventure itself to look for the bathroom. I walked down one of the streets all the way to the waterfront. On the way to the waterfront I saw a lot of sights. One of them was the Country Music Hall Of Fame, which had a lot of Willie Nelson pictures everywhere. When I got to the waterfront it was was quiet and tranquil as compared to the main street. I got to see this wonderful bridge and the waterfront. It looked very nice even at night. Also in the area was a train station. I’m not sure if it’s the Amtrak or another train service.

Bridge at the Waterfront
Bridge at the Waterfront
View from the Waterfront
View from the Waterfront

Afterwards, I walked up the street and noticed that it was a huge bloc and kind of dark with not much people around. I felt like if I was going to get mugged it would happen there. On this street I also found the Coyote Ugly, which was interesting. When I got to the end of the bloc I must have walked a quarter mile. In this area of Nashville it reminded me of downtown Charleston since it was still more tranquil and the area looked a bit colonial. I also remember seeing a corner store that looked like an old fashioned soda fountain. Unfortunately it was closed, if it was open I would have gone in for sure. While walking around this area I noticed a corner store and decided to use the bathroom inside. The cashier lady was nice enough to point the bathroom out without asking me to buy anything first. But a comment on the bathroom itself is that it looked like something out of a horror movie. I won’t make a big deal out of it since I really needed to use it but, it seriously looked like a bathroom from a horror movie. After using it I looked around the store for anything interesting. I found blue lemonade that I have never seen before so I decided to get it. Afterwards, I looked around the area a bit more and noticed a place called “Printers Alley”, which was a small alley with more restaurants and small attractions. I walked up and down the alley before going on my way. I then headed back to the main street. On the way back I walked by the AT&T building, which from the interstate is the tallest building in town. Up close it didn’t looked too big and kind of reminded me of the Nakatomi Tower from Die Hard.

Coyote Ugly!
Coyote Ugly!
Place that reminded me of downtown Charleston
Place that reminded me of downtown Charleston
Inside Printers Alley
Inside Printers Alley
Inside Printers Alley
Inside Printers Alley
Printers Alley
Printers Alley

When I got back to the main street I headed towards Paradise Park out of recommendation from Hailey. It was interesting since a bouncer carded me before I went inside. Why did they need to card me? Where they afraid that I was too underage to order a cheeseburger? Oh well, the lady up at the cashier was super nice and called me “dear” amongst other endearments. I ordered their cheeseburger called a singlewide and I also ordered tots on the side. It was just about $10 all in all. Its interesting how it worked. You made your order with the cashier lady at this lobby area and then you wait inside the restaurant until they call your number. The lady giving the food was real nice as well. When I got my food I decided to look for a bench outside since it was super loud inside due to a band playing. I found a bench and table right off of Main Street near my car. I ate my food there before heading back to the car. When I got back to my car I was dead tired. I felt like I walked the whole city and I needed to get some sleep before I headed out to Kentucky. When I got to the car I tried to get some sleep.

The restaurant part of Paradise Park where you wait for your food
The restaurant part of Paradise Park where you wait for your food
Lobby of Paradise Park where you make your order
Lobby of Paradise Park where you make your order