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For Thanksgiving, 2020

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s 2020, and what do I have to be thankful for? Well for one, the opportunities I’ve had to take to America’s open roads every once and a while. These “Freedom Voyages” (h/t to Elizabeth Rosas Barber for the moniker) give me the chance to see the country — its landscapes, its small towns, its cities, and its courthouses. Along the way I take and share photos of what I see and what I eat.

Want to live out a Freedom voyage vicariously? Here’s a photo log of the nine days I spent on the road last September, starting in Colorado Springs, Colorado where I live and traveling through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois to reach destinations in western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana.

I enjoyed Fall sunshine on eight of these nine days. Nothing better than sunshine on a trip! Enjoy!

Friday September 18, 2020. Day 1: Colorado Springs to Seneca, Kansas

I left home on a Friday morning at 5:30, before dawn and driving eastward to see the sunrise. I have plans and reservations for Friday and Saturday, but I’ll make decisions about the rest of the itinerary on Sunday morning. Across the Kansas state line I officially enter the Midwest and get a chance to enjoy Casey’s General Stores, their breakfast pizza and their new blueberry flips.

Casey’s General Store. Colby, Kansas. (lower gas prices than in Colorado)

A slice of Casey’s breakfast pizza was consumed too quickly to make the photograph.

Blueberry flip and coffee for the road.

From Colby I head northeast to reach U.S. Route 36 for the rest of the drive across Kansas. I turns out that this happens to be Treasure Hunt weekend all along Route 36, so each town has yard sales along the roadside.

Treasure Hunt in Norton, Kansas.

I stopped at several sales that afternoon, mostly for the conversations rather than the merchandise.

Improvised yard sale along Route 36. Farmlands near Esbon, Kansas.

After eight hours I arrive in Seneca, Kansas, a pleasant town of 2,000. I arrived early enough to take some photos in the evening light.

Fall home decorations in Seneca
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca. It’s steeple is the highest point in town and can be seen for miles around.
Dinner (beef with tomatillo sauce) at El Canelo Mexican restaurant in Seneca, Kansas

Links:
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca
El Canelo Mexican Restaurant in Seneca
Altenhofen Inn & Suites in Seneca

Saturday September 19, 2020. Day 2: Seneca to Clarinda, Iowa

Lazy Saturday in store today with a short ride into Nebraska, across the Missouri River into Missouri and then on to one of my favorite towns — Clarinda, Iowa. The first stop is Brownville, Nebraska, an historic old Missouri River trading town established in 1854 as a river port. The coming of the railroads drove most of the river traffic away, so today Brownville is mostly a tourist town with the air of a museum.

Didier Log Cabin. Brownville, Nebraska
Old Lone Tree Saloon building. Brownville, Nebraska
Brownville coffee shop and friendly door hostess
Welcome to Iowa!

Clarinda, Iowa has a population of about 5,000 and features a number of sites including the birthplace of Glenn Miller and the historic Page County Courthouse. First stop — the Robin’s Nest Cafe for lunch.

Reuben sandwich plus the best vegetable beef soup I’ve ever tasted!
Autumn colors starting to show on the tall shade trees in Clarinda.
Glenn Miller birthplace and boyhood home. Clarinda, Iowa
Glenn Miller home hours of operation.
A steak and potato dinner at J. Bruner’s in Clarinda, Iowa

The town of Clarinda was laid out in classic Midwestern fashion with a central square surrounded by the town’s small businesses. The county courthouse occupies the middle of the square:

Page County Courthouse at night. Clarinda, Iowa

Links:
Page County (Courthouse) in Clarinda
Robin’s Nest Cafe and Bakery in Clarinda
Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Clarinda

Sunday September 20, 2020. Day 3: Clarinda to Paducah, Kentucky

Sunday morning was decision time. From Clarinda I could head north into Minnesota, or Northeast into eastern Iowa and Illinois, or southeast to western Indiana and Kentucky.

I usually let the weather forecast make these decisions for me. Today, Indiana/Kentucky had the best forecast outlook for the week so off I went to the southeast. Sunday’s drive would take eight hours through St. Joseph, Missouri, across the state of Missouri on U.S. Route 36 to the Mississippi River, then southeast to St. Louis, across the Mississippi at that point into Illinois, then south to the Ohio River and across it into Kentucky.

But first, breakfast at the Robin’s Nest:

Meat-lovers omelette and raisin toast at Robin’s Nest Cafe in Clarinda. Hashbrowns are off to the side.
Lunch from a gas station in eastern Missouri.
Taken from the driver’s seat on Interstate 64 while passing Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is in the background and the Mississippi River Bridge is just ahead.
Dinner in Paducah, Kentucky. The house chili plus a baked potato, veggies and bread.

Monday September 21, 2020. Day 4: Paducah to Owensboro, Kentucky

Breakfast at Burger King (my usual fully-loaded croissanwich), then a 2 1/2 hour drive to Boonville, Indiana, including a 1 1/2 hour stop at a Dairy Queen parking lot in Henderson, Kentucky to take part in business call. It’s nice not having to be chained to an office, isn’t it?

In Boonville I found a stately old courthouse…

Warrick County Courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

…a piece of Americana inside the courthouse…

Statue of an American bald eagle in American flag colors. Boonville, Indiana.

…a Lincoln-related historical marker…

…and some eclectic food choices from the bar in the town square:

Yesterdaze: Steaks, Fiddlers, Frog Legs, and Pork Chops.

Look at this business block. Couldn’t this be just about any Midwestern small town?

Locust Street businesses across from the courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

I had a footlong and a shake at a nearby Tastee Freeze.

T F Ice Cream at the corner of Walnut & Main Street. Boonville, Indiana

Upon seeing these photos April Gregory asked if I had seen Jack and Diane outside the Tastee Freez? Why yes I did April, just like in the song!

The Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial is 20 miles east of Boonville in Spencer County, Indiana. Lincoln spent his childhood years on his father’s farm here before going off to Illinois as a young man to be on his own.

Abraham Lincoln boyhood home (reconstructed)
Lincoln boyhood home — actual site and hearth
Gravesite of Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother

Off to Rockport, Indiana, county seat of Spencer County, on the banks of the Ohio River. The town is situated on a bluff above the river, allowing for some million-dollar views on a sunny September day.

Ohio River at Rockport, Indiana
Ohio River at Rockport. Homes line the crest of the bluff overlooking the river.
Classic home in Rockport, Indiana

I next drove downriver to Owensboro, Kentucky, for a night at the Holiday Inn Riverfront. But first, dinner at Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits.

Wedge salad for starters
Pecan pie topped with ice cream then whipped cream and then chocolate sauce for dessert.

I forget what the main course was.

Sunset over the Ohio. Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro, Kentucky

Links:
Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro
Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits, Owensboro

Tuesday September 22, 2020. Day 5: Owensboro to Tell City, Indiana

Sunrise over the Ohio. Owensboro, Kentucky

First things first — find the town’s signature diner. That’s Dee’s Diner on East 4th Street in Owensboro.

Ham slice with eggs at Dee’s Diner. Owensboro, Kentucky

No red gravy available with their signature ham slice. Drats!

Owensboro is a sizeable river town with a population over 55,000. It was settled in 1817 as “Yellow Banks”, and the downtown area boasts some fine 19th Century architecture.

Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits
Smith Block. Owensboro, Kentucky
Old Coca-cola sign. “Relieves Fatigue”

Look closely at the inscription on this monument and who it honors. Such monuments have come under fire in 2020.

Daviess County Courthouse and Civil War Monument. Owensboro, Kentucky

Modern Owensboro is known for its bourbon distilleries and for bluegrass music.

Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Owensboro, Kentucky

Heading out of town into the Kentucky countryside , I saw several celebrations of the Fall season:

Hancock County, Kentucky

…and just as many of these signs of the season:

Yard sign in Hancock County, Kentucky
Old Hancock County Courthouse. Hawesville, Kentucky

Lunchtime at The Brak Restaurant and Meeting House, Hardinsville, Kentucky. This is a small diner in a small, remote town. The Brak has no web presence, but the food is good and so is the company.

The lunch special of chicken fried steak, gravy, cole slaw, and sliced apples

Further on down the road:

Tobacco leaves drying in a shed. Near Stephensport, Kentucky

I next crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and drove downriver a ways to the town of Tell City. Tell City, Indiana was settled in 1857 by a group of German-speaking Swiss immigrants looking for a new life in the new world. As a side note, all the settlers of Tell City were German-Swiss; a settlement of French-speaking Swiss in Vevay, Indiana, 100 miles upriver from Tell City, was founded in 1813.

Tell City was of course named for legendary Swiss liberator William Tell. City Hall boasts a sculpture of an apple near its front entrance. The apple lights up red at night.

City Hall. Tell City, Indiana
Tell City, Indiana
Statue of William Tell and his son. Tell City, Indiana
St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on Ohio River flood wall. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on the Ohio River flood wall. Tell City, Indiana

I was looking for a biergarten for dinner at Tell City, but the best I could do was a brewpub/sports bar called the Tell City Pour Haus.

Baby back ribs at the Tell City Pour Haus

Links:
Dee’s Diner in Owensboro
Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro
Tell City Pour Haus in Tell City
Holiday Inn Express in Tell City

Wednesday September 23, 2020. Day 6: Tell City to Vincennes, Indiana

For all the money people spend on “fine dining,” there’s actually nothing better than a great breakfast!

Swiss omelette with ‘scatter browns’ (hash browns covered with scattered cheese) at Julie’s Tell Street Cafe.

That’s a 3-egg omelette with bacon, sausage, ham, onion, peppers, tomatoes, and swiss cheese with a plate of cheesy hash brown’s on the side. No one needs a Michelin guide book to eat well.

The weatherman said that today would be dry but overcast, the only overcast day of my trip. My plan is to drive upstream along the Ohio River on the Indiana side for an hour or so, then turn north toward the towns of English and Paoli.

I stopped along the Ohio River at Rome, Indiana. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. The waters are flat behind the Cannelton Dam just 10 or 20 miles downstream and the fish were biting like crazy! The overcast conditions come from some high clouds ahead of a tropical system coming ashore along the Gulf Coast.

Ohio River at Rome, Indiana
Ohio River at Rome, Indiana

My old high school friend Mark O’Donnell saw these photos on Facebook and gave me a thumbs way up. I wonder if he was planning on a fishing trip excursion to come down here from his home in Pittsburgh. This is a great fishing spot — quiet, plenty of fish, dozens of river-side rental cabins.

Frogs on a mailbox. Near Rome, Indiana

After winding east along the Ohio for an hour or so, I headed north through some hilly, wooded miles to the town of English, Indiana, perhaps the most remote county seat in the whole state.

Washed out bridge over Camp Fork Creek in English, Indiana

On to the town of Paoli, county seat of Orange County, Indiana. The courthouse here has been in use since 1850, and is still in use today. I went inside — all the basic offices were operating: county clerk, assessor, judge, etc.

Orange County Courthouse. Paoli, Indiana
View from the Orange County Courthouse balcony looking south toward Gospel Street.

This area is obviously very rural country, and in fact very hilly. Some Hoosiers actually refer to this part of their state as “Kentucky.” Appropriately, on my way driving out of the area I was able to stop at the hometown of “the hick from French Lick.”

Larry Bird poster in the pool room inside Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick, Indiana

I arrived in the city of Vincennes, Indiana around 6:00 pm, in time for dinner at Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta. I chose Procopio’s because it was highly rated on TripAdvisor, but going to Byron Bobe’s Pizza House as Stacy de Rose suggested would have been even better. Alas, I saw her Facebook comment too late.

Spinach salad at Procopio’s. Vincennes, Indiana
Alfredo at Procopio’s

Links:
Julie’s Tell Street Cafe in Tell City
Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick
Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta in Vincennes
Byron Bobe’s Pizza House in Vincennes
Holiday Inn Express, Vincennes

Thursday September 24, 2020. Day 7: Vincennes to Terre Haute, Indiana

It’s a bright sunny morning and I’m off early, driving north through the farms and fields of western Indiana. I was making good time until I saw a roadside establishment called “The Big Peach,” and couldn’t help but stop for some “supplies.”

The Big Peach. Along U.S. Highway 41 near Bruceville, Indiana.
A large bottle of Peach Cider for the road

Next stop, the town of Sullivan, Indiana, a beautiful Midwestern town basking in the shade of its tall trees.

Sullivan County Courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana
Pumpkins for sale at the town square. Sullivan, Indiana
Sullivan business blocks across from the courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana

The next county to the north is Vigo County, home of the city of Terre Haute and Indiana State University. “Terre Haute” is French for “high ground,” and there is a lot of French influence around town, starting with the courthouse.

Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana
Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana

The courthouse is a magnificent example of Second Empire-style structure.

From the Wikipedia entry on the Vigo County Courthouse:

“Designed by Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, the building was constructed by the Terre Haute Stone Company at a cost of $443,000. The courthouse is made from Indiana limestone gathered from Stinesville, Indiana quarries…Originally, the main floor consisted of offices, with two large, high-ceiling courtrooms on the second floor. Elegantly finished and furnished, the courthouse was heated with steam from a detached building to the south and featured a hydraulic elevator.”

Bustling downtown Terre Haute, Indiana
French influence in the buildings in Terre Haute, Indiana

Lunchtime in Terre Haute. Question: What’s the best part of ‘Frenchness’? Answer: GUMBO!

Chicken and sausage gumbo at J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Bar room inside J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute

Terre Haute is sometimes referred to as the “Crossroads of America” since the intersection of 7th Street and Wabash Avenue was also the intersection of U.S. Routes 40 and 41 — both are cross-country routes. The roadsign will explain the details:

Crossroads of America sign in Terre Haute, Indiana
Crossroads of America in Terre Haute — also the birthplace of the Coke bottle design.
Indiana Theatre and Event Center, 7th & Ohio in Terre Haute, Indiana

After toying with the idea of staying the afternoon at J. Gumbo’s, I decided instead to drive the old National Road east one county to the town of Brazil. Nice place. They have a Vietnam-era Air Force fighter jet parked on their courthouse lawn.

Clay County Courthouse. Brazil, Indiana
Bustling National Avenue (U.S. Route 40) in Brazil, Indiana

Now back to Terre Haute for some dinner and a night’s rest.

BBQ at Rick’s Smokehouse & Grill on Wabash Ave. Terre Haute, Indiana

It turns out that Rick’s Smokehouse is a favorite stopping place for country music bands touring through Terre Haute. Poster’s tacked on the wall are signed by the artists (some now famous):

Florida-George Line at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana
Jana Kramer at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana

That evening I checked my Facebook traffic. Jim Street asked me, “what’s the occasion for your road trip Tim?” I answered:
—free time
—a few bucks in the bank
—summer warmth won’t last forever
—life is short
—my old car is still reliable enough for long trips. That won’t last forever
—weather forecast said this whole week would be sunny and pleasant in the Midwest
AND FINALLY:—a big election is coming up. I feel confident but if it goes sideways THIS COUNTRY WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. I wanna see it now, at its best. Thanks for the question Jim. It gives me a chance to put all things in perspective.

As if those reasons weren’t enough, I learned just 25 minutes later that my high school friend Mark O’Donnell had just passed away. He was 59. He had liked my Ohio River photos just two days before. Another old school friend, Drew Podnar, posted the news. Mark will be missed.

Life is short indeed.

Links:
The Big Peach in Bruceville, Indiana
J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Indiana Theatre and Event Center in Terre Haute
Rick’s Smokehouse BBQ & Grill in Terre Haute
La Quinta Inn & Suites in Terre Haute

Friday September 25, 2020. Day 8: Terre Haute to Seneca, Kansas

Time to go home. All good things must come to an end. I have two days driving to do from western Indiana through the farmlands of central Illinois, across the Mississippi River, through the farmlands of central Missouri, across the Missouri River, then on to Seneca, Kansas to spend the night.

First, breakfast at Denny’s in Terre Haute:

All-American Slam breakfast at Denny’s. Terre Haute, Indiana

But that only fills the stomach for now — what about food for the road? That’s why God invented donuts. And in Terre Haute, that means a place called Square Donuts.

Square Donuts. Terre Haute, Indiana
Plenty to choose from at Square Donuts, but Cash Only please!
The cream-filled donut is the King of the Donuts.

After a few hours driving I crossed the Mississippi River into Hannibal, Missouri. That means lunch, and it also means one of my favorite duos of literature — Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Statue of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn above Main Street in Hannibal, Missouri

I posted this at the time: “Meet two of my heroes: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Huck is a Rousseauian type, a noble savage who disdains civilization, while Tom is more of an Enlightenment boy genius. I try to take after one or the other of these two, depending upon the situation.”

Phil Costopoulos responded: “Tom was a management genius. I talk about him all the time in staff meetings.”

Tom Sawyer’s fence in Hannibal, Missouri
Mississippi riverboats moored at Hannibal, Missouri

Lunch from Java Jive on Main Street in Hannibal. Now time to hit the road again.

Lunch from Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri

After a few hours of driving I crossed the Missouri River into Kansas. The town of Wathena, Kansas is a few miles beyond the river and a great place to stop for ice cream. Try the Dairy Barn for ice cream — or buy the place — the owner has put it up for sale.

The Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas
Ice cream fudge sundae at the Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas

I got into Seneca an hour or so later. Dinner tonight is at the Willows Restaurant and Bar. I have their fettuccine alfredo — with andouille sausage instead of chicken — and a side of sweet potato fries and tea.

Willows Restaurant and Bar. Seneca, Kansas
Home away from home. Starlite Inn. Seneca, Kansas

Links:
Square Donuts in Terre Haute
Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri
Dairy Barn in Wathena, Kansas
Willows Restaurant and Bar in Seneca, Kansas
Starlite Motel in Seneca, Kansas

Saturday September 26, 2020. Day 9: Seneca to Colorado Springs

I have an 8-hour drive home ahead of me, mostly along U.S. Route 36 in Kansas. By now I’m glassy-eyed determined and I only make stops for gas, and for lunch.

Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

One more lunch behind the wheel on my way home. Peach pie for dessert. Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Lunch from Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

Links:
Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

I’m home now. Thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed my trip even half as much as I did.

All photos taken by the author in September, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.

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