Old Route 66

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

We crossed the Mississippi River on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, the original crossing of Route 66 from 1929 to 1970. It is now a pedestrian/bicycle trail connecting Illinois to Missouri. It was very cool walking through the tree tops and out over the water. Standing over the middle of the Mississippi, surrounded by history (literally, shout out to MIKE, 1978) and watching the water flow slowly past was an unexpected treat on our Missouri adventure.

Free parking and bridge access are on the Illinois side, watch for the signs on Rte 3 near Madison, Ill. Oh, and heads up, there are no bathrooms onsite. If you are taking your four-legged friends out on the bridge, bring a baggie! Please!

For in-depth information, please visit the national parks website at this address: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/chain_of_rocks_bridge_illinois_missouri.html




A Magical Adventure With Swanstone Garden

As an early celebration of my upcoming anniversary of life on this planet (I stopped using the “B” word years ago), I was invited to join a day trip being hosted by The Swanstone Gardens of Green Bay, WI. The event, entitled “New England Charm of Port Washington” in the brochure, included motor coach transportation, a breakfast stop, sightseeing, shopping, and a dinner theater matinee of “The Witch in 204”. Sightseeing somewhere I’ve never been, shopping, food, and Witches? Yes, Please!!

Our adventure began at the park and ride at Hwy 172 and GV in Green Bay bright and early on a Sunday morning. We traveled by Lamar’s coach masterfully driven by Chris, who had a wonderful sense of humor and was very accommodating. Kudos to Chris for figuring out the wifi for us! Our stops included a breakfast/potty break at Hardees in Sheboygan and a driving tour of down town Port Washington with photo stops at the 1860 Light Station, The Pebble House, and Coal Dock Park.  We then spent some time browsing a varied collection of items all handmade by WI artisans at the Blue Heron Gift Shop and exploring the shops (and bars) on Franklin St. I, personally, ended up with some lovely chocolate covered cashews from CoCa Lena ( www.cocalena.com ) and some sinfully delicious peanut butter cup popcorn and some pickle flavored popcorn to gift      ( www.BroadwayPopcorn.com ).  The weather was cool and windy, but not unbearable. We had ample time to stretch our legs and see everything at each stop.

By 11:30 we were off to Memories Ballroom for our main event. Matinees at Memories are a plated lunch, and we were served a salad starter with dinner rolls, followed by a delicious signature pumpkin fluff. Our main course was a very generous portion of roast chicken, steamed vegetables, and baked potato. Containers were provided for those of us who couldn’t possibly eat a complete half of chicken and fixings in one sitting. A creamy oreo cookie tort was served during intermission. Our hostess welcomed the various groups attending and our waitstaff were excellent. Ample water and coffee were provided to each table and the bar was open for beer, wine, and soda. A $10 minimum for charge card purchases at the bar forced me to enjoy more than one glass of wine with my lunch, what a shame.

The production was excellent, and the theater was beautiful.  The cast and crew did a wonderful job and we enjoyed our afternoon of comedic insight into witchcraft and magic through the deft employment of modern pharmaceutical hexes and a clever genie. We even got the recipe for the pumpkin fluff. For more information about the Memories Ballroom, this show, and upcoming events, visit their website at www.Memoriesballroom.com.

The entire day was wonderful. David Calhoon, owner of Swanstone Gardens, made this trip a fun adventure. David is a recent recipient of the Silver Trowel Award for Best Garden, and a fun-loving host and teacher. To find out more about David, his beautiful gardens, upcoming classes, and future outings, please visit them online at www.swanstonegardens.com or find them on Facebook.

Good Bye Frozen Tundra, Hello Emerald Coast

February in Wisconsin is cold. The January thaw has come and gone, the temperatures are frigid, the snow is piled everywhere, and dressing in layers has gotten as old as our long underwear. Oh, how we envy the snow birds. They enjoyed the warm weather and beautiful changing seasons with the rest of us, but then headed to a warmer, sunnier climate to sit out the arctic winter months. We, too, can escape the frozen winter and spend the month of February relaxing in comfort in a well-appointed condo on the beach, sitting with our toes in the sand and soaking up the sun. It is as simple as taking a tour.

Lamers offers a month-long tour to Panama City Beach every February. The cost of the tour includes motor coach transportation to and from Florida and private seaside condominium rental at the Boardwalk Beach Resort. There are scheduled shopping trips, outings to restaurants and farmers markets, and optional events like dances and shows. This extended tour offers winter weary cheese heads like us the perfect way to try out the snowbird lifestyle.

I took a week of vacation and flew down to join my mother, who was taking this particular tour, for some quality mother-daughter time and to take advantage of the fact that short-term guests are allowed at no extra charge other than a small parking fee for the rental car. There were group outings on the bus scheduled frequently for tour members, but having the rental was very handy for venturing further afield.

Although February is off season for the area and many of the restaurants and beach side clubs were closed, we found several local restaurants to enjoy. From sinfully delicious french toast at Andy’s Flour Power Cafe and fresh donuts from Thomas Donuts, to zesty Sonny’s BBQ and fried seafood enjoyed while watching the sun set over the gulf.

The comfortable two-bedroom condo was very well equipped and our private balcony overlooked the spacious pool area and hot tub. We were just steps away from the beach, with easy access onto the sand from the pool area. The pounding of the surf and the cry of gulls lulled us to sleep every night. We explored local light houses, neighboring beaches, ate seafood while watching the sun set over the water, collected shells, and enjoyed the mild seventy-degree weather and sunshine. Immense satisfaction was gained simply by observing locals going about their daily life bundled up in coats. What a fantastic way to spend one of the coldest months of winter.

For further details about Lamers Tours please visit their website at: http://www.golamers.com. To find out more about the Boardwalk Beach Resort and to see what the property has to offer, visit their website at: http://www.boardwalkbeachresort.com. General information about Panama City Beach, FL can be found at: https://panamacitybeach.com, and https://www.visitpanamacitybeach.com. More information about the restaurants mentioned in this article can be found at: http://andysflourpower.com , http://thomasdonutandsnackshop.com, http://www.sonnysbbq.com, and http://www.shuckums.com.