Monday, March 20, 2017

Seeing the City

St. Louis is blessed with many unique, beautiful, quirky and fun communities. It is amazing how few of them I have really seen. But I crossed one of them off the list when I visited The Grove yesterday with a photographer friend. The district is located between Kingshighway and Vandeventer along Manchester Road, and a Sunday morning was the perfect time to do some exploring without a lot of cars and/or people to get in the way.

The first thing that caught our eye was Demo Man, which is located at the intersection of Vandeventer and Chouteau. Since 2002 the 20' Demo Man sculpture has been overlooking the intersection of Chouteau and Vandeventer. The small parcel of land is owned by Don Bellon of Bellon Wrecking and Salvage. One of his employees created the piece, replicating a small statue that has been on Bellon's desk since 1973 when he started his business.

Demo Man
The Grove sign
From Demo Man you can see the iconic The Grove sign, which was lit for the first time on December 17, 2010,  announcing the entrance to The Grove. A second sign hangs at the east entrance near Kingshighway. The area takes up about a mile along both sides of Manchester Road. Originally a commercial district called Adam's Grove in the 1950s, the area fell into urban decline. New businesses began to open in the 1980s, and since then the area has been successfully revitalized. With new branding, it is now known as The Grove.

The architecture in the area reminds me a bit of The Loop in University City. The vast majority of the storefronts are full - I did not see many vacancies, which is wonderful. But it is the number of public art pieces, primarily murals worked on by local artist Grace McCammond, which really capture your eye and give life to the area. Painted fireplugs and electric boxes, as well as bright splashes of trim on building exteriors, add to the colorful atmosphere. The Grove is definitely a photographer's dream, and my friend and I enjoyed living it for the morning!

The Grove

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March Came in Like a Lamb

The old idiom is that March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. That has not been the case this year, with the temperature hitting 74 degrees last Saturday. We have already been under tornado watches/warnings twice in the past couple of weeks. The warm temperatures have thrown the trees, shrubs and flowers for a loop, with many blooming at least a month early. There is always the concern that a cold snap will nip the blooms in the bud.

Shaw Nature Reserve daffodils
With that in mind, I went to Shaw Nature Reserve on Saturday expecting to see an array of color. Other than a field of daffodils, mother nature was keeping her buds close to her chest in the reserve. No matter, it is always a beautiful place to take a walk.

Gardenway Motel
Across the street from the entrance to the reserve is a Travelodge. I have always wanted to stop and shoot the old Gardenway Motel sign, so I pulled into the parking lot of the Travelodge to take the picture. I had no idea the size of this closed Travelodge! All I could think was how many homeless people or veterans it could house. As I drove around the back, I was surprised to see a miniature golf course, two swimming pools and an old-school playground. How many little hands got blisters from crossing the monkey bars? How many butts got burned going down the metal slide? How many scraped knees from the merry-go-round? What a nice little facility it must have once been, and the close proximity to Six Flags must have been of some advantage once upon a time.

Sunday was not quite as nice as Saturday, but Jim and I headed off to the Missouri Botanical Garden in the morning. He had not yet seen the Orchid Exhibit. What we didn't know is that it was corporate partners day, and they all got in for free. I have never seen so many people at the garden, except for special festivals. And we arrived early! It was packed inside the Orchid Show, so we'll need to go back when we won't get jostled every time we turn around. Thankfully, out in the garden itself it was not so crowded. The colors are really popping here! Every day at the garden is a good day, and we love to spend our time together walking and taking pictures. We are so blessed to have such an incredible facility here in our city.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge

The Family History Writing Challenge takes place in February, and for the 6th year in a row I participated again. Basically you commit to writing about your family every day for 28 days. I had to miss 4 days as I was up in Iowa creating new family stories, so I will continue on past today with those posts. This year I wrote about the Kubler family. If you are interested in what the challenge is all about, you can find my posts here.

Before we left for Iowa, I was looking for a couple of fun places to stop on the way up to my in-law's house. Because Kirby always made this trip with us, it has been helpful to break out of our old routine and go places we could never go when he came along with us. I came across a website called Roadside America. What a fun site! You enter the state you will be traveling through, and it gives you a listing of all the oddities in that state. You can look at the attractions located in an alphabetical listing of town names, or you can review the attractions pinned on a map so you can see which ones are on the route you will be driving.

That is how we came to stop at the Swedish Heritage Museum located in Swedesburg, Iowa. You can see the Julbock (straw goat) and sign from Highway 218, so we have driven past this over 100 times in the years we have lived in St. Louis. But we never took the time to stop. Originally my thought was to just grab a quick picture, but we ended up going into the museum as well.

Am I ever glad we did! The docent was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, and we enjoyed getting to know the origins of the town and the Swedish people who settled in the area. The antiquities included in the museum are amazing. There were no photos allowed inside, but I was amazed at the quality and quantity of items that have been donated by local family members. The general store and tinsmith shop certainly take you back in time.
Swedish Heritage Museum
Roadside America also led us to a new place for lunch - The Flying Wienie in Cedar Rapids. You can't make this stuff up...After photographing the exterior, we went inside to presumably order a wienie. We were not expecting the variety of options on the menu. In the end, my husband could not turn down an Iowa pork tenderloin sandwich, and I was lured by the smell of the Italian beef sandwich. The choices we made were good, but not great, so if we ever stop again we'll go for the hotdogs.

Flying Wienie
If you ever decide to visit Cedar Rapids, I am including a little tip for you below. Because if you have a flying wienie, it's always good to know where to park it.

Wienie parking