Road Trippin’: Itinerary & Photo Journal

Bags are unpacked, laundry is caught up, our young Marine has arrived in Cali, Madeline is back in school, and we are rested after a whirlwind seven day road trip through eight states last week!

Bradley graduated his MOS training and is now a Marine MP. We drove out to Ft Leonard Wood to enjoy time with him before he headed off to his PDS.

The boy did not have as many days off as we did, so we arranged a little mini-vacation around Madeline’s spring break and our travels. I love planning road trips, and this one was no different!

I have never let others plan for us; the goal is always to try to pick activities that fit our interests, see as much as we can to get a feel for so many fabulous things our beautiful nation offers, and we leave plenty of time to be spontaneous.

To begin planning I always put our destination into the GPS and look at all our routes; this time we were shown two distinct ways to travel to Ft Leonard Wood. Our entire little family has a goal of visiting all fifty states (hubby has visited 49 of them; I’m at 29 & it’s become quite a contest between our 4 kiddos), and airports don’t count. With two routes showing Madeline pointed out she could add two new states to her list so we decided to loop this trip.

We would leave Atlanta and head west through Alabama, Mississippi, skirt Tennessee with a pass through Memphis into Arkansas and head up into Missouri as we drove out to see Bradley. Coming home we would go through St Louis into Illinois, Kentucky, back through Nashville, Tennessee and back into Georgia.

With our route chosen we had an idea of places we wanted to see along the way and we set out to see what we could see! I thought our itinerary was a lot of fun, and had a couple of requests from social media to share it, so here we go!  Of course some of this was tailored to visiting Bradley, but you should find plenty of ideas for planning your own trip!

Day one we left about four in the afternoon after Audley had gotten off work. We love driving backroads, especially during rush hour, so we when we left on Thursday afternoon we took 2- lane roads from Cartersville, Georgia into Gadsden, Alabama before hitting I-59 into Birmingham. With spring really starting to show up it was a beautiful drive past farms and flowing rivers and creeks as we’ve been blessed with a lot of rain this year.

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Our first stop was for supper just outside Birmingham. We chose a quirky little sushi restaurant called Rock-N-Roll Sushi. We absolutely loved the classic rock theme of both the decor & sushi rolls!

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Madonna & Tommy Lee Rolls

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Journey & Motely Crue Roll

With our bellies full we drove through downtown Birmingham and headed west on I-22 into Mississippi.  Once in Tupelo we stopped for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Day two began nice and early (7:15 am) as we wanted to make a stop by Elvis Presley’s birthplace (we were in Tupelo after all), which has been made into a public park as well as museum. We stopped by before they opened for a morning stroll through the park. While we didn’t get to see the inside of the home, no crowds and the peacefulness of the early morning was worth the stop. It’s a park that’s been tastefully created and quite lovely.

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We left Tupelo and passed through Memphis where we stopped at Elvis’s Graceland, a last minute decision since we had visited the birthplace early that morning.

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Graceland has changed a whole lot since I visited 24 years ago which meant we only viewed the house from a distance. We didn’t want extra museums and planes, we only wanted to walk the grounds; see the memorials and the gravesite. We were not paying $70/each to do so!

We paid $10 to park; Madeline bought a T-shirt, we walked to the wall by the gates (that looks so trashy since they allow people to draw graffiti all over it), took a few photos and was back on the road in 45 mins. I’m not a tourist trap/circus fan when it comes to historic or cultural locations.

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We crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas where we hit backroads through the Ozark Mountains into Missouri to Mansfield.

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Y’all, it’s a stunningly beautiful drive, and you never know what unique towns you might pass through.

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Mansfield was the final home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was so excited for this planned stop! It’s not a huge tourist trap like Graceland was (thank goodness), but a tastefully done memorial to recall a fascinating life! Admission was $12/each for both the Rock House their daughter designed and had built for them and the Rocky Ridge House, Almanzo constructed. We spent a couple of hours here, and made it our last stop of the day.

Everyone was so knowledgeable, friendly and just lovely to be around!

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despite the rain, this was such a memorable destination!

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I’ll share more of this beautiful and historic location in another post!

At the recommendation of one of the girls at the Wilder Museum, we hit the backroads (make sure your gas tank is topped off) out of Mansfield and stopped in a little Amish community for an all-you-can-eat Friday night fried fish and chicken supper.

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Y’all.

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Amish peanut butter …. you MUST try it!

It was amazing.

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And we didn’t eat again until around 1:00pm on day three.

We rolled into St Robert, Missouri around 8:00 and checked into the Hampton Inn on historic Route 66.

Day three allowed us to enjoy a little extra sleep as our Marine and adopted Marine were sleeping in themselves. We picked the boys up from the base and headed west again towards Branson; an hour and a half drive. Lunch at Steak and Shake, shopping at the Tanger outlets was the perfect way to spend an afternoon with teenagers. Branson has so many shows and activities to choose from, We wanted something where we could have fun interacting and savoring time together, so the Branson Murder Mystery dinner theater was definitely the best choice!

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Our kids volunteered for the roles of the James brothers and Kay Marte (the local town gossip). With dinner and an interactive show we had a crazy fun evening filled with a lot of laughs!

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Day four we worshiped with a little congregation just off of base in Waynesville. Everyone there was so welcoming, sweet and friendly. We won’t forget our visit anytime soon.

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After lunch, Bradley let us know he had to return to base earlier since it was Sunday, so he suggested we make a stop at Uranus Fudge Factory, a quirky little tourist stop on Historic Route 66.

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And if the truth be known I probably was not mature enough for this general store and fudge factory, especially when the guy behind the counter at Uranus asked how I wanted my “fudge packed”.

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Y’all all I have to say is you have to have a warped sense of humor to make this stop which is why Bradley wanted to stop I’m sure.

After we dropped Bradley back off at the base we had plenty of daylight left so we ventured out to drive a little of Route 66. We drove over to Devil’s Elbow Bridge, and stopped by the George M Reed roadside park. Roadside parks were common back when people traveled Route 66 as they made great places for picnics and stretching your legs while on your road trip!

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Roadside parks would be fabulous now as we travel, but unfortunately we live in a society where people would rather abuse and destroy than appreciate and preserve.

Day five was partially spent on the military base for Family Day as we were given insight to our Marine’s career path and an opportunity to see the kinds of equipment he’s been trained to use.

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After the ceremonies we took our adopted Marines out for the afternoon for an entertaining lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and an adventure at Ft Wood Escape Room. Thank goodness for my Submariner, because the Marines really struggled with this one!

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We also went bowling. 🎳 Thats all I have to say about that one adventure.

It was bad.

The boys had to be back in the barracks by 1730, so Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 a different direction for some colorfully fun backroad highlights.

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Once back in St. Robert we stopped in at the Route 66 Diner for burgers and fries. Service was phenomenal, and the food, although simple was delicious!

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Day Six started off with MOS graduation. Followed by a tearful goodbye, our Marine boarded a bus headed to the airport.

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After he left Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 towards St. Louis. We passed through Cuba where we had a fabulous lunch at The FOURWAY Diner and drove through this historic little town.

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Cuba, Missouri is known as Mural City

We arrived in St Louis in time to take the last car up to the top of the Gateway Arch. It was the perfect way to end our Route 66 travels.

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After supper, and moving on down the interstate we stopped in Mt. Vernon, Illinois for the night at the Doubletree. There we caught the end of my Alma Mater’s basketball game that put them in the NIT finals.

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Day seven we finally made it back home, but not before stopping at at a fantastic little western store in Marion, Illinois (McKinney’s) for some boot and hat shopping.

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We also made a swing by Lipscomb University (my alma mater) in Nashville to catch a little basketball fever. So much has changed in that part of the city ( in a positive way), and I enjoyed the pass through off of the interstate. Lipscomb holds a lot of precious memories for me!

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My old dorm

 

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The tradition of the painted mascot continues on…

While this was a lengthy post, I hope you found some inspiration for your own vacation plans as summer is right around the corner! I plan to detail our visit to Mansfield, St. Louis and a little glimpse of our short drive on Route 66! Hope you’ll stop back by!

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Doc Chey’s Noodle House

Living in Atlanta, while not my favorite place, does have it advantages. I enjoy good food; unique food, and you can find just about anything to fit your taste in the Atlanta area. Recently Tammie and I went out to lunch at a little restaurant over in old Grant Park, just across from the historic Oakland cemetery called Doc Chey’s Noodle House.

Doc Cheys Noodle House / Fiddle Dee Dee

Welcome to Doc Chey’s Noodle House!

This Asian inspired restaurant had a menu that screamed my name and great Yelp reviews, but when we entered we were the only ones there, which definitely had us questioning our decision!

It didn’t take long for the place to fill up though, and by the time our food was brought to the table Doc Chey’s was packed!

Menus are by the door when you enter the restaurant, so you just walk up, place your order, and sit yourself wherever to enjoy your meal, which is brought out shortly.

I ordered steamed Shanghai dumplings to start off our lunch. These were handmade and stuffed with pork and ginger. Honestly y’all, I could’ve ate seconds and thirds of these delicious dumplings and skipped a main entree!

Shanghai Dumplings at Doc Chey's / Fiddle Dee Dee

Doc Chey's Shanghai Dumplings / FIddle Dee Dee

Since it was a chilly, rainy day I chose Thai Coconut soup with shrimp for my entree.

Thai Coconut Soup with Shrimp / Fiddle Dee Dee

Y’all, it’s a huge bowl!

Doc Chey's Thai Coconut Soup / Fiddle Dee Dee

The addition of chicken to the coconut soup made it extremely filling!

With red peppers, scallions, mushrooms, Asian pesto, chili oil and shrimp simmered in a coconut chicken broth this dish is packed with flavor as well!

Shrimp Thai Coconut Soup / Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie enjoyed a bowl of Chinese Chicken Soup. It looked so good and she enjoyed every last drop!

Chinese Chicken Soup / FIddle Dee Dee

As always I sipped water with my meal, but also added a pot of hot peach ginger green tea. The perfect accompaniment to this delicious lunch and the dreary southern winter day.

Green Tea / Fiddle Dee Dee

Doc Chey’s has three locations across Atlanta, and not only makes the perfect luncheon spot for the girls, but a great date night restaurant choice as well!

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Late Summer at Pollo Tropical

It seems more and more families are looking for healthier options when dinning out while traveling or after a late day of sports. I know when we chose to dine out I really research healthier options because that is super important to my own family!

Fortunately we live in an area where several healthier options are available, including the inconspicuous Pollo Tropical; an upscale fast food option.

Last week I was invited to try a few new menu options as well as taste some of their original eats from this unique brand.

What makes Pollo Tropical different from other fast food restaurants?

** How about no freezers in the restaurant?! Everything is brought in fresh; prepped and prepared fresh in house daily.

**Pollo Tropical serves chicken that is natural; in other words, no hormones or antibiotics have been injected into their chicken as it was raised.

**The chicken is marinated in their special citrus marinade overnight and grilled fresh (never frozen) & right where you can watch.

** Recipes are traditional made with fresh ingredients daily, including the sauces on the sauce bar.

**Pollo Tropical prides itself in not using trans fats in their foods, and because everything is prepared fresh in-house there are a lot less unnatural preservatives in your food!

While known for their citrus marinated grilled chicken, Pollo Tropical has added Pollo Bites; fresh marinated chicken, dipped and battered in-house then fried in canola oil. These for perfect for those kiddos that love their chicken nuggets!

Also new to the menu are a couple of different chicken sandwiches. The chicken BLT with spicy chipotle ranch is so delicious!

For lighter fare, the bacon-shrimp salad served with dressing hits the spot. The shrimp is also marinated in the citrus marinade and then boiled.

The pulled pork sandwich with guava bbq sauce is such a treat. And I learned that in the Miami area this sandwich is served with a Cuban bbq sauce.

Originally founded in 1988 the Pollo Tropical chain has grown to 140 restaurants throughout Florida and up into the metro Atlanta area. This makes it really convenient for my southeastern friends when they hit the road for vacation!!

Check it out!

Uncle Jack’s Meat House

There are restaurants you visit where you walk in, eat your food and leave, barely remembering what you ate.

Then, there are restaurants you visit where you walk in with friends, savor your meal as if you are in Cuba (where table time is much valued), linger just a bit longer over coffee and dessert, and then tell everyone you know about the evening out because the entire experience was just THAT spectacular!

It’s rare to find, but it does exist.

Over the weekend I was so fortunate to experience an unforgettable meal out with fabulous company and amazing food. My girl friend, Tammie asked me to accompany her to Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth for an unforgettable tasting experience that will long remain a topic of discussion.

{Seriously, it’s Monday morning and we are still talking about it!}

Uncle Jack's Meat House Duluth

Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth is an unassuming restaurant located on Sugarloaf Parkway  near the Infinite Energy Arena.  Despite being located in such a busy area for  over a year (they opened in late 2016), so many people still have not discovered this hidden gem!

Tammie and I were greeted warmly when we walked in.  We were given the option of indoor or outdoor dining; both of which are fabulous options.

Indoor Dining Uncle Jack's Meat House

Indoor Dining

Uncle Jack's Meat House Outdoor Dining

A glimpse of outdoor seating

 

The manager introduced us to our waiter, Luis, who treated us wonderfully! The decor is laid back and casual with a bit of an industrial vibe.  Guests were dressed as casual as shorts and tee-shirts to suits and dresses!  We dined with parents and their children, couples, groups of friends and even a group of teenagers.  Restaurant patrons were so diverse and everyone was welcomed the same!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Bar

Uncle Jack's Meat House decor

The executive chef, Mitch came out and introduced himself to us and shared a little background of the restaurant.  Uncle Jack’s Meat House is owned by  Restauranteur and Food Network personality Willie Degel, who also owns two other restaurants in NYC.  Together Degel and Chef Mitch came up with a menu and concept for the restaurant.  After a little trial and error the menu and restaurant concept evolved into the fabulous restaurant it is now!

Uncle Jack's Meat House Menu

Chef Mitch is an Atlanta native who has put a decidedly Southern and delightfully Atlantan spin on the restaurant menu.  Everything is prepared fresh and to order here.  There are no prepackaged meals heated up in an oven, only fresh ingredients; as many as possible from local farms and dairies.  All sauces are even prepared on site; you will not find a bottle of A1 here, nor do you need it.  The only freezer is a small chest freezer that holds the ice cream for one of their desserts, which is also made onsite. Chef Mitch said they work hard to accommodate the dietary needs of guests, including those with allergies or gluten intolerance.

With your food cooked made from scratch and made to order, don’t expect your meals in five minutes.  This isn’t a heat your dish in the microwave and bring to the table restaurant.  This is a place for you to socialize over the table as each course is brought out, and to savor each bite you put into your mouth.  If you want to eat in a hurry this is not the place to eat, but if you truly want a memorable experience, make your reservation and plan to stay awhile!

Chef Mitch had several menu items already planned ahead to serve us, then had us also choose an entree.  Everything brought to our table was absolutely fantastic and every bite lovely to experience.

Tammie and Jen at Uncle Jack's Meat House

So what deliciousness did Tammie and I indulge?

Munchies:

Applewood Smoked Bacon with house-made peanut butter (slather it on y’all!) and maple syrup

Uncle Jack's Meat House Chef Mitch

Chef Mitch bringing out the applewood smoked bacon

Uncle Jack's Meat House Applewood Smoked Bacon

Smoked Local Pork Spare Ribs with a sweet and sour BBQ glaze and Apple Cider Coleslaw

Uncle Jack's Meat House Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos with a shell made of taro root and served with herb mayo and wasabi

Uncle Jack's Meat House Maine Lobster and Avocado Mini Tacos

Maine Lobster Mini Taco Uncle Jack's Meat House

We also enjoyed selections of fresh local cheeses, cured southern meats, pickled onions, cherry jam and whole grain mustard on a Charcuterie board.

Charcuterie Station Uncle Jack's Meat House

Selections from Charcuterie Station

Uncle Jack's Meat House Charcuterie Station Selections

Charred Spanish Octopus with chickpea puree, olives, capers, pickled onion, and drizzled with Spanish olive oil.

Charred Spanish Octopus from Uncle Jack's Meat House

Spanish Octopus

USDA Choice Steak:

For our entrees Tammie and I enjoy selections from the steak menu.  I tried the 35 day dried aged rib chop (this is enough for THREE meals!) cooked medium rare.

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cowboy Ribchop

Served with roasted garlic and shallot

Cowboy Ribchop cooked to perfection

The perfect steak!

Tammie enjoyed the tender center cut filet mignon.

Sharing Sides:

The menu at Uncle Jack’s Meat House is ala cart, but the sides are completely sharable and options are just fabulous! We tried four delicious side dishes with our steaks.  By far the CornGasm Brûlée and collard greens were my favorite!

Organic Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyere cheese

Uncle Jack's Meat House Cauliflower Gratin

5 Cheese Mac and Cheese made with gouda, Parmesan, Cheddar, Jack and Gruyere cheeses

Uncle Jack's Meat House five Cheese Mac and Cheese

Slow Cooked Collard Greens with smoked ham hock and aged sherry vinegarUncle Jack's Meat House Collard Greens

CornGasm Brûlée complete with a crystalized sugar top

Uncle Jack's Meat House CornGasm Brûlée

Sweet Tooth:

And if all of the above wasn’t enough, we had dessert.

The banana Dutch Baby was delicious….

Uncle Jack's Meat House Dutch Baby

But the Fudge Brownie Soufflé served with Salted Caramel Ice Cream was probably the best dessert I have EVER enjoyed!  This dish is prepared when you order it, so it takes around 20 minutes to be out at your table.  Don’t be impatient.  The wait is totally worth it!

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Uncle Jack’s Meat House is open for lunch and supper Monday through Friday and for supper on Saturday and Sunday.  They went from empty to packed within 30 minutes of our 6:30 arrival on a Friday night, so make a reservation!

Uncle Jack’s Meat House

6590 Sugarloaf Pkwy suite 201

Duluth, GA 30097

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