Hollywood Studios; Coronapocolypse Style

This year has been anything but normal, so when my girlfriend Tami reached out to me for a little road trip to Orlando I had a bag packed in a snap! The idea of doing something “normal” was extremely exciting!

Walt Disney World arranged park entry to Hollywood Studios (I’ve only visited Magic Kingdom and Epcot so this was exciting) and a stay at the new and gorgeous Riviera Resort. We were able to check out the newest rides and spaces, as well as all the health and safety measures they are taking so you can still enjoy the parks!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Walt Disney’s third park which opened in 1989. Its undergone several transformations over the years, but continues the premise as an ode to the “Golden Age of Hollywood” with details and architecture that will send your imagination into overdrive as you step back in time.

Hollywood Studios is an opportunity to emerge yourself in the movies you love through interactive rides, shows, parades, and experiences.

When you first enter the park you’ll stroll down the main street of the park; Hollywood Blvd. it is homage to the beautiful Art Deco style of the 30’s and 40’s. Neon, chrome, architecture with personality surround you as you meander towards the park’s iconic Chinese Theater.

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While waiting in line for Micky & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, check out all the handprints in front of the Chinese Theater & see who you recognize!

Once you reach the Chinese Theater you can experience the fun of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway adventure! This brand new ride actually opened just a few days before the coronapocalypse shut the world down. It is the first ride to actually feature the iconic Mickey Mouse! It’s a super cute ride no matter your age.

Hollywood Studios is so much fun to walk through as you check out each themed area.

One of my favorite rides was the famous Tower of Terror that has been a hit in the park since 1994! I could’ve ridden it several times!

Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019 to delight of Star War’s fans of all ages. It is by far the most popular attraction in the park! In Galaxy’s Edge I enjoyed blue and green milk with baby Yoda aka “The Child” and guided the Millennium Falcon on a Smuggler’s Run. Tami & I also took a 3-D Star Tour with C3PO. It was so much fun!

Toy Story Land is so colorful and enticing we had to check out a few rides there as well! The Slinky Dog Roller Coaster through Andy’s Backyard is so cute and if you’re not a fan of coasters you can twirl with the Aliens!

As you can imagine, with this virus going around there are changes to the parks and how things are done. Here are a few things you should be aware of if you are planning a trip in the next few months.

*Masks are required on all Disney properties, at all times, unless you are sitting and actively eating and drinking. This includes parks, resorts and Disney Springs. Take extra masks… it’s hotter than the devils kitchen in Florida this time of year and a mask soaked with sweat is highly uncomfortable.

*When you purchase your tickets to the parks, you must make a reservation for the days will will use the ticket. They’re limiting park attendance, so you must have a reservation to enter.

*Before entering the park your temperature will be taken. If you have a fever, don’t go.

*Each ride is set up so that you are socially distanced as you wait. There are limits on how many can ride and only every other car/row is used.

*There are hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer stations everywhere in the park. I do mean everywhere.

*As for experiences in the park, they are different. There are a limited number of character experiences, generally found in the form of parades, and very few shows. You can feel a difference in the level of “magic”. The Disney Parks app is essential as you order and pay for your food and sign-up for times for certain rides. The Advantage of park policies right now are short lines for most of the rides.

Overall visiting a Disney Park has definite pros and cons right now. I am not a fan of masks so it was a policy that dampened some of my enthusiasm (and my mood once the sweaty thing rubbed a blister on my jaw). I did love limiting guest attendance to the park; shorter lines, not stepping on heels of people in front of you and not feeling like the whole world is crammed in around you.  Smaller crowds is a definite plus and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they kept that policy! Ordering food through the app is super convenient, but I am not a fan of my payment info being saved on the app.  Overall it was a fun trip and i would go back if given the opportunity.  If you decide to make the trip, just remember to make a reservation and plan out all the details of your trip before venturing down to Orlando!

Get Your Foodie Fix on Route 66

Happy Foodie Friday y’all!

A few weeks back as we traveled out to Missouri to see Bradley, we left plenty of time in our schedule for dawdling and meandering the back roads. Now traveling through the Ozark Mountains was beautiful, but as soon as it was possible we hopped over to travel the historic Route 66 for a little time travel.

We passed old signage and motels and roadside parks; remnants of an era that has been pushed aside in the name of progress, but we also passed trough towns where folks are trying to preserve this historic highway.

The FourWay Cuba Missouri / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

Family owned and operated The FourWay is a former filling station on the Mother Road that has been turned into a local and absolutely delightful diner.

The FourWay Rote 66 / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

I’ll get to the food in a minute, but we must talk history first!

Historic Route 66 Marker / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

First built in 1932, the Phillips 66 station owned by Paul T Carr was in the ideal location right on Route 66 as people traveled from Chicago towards Cali. It would have been a full-service station back in the day where attendants would pump your gas, wash the windows and even grab you a map if you asked.

Via Google Images

A whole different experience than we have now.

After Mr Carr passed in the mid-1960’s, the station was bought by the Wallis family and turned into a Mobil gas station and the offices for their new oil company venture. The Wallis family outgrew the little filling station and it sat empty for a while after a brief stint as a bakery. In 2005 with the help of a preservation grant for Route 66 history and using resources from the archives of Phillips 66 oil company, the outside of the building was restored to its original cottage appearance. Despite the renovation It sat empty until 2015, when an interior restoration was started. This time the historic gas station became the home of The FourWay Restaurant; a Mediterranean themed restaurant with a Missouri twist owned by restaurant veteran, Joanie Weir.

The FourWay Mural / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

The FourWay Dining Room / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

We arrived to this cozy spot for a late lunch and a quiet restaurant, which is perfect when you’re wanting to pull your camera out at lunch and don’t want to feel judged. It was a weekday and 2:00 pm, so I didn’t expect a crowd. Our waitress was sweet as could be and seated us by the window where we could enjoy the gorgeous day while we dined.

The FourWay Menu / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

We started off our meal with the FourWay Fries… steak fries topped with feta, tzatziki and a house made hot sauce. Sounds weird, but it was just delicious!

FourWay Fries / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

Since it was just lunchtime, and we still had traveling to do, we didn’t get too crazy with ordering.

Madeline and Audley both chose the Leroy burger, adding cheese and bacon, while I had a fantastic BLT sandwich.

The FourWay Leroy Burger / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

The FourWay Burger / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

The FourWay BLT / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

BLT / Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

All of the ingredients are fresh and local when possible. BTW… the house pickles are fantastic!! We were so full from lunch we couldn’t order dessert. It was so hard to say no.

I loved the eclectic decor of the FourWay; the food pairs with it perfectly. A simple menu; a simply decorated restaurant. A meal that reminds you of home; cozy decor that doesn’t make you feel out of touch.

The FourWay Decor / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

 

Window Views from the FourWay / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

The FourWay / Oh FIddle Dee Dee

If you’re traveling through Missouri, venture off the interstate into Cuba and check out the FourWay. You’ll love the glimpse of history in this progressive world.

The FourWay

102 W. Washington Ave.

Cuba, Missouri

 

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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