Wichita, Kansas –> St. Louis, Missouri: a slow road trip

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I’ve read a few articles and books lately that used the phrase ‘slow food movement’ – the idea of eating food that is locally grown versus fast foods of which you don’t know the origins. It’s a part of the larger ‘slow movement’ that is all about slowing down the pace of life.

So here’s my attempt at extending that philosophy to the road trip. If I were practicing a slow road trip and following Wichita State University’s men’s basketball team to the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis this weekend, here are some places I might stop along the route.

Please pass this along to anyone you know driving there and back – maybe they can pick one or two spots to get out and stretch their legs or have a bite to eat.

Wichita to St. Louis – 442 miles with no stops, see below for the mileage along my slow road trip

78 miles into the trip: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City, Kan.

Now that I know not to expect REALLY tall grass, I go here with realistic expectations to see a beautiful part of the Flinthills. Plus, it gets me off the turnpike for a bit. Some of the tour options are unavailable right now, but I could do a short hike and take a few photos.
http://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm 

102 miles: The Sweet Granada, Emporia, Kan.

Stopping at this chocolatier next to the historic Granada Theatre in downtown Emporia to get snacks made on-site with premium ingredients. A few best-sellers: Pop-Choc – buttery Kansas-made Velvet Creme popcorn drizzled with milk chocolate and white chocolate – or the Granada Goo – a peanut butter, rice crispy bar topped with chocolate.
http://www.sweetgranada.com/

192 miles: Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que, Olathe, Kan.

Don’t let the name fool ya, it’s Kansas City barbeque & it’s one of my favorite options. Maybe you’ll get lucky and stop on a day they serve burnt ends.
http://oklahomajoesbbq.com/

222 miles: Leila Hair Museum, Independence, Mo.

Yes, you could stop in Independence to visit a Harry S. Truman attraction … or you could visit the ONLY hair museum in the world. Confession: I haven’t yet visited, but I’ve been waiting for some extra time to stop when I’m in the area. The collection includes more than 600 hair wreaths and 2,000+ pieces of jewelry made of human hair. The oddity attracts me.
http://www.leilashairmuseum.net/index.html

rearview_mirror_sunset232 miles: Russell Stover, Blue Springs, Mo.

Thankfully, there’s no food served at the hair museum…so off to Russell Stover, which is headquartered in the Kansas City area. There are quite a few shops throughout the region EXCEPT Wichita. So now’s my chance to get a scoop of Blue Bell Ice Cream, or something made on-site in the Russell Stover Candy Kitchen.
http://www.russellstover.com/storeLocator/?storeid=168

307 miles: Sierra Bullets, Sedalia, Mo.

Didn’t peg me for a hunter or a gun enthusiast? Sure, the factory tour at Sierra Bullets attracts those groups but also people who like to see how things are made. That’s the category I fall into. The tour can run 30 minutes to an hour – just tell them how long you have and a ballistician will get you through.
http://www.sierrabullets.com/about-us/tour-sierra-bullets/

364 miles: Rocheport, Mo.

Confession: My aunt and uncle lived here and ran an antique shop so this place is sentimental to me.

But biases aside, it’s a great stop that gets you off I-70 and down to the Missouri River. You can walk or rent a bike to see one of the most scenic segments of the Katy Trail (the rails to trails project that follows the Missouri-Kansas-Texas tracks), take a canoe out on the Missouri, shop at the antique and gift shops, grab a bite to eat, passengers can taste wine at Les Bourgeois Vineyards or just take in the bluff top views. There are several bed & breakfasts here, too, if you want to make this a two-day road trip.

Stop at Stockton Mercantile or next door at the General Store & Café and tell my cousins I sent you.
http://www.rocheport-mo.com/

379 miles: Columbia, Mo.

It should be against the law to drive across Missouri on I-70 and not stop in one of the best college towns on the planet! Stop in Columbia! And don’t just stop at Exit 127 for gas at the QT or the Cracker Barrel. The whole city is wrapped around I-70 so it doesn’t take long to get to some great local eateries: Shakespeare’s Pizza, Flat Branch Brewery. Instead of going through all my suggestions here, you can read this post I wrote for a first-time visitor to CoMo.

Some famous person is probably visiting at the same time you’re driving through or there’s likely an awesome event happening – check out the calendar at http://www.visitcolumbiamo.com/

sunny_day_road402 miles: National Churchill Museum, Fulton, Mo.

Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College in Fulton, and President Truman introduced him. I just visited this museum for the first time and recommend this stop to everyone – really interesting to learn more about how the speech came to happen here. The museum also provides a comprehensive look at Churchill’s life. Plus, the building that houses the museum is a church from England that was moved brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Fulton. Artwork outside includes eight panels of the Berlin Wall built into a sculpture by Churchill’s granddaughter.
https://www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org/

454 miles: Hermann, Mo.

I visited Hermann once while in college for this German community’s infamous Oktoberfest. Have I mentioned that I’m so thankful there were no cell phones in the early 1990s that made taking video and photos possible? Nobody needs to see me doing the duck dance.

You’ll find plenty of history, beautiful views, restaurants and wine here.
http://www.hermannmissouri.com/

513 miles: Saint Charles, Mo.

They’ve got the 3 C’s – casinos, cars, Clark … as in Lewis & Clark. Fast Lane Classic Cars buys and sells cars, but also has about 5,000 weekly visitors to view its show rooms and memorabilia. Another unique stop is the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center, where you can see the spot on the Missouri River where the explorers began their journey west.
http://www.historicstcharles.com/

* Notice I didn’t cover the destination – St. Louis is celebrating 250 years of history this year and there are so many things to do there that it needs to be a separate post. For now, visit http://explorestlouis.com/ for ideas.

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This is not an exhaustive list – just some spots that come to mind as I think about a slow road trip. I’d love to hear any other suggestions along the same route — just add them in the comments section.

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Posted in Sports, travel

Lee’s memories from 365 home Wichita State basketball games

Guest post by Lee

last team standing

image by shockernation

UNDEFEATED. Who would have thought those would be the last words of the fans at the end of a Wichita State basketball season. I made it to 15 of the 17 home games this year and not many were close. The longtime Wichita State fan in me is used to nail-biters that have previously ended in a bad way.

Earlier in the year the WSU athletic department highlighted a man who had been going to Shockers games for more than 50 years, and this got me curious about how many games I’ve been to in my life. I don’t fall into the category of the super fan who attends every game home and away but I’ve definitely rode the ups and downs of the Shockers for the last 30 years.

Being the sports nerd that I am, I not only have saved all my ticket stubs from games but have kept track of them in an Excel spreadsheet – so it would be easy to determine how many games I’ve attended. Yes, MeLinda still married me even after I disclosed this information…she has learned to tune out my weird sports quirks.

At the end of the 2014 Shocker basketball season I have attended 365 homes games. So I’ve spent a year of my life going to games. Then the other question that popped into my head was: does it make a difference if I go to the game. Am I lucky to the Shockers?

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> Lee in our seats at Charles Koch Arena, with the 2013 Final Four sign in the background.

Yes, the Shockers have played their usual list of patsies through the years: Hardin Simmons, Monmouth, Rockhurst, Prairie View A&M and the PUMP California All-Stars. Though in those years we have had some embarrassing loses: Appalachian State, UT-Arlington, Coppin State, Hampton (no, not the hotel chain) and even by 35 points to Southern Illinois.

After adding up all the numbers, the Shockers win 78% of the games I attend. So going home happy on a regular basis is a good thing. Here are a few of the memories as I look back through my WSU ticket stubs:

I have seen some great games over the years, though the most memorable game I have been to was early on in my Shocker days. Eddie Fogler was the coach and the team was still relevant and hadn’t hit the terrible years highlighted by Scott Thompson. The date was Feb. 2, 1988, and the Shockers were facing the top player in the nation, Hersey Hawkins, who finished the year averaging 36 points a game for Bradley. This also ended up being the highest scoring game I’ve attended as the Shockers put up 116 points and won by 24. The other highlight/lowlight was when one of the Shockers cheerleaders was dropped and you heard a big thud when she hit the ground (she wasn’t hurt so it was okay to laugh about it).

In 2004, the Shockers were finally back in the postseason and played a great game vs. the Florida State Seminoles in the NIT. Yes, the Shockers lost in overtime but the environment was great and most people at the game remember it being the loudest Koch Arena has ever been.

The last time the Shockers played Kansas State at home was 2002 and ended in a loss but two years earlier the Shockers beat both Kansas State and Oklahoma State at home.

In 1996 we beat Virginia Commonwealth by 30. VCU later repaid us by winning in a Koch Arena Bracketbusters game to keep WSU out of the NCAA tournament and then beating us in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament. Before Bucknell became known for beating Kansas, the Shockers beat them by 19 points in 1995. Gonzaga hadn’t started its run to national prominence but the Bulldogs did visit Wichita in 1994 and lost by one.

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> Lee with his cousin and aunt at the Roundhouse.

In 1990 the Shockers dispatched of Oklahoma State and Alabama. The Crimson Tide were led by Robert Horry, one of my all-time Houston Rocket favorites. In 1988 we beat George Mason by 21 points and those wounds never healed and they came back for revenge in 2006 when they beat us at home and then ended our Sweet Sixteen run in D.C.

The year of the shirt was 2009-2010, when the Shockers won all their regular-season games at home until falling to Nevada in the first round of the NIT. I had worn the same Shocker shirt without washing it for the majority of the season – from the point when I realized we had a streak going. I did wear a shirt underneath it so it wasn’t that disgusting. I’m sure MeLinda enjoyed sitting next to me during that season.

So there have been a lot of good things that I’ve seen but there were also 15 years where the Shockers didn’t make the postseason and we had to sit through the coaching exploits of Mike Cohen, Scott Thompson and Randy Smithson. Scratching our heads over what happened to big John Smith and Boo Craft, why couldn’t Smithson and Maurice Evans get along or how did every top City League player during the last 25 years leave Wichita.

Slowly those bad memories have been erased and over the last five years the Shockers have been 72-3 at home when I’m in attendance and this season have had the best regular season of anytime in the history of the NCAA, which is a trivia question no one outside of Wichita will be able to answer in a few years.

These days there are 10,506 fans at every game and even my parents, who rarely seem interested in sports, are keeping tabs on the Shockers. The one crowning achievement to my Wichita State basketball viewing career would be to see the high and mighty Jayhawks make a visit to the friendly confines of Koch Arena and, of course, for the Shockers to kick their ass.

wichita state university shockers koch arena

<photo> View from our seats of the cool striping idea that the WSU marketing team coordinated and fans pulled off at a game this season.

Posted in Lee, Sports

A whopper of a proposal: how Lee asked me to marry him

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I knew a proposal was coming, I just didn’t know exactly when or how.

Lee and I had started dating in 1995, moved in together in 1996 and had shopped for rings in the last few months of 1997. In January 1998, the opportunity to buy a house {the same one we live in today} popped up suddenly and we made the decision to go for it even though we weren’t yet married.

Hmmm, maybe we will open the door to our new house for the first time and I’ll see rose petals spread all over the floor surrounding the ring.

Or maybe he’ll drop to one knee during one of the Wichita State University home basketball games we attend as season-ticket holders.

I don’t recall being stressed about it or impatient … just curious. My mind was plenty busy with buying my first house and my job as a writer/editor at Wichita State University.

In February 1998 on our closing day, we spent the morning doing the necessary paperwork at a couple of different offices and then went directly over to the house to prepare for the move that weekend. After unlocking the door and looking around for a few minutes, Lee left to go get some lunch for us.

While he was gone, my friend Morgan stopped by to see the house since she was nearby. She was there looking around when Lee got back. He handed the grease-stained Burger King bag to me and I reached in to steal a french fry … but I felt something that was neither burger nor fry. It was a little black box.

So there in the empty house on Stratford Lane, kneeling on the kitchen’s horrendously ugly 1970s-style linoleum, with Morgan awkwardly standing near the sink unaware of the proposal plan, Lee asked if I would marry him.

Even though I knew it was coming, I teared up a little. I said yes. Morgan congratulated us and left. We ate our burger and fries. Soon after, we started planning the wedding for January 15 of the next year.

It wasn’t the most romantic proposal a girl could dream up but it did catch me off guard … and today we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. {No, we do not celebrate our anniversaries with meals at BK!}

wedding_dip

Posted in Family, Lee

One of my favorite all-time Tigers: Corby Jones

Mizzou_Corby_MelindaLee is a really good gift-giver (unlike some of my failures, like this bad move I made last year). He’s very generous when he’s gifting and he really likes the element of surprise. He pulled off a good one in December with a well-timed stop in Kansas City as we were driving to Columbia to see friends and family for Christmas.

He told me we had a stop to make but I thought we were just dropping in at a store that had something he couldn’t find in Wichita, instead it was a stop to get an in-person autograph from Corby Jones.

Corby was Missouri’s starting quarterback in 1997 and 1998 and is one of my all-time favorite Tigers for a couple of reasons — we attended the same high school (Hickman High School), he chose to stay home and play for the Tigers when Nebraska was recruiting him to replace Tommie Frazier, he snapped a long streak of losing seasons and he was just a really nice guy.

Look, I don’t analyze statistics like Lee or most other sports fanatics do — my analysis is with my heart not a calculator.

Records of 7-5 and 8-4 don’t jump out as stellar seasons unless you put them into context — before Corby led Mizzou to that 7-5 record in 1997, we had suffered through 13 losing seasons. That losing streak pretty much spanned the time in my life when I paid attention to what was going on with Missouri sports (1984-1997, which were ages 13 through 26 for me!).

Corby made watching Missouri football fun for me to watch for the first time in my life. (Anyone remember the game at Faurot against No. 1-ranked Nebraska that went to overtime because of a miraculous kicked ball in the end zone?!? We ended up losing 45-38 in OT.) It doesn’t hurt, either, that Corby’s timing coincided with me moving to enemy territory (Kansas) and getting out of sportwriting … so I finally found my voice as a Tiger fan. (I’m sure it’s hard for some of you who’ve only known me for the past decade or so to believe, but it took me quite awhile to convert from being a reporter to being an outspoken Mizzou fan!)

Corby’s father was a former Tiger and when he returned to Mizzou to coach under Bob Stull, Corby also moved to Columbia and finished out his high school career at Hickman. He chose Missouri over powerhouses like Nebraska, and in my opinion he paved the way for Mizzou to start landing some of the better in-state talent and for out-of-state quarterbacks like Brad Smith and Chase Daniel to come play at MU.

Since his playing days, Corby got a law degree from Mizzou and is now practicing in Kansas City. It was fun to talk to him for a few minutes and, as I remembered from interviewing him during his high school days, he was very gracious.

So below is a photo of where the helmet signed by Corby lives. It’s one of the new design helmets, which I’m glad Lee went with. It’s next to the old style block M helmet, which I got signed by running back Brock Olivo several years ago.

Thanks for great memories, Corby … and thanks for the great gift, Lee!

Mizzou_helmet_corby

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Posted in College, Lee, Sports

Missouri, football, SEC championship, bowl game — all in the same sentence!

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Photo courtesy of Mizzou Alumni Association

Guest post by Lee

One thing I never thought I would be doing: trying to determine the best way to reach a Mizzou bowl game.

This would be quite a crowning achievement at the Schnyder household for our sports teams. Wichita State’s basketball team made it to the Final Four earlier this year and the Shockers are currently ranked No. 10 in the country. Missouri’s football team has jumped from bottom-feeder of the Southeast Conference to being one win away from playing for the national championship (sorry, Florida State you don’t play for a championship when you have had a felon as your starting QB all year).

I spent last night putting together a spreadsheet with all the possible locations where Missouri could end up, depending on a loss or a win. MeLinda assumes they are going to get screwed even if they win. When I see ESPN forecasting Missouri vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl, I would agree with her for once.

The magnitude of me agreeing with MeLinda on anything Missouri-related is mind-boggling and on the level of Glasnost. In 2007 our marriage was fractured by the Mizzou-Kansas debate as both football teams approached their best years ever. Many conversations began with “I can’t believe you won’t admit Mizzou is better than KU” after the Tigers’ win over the Jayhawks at Arrowhead Stadium. At that point, Mizzou could have won 56-0 and I would STILL have come up with a good argument on how Kansas was a better team. I have mellowed a bit with the departure of Mizzou from the Big 12, though I think most Mizzou fans need to let their hatred of Kansas go and worry about what is happening in their own backyard. Just saying.

If Missouri wins the SEC Championship against Auburn this weekend, a trip to New Orleans is in the bag and possibly a trip to Pasadena for the national title. Either one of those locations wouldn’t be that bad to get to from Wichita, Kan. Just one stop in Dallas and you’re in New Orleans for a little more than $500 or even better is flying United to get to Pasadena on a non-stop flight.

With a loss this weekend, the options on where Missouri goes will multiply. Orlando, Tampa, Dallas, Atlanta … I’m surprised they aren’t in the running to go to the Franklin American Mortgage Music Bowl in Nashville.

Florida is a great place to go during winter but getting there can be a daunting task. Flights from Wichita are in the $1,000 range and even at that price the routes take a whole day to get there. I have always told MeLinda she could leave me for a rich dude who has a private jet, as long as they will fly me to sporting events. Hey, it could happen … he would owe me since he’s sleeping with my wife.

Back to reality … in researching possible bowl trips I have found out about airlines that I never knew existed, like Vision, Sun Country and Silver Airways. I explored flying to Jackson, Miss.; Panama City, Fla.; or even north to Chicago and then going back south or flying into Dallas’ Love Field and having someone take us over to DFW airport and then catching a flight on Spirit Airlines (this happened to be the best price option). Are four stops too many if you are able to save a few bucks?

I also checked every airport you could fly into in Florida that we could then drive from to get to Orlando or Tampa. There just aren’t any good options. While I’m discussing this issue of getting to Orlando let me rant: why in the world does Wichita not have a direct flight to Orlando anymore? How could that not make money? I heard China is building jetliners; maybe they would use Wichita as a test market.

There’s the possibility that Mizzou could go the Cotton Bowl and my life would be easy with an hour flight to Dallas for less than $200 round-trip or a quick five-hour drive south on I-35.

On Sunday evening the question of what bowl will be answered, and I will be furiously surfing the net to find the best and most affordable way to watch Mizzou football (though I still will only go as far as wearing Wichita State black-and-gold gear to the game).

Posted in Lee, Sports, travel