CO to DC Road Trip (10 June - 10 Aug 2020)
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Departed Colorado Springs, CO at 12:30 pm on June 10 2020, en-route Washington, DC to see old friends.
Dodge City (10-11 June 2020)
• El Rodeo: A bad stay at our Colorado Springs lodgings: bad sound insulation + honeymooners (who liked blender drinks) = lack of sleep, left the wife jonesing for some Mexican food (i.e. a margarita). We had trouble finding a Mexican place still open downtown @ 8:30 pm, saw Hispanic couple and of course assumed they would know, and they did, recommending this place (¡Gracias!). El Rodeo is a mirror image of many Mexican restaurants, by that I mean they take over the lease from a place called The Chuck Wagon, leave all the old furniture/fixtures in place and hang a sombrero on the wall ¡Ahí está! I spied a schooner behind the bar and was a little leery about ordering a margarita in a place that sells it by the liter. The wife was not that easily deterred and ordered one in her best español accent. When I noticed that it was to be made with mix, I was feeling better and better about that Negro Modelo (and downright ecstatic when I saw the DeKuyper Triple Sec!). Noticia de última hora: ¡la margarita no bueno!¹
- Hey Amigo, if you own a place like El Rodeo, add an upscale margarita offering to your menú. Call it "El Presidente", "Cadillac", "El Supremo" or eponymously named (e.g. "El Rodeo Margarita") and make it from top shelf tequila (maybe the George Clooney stuff), real lime juice and Grand Marnier. Charge $5 more than your economy margarita, trust me the gringas will drink it up.
- I asked the owner, Señor Rodeo, what we should see in Dodge City, he mentioned some statues and a building that had brochures. Well this didn't excite me, so I pressed him and asked "What is the one thing we need to see?", he replied ". . . drive a mile outside of town and you can see more cows than you've ever seen". "Now you're talking!" I replied. So we went to this lyrical sounding place . . .
• Cattle Feedlot Overlook: Head east on 56, about a mile out, you can't get lost, just follow your nose. Now that I think about it, going directly after eating a Burrito Supreme may not have been the wisest decision I've ever made.
• Dodge City Welcome Sign: On you way back to town from the "Lot", snap a photo of this sign.
• Coffee: The next morning I had a cup of coffee and leftover Chili Verde for breakfast, but I should of gone to Miss Kitty's Cafe for the obvious connection (ask your Grandpa what the obvious connection is).
Wichita, KS (10-13 June 2020)
Pop Quiz: What is Wichita's nickname? Click here for the answer. It also unfortunately goes by "Doo-Dah". Wichita is a pretty laid back place, that and COVID-19, almost made it a real snooze, but we were saved by an experience at . . .
• Scotch & Sirloin: Not sure why, but after visiting the Cattle Feedlot Overlook in Dodge I had a craving for steak and since this place was rated as the #5 best steakhouse in Wichita, we had to go. The wife called ahead and was told a reservation was not needed, so we were surprised when we were tactlessly informed my the GM that there would be a wait. How did we know this guy, who has now been immortalized as "Mr. Stickupass" was the GM? Because he was dressed in the typical white supervisor uniform: a blue blazer and a white button-down shirt with khakis. Note to self: ditch those khakis (and the blue blazer?). The wife mentioned how we had called ahead, but "Mr. Stickupass" was nonplussed. His "Flunkie" seemed to notice we weren't happy and guided us to the bar and mentioned it wouldn't be long.
We reluctantly settled into the bar and were determined to use the "opportunity" to audition the place by sampling a beer and an appetizer. The wife asked for the coldest beer available and I for the . . . let's just say she had a Stella and I had a Bud Light. We both shared the escargot.
We chatted with Carmen the bartender and Summer, a regular, both Air Force² veterans. Summer asked in an incredulous voice "Why are you visiting Wichita!?". As Summer provided some Wichita color, a bar-stool neighbor on my left mentioned that she was also a regular for 20 years and that for many years they served Lobster Bites, that they took if off the menu a few years back, but you could still order it by ordering the Lobster Dinner and ask that it be turned into bites. It was a little surreal as this woman was quite earnest in telling her "lobster" tale, but I was not that interested in taking a $50 lobster and turning it into tater tots. I thanked her (numerous times) and attempted to turn to my right, as the "Flunkie" was now chatting with my wife!
It turned out the "Flunkie" was the owner, Mike, who had realized our introduction to Scotch & Sirloin was less than (luke) warm and wanted to let us know a table was available (and ensure we were taken care of). We had decided to stay at the bar, finish our escargot and split an entrée.
My wife asked, Mike, the "Flunkie", cum owner, for a wine recommendation for a 12 oz. Kansas City Strip³. The initial recommendation was a cabernet sauvignon. As she isn't a fan, he then recommended a pinot noir and quickly produced a wine glass specifically created for pinot noir. He went on to expound on the theory that each varietal requires a specific type of glass. He may have recognized my skepticism when I asked him the specific glass for my Bud Light. Well, into the "magic" pinot noir glass went some of the recommended pinot noir. He also put some pinot noir into a "magic" cabernet sauvignon glass. The taste test was on, and believe it or not, I could not tell the difference. Now the pinot noir glass had a lip which was supposed to land this wine on the back of my tongue into the pinot noir "landing zone". To the engineer in me this made sense, but the businessman in me was onto him (and I kept wondering what the Charles Shaw Red Blend glass looked like).
I must admit that my taste test might not have been as scientific as it should have been, as just as it was all going down, I was interrupted by my lobster bite fanatic, she had a bite on her fork and wanted me to taste it. Now ordinarily I'm down with eating from a complete stranger's fork, but COVID has turned me into more of a square (if that's even possible), and I decided to decline. I politely said no, but she was quite insistent, when I explained my qualms, she backed down, but it was all quite weird (she circled back later, profusely apologizing, but it just made the whole situation weirder).
Just as I finished saying no thank you to the lobster bite lady, our steak showed up. I ordered another properly glassed Bud Light and started to cut into the streak. Mike, the owner, had previously mentioned that not only were the glasses special, but so were the steak knives. They were specially sharpened to cut the beef cleaner to keep the juices in and make the steak taste better. My wife said, if that were the case, we should buy some of these knives for use at home, to which I replied "there's a limit to their sharpness".
Halfway through my steak, the second Bud Light kicked in, so I went to the bathroom. Once inside, as I was, well you know . . . an adjacent bathroom-goer mentioned "how can you go to the bathroom in the middle of eating a steak?". How did he know?! It kind of creeped me out. If you see this guy sitting at the bar the next time you are visiting a steakhouse, you may want to move to the other end.
Note: Due to the issue with our reservation, we were hoping the above mentioned pinot noir (Belle Gloss @ $20) would be comped, it wasn't, but my Bud Light was! Also the Kansas City Strip was excellent, but give the escargot the go-by (not enough garlic).
• Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar: Nice place for an after dinner drink of Cointreau on the rocks and live music. In this case a very good 70's & 80's cover band that actually played a little Kansas. I really only mentioned this so I could provide this link to a section of a cocktail book I am writing that explains what makes orange liqueur . . . orange liqueur.
Kansas City, MI (13-21 June 2020)
I’ve previously blogged about K.C. here, so this is going to be more Road Trip Americana stuff.
• The John Brown Statue in Quindaro was the first statue sculpted of the tanner, abolitionist and madman (@ 1911). And the statue looks every bit if it. Unfortunately the Carrara marble has been painted over with white paint which has softened some of its maniacal edges. Quindaro has a connection with the Exodusters, which was a name given to to African Americans who migrated from states along the Mississippi River to Kansas in the late nineteenth century.
• The Last Supper Statue at the Country Club Christian Church. Country Club. I'm going to have to assume that they don't preach Matthew 19:24 at this church. The life-size statue is carved out of laminated basswood and spent 1964 at the World's Fair in New York City.
- Am I the only sinner to wonder why the disciples only sat on three sides of the table?
• Bruce's Artifacts: We met Bruce at Goat Hill Coffee & Soda (with Rex his 17 years old Tibetan Spaniel). He grew up in South Dakota on a ranch, on a reservation that was subsequently flooded out when the Oahe Dam was built, was a friend of Floyd Westerman (the actor), who subsequently starred in Dances With Wolves (Ten Bears) and installed the HVAC in Anton’s Taproom (Bruce, not Floyd). We met Bruce a few day's later at Anton's where he reviewed with us artifacts that he had gathered while living on the rez:
- A Peace Pipe, made out of red catlinite. Peace pipes were used by a number of Native American cultures in their sacred ceremonies. Traditionally it was used seal a covenant or treaty. The peace that was sealed by this pipe was obviously broken as the pipe has been sawed in two.
- Vertebrae from a mosasaur, a prehistoric marine reptile. I still think about this, I mean how often do you hold 66 million year old object in your hands?
- Head from a Native American War Hammer: The groove, made with sand and leather, was used to seat leather strapping that held this rock to the handle.
- Expended Shell Casing from an Air Force plane that shot at airborne targets over the rez (circa 1955).
Louisville (23 - 30 June 2020)
• While walking through Butchertown⁴, I came across a two foot thick by 12 foot high concrete wall slicing through this otherwise pleasant suburban neighborhood. It reminded me of two only slightly less ominous walls:
- The Berlin Wall: Built in 1961, obsolete in 1989 (sometimes walls just don't work) with a small section being turned into an art installation.
- The Belfast Peace Wall on Cuper Way: Built in 1969 to separate republican/nationalist/Catholic neighborhoods from loyalist/unionist/Protestant neighborhoods. Still functioning (sometimes a wall works, where religion fails).
- In this case the Louisville Floodwall is meant to keep the Ohio River out. Built in 1950's in response to the Ohio River flood of 1937, it is 29 miles of concrete walls and earthen levees winding it's way through northern Louisville, The U.S. Government built the floodwall, but since the city of Louisville had to purchase the right of way, it chose to situate the wall along property in which they already owned, that being mostly sidewalks and streets. Therefore you will find the floodwall curiously running along sidewalks and in one case right down the middle of a street.
- I'm quite sure that in sometime in the 50's there were two neighbors living across the street from one another on Quincy Street. Then one day there is a wall between them, with one neighbor on the "right" side and the other on the "wrong" side.
- The three mile section I personally inspected is entirely and shockingly devoid of graffiti, not just "active" graffiti, but also graffiti paint over. This is either an indicator of a surfeit of civility or a lack of imagination.
• The Big Four Bridge: A defunct railroad, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (the Big Four Railroad), built this defunct trestle, that is now an extant pedestrian walkway, that while enabling me to get my 10,000 steps, will also deliver you to an Abraham Lincoln Statue⁵ located on the KY side. I have always found statues interesting (the subject, the medium, the inscription, the sculptor, etc.), and have discovered that many people recently have also become quite interested in them. This statue is interesting to me, as it is the worst likeness of the Rail Splitter I have ever seen. If I didn't know who he was, I wouldn't have known who he was. You be the judge.
Cincinnati (01 - 21 July 2020)
• Try to enter the Queen City via I-71 Northbound and you will be rewarded with this stunning panorama.
- Great American Tower (far right) at 41-stories is the tallest building in The City of Seven Hills.
• You cannot honestly say you have visited Cincinnati without honestly saying you have tasted Cincinnati chili. Click here for my exhaustive study of what makes this three-way so magical.
Cincinnati to Washington, DC
• I was hoping to find something to see between Cincinnati and DC (if just to blog about), but this stretch of I-71, Routes 33 & 50, I-79 and I-68 was lacking, as the most significant Landmarks were either a number of dams (though the Lake O' the Woods Club Dam sounded particularly intriguing⁶), an unfinished ark or Aaron Burr's death mask (which actually sounded kind of interesting).
Washington, DC (24 July - 10 Aug 2020)
• I had lived in the District for almost 20 years, so I was very familiar with the Winston Churchill statue at the British Embassy. Installed in 1966 with one foot in British territory and the other in the U.S., which symbolized that Churchill was half American, as well as the special relationship that has existed between the Crown and its former colony (after all "blood is thicker than water"). He is styled with his right hand giving the V for Victory⁷ sign and his left hand clutching a cigar (which at the time was quite controversial).
In 2013, the South African Embassy which is located directly across Massachusetts Ave, installed a statue of Nelson Mandela. He is intentionally styled with his right hand held aloft in a fist, based on a photo of him being released from the Drakenstein Correctional Centre in 1990 after 27 years of imprisonment.
• In between the above cities we stayed at various Hampton Inns. While there was nothing special about the accommodations, there was about the negotiations. In each case, instead of booking a hotel and then driving to the hotel's location, I just drove until I didn't feel like driving anymore, then reviewed booking.com for suitable lodgings. I didn't book a room though, but then attempted to negotiate with the front desk using the booking.com rate as leverage. In every case I failed miserably, as none of the hotels could beat the booking.com rate. When I asked why, I was usually met with "that's the lowest rate I can offer".
- In two of these negotiations, the conversation with the front desk made little sense, as if no one had ever asked them for a better rate, like I wasn't even speaking English. It reminded me of Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. Maybe it was me? So at one stopover I sent in Mrs. After Action Report to do the deal. She couldn't close it either . . . but she did come away with a 10% off coupon to the adjacent Applebee's! (I still have it so if you ever plan to pass through Morgantown, WV, let me know).
- As booking.com's commission is anywhere from 15-25%, the lack of negotiations perplexed me. Don't worry though (as always), I have a theory:
1. Hotels are reluctant to negotiate with a customer, when the next customer may very well pay full price (but still 15-25% is still 15-25%).
2. It may be difficult to train front desk personal and managers to effectively negotiate.
3. It may very well be Flack's Razor at work.
Note: The owner of a place I negotiated with during a previous road trip to see the Largest Ball of Twine in the World, explained that he couldn't meet the current booking.com rate because "booking.com contained old rates" . . . like I gave a shit.
• The place we stayed at in K.C. claimed to have “Free Street Parking”, but we soon found out that it was only free for three hours at a time. There was garage parking in the building, but none for #405. The wife wanted to get us a garage parkin’ spot, she didn't know how, but she was determined, so she asked some guy in the hallway how she could facilitate this. He said that he “was going out of town for a week and we could park in his spot”. So now we’re parking in the garage. Bottom Line: If you don’t ask, you don’t get (and more importantly, if you want covered parking, just have the wife handle it).
• In Cincinnati we quartered at an apartment we had stayed at the year before via a well known "vacation rental online marketplace company based in San Francisco". When we previously stayed there, an effort was made to connect with the owners who lived downstairs. Therefore this time we reached out directly to the owner and paid a very reasonable $55/night (dinero en efectivo) for a well appointed 2BD/1BA (and bypassed the blood sucking vampire).
• If there's a road trip in your future than you may find the app Roadside Americana, quite useful. It displays on a map numerous roadside attractions with a brief review of each. It's an AAR Must Load App.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ Ok, I hear you compadres, I know the proper way to say "The margarita was no good" is "La margarita no estaba bueno", but "La margarita no bueno", while grammatically incorrect, is just funnier.
² Carmen, the former Airman and current bartender at Scotch and Sirloin, told me a Navy joke, which I found quite offensive, not because I used to be in the Navy, but because it was not funny. So I told her this Air Force joke (which is quite funny): Two Marines are ordered to secure a room. So they kick in the door, toss in a hand grenade (no tear gas, as it is banned by the 1925 Geneva Convention), spray the room with bullets and then announce "the room is secure". Two soldiers are ordered to secure a room. So they post themselves at attention on either side of the door and announce "the room is secure". Two sailors are ordered to secure a room. So they lock the door, announce "the room is secure" and go back to work. Two Airman are ordered to secure a room. So they close the door and knock off for the day.
³ Kansas City Strip Steak is the same as a New York Strip Steak. A cut of beefsteak from the short loin of a cow.
⁴ Butchertown named for all the butchers that were located in neighborhood in the 1850s. All of whom dumped animal remains into a nearby creek which flowed to the Ohio River. Somethings never change, as the Ohio is still one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.
⁵ Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
⁶ The Lake O' the Woods Club Dam: I only mentioned this particular dam due to it's particularly funny sounding name, without realizing that the "club" in question is a nudist club founded in 1933. They were an offshoot of a group of Germans called "Freikörperkultur" (the FKK), which was either a secret unit within the Gestapo or advocates of naked social and outdoor recreation as a good health practice.
⁷ Notice that the "V" gestured by Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG OM CH TD DL FRS RA, is palm out, which represents "V for Victory", a rallying emblem for the Allies during the Second World War. Palm in, it is an insulting gesture, similar to "the finger". Churchill went both ways during WWII. Some say because the upper-class Churchill was unaware of the lower-class meaning, but methinks he knew exactly what he was doing.