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|Friday - October
5, 2012: This weekend, we stayed at the Tioga Suites in Chanute. The
6 story, 1929 hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I can see this hotel
getting widely different responses. The old building is pretty cool and
they have done a fairly good job of enlarging the rooms and making them
comfortable. On the other hand, you have to make plenty of allowances for
the age of the place (for example the bathroom facilities) and it is hard
to avoid the noise from other rooms. The city of Chanute plays music on
speakers mounted on the light poles on the street. The music plays from
8AM to 10PM and could not be ignored in our room.
We had supper at Giovanni's
Restaurant, which is owned by and attached to the hotel. The menu was was
fairly limited. The service was poor. The server ignored us for fairly
long periods and appeared to be texting. She also forgot to bring the appetizer
which I ordered.
The food was fairly
good. Baked salmon, ziti with chicken, and the 1/2 pound Giovanni burger
were all good and reasonably priced. The ribbon potatoes were great house
made potato chips.
|Saturday - October
6, 2012: Staying at Tioga Suites includes a $5 credit for breakfast
at Giovanni's Restaurant. The service was a bit better this morning, but
the food wasn't as good.
Before leaving town,
I visited the nearby Cardinal Drug Store to photograph the old fashioned
soda fountain. On the way back to the hotel, I discovered that a 30' globe
is painted in the middle of the intersection of Main and Lincoln. There
is also a Google logo.
Googling the intersection
later in the day, I learned that when the Macintosh version of Google Earth
starts up, the default position is this intersection in downtown Chanute,
Kansas. It turns out that Chanute is the hometown of Dan Webb, who was
the software engineer responsible for deciding the center of Google Earth.
Similarly, Lawrence, Kansas is the hometown of Brian McClendon, who grew
up in Lawrence, and had already positioned the Windows version of Google
Earth on Lawrence.
We went on over to
Homecoming in Fredonia. It is an annual community event and many former
residents return every year. The streets of the main square were lined
with food & craft booths and a carnival. There was a parade, but it
was mainly interesting to people from the town. About half of the entries
were floats with members of various graduating classes from over the years.
The good part of Homecoming
was seeing members of my wife's family. Both of her parents came from Fredonia
and there were many family members who still live there or returned for
the weekend. We must have run into 20 people we knew.
My father and mother
in law joined us for supper at the Stockyard Restaurant which is located
in the Livestock Auction building. My rib eye was very good. This restaurant
is due for a review on this web site.
the center of Google Earth
Street vendors around the Fredonia courthouse square
|Friday - October
19, 2012: This evening, we drove to Cottonwood Falls and checked into
the Grand Central Hotel, which is the only AAA 4 diamond hotel in Kansas.
The hotel was nice, but not worth paying twice as much as you would pay
for a comparable hotel in that region.
The room was large
and attractive. Instead of numbers, the rooms are named for ranches which
were one in the area and the doors are marked with the brand. Cute, but
not so convenient when searching for a room.
There is no hotel registration
desk, we were checked in and out by the people working in the restaurant.
There was no one available after 10PM and things like ice are then unavailable.
We had supper at a
new restaurant, one mile away in Strong City. Ad Astra is located in an
old storefront building. The outside isn't much to look at, but the interior
is much more interesting, with stone & brick walls and a tin ceiling.
Ad Astra was packed when we walked in, so we had an appetizer at the bar
as we waited about 20 minutes for a free table.
The food was reasonably
priced. The menu doesn't have a lot of items, but it does offer a wide
variety. We had a lot of food, but our meal still came to only about $50
with two appetizers, a dessert and one mixed drink. My rib eye was very
good, as was Linda's Apple, Bacon and Bleu Salad with maple mustard vinaigrette.
The flourless chocolate torte was outstanding, and they make all of their
desserts in house.
The restaurant focuses
on serving locally produced produce and meat.
We returned to our
hotel and walked across the street for live music. There is different acoustic
music in Cottonwood Falls every Friday evening. In good weather, it is
held in the street outside the Emma Chase Cafe, but with cold weather it
was indoors in the community center. That is an interesting location, because
the sides of hall were lined with a wide array of crafts for sale from
It was the 3rd Friday
of the month, so the music was Tallgrass Gospel Pickin. Anyone who wanted
to play was welcome and they took turns with the other musicians joining
in as they became familiar with the tunes. The audience was invited to
join in as well. I think it was the first time I sang "There Is a Fountain
Filled with Blood" in 35 years. The quality of the musicians was all over
the place, kind of like a filk circle at a science fiction convention.
Grand Central Hotel
Music at the Emma Chase
|Saturday - October
20, 2012: Saturday morning we drove on Durham, Kansas with a couple
of stops along the
way. The first stop
was at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, north of Strong City. I
have visited the Preserve several times in the past, but wanted to check
out the new Visitor Center. It is a large, low building, but most of it
must be offices and meeting rooms. The only things for us to see were a
small gift shop and a couple of displays.
The next stop was to
photograph a springs and memorial markers at what had been Lost Springs
Station, 2 miles west of the community of Lost Springs
We arrived in Durham
at 11AM to join the "Kansas Explorer Club Adventure in Marion County."
It began with lunch at the Main Street Cafe, a Mennonite restaurant which
served very good food. Linda had the sausage special, which I had chicken
fried stead. But the highlight of the meal was the house baked pies. The
peach and chocolate peanut butter pies were great and we hear good things
about the other pies from the rest of our party.
We then boarded an
old school bus to see some of the unique Marion County geological features.
Although this region is toward the east central part of Kansas, we were
taken to many areas which felt more western. We stopped at neat springs,
waterfalls and Dakota Sandstone outcroppings. The day include bumpy rides
across range land and plenty of walking and climbing.
The first stop was
at Elm Springs. We didn't actually see the springs, but were led by a steep
trail to a place where the creek fed by the springs has a 30' fall, in
a spot reminiscent of Alcove Spring.
The spot is overgrown and heavily shaded. The most interesting thing was
the many snakes in the pool of water at the base of the falls. Local legend
is that cowboys would use the falls to take a shower.
Next up was a stop
at Sand Canyon which is formed from the Dakota Formation that is associated
with the Smoky Hills, rather than the Flint Hills.
The next stop was just
over the county line in Dickinson County. Stirling Rock is several unique
hilltop formations of Dakota Sandstone that are somewhat reminiscent of
The bus returned us
to Durham and we traveled on our own to Florence, Kansas, before returning
to the bus for one more visit. We were met by Pat Sauble, the rancher who
owns Miller's Springs. After telling us about the background, we were led
into a canyon below the springs. The flow is very low after the draught
we have been having, but there was still a small waterfall coming out of
the cliff face, it formed a creek which flows on past a beautiful, huge
All of these geologic
formations are on private land and must be visited with a Marion County
We concluded the day
with a steak diner at the private event space at the Doyle Creek Mercantile.
Is is part of the Doyle Creek Ranch in Florence, Kansas. The steak wasn't
has good as the night before, but it was still a very good meal. People
were raving about the green beans and the bread with herb butter. I'm not
a big green bean fan, but I ate all of my serving of the sweet beans, wrapped
in bacon. The cheesecake the finished meal included homemade crumb crust.
Main Street Cafe
Kansa Explorers hiking to Elm Springs
Doyle Creek Mercantile
|Monday - October
22, 2012: I had lunch at Fred
P. Ott's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. The review of the restaurant
on the Olathe Restaurant Guide has now
been updated with the new menu, which we introduced a few weeks ago.
Today's meal was the
$9.99 Wings N' Things starter - a combination of a half order of beef nachos
and 6 Buffalo wings. The wings were fairly ordinary and at the standard
wing charge of $5.99 for 6 thirds would not be a good buy. The nachos were
much better and included lots of ground beef plus queso, salsa, sour cream
& jalapenos. Green onions would be a nice addition to this dish.
Wings N' Things
|Thursday - October
25, 2012: We had supper at RowHouse in Topeka tonight. The restaurant
operates in an 1876 row house, a couple of blocks north of the state Capitol
Building. It is open only for supper on Wednesday through Sunday. The
menu changes each week, but is very limited on a given night.
There is always a Salad,
Soup, 3 Entrees (one is always vegetarian), and 3 desserts. Most people
do a tasting which includes all of the entrees. Tonight's menu began with
a salad of kale, baby spinach, dried cranberries, pistachios, edamame,
bacon, carrots and stone ground mustard vinaigrette. It was followed by
black bean, tomato & basil soup. Neither of these would have been my
choice if there were other options, but the rest of our party enjoyed them
I was much happier
with the entrees. They first served a tiny serving of leek tart with garlic
cream sauce. The other two entrees were served together. The pan seared
mahi mahi and phyllo crisp were very good, though I didn't care for the
fall vegetable succotash with lemon burre blanc which were served with
it. The marinated beef tenderloin, wild mushroom ragout and whipped potatoes
was good all the way around.
Best of all was the
dessert tasting - Dried Fruit Tart, Butterscotch Pudding with Oat Crisps,
and Apple-Ginger Upside Down Cake.
$37 per person.
|Saturday - October
27, 2012: We returned to Topeka to have lunch at Speck's
Bar and Grill, which began in 1957 as the Seabrook Tavern. The small
neighborhood bar is a popular place to watch sporting events and enjoy
the fairly large selection of tavern food. The bar was packed with University
of Kansas fans today.
Dishes sampled today
included the pork tender, Speck's bomber hot dog, Kansas style Philly steak,
bierock, fries and onion rings. The bierock was made using one of their
buns, rather than being baked in its own pastry. It was one of the few
dishes I have had a Specs which I didn't like.
I thought that the
best dishes tried today were the homemade fries and Bomber Dog - a grilled
all beef hot dog on a
bun, mothered in Swiss
cheese, jalapeno peppers, sauerkraut and onions. The fries were even good
After dropping Linda
off at a baby shower, I went on to visit a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the
Dead) street fair in the North Topeka Arts District (NOTO). It was a rather
low key affair with band and a few crafts & food vendors scattered
over a couple of blocks on the street. Although the crowd was small, they
seemed to be having a good time. Many people were painting street scenes
on the inside of the top of pizza boxes.
Moving on to Gage Park,
I took some quick photos of the carousel and animal park, then revisited
the Topeka Zoo. It had been nearly 7 years since my last visit and there
have been some new exhibits. Today the zoo was filled with costumed children
taking part in Boo at the Zoo.
With all of the bad
press the zoo has been getting recently about their ability to properly
care for the elephants, I was anxious to see them, but the elephants were
not available for viewing by the public.
The final stop of the
say was at Topeka Steak House, which is east of town in Tecumseh, Kansas.
The restaurant is very plain, reminding me of the Crawford County chicken
restaurants. It has been open since the 50s.
The best thing about
Topeka Steak House is the prices, which are quite reasonable if you do
not order extras like blue cheese dressing or a hot plate. My 16 ounce
porter house was $21.49. It was cooked right and tasted pretty good. The
crinkle cut made from frozen French fries were nothing to brag about.
Speck's Bar and Grill
Dia de los Muertos
Topeka Steak House
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