December 30, 2010

Oldest Waterbed Store in the World - Kansas City, MO

If you can navigate the winding streets of Kansas City, survive the traffic of the Plaza, and figure out the confusing intersections of Westport, then hopefully you can find Temple Slug Futon, the oldest waterbed store in the world. Founded on April Fool's Day in 1970, this store is not only a roadside attraction but a haven for all the hippies of Kansas City.

After a few wrong turns in Westport and getting stuck in the holiday traffic of the Plaza, I finally found Temple Slug Futon on the corner of Jefferson and 43rd. With a hanging sign out front announcing its status as the world's older waterbed store, it looks like any other little shop lost in the old and new developments of that neighborhood of Kansas City. But, ever curious, I parked in front of the new apartment complex across the street and wandered in to explore.

I was immediately greeted by the smell of incense and a very kind saleswoman who asked if I was looking for a futon. I politely declined her help and told her I was just browsing. And was there every a collection of things to browse! In addition to the futons and other furniture, there was a wide variety of incense, crystals, candles, oils, and soaps filling the shelves of the store. From the East, there was an eclectic collection of items covered with Chinese symbols, yin-yangs, and Buddhas. For the modern druid, there other items covered with Celtic symbols and pentagrams. As I wandered through the store, I was amazed by the sheer variety of items all celebrating unique philosophies often neglected in the mainstream American culture.

It's weird and wonderful and colorful, even if it does tend to overwhelm the senses. I wandered through the store in a bit of a daze, trying to look at everything but realizing I could examine the shelves for an hour and still not see everything trinket they had to offer. I thought about making a small purchase, just to commemorate the experience, but honestly couldn't decide on anything to get. There were simply too many wonderful and interesting things.

The sales staff there were incredibly nice. They were always there to offer to help me but also let me wander in my happy daze as I browsed the shelves. If you're visiting Kansas City or even just passing through, it may be tempting to just stop by Temple Slug Futon to take a picture of the sign and then drive on. But then you will be missing half the fun. Stop and enjoy, browse and explore. That is why this place has been around for 40 years to earn the title of the world's oldest waterbed store. Because it is just that much fun to look around inside.

Total Travel Time: 1 hour
Total Travel Distance: 60 miles
Soundtrack: "Dookie" Green Day


December 22, 2010

Esquina - Lawrence, KS

Anyone who reads this blog is probably aware that I love Mexican food. (I've written about my love affair with the beef tamales at La Fonda Del Sol in Scottsdale, Arizona before). But as much as I love my classic Mexican favorites, sometimes I want something a little different. That is when I go to Esquina. This Latin restaurant takes everything you love about Mexican food and twists it around into something new and interesting. Esquina is also in a very historical location. The restaurant is located in the renovated Round Corner Pharmacy building. Before it closed its doors in 2009, the Round Corner Pharmacy was the oldest pharmacy in Lawrence and its original location even survived Quantrill’s raid in 1863.

During finals week, my mother came to visit me so I could remember what it was like to have a conversation that didn't revolve around law school. My mother loves Mexican food as much as I do (we both believe that all holiday dinners should involve tamales) and so I took her to Esquina.

My mom and I both started with the salsa and guacamole. I love guacamole, there is just something magical about that perfect mixture of avocado and spices that makes you grateful you have taste buds. The best guacamole I've ever had was in Mexico (big surprise there), but the guacamole at Esquina is fabulous. It's perfectly creamy and rich with just the right amount of spices to give it a complex flavor profile without overwhelming the decadence of the avocado.

For the entree, we moved on to the chicken tostada, a crispy tortilla with avocado, queso, chipotle sour cream, served with rice and beans. The chipotle sour cream had an amazing spicy bite to it, but we cut with some extra sour cream dolloped on top. Many of Esquina's dishes are topped with pickled red onions. I'm usually not a big fan of red onions, I think they have a very strong taste to them that risks over powering the other flavors. But the pickled red onions at Esquina compliment the spiciness of the chipotle sour cream, so the flavors play off each other without one becoming more prominent than the other.

Esquina is still one of my favorites restaurants in Lawrence because the food is so unique, taking traditional dishes I love like tostadas and putting a new twist on them to create something memorable.

Total Travel Time: 20 minutes
Total Distance Traveled: 5 miles
Soundtrack: Gen X Radio 99.7 FM

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!


December 21, 2010

Road Trip Music - We're Headed to Hell in the Handbasket

In college, I was known for making mixed tapes. I did it religiously and with a zeal usually reserved for introverted, emo high schools kids. Every tape had a theme and I spent days painstakingly calculating how to create the perfect music experience on that little cassette. When I set out with MirMir and Bess for Hell, Michigan, I jumped at the opportunity to create a mixed tape that would capture the "hellish" experience.

The original "We're Headed to Hell in a Handbasket" was actually a mixed tape. I mean literally, a mixed tape. The car we borrowed didn't have a CD player and this is before it was common for an iPod to be able to hook up to a car stereo, so as much as it might be showing my age I actually did make a mixed tape for this road trip. But time has passed, technology has improved and despite my resistance to the change I have begun to make mp3 playlists rather than mixed tapes.

So in honor loving honor of my road trip to Hell, I have made a new hell playlist with some newer music, some old classics, and in a format that more people will be able to use.

"We're Headed to Hell in a Handbasket" Playlist
1. “Run Devil Run” Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
2. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” Charlie Daniel’s Band
3. “The Devil in Mexico” Murder by Death
4. “Hell’s Bells” AC/DC
5. “Bat Out of Hell” Meatloaf
6. “Highway to Hell” AC/DC
7. "Devil's Dance Floor" Flogging Molly
8. “Hell on Wheels” Betty Blowtorch
9. “Devil with the Black Dress On” Jack off Jill
10. “Your Sweet Six Six Six” HIM
11. “Rock and Roll ‘69” Betty Blowtorch
12. “Sacrilege” Otep
13. “Sanctuary” My Ruin
14. “Heaven’s a Lie” Lacuna Coil


December 16, 2010

Road Trip Memories - Hell, Michigan

On Tuesday, I told you some of my favorite road trip blogs and mentioned I have traveled before with the bloggers of The Unplanned Misadventures of MirMir and Bess. It only seems fair that I should also share one of my favorite road trip destinations and the greatest roadside attraction I have ever seen - Hell. That's right. I went to Hell.

My friend Bess was a film major and working on a documentary about Hell as a place. She interviewed some religious authorities on what Hell may be as a location and then decided that MirMir and I should accompany her on a weekend trip to a little town called Hell, Michigan. We borrowed a car from MirMir's relatives and pasted a sign on the window that said, "The Handbasket," so we could go to hell in a handbasket. We then tapped a little statute of Buddy Christ (a "Dogma" reference for those who don't know) to the compass on the dashboard so we could ask Jesus which way to Hell. And I made mix tapes combining the best songs about hell that I could think of. We were off to Hell!

After a brief stop in Indiana for a speeding ticket, we made excellent time and reached the tiny town of Hell rather quickly. Hell, for those wondering, is cold in the winter. Very cold and very drizzly (For those wondering, Hell does freeze over in the winter). The town actually consisted of three buildings - a general store, an ice cream store, and a gift shop. We went to the gift shop first for souvenirs and so Bess could interview the proprietor about it was like to work in Hell. Unfortunately, the ice "screamery" was closed so our plan of getting frozen treats in Hell was quickly foiled. But we did discover you can buy postcards in the general store and send them so the postmark will read from Hell (for an extra dollar, they will also singe the edges of the card, because what is Hell without hellfire?)

Our trip was short because it started to drizzle (apparently it rains in Hell) and I was incredibly sick. But we loaded up on local wine with devilish names (Witches Brew, for those wondering) and headed to our nearby motel. Unfortunately, you can't stay overnight in Hell but there are plenty of places nearby where you can find a cheap room. We caused a bit of a stir in our little motel as we marched up to our room carrying several bags of camera equipment. It took us about ten minutes to understand why the employees were looking at us funny. After all, what would you think a bunch of young girls were doing with a camera in a motel room? I'm guessing you wouldn't think they were making a documentary about Hell.

When we got home, Bess filmed the final credits for the film which consisted of us singing an old road trip song appropriate for the occasion. It goes a little something like this:
I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car (of my car)
He's got style and he's got class
Got a genuine magnet on his ass
He's hollow and I use him for a flask


December 14, 2010

My Favorite Road Trip Blogs

I don't just write a travel blog, I read them as well. I love reading blogs about road trips because they give me great ideas for my own adventures and also provide me with an opportunity to interact with others who enjoy writing about their time on the road. Since I know you, my reader, also enjoy reading travel blogs (obviously) I thought I would share with you some of my favorites:

This blog was a recent discovery about I have been working my way through the archived posts pretty quickly. This blog combines books, movies, and travel into one amazing experience that captures the influence of media on our destinations. If you're looking for something to read, something to watch, or somewhere to go - this blog has some of the greatest suggestions you can find. She recently inspired me to read "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote (I know, it's embarrassing I haven't already read it) in preparation for a road trip to Holcomb, Kansas where the crime was committed.

If you enjoy the old-school roadside attractions like I do, then this blog is a must-read. Want to know about weird museums? Read about their trips to the Museum of Bad Art or the Spam Museum. Want to know about Jim Napors (aka Gomer Pyle)? Well they have been to his hometown and can tell you all about it. Whether it is a funny sign, a weird roadside attraction, or a restaurant shaped like a racial stereotype, this couple has been there and done that. This blog will tell you about all the strange things out there and make you want to hit the road in search of more.

Tammie Dooley gave up a career in financial planning to live as a freelance writer. As someone who spent many years as a struggling freelance writer, I know how big a transition that can be. She has embarked on some amazing adventures around the country and the world, including an awe-inspiring mountain climbing feat. If you only read a couple of her posts, read about her climb of Grand Teton. Her stories and pictures are absolutely inspiring.

I am lucky enough to actually know the MirMir and Bess of this blog - we went to college together. And I have also been lucky enough to accompany them on a few road trips, including one adventure to a little town called Hell in Michigan. After college, MirMir and Bess traveled the country. Then MirMir took to the sea as a cook for a tall ship while Bess went to California and now is living in Canada. They continue to have adventures and share them with their lucky readers and also share their thoughts on a variety of topics from movies to books to steampunk. Reading the blog is like sitting down for a drink with two of the most interesting people I have ever met.

In this blog, a mother writes about her adventures with her husband and young daughter in Texas and beyond. While I tend to travel alone or with a friendly companion, I love reading about their heart-warming family adventures. For those who are looking for some family road trip ideas, this is a must read. And for those who simply like to enjoy feel-good stories about a family that loves to hop in the car and hit the road (like me), this is also a must read.


December 9, 2010

Massachusetts Street - Lawrence, KS

If you are passing through Lawrence, there is one place you have to go: Massachusetts Street. From 6th Street to 12th Street, Massachusetts Street is the absolute ultimate in downtown Lawrence. Whenever I have friends visiting me, I always make sure to take a few hours to walk them up and down the strip, from the restaurants to the coffee shops to the stores, it is absolutely everything that is wonderful about our small town in Kansas.

Massachusetts Street above all, beautiful. The tree-lined street is scenic and perfect for a slow stroll, with plenty of local art and historic landmarks to see along the way. Built for the pedestrian, traffic is slow but parking is always available. There are crosswalks at every intersection and even in the middle of streets. Traffic always stops for a person crossing, something unique to Lawrence (I've nearly been run over countless times walking in Chicago, even while waiting for the crosswalk light to change).

As you are walking, there are plenty of shops to stop in along the way. If you are the crunchy granola type, there is Third Planet full of hemp clothing and opinionated bumper stickers for the ardent liberal. For the fashionista, there is Envy, affordable clothing for the trend setter. For the foodie (like myself) you have to stop at Au Marche', a specialty store that specializes in European cuisine (I recommend picking up some of their duck liver pate. With a glass of white wine, it will blow your mind).

If you're feeling peckish, Massachusetts Street has unlimited options. There is Teller's, award-winning Italian dining in a renovated bank that has some of the best fine dining in Lawrence. If you want to experience amazing Kansas barbecue, make sure to go to Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse. For a true college hangout, stop by Jefferson's for great burgers and oysters (I suggest the oysters for an appetizer and following it up with one of their big juicy burgers to finish it off). Also be sure to decorate a dollar bill to put on Jefferson's wall.

Like any college town, Massachusetts Street also has its selection of bars. One of my favorites is the Jazzhaus, an upstairs bar where William S. Burroughs was known to have a few drinks. There is also the Replay, voted one of the best college bars in the country. Replay is a little rowdy but with a huge outdoor patio where smokers can enjoy their cigarettes and their drinks, as well as an indoor stage that offers amazing bands, you'll have a memorable night for sure. And then there is Brothers, a bar frequented by college students who enjoy a beer and the sports on the television.

Whether you're eating, drinking, shopping, or just hoping for a nice stroll, you must take a walk down Massachusetts Street when you're in Lawrence, Kansas.

Total Travel Time: 15 minutes
Total Travel Distance: 6 miles
Soundtrack: "Get Born" JET


December 7, 2010

Road Trip Philosophy - Why I Didn't Drive Until I Was 17

During Thanksgiving, my family and I were discussing one of my cousin's new learner's permit. Which of course brought up the subject of my learner's permit. I actually didn't get my learner's permit until I was sixteen and didn't get my driver's license until I was seventeen, a year later than all my peers. This may be surprising because I obviously love to drive and spend a lot of time behind the wheel.

But before I became I dedicated road tripper, I was terrified of driving because of a traumatic car accident. When I was fifteen and a half, I was riding in a car on the way to church. There were five of us in the car, the driver, one person in the passenger seat, and three of us in the back. I was in the middle seat (also known as the Jesus seat because if you were in an accident, you better pray to Jesus. This was, of course, a little ironic.) On our way to church we were passing through an intersection when a car turning right on red suddenly appeared in front of us. We hit the car and the driver spun the wheel left as hard and fast as she could, trying to avoid a bigger collision. But she lost control of the car. We crossed three lanes of traffic, jumped a curb, and crashed into the side of a brick apartment building.

My memory of the actual accident is a little hazy. Mostly because I suffered a concussion. I remember only flashes. I remember seeing the car and thinking, "We're going to hit him." I remember hitting my head a couple times. Then I remember jumping the curb and seeing a brick wall coming at us. All I thought was, "We're going to crash." I didn't experience any existential crises. My life didn't flash before my eyes. All I could do was try to understand what was happening so quickly. And then be grateful I was wearing my seatbelt. Because if I hadn't, I would have flown through the windshield, become a skid mark by the side of the road, and I certainly wouldn't be alive today to write this.

We stumbled out of the smoldering wreck, confused by alive. But things got worse. The girl in the passenger seat began walking down the side walk when she collapsed, not breathing. The airbag had caused a asthma attack and she could not breathe. Luckily, a nurse who had been driving by pulled over and performed CPR. An ambulance arrived quickly to take everyone to the hospital, although I did not go. In my concussion-induced confusion, I was completely unaware of where I was and what was happening so I insisted I was fine. It wasn't until I got home that I realized the seatbelt had burst the capillaries on my waist and I was bleeding through my sister's sundress I had borrowed for the day.

For about a year after the accident, I became terrified of being in a car. Not just driving, but even being a passenger. I would have panic attacks at intersections and hyperventilate every time I got behind the wheel. I would take many months before I would stop seeing cars as moving death machines and start to embrace the freedom the road offered.

As odd as this may sound, I am actually grateful for the experience. I am an extremely careful driver and have only been in one accident behind the wheel. I have learned to anticipate the stupid decisions drivers make on the road and how to avoid them. I have learned how to not make those stupid decisions myself. And most importantly, I always wear my seatbelt. I know how suddenly and unexpectedly things can go wrong on the road and I know that wearing my seatbelt saved my life.

So for all you out there taking roadtrips, wear your seatbelt and be careful. The road is a magical place, but it can also be dangerous.


December 2, 2010

Rio Theater – Overland Park, KS

I love the historic downtown of Overland Park. I love the architecture, I love the shops, I love the Farmers Market and I love the Rio Theater.

The old Rio Theater is a sanctuary for a film fanatic like myself, because it is a theater like theaters should be. This is not a modern multiplex with an over-priced concession stand and crappy movies on all of the thirty screens. This art-deco theater has an elegant lobby with plush velvety seats, and selective screenings. The theater doesn’t just show whatever crap has been released. No, it chooses the best of films – independent, art, foreign, documentary, and anything else that is truly worthy of being on their enchanting silver screen.

The last time I went to the Rio Theater was with my father to see the Woody Allen film “Whatever It Takes.” My father taught me about great films from an early age. When other kids were watching Disney, I was watching “The Philadelphia Story” and “Arsenic and Old Lace.” That doesn't mean I haven't seen "The Lion King," of course I watched the classic kid movies. But I also knew that "You've Got Mail" ripped off Jimmy Stewart's "Shop Around the Corner." Now in my twenties, I'm still a film nerd and I still like the old ones the best. For example, Humphrey Bogart will always be the greatest on screen detective in my opinion, whether it is in "The Maltese Falcon" or the film noir classic "Dead Reckoning."

My love of old movies makes my love of the old Rio movie theater quite natural. Going to the movies used to be a classic evening out. Men wore hats and women wore their nicest dresses to see the latest film. Now, tickets are over-priced, concession-stands make a candy bar cost more than a nice meal out, and there is always somebody texting or talking through the film. Going to the Rio Theater is going back in time and experiencing the cinema as it was, and still should be.

Total Time Traveled: 1.5 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 73 miles
Soundtrack: "Drunken Lullabies" Flogging Molly