MTTS: Day 10 – St. Louis, MO

IMG_8318Home again, home again…

MINI Takes the States was an awesome experience.  It wasn’t entirely what I had expected, but for the most part it was awesome.  Monday was our last day with MTTS.  MINI stopped for the night in St. Louis and after the evening event Brian and I waved good-bye to our new friends and returned home.  It was a bittersweet goodbye.  We’d had a great time… but we were worn out…. we were both happy to be going home.

We’re already discussing MTTS 2016…. if we’d do it again and how we’d do it differently.  Yes, I think we definitely do it again… MTTS was a great experience.  MINI people are just a happy, friendly group of people and MINI USA throws an amazing event…. that’s a recipe for AWESOME.

Things We’d Do Different

Start near St. Louis and follow MTTS east. – You notice we’re not even mentioning ‘going all the way’?  Coast to coast sounds awesome at first, but Brian and I were so tired after 6 legs of MTTS.  Getting in late every night and getting up early to leave with the pack in the morning… it wears on you.  It’s just too little sleep to be fun.

Skipping some Rise & Shines.  – It is really fun to line up with all the MINIs in the great locations that MINI arranges and take off with a pack of 500 MINIs and a police escort….. but it’s really early.  Most mornings we were getting up around 5:30 to get to the location on time and get lined up.  It isn’t as much fun to be in the back of the pack and you get better photos if you get there early.  I’m not sure how we’d choose which ones to skip…. I wouldn’t have thought the Texas Capitol Plaza would have been cool…. but the photo of Posh right in front of the Capitol is pretty cool.  I’d have skipped the Cotton Bowl…. but I didn’t know that until we’d been there.  This one will be harder to do.

Wander off on our own.  – This is another that will be hard to know which days to wander and which to stick with the crowd.  MINI does have some pretty great “surprise & dazzle” midday events…. and part of the thrill of doing MTTS is being with the crowd.  There is nothing like zooming into a little town with 300 MINIs…. the look on people’s faces is priceless…. but there were some times and places that I wished we’d had more time to visit and explore.  These weren’t places that we’d drive/fly back for an entire vacation…. but another few hours would have been really nice.

Things We Wish MINI Would Do Differently

Don’t get us wrong… MINI did an amazing job.  I was blown away by their coordination and planning.  MINI took amazing care of us while we were with them. There are just a few things that we think would be nice in the future.

Rallye Notes – Don’t bother.  Just tell me where we’re headed and let us decide how to get there.  Some of the roads that MINI chose to send us on were not the route that I would have chosen.  It took us a few legs to catch on to that.  I wish they would have just given us an address for the next events and let us make our own way.

Apps – Either make em work or don’t bother.  I know… I know… its a computer program…. they have bugs.  It just makes me insane when they don’t work.  The Trivia Game and the Photo Challenges/Boards were buggy.  Push notifications for the app would have been nice.   There were a couple of times when MINI sent us a notice, (traffic or accident) and we didn’t get it until late that evening because we hadn’t known that we needed to check the notices in the app.

MINI Tour Guides – Have someone at the Rise & Shine’s with suggested points of interest/restaurants/events for each leg of the trip.  (Maybe people from the local MINI Clubs?) They could help with driving directions if necessary (Google Map). I’m sure we drove right by interesting places because we didn’t know they were there.  You can’t always count on signs and billboards to let you know that something cool is right down the road.

Food – MINI, it’s great that you fed me as much as you did…….but you really didn’t have to.  There were a couple of times that I wish MINI wouldn’t have bothered providing dinner.  In Austin, for instance.  MINI said they would be providing food trucks… apparently food trucks are a huge thing in Austin… they were everywhere around town as we were driving to the evening event.  I was SO excited…… and then there were only 3 trucks…. only one with anything gluten free…. and it was cold pizza.  In St. Louis they did the food truck thing again and this time there were five trucks and MINI gave us each a ticket for one item from a truck… if you wanted more, you had to buy it.  That allowed for so much more variety and the food was HOT.  One of the things I enjoy about travel is getting a ‘taste’ of the culture.  I realize that it is massively expensive to feed 500 people.  I wouldn’t mind having more variety and options and having to pay for it.  The “ticket” system would be a perfect compromise for the people who are trying to keep to a really low budget…. Just eat what you can get for your one ticket… And those who don’t paying a bit more…. we could buy other items.

Clubs & Dealerships – MINI did an amazing job coordinating the whole thing and many of the MINI dealerships and MINI clubs were awesome.  Some of the dealerships and clubs need to think about stepping up their game for 2016…. It’s not like there is a MINI dealership on every corner… I wound’t mind driving back to MINI Sandia in New Mexico for our next MINI.  (We’ve also gotten AMAZING service from Dreyer & Reinbold MINI…. I’d be willing to drive to Indianapolis for our next MINI).  With a MINI, it’s not just buying a car…. it’s like adding a kid to the family.  Some dealerships get that… other don’t.  MTTS really gave the dealerships a chance to shine.  Some used it…. others….. 😦

Media – MINI’s photographers and media people were wonderful!  They were all so nice and fun…. they really made us feel like rockstars.  I wish MINI would have had two teams of photographers…. or a separate crew that was uploading all the photos… there was a huge lag between when the photos were taken and when they hit the site.  I know those poor photographers weren’t getting any sleep!  They were up late at events and then up later working on the photos and then later trying to get them on the sites….. Then they were up early to beat us all to the Rise & Shines.  (There was a definite lack of sleep all around.) They were all always so nice…. I don’t know how they managed.  (MINI!  Hire more next time and let some of them sleep!…… You guys should sleep some too, come to think of it….)

All in all, we had a great time on MTTS.  MINI did an amazing job.  Can’t wait until MTTS 2016!

MTTS: Day Eight – Dallas, TX

IMG_9266It was another very early morning when we rolled into the Texas State Capitol (Austin, TX).  Posh got a great spot right in front of the Capitol Building….. she’s gonna have the best scrapbook!

MINI once again provided excellent coordination and got everyone lined up nice and neat with a minimum amount of fussing.  MINIs like to snuggle together anyway… While the MINIs took in their surroundings, us humans roamed around the center taking photos and checking out all the other MINIs and shopping the “Boot Sales”  (If you didn’t already know… MINIs have ‘boots’ and ‘bonnets’ not ‘trunks’ or ‘hoods’).  I acquired a new shopping bag from MINI of…. Dallas? And some MINI gum…. I have no idea why MINI had it’s own gum…. they just do.  MINI USA and the MINI Clubs have been awesome about giving out fun MINI swag.  The sponsors are pretty fun too!  Peeps is a sponsor and they have a Peeps MINI… it’s so cute!  They keep handing us mini Peeps at the different events. I’m starting to get a collection of them!  We got a mini Lego MINI in our Welcome Bag… I’ll let Brian put them together…. I have no patience for following the directions with LEGOS.  I build castles… that’s about it…  And Banfield Pet Hospital has presents for the furry co-pilots too.

Today Value Service gave us safari hats after our trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari.  IMG_9359They’re actually pretty perfect hats for the Roadster.  I’ve got two other hats and a couple of scarves that I’ve been trying to make stay on my head for the last 3000 miles…. these have a nice floppy brim to cover the back of my neck and a strap to hold them on!

The trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari was more fun than I thought it would be.  If it wasn’t for MINI, I would have never (a) found the place, or (b) bothered to go… Brian and I are pretty spoiled with our St Louis Zoo memberships… it takes a lot to compete.  Probably what made it so much fun was sharing the experience with 400 other MINIs…. The Safari knew we were coming, but I don’t think the quite grasped how many of us there actually were…. Until you see 400-500 MINIs swarming down the highway, you just don’t get it.  We shut down the main road into town… we blocked up everything for two miles…. the police finally came to direct traffic…. We weren’t being bad…. there were just a lot of us!  The city police were very nice and they started directing people around us and soon everything got uncontested.  We almost skipped the Safari because of all the traffic, but I’m really glad we decided to stay.  (Not just for the cool hat..)  We’re in the Roadster… with the top down…. so we had an excellent view of the animals… and they had an excellent view of us!  

After the Safari we continued on to Dallas.  It was a much prettier drive today.  This part of Texas has more hills and trees… I was starting to go a bit crazy with the endless fields of nothing.  We actually reached Dallas fairly early in the day, so we had some time to look around a do some sightseeing.  I hadn’t planned anything in Dallas since I figured MINI would have an event and we’d go to that.  MINI did have an event… but it just wasn’t our cup of tea so we decided to wander around town for a bit.  Neither one of us is a big history buff, but we watched enough of the History Chanel to know the Dealey Plaza in Dallas is where Kennedy was assassinated.  We were too late to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, which used to be the Texas School Book Depository from where Jack Ruby allegedly shot JFK.  IMG_8186We were going to cross the street to see the Grassy Knoll, but one of the homeless guys was trying to be our “tour guide” and was starting to freak me out.  I grabbed Brian and drug him away.  The homeless guy started yelling, but I couldn’t tell if it was at us or at another homeless guy.  There were a lot of homeless guys yelling in the area… I’m glad it was a sunny afternoon and there were a bunch of other people around.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be down there later in the evening.

Brian and I also checked out the Old Red Museum.  It used to be the courthouse, but now IMG_8176it is a museum.  I didn’t want to pay $8/person for tickets.  The architecture is amazing, but we just  looked around the first floor for a bit.

On our way back to the car (I was starting to worry about Posh all alone with all the yelling homeless people!) we stopped to look at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza… it’s kinda ugly.  I just don’t get it… it’s kinda like a LEGO…. but boring.  IMG_8197
We also stopped and visited the Dallas Farmer’s Market… I am SO jealous of their Farmer’s Market!! Why is our’s not this cool?  Ugh!  Brian and I picked up a gluten-free brownie (mine, all mine!), some yummy red grapes for our lunches and a jar of apple cobbler jelly to take home and share at our next Family Dinner Night.  I think it will be killer served warm over home-made vanilla ice cream!  (I’m gonna have to serve something pretty awesome to get the family to sit still through all 2000 MTTS photos…..) IMG_8171

For dinner we decided to try In-n-Out Burger.  We don’t have them in Missouri and I’ve heard my Sister-In-Law rave about them.  Now, my SIL doesn’t really like anything… I can count on one hand the things that I know she likes….. so I was thinking that these must be some freaking awesome burgers.  I checked online first to make sure I could eat them and was super excited to discover that they were very gluten friendly.  They even have a button to press when you order to tell the cooks that you have an allergy.  It took em a bit to find the right button, but they got our order in and were super nice.  I even heard one of them call back to the cooks that they had a customer with a wheat allergy and to change their gloves and utensils.  WOW!  IMG_9370

Brian and I both got a Double Double ‘Protein’ Burger (the “protein” part means that they wrapped it in lettuce instead of putting it on a bun).  I got cheese fries too…. The fries were safe from cross contamination because the fries are the only thing they fry.  Yay!  The burger comes wrapped in lettuce and then wrapped in paper and then in a little paper sleeve… all of which is necessary to keep the juice and sauces from getting everywhere.

So…. it was good.  Not amazing… but it was good.  I still don’t understand my SIL.  *sigh*  I was ecstatic about the care they took to make sure it was safe for me to eat, and it was a good hamburger…. It tasted a lot like a Steak-n-Shake hamburger.  I wish Steak-n-Shake would take that much care in ensuring gluten-friendliness!

 

 

 

 

MTTS: Day Five – Albuquerque, NM

Today was AH-may-zing!

Brian woke me up bright and early.  He claims it was the time change, but I think he was just excited to get going… and worried about fitting it all in today!  I’ve been to New Mexico before and had a bunch of places that I wanted Brian to see.  We already had to pare down the list a bit to make it all fit.

First stop was the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Park – I figured Brian would enjoy looking at the ancient architecture.  There are actually three different sets of ruins.  I’d only been to one site, so we decide to see that one first.

IMG_7758The Quarai Ruins are probably my favorite. I like that these ruins are more “complete.”  It just gives you a better feeling of what they were like when people lived there.  The roof is gone, but there is more definition to the rooms.  I also like the park area around it a bit more than the other two sites.  The walking trails are nice and there was a pretty little picnic area under some big trees.  There aren’t a whole heck of a lot of big trees in New Mexico.  Mostly there are short cedar trees and scroungy little scrub brush.

Gran Quivira Ruins wereIMG_7792 interesting to see, but probably my least favorite site to visit.  The ruins are the least intact of the three and they sit high up on a hill.  It was interesting to see the differences between the two sites and the different styles of building.  The other two sites were built near water, but this site depended on rainfall so they had big wells dug to catch and store the water.  

IMG_7834The Abo Ruin was more like the Quarai site.  Both were constructed from the red rocks and red clay and the site was fairly well intact (for being centuries old!).  It was interesting to wander through the remains of the rooms and imagine what life must have been like.  The picnic area here was really nice, it too was built under some big trees.  The first two sites had nicer (real) bathrooms while the Abo Ruin had more port-a-potty style bathrooms.  (This is important in New Mexico, because you can drive for over an hour and not see a town… or if you do see a town they don’t have a gas station… or anywhere else to stop…. nice clean restrooms are important!)

Brian and I ate our lunch at the Abo Ruin picnic area before heading off to the VLA in Magdalena, NM.  We’re really enjoying picnicking instead of trying to find a restaurant.  For one thing, it would be really difficult to find anywhere to eat in New Mexico…. you can drive for a really long way and not see anyone… and for another, we’re saving a ton of money and calories and getting to spend more time in some really beautiful places.

The Very Large Array in Magdalena/Socorro (It’s really just in the middle of nowhere):

“The Very Large Array is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas inIMG_7859 a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km (22 miles) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters (422 feet) in diameter.”

IMG_7871These things are just amazing. They are listening to outer-space!  Of course, that is totally oversimplifying, but I just look at them and realize that they can see/hear stars being born and dying… looking beyond what our human eyes could ever see…. I look at them and I see such exciting possibilities…. who knows what they will help us discover?  I know it seems weird… it’s just a bunch of big dishes out in the middle of nowhere…. I just think they are beautiful.  The sky was a beautiful blue with big fluffy clouds today…. I took a ton of photos of the VLA.  Every time they would move I have to take a dozen more photos…. They are SO quiet… and they move faster than you’d expect for such a huge thing.

Brian and I watched the movie at the Visitor’s Center… it’s narrated by Jodi Foster… she was in the movie Contact that was based on/at the VLA.  The video isn’tIMG_7928 very long, but it explains the VLA and what it does.  The best part of the video is when it explains how they move these dishes on train tracks around the site.  They weighTONS… the whole process is pretty interesting.

It’s a long drive to get to any of these sites if you are staying in Albuquerque (and I’m not sure where else you would be staying… maybe Roswell?  Not a lot of big towns to choose from.) but if you are in New Mexico I would say these are all really interesting things to see.  (And they’re all free!)

After the VLA we headed back to Albuquerque to finally meet up with MINI USA.  The MINI’s started arriving at the MINI dealership around 6:00pm.  We had a great time… MINI really knows how to throw a party! 10552630_10152323693423668_5713593808735944385_nBrian and I got checked in and got our MINI ID’s and our first goody bag.  The dealership served dinner and had a live band.  It was great!  There were hundreds of different MINIs and no two alike.  We ate dinner and made a new friend (MINI people are just friendly… especially when we are talking about our kids… er… cars.)  We hung out for a while, sitting on the grass and listening to the band.  The weather was just perfect… mid 70’s (I thought New Mexico was supposed to be hot?!).  We finally decided to call it a night.  We’ve got to get up very bright and early to meet the other MINI’s and start driving to Lubbock, TX.  More adventure awaits!

 

MTTS: Day Four – Albuquerque, NM

IMG_9052

Day four!  We’ve spent so long planning this trip, it hardly seems like we could already be up to day four!  Brian are I are having a wonderful time seeing parts of the country that we’ve never seen before.  We continue to be amazed by how different the geography is in each state.  Texas was prettier than I would have ever expected.

IMG_7658This morning we had planned to go to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park (see, STATE park… makes all the difference!)  The forecast was calling for rain all day, but I really had my heart set on seeing the canyon.  The day before had been so bright/overcast that photos had been difficult.  I figured the storm clouds would atIMG_7568 least give me a break in that department.  As it turned out, we managed to beat the storm almost the entire day.  It caught up with us for a bit in New Mexico, but by then we were in the car and didn’t really care.

I’m so glad we decided to visit the canyon.  It was beautiful!  I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and I would have to say that I enjoyed this much more.  I was on an airplane/bus tour from Las Vegas, so I didn’t get to see much beyond the rim, and it was pretty and all….. but I dunno…. I’ve also visited the Waimea Canyon in Kauai and it was cool too….. but I just really enjoyed the Palo Duro Canyon more.  Maybe it was because Brian and I got to go down into the Palo Duro Canyon IMG_7541and explore more.  There are all these walking trails and picnic areas.  We really had a wonderful time.  If you are ever in the area, this is a “must-see.”

I wish we would have had more time to walk the trails, but the clouds were pressing in and the temperature kept dropping (76° in Texas!).  The park ranger had warned us on our way in to head back if it started to rain because where we were headed was beyond two roads that often flooded.  We also had a 6 hour drive to reach Albuquerque, NM.

We had a couple of Route 66 stops semi-planned along the way to Albuquerque to break up the long drive.IMG_7703 Our first stop was at the Cadillac Ranch.  I guess I never really read up on it too much…. I’d seen photos and heard about it, but never bothered to research it.  I just had it in my head that it was some kind of weird “art” along Route 66.  Which is mostly true…. but less “art” and more graffiti/trash heap.  I hadn’t realized that people were encouraged to vandalize/deface the Cadillacs even more than they already were….. I have to say, I was totally disappointed.  It was just a bunch
IMG_7708of old cars with their noses buried in a mud pit that had been spray painted over so many times that the paint had bubbled and peeled.  Piles of discarded spray paint cans littered the ground and the stink of dirt and paint filled the air.  It was sad.  Just really, really sad.

I napped for a while in the car and I think we missed a couple of the other Route 66 stops, but honestly, after the Cadillac Ranch I think we were both feeling less interested in Route 66 attractions.  By staying on the main highway we could do 75mph and Albuquerque was calling.

We found the Historic District of Albuquerque and had dinner at the Church Street Cafe.  It had gotten really good reviews on Google for authentic mexican cuisine.  Maybe I don’t like authentic Mexican food?  I don’t know, I was a bit disappointed.  The place was really cute, but the staff was very disinterested and inattentive.  The food was much spicier than I enjoyed and very thin on the protein.  Brian enjoyed his tacos though.

After dinner we roamed around Old Town and checked out the art galleries and other little shops.  The store owners/artists were vary chatty and friendly.  Brian IMG_9083and I got caught up by one artist in particular and spent nearly 45 minutes “hostage”…. I finally bought a little greeting card reprint and we made our escape.  I liked a number of his other paintings, but I’m not much of an art buyer….. The card I bought was a print of the painting that had been on display outside and had drawn me to the store to begin with.  I just liked the bright colors and happy expression on the bird.  Not sure what I will do with the card…. maybe frame it?  Or just give it it’s very own page in the scrapbook perhaps.

After that, Brian didn’t want me to talk to anyone else for fear we’d get caught up for another 45 minutes.  We headed back to the hotel since we needed to do laundry anyway.  I caught up on my post card and blogging while the laundry ran…. and now it is once again time for bed…. Where do the days go!?

 

MTTS: Day Three – Amarillo, TX

Does Oklahoma never end?  Seriously…. that was the longest state!

I totally overslept this morning.  Not that we really had an actual schedule, but we had imagined that we’d be up and moving by eight.  I’m going to blame it on those wonderful Holiday Inn pillows.  (I used to have a couple of those…. Not stolen!  You can order them online.  I need a couple more… they are just the nicest pillows ever.)

I finally drug myself out of bed around nine and took my sweet time getting ready.  By the time we checked out, the free continental breakfast was pretty much gone.  I grabbed a banana and a hot coffee to go with my Cliff Bar and we headed out.

IMG_7434Our first planned stop of the day was Turner Falls Park.  Brian and I had visited Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia last November and had a wonderful time hiking up (the four million stairs) to see the falls.  So that was more what I was expecting….. Okay, so Turner Falls is a Park… not a State Park… so not the same IMG_7428thing.  Think more “natural water park” than “nature park with water”.  Also think water park prices not state park prices.  State parks are usually $5 a person…. this was $12…. not outrageous, but I’m trying to stick to a budget here people!  Ugh.  So instead of being what I expected, Turner Falls was something completely different.  The Falls still turned out to be enjoyable.  I’m not sure I would recommend it as a “must see” if you are just passing through. Now, if you planned to stay the whole day and play in the water or if you had kids with you…. yeah, this would be a great place to visit and spend the whole day.  The falls are at the far end of the park, but there is a paved walkway up to it and a pool at the base of the falls to play in.  A stream flows down from the falls and there were people playing there and further IMG_7431down where there appeared to be slides and other water-parky stuff.  There are also lifeguards and restrooms with showers and snack bars.

Brian and I were still thinking “state park” so we followed the map to the “castles” and “caves”….. The “castle” was built by a professor back in the ’30’s as (it sounds like) a guy’s hang out.  The steps are insane.  Super tall, super steep and super narrow.  In some places there is a rickety handrail and in others you’re just supposed to hope your balance is good.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but teenagers.

IMG_7457  We hiked back a little ways though one of the trails, following a small stream.  During a wetter season I would bet it is really pretty.  As it was today, it was pretty, but not that pretty….  We met another couple who had been to one of the caves and we asked if it was worth the hike.  The guy seemed to have enjoyed it, but warned that there were places where you had to climb ropes and that there was a wasp nest near the mouth of the cave.  The lady gave me the big eyed look that I took to mean we should skip it if we wanted to live.  So we skipped it.

All in all, the Falls were pretty and would be fun if you wanted to spend the whole day and play in the water, but we were thinking we were just going to look at a pretty waterfall…. not what we expected.

After the Falls we didn’t have anything big planned.  We stopped briefly at a Route 66 landmark and got a couple of photos of Posh out front, but she was pretty done with Oklahoma and it’s boring roads.  (Arkansas was so much more fun with all the hills and twisties!) IMG_7477

Mostly today’s goal was just to escape Oklahoma. Sorry Oklahoma, but my impression was just of a long ,boring, flat state with little interesting scenery.  Once we crossed into Texas the geography completely changed.  I wouldn’t have expected that the landscape would change so much just from one side of the state line to the other, but once we hit Texas there were things to look at.  Woo hoo!  Instead of the rolling hills of Arkansas there were deep valleys and slices through the earth.  And now I know why Texas is called “Big IMG_7494Sky Country, ”  the horizon seems to go on forever.

When we finally made it into Texas I was getting pretty hungry and had been searching for someplace to eat for far too long on my iPhone…. Hungry + Reading in a Car = Sick Stephanie.  Fortunately we had finally reached the welcome center and I got to get out an wander around for a while. Posh was far more impressed with the view, but didn’t want to wander off the road after she saw the “beware of IMG_7499rattlesnakes” signs.

Brian picked the restaurant since I wasn’t up to looking at little words on my phone anymore.  I’d narrowed it down to a hand-full once we’d decided on BBQ.  When we pulled up to the restaurant I became a bit concerned…. It was a BBQ place attached to a gas station….. Umm…. I’d been thinking of a nicer dinner?

When we walked in they asked if we’d ever been there before…. Was it that obvious?…. The guy directed us to the front counter and told us to tell them it was our first visit and promised there’d be samples.  Woo hoo!  Samples!

The brisket was delicious and Brian decided to get a 1/2lb of brisket (no “combos” or pre designed “meals”… just order what you want and pay by the pound.)  I had my heart (and tummy) set on ribs, so I got a 10405544_10152319747293668_8690263656606736249_n1/2lb of ribs.  When it came to the sides I asked if the cream corn had any flour in it and mentioned that I was allergic to wheat (It’s easier to say “allergic” than to explain “gluten-sensitive”…. people get “allergic” and the outcome is the same for me… no wheat.) He got it right away and warned me about all the other side options with wheat.  So I ended up with new potatoes…. yum and Brian got the corn on the cob.  Even the signature BBQ sauces were labeled Gluten-Free.  Brian and I loved our dinners and really appreciated how friendly and knowledgeable the staff were.  If you ever are in the neighborhood, visit Rudy’s….. don’t let the gas station freak you out.

Now for a good night’s sleep so we’ll be rested up for tomorrow’s adventures!

MTTS: Day One – Eureka Springs

We hit the road today… off to join the other MINI’s on the MINI Takes the States Road-Trip.  MTTS officially kicked off in California this morning, but we’re just going to meet up with them in Albuquerque, NM.  We’re doing our own little rallye adventure on our way to Albuquerque.

IMG_7223We stopped for lunch at the Parachute Inn Restaurant in Walnut Ridge, MO.  Since our family runs a little airport we thought it would be fun to visit other little airports within easy flying distance and say hello.  Walnut Ridge Airport is also home to the Parachute Inn which is a restaurant inside an old 737.  IMG_7211

The food was pretty basic; hamburgers, fried catfish, french fries… nothing amazing, but it was good.  It’s not like we were going there for the food…. we wanted to have lunch in the plane.  Inside it’s a regular 737 with about 1/3 of the seats removed and half the remaining seats turned around backward to make benches.  It was something different and quirky to do… I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again, but I could see kids getting a huge kick out of it.  The food was good… a little slow… our french fries arrived after we’d finished our hamburgers, but they were nice and hot and the staff was all very friendly.  If you are looking for something unique to do and passing through this area I would recommend stopping…. I wouldn’t go way out of my way to visit… but if it was on your way it makes a fun little stop.

After lunch we visited with the people at the FBO and talked airports for a while.  They were super nice.  If you’re a pilot I would certainly recommend visiting.  Then you could have lunch at the restaurant!  They also have a museum on-site, but Brian was ready to get back on the road by then, so we didn’t get to check it out.

10514591_10152316096683668_4776309272802332004_nWe planned to spend the evening in Eureka Springs, AR and wander around in the historic district.  By the time we arrived I would have happily spent the evening snoozing at the hotel, but Brian knows (from experience) that if take a nap and skip dinner he’ll have a sick whiny-baby on his hands at 3 am.  Our hotel suggested a couple of restaurants that would probably be good for gluten-free and Brian and I chose FRESH: Farm to Table.  It was a really cute little place at the far end of the Historic Loop.  The food was really great!  Gluten Free Italian Pizza for me (about half way through Brian snatched my pizza and gave me his risotto) and Scallops and risotto for Brian.  For a restaurant that serves locally sourced, hand-made and all that I would have expected them to know more about which meals were gluten-free and which were vegan (I over heard them suggesting a chicken salad to a vegan at another table….).  Oh well, hopefully that is something they’ll work on.  The food was really good!

After dinner we roamed around town for a bit.  Most of the shops were beginning to close, so we just peered into the windows and checked out the natural springs around town.  Comparing Eureka Springs to Hot Springs, AR, I liked Hot Springs better.  Hot Springs had more art galleries and rock and crystal shops.  Eureka Springs seemed to have more of the generic tourist shops… stuff you can find anywhere.  Hot Springs also has more springs right along the main road that are easier to see.

I’d read about the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs…. it’s supposedIMG_7254 to be super haunted.  Brian and I opted to skip the ghost tour and take the self guided tour around the hotel.  I didn’t spot any ghosts…. nothing showed up on my camera either.  😦  The Crescent Hotel is interesting for a walking tour, but I am glad we didn’t stay there.  It is an old hotel and it is really showing it’s age.  The floors have dips and the stairs lean…. that made it creepy…. not the ghosts!

We finished up our tour of Eureka Springs by checking out a couple of the springs around town.  I, of course, started us out with one that was at the top of a million steps….. more or less.  Brian picked a nicer spring that was in a little cave.  We got a bit of time when there was no one in the cave and I got to play IMG_7244around with the camera and the timer for a bit and got some fun photos.

I’ve enjoyed Eureka Springs, but I prefer Hot Springs.  It was fun for the day, but I don’t think it would keep us entertained for a whole weekend.

Now for a good night’s sleep and on to more adventures tomorrow!