Take a hike

When we moved to Florida almost three years ago everything was new. New restaurants, new places, new adventures….. then we started to fall into a routine of ‘favorites.’ (Netflix and delivery also took a toll on our adventuring and trying new things…). So for 2020 we set a goal to get out and try more new things. Woo hoo! (A nice vague goal, huh?)

For our first 2020 adventure we took our new pup, Winnie, to Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens.

Dogs (on leashes) are allowed on the trials, but not in some areas of the gardens. We meandered around on the trails for a couple of hours and I never ran into an area where dogs weren’t allowed. So there’s plenty to do/see/sniff with your pup.

Most of the trials are fairly ‘rustic,’ meaning bumpy and filled with tree roots and such. I saw people running, but they must have way better balance than I because I’d have been on my face. I’d say these trials are great for most ages that have decent balance and footing. There are some small climbs (this IS Florida, we don’t really have ‘hills’) and plenty of boardwalks. Mom enjoyed checking out the labels on the various trees and native plants along the trails.

There was a nice picnic area with several tables nestled under a stand of Live Oaks. Next time we’ll bring our lunch and plan a whole afternoon.

There were restrooms, but they looked ‘rustic’ as well. I didn’t go in to check them out so I can’t say for certain, but there were restrooms. And according to the website they’re handicapped accessible.

This will definitely be on our list of places to visit again soon!

Stuff to do in The Lou


When we decided that we were actually going to move (to a whole different state!) we started trying to visit all the places that we figured we’d miss when we left St. Louis. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely since we want to move…. there weren’t that many places that we felt like we had to visit.

These were our top six places to visit in Missouri.


St Louis Zoo

My #1 place that we had to see again, and the place that I’d actually recommend to STL visitors would be the St. Louis Zoo.  Brian and I got a Zoo membership before we got married and we visited fairly frequently.  It’s been our go-to place for when we just wanted to do something. Technically, there are lots of things you can do in STL completely free…. but you’re going to have to walk and be a bit creative.  STL has a really amazing zoo and you can do it completely free, but I’d recommend getting either one of the zoo memberships (a lot of zoos honor other zoo’s memberships too) or one of the day pass things.  I adore riding around on the train and seeing the sea-lion show… oh! and the new Stingray area! I’m not a big fan of the children’s area, but if you bring little humans with you, they’d probably enjoy that too, so you’d might as well have bought one of the bands or membership thingies.  Try to go mid-week if possible, otherwise the place is busy.


Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard

Brian and I visited Ted Drew’s the first time I brought Boo along on one of our dates.  We sat in the back of the MINI and people watched and ate our custard.  (For the record, Boo likes blueberry) Brian’s parents took us to Ted Drew’s to celebrate our engagement (Cindermint).  Birthdays…. (Fox Treat) and Christmas (Hawaiian).  It’s one of those STL traditions and it became one of our favorite special treats.


Missouri Botanical Gardens 

The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of those places that my mom and aunts used to drag me every summer and I hated it…. and then I got my own house and my own yard and learned to appreciate all the flowers and landscaping.  The gardens are beautiful any time of year, you really can’t go wrong.  They also have a number of festivals throughout the year that are all really cool, but they’re also really crowded.  If you have the chance though, I’d absolutely recommend the Garden Glow at Christmas.

Okay, so those are the typical ‘Must See’ things that you’re going to see on every other list.  And I completely agree…. I love ’em too, but there are lots of other great things to see and do outside of St Louis.  I’m not a huge fan of being in the city anyway.  I’d rather escape the crowds and traffic.  The next two items are going to take you about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours outside of St. Louis….. and they are totally worth the drive.

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Historic Kimmswick 

Kimmswick is probably the place that I am most going to miss in the St Louis area.  Mom and I spent many a lazy afternoon roaming through the historic homes turned adorable and eclectic shops.  Each visit was always capped with a visit to the Blue Owl.  If you’re not gluten-free you should order the Levee High Apple Pie for dessert.  I don’t care how much you ate for lunch…. order dessert.  The Blue owl is famous for their desserts.  Order dessert.  If you are gluten free, there aren’t may dessert options, but you can go next door to the Blue Owl Sweet Shop and get ice cream.  I’m a fan of the Coconut Sunday.  There are plenty of Gluten Free entree options, and the staff is so sweet!  I am going to miss all of the ladies at the Blue Owl…. and the food.  Kimmswick hosts several huge festivals throughout the year that are great… but huge and crowded.  If you’re going to visit during a festival make plans to come back on another day to just enjoy the town.  (The whole town is closed on Monday.)

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is a fair drive out of St Louis, but it is a fun place to wander and explore.  You can climb all over the huge, elephant like rock formations and wander down paths surrounded by the granite monoliths.  Take a picnic lunch and spend the day climbing, wandering and taking awesome photos.  On your way back to the city, drive north on Hwy 21 and stop in Caledonia, MO.  It’s a teeny, tiny, blink and you missed it town, but there are several cute little shops that are fun to visit.  Stop at Old Village Mercantile to check out the antiques and enjoy and ice cream sundae.


Chaumette Winery

Chaumette Winery is also a bit of a drive from St Louis, but certainly well worth the trip.  The wine is delicious and the food at the Grapevine Grill is wonderful.  Everything is locally sourced from area farms and dairies.  The menu changes seasonally, but there are usually several gluten-free option for entrées and dessert.  The staff is knowledgable about Gluten Sensitivity and I’ve even had the chef come out and talk to me once or twice.  He even offered to make a special sauce for me once!  Delicious food and wine, great staff, pup-friendly, allergy friendly, beautiful views, good music…..  They even have bed & breakfast villas and a spa.  I’d always wanted to do a spa weekend, but never got around to it…. It would make for an awesome Girl’s Weekend.


Not a fan of Frank

I don’t like Frank Lloyd Wright.  Don’t tell Brian, okay?  I just cannot stand the man…. and I’m not entirely sure why…. No, no…. I know why I wouldn’t like to be friends with him… He sounds like an overbearing ass.  Three wives, at least one long term mistress… pushy, and arrogant…. and his stupid houses leaked!


So, sure…. We wouldn’t have been pals.  But he’s dead… so It’s not like we were gonna hang out anyway…. So why do I want to punch this guy in the face every time we walk into one of his houses?  Maybe it has something to do with the way people talk about him.  The guides at the FLW houses sound like cult members…. they’re all gleeful and awed and speak in hushed tone that should be reserved for the tombs of pharaohs…  Okay, so I want to punch them too….. I don’t know why this guy provokes me so much! Brian keeps trying to remind me that what he was doing was so impressive and unique for the time period.  It’s not the architecture so much…. I think it’s just the man himself that makes me angry, but I’m not sure why…… why it matters…. why he bothers me so much…. Maybe he really pissed me off in a past life and I’m still holding a grudge?  Geeze, Stephanie!  Let it go, huh?

Brian and I visited another one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses during our Fall Colors Tour of Wisconsin.  Since FLW houses are not pup friendly (or kid friendly… hell, even people friendly!) and the house was two hours away from where we were staying, we left Mom and Boo at the RV and Brian and I went to visit Taliesin on our own.


While I’m not a huge fan of FLW’s architecture, I do like certain elements of his designs.  I like what he did with windows, especially at the Taliesin house.  I loved the huge windows and the little wooden details that he would add to the corners.  I like the mix of stone and glass.  I like his taste in art too. Taliesin was filled with art works that he brought back from Japan.  And FLW thought that you should ‘live’ with the art, not hide it behind glass. So there are numerous sculptures scattered throughout the house and gardens.


Apparently I also like FLW’s gardening style.  Brian took a bunch of pictures of the house… I maybe took one or two, but mostly because I knew I was going to blog about our visit and figured I needed a photo of the place.  When I went back through my photos I apparently just took photos of the gardens.  (Oh! Oh!!! That’s another thing!  Some of the FLW houses they won’t let you take photos inside the house… Why!?)


Of the FLW houses that we have seen, and admittedly, it’s only been three so far.. I liked Taliesen the best.  This house felt far more ‘livable’ and inviting…. and I just adored the gardens.

Gluten Free & Pup Friendly

When I went Gluten Free in December of 2012 and Brian joined me a few months later, our traveling lifestyle changed.  We’d never been huge fast food people, but going Gluten Free eliminated most fast food restaurants…. which made traveling a bit more tricky. The Find Me Gluten Free app (iOS & Android) has been priceless.  We’ve discovered several amazing little places that we’d have never discovered on our own.  We picnic a lot too. Fill a small cooler with deli meat and cheese and a bag of chip and you’re good to go.  There are a lot more Welcome Centers and nice rest stops along the road than I ever realized. Brian has become a master at locating cute little parks and picnic areas for us to eat our picnic lunches.

Well…. now we’ve added another challenging element….. Our Pomeranian, Boo has started traveling with us.  Mom is traveling with us too, but she’s pretty easy.  Mom is GF too and our travel style works for her, but since she’s going with us we’ve lost our baby-sitter for Boo.  I just can’t stand the idea of leaving Boo in a kennel and most of our friends know how neurotic I am about Boo and they’re too afraid (of me) to baby-sit. So Boo has to become a traveling pup.

I wanted to introduce Boo to road trips gently, so we took her on a day trip to Alton, IL to see the eagles.  She was a bit nervous at first, but but got bored pretty quickly and slept through most of the ride home.  We didn’t see any eagles… I don’t think she was too disappointed…. she does look like a little fox, so I don’t think she’s a huge fan of eagles.

I’d been thinking of a short weekend trip for Boo’s next excursion, but our ‘short trip’ turned into an 8 day adventure all around Texas and into New Orleans.  Boo was nervous for the first 20 minutes and then got bored and fell asleep…. which is pretty much how I travel too.


Boo had a great time.  She was totally relaxed in the hotels… Love the Holiday Inn Express (some are pup-friendly) and Candlewood Suites… (Most were pup-friendly).  Boo snoozed in the car and had a great time running around the parks and rest stops.

Breakfast is always easy.  Since we like to stay at Holiday Inn Express’ we usually grab breakfast at the hotel. The omelettes, sausage and bacon are usually GF. The scrambled eggs make me nervous.  I haven’t been able to get a hold of the packaging for the scrambled eggs to confirm that they’re GF and I’ve heard that some places add flour to their eggs to make them extra fluffy.  So on the mornings where my option is scrambled eggs I grab a banana and peanut butter from the breakfast bar instead.  When we stay at the Candlewood Suites we usually opt for Cliff Bars or Laura Bars brought fromIMG_7757 home.  We’d get our food from the breakfast bar and then eat in the room since fur-babies aren’t invited to the dining room. 😦

Lunch is easy too… Boo is a huge fan of picnicnicking at parks and rest areas.  Dinner is the bigger challenge.  By dinner time I want real food… I want to try the local foods and sit down for a real meal.  Finding a sit down place that accomidates fur-babies and offers GF food is a bit more of a challenge.  Most places with a patio or outdoor seating are likely to allow pups (always ask first!).  I found the BringFido app (iOS) which lists pup-friendly hotels, parks and restaurants.  We didn’t bother using it for the hotels, but it really helped finding restaurants.  I do wish it had a section for Gluten Free restaurants.

Boo was super well behaved at the restaurants.  She usually sat under the table and then sat on our lap after the meal so she could join un while we finished our drinks and chatted.  She loved the attention from the waiters and waitresses… especially when they’d bring her a fresh bowl of water and talk to her.

I’m pretty sure we’ve made a spoiled monster now.  She’s never going to want to be left home alone again.

Some of Boo’s favorite places were:IMG_7773

Freebirds in Waco, TX

Austin Terrier in Austin, TX

Cafe Amelie in New Orleans, LA

The Rum House in New Orleans, LA

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop in New Orleans, LA (We ordered take out, since it wasn’t actually pup-friendly, just GF, but we took it back to the hotel and had a fabulous dinner… and Boo got to try a bit of Cajun food.)

And, of course, Starbucks!  Boo is now addicted to the Puppuccino on the Secret Starbucks Menu.  Just ask for a Puppaccino and they’ll give you a little cup of whipped cream…. Boo thought it was the most fabulous thing ever!

MTTS: Day Two – Pauls Valley, OK

After a Cliff Bar and a cup of coffee, we packed up and headed out of Eureka Springs fairly early this morning. Brian had come across an Arkansas road map forIMG_7272 bikers yesterday and  found a couple of interesting looking places that he wanted to try.  (Who knew that bikers and MINI’s would like the same driving routes… guess it makes sense… twisty, back roads with scenic places to stop…. maybe MINIs and bikers should hang out together more often!)  The roads that he wanted to try eventually intersected with the Scenic Byway that I’d read about…. so it sounded like a good plan.

Our first stop was at the War Eagle Bridge & Mill.  The mill actually still works… which is pretty impressive… Brian and I have been to a few other mills and most are no longer working.  They had corn and a couple different kinds of flour for sale. IMG_7261Brian loves checking out the machinery and figuring out how it all works.  He keeps trying to explain it all to me, but I just keep thinking how I would get my hair caught in something and kill myself.  I leave all that to him and I wander around and check out the different kinds of jams they have for sale.  My father-in-law likes weird kinds of jam, so we’re always looking for something new for him.

Up on the third floor was a restaurant and outside is a huge steel bridge, cleverly named, War Eagle Bridge.  The bridge looked pretty cool with the mill in the background, so Brian and I waited until there was a lull in the traffic (it’s a one lane bridge!) and then took Posh over the bridge to pose for a few pictures.

IMG_7285We opted to skip the restaurant (beans seemed to be a big thing on the menu… ick) and headed off for the rest of our biker approved dive.  Arkansas is just really pretty to drive through… all the rolling hills and pretty farms.  It is really pretty to visit in the fall when all the leaves are changing.  There weren’t a lot of places to stop or much to do other than enjoy the scenery.  (That was okay with us, that had been the plan, really.) Finally, we came to the Talimena Scenic Byway.

According to the website, “The Talimena Scenic drive winds 54 miles along the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita NationalIMG_7370 Forest (pronounced Wash-i-tah). If you can resist stopping to enjoy the many vistas and attractions along the way, the route takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive. A leisurely drive can take all day.”

It took us about two and a half hours to get through.  Along the way we stopped and climbed the Fire Tower on Rich Mountain… I would recommend climbing the tower if you are ever on your way through.  There are some really great views from the top.  Brian wasn’t thrilled with the construction of the tower (he’s always looking at how things are put together!), but I’ve actually climbed much creepier towers (with Mom!), and I thought this one was pretty good.  Admittedly, I’m not really afraid of heights…

The first 6 or 7 scenic overlooks were great and exciting… we stopped at each and jumped out to peer over the edge.  The hills and mountains had a blue color that didn’t seem quite believable.  I’ve heard the Ozark/Arkansas mountains described as “blue” before, but didn’t really grasp that, yes, they really look blue.  Even standing there, looking out over the valley my brain kept trying to convince me that they’d been photoshopped.

IMG_7405As the day got hotter and muggier we started just pulling up to the scenic overlooks and kinda leaning out of the car… yup, pretty… keep rolling.  As long as the car was moving there was a nice breeze.  The Scenic Byway finally came to an end and we were in Oklahoma by then.  The Byway was absolutely beautiful and I would suggest you visit if you are ever in Arkansas…. especially in the fall… I’ll bet it is AMAZING in the fall!

Once we left the Byway and headed into Oklahoma….. things got dull…. super dull…. mind numbingly dull…… How long is Oklahoma?!  And what happened to the cell signal?  I couldn’t even message Mom!  Ugh.

The sun began to set and I decided that we needed a photo of Posh with the sunset.  Of course, as soon as I decide that, we hit work zones and then a residential area.  Just as we were about to lose the light, I spotted a field and a wide shoulder.  Brian pulled over and I bailed out to take a few photos.  (Thank goodness he watches the road for me and keeps me from getting run over!  “Car!  Car, Stephanie!  Get out of the ROAD!”)  I finally got my shot of Posh and the sunset and we headed off to our hotel.  Another exciting day full of daring photo shoots…. Survived!