Oh, am I sooo glad I am home if for anything more than just being able to blog again! I tried to access my blog while on a 9 day trek across the Western & Northern US, but alas I was unable to have contact with you guys. I was seriously going through some major withdrawals! We arrived home late last night and I couldn’t wait to get my latest blog up for you guys, and to tell you about our fantastic trip!
We left Wisconsin on Friday afternoon and headed straight to Wall, South Dakota, only stopping for gas along the way and then finally finding the cheapest hole in the wall hotel that accepted pets. The plus side was we got a good night’s sleep, and only paid $35 for it. Wall is home of Wall Drug, a glorified tourist trap that we had visited once before and not been very impressed with. Perhaps it was touring it in the beginning of March, I’m not sure…but it is a sight to see and it perfectly emulates an old Western town.
From Wall, we headed to Sheridan, WY where we stopped to eat at one of their best local restaurants: Wyoming Rib & Chop House. On this trip we were so lucky to have tried so many amazing restaurants and to try local foods. If in the area of Sheridan, I strongly suggest eating here, the food is incredible. They do also have other restaurants across the country, so check them out. You’ll seriously have the best ribs & steak of your life. Of all the places, Wyoming Rib & Chop House & J Gilbert’s in Kansas City beat out their competition by far.
In Thompson Falls, Montana, Travis spied this gorgeous book shop, Bearly Read Books & More off the side of the road and asked if I wanted to go, knowing full well how much I LOVE bookstores. This one did not disappoint. Owned and operated by a Minnesota native, it is small and cozy with a collection of antique teddy bears and other notable antiques throughout. I made my way to the back of the store where I found a kitchen, fully operational and stocked with cookbooks galore. It is here that I found my most recent literary gem and most prized possession: American Home Cooking: by Cheryl Alters Jamison & Bill Jamison, a husband & wife foodie team. I later found out that the couple has written numerous other books, and won multiple awards including several James Beard awards, which are highly coveted amongst food writers, chefs, etc. The owner had the most adorable italian greyhound, and the fattest & most adorable cat I had ever seen and she granted me permission to photograph them all…photos coming tomorrow!
The book though, has inspired me to use it as inspiration for this blog and I have come up with a plan for using some of the recipes as fodder for my own creations. I love American food, the majority of the time my food that I cook is very American-ized, unless it’ s Italian…I think you guys are going to love this new direction. Very homey foods, and some very surprising ones! If you are an avid cook, or you know one I would strongly suggest this book as a gift. It is so much more than just a cook book. It has so much interesting information and you can get it for a whopping $10 shipped on Amazon, which in my opinion is an exceptional deal!
In Helper, Utah we ate at a fantastic restaurant called Balance Rock Eatery & Pub, locally owned by a wonderful family man. He even came out and chatted us up while we enjoyed our meal, asking a lot of questions and filling us in on the local history. He also invited us to view the building, which was beautiful and incredibly historic, featuring beautiful local art and artists. Helper is also home to the Devil’s Gates, a rock formation which was recently modified to accommodate widening the highway through it.
In Vernal, Utah we visited the Dinosaur National Monument which is simply incredible. For kids, and dinosaur lovers alike, I strongly recommend this place. It is so incredibly surreal to see all these dinosaur fossils perfectly preserved in an approximately 50′ x 20′ high rock embankment. You can also view the rest of the park and see more live fossils, fossilized tracks of real dinosaurs, hieroglyphs, and an old cabin belonging to local residents. The whole thing is locked down like Fort Knox too, making it seem as though you’re entering into a modern day Jurassic Park. It’s truly incredible and comes highly recommended!
On our way to Kansas City, we needed a break so Travis pulled off the highway into Quinter, Kansas and we happened upon Ray’s Pharmacy & Q-store, one of the very few operating old fashioned soda stands in the US. When you walk in to the pharmacy, off to the right you’ll see the most beautiful 31′ soda bar that you have ever seen. All lovingly restored and brought back to life by Ray & his family. This is another spot that comes highly recommended by both of us. One old fashioned soda here and you’ll be wondering how you can ever go back to mass produced soda again!
Our trip was beautiful, wonderful, and so full of wild American beauty. Getting off the highway and enjoying some of these hidden gems is the very best part of our journey. We truly feel that we’ve seen some of the most beautiful parts of America, parts many people will never see, just by exploring off the beaten path. I urge you to try it the next time you’re on vacation, or planning one. Sure, it’s great to go to sandy beaches with hot temperatures and blue, blue oceans and seas, or to travel abroad…but there is something to be said about traveling your own country and learning about the beauty that makes up our little slice of home.
(To view reviews on this trip, please visit my Trip Advisor account where you can read all my reviews on this trip and many others, including local restaurants.)