Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I've moved!

I have used Blogger since the beginning of my blogging existence. To this day, it shows that I have no subscribers. I know this to be completely untrue as I made Robby and my BFF, Lindsey, join. If you are a subscriber that I don't know about, I hope you will continue following me on my new blog site @ Thegravelroadinguru.com. Same content topics (mostly Missouri travel)with a whole new look. Thanks, Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Travel Blog in the Making: My One Year Blogging Anniversary

One year ago today (well, not really today but it was a day around this time and that's good enough for me), I was suffering from the insomnia of a shift worker. A typical night really. On these nights I daydream, catch up on the latest gossip on Facebook, and sharpen my skills at Bejeweled. On one of these nights, I lay there thinking. Thinking about hobbies that I'd like to pursue more. Saddened by my lack of time in doing those, since I was a new mom.

All of a sudden it hit me. A way to bring many of my hobbies together in harmonious matrimony. A reason to keep "messing" with my hobbies. A reason for Robby to continue letting me "mess" with my hobbies.

Blogging. I knew little about it really. A gal I had went to high school with had just introduced Facebook to her blog (camillestyles.com-quite brilliant really) and boy, was I intrigued. Here's a medium to tell the world anything you want to tell them. I had so many stories already brewing in my mind, ready to spill to the willing of ear.

All our backroads travel stories. Before the days of parenthood, Robby and I spent so many lazy days roaming back country roads of Missouri, anxious to find a hidden gem of a place. And we did find them. And I know there's still so much exploring to do.

That's how The Gravel-Roadin' Guru came to be. This gives me reason to continue to get out and explore, sharpen my photography eye, and brag on my beautiful baby girl (who, by the way, is not a baby anymore but I will refer to her as such for many years to come).

Oh my. I just can't get enough of this face!
It was really discouraging at first. I wrote and wrote and wrote and for weeks (months, really) I think the only people who read what I wrote was Robby (and no, not just because I made him either) and my best friend, Lindsey. It was hard to keep my head up and difficult to see that the things I say really might matter to somebody someday.

About a month into all this shenanigans, I realized I was going about things all wrong. I had been telling my stories but leaving out little in regards to myself and my personal life. After getting addicted to some other, very wonderful travel blogs, it dawned on me that I was missing the whole point. People have blogs because they want to talk about themselves. And people become blog subscribers because they want to hear about others lives.

I made an initial goal to make it to six months and if I was still into it, I would upgrade my blog to something with a better format than my free blogspot (not to dog blogspot because they are free, but the site just isn't any sort of eye candy).

I hang my head a little in shame that when it got to six months, I had fallen off the blogger wagon. It wasn't that I had tired of it but I was having trouble finding the time and material on which to write about. Robby and I bought a house last summer that needed quite a bit of fixer-uppering (thanks to my hubby, The Handyman!!) and this consumed soooooooooooooooooooo much of our "free" time. Robby spent nearly every single weekend at that house from June until February. Quite a few weekends, I was found there too, paintbrush in hand and paint from head to toe. Seriously. I am the messiest painter. I couldn't leave the house without paint in my hair. It was ridiculous.

So, we've finished that project as of February and my blog-fire has been rekindled. I've been writing again. Robby, myself, and Olivia have been getting out and about more. Leaving me with much more to write as of late.

I'm pleased to announce that now, my one year anniversary, I am upgrading (finally!) to that fancy new site. It's in the works right now. My logo should be on the design table (thanks, Trisha!) and I'm working on my new platform. I'm hoping this year to be bigger and better with more content than last year. My focus remains on inspiring travel and exploration for people of all ages, with tales of travel mostly in Missouri but around the entire US (as I do take regular vacations and love to dish about those trips too).

I still try to keep my head up. I do, on occasion, get discouraged by other travel bloggers. My favorite travel gal, Geraldine, from everywhereist.com is always on the move. Within the last several months she's been to Australia and South Africa and Lord knows how many other fantastic locales! I mean, how can I compete with such awesomeness? Kristin of camelsandchocolate.com is getting ready to launch on her 55 day cruise excursion and writes travel pieces for Southern Living (seriously, my super duper dream job!). Yep, no competition. None. Zilch.

During those times where I look at all the things others are doing in their lives, and feeling a little blue about how insignificant mine feels, I pull myself back to reality. I know I have to have a job and Robby has to have a job. I don't know exactly how others do it but we need money to live on. Of course, I have Baby O so I don't have the luxury of spurting off at the drop of my flower-brimmed hat to have a weekend away.

Which is all fine. In the grand-scheme of life, I just have to give my all at all I do and hope that at the end of the day, I've done what God has planned for me to. Would I rather be a travel writer, scoping the globe for the world's best travel find? Absolutely. However, I spent years becoming a trained ER nurse, a pretty good one, I think, and that's what I'll be doing for some time, I'm sure.

Hard at work as usual.
 I am also a wife to one of the best catches an awesome gal like me could land.

Check out that handsome dish, would ya?
 And of course a mother to whom I think is the most beautiful baby girl around.

But, underneath it all, I am Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru.

Sarcasm at it's best. This was sent to my friend, Andrew, after he sent me a pic of him standing, thumbs up, on the beach in Cali
 Here's some of my favorite travel blogs that have lead to laughing, inspiration, and jealousy:


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Old Brick House Deli: A Jefferson City Tradition

In the middle of this dreary day off work (yes, I still have that stinkin' day job), I put aside the cleaning and laundry (it was so hard to do too, I tell ya) to go have lunch with my mom.

On the days that I'm not out making the money, I'm at home with Baby O. That being said, those Mommies out there already know that I don't get out for lunch much. Who wants to juggle a cranky tot while you're trying to relax and enjoy a nice lunch?

Most days, not me. Today, however, I knew Mom would be in town and so I invited her out for lunch. I had the choice of restaurants and trying to steer clear from the chains such as Applebee's and Longhorn's, I picked The Old Brick House Deli.

Located just off Edgewood Dr (right down the street from the massive JCMG building), this deli-ry is housed in......wait for it..... an old brick house.

It's a cute house. Nothing special about it really. But it seems to be a Jeff City tradition. They're only open during the week which is a bummer but they are open for both breakfast and lunch.

Years ago I frequently visited the deli for lunch. I haven't been there in probably 7 years but it hadn't changed. The order line was long but service is quick so we had our food and a seat within 10 minutes.

Mom had the house salad and sandwich. The salad was delish. I actually finished off half of that for her. I had the chicken salad sandwich with chili. The chili was pretty good although nothing to blow your mind away but the sandwich was really quite tasty.

I've told you before and I'll tell you again that I'm an atmosphere kind of gal and this place has what I like. It's "cute", quaint, pretty quiet, and different from the rest.

They "had me at hello" when I was ordering and they asked if I would like a plate of cheese and crackers for Olivia. Seriously? No restaurant has ever bothered to try and accomodate Baby O. Kudos to you Brick House Deli!

There's also a patio out back for those warm, beautiful days that are hopefully coming soon!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Claysville Store: "Claysville, MO"

This past weekend, the Hubbs, Olivia, and I made good use of such a beautiful day and went biking along the Katy Trail. I had so many things that needed to be done around the house but who can do chores when we had a 70 degree, sunshiny day after the months of dreary, miserable, Missouri winter weather!

We set off from the Jefferson City trailhead. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a town called Claysville. No. No. No. Scratch that. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a place called Claysville. Wait. That's not right either. Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, there is a place that used to be a town called Claysville. Now, there's just a restaurant that they call a store. Claysville Store to be exact.

It's not much to look at from the outside. But lest we forget, looks can be deceiving. It's actually a quaint and clean little restaurant inside. Hardwood floors and murals on the walls. But we opted to sit outside and soak up every last ray of sunshine we could get.

Between Jefferson City and Hartsburg, just off of Highway 63, there is a road called Claysville Rd. Surprising, I know, but this is the road to take to get to this little hidden gem.

Hidden gem, you say? Well, apparently so. When we got there, it was pretty late in the afternoon. Store staff asked if we had reservations. I thought they must be joking but actually they were quite serious. It seems that the store is so popular with the locals that reservations must be made for their lunch service.

And their fried chicken did smell pretty good. Really good actually. I think Robby's mouth was salivating as we were talking about it. There was a plaque on the wall giving them accalaides for the "best fried chicken" by Rural Missouri. That's good for something right?

We steered clear of the chicken but did indulge in some good southern sweet tea, served from a mason jar of course (Robby's fav) and dessert (my fav).

I had the cheesecake. I love cheesecake. In any form it's made. I. will. eat. it. all. Mmmm.....

Hubbs had the ice cream with chocolate sauce.

And of course Olivia Grace had some of it all!

So, if you're going to stop in for lunch, make sure you've made your reservations. If you get there later in the afternoon, you'll find some of the older folks still milling about, but there's plenty of room for you too.

Their list of desserts went something like this: blackberry cobbler, peach cobbler, banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, banana chocolate cream pie, ice cream, cheesecake, and cherry cheesecake.

And let's get real, folks. If you can't find a dessert on that list you don't like.......Well, you draw your own conclusions.

It's a cute little place to stop by for lunch or dessert. They're only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

But remember when I warned you about the exterior?

It's a little like Deliverance. But don't let that scare you off.

I'm hoping you got to enjoy the outdoors as well. Tell me, what did you and yours do this weekend?

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Monday, April 1, 2013

Unknown Landmark: Missouri Route K outside of Hermann, MO

Roadtrips. That's where this whole thing started. Gravel-roadin' and hitting the roads. I can't remember exactly when I started or exactly why I fell in love but over the years, I've enjoyed more gravel-roadin' adventures than I can remember.

Several years back, I was in a funk. I had just went through a break up and felt a little blue. One Saturday morning, I was showering and had an overwhelming urge to just get out.

I hopped in my car, ready for some high quality alone time. There was nothing on the agenda. No map in the car. Simply me and the roads.

I have always enjoyed Hermann and headed down that direction. The beauty in the river, the majesty in the hills, it all hits me in just the right place. Somewhere along the trip, I ended up traveling along Missouri Route K, located just off Highway 19 just north of Hermann.

I came across the most amazing building set back in a field just off Route K.

Not what you were expecting?

There's something you should know about me. I'm fascinated with old buildings. Old, dilapitated, worn down, withered away buildings. There's so much history and so many stories hidden in walls just like these. Old houses strike me with intrigue.

In fact, I was so amazed by this old structure that years later, I drove Robby right back here so he could take it all in too. He's a bit of an old house nerd-o like me!

I can't figure out what this particular building is. It's obviously old. It looks kind of like a house but to me, it seems, it's a pretty fancy setup for a house that old. Generally speaking, houses of this era were simple and square. It doesn't look like a church either. Hmmm.....

If you know what it is, have seen it before, or know who I can go to and figure out this puzzle I've been pondering all these years, let me know.

I would have liked to take a closer look but the "No Trespassing" signs made me think better of it.

Enjoy your week everyone!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Friday, March 29, 2013

Royal Gorge, Colorado

The same day we toured the craziness of Bishop's Castle, we also drove up to Royal Gorge. They're about an hour drive away from each other so it's really doable to push these two into the same day.

Winter is apparently not the "in-season" for Royal Gorge but it was still a great site to see. And we didn't have to fight many other tourists either. We didn't get there until late into the afternoon because we had been trodging around Bishop's Castle most of the morning. Unfortunately for us, things were already closing down for the day.

We took the ride (it's not really a ride but I can't think of the dern name of it) down the mountainside to the bottom of the Gorge, which has the river running through it. My sister says they did a white water rafting adventure when they first moved to Colorado several years ago. Apparently it was a good time so you should check it out if you go during the summer.

My beautiful sis and niece, JoJo and Rachel

As we were going down, I tried to yodel the miner's yodel from Price Is Right. No one got my joke.

The sun is just about to set over the mountains
So, you take this ride (once again, my memory fades as to what the heck they call it) down the mountain so you're just alongside the river. It's a beautiful view. But, they only give you 3 minutes down there! For goodness sake, I can't create a memory in 3 minutes people! That was a little irritating. Especially since we took the last ride down so there was no time for dilly dally. Annoying, Royal Gorge people. Flat annoying.

Once we got back to the top, we walked across the massive bridge. You can drive across it too, which I would really recommend if you go in the winter. It takes a lot longer to drive across than it looks.

I cannot believe Robby actually had the guts to walk out there. He is so terrified of heights.

View from the top
My clan
No doubt she's the cutest toddler to cross the Gorge. Of all time!
There are crazy people who have jumped from this bridge. This ridiculously high bridge. No. Thank. You.

The view travels farther than the eye can see
I have never been to the Grand Canyon but I imagine this is Colorado's version. Winter or summer, I'm sure they both offer beauty to see. It's a kid-friendly place. Olivia was fine traveling in her stroller across the bridge and she did fine when we held her to ride that thing (again, no memory) down the mountain. Go earlier in the day because you'll have more services than we had available to us. I think it was 20 some dollars per person. I can't exactly remember but it may have been 30 some too. Either way, I thought it was a little pricey.

The things you do for site-seeing.

Enjoy your weekend!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Float Trips & Camping ~MO River Style~

I'm not finished telling you about my Colorado vacation. I still have things to cover like skiing atop the most gorgeous mountain and of course, driving through the arm pit of the US. AKA: Kansas. Ugh.
But today my Missouri friends, I am going to divulge some Missouri stuff. Float trips and camping. What's more Missouri than that?

The float trip I'm going to tell you about is not the kind you are thinking of. You know, the Current River (or Bennett Springs or Meramac, whichever region you're in), drinking all day, jello shots, TONS of rafts and canoes that are all just floating lifelessly by mid-afternoon.

No, no. Now, I've been on my fair share of those but the float trip we went on last summer was one of the more laid back style. Robby and I had just bought our pontoon. My friend, Danielle, and her boyfriend, Matt, came along on their fishing boat (it's a bit of a stretch to say just "fishing boat". Matt's boat is fairly massive for a "fishing boat"), two other couples, Lindsey & Jon, Amber & Jesse came along too.

We met up at the Mokane River Access to the Missouri. If you've never put in here, know that it can sometimes be a little tricky. The annual juggin' tournament had just finished so fisherman were still lingering about telling all the tales of the morning. Matt & Danielle (well, Matt really) won 1st place so kudos to him. He was in fish-heaven all day.

We set out with no real plan. Our boat was completely loaded down with coolers galore, tents, fold-up chairs, bags, and probably tons of crap that we really didn't need but I have some friends who tend to come overprepared. Ahem. Amber.....

Anyways, I don't know what I had in mind. Our plans had changed to camping on the riverbank, to this, and then back to something else.

What we ended up with was perfect. We floated and boated (Haha. I'm a poet and didn't know it!) all afternoon. Drinking cold brewskies and soaking up the intense Missouri summer sun. We talked and laughed. We listened to music. We laid there. And did nothing. For hours. And it was great.

I adore these gals! Besties for the longest time.

 Being a parent is the most wonderful thing God ever did for my life but it's also the most stressful. I hate being away from Olivia but it's also good for my soul. It's good to just go be "Amanda" and listen completely and just be. I enjoyed this trip so much that I'm certain we're going to have to go again this year.

We actually went towards the end of summer, with Autumn on the horizon and the leaves were beginning to turn. This is one of the most beautiful times to spend on the rivers. The bluffsides are blazing with all the bright colors of this time. Robby has always said that when he lived on the Osage River, the fall was always the best.

Heaven, I tell ya. Pure Heaven.
 The river was so low last year that there were plenty of sandbars to choose from. This one was just perfect as it was kind of blocked off from the main waterway of the Missouri.

Do not judge. I promise we picked it all up. Promise.

Setting up shop. I mean, camp. Setting up camp.

Like the 30 year olds that we are, we all passed out at a reasonable time and were up at a reasonable time. The perfect time to enjoy the stillness of the water and air. The time before life begins. We made breakfast. We sat there, none of us in a hurry to get back to "regular life".

As much as our boat needs a full river, I did so enjoy having this huge sandbar all to ourselves. I'm hoping to have another such trip this coming year. As these winter days drag on and on (yeah, nothing but 20s and 30s for the next week!), I keep these thoughts in my soul and dream of the warmer days to come.

What was your best float trip? What are you looking forward to this summer?

Keep your chin up, folks. Spring is here and the winter days will be gone before we know it! (That's what Robby keeps reassuring me anyway)