Tag Archives: American Mid-West Travel Series

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 17

26 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

Day 17 (Monday)

I had left a wakeup call, with the motel desk clerk, for 6:00 AM, but was awakened at 5:53 AM by the loud slamming of a door across the hall. I got up and shaved, showered, dressed and had a cup of yogurt, when at 7:05 the phone rang with my wakeup call. Good thing I wasn’t on a tight time schedule!

 

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I finished packing and was ready to leave the motel, for the airport, by 8:15 AM. I had made a test run to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport the night before, so I wouldn’t fall for one of Greta’s wild goose chases this morning, and possibly miss my flight. The morning traffic wasn’t too bad, and the trip was uneventful. I didn’t want to have to roll my suitcase that long distance from the Thrifty Rental Car return to the main airport lobby, so I stopped on the “Departures” ramp long enough to use the Southwest Airlines curbside check-in (nothing like the mess I had to endure at the Orlando airport on the day I left on this trip).

 

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All went well and I was on my way to return my rental car. Rental car return was a breeze and I even got a courtesy ride from the rental car building to the main airport lobby.

 

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I had checked-in for my flight online the night before, and had printed my boarding pass, so I didn’t have to check in at the Southwest ticket counter. I stopped and had another cup of Yogurt and an apple before going through security. I couldn’t believe how easy and quick the security check was! I arrived at my departure gate at 9:15 AM.

 

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Boarding for my flight to Orlando began at 9:45 AM and we were pushing back from the gate, right on time, at 10:10 AM. The one hour and 20 minute Southwest non-stopped flight, from New Orleans to Orlando, went very quickly and very smoothly until we approached Orlando International Airport, at which time the cloud cover caused considerable turbulence until just before we landed.

 

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DiVoran picked me up and we headed for SR-436 to find a place for lunch. As luck would have it, we spotted a Panera’s Bread restaurant and enjoyed a great lunch while we caught up on what we each had missed during the last 17 days.

It sure was good to get home and have time to take a nap for a change. I missed a lot of those on this trip and will have to get caught up on my rest before I think about considering another trip anytime soon. Hope you enjoyed this trip as much as I did. See you next time for my next road trip adventure.

 

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—–The End—–

 

 

 

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 16

19 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

Day 16 (Sunday)

 

I began the day with a nice drive west on I-10 from Mobile to Gulfport, Mississippi. Since it was Sunday, I didn’t expect any of the museums to be open, and most of them were not. But I wanted to take a look at their locations anyway. My first stop was to check out the Busted Wrench Garage & Museum there at Gulfport. The building was closed and very small, and didn’t look big enough to house a lot of cars. But, when I Googled the museum, I was surprised to see photos of a nice collection of beautifully restored cars that I missed.

 

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Just down the road a ways was my next stop at the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum. Here again the museum was closed, and the building was not very large.   I could see through the window that they had a good sized model railroad layout, but not much room for anything else.

 

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Next I drove a sort distance south of I-10 to check out the Gulfport Dragway strip. The fellow attending the entrance gate informed me that they had drag races on Wednesdays only, and no other races were scheduled for today. That made three closed attractions in a row so far today.

 

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As part of the planning for this trip I had contacted my son about the possibility of meeting my granddaughter in Gulfport for lunch. Lacey is attending college in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, about 65 Miles north of Gulfport, and this would provide the perfect opportunity for us to meet and spend some time together. As it turned out, she was able to meet with me and we had a delightful lunch at Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach Restaurant on U.S. 90 overlooking the beach.

 

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After lunch I took some time to drive around the beautiful Gulfport Marina, and took some pictures. There was a large ship tied up at the Gulfport docks, which looked like it might have been a cable-laying ship. I had never seen anything like it, and couldn’t figure out how it might work.

 

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Then I headed west again on I-10 for New Orleans, LA. I tried the Cars of Yesteryear’s Museum in Metairie Louisiana, but here again they were closed.

 

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Next I took on the 24 mile long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from New Orleans to Madisonville. My objective was to visit the Lake Pontchartrain Maritime Museum.  This was a very nice museum filled with a large verity of local historical memorabilia.

 

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Of course, there was also a considerable amount of information about the Civil War. This included a replica of the 2-man Confederate submarine CSS Pioneer (1861), which was a predecessor to the famous Confederate Civil War submarine, the CSS H. L. Hunley (1864). I had never heard of the CSS Pioneer and was surprised to discover that during initial sea trials, it sank with the loss of the crew of 2. After being raised and refitted for more sea trials, it was scuttled, for fear of capture, when the Union Army advanced on New Orleans in April of 1862.

 

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More well-known is the Confederate Civil War submarine CSS H. L. Hunley, which was even more deadly than the Pioneer. During the sea trials of the Hunley, it sank on two different occasions, with the loss of the entire crew of 8 both times. Each time the submarine was raised, improved and refitted for more sea trials. Then finally, in February of 1864, when the Hunley was successfully used to attack and sink the Union ship USS Housatonic, it became the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship during wartime. Unfortunately, the Hunley was lost, on that sorte the final time, taking all 8 crew members to their death, including the inventor Horace L. Hunley. Interestingly, I saw a full-scale replica of the CSS H. L. Hunley when I visited the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL just yesterday.

 

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As I was leaving Madisonville I noticed a complex of unusual condos over-looking a small bay and marina. The owners had their living quarters on the second floor and underneath each condo was a protected slip for their private boat moorings. How convenient.

 

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Driving North from Madisonville, back across that 24 mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, seemed to take a lot longer than it did going south. I was curious about the construction of the causeway and found the following details on Wikipedia. The two, 2-lane bridges that make up the Causeway qualify it, in the Guinness World Records, as the longest “continuous” bridge over water in the world, at 23.83 miles long. The two spans were built between 1955-1956 & 1967-1969, and the two causeway bridges are supported on 9,500 concrete pilings, and 40,000 cars cross the Causeway daily.

 

 

By the time I got to the motel, I was ready to relax and have some supper. I had enough of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza left over from last night to satisfy me. Then I had a cup of Blueberry yogurt for dessert. That did the trick for my hunger, and I headed to the motel’s computer to check-in for tomorrow’s flight home.

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

My 2016 Mid-West Trip Part 15

12 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Day 15 (Saturday)

 

It was a beautiful fall morning as I left Montgomery and headed south on I-65 for Mobile, Alabama.  My first stop was to visit the Foley Railroad Station Museum located just north of Oyster Bay in Foley, Alabama. This was a small museum with early Railroad memorabilia and a nicely restored collection of rolling stock.

 

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In a separate building they had a large model railroad layout that fascinated adults and children alike. A High Point for many of the children was the small scale train that the museum provided for rides around the museum property. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a young child that didn’t like to ride in a small scale train like that.

 

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Next I headed across Mobile Bay on I-10 to visit the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. This Memorial Park is made up of the battleship USS Alabama (BB-60), the submarine USS Drum (SS-228), a replica of the Civil War submarine H. L. Hunley, various types of Army, Navy & Air Force airplanes/vehicles, as well as an indoor aircraft pavilion. It’s a very nicely laid out attraction, but the outside display aircraft and vehicles need some help with protection from the elements. The aircraft in the aircraft pavilion are beautifully restored and very nicely displayed.

 

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Next I checked out the Fort Conde (4/5th scale reproduction) located in downtown Mobile. According to Wikipedia, Mobile and its Fort Conde (originally called Mobille & Fort Louis de la Mobille) were founded by the French in 1702, and actually located some 27 miles north of its present location. Then after heavy damage by the flooding Mobile River in 1711, the town and fort were relocated to their present location.

 

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Over the years (1702-1813) the region around Mobile was occupied by the French, British, Spanish, and finally the United States. There was a lot of construction going on around the fort, which made it difficult to access. I finally found a parking lot close enough that I could take a picture of the fort, but opted not to go inside today.

 

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Down the street and around the corner was the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center. There was a large group of Young mothers with their 2-4 year old children in hand, entering the center as I pulled up in front. I surmised, from the looks of things, that this was an “education day” for these kids and decided I did not want to share the experience with all that noise.

 

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Not far from the science center I visited the Mobile Carnival Museum. This was a new experience for me. Not being a fan of the Mardi Gras, I did not think this would be a very interesting museum. As it turned out, this was probably the high point of my day. I never knew that the annual Carnival Celebration (Mardi Gras) is celebrated pretty much worldwide, and I had never heard of it being a big deal anywhere in the United States, except for New Orleans. Do I lead a sheltered life or what?

 

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The Mardi Gras costumes, and history of the celebration, as explained to me by the museum tour guide, was astounding. The other fact that was hard for me to get my head around was that Mobile was the first city in the United States to celebrate Mardi Gras (1703). And all this time, to me, New Orleans (founded in 1718) was getting the credit for that. The tour guide also informed me that Mobile puts on about 35 Carnival type parades each year that draws an average of 1.5 million visitors. All this activity keeps an entire community industry busy, year around, designing and fabricating all the necessary costumes and floats. For an in-depth picture of the history of the Mobile Mardi Gras, I would suggest the book “Mardi Gras in Mobile “ by L. Craig Roberts, who just happened to be my tour guide today.

 

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Next I visited the Continental Classic Cars collection located in west Mobile, only to discover that it was a private collection. However the owner, Dennis, was in his office and was gracious enough to show me his collection of automobiles. They consisted mostly of beautifully restored 1950s-1970s muscle cars, and a few classic hot rods.

 

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When I told him I was disappointed not to be able to find more automobile museums in the Mobile area, he suggested I check out the Henderson Collection, which was not too far down the road. He said that Jim Henderson had a collection of over 100 beautifully restored cars, and that if I could catch him at his Mobile Lumber Company office, he might agree to give me a tour of his private collection. The lumber company office was closed and Greta and I tried diligently to find Mr. Henderson’s building, that houses his collection, but to no avail.

 

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So, I called it a day and headed for tonight’s motel for some rest. On the way to the motel I spotted a Taco Bell and stopped to feast on a Mexican Pizza and a Beefy Chedder Crunchwrap Slider. The Slider was OK but, the Mexican Pizza with lots of Verde sauce to spice things up was much better, in my opinion.

 

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

 

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 14

5 Oct

A Slice of LIfe

 Bill Lites

 

Day 14 (Friday)

 

Leaving the Birmingham area this morning I headed south on I-65 for Calera, Alabama to visit the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. I got there before they opened and it was obvious that it was a very small museum that could only house local railroad memorabilia. There were a couple of steam engines on display and some Pullman cars. Other than that, most of the rolling stock on the museum grounds was old and unkempt.

 

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Next on the list down the road was to check out the Airpark at the Maxwell Air Force Base, located just northwest of Montgomery, Alabama. The Internet had implied the Airpark was open to the public, but at the base visitor’s center I was informed it was not.

 

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So, I headed south again, around Montgomery, some 50 miles on U.S. 231 to visit the Pioneer Museum of Alabama located in Troy, Alabama. This was a nicely restored early Alabama farming community representation, consisting of several log structures. The memorabilia area inside the museum building had some very interesting early 19th century exhibits. The many outside community buildings included a log cabin, barn, grist mill, chicken house, church, and a general store.

 

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On the way back from Troy, I stopped by the Hyundai Manufacturing Facility, just south of Montgomery, to see if I could get a space on one of their guided tours. They said the tours were by reservation only, and they did not have any cancellations for the tours today. So I moved on toward Montgomery.

 

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I drove into downtown Montgomery to check out the Capital of Alabama. The capital building is a magnificent structure, as were several other government buildings, surrounding the central area around the capital building.

 

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Next I took another 40 mile side trip, west on U.S. 80 out of Montgomery, to Selma, Alabama to visit the Old Depot Museum. This famous route of the civil rights movement is dedicated to those who were at the forefront of that struggle.  Each of the four-day overnight stop locations, associated with that famous civil rights march, has dedicated historical markers on each side of the highway. The Old Depot Museum in Selma turned out to be located in an old restored railroad station. The museum itself was mainly a collection of very interesting memorabilia related to the history of the civil rights movement, and some early history of the city of Selma, Alabama.

 

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My trip to Troy and Selma doubled the number of miles I had expected to travel today, so by the time I got back to Montgomery I was getting hungry. After I located the motel and got checked in, I warmed up my leftover Longhorn Baby Back Ribs and sweet potatoe. I missed the garden salad, but the ribs and potatoe still made for a marvelous meal again tonight. Now it was time to relax and see if I could find anything good to watch on TV. No luck! So, I gave up and set to work recording today’s activities and prepared tomorrow’s list of museums.

 

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—–To Be Continued—–

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 13

28 Sep

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

 

Day 13 (Thursday)

 

As it turned out, I was disappointed to learn my friend, Terry, woke up with a sever crook in his neck and couldn’t go with me to the museums today. After breakfast I wished him a quick recovery, and headed out for Birmingham. My first stop today was to visit the Southern Museum of Flight located adjacent to the Birmingham-Suttlesworth International Airport. The museum’s collection of airplanes is located in a small exhibition hall (beautifully restored static displays) and outside static aircraft displays two blocks away.

 

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The outside displays are enclosed in a chain-link fence with no access. So, any pictures of the aircraft on display there have to be taken through the fence, which sometimes can make for a difficult process.

 

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I had tried to contact someone at the Old Car Heaven Museum in downtown Birmingham, but was unable to find out what their operating hours were. Greta took me to the correct address, but there were only two cars out front and the doors were locked. Just as I was getting ready to leave, this guy pulled up and went to enter the building. I asked him if I could take a look at the museum’s cars, and he told me to walk around to the back stairs and ask for the mechanic.

 

 

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The mechanic’s name was Tom, and he didn’t seem too happy to see me. After I told him I just wanted a quick look at the museum’s cars, he cooled down some. He walked me around the warehouse full of some 103 cars of all makes and models, in various stages of restoration. He informed me that he was the only mechanic, and was responsible for keeping all the cars running, and preparing the ones the boss wanted to display for any given event the restaurant/lounge sponsored. I told Tom I understood his frustration, when Fred (the guy from around front) let someone in without notifying him. He warmed up at that point, so I took some photos, and he told me all about some of the museum’s unique cars.

 

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Next on the list for today was a visit to the Baker Vintage Motorsports Museum located just east of Birmingham, off I-20 in Leeds, Alabama. This is a huge five-story museum complex housing somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 motorcycles, represented by over 200 manufactures from 20 countries, plus 100 race cars and automobiles. The museum building is laid out in such a manner that you can take an elevator to the fifth floor, and then slowly walk on a gradually sloping circular walkway, around the interior of the building, allowing you access to all of the motorcycles and vehicles on each floor as you slowly travel down.

 

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Each of the older motorcycles (beginning with many from the early 1900s) is perfectly restored, while many of the newer models look to be brand-new. This is an absolutely amazing display. In addition to the Vintage Motorsports Museum, the Barber Motorsports Park includes a world-class 16 turn 2.38 mile road course, and a vehicle proving ground which are both open to the public. If you are a motor sports fan, and ever get a chance to visit the Birmingham area, be sure to check out this museum and motorsports complex. You will be overwhelmed!

 

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I had planned to visit the Avondale Brewery, which was not far from the Old Car Heaven Museum there in Birmingham, but they did not open until 4 PM. While I was waiting for them to open, I Googled breweries in the area, and found that there were two others close.

 

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So, I went down the street a few blocks from there to see if I could get a tour of the Good People Brewery. They were open but informed me that they only gave tours of their brewery on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

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So, it was back to the Avondale Brewery to wait. I took a walk to stretch my legs, and down the block, I came across the Post Office Pies Restaurant.  The name intrigued me, so I stepped inside the door, only to find out that it was all about pizza pies, not dessert pies.

 

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At 4 o’clock I received my mini-tour of the Avondale Brewery. It consisted of two very small buildings and was a very quick tour. I commented to the tour guide/office manager how, as far as I could see, they had all the processing equipment that Budweiser had, and she said, “We would be a tiny speck on a sheet of paper compared to them!”

 

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On the way to the motel, I spotted the local Longhorn Steakhouse and stopped for another dose of my favorite meal of their baby back ribs, a sweet potato and a garden salad with ranch dressing. Then I headed for the motel to record today’s activities and prepare my list for tomorrow’s museum visits. So ends another great day of scenic travel and museum visits.

 

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—–To Be Continued—–

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 11

14 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

Day 11 (Tuesday)

 

I began the day by heading south, out of Nashville, on I-24 for my first stop, to visit to the Cannonsburgh Village located in Murfreesboro, TN. Now according to Wikipedia, Murfreesboro was named Cannonsburgh until 1811, when the name was changed by the state legislature. How’s that for a really great trivia question? This village is a nicely restored early 1800s Tennessee farming community. Most of the buildings are of log construction and were moved from their original locations to this site in 1976.

 

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Included in the village buildings are a log home, a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, a church, a town hall, a gristmill, and a working blacksmith’s shop. This village gives people a good idea of how an early farm community would have looked in the early 19th century Tennessee hill country.

 

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From Murfreesboro I headed south on U.S. 231, through Shelbyville and Fayetteville, and across the border into Alabama. My next stop was to visit the North Alabama Railroad Museum located in the northeast outskirts of Huntsville, AL. This museum was very small and looked like it probably consisted mostly of local railroad memorabilia. The sign out front and on the entrance gate said the museum was supposed to be open but, I got there around noon and, it was closed. I suppose they could have just locked up and gone to lunch.

 

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Down the road a ways was the next stop on my list for today at The Historic Huntsville Depot located in downtown Huntsville, Alabama.  The depot was constructed in 1860 and is the oldest railway passenger station in Alabama. It was the eastern division headquarters for the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, and serviced its last passenger train in 1968. As luck would have it, the museum was closed in preparation for an event that was to take place in and around the museum grounds during that coming weekend.

 

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Next on the list was the U.S. Space & Rocket Center also located on I-585 just east of downtown Huntsville. I had been to this museum once before but decided to go through it again to see if they had added anything new. It didn’t look like there were any new exhibits and many of the outdoor exhibits that had been pristine the last time I was there, were now weather-beaten and looking poorly. I find it very sad to see an organization as large as this NASA museum allowing their exhibits to deteriorate to such a degree. Especially after all the money they pull in from visitors from all over the world.

 

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Next I checked out the Veterans Memorial Park there in Huntsville. This was a beautifully sculptured park, with a couple of very nice statues representing our military, and their part in the ongoing fight for our freedom.

 

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I wanted to see if there was a museum associated with the Redstone Arsenal, which has been so instrumental in U.S. rocketry development. However, I was disappointed when I called the base to inquire, and was informed that there were no museums open to the public.

 

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Next I visited the Veterans Memorial Museum located around the corner from the Veterans Memorial Park. The signs for the museum were a little hard to follow but I finally located it. This museum is dedicated to all of the U.S. military services, and has restored Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine equipment. Like many small museums I have visited, this one was hoping to expand soon, so that they could display many more of the items in their collection to the public.

 

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Now it’s time to head for the motel, where I will warm up and enjoy leftovers of St. Louis ribs, turnip greens, and corn-on-the-cob. I even have a nice piece of Jack’s BBQ homemade cornbread and some butter and Strawberry jam to spread on it for dessert. Yumm again!

 

—–To Be Continued—–

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