A weekend in St. Louis/Kansas City - Jan. 14-17, 2010

Visiting Santa Claus, IN; St. Louis and Kansas City

by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz


January 14, 2010: ROAD TRIP!!  After quite a hiatus on road trips, I finally took one.  Now that I am working for iHigh.com I do have occasion to take a trip or two for support.  In this instance I was to travel to Kirkwood High School in St. Louis to Live Stream a basketball tournament on January 15, and then travel to Kansas City to Live Stream a large wrestling tournament at Center High School.  Naturally, along the way both there and back I made some side trips, as is always my custom, but in this case I did not veer too far off the beaten path.

Lexington, KY to Santa Claus, IN then St. Louis then Kansas City and back via Liberty, Independence and Lexington, MO


My first stop along the way was in Santa Claus, Indiana.  Yes, there really is a Santa Claus, Indiana and I believe it is the only town named Santa Claus anywhere.  According to the Wikipedia article about Santa Claus, the town was established in 1854. In 1856, when the town (then known as Santa Fe, pronounced "fee") was working to establish a Post Office, the US Postal Service refused their first application as there was already another Santa Fe, Indiana. Several town meetings were held, during which the name Santa Claus was selected.  Currently the town claims to have the world’s only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus.




Santa Claus is a small town, but does have an amusement park a unique shopping center and Santa Claus statues everywhere. 


A few scenes from Santa Claus, IN



Santa Claus Town Hall and the unique benches in front of town hall


Unique shops abound....an old Santa statue on a hill (highest point in town)...the roller coaster at Holiday World


There is even a large Frosty the Snowman statue in town


After filling my eyes with Santa Claus and filling the car's tank with fuel, I was back on I-64 heading west to St. Louis.  The drive was fairly uneventful.  I had to be at Kirkwood High School in time for an evening basketball game which was part of the Denver Miller Tournament, in honor of the former Kirkwood basketball coach.  the funny part of the story is that one of my college roommates from BYU back in 1978 had graduated from here and also had been a kicker.  I searched the high school for any sign of Ray Heyman's name and actually found it on a plaque of football lettermen from 1973.  Ray is now an attorney in Arizona and doing very well.


After the game, I headed off to the hotel for the night.


January 15, 2010: I was up early the next morning to head to St. Louis to meet one of my friends who had moved from Lexington.  We headed out to a diner in St. Louis known as Goody Goody Diner. As with all other adventures I take, I look for interesting locations to chow down and this one was a doozy!!  Located on Natural Bridge Rd., it appears to be in the industrial part of town.  The Diner has been around since 1948 and has gone through numerous hands.  It is purportedly in the same location as the original A & W Root Beer stand in St. Louis, which was opened in 1931. The A & W had car hops and the tradition continued with Goody Goody diner until the early 1970s. Currently the diner is owned by Richard and Laura Connelly. Richard's father purchased the diner in 1954 and it has been in the family ever since.



Richard Connelly, owner of Goody Goody


The diner has typical diner fare, but they also have their own specialties.  They are famous for their "Wilbur" omelet,  which is filled with hash brown
potatoes, green pepper, onion and tomato. Then it is covered with chili and Cheddar cheese.  It also comes with sides...I ordered the grits and an English muffin.  The omelet was FABULOUS and really not too costly either.  My friend Steve tried the fried chicken and waffles. That looked pretty good as well.



A "Wilbur" breakfast as well as fried chicken and waffles



The "Wilbur" is sure to bring a smile.  Enjoy it one of the original diner seats.



Not sure where it got the name, but the atmosphere and food were both deserving of the name Goody Goody!!



In my continuing quest for murals and wall art, I saw these two pieces on the same wall on a building next door to Goody Goody's


After a good meal and some time with Steve, I was back on my way Kirkwood for another game.  Along the way I visited the quaint town of Kirkwood and drove the Laumeier Sculpture Park which had some large art.  It was a pleasant diversion. The Laumeier Park was established in 1972 and over the years has grown to over 105 acres.  It was one of just a few open air art museums in the world.  I took numerous photos of the art work.  Following are just a few samples. There is a map of the entire outdoor park/museum here.




L-R: Ernest Trova - Profile Canto VI, 1974; Armand P. Arman - La Libellule, 1996; Mark di Suvero - Tumbleweed, 1978-95



L-R: Anthony Caro - Java, 1976; Mark di Suvero - Destino, 2003;  Bro. Mel Meyer - Chairs, 1996 (located downtown Kirkwood)


After the little drive I then went and videoed the basketball games and then drove most of the evening to Kansas City, arriving there shortly after midnight.


January 16, 2010: It was another early day for me...to bed at 1 AM and up at 6 AM.  This entire day would be spent at Center High School in Kansas City to coordinate and manage live streaming a 16 team wrestling tournament on 6 mats.  We would be trying something not done before by iHigh...basically run 6 Live Streams from one location simultaneously for nearly 9 hours.  After we got all set up and cleared up a few glitches, we were rolling.  Center HS had provided some football players to assist in manning the cameras.  Athletic Director Brad Sweeten worked with me most of the day in the coordination and monitoring.  It was a great success.  We had some great stories, like the father in Afghanistan who got to watch or the grandfather in Ohio who saw his grandson wrestle (and win the championship in his weight class) for the first time ever.  This is why I love my job!!  Click on the widget below for more from Center HS.

After the tournament was over, Coach Sweeten and I headed to a local restaurant to enjoy what Kansas City is famous for...Barbecue.  It was great and so was the company.  Finally, by 11 PM I was back in bed at the hotel. The next day would be an early departure to head back home via a few more places.


January 17, 2010: I would head back home to Lexington today, but once again would hit a few back roads and catch a few more bits of America as I like to see it.  My first stop was heading north into Kansas City for a drive by the art museums there.  Like St. Louis, there is some interesting out door artwork...more specifically giant shuttlecocks (or badminton birdies).  In July 1994, Shuttlecocks, the first outdoor sculpture commissioned for the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, was installed in the Kansas City Sculpture Park, which is part of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The shuttlecocks were created by internationally known Dutch artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and were a  gift to the Museum.  Altogether there are four shuttlecocks, each 17 ft. 11 in. high x 15 ft. 1 in. crown diameter and 4 ft. nose diameter, located in different positions on the grounds of the museum. Oldenburg and van Bruggen have done all sorts of large and whimsical works around the world.  I sure hope to see more in the future!!



"Shuttlecocks" by Claes Oldenburg & Cossje van Bruggen at Kansas City Sculpture Park


There were a number of other interesting works of art surrounding the old and new sections of the art museum.  I did not venture in as it was still fairly early on a Sunday morning, but I did see a couple more interesting pieces.  The first of the pieces to catch anyone's eye is the gigantic "Spider" sculpture by French artist Louis Bourgeois. This eerie bronze sculpture was built in 1996 and sits at the entrance of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.  It stands over 11 feet tall and really is spooky.



Two views of "Spider" by Louis Bourgeois at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City


Another interesting sculpture at Kemper

(name and artist unknown)


After seeing just a few of the works of art at the sculpture parks in St. Louis and Kansas City, I am determined to get to others in the U.S. on my travels in the future.  I hope to see the Franconica Sculpture Park in Franconica, MN and the Porter Sculpture Park near Montrose, SD, among others.


After the interesting venture into art, I headed north to Independence, MO, site of some Mormon Church History.  Along the way I came across the somewhat famous and unique Leila's Hair Museum.  I have seen this place noted in Roadside America and also on Ripley's Believe It or Not. Well, I found the place, but it is closed on Sundays.  The only sign is the one below...it was in a plastic folder taped on the door.


Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, MO


Also on my drive thru Independence I came across this all painting.  Independence is the home of President Harry Truman and this wall painting depicts the famous Chicago Tribune article that mistakenly proclaimed that Dewey had defeated Truman.  The mural sits on the side of the Welch, Martin and Albano law office in downtown Independence.




From Independence I then drove to Liberty, MO.  My main objective there was to see the Liberty Jail Historic Site, where Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was held.  Unfortunately, I pulled into Liberty at 8:30 AM and the Visitor's Center didn't open until 9, so I didn't get the chance to go in.  But, it was nice to finally get there.  Joseph Smith spent almost 5 months in this jail while awaiting trial and received three revelations (Sections 121, 122 and 123) which are included in the Church's Doctrine and CovenantsOne of the scriptures has always been inspirational to me: in D&C 121:7-8 ". . . if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."  Joseph Smith suffered some tortuous times in his life and this was definitely one of them.



Not too far from the Liberty Jail are some interesting murals on the Clay County Offices. On one corner is a painting that appears to depict Lewis and Clark.  Then there are some unique ceramic murals that adorn the walls of the office building. Each ceramic mural, originally installed in 1984, depicts figures and events from Clay County's past.



Lewis & Clark Mural painted by Liberty artist David McClain

Located on the side of the Clay County Detention Center




These are some of the ten ceramic murals on the wall of the Clay County Public Safety Building in Liberty, MO.  They depict the history of the county.

On the left is "Scales and Rails" which depicts the Watkins Mill of 1860, Cook Paint & Varnish in 1913,

Ralston Purina in the 1940s, Claycomo Ford Assembly Plant in 1951, and the A.S.B. Bridge built in 1912.

On the right is the Clay Country War Memorial which shows the white doves of Anguish (on the left) and Serenity (on the right).

Flanked by the white doves, soldiers from Missouri in all the great wars remind us of the price freedom requires -- death.

As the North gestures to the South, the sallow image of Col. Alexander Doniphan and his entourage march into history.



These are closeups of some portions of the ceramic murals that depict many of the former residents of Clay County


After the visit to Liberty, my next stop was in Lexington, Missouri, famed for the Civil War Battle of Lexington.  I drove by the visitor's center but did not have time to go in.  That'll have to be on another trip.



Battle of Lexington Visitor's Center and Plaque commemorating the battle

Click here for a brief of history of this battle


The town of Lexington had a few other notable things, including a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.



An eagle was the centerpiece of a war heroes monument while lady Liberty stood watch in downtown Lexington



A mural found in Lexington, MO depicting the some of the history of this river town


Perhaps the most delightful thing about driving the less beaten paths of America are the rustic and natural sites along the way.  As we speed by on the freeways we miss so much.  Here are just a few of the things I saw along the way home from Lexington, MO to Lexington, KY.



Some of the natural scenes along the way.  Most of Missouri was quite foggy this January day, so the scenery had a different feel.

The large tree in the middle has to be one of my all-time favorite shots.  It was a lucky sight with the old truck below it.

The tree clinging to life on an eroded hill was also an eye catching site.



Along the way on back roads we see the history of this country.  From Maid-Rite Sandwiches to old forgotten houses.

Maid-Rite sandwiches are "Loose Meat" sandwiches.  I would have tried one, but this shop was closed for the day.


And finally, along the road I came across a flock of Flamingoes.  As a true Trailer Park Troubadour Flamingohead, I could not pass up the opportunity to capture a few shots of this silly pink birds at what appeared to be a Biker Joint.



This is a biker bar and grill located in Fayette, MO.  They claim to have good food (unlike a Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana)

Some roadside guidance provided by......


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