Long Island Iced Teas, Ron and a little Dress Shop.

Dear 28,
It was time to vacate. Or at least skip out of Des Moines for awhile. Armed with Cheez-Its, a few planned stops and a stack of old mixtapes (ok they were actually CDs and most were made by Kate Palmer) Chelsea and I hit the road hoping the Focus (I'm working on #21) would make it the 715 miles to and from sunny Springfield, MO. Here's some of the trip highlights:
#1: Strouds. The greatest fried chicken I've ever tasted. And oh. The gravy.
#2: Osceola Cheese. There were hundreds of cheese samples. And a line of people (like a real line, running the length of the truck stop cheese shop) waiting to sink their toothpick into morel+leek cheese, goat's milk gouda, dill monterey jack or some other kind of block cheese as they move ever so slowly from the soft cheeses down to the beef sticks. We joined in (how could you not) but as much as we love cheeses, Osceola was a lot to take in. Bizarre. And apparently a landmark on the way to Springfield. We stopped twice. Seriously.
#3: Houlihan's at the fancy Double Tree Hotel. After finally getting to town and checking into Springfield's finest (thank you Hilton Honors) we decided a relaxed evening of taking in the city was just what we needed. So logically we hit the hotel bar patio. We sat in loungy deck chairs for hours, watching the people of Springfield walk across busy intersections, admired sketchy Route 66 motels (and pondered the illegal activity that could go on there), and sipped on fancy $1.50 Long Island Iced Teas. People of Springfield: we salute your happy hour pricing. The waiter suggested we go to the movies, or visit the Bass Pro Shop. I also wore, for the first and only time, my fancy Hawaii 5-0 Hill Vintage gown. It's a statement. 
#4: Downtown Springfield, MO. We visited the shops that were brave enough to be open on a Monday, which were few. The guy who owns 5 Pound Apparel told us all about his business model (for every one of their "branded" items they sell, they donated 5lbs of food-type goods to a charity: Nepal Nutrition.) He also talked to us about the city of Springfield, the many businesses that have failed to survive downtown and the opportunity there is in this somewhat-economically-depressed-community for young business owners. He suggested we hit the Bass Pro Shop.
We lunched at the darling creperie, The Aviary (where we accidentally sat next to a blog idol). We dined and wined at lunch sharing this salted caramel crepe that "tastes like a little bit of bliss."
#5: Elwood, MO and the man named Ron. We got a little lost driving around. In part because we were listening to John Mellencamp with the windows down and the heated breeze rushing into the Focus and we were feeling like the most American of ladies. But also because we didn't want to use the air conditioner or the GPS. We ended up in a town so small I can't even link to a map of it because Google Maps can't find it.
While we were snapping pics of ourselves in front of the Willard water tower (please note we were indeed in Elwood, not Willard. Ron confirmed this) we were whistled at by Ron, the owner of the ancient service station we'd parked in front of. Ron is a devout Christian, an avid hunter, a proud grandfather and a veteran. He talked water fowl hunting with Chelsea for nearly thirty minutes and called my eyes "blue" (fyi- they are not). His shop was filled with items covered in dust, t-shirts bleached by the sun, antique farming tools and taxidermically preserved hunting trophies. He taught us about what a good marriage needs, assured us that Chelsea and I would be lifelong friends and he too suggested we go to Bass Pro Shop. We count meeting Ron as a serendipitous highlight of our vacation. 

The man Ron.
#6: The (original) Bass Pro Shop. After every Springfield resident we spoke to suggested we visit, we caved and went to the place that appears to be like "Disneyland for hunters." We were in and out in less than 10 minutes.
#7: Farmers Gastropub and then to Nonna's. We had dinner. Twice. And once again: we thank the people of Springfield for their reasonably priced and delicious fare.
#9: Red Velvet Shop. Our final stop before heading north was the reason for our trip. Elsie writes a blog I love to read, and has a charming shop in an up-and-coming Springfield neighborhood.
We browsed the shop packed with vintage clothing, tried on dresses and visited with the sisters at Red Velvet. They were kind and helpful and even packed up a couple cake pops for the ride home.
The road trip was an adventure-- and I had the perfect sidekick. And although we enjoyed what Springfield showed us, Des Moines was a happy place to come home to.
xo- LP