Ecco Lounge: Jefferson City, MO

Several weeks ago, Robby and I were going through our weekend ritual of choosing a restaurant for our weekend family date. I greatly dislike chain restaurants, and with their being so many in Jefferson City, it seems we always have trouble deciding where to go.

This particular night, we decided to hit up Ecco Lounge since we haven’t been there since December.

Ecco Lounge has been around Jefferson City for years and years and years. It’s located at the corner of Dunklin and Jefferson St.

Just a little background

Just a little background

I’ve told you before that we are really big into atmosphere. You can serve me good food but if the atmosphere is blah, I’m not going to be real apt to return.

Ecco Lounge definitely has the atmosphere that we so crave when choosing a hot spot for dinner. The bar area has the feel of being stuck in the old days without actually being that dated. The lights are set on dim to give the feeling of being tucked away in the corner booth.



The place was pretty packed that night so we kind of got tossed toward the back. The back doesn’t provide as high quality atmosphere as this bar area here so try to squeeze in near here if you’re an atmosphere gal like myself.

The prices are reasonable and the menu offers a lot of options.






The Hubbs had the fried shrimp, which was super yummy.

See? We nearly had the entire plate devoured before I could even get a pic in.

See? We nearly had the entire plate devoured before I could even get a pic in.

I had the prime rib. It was less than desirable but I’m not a prime rib gal. I just wanted a steak.



We had both picked something off the menu to order, but when we placed our order, the waitress told us that their grill was down so all we could have are things that were fried or the prime rib. I was in the mood for steak so I had the prime rib. I was pretty disappointed in this, especially since they didn’t tell us about this upfront, but every other time I’ve been here, the food is delish so please don’t judge by this one bad trip.

The Ecco Lounge is a bar/restaurant and a totally acceptable place to take the little ones.

O sucked the ketchup off all of her fries.

O sucked the ketchup off all of her fries.


Hit me up with suggestions about restaurants to try out with great atmospheres!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru



I had the best weekend

It’s not too often that a weekend comes where I have no obligations to anyone but myself, the hubbs, and Sweet Baby O. This weekend just so happened to be one of them. I had the best time.

Friday, I took O to the Zoo for the very first time!

What a pretty kitty.

What a pretty kitty.

Yes, Mr. Orangutan, Olivia is the cutest.

Yes, Mr. Orangutan, Olivia is the cutest.


We took the boat out for it’s maiden voyage this year.

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good!

Letting my piggies soak up the sun.

Letting my piggies soak up the sun.


On Saturday night, we had a BBQ and Robby and the guys provided fire-side LIVE music.



Today, we went to YoYums in Downtown Jeff City for frozen yogurt. And yes, it was Yogurt Yummy!

Oh yogurt shop, why are we just now meeting?

Oh yogurt shop, why are we just now meeting?

Dutch chocolate and country vanilla swirled with tiny chocolate chips and m&ms. Delish.

Dutch chocolate and country vanilla swirled with tiny chocolate chips and m&ms. Delish.

And to top it all off, we took Olivia to a little creek near Hartsburg to cool off from this super hot, humid day.

That chilly creek water didn't bother O in the least!

That chilly creek water didn’t bother O in the least!

This is what I call quality family time.

This is what I call quality family time.





Just a touch of Key West


I have had Key West on my mind lately. With all the horrible weather Missouri keeps throwing at us, I find myself daydreaming about one of my favorite spots in America.


I get moody when the weather is cold and dreary. Just like it’s been most of this year. We continue to get little teasers of what is to come, yet the sunshine hasn’t seemed to last anymore than a couple days at a time.



I love this picture. All the ways one could travel, yet who wants to go anywhere else but this peaceful, tropical island.

Key West is laid back, just like most islands are. It’s hard to worry about much while you are drinking in the Florida sunshine. Bills? Eh-who cares?! Kids at home? Eh-who cares?! Work not going well? Eh-who cares?!

The island that holds the southernmost point doesn’t have the poverty of the Caribbean islands and is still in the US so it’s easy to communicate. Most tourists rent scooters or bicycles while they’re on island time, making it ridiculously easy to maneuver the streets.



Even though I was 4 months pregnant and wasn’t able to participate in the nightlife of this party town, I thoroughly enjoyed every sun-bursting minute God gave me. The beaches really aren’t anything to write home to Mom about but eh-who cares?!



Hemingway’s House proved to be such a gem, we’ve been twice now. It’s a typical (but fancy) island home that was home to Ernest Hemingway for a time. The space out back where he kept his office remains unchanged still to this day. It’s definitely worth the time to get a little history lesson.



Here I am in May, sitting in my office space with my house slippers and jacket on because of the chilly temps. Looking at these pictures keep me longing for another trip to my favorite of the Keys islands (to be fair, this is the only island I’ve spent time at, but it still counts as my favorite).



So much color! Even in the mundane things.



Until next time, Key West. Stay Sunny!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru



Dillard’s Mill and Upcoming Dillard Days



I have now been blogging about [mostly] Missouri travel for over one year. When I came up with the idea for this blog, I had one story in particular that rang through the forefront of my mind. Now here we are, an entire year later, and I’ve still not told the story about Dillard Mill.


I’ve told you before than Robby and I are starstruck by old, historical buildings. Old homes, old, half way falling down buildings, etc.

Several years ago, we were gravel-roadin’ on a cold, winter Sunday afternoon. We had been driving for a couple hours when we stumbled upon a sign that said “Dillard’s Mill. Turn Right.”

Neither of us had heard anything about Dillard’s Mill but we were elated to see the building so well preserved. It also has one of the most gorgeous creeks (complete with a cascading waterfall) running right alongside it.




We spent an hour or so meandering the property and indulging in the gorgeous views. The mill was locked but a sign on the door told us that it occasionally is open to the public.


Several months after we found the old grist mill, we returned for a kayaking trip. We put in down from the mill and paddled up towards it. This was the worst part of the trip as the water level was too low through a lot of this part of the creek, therefore leaving us to drag those heavy things about half way up it.

But when we finally got to the large pool of water just beside the mill, we were totally rewarded. This was the clearest water we had kayaked in for a long time.

I’m a horrible judge at distances but I’d say the bottom was about 15-20 feet down and you could see straight to the bottom, just as if you were looking through the window at it.

Robby spent his time fishing and I just propped my feet up to take in some sunshine. It was so relaxing.

So, the point of this story is this. On Saturday, May 11th (that’s this Saturday folks), the state department that runs the property is having a festival aptly named Dillard Days.

I myself will be stuck at my “day” job on Saturday, so I need one of you to go enjoy the festival for me!

Please find more information at the link: Dillard Days Picnic

Tell me all about your trip there!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

Opryland Hotel: Things That Totally Perturbed Me About Our Stay


Okay. I’ve told you about the majesty of the Opryland Hotel. I’ve detailed the beautiful atriums, the entertaining water shows, the comfy bed, the fancy room…..

I just don’t think I’d be doing justice to the purpose of my blog if I didn’t tell you about all the times I wanted to yell at the staff like a mad, Mid-Missouri banshee.

The resort is huge. I mean, 600,000+ square feet of huge. Huge on the inside and huge on the outside. It’s kind of like herdin’ cattle just to get your vehicle in line for the “check-in”. But wait, poor, young lad standing in the pouring down rain. What’s that? We now have to drive all the way to the other side of the property to the Delta Portico to unload our luggage? Then drive to tim-buk-two to find a parking space. THEN, haul ourselves through the madness to the check-in area, wherever it may be by that time??!? Ugh.

So, the hubbs followed the signs leading us to the Delta Portico. The wet boy out front told us there would be a bellhop there to bring our luggage to the appropriate area. There was nobody. Nobody! No luggage cart and a big fat nobody.

Guess where to now? That’s right. Back in the cattle herdin’ line. $20 to self park and $26 for valet parking. Hold up. I’ve just spent $320 to stay the night in your fancy hotel and now I’ve got to give you an extra $20 to allow MYSELF to park MY CAR. Are you kidding me?!?!?!

Mind you, we STILL have Sweet Baby O and luggage with us. After we finally find a parking spot on the back 40, we load ourselves and Olivia up and trek through the great unknown to the check-in.

That gal was friendly. I’ll give her that. We told her about the Delta Portico incident. She apologized. We were given a map and directions on how to get to our room.

We walked through the atrium to the elevator. Up to the 6th floor. Down the corridor towards the room number. And we walked and walked. Wait. We’re going the wrong way. Crap. Turnaround.

Of course we’re still packing all of our junk. I finally figured out that each atrium has themed carpeting and that made the place a little more navigable.


Garden themed carpet for the Garden atrium. Get it?

Garden themed carpet for the Garden atrium. Get it?

We had booked a balcony suite in hopes of getting a suite. With a balcony. We got a suite with a window. Definitely not what we were wanting but the hotel was full they said that’s all they had left. Our room was completely gorgeous, and clean, and spacious. Still, I wanted to drink my morning coffee on my balcony overlooking the atrium! Oh well, maybe next time.

Even poor baby O felt trapped by the window.

Even poor baby O felt trapped by the window.


There were so many people at the hotel that particular weekend. Prom-goers had completely permeated the premises. Now, I did enjoy seeing all the pretty dresses and everyone’s excitement but having to constantly dodge Mom’s fancy camera started to get a little annoying.

One of the big reasons we wanted to stay at the Opryland Hotel is that we knew we could show Olivia around and hopefully keep her entertained inside the resort. The paths through the atriums are NOT AT ALL stroller or handicapped friendly. Or accessible. It’s a little ridiculous. Would it kill you to put some ramps in???

Stairs, as far as the eye could see.

Stairs, as far as the eye could see. Please pardon the blurry photo. My camera was having an “off” day. 

The signs inside were about as clear as mud relaying directions. I don’t know how many people we encountered that said, “Man, it feels like you just keep walking in circles around this place!” Well, if they’d put up some better signage, maybe people wouldn’t have to spend all day deciphering “Left?” or “Right?”

For breakfast, there was only one restaurant in the whole resort open. When you book your stay, you can have an additional fee of $30 added for breakfast. We thought that was nonsense. $30 for breakfast? Well, they got us because that’s exactly what we paid. They have a buffet, which was actually very tasty and had a good selection of food. We were thankful we got in line at a good time with only a 20 minute wait. We got our number and walked around a bit. When we came back, they were telling folks the wait was up to one hour! Since they only have the one restaurant open, they sure don’t leave you much option now, do they?

Breakfast Buffet

The breakfast buffet was located in this area the next morning. 

There. I’ve gotten it off my chest. I do feel better, thank you.

All in all, we really did enjoy our stay. Our room was completely gorgeous and comfortable and spacious. And of course, the gardens are just so breathtaking that we’d do all this nonsense again. I do recommend this hotel. Even if you aren’t staying the night, if you’re in Nashville, it’s a great site (or sight? Hmm. Either way, I guess) to see.


Such a beautiful room. Pre-family arrival.

I don't always wear my fake smile. Only on special occasions.

I don’t always wear my fake smile. Only on special occasions.


If you see that drenched boy out front, would you please pass along the word that THERE IS NOBODY AT THE DELTA PORTICO TO HELP US WITH OUR LUGGAGE!

What’s been your greatest pet peeve relating to a hotel stay?

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

Our Suite at Opryland Hotel: Nashville, TN

One weekend ago, we had just departed from our super, luxurious suite at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN.

The hubby and I had meandered through the gorgeous atriums of this high class resort several times before but we had never gotten the chance to actually be a paying customer.

We decided to go all out and get a room with an atrium view.

The view from our suite

The view from our suite


We checked in early afternoon and were excited to get to our room so we could enjoy the balcony overlooking the greenery. We were saddened to find our room on the 6th level (the very top), which meant we had beautiful windows but no open balcony.


Wouldn’t ya know the 6th floor is the ONLY floor that DOESN’T have a balcony?!?! Just our luck!


We walked into our room to find this crisply made, king-size, come-hither bed. We were impressed at first sight. Wait……. What’s that?



Holy smokes! When we reserved a suite, they really gave us a suite! We thought the high dollar price tag was simply for the enjoyment of the view. Oh no, friends. We got a room with 2, count them TWO, full bathrooms. A kitchenette, full living room, and a separated sleeping room.

Hey there handsome, what's to drink?

Hey there handsome, what’s to drink?

Cozy and clean. What more could one ask for?

Cozy and clean. What more could one ask for?

Where's Sweet Baby O? Where is she?

Where’s Sweet Baby O? Where is she?


Both bathrooms have vanities conveniently located outside of the toilet/shower area.


Baby O getting settled in. This pic is blurry because at 18 months, this sweet girl is ALWAYS on the move.


The hot shower felt so good after spending all weekend in the rain.

The hot shower felt so good after spending all weekend in the rain.

Couffered ceilings. Gorge.

Couffered ceilings. Gorge.

Of course one never spend too much time in their hotel room while traveling, still yet, we enjoyed our gorgeous views, inside and out, of our suite at Opryland.

Have you ever been to the Opryland Hotel?



The Atriums of The Opryland Hotel



My dear, sweet husband is a man of routine. It’s unusual for him to stray from his everyday ordinary rituals. It made me very proud of him to suggest (Friday afternoon, none the less) that we make a quick getaway and head for the country music capital, Nashville, for the weekend.

We have a history with Nashville. It’s an “old flame” for us, of sorts. You see, Robby has an affinity for country music. A passion for writing songs. A love for performing music. So, about a year and a half after we started dating, we loaded down a Penske truck  with his guitars and my shoes and went eastbound and down.  We rented a tiny house on the east side of Nashville and called it our first home together.

Since that time, we’ve moved back to our hometown in Missouri. We hadn’t made a return trip to the city we both love so much until this weekend. I don’t know why it took us so long to be reunited, but it felt so good.

I do feel sorry for Robby. He married a gal who will forever be the rainwoman on any vacation. So of course, it poured all day on Saturday. Lucky for us, we booked our stay at The Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

The Opryland Hotel is an attraction in and of itself. The hotel is composed of 600,000+ square acres of waterfalls, restaurants, boat rides, and synchronized water fountains.

The view from our suite

The view from our suite


I’m actually thankful it was raining cats and dogs all day. If it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have been so inclined to explore all the thousands of acres of luscious green beauty housed in giant greenhouses.

The "atrium" rooms overlook gorgeous atriums

The “atrium” rooms overlook gorgeous atriums


Hydrangeas! One of my favs!

Hydrangeas! One of my favs!

The light and music synchronized water show.

The light and music synchronized water show.


Hello! Gorgeous!

Hello! Gorgeous!

koi fish and goldfish swim about

koi fish and goldfish swim about


Even if you’re not staying in the hotel, it’ s worth the views to just walk around inside. You can park for free in the Opry Mall hotel or pay $20 to park in hotel parking.

Anyone else soaked up the Opryland beauty?

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru



Long Drives and Small Kids

A couple months ago, Robby, Olivia, and myself spent 12ish hours in the car together making our way from Jefferson City, MO to Colorado Springs, CO. 

Thankfully, Little Peanut had been on long drives before, so she wasn’t totally new to this whole concept. When she was 7 months we drove to Gulf Shores and when she was about 10 months we drove to Colorado. But this trip she was older. Old enough to have the boredom thing going on. 

I came prepared. I had purchased a portable DVD player from Groupon several months back. I hate to encourage lots of TV viewing but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Priceless item. Totally priceless.

Priceless item. Totally priceless.


And don’t forget this piece to your DVD player. 

The car adapter is a must!

The car adapter is a must!

And in addition, I made sure to bring our portable cooler that plugs in. I had some apple slices and milk for O. She can’t go any extended period of time without the milk. 

Toys and books for those times when you yourself are so sick of hearing Dora and Blues Clues. 

My suitcase, halfway filled with O's toys

My suitcase, halfway filled with O’s toys


Be prepared to make more frequent stops with kiddos. I hate the long drives but could you imagine being buckled in with 5 point restraints for 12 hours?? You’ve got to give the little ones butts a chance to get some blood flow. We stopped for most of our meals because anyone who’s tried to feed a toddler going down the road, knows it can be messy and difficult. 

What’s the longest trip you’ve taken with your kids?


A New Site in the Making

Hi. I’m Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru. This is my new site. It’s a work in progress so please bear with me while I’m making daily changes and trying to figure out how to use WordPress. 

For the last year, I’ve been using the free blogger sites and decided to take the leap to a “real” blogging site. I’m trying to organize my posts, figure out how to use this site, and add more content all at the same time. 

I hope you follow along! 

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

Biking the Katy: From Jeff City to Hartsburg

When I was a young lass, the Katy Trail wasn’t nearly as popular or highly regarded as it is now. As a matter of fact, it’s so “new” that in 2010, they just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the trail. The trail system is made up of the old railway byways, and now is used strictly for recreation by Missourians all year ’round.

Which way? Which way?

Which way? Which way?

Up to this point, I really haven’t spent much time exploring the Katy Trail. In high school, Coach Branham pushed me to run miles and miles on that thing every night after school for track practice. I was the only female long distance runner so I spent many lonely miles on the trail. Long miles. By myself. All by myself.

As I’ve grown older, my friends and colleagues of outdoor enjoyment have told me many-a-story about biking from Jefferson City to Hartsburg. This was always amazing to me, as it seems like such a long way to bicycle. I know when the Hartsburg Winery was down there (RIP. You will never be forgotten), people would stop for a glass of the good stuff before heading back to the capital city.

Several years ago, before I was a Mommy, Robby, myself and some friends took advantage of a nice, spring day and made plans to bike from Jeff City to Hartsburg. This DID NOT HAPPEN. Well, for me it didn’t happen. The April winds were so full of ridiculousness that day that it took all I had just to make it maybe halfway there. Part of the group did make it all the way and caught up with us on the way back but I tell ya I just don’t know how in the world they did it.

A couple weeks ago, when God teased us with that delightful ball of fire in the sky, Robby, Baby O, and I went for a bike ride. We got on at the trailhead in Jeff City and just started biking. I’m happy to announce that I BIKED ALL THE WAY FROM JEFFERSON CITY TO HARTSBURG! Woohoo. Go me!

"Oh sweet Jesus, I made it!"

“Oh sweet Jesus, I made it!”


It really did give me a feeling of accomplishment. It’s not that long of a bike ride (20.8 miles roundtrip to be exact) but I felt so proud of myself. All these years of hearing people who biked the Katy from Jeff to Hartsburg and I’d never been able to say that “I did”. But now I can.

The ride was enjoyable and was a good distance to get exercise but not too long that your toosh has worn out. We did take that sweet little Olivia but she didn’t get bored or cranky during the ride. She actually even got a little shut eye.

So happy to be outside!

So happy to be outside!

Father and Daughter. My heart-stealers.

Father and Daughter. My heart-stealers.

Bring your water-the only place to get refreshed in between is the Claysville Store. If you’re a lady and you’re traveling alone, I hate to tell ya this but you really should bring your pepperspray. I remember a story of a woman that got kidnapped (or something along those lines) when she was jogging by herself years ago.

There’s a nice little restroom facility when you get to Hartsburg and Dotty’s Cafe offers free refills for your water bottles. How nice, huh?

Not too shabby.

Not too shabby.


What’s your favorite section of the Katy?

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru