Labor Day Weekend in St Charles, MO

I’ve had a hard time writing lately. Although I have been working on this story intermittently for months now, my heart just hasn’t had the time or effort to give this the attention it needed. Between starting a new job, my mother falling and breaking her hip, having surgery, spending a month in rehab, and then having another fall with a broken arm, surgery, and rehab, followed up by the stress of the holidays, I’ve felt a little less than write-y. And, I really haven’t gone anywhere worth talking about in quite some time.

Except way back over Labor Day (yes, I know that was months ago but like I said, I’ve been a little busy). I talked Robby into taking advantage of the long weekend. My old job allowed me to have (mostly) 4 days off each week so I could easily take long weekend trips. However, my new job is a Monday through Friday gig, which allows me stable hours that are much better for my family, but my long weekends are adios. So, you have to soak it up when you’re able, right?

We chose St Charles, MO because a) it’s not a far drive from home (1.5 hours) b) we had never been there before and c) it looks cutesy and quaint and I love little towns like that.

IMG_0073

We left on Friday evening after dropping the kiddos off at Grandma’s just before bedtime. We got to St Charles just in time to check in to our hotel and crash. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Main St. I would have preferred a bed and breakfast but Robby isn’t really into bed and breakfast’s and he reserved the hotel so complain, I could not.

The Katy Trail sat just behind the hotel so that provided easy access for our morning bike rides. We started Saturday morning with just that and got our workout in for the day first thing.

IMG_0062

Contrary to the looks of the above picture, it was actually quite crowded on the Katy this particular morning. The trail starts off in the heart of St Charles, running alongside the buildings of Main Street. Eventually, it meanders parallel to the Missouri River (which provides for those spectacular cycling views), past the ball fields, past this extremely organized junk yard, to the fields outside of town.

IMG_0057

Once we turned around, we had gotten quite thirsty and stopped at the Bike Stop Café for an early morning sweet tea.

IMG_0058

 

IMG_0059

The café sits just alongside the Katy Trail access and has a small menu, area for a bike workshop, and some other cool bike gear for the enthusiasts out there. We sat on the patio and soaked up the morning sun while chatting about how the rest of our day should go.

We dropped by The Old Millstream Inn restaurant for lunch, after cleaning up back at the hotel of course. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this spectacular little restaurant. We had a table outside on the brick patio, which was seated right next to a babbling brook. Yes, you read that right. There is literally a babbling brook here. The service was great and the food was even more wonderful. I had the chicken salad sandwich and a side salad which both had flavors that I have never had the pleasure of experiencing before.

Delish!

Delish!

Once we got to the point that we just couldn’t eat anymore food no matter how delicious it was, we sat off on foot to wander the walk-friendly streets of this little city. The brick lined streets reminded me so much of my hometown, Fulton, MO, that the nostalgia made it hard to not like the area. It was fairly busy because of the holiday weekend but still easy to walk up and down the streets, dodging in and out of the stores. I love locally owned stores like the ones here on Main Street because of their uniqueness. The things on the racks here aren’t something you can find in TJ Maxx. I’m not big on spending unnecessary money so I didn’t load myself down with shopping bags but I did manage to come across a few good finds (like a beautiful $5 scarf that I caught on sale). The best part of the shopping experience is looking at the architecture of these old buildings. One store still had the ladder on the rail and the original shelving, as it used to be the town’s hardware store. Stories like these are so fascinating to me. I love old buildings and when you can get a small story with it, it just makes it so much better.

The storefronts of the buildings along Main St used to be located on the back side of the buildings, which is located closer to the river and down quite a few more feet. Because of this, these buildings flooded a lot. To keep businesses open, they rearranged things and made the previous back entrances, now the front entrance of the shops on what is now Main St. The picture below shows cellar access right along Main St (which used to be the back but is now the front of this particular building).

IMG_0072

IMG_0063

We took a break in the middle of the shopping and grabbed a cold drink at Llywelyn’s Pub. We sat on the patio drinking and people watching. The pub is right on Main St so the people watching is top notch. After we had hit all the stores that looked appealing to me, Robby convinced me to get a pre-dinner drink at Bella Vino Wine Bar. It was a busy weekend and hence it was quite busy in the wine bar. We managed to get a cozy table for two right along the front windows (once again, excellent people watching) and close enough that we could enjoy the music from the man at the piano.

IMG_0077

For dinner that night, we chose the highly recommended Tony’s on Top. Once again, this restaurant lies right on Main St and was an easy walk from our hotel. It was a beautifully hot weekend (my motto: the hotter the better), which we took full advantage of by choosing a rooftop, outdoor table. The food was good (although I don’t particularly remember what I had so I don’t think it blew my socks off) and the service was decent, even though it appeared the servers didn’t actually know who had which table. But we didn’t get ignored and that’s the important part.

Awe, aren't we cute at Tony's on Top?

Awe, aren’t we cute at Tony’s on Top?

After we got our bellies full and had a nice little after-dinner buzz, we headed down the street to meet up with the group for our scheduled ghost tour with St Charles Ghost Tours. Ghost tours are always my favorite. We’ve been to one in Charleston, Savannah, and a couple in Key West (Savannah’s was the best so far, by far). Dr Michael Henry is the owner and operator of St Charles Ghost Tours. He gave a nice little introduction of himself to start the tour off and lead the group of 15 or so around the local streets and alleged haunting sites of St Charles. Dr Henry is a decent story teller and he sounds like a man very well versed in St Charles history for sure. During the last stretch of the tour, he made the mistake of telling us how he purchases junky dolls from flea markets for a couple bucks, hangs them outside on his fence to weather (his poor, poor neighbors), and then sells them on Ebay for several hundred dollars with a made up ghost story! Oh my Dr Henry. See, there is this thing called credibility. And yeah, you just lost yours. He’s got a book if you’re interested….. Pssshhhhh.

We started Sunday off with a late breakfast at Bradden’s. Robby and I are really big on the atmosphere and experience of a restaurant. Bradden’s almost lost us when they mentioned  we were going to have to wait 20-30 minutes to order because the kitchen was busy. They were barely, just barely nice enough to let us sit down and all this for only a small handful of people on the patio. There was no way it was busy enough to not serve us. And we would have even been fine to wait had they offered us drinks but we had to fight to get a cup of coffee. The service was absolutely terrible but I will give credit where it is due and they served me a phenomenal French toast plate. “Thee” French toast is a deep fried concoction of delicious French toast heaven like I have never experienced before. Please, please, please if you go to Bradden’s, do yourself a favor and order the French toast. You can thank me later.

Holy. Moly. Deliciousness.

Holy. Moly. Deliciousness.

Robby arranged for us to have a tee time for my first ever golfing experience that afternoon at The Quarry at Crystal Springs. This golf course was about a 20 minute drive from downtown St Charles. Once again, it seemed pretty busy this particular holiday weekend but we had a pretty pleasurable experience. That is, after the first 9 holes when Robby kept getting so mad at me for taking an average of 8 swings for my club to make contact. Once he lightened up, we actually had a lot of fun and surprisingly I wasn’t near as bad as I thought.

IMG_0080

18 holes of golf takes a lot longer than I realized and after that and the hot, hot, super hot day, we were ready to get cleaned up and have a beverage or two. From our hotel, we walked just a block or two down the street to Trailhead Brewing Company. We chose the bar over a table just for the fun of it. I indulged in the Riverboat Raspberry brew and the Trailhead Nachos. Microbrewed beers are just our style and the place has a highly inviting atmosphere. I also ended the night with a margarita at the Trailhead Brewing Company which was delicious no doubt, but admittedly not the wisest decision.

IMG_0054

IMG_0055

On Monday, we slept in a little later than normal (see above: margarita to end the night) and grabbed a quick breakfast in the lobby before heading back home. In parenthood, you always have the thrill of getting away but you are also always ready to come back home to those sweet-faced kiddos. St Charles was great for a quick weekend getaway and was just enough to get the reset that we needed.

 

 

Floating the Meramec River

10478530_10152288927302648_7707362080440242636_n

After much anticipation, we finally dusted off our old kayaks and broke in the new ones this past weekend. On Saturday morning, we made the hour and a half drive down to Sullivan[ish], MO to take our virgin Meramec River float.

10468373_10152288929292648_4472526527313531783_n

Robby and I have had kayaks for years. They mostly just take up space (that we definitely don’t have right now) in our garage but we keep them in the hopes that the older our kiddos get, the more use the kayaks will get. This year we even went so far as to buy two more to add to the collection, so that we could bring friends along with us.

10441407_10152288930147648_4508331352304191787_n

We decided on the Meramec River because it’s supposedly an easily kayakable waterway, it’s not too far from home, we had never floated it before, and we were close to Meramec State Park (we wanted to camp in a state park as opposed to the private campgrounds where rambunctious crowds frequent).

Our plan was to leave Jeff City by 7:30am, but because we had to drop off both children that morning, and of course because we’re us, we were late. I don’t think we left until about 8:30 or 9:00ish. You’ll find that this was actually detrimental to the trip. Read on…..

10463028_10152288928382648_5684109057268438353_n

We took two separate vehicles which I think is just nearly necessary. You will need one vehicle at your put-in access and one vehicle at your take-out point.

image

Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

image

We put in at the Blue Springs Conservation Area in Bourbon, MO. From here, it is a 10-mile trip to Meramec State Park. Literature I’ve read shows a 10-mile float will take 4-6 hours. Unless you’re our crew. Then it takes 8. Prepare accordingly. Also, this was detrimental to the trip. Read on…..

 

Take Highway N, south for 2.5 miles to Blue Springs Rd

At the Bourbon, MO exit, off I-44, take Highway N, south for 2.5 miles to Blue Springs Rd

 

The access point is at the end of Blue Springs Rd

The access point is at the end of Blue Springs Rd

Two of us stayed at the conservation area with the kayaks, while the others took the vehicle with the trailer to leave at the campground. This took them right around an hour to do. Like I mentioned already, having two vehicles really is necessary but the time it took them to go to a check-in and vehicle drop off, and then returning to spot #1, was detrimental to the trip. Read on…

10419642_10152288928797648_1978211758730744774_n

I agree with the aforementioned literature (I use that term loosely mind you) that this particular river is a great float. The steepest I found it to be was probably about 5-6 feet. There were many gravel bars along the way and it wasn’t crazy busy like you’d find on the Current, Huzzah, or Niangua Rivers.  The views were great, lots of bluffs lining the river and an awesome cave that everybody but me played in (Um, there’s darkness and bats and the unknowing in there!). The river wasn’t dirty but the water wasn’t clear either which was slightly disappointing but not a deal breaker.

10478443_10152288926787648_6915565246683912066_n

 

Because we had so many setbacks (and because we goofed around A LOT) we didn’t hit the state park grounds until about 8:00pm. It’s getting a little dark around that time and of course the THUNDERSTORM OF THE CENTURY SHOULD HIT AT THIS EXACT TIME RENDERING YOU HELPLESS TO THE ELEMENTS.

This happened. On us. Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

This happened. On us. Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

Literally, as soon as we saw the take out access, the clouds opened up and dumped massive amounts of rain on us. We took cover (barely, just barely) under a state park signage post. This kept only our heads a little dry. Standing in the rain, in your swimsuit, freezing, and not being able to do anything about it is a terrible way to end such a great day. My poor, poor Robby had to walk through the pelting rain to seek out our truck. Which was a feat in and of itself since Meramec State Park is so ginormous that he didn’t even know where his truck was in relation to where we were at that time. Thank the good Lord above, he found the truck and came to rescue us. We were a sopping, wet mess and all in quite a mood by this time. We laughed about our misfortune the next morning but there was lots of silence in the truck that night. To top it all off, we obviously couldn’t set up our tents in this nastiness and the closest hotel that wasn’t booked full was 45 minutes away in Rolla! What a drive after all this nonsense we just went through! And we were all so looking forward to camping! But we made it in one piece, it was quite the experience, and we’ve lived to tell about it. Although, I’ll be okay if I never have another one like it.

10478530_10152288931162648_4297569636023168612_n

Tell me, what’s your favorite stream or river to float on?

A Random Hermann Outing

DSC_1520

If you live in Missouri and have never been to Hermann, well, shame on you. This fantastic small town plays host to eleven different wineries. Nestled on the banks of the mighty Missouri River and tucked into miles of rolling hills, the views, the beauty, and the quaintness of it all make Hermann one of my favorite Missouri small towns, indeed.

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and we’re starting a trend of completely choking when it comes to that particular holiday planning. Last year we were going to go to the Pedaler’s Jamboree and this year we were going to take our boat out for it’s 2014 maiden voyage but neither of those things happened. As many of you know, dreary weather was all that was in store for us on Saturday so I finally talked Robby and our friends in to changing our plans and taking off for Missouri Wine Country.

Our first stop was Adam Puchta Winery. Located just off Highway 100 on the southern end of town, you can feel the worries fly away with each tire spin closer to this winery you get. Just as you turn off, a view of green vineyards fill your windshield. It’s absolutely beautiful and was a perfect start to our day.

DSC_1490

Rustic and weathered buildings outside house areas for wine tastings and food. We opted out of the $5 wine tasting since it was already 4:00 in the afternoon and there were plenty of people in line. Their extensive wine menu explained the flavors of each wine so we simply ordered what sounded tasty.

Robby and I opted for the Traminette. A fruity flavored white wine, this was just a touch sweeter than I normally go for but we enjoyed it none the less.

DSC_1491

Our friends chose an oakier red bottle, Hunter’s Choice. This seemed to be more what everybody at the table was looking for. After we were about to close out our time here, a staff member presented us with another bottle of the red because a lady thought we had told her she left her purse. To that lady I say “thank you”, but you have the wrong people. She had already left the winery so we had no choice but to keep it. Disappointed, we were not.

DSC_1501

Our next stop was Tin Mill Brewery. We have been here before and always seem to enjoy ourselves.

DSC_1521

DSC_1522

This time was no different except for a horrible little man, who was a staff member, that totally flipped on me because I took a blurry picture of the back of his shirt. The back had a saying which I thought hilarious at the time but after his over-the-top rude demeanor leading to me deleting my two blurry pics, I can’t even remember what it said. But him, him I will remember. Another employee did apologize for his terribleness and gave some lousy excuse about him having a bad day. But I rose above his nonsense and bought my little sampler tray of delicious microbrewed beer.

DSC_1542

I couldn’t remember which brew from Tin Mill was my favorite so the sampler tray was nice to get a little taste of each. Which in the end turned out to be plenty of brewsky for me. The weather of the day had turned pretty nice by this time and we were able to sit outside on the large patio for the rest of the evening. Fun was had by all.

DSC_1523

If we had planned better, we would have taken the train from Jeff City. We did that a couple of years ago and it makes the trip feel more relaxing yet when you don’t have to employ a sober driver and everyone can let loose a little. Plus the train ride along the Missouri River has excellent views. The trolley will pick up at the train station and shuttle you to the different wineries for a nominal fee. Also, there are several little cabins for rent in the town (I know Hermannhof Winery has some that are supposedly quite lovely) that you could book if you planned your trip ahead of time.

For those of you that have been to Hermann, which winery is your favorite?