Posts Tagged ‘small town America’


Apr 23

There are times in life when you go looking for some sort of delicious food. Sometimes, what you find instead is the place where Neil Armstrong hangs out. Lebanon, Ohio is a perfect example. And yes, knowing how reclusive Neil Armstrong is, I am aware that Lebanon, Ohio is the only example.

We started out looking to consume sugar-cream pie and sauerkraut balls at the wrong restaurant. This is what happens when human memory combines with an outdated GPS. Grumbling stomachs cannot be ignored. So, after a nice stroll in historic downtown Lebanon, we decided to eat at a place called The Village Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant.

I am someone who believes that the longer the name of your establishment, the better it’s bound to be. The VICP&A did not disappoint. One incredible milk shake, another fully-loaded chili dog (because I am an addict), and a green mint chip ice cream cone to go. The best part, however, was discovered at the entrance. Sure, presidents and governors have enjoyed a bite or two here over the years. But none of them have ever stepped foot on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong lives on a farm just outside of Lebanon, and has been known, on an occasion or two, to pop into town for a hair cut, dinner, or a good old fashioned diner experience. I may never follow his footsteps on the Moon, but it still felt good to follow in them in Lebanon.

Deke Slayton Memorial Bike & Space Museum

Aug 30

The only thing more exciting than learning more about one of the original astronauts, is stumbling upon a museum that is dedicated to one. In this case, it is of course, our good friend and previous post subject, Deke Slayton.  His hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin, hosts the museum that bears his name; and, for good measure, throws in the history of the bicycle, mankind’s other form of transportation that isn’t car or boat… or airplane.  Wisconsinites are not only good people, but efficient as well.

Though the museum was closed by the time we arrived, as luck would have it, one of the members of the Board of Directors – which had just concluded a meeting – noticed our out of country license plates.  He exuberantly made his way over to our car, directed us to park, and then insisted upon allowing us to tour the facilities.  As the rest of the Board was filtering out into the street, greeting us eagerly on their way, one woman agreed to stay behind and give us a personal tour.  Her first order of business: handing us a push-pin, and directing us to the map they had at the entrance, where all those who previously visited marked where they were from.  Approaching the map, we now fully understood their response to our arrival: we were the first Canadians to visit their museum.

The exhibits themselves were a treasure-trove of both the early history of Astronaut Slayton and NASA itself.  On display were photos of Slayton as a child, letters to him and from him,  and artwork made by and given to him by a Cosmonaut he had befriended on a joint space mission with the Soviet Union. Deke Slayton’s story did have a happy ending after all: He was finally given medical clearance and went aboard the Apollo Spacecraft in 1972.

Along our tour, we also learned our tour guide, a lovely woman named Joan, was a life-long Democrat who voted for McGovern, had a son attending school in the state capital Madison, knew Slayton’s sister-in-law (who was also a board member), and knew one other Canadian who was on her son’s baseball team (although he clearly was one of those lazy Canadians who never bothered to make it into the museum because we were there first!)

The original Mercury Seven space suit Deke Slayton wore was on display.  This was an impressive coup for the small-town museum, as it is only one of five original NASA suits remaining in the world. The Smithsonian has asked for it many times.  The answer is always no.

There was a moon rock, a scale which tells you what you weigh on the moon (I’m 20 pounds!* Sign me up for the next mission!), and Joan wanting to know if we had already made arrangement for accommodations because if not, she could help us. As the tour came to a close, we were handed postcards and other souvenirs of our visit. Our entrance fee was waived, but the experience would have been worth far more than the $3.00 usually required.  We made an appropriate donation instead.

This first encounter with the people of Wisconsin certainly left an indelible impression on us.  Not only would we enthusiastically recommend the museum to all who wished to broaden their knowledge of space (and bicycles), but Wisconsin is worth the trip just for the hospitality of the Wisconsinites themselves.

*Oh Mr. Obama. Why not continue exploration of the Moon?  Since matter weighs far less there, can’t we both satisfy our lust for discovery and exploration, while at the same time, eliminating our problem with obesity?  It’s this kind of connective thinking Obama’s administration needs.  I will be handing in my resume  – and strapping on my svelte space suit – post-haste.  Blasting off…

Mississippi: You Scratch Your Own Back

Apr 24

Small towns are fun.  Our first introduction to Mississippi was a mandatory stop in the barely-on-the-map Lucedale. We weren’t the only ones who have stopped here, it seems.  Once, a long time ago, in an administration far, far away, there was an actor named Ronald Reagan.  For reasons that no one can apparently explain, this Mr. Reagan stopped at a pole which had serrated sides.  This pole, in front of a Chinese Food restaurant (no town in the South should go without one), is what Mr. Reagan chose to scratch an itch, so to speak.  No.  Really.  He stopped and scratched his back on this pole.  And now it’s a landmark. 

So, in the South, if you are wandering through a sleepy town and have an itch you just can’t scratch, find the nearest Chinese food restaurant that has a pole with serrated edges and get carried away. You might just find yourself growing up to be President some day.

KENTUCKY: a love story

Apr 12

Kentucky is the most beautiful state in all of the union. Seriously. No joke. If I ever die, I want it to be in Kentucky. And my body stuffed and rested on the swing of the Beaumont Hotel. I’ll write a back-story on My Beautiful Kentucky another time. Now, we’re just passing through…with a few stops on the way.

Did I say that Kentucky was beautiful? It’s spring here (real spring, not Canada spring), and all of the flowers are in full bloom; the trees, lush with green leaves and lavender buds. Rob and I stopped in a nice little town -most things are closed on Sunday in Kentucky in hono(u)r of Our Half Our Lord- and walked around, stretching our legs and taking in the sunshine of which we have been deprived since we went away last year.

Later on, we made our way to the Mammoth Caves, but this being Sunday (see note above) and our major goal being Nashville, the tour we wanted to take was not offered. Instead, we went to a Mystery House! A wonderful tourist atraption, a dollar will get you a guided tour by a disinterested teenage boy through a maze of…stuff? The first hallway, as our boy stated, had “scary” paintings on the wall. Agreed. I always found “Starry Night” by Van Gogh terrifying in its use of colo(u)r. The next room has slanted floors and I almost passed out and ended the tour early. Not before our teenage leader through madness noted the vacuum cleaner glued to a wall painted with planets and stars. “Vacuum in space,” he said.  There are very few things that are better than the things you find by the side of the road in America.

To authenicate our experience, we stopped and ate. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist/food critic to guess where. We’re in Kentucky. Fried chicken. Put them together and you get a sneak preview of this:,0,652335.story?track=rss

First of all, 560 calories?  Please.  Secondly:  yum yum yum yum yum.  Everyone should eat this daily. 

God, I love you, Kentucky. Someday we will be together forever…