Small Train for a Big Imagination

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that Clarence LOVES trains. He’ll take a big train, a small train, all trains really. And I think that might just be an under statement. One time last summer we had told Clarence that we were going to take him to Grant’s Farm to ride the Tram. (He was only 2, they are close enough) He was so excited he couldn’t wait to get on. All decked out in his overalls and his striped Grant’s farm hat from Grandma. We got to the park only to find out… it is closed on Mondays! Talk about a meltdown.

Take two, it was Tuesday. I double checked to make sure they were open. I left work early to pick up the boys and Clarence was so eager to hop on that Tram. We get to the park and THERE’S A WATER MAIN BREAK and the park is closed. Well, we can’t have this. So we decided to pay a few bucks, hop on the Metrolink and take the boys to the Jefferson Expansion Museum underneath the arch. Clarence doesn’t understand that you ride the train for more than one stop and for the first few stops he throws this huge fit about the train stopping. Most people on the train just laughed. By the end of the night, we ended up having a great time but that will be for another day.p9192478

This past Sunday we took the boys to another train and this one is proof that St. Louis is a fantastic place to live. The Wabash, Frisco, and Pacific railroad in Glencoe, Missouri is the perfect destination for Sunday Drivers. I first heard about the Glencoe railroad from a couple of kindred spirits at the nursing home I worked at. They’d been hiking out in the area since they were kids and the little railroad had always been a favorite place to take their kids. And it’s easy to see why. $4 per person gets you a very pleasant ride through the woods on a 12″ gauge railroad, complete with a souvenir ticket that they punch just like you are on a real train. This is big for kids, there’s so much to see.p9192557

There are great views of the Meremac River, little bridges over the several creeks, and the few times you cross the hiking and biking trails most park goers are excited to see a train full of happy kids ride by and wave as the horn blows.p9192587

We took the opportunity to ask a bit about the history of that little train, thinking that perhaps they were the trains that used to delight children at Wherenberg Theatres. Apparently this train comes from a small property near the Airport that was bought out by a couple of hotel chains in the early 50s. For About 10 years the tracks sat in storage at the Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood (a definite destination for a future Sunday Drive) but finally the first tracks were laid out in Glencoe in 1961 and it’s only gotten bigger since. p9192497

The volunteer staff loves to delight children (especially ones all dressed and ready for workin’ on the railroad like Clarence and Anders.) p9192596As we walked back to our car, we watched as they turned the engine around on the big turntable and the engineer asked Clarence if he’d like to drive the train! Obviously he said yes and got to back the train off the turntable and pull it into position. What a treat for a train loving boy like Clarence. p9192636With a time like that, there will definitely be more train themed posts in the future of Driving on Sunday. The Amtrak, the Metrolink, the trams at the arch, the Frisco Train Store, the Museum of Transportation! All of these await you!

Do you have any fun train stories? We’d love to hear about them. Share them with us in the comments. But until next time. Thanks for driving with us!p9192545

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Why I’m Teaching My Kids to Talk to Strangers

What is the number one life lesson that every mother gives to their children from the earliest age? DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS! What are the reasons? It is dangerous, you can’t trust them, you might get hurt. Those are the probably the worst nightmares of any mother. Have I raised the hair on the back of your neck? Did you just put down your smartphone to look out the window at your kids? Good, I’ve evoked some strong emotions. What if I told you that I WANT my kids to talk to strangers? Would you call Child Protective Services on me? Before you do that, let me show you something.

I’ll bet you’re already talking to strangers

Some of you may be introverts, that’s great! I’m not one, if you haven’t figured that out. In fact, one of the first times I hung out with my wife (super introvert) before we were even dating, I told her point blank “I could NEVER marry an introvert.” Well never say never, am I right?  I want to give you some warm feelings here. Think about a favorite character from a book. I know from looking at my site statistics that he’s probably someone like Mr. Darcy. You want to hate him but you can’t, there is something appealing about him. Now imagine that he is in the room with you, sitting in a wing back chair reading a book by the fire. You get the urge to talk to him but you won’t, why? Because you are afraid, because he is a STRANGER. Now put him back inside of the book, you spend the entire book having a conversation with him and by the end of the book he has ceased being a stranger and you, just like the lucky lady in the book, have fallen head over heels for someone who only a few hundred pages before was a complete stranger. This is an example where YOU just spoke to a stranger and fell in love.P3213425

What does Jane Austin have to do with Sunday Drives you might ask? Well I’m glad you asked. I like to imagine Sunday Drives like a story that I’m reading. Each mile is another line on the page. When I simply skim through a book, I often miss those subtle references, the inside jokes, and the emotions that are being thrown at you by the author. Studies show that the internet is training our brains to read everything in an F shape where we read the first line, skim the next few, pick back up at the next section, and rinse and repeat until we get to the bottom only having comprehended about 40% of what we read. I would reckon that you are doing this exact same thing every time you step into your car. You never engage in a conversation with the characters in the story. Why not? Because they are strangers.

The Stranger’s House that started it allschoppenhorst home

Let me tell you one of my stories, and its a story that really could and should be credited with the birth of this blog. We found a house along the side of the road. This house was certainly not much to look at and for most people driving down that stretch of MO-94 it got lost in the background of the bluffs and rolling hills of Wine Country. But this house intrigued us and we got out. We pulled off that road and had a conversation with that house, we took pictures, we asked who had lived there and what it must have been like. Obviously that house couldn’t talk back, but you know who could? Strangers. The very next day, I sent an email to the Warren County Historical Society to see what they knew about the house and they directed me to a woman who had written a book about it. That day I called her and had one of the most fascinating discussions of my life. I learned new things about the Civil war, about life in the frontier in the mid 1800s, about Missouri Politics, and about a family with eleven kids who loved that home as much as we did. We got excited about this, and in fact even had thoughts about helping our realtor buy the place as a rehab project. In the end we didn’t, but you know what we got out of that? I now have a new book about a fascinating part of Missouri History, a number in my phone to ask any questions I want about Warren County, and perhaps most importantly a new found love for a small piece of my home state. I never would have known what I was missing and you never will either if you don’t get out and talk to strangers.P2292799

Join the Driving on Sunday movement!

This is the skill that you should be teaching your children right now! Every single stranger that you meet has a story. Have you ever heard of Humans of New York? That’s all it is, it is one guy talking to strangers and sharing their stories. Every single house, park, cemetery, or store has a story that you will not know until you get out of your car and talk to strangers. These skills are essential for getting more enjoyment out of life and they can even help make you more money. We’re doing it, we’re #drivingonsunday and falling more and more in love with our home and you can too.

This weekend commit yourself to talking to one stranger, just one. I’ll even give you a question to ask them, and no its not a pick up line. Just ask them “Do you come this place often? What is your favorite thing to do here?” And when you do that I want to hear about it. Share this post on your favorite social media site with one thing that you learned from that stranger using the #drivingonsunday. If you do that, you could win your very own Driving on Sunday bumper sticker that you can use to show everyone that you are not afraid to talk to strangers. Are you with me? Will you do that? Will you become part of the movement to fall in love with your home?


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Sunday Drives Take a Full Cuivre

Our friends (and the most musical  “Driving in…” submissions), the Clausings, have taught us many wise and astute things since the beginning of our friendship. But perhaps one of the best suggestions they ever gave us was to take our kids to Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO. 

It took us a while to take them up on their advice, but eventually it became the site of Clarence and Anders’s first ever camping trip. We’ve mentioned taking your kids camping in previous articles and here’s some proof. Clarence was so excited to be in the great outdoors that several times throughout the weekend he would run up the hill yelling “WE’RE CAMPING!!!” Another favorite quote from that trip happened about 4 o’clock in the morning. Clarence had rolled half way across the tent and at one point he and I switched places without him noticing. When he finally woke up he said “I AM OVER HERE!?” in a very confused tone. Priceless…P8222196

But this post isn’t about that camping trip, it’s about a more recent trip on a Sunday afternoon. I have a confession to make… I’m terrible at judging time and distance. So I’ll pull open my map and see an interesting spot only about 12″ from our home and decide “Hey! We can make it there!” Well what those 12″ don’t tell you is what the speed limit is, whether or not it will rain, what traffic is like, and how long those red lights are. So often what seems like a leisurely Sunday Drive turns into a late bedtime. And this was one of those instances… but I still maintain that it was worth it.P8222179

Cuivre River is a great river for recreation. There isn’t any barge traffic, not a whole lot of boat traffic, and there are plenty of inlets that provide a safe place to take the boys swimming. So after nearly giving up (because I misjudged things) we finally arrived at the park and put on our swim suits. Both of the boys were excited to get in the water. Although when we got our feet wet their different personalities began to show.


Clarence is… how do I put this lightly? A bit cautious. Always wanting to stay near the shallow water, usually clinging to your side quite closely. Anders, on the other hand, is a fish… but one that doesn’t quite understand how swimming works. They’d splash each other, splash us, and try to run away. But their little feet would trip on a rock and fall into the water. Anders would get a mouth full of water and his eyes would go wide as he tried to figure out what just happened. Then without skipping a beat he’d go right back into splashing. (This gives us hope for our upcoming trip to Gulf Shores) Cuivre River was a perfect place to take the boys swimming because it stays shallow  quite a ways out from the sandy beach.P8222270

It turns out that it’s a favorite spot for other home schooling families. I overheard a young girl, maybe about 7 years old, talking to a man about the upcoming school year. He asked “So where do you go to school?” And she proudly responded, “I go to Homeschool!” He chuckled because he had never heard of anyone “Going to home school.”

Off in the distance I saw a rack of canoes and kayaks and several lock boxes so I went to go read the signs. That family told me that they had enjoyed renting one of those canoes. It’s $10 for 2 hours or $20 for the whole day and you can easily paddle your way up and down the gently flowing stream. The shaded banks made it a perfect way to take your kids out on the water and it was a great way to spend the afternoon. Unfortunately for us, bed time was rapidly approaching and we didn’t have time to rent one… but we made it a plan for next time.P8222249

On the way home, we decided to pick something up to eat and noticed that their was a Kroger’s Grocery store. Now what do you come to this blog for but to discover obscure things. Kroger is the only seller of the brand new “Swedish Fish” flavored Oreo cookies. So obviously we HAD to get a pack. Don’t worry, we did also get something substantial. But Oreos are more interesting than a Little Ceasar’s Hot-n-Ready pizza or a side of mashed potatoes from KFC (Kezia’s pregnant… she has cravings.) Here’s a bit of a PSA. Don’t waste your money, they are quite gross. We have an idea how the pitch meeting went but I’ll share that in the newsletter. 

The point of all of this is that even though we MAY have driven a little too far… and MAYBE Swedish Fish are terrible. We came home with some great stories, some great memories, and some great pictures. Do you have a favorite swimming hole? Tell us about it in the comments! Until next time, thanks for driving with us!

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3 ways to spend family time right from your car

When you have young kids like we do, there is one piece of advice that you get more often than almost anything else “Enjoy this time, it goes so fast!” And in a world like this where you work 6 days a week, are in clubs, go to church on Sundays, have family to visit, chores to do and still try to maintain some semblance of a social life it is often easy to let family time slip by the wayside. There are lots of posts out there about ways to carve out time to focus on your family or to be more efficient. (I’m currently writing this at 5 AM before the kids wake up, so that I can head to an old friend’s house for coffee before I have to go to work this morning.) While there is a lot of great advice out there, the one thing that most of it has in common is that it often lacks simple things that you can do that don’t cost much in the way of time or money. Sunday Driving is different.P8222158


Sure, driving your car will cost you a bit of gas money, and an outing will cost you a bit of time. But unlike a lot of other things you could do with your boys it doesn’t involve buying a bunch of pieces, you don’t have to master any sort of rule book, and there aren’t any membership dues or fees that you have to pay to have a great time. It’s just a man and his family on the free and open road. Several months back, when we were itching to go on a Sunday drive but we just didn’t have time, we just hopped in the car and left. We didn’t even go far, I think we were within 15 minutes of where I work, which was helpful because I needed to be there by 9 AM. We drove along a small winding back road enjoying the scene of old river towns and expensive mansions overlooking the bluffs when suddenly we came to a new park that we had never before seen.


If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you are aware of how much our boys love a good park. And if it has a slide… all the better. The park we had found was massive featuring easy walking trails, several playgrounds for children of various sizes. Picnic pavilions and perhaps the most fun of all this massive old tree perfect for climbing in and out of its hollow center. Clarence talked about it for weeks. (In fact when Kezia puts the pictures in this post, it is possible that he will start talking about it all over again after he sees it.) It’s moments like that, that make you realize that family time really is the most important. The delighted look of children when you find a new park, share an ice cream cone, or point out some unique bit of architecture on the side of the road makes it all worth it.

So here are 3 ways that you can spend time with your family right from your car

1. Do a barn quilt trailP7131011

Barn quilts are becoming popular throughout the country and the proud owners of these barns often have gotten together to list their properties on a map so that people can drive through the country appreciating the beautiful landscape and maybe get to meet some farmers. We enjoyed one of Missouri’s several quilt barn trails even on a rainy day and we still talk about it as one of the best days ever.

2. Find a new parkP6181909

There are parks literally everywhere. On the way up too Idaho last November they were life-savers. After a few hours of driving, sometimes the kids just need to get out and stretch their legs. Especially if your kids are young; going to a new park can create memories that you won’t soon forget. The delight of a child who found a new slide is an image that sticks with me even on the toughest days at work.

3. Do a car washP7151484

So this one isn’t exactly a Sunday Drive technique. But when you go down as many “bumpy roads” as we do, you’re car is going to get pretty messy. So why not come home, get everyone in their swim suits and soap up the car. I don’t know a single kid who doesn’t like playing with the hose. You’re going to have a total blast and you’re going to be getting something important done.


Those are just my three ideas for getting the most family time out of a Sunday Drive. What about you, what are some of your favorite ways to spend time with your family when all you have is a car? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Mom Seat… Is it Worth it?

Life in the mom seat is a continual pain in the neck- literally. Sure, I love taking care of my family, and I enjoy our drives together. But I won’t lie to you and say that it is easy to be in the Mom Seat on a long vacation. Some people call it the passenger seat, but I’ve long since been promoted. Now I not only swivel around every few minutes to answer a question, break up a tantrum, fetch a dropped sippy cup, and distribute snacks. It’s exhausting, really, as any mom (or dad or sibling or grandparent) can attest.
But whether you’re in a vehicle or out of it, vacation can be an exhausting combination of idyllic and insane.
P7141398Moments later… Post-swimming distress and angst meltdown.P7141427Snoozing in a hammock in the quiet woods.P7141433 Moments later…P7141437

Pouring a morning cup of joe. Complete with the war cries of small children demanding their breakfast.P7171760

But we survived it, and even though as family road-trip newbies we planned WAY too much in our week, we don’t really regret it. Despite the hardships of restraining a 1.5 year old who really just wants to run and tumble and play, or being chastized by a three year old for not having six foot long retractable arms to grab that VERY IMPORTANT toy that somehow fell into a chasm between the seats, or not just feeding the kids sugar to keep them quiet for a little bit of time…we had some amazingly peaceful and wonderful times. Like when Clarence was asleep.P7161722
So maybe I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to manning (or womanning) the Mom seat, but I’m learning. And I’d like to learn from you. What are some tips and tricks that you have learned so that you can enjoy Sunday Driving? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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The Beauty of Country Directions

We set out on a treasure hunt with no map. What we found was priceless.

I just have to say, I love country directions. When planning our Sunday Driving vacation (see parts 1, & 2 here), I called my 92-year-old Great Uncle Clarence to see if he had the address to the old farmhouse he and my grandma were born in. He obligingly said, “Better yet, I have directions.” These are those directions.
“First you want to locate the water tower and head straight west. You’ll pass the first cross road and then the second interchange and that’s where the old school house was. Keep going and it is the second farm house on the right.”

I scribbled down what he said and tried to ask for more information. He wasn’t sure of the name of the street. He didn’t know any other landmarks or postal address.

Our adventure begins.

Thankfully for us, the town of Granton,WI is not terribly big and the old water tower was impossible to miss.


The first stop though was the church where Grandma was baptized.


Uncle Clarence was on the building committee for the current structure when he was an adult. We spent some time looking for family names in the Cemetery not realizing that none of them are buried there. But we did recognize some names. Hillert, for instance, comes from the small town of Granton and is responsible for bringing us that wonderful festival setting of “This is the Feast” from the communion liturgy.


After chatting with the pastor a little to explain why we were wandering over the church property, it was time to set out to find the old farm.

So let’s remember the directions… water tower (check), straight west (check), now 2 intersections to where the old school house was. (Check!) and (Check!) But somehow this doesn’t look like what I remember. It is a nice looking farm with a farm house that looks like it was built in the late 19th century, which certainly means it could have been around to shelter my Grandma and her siblings… maybe this was it!


So we did what we’re always telling you to do… we drove up the long drive way and knocked on the door. No answer! We’ll have to come back later. So instead we went to lunch in Neilsville and enjoyed a great meal at a diner owned by some people who loved talking about their town. That will certainly be for another day.

Finally with our strength restored we went back to search for the old farm house. The owners were home this time so we drove up the drive and spoke to the owner. Kirsten (for that was her name) was confused at first but I explained I was trying to find my grandmothers house and showed her the picture from her memoirs. She said, it’s possible it’s the same house and began telling me the history.

“This porch was added on after a big fire at Christmastime, and that 2nd level was added on in 1915… but it’s hard to say from just this picture.”

And then she said the magic words,

“If you’ll pardon the mess, I’ll show you inside. We’re remodeling and we’ve found some hidden treasures within these walls.”


We were excited to get out and stretch our legs (even though our boys are great Sunday drivers, they get pretty antsy). She informed us that they had bought the house and realized the wiring needed to be updated so they opened up the walls to fix that. And as any of you who are in to rehab work know, that is a very messy can of worms to open up. One thing leads to another and soon enough you’re moving staircases, adding bathrooms, and knocking out walls… But by opening that treasure chest, a whole story began to reveal itself.

First by a simple name and a date. It read: B. Tykac 1915. After doing some research she discovered that the entire 2nd floor was built in 1915. She figured this out because every board was stamped with that name and that date. At that time there was a train track that passed behind the back of the property. When Mr. Tykac purchased the materials they were shipped right to his property on the train and to make sure nothing got lost, each one was stamped with his name and the year by the shipping company.

But that wasn’t the only story in the walls. The boards were littered with short poems, games of tic tac toe, and quick calculations all telling the tale of children running around or workers enjoying their lunch break.P7141330

In the living room they discovered another “family” eagerly adding new levels onto their home: the remains of a massive wasps nest from decades earlier! Kirsten wasn’t sure when that wasps’ nest was formed but believed it was some time during the 1960s when 1″ holes were drilled into the outer walls to pump insulation into the 4″ thick walls. (Fun Fact: The 2x4s in this picture are actually 2″ x 4″ unlike modern 2x4s that are more like 1.5″ x 3.5″)


After giving us the nickel tour and showing how much she loved her home she told us that she thinks the house we’re looking for was probably at the next intersection because that first intersection was “a mistake.” (<– Her words, not ours) She said she hopes we found it because she would be reading our blog to hear the tales. We drove away from what she said was once called “One Horse Farm.”

Pressing onward even though the boys were getting quite fussy we drove one more intersection and found a small 1 story farmhouse that looks like it could be from the pictures. The more we looked at it, the more certain we were that this was the home that Grandma Dolores spoke so fondly of. Here it is.

P7141351We couldn’t wait to show Uncle Clarence the pictures to know for sure! Giving a quick thankful honk to our new friends at One Horse Farm, we sped by eager to get back to the cabin retreat in the woods.  (But that will have to wait for another day.)

At the very end of our vacation we had the chance to see Great Uncle Clarence and show him and his wife, Marian, the photos we took. They were overjoyed and excited to see how similar things still looked. This country road picture brought a twinkle of delight into Big Clarence’s eye.


He also knew One Horse Farm and he remembers walking to school across the railroad tracks with the young lad who lived there. This was a shortcut to school. He told us about earning spending money by picking beans for Mr. Tykac in the summer at One Horse Farm. They told us about their first date at the Silver Dome Ballroom (check out this video to see how grand it was!).P7181970

The hunt for the old Pannier farm was reward enough, but the pure delight from Clarence and Marian was the greatest treasure of all.

We can’t wait to share more with you about our vacation. Have you ever been back to a place from your history after years gone by? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Also, don’t forget to like us on facebook and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Until next time thanks for driving with us.


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How to Vacation Like a Sunday Driver, Part 2

If you missed it, click here to read Part 1 of our vacation.

As I mentioned in the last post, our vacation was a thrilling roller coaster ride of fun and crazy. We were now two nights into very little sleep and no nap times. I’m told that this is a very effective means of torture used by military investigators around the world. But we refused to give up the location! (Except in a couple of live streams on our Facebook page. But other than that, we were a closed book.)

After a lovely breakfast with Kezia’s family, we got on the road again, this time headed north Towards Green Bay to fulfill one of my childhood dreams, visiting Lambeau Field!

I had often heard about how this is one of the last true football stadiums. (Whatever that means.) We were disappointed, however, that security rules made it impossible to see the field without spending $15 on a tour or seeing the hall of fame (for $15 dollars) So instead we just wandered around the atrium.


And we also made it to the gift shop. Not usually what we do on a Sunday Drive but it gave the boys some time to stretch their legs, and some fun photo opportunities. It is amazing what they can put a logo on. From classic trucks to electric guitars, shirts, teddy bears, and fine china, pencils, and crayons. P7120945Everything was branded with that Big G. We did make sure to teach Clarence how to properly wear a Cheesehead which excited him. As we were walking out of the gift shop he called us over and said “Look, I just found something funny called Cheese Hands!”


But after that fun little adventure and a quick lunch of Pizza it was time to get back to where we would be staying. But we were certain to appreciate that spectacular views we had on our way back.

Neither of us had ever been to Wisconsin for much time, and we were amazed by the gorgeous countryside, lush summer greenery, and the sea… I mean lake. The Great Lakes are a real treasure that I definitely recommend you take advantage of. Sandy beaches, history, caves, lighthouses, and some epic Sunday Driving. This picture is the view that our brother Eli gets to enjoy every day at College.

Our second overnight location was in a great one bedroom apartment in Two Rivers owned by a fellow named Josiah. Josiah’s apartment reminded us so much of our first apartment in Oak Park, IL and made us nostalgic of our first year of marriage (or maybe it’s just that our 4th Anniversary is this week). We envisioned the cute ways Kezia used to decorate that small but comfortable place and made us feel like home. But unlike our apartment in Oak Park, if you opened the windows you could hear the waves of Lake Michigan crashing into the shore, not the “El” train, and commuter trains freight trains at all hours of the night.

After a short nap we all put on our swim suits and took the boys to the beach. I built an awesome Sand Pyramid as magnificent as the ones at Giza. However, just like Napoleon, Anders decided to repurpose my building supplies. Although he turned it into a bed instead of a wall. We would have amazingly idyllic beach pictures, but Kezia was nervous about the mixture of sand and expensive cameras. This trip, however, kindled a strong love in Clarence of beaches, and he threw quite the fit when we left. But we placated him by stopping at Family Video and picking one of their free kid’s movies.

After a good night’s sleep we began our trip through Door County and as I mentioned earlier there is so much to see!

Clarence was sad that we weren’t going to the beach (again, this outburst happened every 1.5 hours) but we took the opportunity to show him his first lighthouse! This was in Kewaunee and it was a fantastic morning walk. P7090543The waves crashed into the breakwater, seagulls were busy fishing which made for a great show for the boys, and Anders anxiously pulled all of my hair out. (Don’t worry it has all grown back by now.)P7131087We spent a lot of time trying to take pictures but the combination of the wind, the squirmy boys, and the sun reflecting off of the water made getting a good picture difficult. (Not to mention Aaron’s complete lack of photography skills. It’s hard to believe he ever won an award for his photography.) It’s a good thing that Kezia is around with her awesome Camera.




We started heading up the coast into Door County. If you haven’t heard of Door County, you are missing out. There is so much to see and there is no wonder why it has been a Sunday driving destination for over 100 years. Right along the highway we saw these handmade gems which were quite tempting to Kezia, but she settled on just a snapshot instead. But she did make me promise to carve her an Easter Island head some day.


By this point we are excited to finally make it to Door County and we had no clue what awesome things we would see on our way up there. But at over 900 words it will have to wait until part three. What do you think we will see in Door County? Let us know in the comments! Be sure to like and share us on facebook. Until next time. Thanks for driving with us!


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How to Vacation like a Sunday Driver Part 1

A quick trip through the “travel and leisure” section of your local library or a quick google search for “how to plan a vacation” will leave most people completely overwhelmed and discouraged. Logically the solution to this is to add yet another article to that already over crowded list. But I want to assure you, that this list is going to be different. Because it won’t just be advice about how to save money (although it will include that), or how to see the most (not entirely at least) or how to keep it stress free (but it will cover that.) No, I don’t give you unsubstantiated advice, I give you stories of a family that actually went and vacationed like a Sunday Driver and had the time of their life.

Tip #1- Make sure you clean out your car at every stop. This is a must for bringing down the stress level. Here’s Aaron doing just that while his young son prepares to hop right back in the car with a doughnut to scatter a fresh layer of crumbs.


First, where do you stay?

We’re a young, one income family with kids. Sure we could rack up the credit card debt and pay it off later. But we’re typically wary of getting ourselves into debt and the only things we wanted to bring home from vacation were memories (and maybe a few inches on our belt.) So we needed to figure out how to make this thing frugal but not cheap. How do you have the vacation of a life time on a shoe string?

Tip #2- Take a picture of your family before the trip, so you can look back and smile at how naive, well-rested, and happy you were prior to your very ambitious travel. Here is a picture of us, fairly well-rested, optimistic, and ready to take on the rest of our crazy roadtrip.

For lodging, the cheapest route to go (other than sleeping in your car in the Walmart parking lot, which, I suppose, would be a fun adventure too), would be to mooch off your family or friends! They are usually happy to see you and willing to open their doors. What’s the next best thing to staying with family? We’ve found that Airbnb works great for the same kind of comfort, plus it adds in a bit of adventure. We love to see how many people use this site to share their homes with travelers for rock bottom prices. You can find a whole range of prices from practically free camping in someone’s backyard to renting a luxury condo with enough room for you and your whole extended family.

The part we love most is it gets you talking to some fascinating people. And did we ever meet some great people on our little family vacation up North!

Tip #3- If you are longing for the time when you can buy, decorate, and enjoy your own home, and you’re still renting like we are, planning a vacation on Airbnb can quite quench that longing. Kezia had a fabulous time picking where to stay.

Drive-by shot on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago.
Anders was pretty pleased with the Windy City.

Stop #1 Mequon, WI

We were there to visit Kezia’s dad who had traveled across the world from Sri Lanka for the LCMS church convention. Kezia’s two brothers were also in the area, and we had a small family gathering at the Airbnb home that we rented for a few nights.

Tip #4- Make bluegrass a part of your vacation. Whether it’s your brothers serenading you or the Soggy Bottom Boys, make it happen. You won’t regret it.

Brenda was our hostess for our first stay. She is a Physics teacher at a highschool for troubled youth and saves older horses from the glue factory by adopting ones who haven’t been saddle broken and selling them back to horse lovers who don’t have time to train them. She was a lively hostess with plenty to chat about and she lived in a gorgeous area.

Tip #5- Get up early. Okay, so we didn’t have much choice in this department, as our children were rearing to go before the crack of dawn most mornings, but we didn’t mind too much because of views like this.

P7120819I would link to her house if she hadn’t told us that we were to be her last guests. But she was delighted to have us and told us that we were welcome to come back any time. She even gave us an idea for an awesome Sunday drive!

Next, it’s on to Door County! Get ready for barn quilts, goats on rooftops, and more tips in Part 2 of our vacation!P7100589

Did you like these tips? Share Driving on Sunday with your friends on Facebook. And let us know how you keep your vacations affordable in the comments!

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Drive by History Ep. 17 – History at a Truckstop

Who said you can’t learn history at a truckstop? Here’s an awesome story about a man who tried getting a riverboat up to Springfield, IL with the help of none other than Abraham Lincoln.

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Welcome to our neighborhood!

Most often when people think of adventures and tales they think of far away places. Majestic mountaintops, wide oceans, or other worlds. They believe that in order to achieve a true level of fascination with the world you have to get out of your comfort zone. And while I certainly love the sight of a snow covered mountain top, the smell of fresh sea air, and experiencing other cultures, I personally believe that this mentality is far sighted causing people to be discontent with the amazing stories right in their own back yard!P7090521 P7090541
You of course are no stranger to our philosophy. You read this blog twice a week. Right? Right??? But you may have noticed we have yet to put our money where our mouth is and tell you about the fascinating tales of our neighborhood. I seek to remedy that today. This of course won’t be an exhaustive look at the history of the Princeton Heights and Southampton Neighborhoods but it will give you a glimpse of why Kezia, the boys and I love going on walks right here in South St. Louis.P5240887

Our Neighborhood is one of the westernmost in the whole of St. Louis and as recently as 100 years ago was considered frontier. A man named David Roland Francis owned a large dairy farm within walking distance from where our house now sits and was one of the more influential figures in Missouri History. He served as Mayor of St. Louis, Governor of Missouri, US Secretary of the Interior, and eventually US Ambassador to Russia, but perhaps most importantly for our purposes he served as the President of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair). As president he attempted to make his property the site of the World’s Fair. This attempt failed because his property was considered too difficult to travel to and Forest Park was chosen instead. Just imagine how different our neighborhood would look if that had been the case! But upon leaving for Russia he donated his property to the city which has commemorated him by naming the park “Francis Park.
Francis park is now one of our favorite places to go because in it sits one of Clarence’s favorite playgrounds, tennis courts, racquetball and handball courts, large fields for shattering your nose bone in a game of ultimate Frisbee (that happened to Aaron, not our three-year-old), and even a coffee shop. All this is within a short walk down Eichelberger. P5240905

While taking care of one of the older members of our Congregation, Hope Lutheran Church (which has a fascinating story itself and will certainly be a topic of a later post) we learned that over the years our neighborhood has drastically changed. Eichelberger which is now simply one of the few two way streets in the neighborhood used to be Produce Row all owned by a man named Eichelberger. P7090534Eichelberger built houses and hired dozens of farmers to come and grow produce. When the produce was ready for harvest it would all be loaded up into trucks and driven up and down the alley ways. Just like children run outside at the sound of the ice cream truck, house wives would run outside at the sound of the produce truck to fill their cellars with good, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. (We’ve often had conversations about the irony of the current “locally grown food” obsession and how our neighborhood has been doing that since before it was cool.) Now of course, Eichelberger is no longer the farming center of the community, but Macklind has provided a new business hub.P5240953

Thanks to local efforts to revitalize the area Macklind has attracted several trendy restaurants, corner stores, and cafes, as well as an Art Exhibit and a community Garden. We haven’t tried all of the restaurants on Macklind but we have fallen in love with Russell’s which is an upscale brunch and coffee house in the morning and a fancy restaurant in the evenings. P7090526Russell’s is perfect for a warm cup of coffee and a baked treat after church or a fine date for a happy couple. Sometimes on our walks we’ll stop by just for a cup of their Kaldi’s coffee and other times we’ll go next door to Macklind Deli to grab a beer and a sandwich on their patio. Maybe there will even be live music! They’re coming up on their 10th anniversary, and are obviously a favorite with the locals.P7090532 But just because Macklind is at the center of Southampton business doesn’t mean it is the only Southampton business.P5240936

A walk down the alley ways show all sorts of enterprises including the Rhodes’s Avenue Woodsmith. Whenever we drive past his workshop he is making some of the most beautiful doors we have ever seen. Many of the door frames on our street have a unique round top design and he is one of the few places that specializes in making those doors. A closer neighbor of ours, Kevin, is a life long mechanic and seemingly works around the clock making all types of repairs on the neighborhood cars. He tells me that he’s always been fascinated with cars and learned how to fix them at a very young age. When it was his time to go out and pick a career, there wasn’t much opportunity for him so he decided to continue doing it as a lucrative hobby. I’ve often thought about asking him to teach me how to do some basic maintenance on Juanita.P5240916

I could go on and on about all of the restaurants, businesses, entrepreneurs and even stories of our neighbors but I’ll save that for another post.

You don’t even have to get in your car to experience an adventure. There really is a story down EVERY SINGLE ROAD. And you’re likely to miss it if you don’t live the Driving on Sunday way of life!

Until next time, thanks for [walking] with us. And be sure to like, comment, share, and subscribe to our newsletter so that you don’t miss a single mile.

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