A couple of weeks ago we embarked on our maiden cross country journey in our Bowlus Road Chief. The first few days were problem free, the last two, not so much.
We took some time mapping out the route from Montana to Connecticut, keeping in mind that although it was officially Spring, the temperatures in the Northern route we had initially mapped out hovered below zero. Ultimately we decided to work our way through Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia before ultimately reaching Connecticut.
Prior to our unfortunate debacle, we encountered lovely people, beautiful scenery and some delicious food. I will take you along for a quick overview of our journey.
We had everything packed up the night before, and set off first thing in the morning. Day one was set to be the longest mileage-wise.
The landscape was filled with blue skies, and endless cows.
We made a stop in Cheyenne, WY to stretch our legs and check out the main drag. These small Western towns have the best signs!
There was no question we had to make a detour off the highway to check out tiny Chugwater, WY , population 212.
The reason for the detour? A visit to Wyoming’s oldest soda fountain.
The Chugwater Soda Fountain was long on atmosphere, and delivered up a pretty tasty Vanilla Ice Cream Soda with chocolate syrup. My husband drank most of it before I could snap a pic.
We had booked ourselves at a KOA Campsite in Cheyenne for the night. This was our first KOA, and there were no surprises (good or bad). It was just what we expected, with its best feature being its convenience to the highway.
As we prepared to head off towards Nebraska, we knew a stop was in order at Runza, a local chain dedicated to the regional specialty (the Runza) which is a yeasty dough pocket filled with beef, cabbage and onions.
They are made fresh daily at all the chain’s locations, as they have been since 1949. The restaurant itself was SPOTLESS, and the woman at the counter couldn’t have been nicer. The Runza received a thumbs up, especially the crusty tasty shell.
Following a long day of highway driving across Nebraska, we reached Omaha. The plan had been to have a Hotel night because the camping locations were scarce. We pulled in to the Courtyard Omaha Aksarben Village. This little pocket of Omaha was quiet, and most importantly, the parking lot was big enough to accommodate the Bowlus.
In trying to pick a spot to enjoy some famous Nebraska Beef, we found a consensus that The Drover was the place to go for their Whiskey Steaks. We called in our order, and then walked over to pick it up. The restaurant was MOBBED. There was no fear of Covid in these parts, thats for sure. We picked up our food and headed back to the hotel.
The steak arrived made it to our hotel room in pretty good shape, though the fries lost a little crunch.
The baked potatoes get rave reviews online, not sure what makes them special, but they are pretty tasty!
We hit the road the next morning, and headed East towards Iowa. We couldn’t help but take a diversion to Avoca to visit the Giant Volkswagon Beetle Spider. These obscure and curious attractions are the best part of a cross-country journey in my humble opinion, and this one was worth the quick detour off I-80.
I -80 is a pretty wide-open highway, the highlight being endless windfarms which manage to be both massive and graceful at the same time.
You can not (and should not) drive through Iowa without stopping for the classic Fried Pork Tenderloin sandwich. We decided to go to Smitty’s, home of the original King Tenderloin.
Since 1952 Smitty’s has ruled the landscape of the Des Moines area, delivering up a stellar Tenderloin.
Young and old, everyone loves Smitty’s.
We decided to dine in the comfort of our car. Tremendous as the sandwich was, it did not last long. It was proclaimed to be scrumptious.
Aside from wind farms, the landscape was carpeted with small purple flowers. After passing through Iowa we spent the night with an old friend in Wheaton, Illinois. We left the camper in their driveway, but slept inside. The following morning we were off to Indiana. We had researched our lunch stop, and it was to be at the Triple XXX Family Restaurant on the edge of Purdue’s (very beautiful) campus.
The building is so iconic, it was impossible to miss. Not only is the exterior remarkable, but there was a very large cluster of students waiting to be seated. Triple XXX was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, so it had Guy Fieri’s seal of approval. Aside from that, it has the status of being Indiana’s first drive-in, dating back to 1929. It had to be good.
Aside from the beloved burgers, Triple XXX Root Beer has been around since 1895. The Root Beer was all I tasted from Triple XXX, and it was remarkable (and as the menu noted- Gluten and Caffeine-free).
The Bernie Flowers All-Pro Burger was a 1/4 of chopped steak, lettuce and tomatoes. No complaints there.
As we headed out, we encountered many more fields of purple.
When we were checking the Harvest Hosts website for places to stay in Indiana/Kentucky we happened upon Joe Huber’s Restaurant’s Parking lot. It is right on the border between the two states, in an area commonly referred to as Kentuckiana. Staying in a restaurant parking lot may seem to be an odd call, but it seems as though Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Restaurant is a real institution. As we drove up, we were taken aback by the setting and extensive grounds.
There seems to something for everyone at Joe Huber’s. We arrived at about 7:15 (closing time is 8:00 pm) on Sunday, just as they were winding down from the weekend. I imagine when it is bustling, it is really something.
The restaurant was following Covid guide lines, and since it was late, and the restaurant was very spacious, we felt safe eating inside. The restaurant is renowned for their Fried Chicken Dinner, so that is just what we ordered. I added some veggie sides in as well.
We practically had the restaurant to ourselves. The other occupied tables were filled with large multi-generational families enjoying their Sunday Supper. It’s that kind of place.
The first dish to arrive was the Fried Biscuits with warm Apple Butter. As these were most definitely not Gluten- Free, my husband enjoyed my share as well.
Drink of choice? An icy cold Yuengling in a Mason Jar.
The Fried Chicken Dinner consisted of a 1/4 of a chicken (we added on another 1/4), mashed potatoes, green beans, and Chicken & Dumplings. The Fried Chicken was crispy, juicy, and grease-less. It was the highlight of the spread. The chicken and dumplings tasted better than they looked. The green-beans were a nod towards nutrition (not touched by my husband) and the mashed potatoes were disappointing.
My side dishes were a touch healthier, and there is nothing more retro to me than when cottage cheese is on the menu. I couldn’t resist.
By 8:00 we were stuffed, and we headed outside to unwind from a long day of driving. When we woke at sunrise and explored the property a bit, we were really blown away by the beauty and tranquility.
This was a perfect Harvest Host location. There was another “camper” parked across the expansive paved lot, but other than that, we had this beautiful location to ourselves. Happy Trailz fit right in with the landscape. There were even bunnies all around when we woke up. It was serene.
Next stop, Kentucky. We had been to Louisville before, but never had the opportunity to really appreciate the landscape, and proliferation of horse farms along the way.
We timed our route perfectly to roll up to Red State BBQ in Lexington just as they were opening. BBQ for breakfast is a good way to start the day.
The staff at the counter could not have been kinder, waiting patiently while we perused the menu. It seemed like a 3 meat and 2 side kind of morning.
While we waited for the food to be ready we took in all the wisdom the previous diners had shared on the walls (and ceilings).
Double smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs, beer cheese grits and baked beans- perfect! My husband said it was delicious!! Definitely worth the stop, not matter what your political affiliation is.
If possible, we always like to swing by the State Capital if we can; luckily Frankfort was right along our route.
Before we went to explore the Capitol building, we made a beeline for Rebecca Ruth Chocolatiers, which was to be my breakfast. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Bourbon Ball, you have Rebecca Ruth to thank. They have been crafting gourmet confections since 1919.
The Bourbon Balls were worth the hype. The quality of these chocolates was superb.
I couldn’t resist picking out a small selection.
Most of my selections were enrobed in dark chocolate, so as to be heart healthy. Even better than the Bourbon Ball was a Pecan, caramel treat that was sublime. The milk chocolate choices shown below were for my husband.
After sampling the chocolates we made our way to the State Capital. It was a glorious day, and we had the grounds pretty much to ourselves. The pinwheels were part of a campaign to prevent child abuse in Kentucky.
After a touch of city life in Frankfort, the plan was to spend the night in Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia. We had secured a site for the RV online, and continued east in order to make it before it got dark. Unfortunately the was a persistent rain which slowed our progress.
Just at we were approaching WV, we were treated to a spectacular rainbow. The rain was stopping and we were neared Cooper’s Rock. Unfortunately, as we pulled in to what we thought was the entry, there was a very cryptic map “directing” us to the campsite area. It was getting dark and we had absolutely no clue where to go, or who to reach out to (there wasn’t a soul to be found nearby). This was getting creepy! We headed off down dark unlit roads to no avail. At 8:30pm It was time to re-evaluate and go to plan B.
Plan B was the SpringHill Suites in Morgantown which welcomed us at 9:00 pm with a room facing the road (as well as our trailer) and very limited options for dinner.
We resorted to grabbing something at the nearby Convenience store. This was not our finest moment, but we were both cranky and tired, so we made the best of it.
It seems as though we will have to pay another visit to West Virginia in order to really experience it. We were on our last day of travel and were anxious to get back to Connecticut. Lunch was to be in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, about halfway to home.
The only reason we picked Lemoyne was to try Korealicious, a Korean Fusion spot in a small shopping center. Korealicious is touted as Pennsylvania’s best Korean spot, and I have to say, I don’t doubt it.
Not only was the food DELICIOUS, but the proprietor was incredibly affable and enthusiastic. The website proved to be quite tempting, and it was clear that we had to order a Bibimbap Burrito, it was superb.
The Ddukbokki (sticky rice cakes in spicy sauce) was also delectable. This unassuming restaurant was a winner. If you happen to be passing through Lemoyne- please stop by!
It happened that Korealicious was the highlight of our day. Heading North on 287 our trailer hitch broke, as well as one of our safety cables. Happy Trailz was swaying ominously. We were able to pull off onto the exit ramp safely, and luckily no one was hurt. We were grateful to see there was minimal damage to our trailer, but unfortunately we were unable to continue towing it home. We were assisted by some unbelievably kind Police Officers who literally saved the day. This saga continues, but I will postpone it for another time, once our hefty insurance claim is settled and we have Happy Trailz fixed and good as new- perhaps in the fall.
We arrived home late that evening, hungry, tired, and thankfully in one piece. It was quite a cross -country adventure which came complete with some lasting memories. We look forward to our trip back out West when we can continue our quest for the best regional BBQ and homemade chocolates!