Dave Volk: Down The Road - 2014-2

 November 26, 2014

Volk Drake 400My “Little Brother” Drake came over Wednesday night to help me load up the car.   While I have enjoyed his company for the past 10 years, I am finding I also appreciate his 17 year-old muscles when it comes to heavy lifting.   After dinner I drop him off and he decides maybe he should leave his school backpack in my car and then tell his mother he will have to go to Florida to retrieve it.    Good luck, Pal.

While I hadn’t planned on leaving until early Friday morning, by Thursday noon everything is ready and see no reason to put off getting down the road.  So…what the hell…tally ho!

As I head south on Interstate 29 I rack my brain trying to think of what I have forgotten.   I do this every year even though, in my heart of hearts, I know the only packing mistake has been over packing.   A bad habit I can’t seem to shake even though this is my fourth road trip south.

Beautiful day to be rolling along and although I have traveled these eastern SD roads for many years I still marvel at the flatness of its expanse.  Governor Daugaard probably explained it best when he said:   “South Dakota is so flat if your dog ran away you could watch him for two days.”

Feels good to be back on the road and my Grisham book on tape starts out with great promise.

I make St. Joe around 5:30 pm and after unpacking I am famished as I only had a late breakfast.   So around 6:30 I make my way to a restaurant called 36th Street.

Being this close to Kansas City I have to order BBQ ribs.   A little while later my waitress brings me a platter of them that looks like something for passing at a family gathering.   It is mammoth!   So I start to eat, idly watching the Thursday night football game.   After awhile I finally look down and am shocked to see the wreckage of my rib plate.   Bones picked clean as far as the eye can see.   A ravenous scavenger on the Serengeti plains of Africa could not have picked bones this clean.  

Feeling pretty good about this, I have some cute banter with my two waitresses.   I then go to my room to finally get my deliciously sticky fingers clean when I see that I have a large swath of BBQ sauce on my cheek.   Oh, you are a cool one, Mr. Volk.

Although the service and food was excellent, I won’t be going back to 36th Street Bar.  Can just hear Tammi say to Brenda:   “Oh look, ‘Sauce Boy’ is back.”   

Volk kim 400

Throughout all of my travels around this country I have noticed one constant -- people who work in Convention and Visitors Bureaus are some of the nicest people on the planet and that includes those at my CVB back in Sioux Falls.   I don’t just mean helpful friendly, which is their job, but just nice people.   It holds true with Kim of the St. Joe CVB who helps plan my museum schedule.

 The Patee House is an old hotel that has been turned into a first class museum that houses outstanding exhibits and a rich history.   The Pony Express was started and headquartered here.   There is also an additional pony express museum close by that originally housed the stables.

Volk PonyExpress 500

Had I been around in 1860, when the pony express was started, I am guessing that being one of their riders would not have been a good career move.   First off, I am probably a tad to heavy for the small, quick horses they rode.   However, more to the point, if I so much  as get on a sleepy old nag for a leisurely, one hour trail ride in the Black Hills I painfully discover muscles in my butt I didn’t know existed.   Hour after hour of hard riding across the prairie????    I don’t think so.

On an antique carousel at the Patee House I did find a horse I could ride and made it three times around before I was thrown.

Volk DaveHorsy 400

The house where Jesse James was shot has been moved and now is right behind the Patee Museum.   The picture below shows where the bullet exited Jesse’s head and went into the wall.   Jesse’s wife and children stayed at the Patee after the shooting.

Volk Wall 400

Missouri is called the ‘Show Me State’ and for the last couple of days St. Joseph showed me great history, delicious food and warm, cordial people.

It is a little foggy as I head out of St. Joe headed to

  1. But not cold and no ice or snow is in the forecast.   I almost prefer driving in gloomy weather.    It is 60 today and if it was a sunny, windless day I would think I should be golfing.

 On my way across Missouri I stop for some food at a small town and find the ‘Friendliest Store in Town.’  Not just a ‘Friendly’ store, but ‘the Friendliest.’  A lady customer, who complained about having to pay 75 cents to buy air for her tires, probably would not agree.

Volk Store 400

 I like small towns and always find it interesting that when you are a stranger in a town that doesn’t get many strangers the room you are entering falls a little quiet and you are viewed with the same oddity as you might give a three legged dog.   However, these places are universally cordial and welcoming.

 Back home my buddy ‘The Judge’ and I travel small towns and he rates their bars  using his favorite beer, Grain Belt.   A  five Grain Belt rating being the best.   Friendliness is one of the criteria and I cannot remember a bar ever losing a ‘Grain Belt point’ because they weren’t friendly.

 As I am about to leave Missouri at the Mississippi River I stop at Hannibal.    A cute, quaint little town, should you have a liking for Mark Twain themed gift shops, knickknack shops, curio shops and antique shops you would love Hannibal.

 I eat lunch at a place called Finn’s Food and Spirits.    It serves a wickedly good chili and service is top rate.    One of The Judge’s criteria, when rating a tavern is whether they even serve Grain Belt.   I do not drink until the day’s driving is done so I forget to ask if they have that brew of proof, but I am guessing they don’t.   Still, Finn’s Food and Spirits is a solid 4 Grain Belt spot.

Volk Finns 400

 On to the Springfield and the Land of Lincoln…

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November 20, 2014

First blizzard of the year has hit so most definitely time to throw the golf clubs and summer clothes in the car and head south.

Rapid City, SD - Nov. 10
Volk Snow 395

Hard to believe this will be my fourth trip to Florida and my fourth edition of “Down The Road” travel blog.

I’ve been a bit of a slug this summer and have stayed pretty close to home. Golfed a lot, which nonetheless didn’t seem to improve my game. Anyway, more than ready to begin my annual pilgrimage.

Am leaving even earlier than last year and will depart on November 21st. Like last year, when I left before Christmas, I will once again be away from my Midwest roots for another major holiday, Thanksgiving. Again, as I mentioned last year, I was in Vietnam in 1970 for all the holidays that year.

I remember well that Vietnam Thanksgiving. I and some others were coming back by chopper to our basecamp late at night. As we trudged; cold, tired and wet, back to our hooch’s we were surprised to see that the mess hall was still open. More surprising was that they were still serving turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, which was hot and delicious! So, even in that depressing place, so very far from home, I found something to be thankful for………thankful that my fellow soldiers, who worked in the mess hall, had been kind enough to stay open late so that GIs like us could enjoy a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving

Though I will be on the road over Thanksgiving not to worry as my wonderful friends in Atlanta have graciously invited me to their place for Thanksgiving and won’t be eating turkey roll in some Georgia diner on the 27th. So, gobble, gobble, you’all.

I re-read some of my previous blogs so as to keep repetitions to a minimum, and I was struck by how often I mentioned that one of the great benefits of my road trips was the opportunity to see old friends along the way, and how important it was not to lose touch with people who are important to you. Those comments became particularly poignant this year as I lost two close friends; among those people I saw every year on my trip.

Charlie Smith, former Treasurer of Wisconsin, and Harlan Mathews, former US Senator and Treasurer of Tennessee. Both WWII veterans who spent a lifetime serving their country and state and raising wonderful families. They were dear friends who I will miss a lot. I am so glad I got to see them these past few years on my journeys.


I am going to take a somewhat different route this year, although as always I will be at the vagaries of the weather. I am also going to slow down a little. No more 600-700 mile days.

First stop will be St. Joe, Missouri. It is a neat, historical town, which has an excellent western museum including the house where Jesse James was killed.

In 1882 Jesse was living in St. Joe under the name of Thomas Howard and was entertaining his friends the Ford brothers, Charley and Bob. 

While dusting a picture Bob Ford shot him in the back for the reward money.

Volk JesseJames01 500
Volk JesseJames02 190
Library of Congress

Later, while living in Colorado, and bragging about his deed someone returned the favor and shot Bob Ford in the face with a double-barreled shotgun.

"But that dirty little coward /
That shot Mr. Howard /
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.”

Volk Monument 203

 From there it is on to Springfield, Illinois. I have always wanted to visit Abraham Lincoln’s gravesite and see some of the places from Lincoln’s early days.

A good friend Brian Duffy lives there and I will camp with him. Duff is one of a whole gang of crazy Irishmen from Illinois that I met while working with the Vietnam Veteran’s Leadership Program under Reagan. He’s a good guy except for the fact that he is a Navy man, and seems to take a little too much pleasure in winning money from me every year after the Army-Navy football game. This year will be different and the Black Knights of the Hudson are going to give those Annapolis Squids what for. Of course, I am a Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bear fan so what the hell do I know about winning sports team.

From Springfield it is an easy glide down to Nashville and after seeing friends there will head for Atlanta and settle into the ‘Volk Room’ at my friends the Smith’s for Thanksgiving.

As in the past you can post comments, thoughts or suggestions to the blog or onto Facebook.

I will have another post after leaving Nashville and another upon landing on the beach at Casa Del Mar in Longboat Key.

Hope you all have had a good summer and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving, and glad you are joining me going ‘Down the Road.’

VoteVolk 73PS: I was going to write a postscript about the recent election but each time I tried it just came out grumpy. So I’ll just say that, like most people I am glad its over, and wish those elected well. Although I spent many years in politics I do not miss it and much prefer spending time with 3rd and 4th graders through my children’s books.


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