Tipping hotel housekeepers

2EF112D3-CD4F-4023-AFF2-2311E63D69BAGratitude is so vital in this world we live in from taking time to thank the universe for another day to thanking everyone around you for their role in this beautiful world.

This week I was on a business trip in Orlando, Florida, and each night before I went to bed I set aside time to write a note to the housekeeper of the hotel and included a cash tip. Each morning I’d put it on the pillow with one of my gratitude cards.

Two days in a row I ended up in my room when the housekeeper was there turning the room. The first housekeeper said over and over to me “God Bless You” and the second also thanked us. Gratitude meets gratitude.

So, why tip housekeepers? First, many are barely making minimum wage. Second, your nice clean room doesn’t happen by itself. Below I’ll offer a few tips on tips for housekeepers.

  • Leave the tip on a pillow with a note so they’re sure the money is for them.
  • Amounts vary, but I left $5/day per person.
  • Leave a tip EACH day, not at the end of the trip. When we were there we had a different housekeeper each day.

Peace and gratitude, friends. Thank someone today!


Mound City, Kansas

Mound City, Kansas, is another true hidden gem located in Linn County.

A quick historyIMG_1325 lesson about the town. It’s the original origin of the term “Jayhawkers.” The city’s website states: “During the Civil war the members of the Seventh Kansas regiment, commanded by Col. C. R. Jennison, became known as “Jayhawkers,” and probably from this fact the jayhawker came to be regarded by many as purely a Kansas institution,…”

The Linn County Courthouse is the second-oldest operational courthouse in Kansas, built in 1886.

The 2010 census lists the town having a population of 694.

What really caught my eye at this town was its amazing Historical Park. There are several historical buildings there that one can wander around and look at including a school, a train depot, a corncrib, a windmill and a few other buildings. There’s a lovely covered bridge that is a great place to take a portrait of someone. Of course, I had to do that. IMG_1304

I loved the pure history of the park and each building had plaques with information about its history. A half hour here and you’ll be well-versed on the buildings and get several history lessons as well.

The Number 9 School was built in 1867. It was a one-room schoolhouse that had two outdoor toilets and a dug well. Students in grades 1-8 attended the school. As many as 70 students attended the school, which closed in 1959.

Another building, the Clausen Cabin, was built in 1900 and was moved to the current site in 1982. It wIMG_1306as the last log cabin inhabited in Linn County and was made of persimmon wood. It was taken apart log by log and moved to Mound City.

I highly recommend this trip! There’s so much history wrapped into this small park!

Mine Creek Battlefield

On my way to the small town of Pleasanton, Kansas, this past weekend, I found myself at anotIMG_1285her Kansas gem. Having lived in Kansas my entire life, I have never been to Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site.

First, I’ll talk about Plesanton. The City of Pleasanton was founded in 1869, according to their website after General Alfred Pleasonton, the victorious Union General at the Battle of Mine Creek. Th
e city is built in and around the battlefield site.

“It is considered by many to be the only major Civil War battlefield in Kansas! From there, our community flourished as it took advantage of the then bustling railroad trade.  Soon, churches were founded, a school was built, stores began to open up on Main Street, and the City of Pleasanton began to grow,” according to the city’s website, referenced in an above link.IMG_1291

According to the 2010 census, the city has about 1,200 residents. And if you’re looking for some good food while you’re there I highly recommend MeeMaw’s Country Kitchen. I got biscuits and gravy and a pancake and the food is the REAL DEAL. I love food and their food alone was worth the nearly two-hour drive!

Now on to the Mine Creek Battlefield site. The Kansas Historical Society’s website states: “On Oct. 25, 1864, on the banks of Mine Creek, two Union brigades of approximately 2,500 troops defeated approximately 7,000 Confederates from General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri. Federal Colonels Frederic
k W. Benteen and John H. Philips led the attack in one of the largest cavalry battles of the Civil War and a major battle fought in Kansas. Their dramatic story comes alive at Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield.”IMG_1209

The site today includes a nice visitor’s center (which was closed the day I went) and a walking trail where you can read about the battle. The walking trail spans 2.6 miles. The site is quiet, educational and a great way to learn about the Civil War and nature. It’s worth a Kansas road trip for sure!



John Redmond

Phew! It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged! The next several blog posts I’ll be posting about Kansas and some hidden gems!

IMG_0968Last week I found myself spending the evening after work at John Redmond Lake, which is near Burlington, Kansas. It is flanked by gorgeous Flint Hills and provides camping facilities, places to fish and places to boat and hiking as well.

According to the website:

“The John Redmond project was authorized as ‘Strawn Dam.  The town of Strawn was relocated six miles eastward on higher ground when the dam was constructed.  The old townsite is now underwater.” (The last little bit makes me want to explore the old town under the lake)!

“In 1958, congress renamed it John Redmond Dam and Reservoir for the Burlington Daily Republican’s publisher, John Redmond.”

Recent rains has the lake full and when I was there they were letting water out of the lake to lower the levels. It is a popular fishing spot and when the water levels are lower people fish right in the water near the dam.

IMG_0973The striking beauty of the lake, which is so expansive it makes you think you’re in another place altogether, takes one away from ordinary  life. It shows visitors the striking beauty of nature.

There are mIMG_0975any species of birds, ducks and pelicans can even be seen at certain times of the year.

And there’s nothing quite like the sunset over the lake as the water mirrors the striking colors of a dramatic Kansas sunset.

Kansas has so much to offer — people tend to think we’re “flat and boring,” but we’re anything but that.

John Redmond is only one of many gems we have in this great state.

The Little Melvern Caboose

12961232_10153358390977035_7246945173445784745_oIf you have a train enthusiast in your life, Melvern, Kansas, is the place to be. Off the main street in Melvern, is located on Kansas 31 highway four miles north of Interstate 35 (exit 160) and three miles east of US 75.

The caboose is located in Melvern Railroad Park,  where you’ll also find the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Pratt Truss Bridge, which  was built in 1909 to carry vehicular traffic over the hand dug cut.

In 2013, the caboose was donated to the Railroad Park by a Topeka couple, Gary and Marcia Ross. Melvern searched for 10 years for a caboose to add to their park. According to an article by the Osage County Herald-Chronicle, a member of the Melvern PRIDE Committee,Larry Salisbury, 12909681_10153358394162035_3562522592804361503_o spotted the caboose off of Interstate 70, west of Topeka. The committee approached the couple and were informed they would donate it to the park.

The caboose was built in 1979 and valued at $10,000. It was moved to Melvern on Oct. 2 . Relocation and installation work was donated by Criqui Construction, of Melvern.12916365_10153358394442035_6956673272270481471_o

The caboose sits next to a platform that was built for people to view the trains going by — a fitting addition to the park.

Inside the caboose are a few chairs, a sink and a refrigerator. Writing on the walls still give instructions the former crew had to adhere to: “nothing should be put in toilet other than human waste and toilet paper” and “use crushed or cubed ice only” to keep things cold in the refrigerator. The crank on the paper towel holder still turns.

A quick history lesson: the use of cabooses goes back to the 1830s when railroads housed trainmen in shanties built onto boxcars or flatcars, according to an article on the Union Pacific’s website.  According to the article: “the caboose served several functions, one of which was as an office for the conductor. A printed “waybill” followed every freight car from its origin to destination, and the conductor kept the paperwork in the caboose. The caboose also carried a brakeman and a flagman. In the days before automatic air brakes, the engineer signaled the caboose with his whistle when he wanted to slow down or stop.”

Today cabooses have been largely replaced by technology, automatic air brakes, which took away the need for manual brakes. “End of Train” devices are installed today to monitor whether the end of the train is moving.12898245_10153358392477035_7119969790147409268_o

It’s places like Melvern’s Railroad Park that keeps the cabooses alive. Melvern’s little caboose transforms visitors to the days when it still traveled the rails and the rhythm of the train can almost still be felt as it glided down the track.  Melvern is a small town with lots to offer in addition to the train including a cafe, a skateboard park and a nice playground which includes facilities.

So, if you’re a train lover, this is the small town to swing into and spend a few moments. Here is a link to the city’s website, where you can also find information about the community and all it has to offer.



Magical country roads

One of my favorite forms of therapy is driving up and down country roads — for hours at a time. There is so much I see during these drives and so much I would miss if I simply sat on the couch every night.


One of my favorite places to photograph sunsets coupled with reflections.o to connect wi

The long, winding roads of Lyon County have become my second home, where I go to recharge, where I go to, connect with nature and unplug. It’s like a mini, one-evening vacation.


Why is this guy here?

In my many years driving these roads, I’ve seen many interesting things. I’ve seen sunsets that will blow your mind, about every kind of animal possible in the area and interesting landmarks.

The other day I came across a slightly disturbing sight: a random scarecrow placed on the side of the road with no homes nearby. Of course, my writer mind went all kinds of places. But it was quite funny that it was just hanging out there. Perhaps someone had a sense of humor or perhaps someone just thought it was a nice place for it to hang out.  But I just found it plain creepy.

20151219_170732Another drive led me all the way to the Waverly Wind Farm. It’s incredible how much beauty wind farms hold. The towering turbines grace the landscape as far as you can see and on the country ro12562467_10153430811502992_1286719168_oads you can get pretty close to them to get some pretty nice photographs. At night from a distance red lights from the turbines blink in the night sky.

Other quirky things I’ve seen is a burned-out stump that looks like a rooster. It’s interesting it burned that way, in that shape. Speaking of fire, spring in Kansas is a great place to take drives in the country as farmers and ranchers burn off grasslands to make room for new, healthy growth. It’s an amazing sight. This post explains an experience I had last year with fire.

So, my advice to everyone is to get out, hit the dirt roads and see what you come up with. You’ll be amazed at how much there truly is to see.

St. Aloysius Church Historic Site

Another road-side gem in Kansas is the St. Aloysius Church Historic Site in unincorporated community of Greenbush, Kansas. To get there go to the website below and follow the map. It’s a 20151025_134922fantastic photo opportunity!

According to the Kansas Travel website, a church and church ruins are side by side. “The 1887 St. Aloysius Church was replaced by a larger building in 1907, but the 20151025_135140newer building was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1982 and the congregation returned to the older building. The registered Kansas state historic site is very picturesque,” the website stated.

Here is the entire text of the legend of Greenbush, which was borrowed from the website mentioned above:

THE LEGEND OF GREENBUSHAccording to legend, in 1869, Father Phillip Colleton, was caught at this site by a furious hail and thunder-
storm. The frightened priest took refuge under his
saddle and vowed t20151025_135140hat if his life was spared, he would build a church on this spot. The fervent promise resulted in the establishment of St. Aloysius, Greenbush. The
first Catholic Church erected in Crawford County was
a wooden frame structure completed in 1871. Located on the Historic “Mission Road”. The church was destroyed by a storm in 1877. Parishioners quarried limestone from Hickory Creek and completed the second church in 1881. The first resident pastor, Father F. M. Verdan, arrived in 1882 and served the church for fifty years. A larger church was needed and completed in 1907. The 1881 church was converted into a community building. The third church stood for 75 years as a landmark before it was struck by lightning and burned in 1982. The ruins remain. The 1881 church was 20151025_134749renovated into a place of worship. Thus the second church became the fourth church on March 9, 1986 and served the people until it closed in 1993. Father Colleton’s promise will continue.

Registered state historic site – February 26, 1994.
Erected by the St. Aloysius Historical Society and Kansas Department of Transportation

Abandoned Kansas: Camptown Greyhound Park

20151025_132339The dogs no longer run at an abandoned track in Frontenac, Kansas. The track, formerly known as Camptown Greyhound Park, wasn’t open very long. Some reported it closed after just 13 weeks of operation, while other sources reported it closed after six months of operation. It reportedly re-opened in 2000 after its 1995 failure. It again closed after another failed attempt.

Today, the massive building and track sits abandoned and rotting. There were rumblings it would be turned into a casino, according to an article by the Capital-Journal. Howev20151025_132313er, the property still sits abandoned.

Camptown was opened in 1995, at a price tag of $14 million. Its operators filed for bankruptcy in 1996, according to the Joplin Globe. According to Greyhound Network News the track was losing $30,000 a week before it was closed. When the track closed there were 12 kennels with about 60 dogs.

20151025_132318“On Nov. 17 (1996), the racing commission issued “Final Orders,” a five-page document containing 32 provisions which included requirements that the track’s owner provide food, water, bedding, and an overflow kennel for greyhounds designated for adoption. Within weeks, 186 greyhounds had been moved into the adoption holding kennel.”

The rescue operation was successful.

The Capital-Journal reported the following: “Two of the original investors bought it for $3 million in 1998, then sold it in 2000 to developer Phil Ruffin, who owns the Wichita Greyhound Park and several casinos.

“Ruffin walked away from the deal because of a disagreement with the state over the investment required to open it and the percentage of return on that investment.”

Today, no activity at the property is apparent. Another property frozen in time.

Arkansas gem: Castle Rogue’s Manor


Stairs to nowhere. These used to lead up to an outdoor catwalk.

20151024_140852While in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I had many adventures. Another one of those adventures was the opportunity to explore the grounds of Castle Rogue’s Manor near Beaver, Arkansas.

This fascinating place is a hidden gem, but a warning in advance, it’s only open by appointment or by permission. We obtained permission from the owner to tour the grounds while we were there. We didn’t get access to the buildings but hope to on a future visit.


The stunning view from the grounds.


Several pieces of art are on the property.

Castle Rogue’s Manor site on 20 acres in the stunning Ozarks and overlooks the White River and Tablerock Lake. The castle itself has 15,000 square feet of space. It has a main castle as well as a caretakers castle and several other outbuildings including guard towers. A true hidden gem!

It was built over 20 years by Smith Treuer, who had a love for the renaissance era. Today the castle is home to weddings, tours and other events.

If you want more information or want to go see it: go to www.castleroguesmanor.com. You won’t be sorry!


Frozen in time: Dinosaur World



On a recent trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, we came across a fascinating find — a former amusement park frozen in time. A sign still points to the park roadside. Once you get there, however, it’s evident that the park is long-closed.



The park, which opened in the 1960s, was once the largest dinosaur-themed park in the United States. It once covered 65 acres and had 100 live-sized dinosaurs. It was also known as John Agar’s Land of Kong and Farewell’s Dinosaur Park.

According to a post on http://www.abandonedar.com/,  “The sculptures were created by Emmet Sullivan, who also designed the dinosaur statues in Dinosaur Park and Wall Drug in South Dakota, and the Christ of the Ozarks statue in nearby Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Two local men, A. C. McBride and Orvis Parker handled the actual construction of the dinosaurs.

“Along with the nearby Beaver Dam, a few of the park’s dinosaurs are featured briefly during the opening scenes of the 1969 horror movie ‘It’s Alive!’. The tyrannosaurus is featured in the 2005 film Elizabethtown and is shown on the film’s cover.”


Former foot bridge 

The park sadly closed in 2005 and is now owned by an adjacent resort. We tried to gain access to the park, but the resort owner is an attorney and doesn’t allow anyone on the grounds anymore. Sadly, like so many abandoned structures, the park has fallen victim to vandalism. The former gift shop was burned to the ground in 2011, likely due to arson.


Still looking fierce!

Today a few of the dinosaurs can be viewed from the road, which is where I obtained these pictures. (I did not enter the property, rather used a telephoto lens roadside). I did witness a few people hop the fence and walk into the park. Sadly, people who do this ruin access for the rest of us. Private property means one thing: stay out unless you have permission.


Through the trees

With that said, please enjoy the photos. It was so amazing happening upon this!


Dinosaur eggs!