Touristy Tuesday: The Tale of Seven Cities in Seven Days

During the month of April Eliot and I were moving around. A LOT. This coming from someone who packs and unpacks their suitcase weekly, logs at least 700 miles on the road in a seven day period, and never has a zip code to call home for more than a few days. April was such a crazy month that at one point I was in seven different cities, over seven days. This is that story.

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City #1: Denver, Colorado
After our time in Louisville, KY Eliot and I criss-crossed the entire Midwest Region on our drive to Denver, CO. From our farthest East destination to our furthest destination to the West. The trip took two very long days of driving, which were more eventful than our actual two days off in Denver.

After the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Eliot and I were Westward bound. There was just one highway separating us from Denver, I-70 and about 800 miles of it. Our first drive day was broken up by two fun visits. The first was at my Dad and Step Mom’s house in Kansas City. They live just two miles off of the interstate and every time Eliot and I drive through KC we stop to say hello. Although we couldn’t stay long, it was nice to get some quality time in with my parents. As we pulled the Wienermobile out of their driveway I said to Eliot, “It’s great – my parents are literally on the way to every city we go to in the Midwest!”

Home Sweet Hot Dog Home

Home Sweet Hot Dog Home

Three hours later I called my Dad and he tells me that in the time it took us to drive 180 miles that: a neighbor had told a friend my parents were interested in selling their house, the friends had come by to check it out, and that they wanted to buy it. That means that they’re officially retiring, they’re moving, and they better find the next place to live! (More on that later!) Maybe I jinxed it when I made that comment to Eliot – so much for home being on the way now!

As I let that news sink in Eliot and I made a quick detour in Topeka, Kansas to pay a surprise visit. We had an enthusiastic Wienermobile fan who blew up social media trying to see the 27′ long hot dog and since she was on our drive anyway we figured it would be fun stop and to take her around the block. Kate proved that even big kids can get excited about the Wienermobile, that’s for sure!

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By the time we made it to our hotel in Junction City, KS for the night we were wiped out. As we were waiting to check into our hotel rooms I started chatting up some of the other guests, one of whom turned out to be an amateur storm chaser! He was traveling over 1,000 miles in an attempt to catch tornados that were headed to SW Kansas – right where we were driving to the next day.

It turned out he would just be the first storm chaser of many we would see. The next day we saw a number of storm chasing vehicles pass us, with crazy gizmos attached to their cars and stickers proudly proclaiming their boldness.

Because we had been seeing storm chasers pass us the entire drive across Kansas I wasn’t exactly surprised when I saw a minivan pass us with a camera mounted to the top. I was surprised though when I looked in the side mirror to see the next vehicle, which looked like an armored tank approaching.

“Eliot – what the hell is that, a UFO?! Quick! Take a picture!” We knew it had to be some kind of storm chasing vehicle, but didn’t know what and quickly forgot about it.

That is, until I checked my phone later to see this:

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While we were taking their picture, they were taking ours! Turns out it was the crew from the actual show Storm Chasers from the Discovery Channel! A celebrity sighting and we didn’t even know it!

Even with the impending storms, Eliot and I wanted to stop at one roadside attraction. I feel bad even calling it that – it isn’t like the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn or anything. It was the Eisenhower Presidential Library. If you follow this blog regularly you know that I’m REALLY into these Presidential Libraries, and am trying to see them all. I think I’ve gotten Eliot equally excited about them as well at this point.

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The Eisenhower Presidential Library is located two miles off of the interstate in Abilene, KS. As we drove down the main drag we noticed signs decorating downtown welcoming marathoners for the Eisenhower Marathon which was the day before. Shucks! Even though I did my own half marathon that weekend I still felt pangs of race envy swell up.

By the time we made it the two miles to the library the whole town of Abilene must have known the Wienermobile was in town, and before we even purchased tickets there was a local newspaper reporter there to interview us!

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The library itself was certainly a relic and honestly lacked the grandeur of some of the other libraries, like Nixon’s. It delivered on content though, with some really great timelines and displays of Eisenhower’s military experience. If anything, it was more than worth it to go to the museum because the volunteers told me if you become a member of any library you get into the other ones for free. WHAT?! This was the fifth library I had been to in the last year alone. I should have joined JFK’s from the start. Oh well. I am now a proud member of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. I also get a +1 to any of the libraries, so it looks like I’ll get to drag a friend to Carter’s when I’m down in Georgia.

After two long days on the road we finally pulled into Denver, only to be met with the absolute worst traffic. Worn out from the road and exhausted, I was getting squirmish – something that happens in traffic that both Abe and Eliot can attest to. In an attempt to placate me, Eliot tried to appeal to my two favorite things: running and frozen yogurt. “There are some nice trails around here!” he cheerfully pointed out as we crawled past a park. “I. NOTICED.” I probably growled back, staring at the miles left to our destination on the GPS. “I’ve been looking for some froyo – maybe we’ll pass a place on the way,” he tried to perk me up with next. “I’ve been looking too. There aren’t any. They’re miles away on Yelp. Let’s just get there.” And finally, after what seemed like eternity, we pulled into the hotel just as it started to snow. We made it! (And Eliot was still friends with me by the time we parked, so that was cool too.)

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Our days in Denver were substantially less exciting than our drive to Denver. The blizzard had us snowed in and we didn’t do much besides laundry and catch up on work. We decided to save our adventure for the weekend, when we made a trip to see a former Hotdogger, Tracy.

City #2: Boulder, Colorado
Friday night that week Eliot and I drove out to Boulder, where Tracy – a Hotdogger from last year – lives. We went out for Thai food with her and her boyfriend Sam in downtown. Eliot and I had won the Perfect Month Challenge at work and had $60 to spend on dinner. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to use it and figured it would be nice to treat Tracy and Sam to dinner since they would graciously be putting us up on their couch and air mattress for the night.

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After dinner we headed to the Pearl Street pedestrian mall to a basement bar called the Sundown Salloon, where we met some of Tracy’s new coworkers, played some darts, and had a great time all around. It was fun to talk to Tracy now, when I was about 10 months into the job, and compare notes from when I talked to her in September, when I was just four months in.

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The next morning I crawled out of bed, slightly dehydrated and slightly hungover – so basically in the best condition for a long run! I did 10 miles on the Boulder Creek Trail, enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains.

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City #3: Estes Park, Colorado
After our night in Boulder on Friday, Eliot and I returned to Denver on Saturday to work during the day. After we handed out that last whistle I didn’t stick around too long, and instead headed up into the mountains of Estes Park, to see my aunt and grandma. I was exhausted and honestly slept most of the drive into town, but it was fun to get to have dinner and (surprise surprise) frozen yogurt with them.

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In the morning we had breakfast in quaint little place in downtown Estes. There had been more snow and there were plenty of elk out to be seen on our way. That’s one thing I love about Estes – the wildlife might as well be town residents!

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It was great to spend some quality time, however brief, with family. That was been one big advantage of the Midwest – I’m always seeing friends or relatives!

City #4: Lexington, Nebraska
Sunday it was back to Denver for one more day of work. Typically we have dedicated drive days, where we just wake up and drive, but this day we actually had to log a few hours that night. Because of some last minute schedule changes Eliot and I just had a day and a half to make it to Chicago.

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This drive was substantially less exciting and marked mostly by bursts of song when the Pandora station came up with a karaoke-friendly selection.

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City #5: Chicago, Illinois
Monday we woke up and drove. And drove some more. And some more. Or rather, Eliot drove. This was Monday, April 15th – the day of the Boston Marathon bombings. It was a rough day for me and Eliot was a champ, tackling most of the miles. If I-70 was our best friend on the way out to Denver, I-80 was our best friend on the way back.

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In Chicago we were doing a video shoot for Kraft, Oscar Mayer’s parent company. We didn’t have to do too much, other than being our usual corndog selves, but we did get the opportunity to meet the CEO of Kraft. Now that was a cool day! Not many people can say they’ve done that!

City #6: Madison, Wisconsin
Promptly after the final “cut” was shouted from the video crew, Eliot and I hauled buns out of town. We continued to rack up the miles for the week with a drive to Madison. Eliot is a University of Wisconsin grad and was very active in WASB – the Wisconsin Alumni Student Board. WASB puts on a series of programs called “Dinners on Wisconsin” where UW grads buy dinner for current students and talk about what they do.

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Eliot and a Hotdogger from last year, Tyler, put together a program for the Wienermobile and we stopped in Madison to have dinner at the Roman Candle, a pizza place, with about 7 current badgers. Not only was the pizza to die for, but the company was great! Since we are both so passionate about the job, it was fun to share that with other interested students. You can’t help but hope they get equally excited!

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While Eliot and Tyler picked up the students in the Wienermobile I waited at the restaurant to hold the tables. While I was reading a book filled with Pizza Poems, I glanced up to see a familiar face.

I wasn't kidding. Pizza Poems are a real thing.

I wasn’t kidding. Pizza Poems are a real thing.

In walked Louise (–SPELLING–), a girl I went to high school with. Even though we didn’t really know each other too well I had to say hello! Talk about a small world!

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City #7: Oshkosh, Wisconsin aka OshVegas
While my parents live (or rather, lived) on the way to pretty much every city Eliot and I have visited in the Midwest, Eliot’s parents most certainly do not. He is from Oshkosh, WI which is pretty far North, near the Greenbay area. Luckily, Oshkosh showed up on our schedule and Eliot got to bring the Wienermobile home.

Oshkosh was our last city of the seven in seven days. Although we had two days off in town, it didn’t quite feel like it. Our first day off we had to drive from Madison to Oshkosh. Eliot’s family greeted us with a home-cooked meal, which hit the spot after the drive-thru diet that week. The next day the entire city of Oshkosh came over to Eliot’s house to see the Wienermobile. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, believe it or not. They did have a lot of friends over though, which was fun to meet every person who has ever met Eliot ever.

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To prepare for that event Eliot’s mom, Carol, and I created a Wienermobile centerpiece – a rice crispy masterpiece.

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The Wienermobile is made out of rice crispies, licorice, thin mint tires, and some marshmallow headlights. In case you’re wondering, it was just as much fun to eat as it was to make!

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Seven days later, we had covered quite a bit of ground. Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It was a long stretch, but worth it because of all the diverse experiences we had along the way – from friends and family, to future Hotdoggers and the CEO of Kraft!

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To finish up our travels in April, I’m just going to mention a few of our other stops along the way.

Once we made it out of Oshkosh, we headed to Milwaukee. We might as well have been in Eliot’s hometown still. He has more than 30 first cousins, so we continued to meet people left and right at work.

I was headed back to Kansas City on our off days that week to see my folks. Why would I fly back to KC after just seeing them just a few weeks prior? Well remember how I mentioned they decided to up and sell their house? Just as rapidly as they made that decision, they had to move out! By the time I would be back in KC in May, they would have to be out of the house. Luckily I had packed most of my belongings before I left to drive the Wienermobile, so I didn’t have too much work to do.

Once I packed up my few remaining boxes we went on a road trip to check out their new house, down at the Lake of the Ozarks. Let me first admit I was pretty leery at first. It is in the middle of nowhere. I don’t mean it’s kind of isolated. I mean, literally the middle of nowhere. As in 22 miles to the nearest grocery store. As in no cell phone service and dial up internet. Why would they want to move out to Edwards, MO!?

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Then I saw the view. HOLY. MOLY. You are greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows when you walk into the house, which overlook the lake and beautiful foliage. The house is spectacular and they have a ton of land to garden on. Since my parents don’t mind the whole living-in-the-boonies thing, this is perfect for them! I left KC very happy for them to start their new adventure, and slightly bitter that they wouldn’t be just two miles off the interstate any more for me to visit them.

After seeing my parents, I then got to see my sister in Milwaukee. She drove in from Madison one night and we did a little bit of bridal gown shopping and a little bit of celebrating for her birthday. In one month I got to see my aunt, grandma, dad, step mom, and sister. With the exception of my mom, who lives in Europe, that’s pretty much everyone! (A big shift from the SW region where I never saw anyone I knew!)

She didn't get this dress so I'm allowed to post this picture, right?

She didn’t get this dress so I’m allowed to post this picture, right?

We ended our time in Wisconsin the right way. First by working this event called Stein and Dine, which is a beer, sausage, and cheese sampling event in Milwaukee. Naturally I had to get my picture taken with the Brewer’s Racing Sausages after work.

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Our final stop was at the Cheese Castle, right before the Illinois border.

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After copious amounts of cheese sampling, I felt it was only fitting to get a good cheese head photo to mark the occasion.

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And that was pretty much all of April. I know I crammed it into one Touristy Tuesday post, but it seemed to move so fast that you could barely distinguish one week from the next. April, probably more so than any other month on the road yet, was when I felt the most like a road-warrior. I’m glad I had friends and family to see along the way, because that helped make it as enjoyable as it was. Packing and unpacking was almost fun, knowing we would get to see familiar faces at the each new destination!

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Race Report: Go! St. Louis Half Marathon

What’s this… two half marathons in two weeks?! Have I finally emerged from winter hibernation? It appears so.

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This Sunday I completed half marathon #9 – the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. It was impromptu and last minute, but turned out to be a blast! I had secretly been hoping something would work out that would allow me to run it and it did!

Midway through last week I was looking at our schedule and noticed that St. Louis just so happened to be on the way from Louisville to Denver, our route for the weekend. While we weren’t supposed to start the drive until Sunday, I managed to talk my awesome bosses into letting us get a few hours of a head start Saturday night so we could end up in St. Louis. How convenient, right? I just happen to be in St. Louis the morning of the Go! Half Marathon!

Since I received the good news only days before the race I was unable to register online. Luckily, everyone I know who runs in the Midwest just happened to be running the race. My girlfriend from freshman year of college, Annica, was a doll and agreed to register me at the expo on Saturday, since I would be missing that as well.

Freshman year football game at Mizzou. Aww. Throwback.

Freshman year football game at Mizzou. Aww. Throwback.

Annica and I started running about the same time and have always talked about doing a race together. Over the last two years we have both grown as runners (and bloggers – you can read her phenomenal and much more interesting blog at AnnicaNicole.com) Finally, we got our chance to spend some quality race time together!

Before the race.

Before the race.

Eliot and I got into St. Louis fairly late Saturday evening to our hotel at the Residence Inn downtown. I’ve talked about this hotel before and how much I absolutely adore it, especially the staff. They were phenomenal and managed to squeeze us in, even though the whole city was packed for the race that weekend. That is, until we showed up and the desk clerk, “regretfully had to inform us that there was an error in reservations and they accidentally gave our rooms away.” WWHHAATT??? He said they didn’t have my number to call so they had no way of letting us know sooner. WWHHAATT?? He said he would do what he could and headed into the back office.

Instead, Nikkita (one of the fellow desk clerks who we know quite well) comes out. JUUUUUSSTT KIIIDDDIIINNGG. They have rooms – no problem! April Fools! I think my heart rate was the higher during those five minutes than during the actual half marathon. I had already started planning my contingency plan for which sofa I would be sleeping on, knowing there was no chance of getting rooms in downtown St. Louis at that hour. Those tricksters!

Sunday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn and Annica and her boyfriend Amer picked me up. Annica had warned him that I would be quite cheerful and sure enough, I was filled with my usual pre-race enthusiasm! Amer dropped us off at the race start and Annica and I made our way through the throngs of people.

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The half marathon portion of Go! boasts around 12,000 runners, so it’s huge. The marathon has far less runners, approximately 3,000. I mentioned I knew a few runners in the race and before the gun I tried to find a few of them. I managed to spot Tim, but was unable to find the others.

Tim and I at the race start - he was doing the full marathon on his own quest for marathons in all 50 states.

Tim and I at the race start – he was doing the full marathon on his own quest for marathons in all 50 states.

The race itself went really well. The first few miles smelled of carbs, carbs, and more carbs! Through mile 5 the course led up to and through the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and you could smell all of the yeast and hops. That was just a prelude to the beer to come…

Around mile 4 I stumbled across a few more running pals. I saw a group of Marathon Maniacs ahead of me, with signs saying one of them was running their 100th marathon. ONE HUNDRED MARATHONS. Yep – that’s a maniac if I’ve ever heard of one. Being the peppy runner I am, of course I had to yell out a congratulations. Who turned around but none other than Peter, one of my roommates from the Mississippi Blues Marathon in January.

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Ahead of him was Danielle, from the T-Rex Runner blog that I’m a huge fan of!

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The rest of the race was ups and downs. Mile 7 boasted the “Holy Hill!” Honestly, after last week’s Run the Bluegrass, it didn’t phase me too much. I imagine if I had not done the Bluegrass it would be a much different story. Right around there I saw the best sign of the course.

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Of course, that sign was closely followed by this one. As a fan of internet memes, I found it hilarious. Since my name is Kelly, I found it beyond awesome.

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There were a few other good race signs along the way, especially at the hill…

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Sorry mom! :-/

While there were a few friends I didn’t get to see, there was one I did get to hear from. Ashely, who was one of my students when I was a TA in undergrad was running. Before the race she had sent me a text that read “Call if you’re bored.” Yes, I am one of those people that runs with their phone AND uses it. Shamelessly, I might add. We chatted for a bit, compared notes, and then wished each other a happy run!

Mile 10 was were the half and full marathon split. At that point there was a DJ playing the song, “I would walk 500 miles and then walk 500 more.” The pacer nearby sung merrily along, but changed the lyrics to more accurately sing, “I will run three more miles and then run no more!”

Annica, on her way to a course PR!

Annica, on her way to a course PR!

Annica was getting comments on her butt all race. Thank goodness her boyfriend Amer wasn't running with us!

Annica was getting comments on her butt all race. Thank goodness her boyfriend Amer wasn’t running with us! I was starting to get a little jealous by mile 9.

The last mile was brutal and uphill. I said to Annica as we neared the top of one hill, “We just have to get over this!” to which she responded, “It’s like this the rest of the way!” She was right! Those final uphills always get me. I don’t feel victorious coming into the finish off of those, which may be the intended purpose. But my butt probably looks good, so that’s great!

The first place marathoner finished before us. No big deal.

The first place marathoner finished before us. No big deal.

Of course, along the way we had to do some fueling. My race favorite appeared in the hands of spectators around mile 9 – Twizzlers! Yum. Nothing hits the spot for me more during a race than those. Friends – take note! There was also beer, beer, and more beer! This is St. Louis after all. Those are carbs, right?

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Annica and I crossed the finish in that adorable, holding hands up high cute finishers photo kind of way. (I’ll post those cheesily whenever they show up online.) After that I embarked on my favorite post-race ritual, grabbing as much food as my arms will carry.

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A loaf-sized pretzel – Check!
An ice cream sandwich from the infamous St. Louis Ted Drewes creamery – Check!
Toasted ravioli – Check!

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After the race I had to speed off back to the hotel since it was still technically a work day. 15 minutes and a shower later, we were on the road – Denver bound!

Touristy Tuesday: St. Louis, MO Edition

For me, blogging and running are a lot alike. I’m either really in the zone, or really not. Since the Mississippi Blues Marathon I’ve been really not in the zone and I am trying to catch up on both! The thing is, when you drive the Wienermobile you can’t skip any weeks with these Touristy Tuesday posts – they keep coming! You’re in a new city every week and there is always something to report on.

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Since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want (read that like a whiney five year old wrote it) I’m just going to try to work my way backward. This last month we have been traveling across Missouri (home sweet hot dog home) and I’ve been able to not only see new sights, but also see old friends.

Our last stop was St. Louis, MO, where we spent about a week and a half. Now even though I went to Mizzou, have a Missouri drivers license, and occasionally claim the state as home when people ask me where I’m from, I haven’t actually spent too much time in the STL area. Aside from day trips or quick getaways with the girlfriends, it’s pretty uncharted territory for me.

We drove into St. Louis from Columbia the day of the Snowpocalypse of 2013. THUNDERSNOW! I begged Eliot for an extra 30 minutes to get ready and we ended up leaving at 8:30 Thursday morning. I went to load my belongings into the company car at 8:00 a.m. – no snow. By 8:30 a sheet of ice and half an inch of snow had accumulated. OOPS! Sorry Eliot! To be an even worse partner I claimed dibs on not driving and he had to take the first shift.

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While I felt really bad about the situation at first, as we slowly crawled our way along I-70 at 30 mph, it turned out to be a great idea. The CB radio cut in an out with weather updates from truckers reporting the treacherous conditions, a conversation sprinkled with enthusiastic Wienermobile sightings. It went a lot like this:

  • “Y’all don’t even think about going west. You a’int getting nowhere today.”
  • “Did you see that trucker flying? He’s going to learn real fast not to drive like that.”
  • “Well I’ll be damned. It’s the Oscar Mayer Wiener Wagon!”
  • “This snow is some shit.”

This was our first time tuning into the CB and we were quite delighted with the snippets of conversation that we managed to catch.

The decision to leave late was validated when we had our first big media hit of the day. I got a message from a friend who said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill had just tweeted about the Wienermobile. Turns out she had seen us driving and tweeted a picture of it to her 88,000+ followers! We later learned she also called into Fox2 news in St. Louis – another media hit for us. (Glad I voted for her!)

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Three hours later, finishing a drive that usually takes just two hours, we pulled into our home for the week. We stayed at the Residence Inn in Downtown St. Louis (which I will rave about more later on.) Frazzled from the drive and ready to relax, we went to check-in. The manager enthusiastically told us the weather was broadcasting from the parking lot. Ok, even with our cold buns we still couldn’t pass up the opportunity for another media hit, so we went to seek out the crew.

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Turns out it wasn’t just the local weather, it was the Weather Channel and they were broadcasting live! We got hit after hit as the anchor reported with the Wienermobile behind them. We also were interviewed and I made my first debut on national television.

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 All this media is a big deal for us, because that’s the more serious side of our job, when we aren’t appearing in parades or at state fairs.

If that wasn’t a big enough day, that afternoon we received another phone call. Turns out a current college senior who had applied to drive the big dog, and who had a phone interview just days earlier, was in St. Louis and saw us. What is absolutely crazy about this is that we had just been talking about him with our boss the day before! He is from Minnesota, so for him to run into us in St. Louis was pretty incredible. Eliot and I went down to the lobby to meet him and his father, who were hilarious. I won’t say too much more, but I’m really rooting for him. I mean, he has experience running a hot dog stand and even started his own grilled cheese delivery service to the college dorms!

With the big day Thursday, Friday we crashed. It was our first day off in the city and it went like this. Woke up, watched four episodes of The West Wing, got hungry, convinced Eliot to go grocery shopping, found a Subway which only had one person working because of the snow, returned to the hotel, and watched about seven more episodes of The West Wing. I don’t even feel bad about it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a tourist every day for a year?! Sometimes you just have to crawl under the hotel covers and pretend you’re at home vegging out. Admittedly, this is the epitome of a Hotddoger Problem if there ever was one.

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While we didn’t technically have Monday off this last week, it was a maintenance day and those are typically pretty low key. Show up to Penske, drop off the keys, and then wait for them to change the ketchup and mustard… err, oil. Luckily, we had access to the hotel shuttle and took advantage of the time during the day to do a little exploring.

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Eliot, the big baseball fan, wanted to tour Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play. I figured I would oblige him (this could come in handy for the next photo op I want to drag him to) and we ended up on a private tour of the grounds, led by a quaint, little old lady, named Mary. She regaled us with stories of her baseball youth, having been to all three Cardinals stadiums over the years. Busch Stadium is relatively new, built in 2006. It is the only stadium where the team played their first year and also won the world series that same year!

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She told us at least four times that their turf was Kentucky Bluegrass – but not grown in Kentucky! I’m not sure if Mary was just very excited about the Kentucky Bluegrass or if she just kept forgetting she told us, but either way that was probably the most interesting fun fact I walked away with from the tour.

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Now you might be wondering, wouldn’t the first thing you do in St. Louis be to see the Arch? Yes! It would! Unfortunately, we were in town ten days and the weather every single day was cloudy and overcast. We didn’t even see the sun until the last two days we were in town!

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Instead, we spent Tuesday indoors. The day started off with a tour of the Anheauser-Busch Brewery. I’m not sure what was the highlight of the tour: the tour guide who knew the calorie count of every single beer they make, the adorable senior citizen couples on the double date from Ames, Iowa, or the tasting. It was a great tour and I always feel like I’m on the Discovery or History channel whenever I get to see how things are made like that. Eliot is the perfect tourmate because he doesn’t mind all the questions I ask and always has some himself!

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That afternoon I left Eliot at the hotel and headed out to Forest Park to see the St. Louis Art Museum. Proclaimed etched in stone above the entrance was “Dedicated to art and free for all.” It was a great, free way to spend the afternoon.

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Wednesday we spent quite a bit more time in the hotel, but that’s because it was the single best hotel on the road yet. This Residence Inn had the most friendly and accommodating staff you could imagine. They were just great people, from the front desk girls who invited us to karaoke night, to the breakfast crew. Angie, one of the ladies who ran the breakfast, was like a mom on the road. And then there was Willis, who called me Oatmeal Kelly all week because of my affinity for oats. Greg, the shuttle driver, even invited us to a theater performance with him that week!

This hotel was pretty special because it was also nearby a local children’s hospital and there were quite a few families with disabled children staying there. We saw that as an awesome chance to give back. Thursday we spent giving rides to these families from the hotel to the hospital. Hearing the laughs and giggles of the children and their parents was unbelievably rewarding! I can’t say enough about what a great experience we had at the hotel the whole week.

After a fulfilling day, Eliot and I had one more family to show off the company car to. Chris, a former Hotdogger living in St. Louis, had invited us out to dinner after we met his mom in Jefferson City the week before. We went to Dewey’s Pizza with him, his wife, and their three children. What a great night! There is something to be said for being adopted into a family while on the road and those hectic family dinners are actually really comforting. The pizza was great, but the company was even better and Eliot and I had a blast.

While in St. Louis we actually got to catch up with quite a few Hotdoggers, including Vicki, who is the voice of our jingle horn. When I announced to the people at our Walmart event that we had a celebrity present, the horn jingle singer herself, no one seemed to share my enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been listening to the jingle horn multiple times per day, ever day, for nine months. Since the horn is a familiar friend these day, it was like going to Oz and meeting the Wizard – she was the real deal!

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We also had dinner with Court, another Mizzou alumni and fellow Hotdogger. He took us out to dinner on The Hill, the italian district in St. Louis. As you can tell, our time in St. Louis involved a lot of carbs and an equally large number of “back in the day” stories!

Friday night was partner date night for Eliot and I. We are now getting to the point where we’re honest about our quirks, for better or for worse. The honeymoon period is over – he knows I go to bed at 10 p.m. unapologatically and I know that I can count on him to look up the history about absolutely anything. What’s great is that we’ve realized we share a lot of common interests, including oldies music, an affinity for puzzles, and a penchant for museums of all sorts. So Friday night we turned down the booze cruise invite around St. Louis with my Mizzou friends and headed to the St. Louis Science Center.

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Before heading out for a night of nerdiness, we went to the Central West End for dinner at Culpeppers, as recommended by everyone at the hotel. Turned out we were in the right place at the right time and I got a text from Jamie, a Mizzou friend, who said she spotted us. Since we never fly under the radar, I was more surprised she was in St. Louis than the fact that she saw us. Jamie and her boyfriend Andrew, who I was excited to finally meet, joined us at dinner for a bit before we headed over to the Science Center. Talk about serendipity!

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We had lucked out and the Science Center was having a free First Friday event. Dinosaur excavation, a free planetarium show, and – the best part – a showing of Jurassic Park on their OMNIMAX screen! My friend Katie met up with us for a bit at the museum before she headed out on the booze bus, and it was fun to see her for a bit.

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We just barely made it into the Jurassic Park showing. We had standby tickets and they cut the line off about four people ahead of us. Determined to see Jeff Goldblum – and, you know, some dinosaur action too – I asked if we could sit on the floor. They said sure! Turns out there were actually a bunch of seats left and Eliot and I actually ended up with a great view. We had snuck in snacks too, so we munched away on animal crackers (we thought it would be fitting) and gummy worms galore! We searched the shelves for dino gummies, because that would have been perfect, but they must have gone extinct since we couldn’t find any.

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Friday night Eliot and I took the advice of all the Hotdoggers we had talked to in St. Louis and headed to Blueberry Hill for dinner. This was one cool place! Chuck Berry occasionally performs there and the walls are lined with cool music memorabilia. They have boardgames embedded into all of the tables and you can play chess, checkers, or dominos before your meal. We were pretty excited about this because Eliot and I had already planned a night of board games and beer back at the hotel, so this kickstarted the night early! We went with Dominos and even though Eliot had to teach me how to play, I still ended up dominating. I think the final score was something like 117 to 14. This mirrors our scores when we play Words with Friends, but at least this time it’s good that my score is substantially less!

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The food at Blueberry Hill was delicious! Eliot tried toasted ravioli for the first time. Even I know enough about St. Louis to make sure he try that before he leave the city limits. Sadly we never got around to the gooey butter cake, so we’ll have to come back.

During our event on Friday Eliot and I had found two steals we couldn’t pass up, a cheap glow-in-the-dark puzzle and Yahtzee for $7! We figured why not. We decided to save the puzzle for a hotel room with a bigger table, but opened Yahtzee right away. Our first game went as well for me as dominos had and I got the first Yahtzee of the game. Yes, of course, I yelled YAHTZEE at the top of my lungs – sorry neighbors! After that though, Eliot was rolling Yahtzees left and right. It must have been the wine because typically I’m overly competitive, but suddenly I was cheering for his rolls more than my own. Oh well, it’s fun to see someone win! I swear, Yahtzee is like the kiddie version of casino craps.

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Sunday was our final day in St. Louis and we had still not done the number one attraction in town – go up in the Gateway Arch. This is even a National Park Passport opportunity! It is a good thing we waited because after cloudy day after cloudy day we finally got a hint of sunshine on Sunday. It was enough to make us at least feel like there would be some kind of view when we made it to the top.

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After a 630′ tram right in an egg shaped pod, where we knocked knees with an overly affectionate couple (who makes out in a tram car you are sharing with strangers less than a food away?!) we made it to the top. One side looked out on the desolate Illinois side, which was only brightened by seeing the tiny Wienermobile on the ground. The other had a beautiful panorama of the city! We were glad to have finally made it because it was definitely worth the trip.

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And with that, our tram down took us back to the streets of St. Louis and it was time to pack for our trip to Kansas City.

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