A Hot Time in the Old Springs: Gables Inn & Hot Springs, AR

Gables Inn

Today the road has brought me to Hot Springs, AR.

I had some time to burn, so I decided to go on an outing, but wanted to go in a new direction and, preferably, someplace warm.  A little look through my spreadsheet and I settled on Hot Springs, AR where I would stay at Gables Inn, owned and operated by Dave and Judy.

It was a beautiful day for travel and I enjoyed the weather and my tunes as I made my way to my stopping point of Miami for the night.  Miami, OK that is.

Miami is a small town nicknamed “The Gate” due to its being about 30 minutes from the Kansas border and about 20 minutes from the Missouri border.  The legendary Route 66 also runs through the town.

I checked into my suite at the town’s Holiday Inn Express and rested for a few hours before heading off to worship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Sacred Heart

It was a mighty good service as Father warmed up to his sermon which centered on the parable of The Prodigal Son where he talked about the role of forgiveness in Lent.  Father said nothing thrilled him more than when people came to Confession and told him that they hadn’t come in years.  He saw it as a time for celebration as they recognized their need for forgiveness.

I also ended up providing a little entertainment for the congregation as I was seated near the front and didn’t know what to do for Eucharist as nobody appeared at the front to distribute it.  One of the parishioners eventually pointed out that they were really old school and actually knelt at the Communion rail in order to receive it.

After church, I began looking for something to eat, but found myself thwarted a bit.  My first choice was closed for the day and the town is also suffering from the short staffedness caused by the pandemic so I ended up skipping my second choice as the wait would have been too long.  Eventually, I hit pay dirt with my third choice of Montana Mike’s Steakhouse.

I enjoyed a surprisingly tender sirloin with a topper of Creamy Cajun shrimp.  The cream was nice and sharp and really enhanced the flavor of the beef.  After the meal, I returned to the hotel where I enjoyed a quiet night capped off with a relaxing jacuzzi bath before going to bed.

The next day I was back on the road and soon found myself in the Natural State enjoying the views of forests and mountains as I made my way to Hot Springs.

Hot Springs is a village nestled within the Ouachita Mountains and the last 70 miles found me navigating twisty roads and hills as I admired some of God’s scenery.  Around 4pm I found myself at Gables Inn.

Gables Inn is a Victorian house which had been built as the dream home of Fred and Myrtle Sammons.  The home was gutted by the infamous Hot Springs fire of 1904, but the Sammons rebuilt the entire thing from top to bottom and returned to their home in 1905.  The house became an inn in 1993 and was taken over by Dave and Judy in 1996 which makes it the longest continuing B & B in Hot Springs.

Judy met me at the door and led me to the Governor’s Room which would serve as command center for the next few days.  The room has the feel of a classic Victorian inn with its fireplace and Victorian lamps.  For more modern comforts, the room contains a king-sized bed with memory foam pillows and a two person jacuzzi bath.

On the desk was a bottle of the town’s namesake water which is reported to have high healing properties and I can certainly testify that it healed my thirst.

I didn’t plan too much for my first night.  I just went to Red Pier for dinner as I was in the mood for Cajun food.  It’s a chain restaurant very similar to the Angry Crab Shack of Phoenix, AZ.  The meal balanced out to OK.  I had a small bowl of gumbo which had a decent taste, but was more like soup instead of stew.  The chicken strips I had were incredibly juicy with flavorful meat, but had bland breading.

Red Pier

After dinner, I just returned to the inn where I puttered around before going to bed to energize myself for the next day.

In the morning I went down to the dining room for breakfast and heard the other guests excitedly planning their days while we dined on a delicious 4 cheese quiche with cherry tomatoes and sausage.  With the other guests plotting their own adventures, there wasn’t much conversation so I finished eating fairly quickly before heading out the door.

4 cheese quiche, cherry tomatoes, and sausage

Hot Springs is interesting as it is not only a tourist town with a lot of activities, but it’s also built around a national park so there’s something for everybody.  Is shopping your bag?  Lots of interesting stores to visit.  Enjoy nature?  Plenty of hiking and scenery.  Perhaps you like shows?  The #1 magic show in all of Arkansas holds court in Hot Springs.  Maybe you just want to relax?  There’s a series of bathhouses and spas along Bathhouse Row.

For myself, I went to the national park and went to the top of the Mountain Tower.  This 216-foot structure provides a panoramic view of Hot Springs and in the distance you can see the West and Sugarloaf Mountains.

After enjoying nature, I went back to the main drag and bought tickets to take a duck boat tour as well as visit Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

A duck boat is a truck that can transform into a boat.  So our captain took us on a tour of Hot Springs on the streets before taking us onto the lake in boat mode and show us some of the luxury homes.  A lot of wealthy people like to use Hot Springs as a vacation home.  The owners of one of the houses only visits 3 days out of the year and, the rest of the time, the house is occupied by a housekeeper and her daughter who keep the place tidy.

Speaking of “vacation homes”, a lot of notorious gangsters liked to spend time in Hot Springs.  Lucky Luciano and Al Capone were frequent visitors who often plied their trade while relaxing.

When the tour was done, I went to Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  If you’re wondering, she is the great-great granddaughter of Madame Tussaud, but this museum is not connected to that famous chain.  It’s been the same exhibit since 1971, but is still in pretty good condition.  I enjoyed replicas of The Last Supper, wandered through a Chamber of Horrors, experienced historical moments like Lincoln’s assassination, and ambled through a land of fantasy where characters from fairy tales and Mark Twain stories greeted me.

From the museum, I wandered up and down the drag, stopping in at an old-fashioned candy store where I picked up some cinnamon bears and at a beef jerky outlet when I picked up a snack pack of cracked pepper jerky.  Heads up, the jerky isn’t cheap.  My snack pack cost nearly $12.

I also took a brief stop at Arlington Lawn to see the hot springs and briefly touch the 143 degree water.

Hot Springs

Then I got in my car and headed off to Anthony Chapel.  This wood and glass structure looks like the twin of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the inside of it as a wedding was being held.

Anthony Chapel

I was ready for a little break and returned to the inn to rest up a bit before walking downtown for an early dinner at Brick House Grill.

This is one of the favorite restaurants of Dave and Judy and after experiencing it, I can see why.  Brick House Grill has a bistro feel and even includes outdoor seating.  I had the Brick House Burger and it was one of the tastiest burgers I’ve ever eaten.  I could smell the chargrill as it was placed in front of me.  It was so juicy and the grilled onions and crispy bacon really hit the spot.

When dinner digesting I headed over to the Malco Theatre AKA The Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic.

Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic and Comedy

Maxwell Blade’s magic show has been the top rated show in Arkansas for the better part of three decades and I highly recommend a visit to the theatre to experience both the Close Up show and the full theatre show.

The Close Up show takes place at 6pm in a tiny theatre just behind the bar.  And I do mean tiny.  The theatre only holds about 24 people so I can assure you the tricks are done right in front of your face.

The Close Up show is performed by Jonathan Erlandson, a very talented magician.  He did things 3 feet from my face that just didn’t seem possible such as making a table float and dance.  He even did variations of classic tricks with bold twists.

At one point, Erlandson brought up an audience member and had her shuffle a deck of cards and give him half.  Then he offered to switch decks or even have her take cards from his pile or add cards to his pile from hers.  She added to his pile.  Then she picked a card and he picked a card.  Then they switched decks and he correctly picked her card.  But the real trick was that she was going to pull his card.  Erlandson told her to fan the cards and pick any card she wanted from his deck.  Then he calmly stated what his card was and the eyes of the audience member bugged out as she turned the card around and it was right!!

I thought his most impressive illusion was when he asked for a bill.  I offered up a $20 and Erlandson had me write my name on it.  He then folded it up, tossed it into a bowl of lighter fluid, and lit it on fire as a stopwatch while he sped solved a Rubik’s Cube.

He solved the puzzle in a matter of seconds, but my $20 was ash.  Then he talked about the Attention Test (watch the video first).

Did you do so? OK.

Then he asked us if we had noticed the point he walked over to the sealed jar on the opposite side of the stage.  He went to the jar, removed the lid, and took something off of the clip hanging to it.  He handed it to me and had me unfold it.  It was my $20. And, no, he never walked near the jar.

You must see this show and enjoy some truly in your face magic.

Maxwell Blade

The main show, performed by Maxwell Blade, is also a treat.  Blade’s show is full of comedy, music, and magic.  His sleight of hand is so quick and sure.  He’s an accomplished piano player and he and his girlfriend belted out a pretty fair rendition of “Rocketman”.  Blade’s tricks and illusions are performed at a blitzkrieg pace, but my two favorites were his new take on Houdini’s famed Metamorphosis trick.  Though, in this one, his assistant was chained up in an iron maiden shaped cage in full view of the audience before they swapped places with a close of the curtain.  With another sweep of the curtain, Blade had escaped and the stagehand was now shackled.

His final illusion was incredible as he poured various colored powders into a fish bowl and swirled them into liquid.  After showing us his clean hands, he swirled again and broke them back up into solid powders.

If you’re a fan of magic and fun, buy a ticket for this show and find out why it’s the best in the state.

Then I walked back to Gables Inn, drew a jacuzzi bath, and just relaxed while sipping a cream soda before going to sleep.

The next morning found me back in the dining room where I had some conversation with a couple from Texas and a couple from Germany while enjoying blueberry cream cheese stuffed French Toast and sausage.

Sausage and Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

This was a great trip and I’m a little blue to see it come to an end.  But take some time in Hot Springs where you can enjoy almost any sort of activity you can imagine.  And be sure to take a room in Gables Inn where you can enjoy some classic Southern hospitality in a comfortable Victorian inn.

Until the next time. . .oops, wait a sec.

It’s bonus time.

On my way home, I took an extended break in Fayetteville, AR so I could experience Arkadia Retrocade.

Arkadia Retrocade

Hands down, this is the best vintage arcade I have ever seen and it wasn’t operating at full strength. The arcade has only recently reopened so some of the games are being worked on, but even at partial strength, this place is amazing.

For $5 (yes, you read that right) you can play all you want for the day. This place not only has classics, but has some next door to impossible games to find as well. Some rare gems I found at this arcade were Thayer’s Quest, a Dragon’s Lair type game that was never fully finished; Hologram Time Traveler, another Dragon’s Lair type game which simulates the look of a hologram; Gold Medalist which was made for the Seoul Summer Olympics; 720, Krull; and many more. There are even sections set up where you can play classic systems like Coleco Vision and Atari 2600. If I’m ever through this way again, I’m going to arrange for a full day of gaming as two hours was simply not enough time.

And now, until the next time. . .happy travels.

Isolated Oasis: Echo Canyon & Sulphur, OK

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The mansion at Echo Canyon Spa Resort

Today the road has brought me to Sulphur, OK.

With the tiniest starts of a return to normalcy, I began to wonder if it were possible to get away from it all.  And I realized that it was a possibility, provided I got away from it all.

One perk of my particular calling is that the inns I visit tend to be in small towns, thus making social distancing considerably easier.  So a small town in a relatively unaffected county would make a visit possible, though it would have to be a special inn as I took it for granted that normal goings-on would either still be curtailed if not outright on hiatus.

I found such an inn in the form of Echo Canyon Spa Resort owned and operated by Joe and Carol Van Horn.

But, before we get to the inn, let’s look at the first part of the journey.

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Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Emporia, KS

To break up the long drive, I journeyed to the town of Emporia, KS where I made the inaugural use of my IHG membership with a reservation at a Holiday Inn Express and Suites.  For an extra $10, I opted to go ahead and get a suite for maximum relaxation and comfort.  Before heading to my room, I did wander around the hotel to see how the pandemic had affected it.  Notably, the exercise room and swimming pool were closed, but the hotel did still promise breakfast in the morning.

I headed up to my room and either the hotel is new or the rooms have been remodeled because this suite looked like it had just rolled off the assembly line.

The idea of a hotel suite seems to be rapidly changing.  When I think suite, I think a living room and a bedroom, but the modern hotel suite seems to be a very big room with a hideaway bed.  Not that it wasn’t comfortable, I just like the homeyness of a traditional suite.

I did need a little something to eat so I decided to give Braum’s a try.  This restaurant chain is prevalent in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas and is known for its ice cream, burgers, and fresh market.  I tried a pepper jack and jalapeno burger and decided to indulge in a vanilla shake.  Unlike other fast food chains, a shake can be had at Braum’s instead of a beverage for no additional charge on most of their meals.

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Braum’s

I brought my dinner back to my room and was quite pleased by the shake and crinkle cut fries.  The burger wasn’t too bad either.  As it was already late, I did my nighttime rituals and got a good night’s sleep in the king sized bed.

I arose in the morning, caught a bath, and then went down to see what the hotel offered for breakfast.

I was somewhat disappointed, but not entirely surprised by the limited selection.  No hot items were available, though milk, juice, cereal, coffee, and pastries were available.  I grabbed a glass of juice and took some milk and Apple Jacks back to my room for a light breakfast.

At 10am, I was back on the road.  The drive was pretty smooth and even the normally dull drive of the Kansas Turnpike wasn’t so bad due to construction adding some color and the addition of a few Dunkin Donuts that broke up the monotony of McDonald’s and Valeros.

Around 2pm, I arrived in the tiny town of Sulphur.  A brief drive through the Chickasaw National Rec Area brought me to the gate of Echo Canyon, winner of several hospitality awards and voted the best inn in Oklahoma by MSN in 2015.

As this is a private, secluded property, you have to call for the gate code in order to be admitted, but you are admitted into a marvelous oasis.

A visit to this private resort all but guarantees that you won’t have to leave the property unless you REALLY want to as the property not only contains an inn, but a spa in the form of the Aloha Spa, a swimming pool, bar, gift shop, and a five star gourmet restaurant called Baron of Beef.

Unlike most B & Bs, Echo Canyon maintains a regular staff and one of the staff gave me a brief tour of the property before leading me to the mansion and the Chardonnay Chalet which would be my base of operations for the next few days.

Every room at Echo Canyon bursts with luxury as each contains a queen or king sized bed along with a fireplace, JASON jacuzzi chromotherapy tub, and a large screen TV with over 50 movie channels available.  I marveled at the quality of the room before getting situated and spending a few minutes looking out at the vista from my private balcony.

Once settled, I wandered around the property and got a look of the inn’s private orchard and garden.  The inn is known for its peaches which it uses in its signature peach hibiscus juice which was a cornucopia of flavor.

I puttered around the inn and room until 6:45 when I headed to Baron of Beef for dinner.

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Baron of Beef

Come hungry if you choose to have dinner because it is a feast.  The meal began with garlic bread with a homemade basil pesto sauce.  The bread was warm and chewy and I actually accepted an offer of a second piece because it was so good.  The first course was a house salad with fresh vegetables and greens and what I believe was a house Italian.  The main course was a triple entrée of a 10 oz beef fillet with smaller servings of Roasted New England duck breast marinated in plum sauce and an Alaskan halibut with a cream sauce.  For side courses, there was a twice baked potato with green beans.

I can’t remember the last time I had a meal this wonderful. The beef was cooked just right.  The duck didn’t have a trace of gaminess.  Be certain to slice it thin if you have it as it brings out the best flavor.  The halibut was right on the mark.  The potato was a work of art and the green beans were fresh and crisp.  I was stuffed to the gills before the end and I had to take my dessert course of chocolate truffle cake with me to be enjoyed as a bedtime snack.

Back in my room, I gave the jacuzzi tub a spin.  The water is from mineral springs located on the property and reportedly have a very therapeutic effect on the body.  I added some bath salts and shower gel to the tub and enjoyed a leisurely soak before sinking into the deep, cushy mattress of my queen sized 4 poster bed.

I woke up slowly and leisurely the next morning where I watched a little TV before heading back to the manor for breakfast.  I poured a glass of orange juice as I took a corner seat by a window.  Breakfast is a two course meal consisting of a first plate and a main course and each has a few options to choose from.  I chose the banana cinnamon coffee cake with fruit for my first plate and a tomato and spinach frittata with honey sausage, fried potatoes, and a biscuit with gravy for my main course.  Another fine meal and I was ready to. . .not really do a whole lot this day.

I did take a drive through the Chickasaw National Rec Area where I got a look at Little Niagara Falls.  I also took a drive over to Turner Falls Park in the hopes of seeing the namesake falls, but a very large line of cars was heading into the park and I decided it would be too difficult to social distance so I headed back to the inn where I read, watched TV, and caught a nap.

I decided to head off property for dinner and visited Fat Bully’s By the Lake which claims to have the best burger in Oklahoma.  After tasting it, I’m willing to support that claim.

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Fat B

Fat Bully’s has the look and feel of a hole in the wall which usually serves the best food.  It also boasts itself as a motorcycle themed restaurant which is bolstered by the pictures of bikers and motorcycles on the table and the restaurant seems to be popular with bikers due to the plethora of motorcycles I saw in the parking lot.

I had the Fat Bully which is an old-fashioned hamburger with the works plus bacon.  This was a perfect hamburger.  So juicy and tasty.  The vegetables tasted like they were just pulled from the ground.  And the fries were hot and perfect.  After a refreshing meal, I took a drive to Veterans Lake where I gazed at the water for a bit before heading back to Echo Canyon to relax for the evening.

The next morning I performed my ablutions, then headed to breakfast which was a repeat of yesterday’s menu, though I opted for the oat waffle for my first plate.

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Oat Waffle

I am going to make it a point to revisit this place after things return fully to normal in order to enjoy the Aloha Spa and visit the local sites.  But even with social distancing, Echo Canyon is a place where one can truly get away from it all and enjoy a taste of supreme luxury.  So when you feel ready to travel again, I encourage a visit to this isolated oasis.

Until the next time. . .stay safe and healthy. . .and happy travels.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  When researching inns, there are many websites from which to choose.  Personally, I use the bed and breakfast association of each state and I always make certain to visit the website of each inn when available.  And when I book, I always book directly with the inn.  While third party sites can be an aid, they don’t always have reliable information as Carol shared with me a story of a third party site that erroneously listed Echo Canyon as booked for months on end when reservations were actually plentiful.  So remember, when you want to book a B & B, always book direct.

Cotton Patch Redux, Day 2: Whispering Pines is a Diner’s Delight

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The Whispering Pines

After a pleasant day at the Woodward I found myself back on the road and heading to Norman, OK.

The one issue with driving through Kansas is that there is precious little scenery.  Adding to that issue is one must use the Kansas Turnpike which has to be one of the most mind-numbing drives one can take.  I had to take the turnpike on a trip to Texas several years ago and I seem to recall wondering if the turnpike had been sponsored by Amoco and McDonald’s as those were the only places one would see at rest areas along the way.

Well, some changes have been made in the ensuing years as Amoco seems to have been pushed out in favor of Valero and there was a Hardee’s or two to break up the McDonald’s.  Sadly, that was the limit of the scenery for the drive.

A day’s worth of driving brought me to Norman, OK where once again Mapquest had failed me utterly.  From the pictures I had seen for my next inn, I suspected it was outside the city, but the directions planted me right in the middle of downtown Norman.  Luckily, I found the Norman Public Library where Courtney graciously Googled Mapped better directions that took me to my next inn, the Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast.

Whispering Pines, owned and operated by Rany and Thavory Kchao, is rather secluded as it is located a bit out of town in the country.  That seclusion was rather good for my writing sensibilities due to the peace and quiet.  The property consists of the main house which holds several rooms and several luxury cottages located on various parts of the land.

Whispering Pines is unusual as it lacks many of the features of interest that I would expect to find at B & Bs.  I’m rather fond of exploring the houses as I enjoy the various ornate rooms and history.  Whispering Pines has more of the feel of a high class hotel as the lower floor consists of a check-in area and a dining room which serves as the location of Whispering Pines’ gourmet restaurant.

After checking in, I was led to the English Hunt Room which was a very comfortable room.  The centerpiece of the room was a luxurious king bed.  The room also has a small, but elegant bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and a private breakfast nook.

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The English Hunt Room

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Breakfast nook

What Whispering Pines lacks in terms of the traditional B & B experience, it more than makes up for in its magnificent perks.  As I stated earlier, the inn’s dining room serves as the eating area for Whispering Pines’ gourmet restaurant.  The reservations only restaurant is actually the primary focus of Whispering Pines as it is open to both guests and non-guests.

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Whispering Pines’ gourmet restaurant

If you find yourself in the area, make a reservation to eat here as the cuisine of French continental chefs, Chinda and Rany Kchao is a glorious experience.  I was seated by the fireplace where I was brought a basket of freshly baked rolls which were served with a homemade butter which had honey and dill mixed into it.  The taste was heavenly.

My meal opened with a Hungarian mushroom soup with Hungarian paprika.  The rich and thick orange broth had a lovely hint of spice and was deliciously creamy.

Between the soup and main course I was served a lemon-lime sorbet which was a dandy little palate cleanser.  For the main course I had an herb-potato encrusted salmon filet served with asparagus, zucchini, and scalloped potatoes.  The chef also included a slightly toasted potato which was carved into the shape of a rosebud.  It was both artful and tasty.

The salmon was cooked perfectly and served with a splendid champagne cream sauce.  The herb-potato added just the right bit of crunch and flavor.  The vegetables were fresh and crispy and the scalloped potatoes were wonderful.

After I finished the superb meal, I returned to my room where I enjoyed a nice long Jacuzzi bath.  I then grabbed a soda from the complimentary treats cabinet on the first floor and sipped Coca-Cola while continuing my latest Nero Wolfe novel until I fell into slumber.

Another perk of the inn is that each room has a breakfast nook and breakfast is served directly to your room.  A menu of choices is available in each room and you write your order down and place it in a box at the end of the first hallway with your preferred breakfast time.

At 9am sharp, my breakfast was delivered.  I had opted for a glass of orange juice with an omelet stuffed with cheese, onions, mushrooms, ham, and green peppers.  On the side was a serving of fried potatoes, mixed fruit, and a toasted roll.  Normally I like to provide a picture of the fine meals provided by B & Bs, but as I sit here and write, I have just realized that I enjoyed that fantastic repast without snapping a photo.

But take my word, it was quite wonderful and it looked good, too.  The fried potatoes had just the right blend of crunch, salt, and pepper.  The omelet was a taster’s delight.  The roll was made just so and the fruit was nice and fresh.

Now I’m just going to pack and kill a little time before beginning the final leg of my journey to Arlington, TX.  And, yes, I used Google Maps to refigure my route out of Norman.

 

Cotton Patch Redux, Day 1: Sanctuary

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The Woodward

Hello, dear readers, it’s nice to see you again.  I’m so glad you are able to join me for one of my biggest projects to date.

For my regular readers, you may remember that over the summer I visited the town of Whitehall, MI so I could review the play Cotton Patch Gospel at the Howmet Playhouse.  Due to the success of that review, I pursued an opportunity with the Repertory Company Theatre of Richardson, TX which offered me a free ticket to review its production of that show.  So I found myself on a frosty February morning heading down south to enjoy a worshipful play and escape from Old Man Winter’s grip on Omaha.

Continuing the weather trend from my escapades in Iowa over the holiday season, Omaha was hammered by a winter storm the day before I was set to leave for Texas.  Thankfully, this time I did not have to drive in it and the road crews had a chance to clean things up pretty well before I went on my way.

One of the more enjoyable things about this drive was that I was finally seeing some new scenery.  There are two main interstates out of the city (I-29 and I-80) that I normally have to take whenever I begin these excursions.  This time, I got to take Hwy 75 pretty much straight to my first stop in Topeka, KS.

It was very peaceful to travel through the smaller towns of Nebraska and enjoy traditional Americana.  I also considered it to be a fast forward view to spring as I watched winter’s clutch on the state weaken the further south I got.  By the time I reached the Nebraska City area, the snow was a mere dusting and by the time I reached Auburn it was gone, though the weather was still quite cold.

The first leg of the drive seemed to go faster than normal as I admired the countryside and listened to the tunes of my MP3.  Before I knew it I had arrived in Kansas’ capital city.

My first stop was at the Woodward Inns at Fillmore which is a hop, skip, and jump from the capitol building.  The Woodward is far more than a B & B.  It’s a little village of its own consisting of one gothic mansion, three stately executive inns, and three family inns with an eighth property set to open later this year that will be a luxury extended stay.

I was staying in the main inn, a Tudor mansion built in 1923 for Chester Woodward who wanted his final estate to be as authentically English as possible.  It is an impressive abode which boasts charmingly gothic rooms and a 2 ½ story library modeled after the King Henry VIII library found at London’s Hampton Hall.  It also features a year round lap pool heated to 90 degrees, though it was closed for cleaning due to a recent storm.

The mansion was bought by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress) in 1994 who had built a successful lobbying firm in the Topeka area.  Hearing the call of God to take care of others, she gave up her lobbying career to enter the hospitality field and begin building the empire of the Woodward.

Elizabeth was a most gracious host.  She is extremely knowledgeable about the Topeka area and is a fascinating conversationalist.  She gave me a tour of the mansion and offered to show me some of the other properties after breakfast the next morning.  After exploring the main inn, Elizabeth led me to the Master, my home for the night.

This room was almost too much room for one person.  The room boasts a large 4 poster bed with a fireplace (put to good use on this chilly night and morning) and sitting room.  After getting my stuff settled, my thoughts turned to dinner.

Elizabeth had suggested an eatery run by a friend of hers called the Blind Tiger Brewery and recognized for world championship caliber beers.  The building is quite unique.  I didn’t notice it from the outside, but once I got indoors, the place reminded me of a 3-D puzzle due to its construction and branching hallways.  It would be rather easy to get lost in this place.

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Blind Tiger Brewery

For my dinner, I did a rarity and sampled some of the beers due to its championship reputation.  I had samples of brown ale, Munich Dunkles, pale ale, and raw wheat.  I enjoyed the brown ale and the raw wheat the most.  For my entrée, I enjoyed the Texas Roadrunner which was a grilled chicken breast topped with beef brisket, cheeses, and peppers served on a bed of rice and steak fries.

The Blind Tiger Brewery apparently has a haunted history as Elizabeth suggested I ask about the ghost tour which I did, but there wasn’t anybody there who knew enough about the history to tell me the story.  So I returned to the mansion, organized some photos, set up the artificial fire for the night and hit the hay.

I awoke the next morning feeling ravenous.  I headed to the dining room where I found goblets of water and black cherry/cranberry juice waiting for me.  I sipped the glass of juice and found the fusion of the two fruits worked very well.

Within a few moments, Elizabeth brought me my breakfast which was an oven baked pancake with orange maple syrup, cream, blueberries, and bananas.  I managed to eat the fruit, but only made it halfway through the pancake before I felt full.

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Oven baked pancake with fruit and black cherry/cranberry juice

After breakfast, Elizabeth had her associate, Sarah, show me around her new properties called the Woodward Row Houses.  These will be luxury extended stay rooms and they look very nice.  My favorite was the basement studio apartment which is one of the nicest apartments I have ever seen.

Alas, it seemed my time came to an end too soon.  Currently I am putting the finishing touches on this article before beginning the next leg of my journey which will bring me to Norman, OK.

But if you are in the Topeka area, take some time to visit one of the many rooms of the Woodward.  You will find rooms suited to all tastes on the financial spectrum and one amazing innkeeper in Elizabeth Taylor.