Food and drink tours, Carlo’s Bakery, seafood finds all worth a trip

Portland tourists now have the opportunity to go on local food and drink tours.  USA Today recommends the Portland Walking Tours Epicurean Excursion, Forktown North Mississippi Avenue Tour, Food Cart Tour, Distillery Row Pedicab Tour and the Brewcycle Brewpub Crawl.  The tours range from $20 to $79 per person.

Photo by Dale L Puckett

Photo by Dale L Puckett

If your looking to travel for food, make sure to check out the new Carlo’s Bakery in Las Vegas.  Buddy Valastro, famous for being featured on Cake Boss in Hoboken, N.J., recently opened the new bakery in Las Vegas across the street from Buddy V’s Ristorante.  This is the first Carlo’s Bakery on the West Coast, but Valastro says they will keep growing.

With spring upon us, seafood is a popular choice.  Considering traveling to Seattle, Baltimore, Miami Beach, Biloxi, Miss., or Annapolis, Md., for a variety of crab?  Faidley Seafood in Baltimore offers three styles of crab cakes.  Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis, Md., is known for its steamed blue crabs.


Wamego is home to all things OZ

One of L. Frank Baum’s great grandson’s, Roger S. Baum, writes Oz children’s books. One of which, “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” will be a movie set to release in theaters May 9, 2014.  To get a head start on all things Oz be sure to visit Wamego, Kan.

Oz Highway, or Kansas highway 99, leads you to Wamego, Kan.  Offered downtown is the Oz Winery, Toto’s Tacoz and the Oz Museum. In L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written in 1900, no specific place in Kansas is mentioned. This allowed Wamego, Kan., to embrace and adopt Oz.

“When you think of Kansas, you think of Oz,” says Clint Stueve, executive director of The Columbian Theatre in Wamego. Stueve said he overtime he travels overseas people ask him about Dorothy. “They ask you about Toto because the only reason they know about Kansas is because of that book,” he said.  “I mean, it’s America’s fairy tail.”

Eight-foot tall Tin Man in the Oz Museum's gift shop. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Eight-foot tall Tin Man in the Oz Museum’s gift shop. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Why Wamego?

Wamego originally adopted Oz in 1995. It all started with a local man named Todd Machen. Machen had a large Oz collection that was on display in the Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. During this time, The Columbian Theatre had just opened in Wamego, where Machen lived. Many board members asked Machen if he would be interested in putting some of his collection on display at The Columbian Theatre. Once the collection was on display, tourists flooded to Wamego.

“We had 12,000 people come in over the two-month period that the exhibit was open,” said Stueve. “I mean our gallery was popular, but I’ve never seen that much popularity. I mean, we had visitors [from] overseas and from most of the states.”

Austin Hibbs is the gift shop coordinator at the Oz Museum. Hibbs said that the town needed some extra tourism. Before the town adopted Oz, their tourism came from the Tulip Festival and the windmill in the park. After seeing the amount of tourism one collection brought to Wamego, the board of directors at The Columbian Theatre wanted to do more.

“The decision was made at that point to open a museum so more than just that original group of people could come see [the Oz artifacts],” said Hibbs.

Museum History

Scarecrow in the Oz Museum. Photo by Cassidy Ritter.

Scarecrow in the Oz Museum. Photo by Cassidy Ritter.

The movement to create the Oz Museum was led by Clark Balderson, currently the owner and president of Dymax in Wamego. Balderson and many board members formed the Oz Museum and purchased its location just a few doors down from The Columbian Theatre. A contract was signed with Machen in 2003, and doors opened in April 2004.

The museum was built with a grant from the state of Kansas and support from people in Wamego.

In 2009, five years after opening, the museum brought in a new collector from Chicago. Most of the collections and artifacts are privately owned; however, the museum also has connections with the Baum family.

Two of L. Frank Baum’s great grandsons both have Oz collections they share with the museum, said Stueve.

The Oz Museum also has collections from all over, including some artifacts from Judy Garland’s son, Joseph Luft. Garland played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” film by MGM in 1939.

“A few items around here are the museum’s,” says Hibbs. “We are actually building our own collection, as people want to donate and give things to the museum.”

Today the museum has a collection of Baum’s books, board games related to Oz, a small theater showing the movie and many other Oz artifacts. They also have two of the four originally flying monkeys used in “The Wizard of Oz” film.

“The museum houses more than just memorabilia from the famous 1939 MGM musical starring Judy Garland,” says the Oz Museum website. “It encompasses earlier silent films.”

Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy's house. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy’s house. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Stueve says: “I think once your eyes are open to Oz, you don’t realize how much it has impacted our culture until you become intimately aware of Oz, and so now everything I see was in some way inspired by Oz. You don’t watch a television series without seeing an Oz reference. You don’t watch a movie without seeing an Oz reference. The Wizard of Oz, the film by MGM, is the most viewed movie in all history. We see how big of an impact a movie has on our culture, but for it to be the movie that everybody has seen, that’s huge.”

Fun Facts:

  • “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum has been around for 114 years.
  • Many of the munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz Film” have visited the museum.
  • The flying monkeys used in the film are about three or four inches in size.
  • In 2013, 30,000 people came to visit the Oz Museum. Three or four thousand visitors came from foreign countries.
  • The Columbian Theatre is in phase two of creating a Yellow Brick Road. When phase three is done, the Yellow Brick Road will end in the park with a spiral similar to what was in “The Wizard of Oz” film.
  • One of L. Frank Baum’s great grandsons travels doing talks about Oz in character as his great grandfather.


Cassidy Ritter: Wamego, Kansas, is home to all things Oz. There is the Oz Museum, Toto’s Tacoz and the Oz Winery. Kristen Clarke said the winery was built after the museum.

Kristen Clarke: The museum kind of brought the theme of Oz to Wamego specifically.

Ritter: When Noah Wright and Brooke Balderson took over the winery, they re-did the labels to have more of an Oz related theme.

Clarke: Everything is based off the book. That’s why on our “Squished Witch” label it has her little shoes up in the air. They are silver instead of ruby red because in Fank L. Baum’s original work the slivers were silver. They changed it to Technicolor in the movie.

Ritter: In the back of the store is the cellar where the wine is made.

Clarke: We bring the grapes here because we do purchase from a handful of different wineries around northeast Kansas and some other states as well. But we bring the grapes back here, press them and then hand bottle, label, cork, everything.

Ritter: Besides selling wine, the Oz Winery offers tastings and wine pairings. On occasion, they host small parties or events. The winery also has a collection of t-shirts and wine accessories. I’m Cassidy Ritter with Kwirky Kansas.

Spring drives, gross wonders, ancient sites in America

View on hiking trail in Colorado.  Photo by Cassidy Ritter

View on hiking trail in Colorado. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

With the arrival of spring, what better way to travel than with an American road trip?  CNN mapped out 10 of the best spring drives from Maine to California and everywhere in between.  The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado provides great views, the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Maryland and Virginia provides 591 different flower species and the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway in South California provides waterfalls, bridges and creeks.

7 gross wonders across America” highlights some unexpected and gross places to visit.  One of which is in Colma, Calif., where the dead outnumber the living by 899 at Necropolis by the Bay.  Another gross wonder is in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the Morbid Anatomy Library.  Here dead animals are dressed in outfits and pose doing human like activities.

Illinois and Texas are among CNN’s list on “8 very old sites in the New World.”  Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Ill., is the oldest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.  The Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands in Texas is a collection of cave paintings and carvings created by prehistoric hunters and gatherers.

Work done year round at Kansas winery

Off the beaten path in McLouth, Kan., is Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery.  Year round, owner, Don Bryant, is constantly working on the vineyard.


Cassidy Ritter: Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery is located in McLouth, Kan.  Onsite is a bed and breakfast.  They sell an assortment of jellies along with five different wines.  The most famous wines are the “Jefferson Red” and “Indian Summer.”

Don Bryant: Right now is the time that we like to prune our grapes.  You know, adjust the trellis if required.  We’re probably almost halfway though with the process.  And then once growth occurs, there will be a requirement for the spring.

Ritter: In the wine cellar, the grapes are placed in the crusher and stemmer.  The juices are then placed in sealed wine tanks.  Wine yeast is added and tested for quality and taste.  This process is called fermentation.

Bryant: In fermentation, the majority of it occurs within about a week’s time.

Kris Johnson: I thought it was awesome.  It was very quaint and cozy, yet it’s very scientific- the whole process of making wine.  And it was fascinating.

Ritter: Said Kris Johnson, who recently visited Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery.  This is Cassidy Ritter with Kwirky Kansas.

Travel powered by the kindness of others

Photo by Matt Long

Photo by Matt Long

Leon Logothetis combined his passion for traveling and connecting with others into the Kindness Cab and Kindness One.  The Kindness Cab is a London taxi Logothetis used to drive from New York to Los Angeles helping those in need along the way.  The Kindness One is a yellow motorcycle with a sidecar Logothetis will use to travel around the world.

North Beach, Calif., is home to an all-American, hip bookstore and has been for 60 years.  City Lights Bookstore is not like any other bookstore.  City Lights Bookstore is home to many books not found outside of university libraries.  The store is split into sections such as Stolen Continents, Banned Books and Muckraking.

The Los Angeles Times has been doing series of 14 things to do or places to visit in 2014.  An article titled “14 offbeat destinations for 2014,” there are four offbeat destinations within the U.S.  The destinations range from Washboard Music Festivals in Ohio to the John M. Studebaker International Wheelbarrow Races in California.

Travel expected to increase in 2014

Cloud Gate in Chicago by Matt Long

Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Chicago by Matt Long


An increase in business travel, hotel construction and airline travel has travelers making more time for vacations.  International travel was up five percent in 2013 and predicted to increase to nine percent in 2014, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.  American road trips have also increased by four percent from 2013, according to an American Express Spending and Saving Tracker report.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) announced the release of the 2014 U.S. Travel Agency Regulatory Compliance Handbook.  This handbook explains the major federal statutes and regulations.  New assistance on the pending Hazardous Materials Rule is also in the handbook.

Supporting local business is one of the top seven ways to give back while traveling, according to a Huffington Post article.  Aside from supporting local businesses, travelers can give back by using public transportation, volunteering and being an ambassador of the place you visited.

Historic drive-in diner

Transcript for audio above:

[Background noise: burgers cooking on the grill, waitress saying, “I need a chocolate shake to go, no whip. Okay?”]

Cassidy Ritter:  Bobo’s Drive In has been serving customers in Topeka since 1948.

Lewis Spring: I started coming here, there were two Bobo’s when I started coming to Bobo’s.  The other one was a Huntoon and Lincoln and it was right next to the church that we went to. So after church my father would take us there and we would eat lunch there.

Ritter:  Since 2007, Richard Marsh has been the owner of Bobo’s.  To this day the recipes remain the same.

Richard Marsh: It honestly is a flashback to the 1950s, 1940s. And we’ve tried as much as we can, even in the modern day with credit cards, and Facebook, and Twitter and the Internet to preserve as much as possible that same handmade and delivered food process.

Ritter:  Along with the recipes, the history of Bobo’s brings customers through the door time and time again.

Marsh:  In this part of town, and in this market you know we stand out as something that has been successful for a long time.  And we do stand on the history that has made Bobo’s stand out in the mind of its patrons.

Spring: The reason I keep coming back to Bobo’s- I like the nostalgia.  I like the fact that it’s an old school drive-in diner and you just don’t see them anymore. And I like Americana. I like things that are very American and it’s a dying breed.


This old sign is in front of Bobo's Drive In attracting drivers from 10th Avenue in Topeka.

This old sign is in front of Bobo’s Drive In attracting drivers from 10th Avenue in Topeka.

On the wall, is a collection of photos showing the history of Bobo's.

On the wall, is a collection of photos showing the history of Bobo’s.

Inside Bobo's is a half-circle bar.  Behind the bar is the kitchen.

Inside Bobo’s is a half-circle bar. Behind the bar is the kitchen.

Travelers be aware of airline changes and winter storms

Delta Air Lines changed its frequent- flier program to reward customers on the fares they pay as compared to the miles they travel.  Delta is “the first of the so-called network carriers- large, hub-oriented airlines with international service-in the U.S.” to base their rewards on the cost of the ticket instead of the miles customers travel.

British Airways recently added Austin to their list of stops making “Austin one of the smallest U.S. markets able to boast of trans-Atlantic airline service.”  The first flight will be flown on the Boeing Dreamliner, the world’s first passenger jet made of carbon mixtures instead of aluminum and steel.

Winter storm captured by Dale L Puckett

Winter storm captured by Dale L Puckett

Winter Storm Titan is creating major travel problems across large areas like Washington D.C.  More than 2,100 flights have been canceled across the U.S. Monday with more than 3,000 delays, according to FlightAware.

Truckhenge- local Topeka art

One of many trucks featured at Truckhenge

One of the many trucks “picked up” at Truckhenge

As the weather heats up, take a drive onto Kincaid Road in Topeka, Kan., and don’t stop until you see a headless fish mailbox.  Pull into the driveway and leave your expectations in the backseat because here comes Ron Lessman, the owner and creator of Truckhenge.

Created in 2000, Truckhenge is a collection of broken trucks and buses tilted up in the air.  These trucks are from Ron Lessman’s lawn service that fed the hogs he raised on his family’s farm.  When the trucks from the lawn service broke down, he couldn’t get anyone to repair them so he parked them in the pigpen.

“They [Shawnee County] said I had to pick my trucks up, so I picked them up,” said Ron.  He took what the county said word for word and lifted the trucks into the air creating what is now known as Truckhenge.

This wall, in the Lessman home, is made of 1,200 recycled glass bottles.  The bottles were collected from the Lessman's themselves, their friends and dumpster diving.

This wall, in the Lessman home, is made of 1,200 recycled glass bottles. The bottles were collected from the Lessman’s themselves, their friends and from dumpster diving.

Ron and his wife, Linda, decorated their land with recycled art including glass bottles and old license plates along with rustic trucks and graffiti boats.

“I tell everybody that Ronnie Tom Sawyers his way through life,” said Linda. “To get things accomplished that he wants done he finds a way to make it pay to get it done.  So, he started the lawn service to be able to feed the pigs.  He built Truckhenge and then leased the land to the sand company to get the fish pond that we wanted.”

A variety of people visit Truckhenge each year to fish in their 30-acre pond or explore Truckhenge and Boathenge.  Ron tells each visitor: “I’m not looking for the Wally Cleaver; I’m not looking for the Kardashians.  I’m looking for the Adams Family.  I want the Three Stooges and Beverly Hillbillies crowd out here.  I want the one percenters. So that’s the whole idea- have a little fun out here.”

Shayln Murphy, communications and marketing director of Visit Topeka, first came to Truckhenge on a work trip.  “The tour started in his house,” she said.  “I remember we walked into the garage” as Ron explained the meanings of his artwork.

The environment surprised Murphy.  She expected to see a field of trucks but was instead entering Lessman’s home.  From the cemented ground to the arching ceilings, there was art everywhere.

“It’s the kind of place you look around and think of all the things you’ve thrown away,” said Murphy.  “He’s taken and repurposed them.  It makes you look at what we do with materials in another way.”

Throughout the visit, guests hear many stories about the history of the farm along with what has been found on the property.

“He’s a character,” said Murphy.  “There’s no one else like Ron Lessman.”

However, Murphy did suggest that guests “take some stories with a grain of salt.”

Once guests begin to walk through Truckhenge, their eyes are drawn to the writing on the trucks.  The state told Ron Lessman that the trucks were not agriculture so he took it upon himself to write on them.  The county said by writing “buy tomatoes” or “go fish” on the trucks they were considered advertisements and agriculture.  This meant they could remain on his property.

“I can’t fight the county but I sure can make fun of them,” said Ron.


A few times during the summer, Truckhenge becomes a nighttime concert venue.  Mark Weber, owner for Wichers Photography, has been to two concerts at Truckhenge.  The first concert he attended had six to eight local, heavy rock ‘n’ roll bands playing.

truckhenge fire

Photo by Mark Weber
In the summer, Truckhenge hosts many concerts. At this concert there is a man breathing fire. Behind him is a large bon fire.

At the concerts, Ron allows people to dump piles of tree branches on his property.  These branches are then piled together to create a large fire pit.

It was incredible and surreal, said Weber.  “There were flames 100 to 150 feet in the air.”

Weber tells visitors to have a sense of humor and not be prim and proper.  “You’re going to leave with some stories,” said Weber. “You’re going to have a good time.”

Truckhenge is an experience and an adventure, said Ron.  “Truckhenge was born of conflict but raised with humor and creativity.  That’s the whole point.”

Pennsylvania Community College cancels spring break

To make up for seven classes canceled or delayed due to winter storms, Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania canceled spring break.  Students are not happy with the cancelation of spring break, according to student tweets.  Students are told, if plans have been made for spring break, they are responsible to make up any work they miss.

As many college students and families prepare for spring break, USA Today says that traditional vacation spots “will see bigger crowds this year as the American economy continues to heal.”  Some upcoming events include JamFest, a weekend full of concerts, in Jamaica and MTV’s Spring Break Party in Cancun.

Photo by Dale L Puckett

Photo by Dale L Puckett

For people looking to stay in the U.S., Florida and Phoenix will be the best spring break locations according to Travelocity.  When it comes to looking for flights, travelers need to plan ahead.  Those who wait until the week of March 4 can expect to pay 53 percent more for a plane ticket compared to what they would normally pay for a flight.

Luke Bryan will release Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever on March 11, just in time for spring break.  Over the last five years, Bryan’s spring break EPs (extended plays) have sold 750,000 copies.  Bryan will play two free concerts in Panama City on March 11 and 12 at Spinnaker’s Beach Club.