Dakota Steakhouse, Rapid City, SD

Last Saturday evening, the lovely Robin and I had the joy of sharing a high-end dining experience with four of our newest close friends at the Dakota Steakhouse in Rapid City, South Dakota. After a full day of travel that started at 6 a.m. Eastern, we were ready for a relaxing and satisfying meal, and that’s what we got.

The Dakota Steakhouse is unique to Rapid City, inspired by the beauty and history of the area, as the American bison sculpture in front of the restaurant attests.
The company was top notch, and the food was outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed the "three sisters" soup that started my meal, the coulotte steak cooked to order, and the side of bacon-wrapped asparagus. Delicious!
The Dakota Steakhouse is located at 1325 N. Elk Vale Road in Rapid City, just off I-90.

K Bar S Lodge, Keystone, SD

The lovely Robin and I feel so blessed to be spending most of this week in the comfort and beauty of the K Bar S Lodge in the Black Hills of South Dakota, just minutes from Mount Rushmore.
In fact, we have the choice of having breakfast on the deck within view of Mount Rushmore (or at least George Washington’s profile, in the background of the photo above) or next to a few of our new wild friends in the dining room that faces the hillside (below).
Our room is perfectly comfortable—and let me just say, the hot water comes quick and hot! We couldn’t ask for more…or better.
The K Bar S is located at 434 Old Hill City Road in Keystone, South Dakota—walking distance from the main drag through town.

Ruby House Restaurant, Keystone, SD

Soon after our arrival in Rapid City, South Dakota, last Saturday afternoon, the lovely Robin and I were treated to a late lunch at the Ruby House in Keystone, South Dakota.
There we stepped into the Old West in the turn-of-the-century dining room appointed with red velvet draperies, period pictures in antique frames, and antique hand guns and rifles.
Despite its appearance, the Ruby House's history dates only to 1970! The original establishment was destroyed by a devastating June 1972 flood, and a subsequent structure was gutted by fire in 2003. The Ruby House and its next-door neighbor, the Red Garter Saloon, were reopened for business on May 20, 2004.
I had the huckleberry chicken salad, and it was different and delicious. Robin had a hamburger and fries, and enjoyed it, too. The service was attentive and efficient, and if the company hadn't been so enjoyable we would have enjoyed our surroundings even more.

The Ruby House is located at 124 Winter Street in bustling downtown Keystone, South Dakota.

Half-Stitched (The Musical)

During our brief stay in Shipshewana, Indiana, this past week, the lovely Robin and I were treated to a performance of Half-Stitched (The Musical, at the Blue Gate Theater in bustling downtown Shipshewana (no, seriously--it was bustling, due not only to the theater but also the nearby flea market and auction). The play was written by Martha Bolton, based on a book by Wanda Brunstetter.

It was delightfully acted and sung by the cast of seven performers. We laughed and even teared up a few times.

After the performance, we went with our group to the spacious dining area in the same building for a delicious and generous meal served family style. The fried chicken, in particular, made me say, "Thank God for chicken! Didn't have to do it but he did!"

Fireside Cafe, Shipshewana, IN

The lovely Robin and I were hosted this week by our new and good friends Glen and Carole Caddy for a three-day retreat in Shipshewana, Indiana (I spoke twice on Wednesday and twice again on Thursday). On Wednesday, they graciously took us to lunch (or "dinner," as it is called in Amish country) at the Fireside Cafe inside Yoder's Shopping Center on SR 5. It is a combination sandwich shop, barbeque restaurant, and ice cream shop.
Robin and I each had a delicious and fresh (but not over large) cranberry and pecan salad that was quite good. The ambiance was quite nice, and the company outstanding.
Glen's brisket sandwich, though, made me jealous. I can't believe he ate the whole thing without offering me a bite.

Fireside Cafe is located at 300 S. Van Buren Street in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Blue Gate Garden Inn, Shipshewana, IN

The lovely Robin and I had the honor and joy of sharing a three-day retreat this week with a group of Salvation Army officers from northern Indiana and western Michigan at the Blue Gate Garden Inn in Shipshewana, Indiana.
The Blue Gate Garden Inn was a lovely place to stay (although some disappointing changes to our group's arrangements were made at the last minute, forcing some disadvantageous adjustments).
But our room was more than comfortable, the retreat was successful (despite my speaking), and the sprawling hotel (with ice cream shop, pool, fire pit, and other amenities, right next door to the Hostetler Hudson Museum!) makes a fine place to stay.
The Blue Gate Garden Inn is located at 800 S Van Buren Street (State Route 5), the main road coming into Shipshewana. You can't miss it.

The Cats Restaurant and Tavern, Los Gatos, CA

It ain’t easy getting to The Cats Restaurant, south of Los Gatos, California. Especially if you’re coming from Santa Cruz. But the lovely Robin and I made it there last Sunday in the company of our kids, Aaron and Nina, and grandkids, Mia and Miles.
The restaurant doesn’t claim to be named for Los Gatos but for two large concrete cats that stand nearby, guarding the entrance to an area known as Poet’s Canyon since 1922. Writer Col. Charles Erskine Scott Wood and poet Sara Bard Field bought 34 acres in 1919 with the intention of building a “castle in he sky,” a place where they could write without being interrupted by visitors. They had a custom house built, then planted a vineyard and installed giant wine casks at the bottom road as a protest to prohibition. The Cats Restaurant and Tavern itself was originally a stop on the old stage line, a way station for the horse-drawn lumber wagons on their way to San Jose, as well as a rowdy social club for area residents. At the time the road was first paved, around 1920, it was one of the area’s most notorious speakeasies and bordellos. During the 40s and 50s the building housed (at various times) a realty office, gun shop, and sporting goods store. The restaurant and tavern were re-established in 1967; it is one of the last remaining Roadhouses in the United States.
The current owners purchased the building in 2008, after it had been closed for two years. The Cats is decorated with artifacts and décor from old saloons around the west, including original 1800s Wells Fargo stage couch wheels, a solid mohagandy curved railing from the oldest courthouse in San Jose, and a boardwalk made from old water tanks from the 1800s found in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
They boast about their award-winning barbecue, so I had to try the St. Louis-style ribs and a side of “burnt-end baked beans.” They were good, but not the best I’ve ever had (I’d take Montgomery Inn ribs in Cincinnati over those ribs any day). But the creme brûlée I had for dessert was excellent. And of course, the company we ate with was out of this world—a great memory in a unique setting.

The Cats Restaurant and Tavern is located at 17519 Santa Cruz Highway in Los Gatos, California.

The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, CA

Aaron, Nina, Miles, and Mia took me and the lovely Robin to "The Mystery Spot" near Santa Cruz Sunday afternoon for a cool (fifteen degrees cooler than San Jose's high of the day) and fun time together as a family.
Despite the traffic, we arrived in time to browse the gift shop and for the kids to eat popsicles before starting our tour, which was so much fun.
The Mystery Spot's website claims it is a "gravitational anomaly," which I suppose is fair enough. The tour guides say there is something strange going on, though I'm guessing the majority (or totality) of the phenomenon is an optical illusion.
I almost flew like Superman across the room. The photos we took really don't do justice to the disorienting effects of the place.
Miles and Mia got to participate in one of the demonstrations, in which participants heights seemed to change according to where they stood. They both went home a little taller, I think.

It was a wonderful time together that I enjoyed easily as much as the grandkids, if not more.

The Mystery Spot is located--appropriately enough--at 465 Mystery Spot Road in Santa Cruz, California.

Sweet Rendezvous, San Jose, CA

The lovely Robin and I do more than eat when we travel to California to visit our family...really. Friday evening, we had the joy of sharing a visit to Sweet Rendezvous Ice Cream Shop in San Jose with Aaron, Nina, Miles, and Mia.

The place was packed (it was a Friday evening after all), but the folks who served us were extremely pleasant, attentive, and efficient. I had a sugar cone of "1020," the flavor named for the address of their supplier (I forget the name, but somewhere in the general area).

Sweet Rendezvous offers customers something they call a "teaser;" they will top any order with a little scoop of any other flavor they request. I chose the chocolate chip as my teaser. Miles had burgundy cherry with a 1020 teaser, and Mia had a chocolate cone with burgundy cherry teaser.

Sweet Rendezvous is located at 668 Blossom Hill Road in San Jose.

Bill's Cafe, San Jose, CA

"Bill's Cafe in San Jose" has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It does for me and the lovely Robin, as it was our first stop for brunch after being picked up at the San Jose airport by our California kids, Aaron and Nina.

Man, it was soooo good to see them. Can't even begin to describe how much we miss them and their kids, our two oldest grandkids. We sat on the patio and though it took a while for our food to arrive, we weren't pressed for time and the company was first rate.

I had the "organic steel cut oatmeal" and fruit cup. The oatmeal wasn't quite hot enough when it got to me and cantaloupe could have been riper. But Robin enjoyed her french toast, Aaron his "Parisian French toast," and Nina her omelette and hash browns.

Bill's Cafe has five locations in San Jose and one in Pleasanton (wherever that is). It was a good experience I wouldn't hesitate to repeat.

Sumburger, Chillicothe, OH

On a whirlwind visit to Chillicothe, Ohio , yesterday (my wife, the lovely Robin's birthplace and childhood home) I drove up to Sumburger, a one-of-a-kind restaurant.

Sumburger is one of few original 1950s-style drive-ins left today. They still offer three options: drive-thru, carhop service, and dine-in (with phones at every booth for ordering!).

I didn't order the always juicy sumburger, but enjoyed my ham-and-cheese sandwich, fries, and chocolate malt.

Sumburger, first opened in 1953, on South Bridge Street (US 23) in a custom-made trailer. It was called Trailer Drive-in until 1954, when it was moved to its current location at 1487 N. Bridge Street and the name changed to Logan View Drive-in (with an additional trailer). In those days, it operated only during the warm months of the year, and only carhop and carryout service were available. Because the patrons referred to the sandwich as "some burger" the name officially changed to Sumburger Drive-in in 1974.

The Brau Haus, Oldenburg, Indiana

On our recent sojourn to The Springs, in Oldenburg, Indiana, the lovely Robin and I ventured from the retreat center into town for an early Saturday evening meal at the Brau Haus. It seemed quite the place to be on a Saturday evening, as the various rooms in the venerable  restaurant, like a rabbit warren, filled up around us as we ate. 
As is my wont, I tried the fried chicken, which was a tasty and crunchy recipe. Robin ordered pork chops, but was surprised when she was served something more like a ham steak. The food was all served steaming hot. It couldn't have been fresher, that's for sure.

Of course, this being a historically German community, the beer was probably something special--but we're not beer drinkers. And they seemed proud of their desserts, but we had no room left, so we missed out on that point, too.

The Brau Haus is located at 22170 Water Street, just a block off the main street through town in Oldenburg, Indiana.

Sabbath Walk, September 5, 2016

Last Saturday, during a lovely weekend sojourn at The Springs in Oldenburg, Indiana, I ventured out in the afternoon for a Sabbath walk, mixing prayer and perambulation, despite the 90+-degree heat.
Much of the walk was along a shaded forest path, which helped a bit.
I happened upon a fellow traveler, and we stopped and chatted awhile. He seemed a bit suspicious at first, but seemed to relax as we visited. 
It was a short walk and a thorough a blessing, one which I repeated the next day but in the company of the lovely Robin. She must have noticed how much good it did me. 

The Springs, Oldenburg, IN

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a restful and restorative time this past weekend at The Springs, a 150-acre Christian retreat center serving people in ministry. They provide space for solo or couple retreats, group or staff retreats, family getaways, and more.
We were treated to four days and three nights of quiet and rest in luxurious accommodations, one of four guest houses that accommodate up to six people each in three bedrooms.
It was a time of welcome "disconnection" from electronics, as there is no cellphone service or wifi available at The springs, which adds to the appeal of the place.
In addition to an adorable book box by the walkway to the cabins (below), there are countless helpful reminders and resources in each guest house, including a booklet suggesting various ways to connect with God. 
A guest garden is provided for guests to pick or tend, as well as a stocked pond for fishing or paddleboating, trails for walking, a prayer labyrinth, a fire ring, numerous inviting places to sit and enjoy the scenery (though it was a hot weekend), and horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, cornhole sets, and a hot tub.
The Springs is located near Oldenburg, Indiana (not far from Batesville and I-74), northwest of Cincinnati. It is a wonderful ministry and a place we will return to often in the future.