Here ‘n There in the Midwest: Keep Warm Inside or Embrace Outdoor Winter Activities

Here ‘n There in the Midwest: Keep Warm Inside or Embrace Outdoor Winter Activities

Winter has hit us hard in the Midwest this week, closing schools and making a mess of traffic. It looks like, at least here in the Chicago area, temps will be up and down for a while. There may be some days warm enough to get outside and embrace winter activities and other days that you’ll want to stay indoors. Luckily, there is plenty to do around the Midwest for both indoor and outdoor fun.

Eagle Watching Along the Mississippi River
Bald EagleCities along the Mississippi River celebrate eagle watching this time of year as bald eagles migrate down the Mississippi Flyway. Both indoor and outdoor activities take place at the Quad Cities Bald Eagles Days expo January 9-11 and during Great River Eagle Days in Quincy, Illinois, January 17. Download the 2015 Eagle Guide from the All Around Alton web site for information about eagle-related activities throughout the season in the Meeting of the Great Rivers area.

Restaurant Weeks
Plan your Alton eagle-watching trip the week of January 16-25, and you can take advantage of Alton Restaurant Week. Meals at 16 restaurants are $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner. Some meals are for one person and some for two.

If you miss restaurant week in Alton, you can catch the first ever Geneva Restaurant Week January 26 through February 1. Twenty Geneva, Illinois, restaurants will offer lunch and dinner priced at either $19 or $39, and again, meals may be for one or two people. Offers for each restaurant are on the web site.

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Beloit International Film Festival
Like films? Visit Beloit, Wisconsin, for the Beloit International Film Festival, February 20 to March 1. In its tenth year, 192 different films will be featured, from shorts to feature films, in genres from documentaries to romances and comedies. The films will be shown in ten Beloit venues. BIFF has been called the “next big thing” by Moviemaker Magazine and has been listed as one of the alternatives to “Sundance” by the New York Times. Events like the Opening Night Block Party and the Grease Sing-a-Long promise a lot of fun.

Wisconsin Promo Ad
Speaking of fun, check out Wisconsin’s Winter Wonderland travel ad starring the “Airplane!” cast.

Stay in Your Jammies
Have you ever felt like staying in your warm pajamas all day? You can without having to stay home to do it—and no one will look at you funny. In fact, everyone else will be wearing their pajamas too during the 18th Annual Shipshewana Pajama Day Sale on February 1, 2015. Most stores will open at 6 a.m. or earlier and offer deep discounts, giveaways and drawings.

St. Joseph, Michigan, Giveaway
You don’t even have to leave your computer to enter the giveaway from St. Joseph in West Michigan. Simply enter online for your chance to win a $50 gift certificate towards area shops and restaurants tokens to the Silver Beach Carousel, Passes for the Curious Kids’ Museum and a two-night stay at an area hotel. The winner will be drawn on January 30, in time to make it to the February 6-8 Magical Ice Fest.

Other Posts You may Enjoy:

Travel and Adventure Show Coming to Chicago January 17-18, 2015

Here ‘n There in the Midwest: A Look Ahead to 2015

Top 2014 Midwest Wanderer Travel Experiences

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

Fast Eddie’s, Alton IL: Good Food at Bargain Prices

Fast Eddie’s, Alton IL: Good Food at Bargain Prices

I saw Fast Eddie’s Bon Air featured on TV when Food Network star Alton Brown stopped there on a motorcycle tour. Brown described it as a road house, a drinking establishment that offers cheap food, although roadhouses aren’t usually in town, and the food isn’t usually good. There’s the difference with Fast Eddie’s. It’s in downtown Alton, and the food is good.

Fast Eddies foodThe bar had been around as the Bon Air since 1921 when it was opened by Anheuser Busch and then sold ten years later when a law was passed prohibiting breweries from owning drinking establishments. It didn’t become Fast Eddie’s until 1981, and that’s when food was added. The menu isn’t big, only seven items: homemade brats, peel-and-eat shrimp, burgers, fries and three kinds of kebobs—Pork Kebob, Hot Chick on a Stick, and tenderloin and peppers called the Big Elwood on a Stick. However, people from all over the country have made a point of stopping there as they’ve passed through. A local told us of folks he knows who often drive 250 miles from Kansas City just to eat there.

Prices haven’t changed much since 1981. We found that the price for a burger had increased—not surprising with soaring beef prices—but still a big bargain with a half-pound burger only $1.99. Brats are only 99 cents, and shrimp 29 cents each. A generous basket of fries is $1.99.

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You won’t find fancy here. After all, it’s a bar, a bar that has quadrupled in size since it became Fast Eddie’s. We sat in the newer area, with a feel of the outdoors under a tent-type roof, heated and comfortable during our March visit.

Fast Eddies 1The original section is dimly lit, with lots of hanging signs, neon and televisions.

Fast Eddies inside

Walk up to the counter to order and pay for your food, then sit back and relax with a drink (drinks are ordered and served at your table), while you wait for your meal. Watch the digital counter; when the number reaches your number or higher, your food is ready for you to pick up, add your condiments and take back to your table to enjoy.

Fast Eddie’s, located at 1530 E. 4th Street, is popular with bikers traveling the Great River Road, but it’s popular with seniors, too, sometimes with busloads stopping for a meal. If you visit on a weekday, plan on a later lunch, as they don’t open until 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday (11 a.m. Friday through Sunday). You’re in luck if you’re a late-night person, since they’re open until 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and until 2 a.m. on the weekends. Hear live music Wednesdays through Sundays.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

Parasailing on the Mighty Mississippi

Parasailing on the Mighty Mississippi

parasailing 1Temperatures were still warm, but autumn winds were beginning to blow. In many Midwest cities mid-October is late for parasailing, but in Grafton, Illinois, just fifteen miles upriver from Alton along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, warmer weather hangs on longer than in Chicago. So when on my October visit I had the chance to go on the only parasailing adventure on the Mississippi River, of course, I accepted.

Captain Andy, a U.S. Coast Guard licensed Master Captain, won’t take the boat out “if the river is white cappin’ and the flags are flappin’.” This day was a bit breezy but not windy enough to keep us land bound, so we climbed into the custom built  First Class parasail boat, and off we went.

On Captain Andy’s Parasail you can go up alone or with a partner. Not having fully overcome my fear of heights, I had my husband join me. Not that he could save me if I suddenly fell, but at least I wouldn’t be going down alone.

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After deck hand Spank helped us into our harnesses and did whatever deck hands do to ready the parachute, he had us climb up onto the back platform and hang onto a bar as he hooked us up. You can choose to get wet or stay dry. Since it wasn’t mid-summer anymore and we had a full afternoon of touring ahead of us, we opted for the stay dry version. Standing on the back of the boat, fighting the bar as the breeze was catching it, I thought for a few minutes that we might end up with the “get wet” ride after all.

parasailing 2Once hooked up, all we had to do was relax in a seated position in our harnesses as the boat started pulling away, and up, up, up we climbed into the air. The scenery down below was magnificent, the sparkling blue water highlighted by white wake as the boat zipped down the river, leaves on trees along the riverbank beginning to turn amber and crimson. Gliding through the sky, the cool breeze hit our faces as the sun warmed them.

Smooth sailing all the way, right? That’s the way it usually is, we’re told. But the winds were picking up, and we started dipping a bit here and there, kind of like slight turbulence on an airplane. It wasn’t enough to bother me, though. If fact, it was kind of fun.

In the end our trip was cut short for safety precaution. After we landed, were unharnessed and back in the boat, we found out that the parachute had actually been pulling the 9,000 pound boat backward, upstream, when Captain Andy made the decision to reel us in. Even though our ride was a bit more challenging than usual, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Only next time I might choose to do it in the summer and opt for getting wet.

Captain Andy’s Parasail, located at the Grafton Harbor Marina, operates Fridays through Sundays May 1 to October 31, plus the three summer holidays, weather permitting. You can also make advance reservations for weekday cruises. Check the web site for further details.

Disclosure:  My cruise on Captain Andy’s Parasail was hosted by the Alton Regional CVB and Captain Andy’s Parasail, but any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   — Connie


 

My Just Desserts, Alton IL: A Little Slice of Heaven

My Just Desserts, Alton IL:  A Little Slice of Heaven

National Pie Day is behind us for another year, but who needs a special day to eat pie?   My Just Desserts in Alton, Illinois, offers nine to thirteen different kinds of pies every day.

Ann Badasch started out selling antiques back when Alton boasted six blocks of antique shops.  As the antiques business began declining about 25 years ago, Ann switched gears, opened My Just Desserts, and has been serving customers a little slice of heaven ever since.

store_frontThe atmosphere of an antique store still exists in the restaurant, located in a building over 160 years old, with creaking hardwood floors, quilts for sale hanging on the walls, vintage mismatched tables and chairs, beverages served in Mason jars.

InsideThe food, though, is what people come for.  My Just Desserts is open for lunch seven days a week, serving soups, salads and sandwiches.  The half-pound Chicken Salad sandwich is so popular that the kitchen workers debone about 100 chickens a week, all done by hand.

With few exceptions, like the Chicken Salad and Tollhouse Brownies, the menu changes every day.  Ann’s 150 pie recipes are rotated weekly, so with nine to thirteen varieties offered at a time, you’ll be surprised with new pie selections with every visit.   I chose Lemon Truffle and enjoyed the tang of lemon offset by sweet creaminess and a light flaky crust.  Among the other pies available the day I was there were Caramel Apple, Radically Cherry, and Peaches and Cream.  Where does Ann get all of her recipes?  “Customers,” said Ann.  “I exchange a lot of pie recipes with my customers.”

Because of the constantly changing menu, there are no printed menus.  Instead, the day’s offerings are written on chalkboards throughout the restaurant.  When a dish or a pie is gone, it is erased from the boards.  A tip that was given to me:  Order your pie when you order your meal to avoid disappointment if the pie your taste buds were set on is erased from the board before you finish your lunch.

My Just Desserts, located at 31 E Broadway, Alton IL, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Check the web site’s Events section for special events like “Dinner with Mr. Lincoln’s Friends,” a four course meal from “Lincoln’s Table” to celebrate Abe Lincoln’s birthday, with entertainment provided by Alton Little Theater Costumed Actors.

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Other posts and articles you may enjoy:

World’s Tallest Man Lived in Alton IL

Bald eagles and trumpeter swans migrate to Audubon Center at Riverlands

Follow Alton’s history-rich Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail

Tour the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway

Robert Wadlow, World’s Tallest Man

Robert Wadlow, World’s Tallest Man

At 8’11.1″, Robert Wadlow was the tallest man who ever lived, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  At birth he weighed a normal eight pounds, but due to a pituitary gland disorder, he grew quickly.  By the time he was eight years old, he was over six feet tall. Read more

Alton Hauntings Walking Ghost Tour: I Smelled the Jasmine

Alton Hauntings Walking Ghost Tour: I Smelled the Jasmine

“There won’t be someone chasing you with a chain saw on this tour.  This is the real deal,” said Len Adams, head tour guide for Alton Hauntings Tours, during his pre-tour talk.  Read more