We started our Thanksgiving off by inviting our friends who were in town to come out for a friendly game of flag football.
There were Bloody Mary's for the adults and hot cider for the kids.
It was a beautiful day and I felt so grateful to have all these special people in our lives.  While we were missing family, it was nice to have a group of great friends to share part of the day with.
 If this little lady ever goes missing, I might have taken her and added her to our family.
 After the game we went home to prep the birds for our annual turkey throw down!  I had an undefeated record to maintain and Max was going to try an new grilling method.
 Apparently his new method was a success!  I might have let my bird cook a little long as I was curling my hair.  I had gotten comfortable with my past victories and wasn't paying close attention.  I will have to be better next year!
 His bird was delicious and moist!
 We had a feast for an army and ate so much we were all physically uncomfortable.
 After dinner, Karlie put together a music performance.  The kids all played the piano and violin for us.
After dinner we went to our friend's house for dessert.  I have never been so full!  I was so thankful for so many reasons today.


Our final state to visit was Kansas.  My mother's parents moved from Kansas to Colorado in the 40s.  They were farmers from the North Eastern part of Kansas.  My Great Aunt Eileen still lives in Seneca, Kansas. She seemed like the most important thing for us to see in Kansas.  :)
 None other than the Wizard of Oz would do for the kids' movie across Kansas.  The Wizard of Oz is the most watched movie of all time!
 We drove to Seneca, Kansas to visit Aunt Eileen.  She had fallen recently and was recovering in a nursing home.  She reminds me so much of my late Grandma.  Those, stubborn German women!  Funny, I see some of me in her too. :)
 We are all hoping Aunt Eileen is strong enough to make her annual trip out to Phoenix for Christmas.  I am sure she is keeping those nurses on their toes!
 My Grandma Lucille Allen is also buried in Seneca.  Through our States trips the kids have been able to visit the graves of many of their Great Grandparents and ancestors.  They have visited from El Paso, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois, to Decorah, Iowa, to Seneca Kansas.   They are blessed to still have two Great Grandparents alive and thriving.  My Grandpa lives here in Phoenix and Max's Grandma lives in San Diego.  Both are in their 90's and still living alone.  After listening to my Aunt Eileen tell us some of her family history and the pain and loss she endured as a child, through the depression and the wars; I have no doubt they are the strongest generation.  Through the loss of siblings, parents, spouses and a struggle for basic survival they endured.  Not only endured but found means to thrive and in some way not be bitter but proud.  I am thankful the kids were able to hear her stories and visit a piece of their making.
 Most of our visit of Kansas involved driving.  There are not many tourist attractions in the North Eastern part of Kansas.  I tried to work in one tourist attraction, the Amelia Earhart Earthwork.
 Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas.  I thought it would be neat to visit since it was along our drive.
 Well...  This is the view of Amelia Earhart from the viewing balcony.  Apparently to properly appreciate the "Earthwork"  you need to be airborne.  Then you would see this.
I suppose it would make sense since she was the first woman granted a pilots license by the National Aeronautics Associate and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
 Try telling that to a teenager that has been in the car for 2 hours to visit Amelia Earhart's home.  While we didn't get to see much except rolling farm fields and my wonderful Aunt, we did learn some neat facts about the sunflower state.  In 1990 Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 33 Billion loaves of bread, which would provide each person on Earth with 6 loaves of bread!  No wonder they are considered the bread basket of the world.  Being in the center of America, Smith County is the geographical center for the 48 contiguous states.  
 Kansas also is home to Dodge City, the windiest city in the United Sates.  I imagine the saying, "Let's get out of Dodge" came from Kansas. After eight days of driving across the Midwest and South, it was definitely time to get out Dodge!
We drove nearly 2,000 miles and covered six new states but traveled through eight states.  We saw some of America's jewels from National Parks to National Monuments to the birthplace of blues and country music to a monumental football game.  We really were able to taste, hear, and feel the pulse of middle America.  These trips are so special and memorable, but they are a huge undertaking and can at times be grueling.  As we took off back for home on a 5am flight, we couldn't help but say, "there is no place like home, there is no place like home!"


After we visited the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum we took off for our four hour drive to St. Louis, Missouri.

I had a hard time finding a movie for Missouri.  We had already done Mark Twain's Huck Finn for Louisiana and Mississippi.  I checked out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone audio book.  We would listen to chapters in between movies along the way.  By this point in the drive the book was getting very interesting.  The miles flew by as we listened to Harry's adventures at Hogwarts.
We arrived at Anheuser-Busch Brewery to take the complimentary hour tour.  The St. Louis brewery is their oldest and largest brewery.  They are the largest brewery in America and the number one selling beer worldwide is Budweiser.
We learned about the history of the brewery, saw the 7-Step Brewing Process, and visited the beautiful Budweiser Clydesdales.
We learned this site was chosen due to its access along the Mississippi, the many German immigrants in the area and the natural cave formations that were used to store beer prior to refrigeration.
They survived prohibition by making soft drinks and ice cream.
In April, 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition, August Busch, Jr. and Aldophus Bush III gave their father a six-horse Clydesdale hitch.  The company realized the marketing potential of the horses and sent another Clydesdale drawn wagon of beer to parade down the streets of New York City in celebration.
The official home of the Clydesdale is in a gorgeous brick and stained-glass stable that was built in 1885.  It is considered a historic landmark.
This guy belongs with he animals in the stable. :)  There was even a dalmatian running around with the horses.
We had a great and informative tour and an even better time having dinner and a free beer sample!
This is when the trip turned funny.  Hank was so excited to leave and went running for the door.
He did not realized the exit area was a giant glass wall with only doors in the center.  He went running full speed toward the Cheers sign only to slam face first into a wall of clear glass!  He bounced back into a heap on the floor.  I went running to him, sure there would be blood everywhere.  The thud was so loud staff came out of all doors to see what had happened.  Poor Hank!  We were trying so hard not to laugh at him, but it was sooooooo funny.  Even the front desk man was trying to stifle his laugh once we all knew there was no permanent damage.  We were hoping they had it on the security camera and could send it to funniest home videos.  We sat in the lobby area while the Bud team was nice enough to get Hank ice and let him nurse his pounding head and shattered ego.
He got the biggest goose egg ever!  Just a little harder and it would have split for sure.  It is always an adventure with Hank!  Cheers!
The next morning we got up early to visit the Gateway Arch.
It is the tallest U.S. monument.
It is 630 feet wide at the base and 630 feet tall.
They began building the Arch in1963 and completed it October 28th, 1965.  Watching the documentary on the construction was unbelievable.   They factored in a loss of 13 men's lives, however, not a single person died building it.  These were before the days of OSHA and the workers were up there with no harnesses or safety nets.  It was amazing to us that no one slipped in the windy and cold winters.
The arch was built to withstand earthquakes and high winds of hurricane strength.  It is able to sway up to 18 inches!  I am grateful it was not a windy day while we were there.
The Gateway Arch is a marvel and something you have to get close to in order to really appreciate the craftsmanship and undeniable spirit of man.
Coming from a metalworking background, Max was especially intrigued by its construction and beauty.
Each piece was hand welded.  It is the largest stainless steel construction project in the world.
We rode in the very tiny gondola up to the top.  It reminded me of the vessel Mork from Mork and Mindy arrived in from space.  It was this super tiny egg shaped gondola with small white seats.  You got to know your neighbor very well!  All knees touched and there were no windows.  Max felt like he was in a submarine to his death.  Max hated it!
We enjoyed the view from the top but were eager to get back down and out where we could really appreciate it's beauty with our group of claustrophobic and height challenged crew.
We had a lovely time in St. Louis and were surprised how monumental the Arch truly is.
We drove across Missouri to Kansas City.  While St. Louisans consume more BBQ sauce per capita than any other city in America, we were not quite ready for BBQ at 10 in the morning.
 We would have to save that for dinner in Kansas City, which is know for their BBQ.
Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris and more fountains than any other city except Rome.  I figured we had better see some fountains and boulevards before we ate some BBQ.
 We went shopping on the Country Club Plaza boulevard, which is one of Kansas City's most popular outdoor shopping areas.  It had a very European feel to it.  Max and I were reminded of when we sat on the Spanish Steps in Rome as we took a rest on these steps to have some cotton candy.  Cotton Candy was invented by a dentist.  He called it Fairy Floss and introduced in the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, MO.
 After seeing a handful of fountains we worked up an appetite to try the most famous BBQ in Kansas City, Joe's Kansas City BBQ.  Yes, it is in a gas station!
 It was delicious, but I have to say I think Max's ribs could go toe to toe with Joe's any day.  While Max tried Frequent Flier, a Kansas City brew, we tried the ice tea.  Ice tea was also invented at the 1904 World's Fair.  Apparently a tea plantation owner was offering hot tea to fair visitors but St. Louis was having a very hot summer and he was not getting much business.  The story says he dumped a bunch of ice into the tea and it became an instant success.
The Show Me State certainly showed us a thing or two!