Road Trip Home

A lot has happened this past month since I last wrote. Kuochun, Vivi and I took the Briesmobile on the road, this time without the graphics. I made the tough decision to have them removed. They have been out of date for quite some time, when I had them done our store Brie's Gift Gallery was the main focus and we were conducting estate sales part-time so the main graphics said Brie's Gift Gallery & Estate Sales. We were offering other services such as household consignment and home staging as well which were listed on the back of the van. I had set up a toll-free number, 888-44-BRIES which was on the sides of the van but found I received more spam calls than actual customer calls so I cancelled it a couple of years ago. I also have a problem with a neighbor who likes to report everything I do to the village of Mount Prospect. I did not even realize vehicles with graphics other than the front doors were not allowed to be parked outside because there are others outside in my neighborhood. Kuochun and I actually had to go to Mount Prospect court because of them but luckily we were not fined since we had no past offenses. The same person also sent code enforcement over while I was having a sale at home during Mount Prospect's annual garage sale weekend, telling them we have people over at all times of the day and night. We are allowed to have three garage sales per year in Mount Prospect, I have two.

I have a suspicion as to who it is because once a man across the way came over at 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning and asked us not to walk our dog in front of their house anymore! We are completely responsible dog owners and always clean up after our dogs. I know that our dogs never did their business at their house because they need to walk a while before they are ready. Kuochun apologized profusely but if I would have answered the door it would have been a different story. The sidewalks and parkways belong to the village and these people do not have a right to ban others from walking down the sidewalk past their house. My neighborhood is super dog friendly, so many people walk their dogs around. There is a group that meets on our corner with their dogs at 6:00 PM every evening. Mount Prospect's motto is "Where Friendliness Is A Way Of Life" but these people do not fit the bill. It definitely puts a damper on things but I know I am not doing anything wrong, our business will continue to thrive no matter what. I wanted to put updated graphics on the front doors of the van to comply with village rules but ran out of time in Arizona. I may have the folks in Des Plaines who did the original graphics put them on. They did a great job and the graphics looked pretty perfect 9 years later. But first I should really have the rusty back bumper replaced as well as the missing hubcap so the van puts on an overall better impression.

But I digress, I started to talk about our road trip. We headed to Albuquerque the first day, the most direct route is to head north up the mountain through Sedona and Flagstaff before heading east. Kuochun was driving to start and is directionally challenged, he follows the GPS to a "T". I knew the moment the GPS asked us to turn left onto Thomas Rd which is the main street heading out of Golden Keys that it was not going to take us to Sedona. Sure enough, we ended up on the scenic route to Payson which was interesting and very pretty in spots but added two hours to our trip due to construction and lots of winding roads. We stopped in Gallup, NM for dinner but unfortunately all of the Native American jewelry shops were closed. We even tried to get a bite to eat but when we walked in to a cafe we were told they were closed. We did not get to Albuquerque until about 10:30 PM. Luckily the Airbnb was easy to find as the gate is painted a brilliant cobalt blue. We just loved the Albuquerque tiny house and wished we could have stayed longer. It is so cute and completely pet-friendly with no carpet or rugs. The property is all fenced in, there was no landscaping but Vivi really enjoyed exploring everything. The only place to get a bite to eat in the area which was open at that hour was Whataburger so we went through the drive-thru after settling in and brought the food back to the house. We stayed until check-out time and did not stop for breakfast in Albuquerque. We had brought donuts with us from The Local Donut in Scottsdale, which has the most amazing donuts I have ever tasted. But that is a shout-out for another time!

Our next stop was Oklahoma City, driving through the rest of New Mexico and northern Texas to get there. We stopped for lunch in Tucumcari, NM. Kuochun did a quick Google search on good places to eat and Watson's BBQ came up. What a fun place! The front of the store is a quirky mini antique mall and the back has the BBQ. We carried out and ate at the picnic table on the left. It was Vivi's first time doing something like this and she did pretty well. Luckily the other people were hanging out on the side of the building. The food was great! I had a ham plate and Kuochun had a sausage and rib combination plate. It came with two sides, chips and a cookie as well for a reasonable price. We were glad we stumbled across it and when I mentioned it to Melinda, she said she stays there often when she makes the drive and will definitely check Watson's out next time.

We made it to Oklahoma City late at night once again so there was no time to see anything. The Barnes Bungalow is cute but nearly 100 years old and is not level whatsoever. This definitely took a bit of getting used to. It is a one-bedroom with a sleeper sofa in the front room. Kuochun is a huge snorer, I cannot sleep with him in the same room so I took the bedroom and he took the sofa. Before arriving at the home we grabbed some food from the gas station as we could not find anything open and were not starving after our nice lunch. It was a perfectly fine pet-friendly place to stay when booking on short notice but with the foundation issues would be more challenging to stay for longer periods of time.

Up until the last moment we were not sure if we would going to push straight through to home but decided to map out the halfway point between Oklahoma City and Mount Prospect. This took us to Rolla, MO. I checked out the BringFido app to find a pet-friendly stay and Rustic Motel came up. I had always wanted to stay in a vintage motel and this seemed like a good opportunity. Overall I liked it, the owner was very nice to us and even arranged for us to stay in rooms next to each other after I had only booked one room but there were a couple of drawbacks. There were people who seemed to live there and hanging out in front of their rooms with their doors open, smoking and watching every move we made. It was a little nerve-wracking since we had tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry in the van. Also, we were on the first floor and at least until 2:00 AM the people upstairs were making so much noise. Next time I'll look for a single-level motel.

On the way to the motel we stopped in Joplin MO for a quick lunch, I ordered a pasta dish, it was so drenched in sauce it was hard to enjoy but I made the best of it. This was a case of the menu sounding way better than what the actual food turned out to be, I could not recommend it. I watch a Native American jewelry selling show on Facebook which originates in Texas and once the ladies were talking about Braum's ice cream and how good it was. It seems to be a regional chain in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. On the drive to Scottsdale I noticed some Braum's locations but could not get Mother to stop. Later in the day I noticed a Braum's and asked Kuochun if he was in the mood for ice cream. Luckily he was! It was very good and I am glad we got to try it. They have the ice cream, food featuring burgers and fries and even a few aisles of grocery selections. I would definitely stop there again and try their food as well.

While we were driving through Missouri on our way to Rolla, we kept seeing billboards with a little cartoon guy with his hands up in the air letting us know that candy was coming soon! We must have seen 50 different billboards and after a while I could not take it anymore, I said we have to stop! Turns out it was Redmon's Candy Factory in Phillipsburg, MO. I am not one to crave candy, I am not a chocoholic but more of a cookie monster but that is not to say I do not like candy! We wanted to get something for Maureen who helped take care of Margot while she was left home alone and I just felt that this would be perfect. This is the most amazing candy store I have ever seen! The store is portioned into the hard and non-chocolate candy by the pound, plastic containers with chocolate-covered candy, popcorn section and the higher-end chocolate candy in cases. Maureen's favorite is turtles and we got her four huge turtles with a glob of peanut butter in the center just for good measure. She also loves double-dipped chocolate peanuts so we got a package of those as well as some peanut brittle. Kuochun is loving salted caramels these days so we got him both milk and dark chocolate varieties. I love anything with peanut butter and chocolate so we got some for me as well as malted milk balls, yogurt-covered pretzels in a couple of flavors, coconut peanut brittle and two flavors of popcorn for good measure. I have tried everything but the chocolate peanut butter popcorn and it all was fantastic. Unfortunately they do not do online ordering but this place alone is a compelling reason to make the driving trip again. Just adjacent to this building was what was billed as the world's largest gift shop (I actually thought the largest was in Las Vegas between the Strip and Downtown but OK) but we arrived 20 minutes after closing. For anyone passing through the area who has a sweet tooth, I could not recommend this place more. Such high-quality selections from A to Z. It was busy on a Saturday night but I have a feeling it is busy all the time!

On the way home, I suggested that we make a stop at Ron's Cajun Connection in Utica, IL. Cajun is Kuochun's favorite kind of food and I had seen Ron's on various shows such as Check, Please! and Chicago's Best. Also with it being an hour and a half away from home I knew we were not going to go there just to eat. I think Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket in Willowbrook is about the limit for us at 37 minutes down Route 83. We drove right from Rolla to the restaurant and were shocked to find it abandoned. I got on the website, we had the address correct. I called the phone number and it was disconnected. I said I know this restaurant is not closed, Yelp is showing it as open and I was determined not to leave the area until we found it. I tried to use my GPS again and it took us over a scary high bridge and there was nothing in sight. Back over the bridge and in the other direction, we passed back through the town which was loaded with bikers, most of whom were gathered about a local bar. But instead of turning right at the next street which we did initially, I went straight and then I saw the crocodile sign! Kuochun did not order the right thing, he ended up with fried shrimp and a couple of sides but he totally loved the gumbo. I had a simple meal of popcorn shrimp and fries which was very good. I wanted to try the bread pudding but they were out so we got the last piece of pecan pie. Typically this is not a dessert I gravitate towards but it was delicious, not too sticky. Kuochun took a couple of quarts of gumbo and a couple of orders of spicy sausage to go as well. I was not sure about the gumbo because one was dated March but it did not bother him. He liked the gumbo but unfortunately ended up throwing away the sausage because it was stuffed with rice, not what he expected. Overall I am glad Kuochun had the chance to try Ron's and if we make another road trip could definitely make it a stop now that we know where it is!

It was a long four days because we spent most of the time either driving or tied to where we were staying. Most of this trip is along Historic Route 66 so someday I would love to extend the trip and stay a couple of days in each location. It would be great to spend more time in northern Arizona (Prescott, Cottonwood, Sedona, Flagstaff) see Albuquerque and make some stops in Oklahoma. There were signs along the road in Oklahoma to let us know what each town had to offer. Clinton sounded particularly interesting with its shopping and dining. It was really killing me to pass by so many trading posts and antique malls, not being able to stop anywhere! There was even an antique mall about a half mile away from the Oklahoma City home and one along the road in Missouri which looked like a spaceship. But I am glad that Kuochun and I were able to make the stops we did. Things thankfully have gotten so much better since Mother and I made the trip there last November. She was terrified to go anywhere due to COVID which I respect. We spent the three days basically eating sandwiches out of the cooler.

To recap this week - it has been a busy time helping Mother with what she needs since she cannot drive right now as well as keeping up with estate sale work so the jewelry has had to take a back seat. I did take some time yesterday to post this glorious vintage Navajo jewelry set online though. It is the most valuable jewelry in my Native American collection, a complete set with the necklace, earrings, cuff bracelet and ring. The artist is May Barbone and there is very little information about her online, other than her age of 81 and her location of Fort Defiance, AZ. This set is an investment but is likely one of a kind. Every piece is in excellent vintage condition and features which I believe is Morenci turquoise due to its pyrite matrix and either Mediterranean or Italian coral. This is the kind of jewelry that should be passed down from generation to generation. I decided that in order not to stay overwhelmed and not ending up posting anything, I am going to try and post one statement piece of jewelry online every day. I have so much that I would like to share which is too valuable for the estate sales, not just Native American but many Mexican pieces and other pieces from around the world. Also, Kuochun offered to assist me by photographing the Tucson jewelry which would be a great help. He has a vested interest since he was on hand while I was making the selections!

I am looking forward to a lighter sale schedule next week, we have two sales due to Memorial Day weekend. The plan is to catch up with the paperwork and start to price the Tucson Gem Show finds and get them into circulation. See you next time!