Things I Learned On The Road In 2016

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Much of the internet is bloviating about how awful the past year has been.  For me, I don’t think 2016 was all that bad.  Then again, I don’t get offended by things that don’t personally affect me and I don’t get worked up over the latest over-dramatic news story someone “shared” on Facebook.  Instead I spent my time looking for people that are positive and interesting to be around while learning about places in America that don’t always get that much attention.

Here are some of the experiences I had and interesting things I learned while on the road this year.

 

  • Dubuqe, Iowa has the shortest and steepest railroad in the world.
  • Kansas is less “flat” than Florida.
  • The greatest public green space in America? Falls Park in Greenville, SC.
  • Naples, Florida is kind of like Beverly Hills, CA – except that people are friendly.
  • Having to share a bed with your Dad is acceptable so long as nobody moves the big pillow in the middle.
  • A guy in Topeka has the largest collection of Evil Knievel stuff in the world.

  • Made two different stops in “Uranus, MO”
  • I fell in love with Wichita, Kansas.  What a cool city.
  • Fort Collins, Colorado inspired the look of Main Street USA at Disneyland
  • Detroit isn’t scary.
  • Mount Rushmore isn’t as big as I thought it would be.
  • Columbus, Ohio is the best place in America to find something for breakfast.
  • The biggest mailbox in the world is in Casey, Illinois

  • When I retire, I want to open a place like Fizz Soda Shop in Johnson City, TN.
  • Apparently everyone secretly (or not so secretly) hates my sunglasses.
  • I hosted the Mid America Emmy Awards in Branson.  In a giant, glass box.
  • I met Olympic star Gabby Douglas by chance on a stop in Indianapolis.

  • Even though I hate everything about the circus – The Ringling in Sarasota, FL is awesome.
  • Rode two mountain coasters this year.  One in Pigeon Forge, TN and one in Keystone, SD
  • The best pizza place of the year? Nona’s Pizzeria in Watertown, TN
  • The most beautiful drive in America is the Beartooth Scenic Byway.
  • Wisconsin Dells is cool for families but not for guys traveling alone that despise public pools.
  • I pulled up to Oprah’s driveway at her house in Venice, FL
  • Best ice cream of the year? Whitey’s in the Quad Cities.

  • Teared up reading quotes on a plaque from Joplin, MO tornado survivors.
  • My visit to Buffalo, Wyoming inspired me to watch Longmire – now one of my favorite shows.
  • Learned in Owensboro, Kentucky that BBQ’d mutton is disgusting.
  • I got to hang out with the former President of RCA Records in his “man cave”.  So cool.
  • Little Richard learned how to put on make up at a drug store in Macon, Georgia in the 50’s. Nobody cared.
  • Yelled “stop running from me” to a Hooters waitress in Jacksonville, FL while trying to return her pen.
  • Saw “KITT” from the show Knight Ryder in Gatlingburg, TN

  • Took photos of the Iowa state Capitol in the middle of a thunderstorm.
  • Finally visited America’s least visited state: North Dakota
  • Met the love of my life in South Dakota.  Who could have seen that one coming?

Hilton 360 Saint Louis

 

  • I fed giraffes, elephants and rhinos.
  • I stayed at an AirBNB and couldn’t sleep because of excessive loud toad noises outside.
  • There’s an entire museum dedicated to vacuum cleaners.
  • Jonesborough, TN is the storytelling capital of the world.
  • I “met” Big Bird in Atlanta

 

  • I got to hang out with one of the founders of Cracker Barrel. He has a card in his wallet for free meals – anytime.
  • Went to two Presidential Libraries I’d never visited – Eisenhower and Hoover.

 

Thanks for following me on the road in 2016.  Here’s hoping for more fun adventures and great stories in 2017.

 

 

 

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Bill is a travel journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Bill travels all across the country doing positive stories, highlighting people and places making America great. He's the host of the weekly Rediscover America podcast and author of the new book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! Bill enjoys parks, talking to strangers, eating medium-rare steaks, playing Pickleball and telling good jokes.