In Best of 2017 [part 1] we posted our picks for best attraction, show, new place, and people. Today, we’re back to share some of the best food, museums, views, and experiences from our year in travel.
Best food –
Chicken fried steak at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile (Pawhuska, Oklahoma)
Chicken fried steak is a dish we’ve never made for dinner at home but enjoy ordering when we’re out. It’s a splurge for sure and if you’re going to take in the calories, you want it to be worth every one of them. The first time we went to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, this summer, it was a given that we’d try Ree Drummond’s chicken fried steak and it did not disappoint. In fact, Steve has tried chicken fried steaks all over the country and says the one at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is, by far, the best he’s ever had. It was a fork-tender, thinly sliced ribeye, breaded and fried to perfection, served with a side of delicious mashed potatoes, all smothered in creamy country gravy and five months later, he’s still talking about it.
Honorable mentions: Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks (Branson, Missouri); mini chocolate chip cookies at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch; the fresh fish and clam chowder up and down the Oregon coast; soup and salad at Salad Bros. (Rochester, Minnesota); and the garlic bread and steaks at The Peppermill (Valentine, Nebraska).
The College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, serves an amazing Sunday Brunch that is prepared and served entirely by students who are working to pay their tuition.
These mini chocolate chip cookies at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch near Omaha were the perfect blend of crunchy, chewy and sweet. Ann had to make Steve count to 30 between cookies so they would last longer.
Ann and Carol tried the clam chowder everywhere we went in Oregon.
Ann’s favorite lunch in Rochester, Minnesota comes from a restaurant called Salad Brothers. It’s a mixed green/ranch pasta salad, a cup of wild rice soup and one of their delicious parmesan bread sticks.
The garlic bread at the Peppermill comes au jus for dipping.
Best museum –
Art Institute of Chicago
We love museums and make a point to go to them when we travel. This year, we visited several museums we’d never seen near our home in Nebraska, including the Benne Museum (Crete), Lincoln County Historical Museum (North Platte), and Homestead National Monument (Beatrice). But the museum visit we enjoyed the most was the morning we spent at the Art Institute of Chicago.
One of the most impressive pieces of work at the museum is Marc Chagall’s American Windows. These stained glass windows have recently been restored and are as beautiful as they are impressive.
Marc Chagall’s American Windows was absolutely breathtaking to see in person.
We also loved seeing the Thorne Miniature Rooms. We couldn’t get over the detail packed into these tiny rooms! Parquet flooring, tiny newspapers left folded on the table and even fruit trees outside the windows of these rooms were just some of the amazing details that made these miniatures look just like an actual room.
Steve looks at one of the many Thorne Miniature Rooms. We couldn’t get over the detail packed into these tiny rooms!
Honorable mentions:Space Center Houston (Houston, Texas); Centennial Museum (Valentine, Nebraska); Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, Oregon); Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City); Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum (Ashland, Nebraska); Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve (Bartlesville, Oklahoma).
The Apollo Mission Control room at Space Center Houston helped make history again and again.
We had never seen a hair curling device quite like this one we found at Centennial Hall. A number of readers remember them, though.
We spent several hours at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on our summer vacation with Meghan and some other college students.
This US Coast Guard lifeboat is on display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Nearly impossible to sink, boats like this patrol the often dangerous Columbia River Bar and provide emergency assistance to boaters in need.
One of the hangars at the SAC Museum near Ashland, Nebraska. The museum allows visitors to walk right up the airplanes on display and even take a peek inside some of them providing a look into the history of military aviation.
Located near Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the Woolaroc museum is loaded with art and artifacts from the collection of Frank Phillips. Mosaics like this one show the high level of artistry you’ll find there.
Best view –
Off the stern of the Carnival Valor in the Gulf of Mexico
There is nothing more calm and relaxing that watching the wake (and the world) go by from the stern of a cruise ship. Let’s just say, this is Steve’s “happy place.” We’ve taken six cruises so far and one of our favorite things to do on each one is simply sit back, relax, and watch the water. The views are spectacular and the weight of the world just seems to drift away with every wave.
Steve loved watching the wake of the Carnival Valor on our trip across the Gulf of Mexico.
Honorable mentions: The shoreline at DePoe Bay (Oregon); from the top of the lookout tower at Nebraska National Forest (Halsey, Nebraska); from the blind at Rowe Sanctuary during the annual Sandhill Crane Migration (Gibbon, Nebraska); from the air while flying into Key West (Florida); from the deck of the lodge at Drummond Ranch (Pawhuska, Oklahoma).
We stood and watched whales in the Pacific Ocean in Depoe Bay, Oregon.
The view from the top of the Scott Lookout Tower across the Sandhills at the Nebraska National Forest. You could see for miles.
We watched thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather at sunset on the Platte River near Gibbon, Nebraska.
Passengers on flights into Key West get to see views like this as they approach the airport; views that tell them they made a good choice in going there.
The view from the lodge across the Drummond Ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is absolutely incredible.
Best experience –
Watching the total solar eclipse from our own back yard
Of the hundreds of new new things we did while traveling this year, none compares to experiencing our first total solar eclipse from our own yard. We spent the day with family, college students, old friends, and new people we met that day. We were all in awe as we watched the sun go behind the moon and for two minutes and thirty-six seconds, we experienced one of the rarest occurrences in the universe. It was absolutely spectacular.
Steve and his dad, John Teget, watch the total solar eclipse from our front yard in Crete, Nebraska.
Total solar eclipse photo by Ronald D. Koch of Crete, Nebraska.
Honorable mentions: Whale watching in the Pacific Northwest; judging the National Indian Taco Championships (Pawhuska, Oklahoma); tasting Pinot Noir while feeding llamas at the Rain Dance Winery (Newberg, Oregon); traveling with our parents (Nebraska, Key West, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas); swimming in a cenote in Mexico; and throwing our boys off a tube on Table Rock Lake (Branson, Missouri).
Visitors to Depoe Bay, Oregon, can stand along this wall and watch whales breaching in the water below.
Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Meghan sips Pinot Noir while feeding a llama at Rain Dance vineyards near Newberg, Oregon.
We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve’s mom and dad this summer. Here we are at Smith Falls near Valentine, Nebraska.
We had such a good time with Ann’s tiny mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.
Meghan and Steve swam in this cenote (can you find them) on our family vacation in Mexico this summer.
Michael, Josiah, and Davron loved tubing on Table Rock Lake near Branson. Steve loved driving the boat and making them fly off the tube.
What were some of your “bests” of 2017? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.
One of Steve’s colleagues from Crete Public Schools sent us a couple postcards this summer from her vacation in the beautiful Ozarks. Table Rock Lake is an artificial lake or reservoir in The Ozarks of southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. The lake is impounded by Table Rock Dam and was constructed from 1954-58 on the White River by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. There are several commercial marinas along the lake and a popular tourist destination, Branson, Missouri, is nearby.
I was so delighted to see this postcard from Table Rock Lake. When I was a kid, my paternal grandparents retired and sold their home in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and moved to a house on the shore of Table Rock Lake in Shell Knob, Missouri.
Every summer, our family would drive down to the Ozarks to spend time with my grandparents. My Grandpa Shrewsbury was an avid fisherman and just loved it there. He would get up before the sun, put on a pair of overalls (I rarely saw him in anything else) and perch himself on a log at the end of their property near the lake. He’d cast his line and wait for a bite as he gazed across the lake and at the hills in the distance. This was his happy place.
Found this photograph of my Grandpa (the one in overalls) fishing at Table Rock Lake in Shell Knob, Missouri. On the back of the photograph, my grandma wrote, “This is one of my favorite pictures.”
My grandpa loved to take us out on his boat for a trip around the bend or pull us behind the boat on water sleds or skis. But what he enjoyed most, was teaching us how to fish. We’d spend hours fishing with him and then come back to the house where Grandma had likely been cooking or baking our favorites like Mexican Fiesta, fried catfish, or a made-from-scratch pies and cakes.
I have so many fond memories of our time at Table Rock Lake and am so thankful Jo sent us a postcard from there. It was a great reminder of relaxing days and the love of family.
When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you!
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.