Puzzle Heaven. Puzzle Hell.

Sleeper, Missouri, hides some big stories. Years ago two trains collided in Sleeper. The trains piled up like accordions, and only a jigsaw puzzle master could put them together again. Appropriate, as I approached Nancy Ballhagen’s Puzzles, a major distributor … Read More

There’s Silver in Those Rails

A solitary figure sat trackside on a bench outside the La Plata train depot. Approaching him I noticed he held a portable two-way radio. “Train on time?” I asked. “Three hours behind,” he said in halting speech. He didn’t seem … Read More

Sign language.

We’re not traveling. So we peeked in the rearview mirror at some of our favorite signs along the road trip into America’s hidden heart.

Snakes? Shamrocks? Patrick’s Real Story Is Better

Researching for a novel about my Irish priest great grandfather, I’ve come face-to-face with the real St. Patrick. Two tales make him less caricature, more saintly. Every Irish child knows the first story: Patrick ascended Clough Patrick (the Irish Mount … Read More

Constable Wyatt Earp, Lamar, Missouri

Prescott, Arizona likes cowboys. And whiskey. Always has. In the Palace saloon, where the piano player sits on a beer keg, they talk about Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers. Never knew much about the Earp brothers beyond the Hollywood … Read More

The Bronze Bard

The one-two punch of Santa Fe’s rarified air (7200 ft elevation) and Canyon Road shopping kicked my ass. I spied a bench, only partially occupied by an old friend from back home. Tipped my cap to this bronzed bard. He … Read More

Roger Miller Is Alive and Well

“Hello KCI, your temperature is 78.”   Never mind that there may not be a dozen people at KCI listening to KMZU Radio.  That just proves it’s Missouri’s best radio station. Or at least it’s best for me, as I drive … Read More


Fort Leonard Wood demonstrates the discipline you’d expect from a school that cranks out military police officers and crime scene investigators – and engineers, adept at road building. It’s fitting, then, that St. Robert sits on the edge of rugged … Read More

Propeller Adoration

Even from a distance, Conception Abbey peeks above the horizon. The giant 120-year-old brick basilica rises from the pastoral landscape. It’s home to 65 Benedictine monks, who comprise nearly a third of the population of Conception, Missouri. Back in 1893, … Read More