Every year, I have a few experiences on the road that do not make it into my regular columns due to lack of space, time, etc.
I save up these experiences and share them with readers at the end of the year as part of my annual “deleted scenes” column, which is now in its fourth year.
Scheels in Springfield
My family and I have spent time at a wide variety of destinations in Springfield during the last decade or so, such as Abraham Lincoln-related sites, the Illinois State Fair, and the Cozy Dog Drive In on old Route 66. We are always on the lookout for other places to see in our state capital. During a return visit this spring to the Illinois State Museum, we asked some local residents there for suggestions.
They pointed us in the direction of Scheels, a 200,000-square-foot sporting goods department store that opened on June 25, 2011 at 3801 S. MacArthur Boulevard. We had never heard of Scheels before, so we decided to give it a try. We found that the multi-level store is well stocked with sports clothing and gear, including the outdoor variety, but what also helps keep families coming back is the other attractions there.
Principal among these attractions is a 65-foot-tall, 16-car operating Ferris wheel, which Scheels reports was produced by the Eli Bridge Co. in nearby Jacksonville. My wife, Beckie, and our 8-year-old daughter, Hannah, rode on the Ferris wheel in the store’s atrium while I took our 3-year-old son, Owen, on his first escalator ride.
Some of the other attractions at this store include a 16,000-gallon salt water aquarium/entryway, eight life-like bronze sculptures of athletes and U.S. presidents, simulators for NASCAR and other sports, a shooting gallery, a small wooden bowling alley, a playland, and a deli and fudge shop. Springfield is the only Illinois location for the Fargo, N.D.-based Scheels, which was founded in 1902 and now has 24 locations in 10 states.
Beef House Restaurant in Covington, Ind.
Over the years, I have sometimes driven out of my way or adjusted my traveling schedule to visit restaurants that have become more than just places to eat. A couple of these “destination restaurants” that come to mind are Lambert’s Cafe, “Home of the Throwed Rolls,” in Sikeston, Mo.; and Patti’s 1880s Settlement, home of the bread baked and served in flower pots, in Grand Rivers, Ky.
My extended family held a get-together this fall at another “destination restaurant,” the Beef House Restaurant in Covington, Ind. This expansive restaurant, which was founded in 1964, sits on top of a hill near Interstate 74, but the Beef House’s sturdy brick walls and the surrounding woods give it the feel of a state park lodge.
Inside, various cuts of steaks are displayed in a cooler case near the lobby. These steaks are cooked over hardwood briquets on an open-hearth charcoal broiler in view of the dining room. I ordered spicy shrimp because I am a seafood fan, but I sampled and was impressed by my wife’s steak. Our family shared baskets of the Beef House’s signature yeast rolls, accompanied by the homemade apple butter and strawberry jam.
This site is also home to the Beef House Dinner Theatre, where matinee and evening performances of the annual Christmas show are continuing today and Sunday. The theatre’s 2014 summer season is scheduled for July 11-Aug. 10.
SoccerFest at the University of Illinois in Urbana
My interest, as a spectator, in soccer has led me to see several Major League Soccer games in the Midwest during recent years. I also have watched Panther men’s and women’s soccer games at Eastern Illinois University’s Lakeside Field, where the free entry makes for a great family outing. I had not seen a University of Illinois women’s game until my daughter and I paid our first visit to SoccerFest on Sept. 29.
SoccerFest, an annual tradition that started in 2006, combines family-friendly activities with free entry to a game at Illinois Soccer Stadium, located along St. Mary’s Road on the southern edge of campus. This event is typically held on a Sunday afternoon in September.
At this year’s SoccerFest, my daughter and I watched the U of I women play the University of Nebraska. While there, we ate free pizza, made caramel apples, petted animals from the Scovill Mobile Zoo, and watched local celebrities wearing puffy Bumper Ballz suits bounce into each other during a comical halftime competition.
Our afternoon at SoccerFest went by very quickly. Next year, we plan to arrive a bit earlier to try out some of the children’s craft activities and soccer-related games, including playing Bumper Ballz.
That wraps up my fourth annual “deleted scenes” column. Now, it’s time for me to plan for some road trips in 2014. I am always looking for suggestions if readers want to send them my way. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Contact Rob Stroud at email@example.com or 217-238-6861.