Friday, June 8, 2018

Dogs leap for fun at the annual Canine Cannonball

Think only kids love to cannonball into water? This weekend it’s the 2018 Canine Cannonball at Dog Days Bar and Grill in Osage Beach in the Lake of the Ozarks, central Missouri. It’s a water Olympics for dogs, so to speak, consisting of three events that test each dog's athletic prowess. And no matter who wins, these dogs much be having the time of their lives.

Athletic events include the Big Air Wave, the canine equivalent to the long jump, where participating dogs run down the 40-foot by 8-foot competition dock and jump off into the water for distance. The Extreme Vertical is a dock dog's version of the high jump. In this leap-for-height event, a canine leaps high into the air off the "dock" to retrieve a toy suspended above the water. The third event, the Speed Retrieve, is a timed event that has the dog jump into the water and swim to fetch a toy.

Cannonball activities get underway today (Friday, June 8, 2018) with registration and practice rounds taking place at 1 p.m. The first official events begin with three heats of the Big Air Wave at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Saturday, registration and practice rounds begin at 10 a.m. with three more heats of the Big Air Wave taking place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The Extreme Vertical event rounds out the day's competition at 5:30 p.m. The events conclude on Sunday with registration and practice rounds beginning at 10 a.m. followed by the final two heats of the Big Air Wave at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Speed Retrieve takes place at 3 p.m. with the Big Air Wave finals beginning at 5 p.m.

All Canine Cannonball events are free and open to the public. All donations collected throughout the weekend benefit the Dogwood Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in Osage Beach. Staff members from Dogwood Animal Shelter also will have adoptable pets on-site for the duration of the three-day Canine Cannonball. All adoptable animals are up-to-date on their vaccines and have been spayed or neutered. For more information on the Dogwood Animal Shelter, or to view their adoptable pets, visit www.DASLakeOfTheOzarks.comFor more information or to register your canine olympians, visit

For more information about the Lake of the Ozarks, visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's (CVB) website at 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cool off in Cave Spring, Georgia — and enjoy the history, food and shops of this quaint town

Cedar Creek in Rolater Park
There’s a reason for the name Cave Spring, Georgia. In this tiny hamlet 16 miles south of Rome lies a cave with — you guessed it — a lovely spring pouring forth. The Creek and Cherokee tribes were attracted to Cave Spring for its delicious waters, which later lured in European settlement (much to the detriment of the tribes). Today, the quaint town tempts tourists with its boutiques, antique shops, bed and breakfasts and restaurants.

If the weather’s hot, you can slip into one of the largest swimming holes in the state. Spring-fed waters pour into a stream that feeds a 1.5-acre swimming lake that's available for visitors and residents alike. And you can bring jugs to the spring-fed Cedar Creek and fill them up with that pure water or visit the cave the gave the town its name. The spring offers 2 million gallons of mineral water a day.
Home of Avery Vann
Historic buildings abound, including the 1838 Hearn Academy, the Hearn Inn and the 1851 Cave Springs Baptist Church, all situated in Rolater Park (where the cave is located as well). There’s also the old Georgia School for the Deaf and the two-story log cabin that belonged to Cherokee Avery Vann.

For those who love a little scare, some of these structures are reported to be haunted, including the School for the Deaf and the Cave Spring General Store, the latter of which has a very strange story. Even the cave is said to still be occupied by invisible entities. For a story about ghostly experiences in Cave Spring, plus some eerie photos, visit the Haunted Deep South blog.

This weekend (June 9-10, 2018) is the Cave Spring Arts Festival, with artwork for sale in Rolater Park. While you're there, be sure and visit Linda Marie's Steakhouse on the square, a delightful restaurant that serves up delicious food — it's popular with the locals so you know it's good — in an historic building.

Linda Marie at Linda Marie's Steakhouse

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen who loves caves, good Southern food and a lively ghost story. Cave Spring had it all.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Lubbock dream house made of 110 tons of steel

It’s one thing to hear about the incredible Robert Richard Bruno house, a Lubbock home made out of 110 tons of scrap metal. It’s quite another to turn a corner and have the 2,200-square-foot unique architectural structure come into view.

The three-story house overlooking Ransom Canyon was the lifelong project of Bruno, a Texas Tech College of Architecture professor. He began the home in 1974 and worked on it until his death in 2008 but he never saw it completed. He lived there for only seven months.

The house still needs 30 percent more work to be complete but it's unclear if this will happen. His daughter, Christina Bruno, owns the house but it’s Henry F. Martinez — who worked with Bruno for 22 years and took over Bruno’s company, P and R Surge Systems — that opens the house for tours, much as Bruno had when he was living. Martinez loves showing off the house and does so for architecture students, travel writers like me and for photo shoots. The uniquely styled house has been on record covers and in Vogue magazine, among others.

“He (Bruno) would always allow people to come in here to look at the house, even when he was here,” Martinez said. “And I’m trying to do the same.”

We visited this week with temperatures hitting 100, and a house made of all that steel gets pretty stifling inside. Once Martinez opened the front door and a small living room window that faces the lake, a breeze brought some relief. The Steel House with its curves and round windows resembles a hobbit enclave, but above ground as if on legs. There are twists and turns inside, stairs heading up and down the three levels, and stained glass for colorful accents. Once through the front door and down the entrance hall if you will, visitors emerge into the living room that jets over the canyon and offers a gorgeous view of Lake Ransom Canyon. On one side of the hallway is a small kitchen, the other the master bedroom with full bath and some of Bruno's furniture and items. Stairs lead down to a dark level where Bruno wanted to create his office while upstairs is a lounge area, complete with a stage area ready for performances.

Most of the house is accessible. Some steps are off limits due to safety issues. Several walls and floors are unfinished and many rooms appear as if construction just began. The bones are in place but the interior begs for completion. Tours aren’t air conditioned because of the infrequency of people visiting and the cost involved, but the house does have central air and heating and a working plumbing system.

Want to learn more? Dallas Morning News did a wonderful article on the house.

Stairs and stained glass
Living Room
Living room view of Lake Ransom Canyon
Robert Bruno in the photograph

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by travel and food writer Chere Dastugue Coen. She couldn't resist sitting in the living room window and snapping a selfie.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Happy Birthday Vulcan!

vulcanWhen I was kid and our family headed from New Orleans to Chattanooga to “See Rock City” and Ruby Falls, plus the other attractions in the Smoky Mountains, we knew we were almost “there yet” when we spotted Vulcan towering over the landscape. Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and the 50-ton homage to the Roman god of fire has been standing sentinel over the Birmingham skyline since the 1930s. You might wonder why an Alabama city would erect a statue to the god of fire, but Birmingham was known for years for its steel production.

When my kids were little, we visited Birmingham for its awesome children’s museum and nearby DeSoto Caverns and, of course, we visited Vulcan and the surrounding park on Red Mountain, now known as Vulcan Park and Museum. The statue’s enormous and visitors are allowed access to the top where a stunning view of Birmingham and region can be seen. What my children enjoyed most of all, however, was the view from behind — literally. Vulcan wears a skirt of some sort while he works at his forge with a cute view underneath. It’s nothing sordid, mind you, but it did bring my kids to giggles.

My kids on Vulcan's foot
The statue created by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti in 1904 and brought to the Alabama town in pieces turns 114 on June 3 and yes, there is a birthday bash for the iron man. From noon to 4 p.m. there will be “V,” Vulcan’s six-foot plush mascot, plus Birmingham City Mayor Randall Woodfin and City Council President Valerie A. Abbott making appearances. And even more importantly, ice cream from Piggly Wiggly and Bud’s Best Cookies will be handed out after V blows out his candles. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for children and free for Vulcan Park and Museum members and children 4 and under. Admission includes entrance into the Vulcan Center Museum, Vulcan’s Observation tower, and entrance into the new Linn-Henley Gallery exhibit, “Southern Thunder – The Legacy of Alabama Auto Racing.”

Want to know more about the mythology? Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation.

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dat Dog is Dat Delicious!

No more whining and dining. In South Louisiana, flavors are going to the dogs. And if you’re looking for something fun to do this howliday weekend, you’ll go mutts over this idea.  

Okay, we’ll try to limit the dog puns.

Dat Dog first opened in New Orleans in 2011 as an alternative to the boring traditional hot dog usually found in restaurants, concession stands and food trucks. CEO and founder Constantine Georges started with a pawsome 475-square-foot shack on Freret Street that served up unique dogs in unique ways. The small restaurant was wildly successful and Georges moved the colorful eatery across the street to a larger building. Then came additional locations on Magazine and Frenchmen streets in New Orleans, and most recently, a restaurant on historic Jefferson Street in the heart of downtown Lafayette.

We had visited the Freret location and enjoyed a variety of dogs but recently revisited the brand at downtown Lafayette's Dat Dog. We had to ask, “Who’s a good boy?” The answer? All of them. Here’s what we sampled and we loved every bite.

French fries come with a variety of toppings (above chili cheese fries) or none at all. We especially liked the fries topped with crawfish etouffee, but if you want everything, there's the WTF Fries loaded down with all kinds of goodness.

The chicken dog features an all-natural chicken breast that’s brined with Sirochi in-house and served fried or grilled on a hot dog bun with slaw and a special sauce akin to what you get at Raising Cane’s.

This dog was more of a traditional hot dog with a pickle slice and pickled green bean, plus onions, tomatoes, relish and mustard.

This yummy duck sausage dog featured a smoked duck sausage topped with a Creole spice blend, raspberry sauce, mustard and bacon bits. The combination of these flavors sent my taste buds singing.

The special of the week when we visited was a brisket dog, with big slices of crispy beef brisket.

You can even order the Datburger, hamburger that’s served hot dog style. Plus, there are three options for vegans and vegetarians - a chipotle dog with vegan sausage, eggplant vegan sausage with fennel and garlic and a smoked apple sage dog.

The Lafayette restaurant includes locally crafted beers and cocktails at its long bar in the front of the house, surrounded by tables for dining. In back is a fabulous new live music venue called The Platform, which features upstairs seating and another bar. The Platform may be rented out for special events or performances and, since Dat Dog sponsors fund-raising events for community organizations, it may serve as the perfect spot for functions.

There’s even a ghost reportedly living at the Lafayette location. And we don't think it's a dog.

Bone Appetit! 

Weird, Wacky and Wild South is written by food and travel writer Chere Dastugue Coen.