small town

Hiking In Sangamon Park(where I grew up and native landmark)

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Growing up we called this place New park. It was a place hardly anyone went. As a teen it was a place we could get away as well as have an illegal adult beverage or two(not condoning lol). It is in a very rural area of Piatt county where it meets Champaign county. Over the years people have built a number of houses nearby. There are whole developments. Still when you step back into this park, it all goes away. It is this area as it used to be. Prairie, river and trees. For me it holds a special place. As a young man I always felt a strange kindred spirit feeling when we went out there to hike and possibly consume beer. I always felt like someone was watching me, but in a good way.   In later years I found out there was a huge battle here between two native nations. Nobody knows who exactly but the thousands of arrowheads and bloody bones that came up as it was developed let everybody understand what it was. Around here we don’t always get attention from or care about the celebrity archaeologists lol. To this day a section of the river is known to locals as Bloody Bend. Now you know why.

These days living in Champaign county but not far away, it is a place my dog Renegade and I go to get away and just wander. When I am not on the road for fights or travel writing/pr it is one of our places several times a week.

If you are interested in just hiking, native folklore or just need to get away from people give this place a look. I use it for dog walks as well as a place to train(climb hills and force myself to work in bad weather) when I’m building my fight skills. Take a look at some pictures from Renegade’s most recent trip out there.

Give this place a look. Contact me with any questions about the area or how to get there. The county web for it is not very helpful. If you live in the area or are visiting the University Of Illinois it is a great place to get away. Probably 30 minutes from the campus.

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Chicken Drumsticks On The Smoker (awesome & easy)

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This is going to be a pretty short cooking piece for me. Why? Because you mostly throw them on and let the smoke do the rest. My wife and daughter as well as myself love getting wings and drumsticks in bars. Football, wings and beer. It’s a simple tradition.

I use my smoker often but I had never used it to do drumsticks. It hadn’t crossed my mind actually. Seemed small and like they wouldn’t turn out. I saw a piece about it on  a bar website and thought I would give it a shot. The result was awesome.

Normally when I smoke meat a build a larger fire slowly until it reaches appropriate heat and then add occasionally but let the heat draw down. Ill keep the heat up for quite awhile though and let it draw down to smoke. Given the size of these little things that wouldn’t work. Soooo, a little pile of charcoal and my first pieces of wood (hickory, apple and a bit of grapevine from my property). As soon as the fire was cranked I dropped the  drumsticks on. It kept them at a high heat for about 8 minutes. As the fire rapidly slowed I never added heat. just bits of wood to smolder for the smoke. Vey little heat after the start. Just smoke for hours and hours. About six hours of slow low smoke. Perfection. They had a great taste that was smoky and just the right texture. Served it with homemade hot sauces and  spicy butternut squash cakes( another article on that part next week)


Give it a try. Drumsticks are inexpensive and you can just hang and do other things while they cook. Lots of other things. So easy and so good. A great football treat on game day. Again, they are inexpensive. Got these from Mahomet IGA for a little bit of nothing. Great hometown store that does not look like it’s in a small town!

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Pictures From Beautiful Southern Illinois (travel pics)

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My dad’s family moved from the native territory (called reservations elsewhere ) to drill the oilfields in Southern Illinois. AS a child we spent a ton of time in this area hiking and eating. Much of it is beyond rural lol. Great food, beautiful scenery and cool country folk. It is truly it’s own little world. Great state parks including Garden of The Gods and Cave In Rock ( famous from movies).as well as others. Much of the area still has native culture (Cherokee and osage which is my heritage). It creates an interesting area full of food, music and a love of nature. I’ll be doing more in depth posts including hotel stays and restaurant reviews . For now take a look at the natural beauty.   It’s a great place for an inexpensive trip, and worth it no matter where you are from.


Don’t overlook this great area to take a trip. Nature, food and country culture. You can’t go wrong with that!

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Open Your Eyes. Write About What You See(travel/enjoyment around you)

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Yes I am blessed to travel great places I’ve been all over and continue to. I love it and fortunately it has worked out to write a bit about it as well as get paid to promote places. That said, you find both enjoyment and article material right around you. Yes even travel articles. If you really want it and you really want to write about it, you will find it. Exotic luxury locations are awesome. So is where you live!!! Somebody wants to know about your lifestyle. Travel is about lifestyle. Local life is as well. Start there. Strangely the things people like the most when I write or promote are the goofy small town Midwest things I show. Think about it.

It is how you write about it and how you take pictures. Not trying to make it glossy. Make it cool for what it is. Pizza and High School football on Friday night are awesome. Write about it. Make them see it and feel it. For this purpose I’m going to post a load of pictures here. Only one is over an hour from m home(maybe two, I used to get hit in the head for a living)  They are as interesting as my Vegas, Florida and East coast pics(or anywhere else I’ve rolled, just recent). Enjoy where you are. Be entertained by what you do. Go!


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Don’t let your surroundings be boring. Make things happen. Find the excitement and snap a picture. It is all in how you view it. Start there and see where it takes you

A Quick Review & Pictures Of Courier Cafe ( one of my local faves)

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First,  this place isn’t what you would expect. Then again it also is exactly what you would expect. Huh? Remember you’re reading a blog from a guy who used to get hit in the head for a job! In all seriousness that’s true though. Courier is both diner and upscale experience at the same time. Hip and in a historic building but has died chicken and a salad bar like my farm town roots. How does that work. First we will talk about the area and building .

In 1837 a man named William Tompkin purchased the land where it is. Im told that it is likely a relative even though there is no s on the end. Lots of spellings and my family came off the oklahoma native territories ( called reservations elsewhere) to Illinois in the late 1930’s so who knows. My dadand siblings didnt have birth certificates!! ( Common in native families at the time). The lad was sold to the well known farming/banking Busey family. Eventually it became the Courier newspaper building in the early 20th century. It closed in 1979, and yes i well remember that happening. In comes Alan Strong!
When i was a kid there was a cool deli on the UIUC campus called Bubbie & Zadies. I was a small town kid dreaming of travel and loved going there. It floodec to the point of no repair once and a few years later he opened the Courier Cafe.
Downtown Urbana where it is located is an eclectic place. Decades before farm to table was chic, urbana was that place. It annoys me and I love it at the same time lol. I mean Urbana,the Courier is always cool.
From breakfast, to burgers and sandwiches. From fried chicken to unusual mixes and steaks. The place is part of a bygone era where you could have a broad menu but it was all REAL FOOD! I travel all over for fights and pr work and it is a rare institution.
On this trip I had the Hammerhead with fries. Excellent roast beef and swiss soaked in red wine Au Jus served on a Bubby Bun. A couple of Domain Du Page beers from Two Brothers Brewing and it doesn’t get much better. My wife Sandy had the fried chicken with baked potato ( always mashed but the waitress said no longer available??!!) And the awesome salad bar. Survey says?? Awesome all the way around!!! Check out the pics( why you reall read this blog!) and we will talk after the jump.

Whether you live here or you want to take a destination restaurant road trio, Courier Cafe fits the bill. It is historic, architectually profound and foodie paradise at the same time. Check it out. Heck, call me and we will go with you.
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Todays links ( be here for a very affordable rate!!!!!)


A Trip To Historic Farm Days ( one of the biggest antique tractor shows in the world!)

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The title doesn’t cover it! Tractors. Implements of all kinds. Music. Demonstrations. It’s huge!  Amazing food everywhere in the middle of nowhere. It is one of the coolest things you can see. Farming drives much of America and the world. A fact that I’m proud of as a kid who grew up tossing hay bales and walking beans. I live in the heart of it. I may have been all over to fight, teach and travel but I’ve always called this home. 

  The show is run by and held on the grounds of the I&I tractor club in Penfield IL. Penfield is tiny, the grounds are huge. The old school is now a museum for the club and the grounds make a state fair location blush. Besides people bring stuff the club itself has amazing equipment it has restored. This includes a Hart Part steam tractor that they place on loan to The Smithsonian most of the year. Yep, that big of a deal. Full disclosure, we have been involved in this for for about 13 years. My dad and son decided to start restoring small hobby farm tractors and got involved. This got me involved lol. Even though my son his own home, there is still a project here in my shop!!! ( a Roof 60 if you’re interested in that type of thing). 

We love going. It’s not a far trip for us but it’s an annual family adventure. Food and farms!  Geographically the area might ring a bell. It’s about 7 or 8 miles from Gifford IL which became famous on CNN a few years back. Devastating tornado, which sadly is a bit normal where we live.  

    I’m going to let pictures ( a bunch of them) do the talking for a bit. Talk after the jump. 

As many pictures as i posted it doesnt even cover a quarter of it. Bbq, fried things and true americana. There really isnt anything like it to show you what rural ag life means. Parades, music and real farmers who know how to work on their own equipment.
This is in the heart of Illinois. If you take my advice and make this an adventure next July there are things close by. Two hours from chicago and indianapolis both. Besides that it is 35 minutes from Champaign/ Urbana ( uiuc campus) so plenty of places to stay! Give it some thought. If you have questions on the pictures, comment here and ill answer as best i can. Follow @combatsportlife on twitter and email for ad/ sponsor info.
Check out the clubs website

Road Trip To A Horse Show (pictures from rural America)

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h Our son Zakk owns a horse stable. His fiance Dani and our daughter Kaleigh are involved as well and we pitch in when they are gone. Zakk and Dani compete in pro rodeo but also take kids they train to horse shows. Western style riding with barrels also. We go as often as we can to support them. 

   Recently we went up past Peoria to watch. Its a cool facility called Heart of Illinois right on the Illinois river. Lots of little old bars and ancient small motels ( think old Route 66). Ill actually do a piece on that part of the area soon. Its a dying part if American road life and is very cool. The commercial and recreational river traffic is so interesting to watch.

Wandering back home we stopped at a little reastaurant called Jacks in tiny Leroy Il. Great diner food and i could even get a Sam Adams. Not common in the small rural family diners. These places are staples of rural midwest and that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Ill let the pictures tell the story( im a horrible writer!) Talk after the jump.

The last picture is at the gas station in Mansfield ( yes just one). The station owner, a local in his cool golf cart( no golf course,just transportation) and the line town cop Jimmy just hanging out. Ahhh the rurak Midwest!
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Todays links