midwest

August Hill Winery Tasting Room (Travel Pictorial)

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My wife and I travel to the Starved Rock area in Northern Illinois quite often (see previous articles). It’s gorgeous and great room/cabins in the grand lodge in the park. We also love to go in to the quaint town of Utica. Historic town with so many cool things to see but always relaxing.

This was our first chance to stop at August Hill. The winery itself is a few miles away but the tasting room is right downtown. It is amazing. A beautiful mod feel that would fit in anywhere in a huge metro or Napa. Still it is in a tiny town.

A fantastic tasting setup in a stunning room. You can get small plate food items hand carried into the gorgeous lounge area if you wish to buy wine by the glass or bottle and relax. Plus wine! Guess what? The wine is excellent as well. Often not true of these smaller Midwestern wineries. This is outstanding (and yes I’ve been all over the world as a fighter/travel writer). I love the Chambourcin (in fact there is a bottle staring at me in my office!) Try it. Now check out the pictures and enjoy. Talk after the jump.

 

I can’t say it enough. Come to this area and definitely come to  August Hill when you do. Trust me. I travel all over and it’s world class yet warm and classically Midwest. I should add that the staff was amazing. Great service. Great knowledge. Go!

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A trip To Heron County Park Wetlands(sooo cool)

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You just never know what you will run across. Marsh land isn’t common in the central Part of Illinois. Yep it is in the southern part of the state ( you’ve seen U.S Marshalls lol). This area is really unusual here.

It’s actually the North end of Lake Vermillion. Not much like it in this area. A true wetlands. Marsh, bog and just beautiful. They have a great observation tower but also a 950 ft floating boardwalk. You will see eagles, geese and ducks plus birds that I have no clue what they are. And I’m Native American. It’s a great place to relax and refresh. Plus there are a ton of great restaurants close by (look for a piece on our trip to the Nugget soon).

Just a few Miles North of Danville Illinois on West Newell Rd, it is a world class experience for zero cost if you are in the area. Worth the trip if you aren’t!!! Come see us!!!

 

A Great Visit To Mackinaw Valley Winery

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So we finally made it out to this place. Friends had told us for years to go. It’s not that far but given our schedules on the road it had just never happened. Soooo glad we did. Sandy and I loved it, and we have been to a lot of amazing places.

Beautiful grounds and facility with great service all while being so relaxing. I’ll wait to write a ton more as we go to various concert events but I wanted to give you an idea of just a normal outing here. A relaxing hour in the afternoon or an evening adventure.

First, the drive out there is great. Heading out of Bloomington IL starts like everything but as the cool old barns and hills pop up , the drive gets interesting. When you arrive you will be impresses with the look. Cool house that they seem to just keep adding on to. You can see the vines and I really like how they mark what they are( if you like wine , it’s nice to know). An incredible little shop with gourmet items as you enter and then the tasting room. You get three free tastings and then each after is a dollar. You can also buy a glass($6 on average) as well as beer. This part is awesome because as you will see in the pics, they have a gorgeous deck to sit on and relax.

In the warm months they have a great concert series which the grounds are perfect for. Sandy and I will being hitting that this year and you know those pics will show up right here. For now, enjoy the pictures and we will talk after the jump.

You should definitely check this place and it’s wines out. Great place, great wines and a great time. Take the time to go. Check out their link here for directions and more info. Mackinaw Valley Winery and definitely tell them Bob and Sandy from the Combat Sports Lifestyle blog (and Team Transcend ) told you to show up. Follow us on twitter @combatsportlife . Also contact us to come to your place. All the cool things I love and recommend

Quick Thoughts On the Awesome JT Walkers

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This place is literally walking distance(yep I do that on occasion ) in the small town I live in. I travel often as you know, but when we are home I hit it often. Great restaurant and sports bar on one side of the street , awesome old style brew pub on the other. I’ll do a full post on the whole operation when I have time to get down there  and spend take taking pictures and talking to Justin Taylor about the history. In the interim here are some thoughts on a recent meal, and pics from a few trips.

First it has world class beer in a casual yet hip environment. Truthfully it is a beer that I order anywhere they have it across our region. As a guy who has travelled the globe to fight and train that should tell you a bit! So well done. When I first moved to town this place was a really cool home store. Antiques, and great home products. The people that owned it were featured nationally in a magazine for their home(3500 people in town at that time). I love the building. It sat for  years. Then This place happened. The downtown area changed for the better in an incredibly positive way. Foodie and craft beer culture while retaining our small town roots.

This trip we ate in the sports bar. Sweet chicken chili wrap for me. Italian beef for Sandy. Guess what? Ohhh so good. My fave Hail to the Chief IPA and it was our kind of relaxing night. This is one of the reasons we love living here. We travel and eat at the Nobu/Brady’s of the world but this is our home. Can’t beat it. Take a look at the pics and expect soooo many post about this place in the future!

This is truly a destination place. If you make a trip here, good chance you’ll see Myself and Sensei Sandy as well as some other Transcend fighters. We always meet up here. Great food. GREAT BEER!! Classic building. Get here!

Want us to live tweet from your location or review? Get in Touch. Yes we specialize in motivation and fight training but we have a large interactive travel/food following because of that. Get inexpensive pr for your place. Priceless. Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com for details today. Also follow @combatsportlife on twitter and friend me Bob Tompkins or Sandy Tompkins on FB

Check out jtwalkers.com

Riverbend Forest Preserve (a great hike & place to canoe,kayak)

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This place is my little relaxation playground when I’m home. When I am not traveling for writing work or fight camps this is my little getaway. In between teaching private training sessions(muay thai,conditioning,sport karate) I head out here with my dog Renegade and hike. It’s very close to town but the trails seem remote at times. Quiet, beautiful and doesn’t look at all like you are in the corn/bean fields where we live. On the weekend you will find me here in my canoe.

This is an old gravel pit with a large area of forest and prairie flowers. The company that operates a large gravel operation here donated this section and it became a park. The water is beautiful. Great fishing. Cool picnic areas. Better yet are they trails where we mostly see nobody. Deer, coyote and fox. Birds of all kinds. You can wander back to the Sangamon river or walk along the bluffs above the lake.

In summer heat it is also a place where I do hill runs and mud runs for training. One warning: In warm months you will run across copperheads and cottonmouths . Most are smaller and not at all aggressive but just so you know.

It’s worth a trip if you are nearby or looking for somewhere different . I’ll let the pictures speak from here out. Enjoy.

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Enjoy Downtown Champaign Including Food At Guido’s and The Esquire( Pictorial)

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When are not traveling, we love to relax in Downtown Champaign. Great bars and restaurants and a cool place just to wander around. As i’ve said before, traveling to all the places we do actually helps us look for more treasures in our own area.

Great burgers, pizza and drinks from two great places. Guidos has a great menu and bar. Lots of screens, cool look and great outdoor seating. It also has a gorgeous downtown view especially when it is snowing. I’ll do a piece on that this winter. The esquire is a classic old school bar with a broad age range and fantastic food. They also have great outdoor seating. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Check out the pictures that also include the awesome Ten Thousand Villages store and just street shots. Talk after the jump.

Get yourself down in this area if you live nearby or if you are just visiting. Take advantage of the cool things, culture and food we have here. It’s a great place to just enjoy yourself!

Want a cheap link or ad? We can do that. Better yet have us come to you. Live tweets with our responsive twitter following have a great impact on your online image. Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com today and get started. Also follow the fun @combatsportlife on twitter

Check out the very cool champaigncenter.com for more info on the area.

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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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 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 tompkinscontent@gmail.com for ad/ sponsor info.
Check out the clubs website

http://www.antiquefarm.org/

A Quick Review Of Los Zarapes In Mahomet ( yep right here)

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Well, over the 23 years since I moved to this little town this location has had a ton of restaurants in it. Mostly family style diners. The first one I loved. Great salad bar and a cool view out over the highway in its back room. The ones after it were terrible until Los moved there. Now it’s a regular stop for my wife And I.  It’s a quick little vacation for the evening. Kitschy cheese master decor with classic Mexican dishes. Its just a cool break and doesn’t feel like the zillion Mex places in the area.

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I’ll make this part quick and easy to let the pictures do the talking. That always seems to be better, probably a statement about my writing!!!  I love their salsa.  We both do. We slow down on Friday night getting there. Grab a beer for me and a margarita for her. Relax and go over the menu while enjoying chips and salsa!  I most often get the chicken flautas and she gets the burrito deluxe or some version of that. Both awesome. This time we both got combination dinners. We each had some mix of burrito and enchilada with rice and beans. Very good. Classically done. Tons of food!!!  That said, I prefer the chicken. The ground beef is a tad salty for me. She said it was perfect so it’s obviously a personal taste thing. In any case it was all over good!  Take a look at a the pics including some menu snaps and we will talk after the jump.

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If you’re in this central Illinois area, then check this place out. Right off I-74 so if you’re traveling across Illinois/Indiana/Iowa it’s perfect. Take short little vacation here. It’s fun and delicious.
If you’d like to have us come hang out at your place or be reviewed here get in touch. Social ads or just setting up good times that promote you and your brand. We get you talked about, and make people with disposable income aware of you !!! Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com and follow @combatsportlife on Twitter.
Today’s links ( get yours here for a paltry sum)
https://m.facebook.com/loszarapesrestaurant/
tortilla warmer