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Visiting Missouri 10 years 11 months ago #8658

  • dddlin
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We are seeing the mid-west this summer. We enjoyed Missouri a lot and just want to share our experiences with anyone else traveling through this part of the country. Photos can be seen our our blog dddlin.blogspot.com

Branson, Missouri - I'm not sure what we expected but King Kong and a 30-foot rooster wasn't it. But here they are, together with miniature golf courses, water parks, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Hollywood Wax Museum, and lots of restaurants and hotels. There are numerous theaters with live shows starting as early as 10 a.m. with most last shows at 8 p.m. The shows are fairly expensive, between $25 and $50 each so we only went to two, the Rankin Brothers and Shepherd of the Hills. Both were excellent. The Rankin Brothers and their supporting five-member band and three backup singers, do vocal impersonations of Elvis, Neil Diamond, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, George Strait, and many more. They also have a great personal interaction, with each other, their band, and the audience. They sounded amazingly like the original artists and we really enjoyed the show. www.rankinbrothers.com Shepherd of the Hills, presented in an outdoor amphitheater, is the dramatization of Harold Bell Wright's novel of life in the Ozarks. It has been running for 43 years and I don't think much has changed in the production. It is a tradition for first time visitors to Branson; we enjoyed it but it is one of those shows you only see once.

The Veterans Memorial Museum contains over 2000 exhibits covering WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. Some of the items are very unusual such as the Ho Chi Min Trail bike, a small Cushman scooter that was dropped by parachute on D-Day, an exhibit on the homing pigeons used to take photos and deliver messages during WWII, and a silver hair brush that belonged to Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun. An impressive 70-foot long sculpture of fifty life-sized bronze soldiers is one of the world's largest war memorial sculptures. On the walls around the sculpture are over 400,000 names of men and women who gave their lives to defend our freedoms.

We did a day trip to the Pea Ridge National Military Park just over the border in Arkansas. Although much smaller than Vicksburg, the presentation was excellent with an outstanding 30-minute introductory film and excellent exhibits in the small visitors center. We particularly liked the two "light maps" showing how the battle progressed and where the Union and Confederate lines were at different times. It made it easy to visualize the battle as we drove the seven mile auto tour. More than 10,000 Union and 16,000 Confederate troops met on this battlefield.

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail runs through this part of Missouri. The story of the relocation of American Indians from Florida, North Carolina, and Florida to Oklahoma is a tragic story in American history. Between 1830 and 1850 about 100,000 American Indians, including Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, were forced to move from their historic tribal lands in the east to land west of the Mississippi in the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Many were brutally treated and an estimated 3,500 Creeks and over 4,000 Cherokees died on their westward journey. Although not a national park, the Trail of Tears Trail runs from North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama through Arkansas and Missouri into Oklahoma.

We did another day trip to the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, MO. Born a slave shortly before the Civil War, George Washington Carver grew up to be an inventor, educator, and great humanitarian. He was a humble man whose love of God and nature became a ministry to benefit humanity. In 1896 he started up an Agriculture Department at the newly created Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and remained there until his death in 1943. He is best know for his work with peanuts, aimed at liberating the economically-stressed South from "King Cotton". He developed over 300 uses for peanuts, including the use of peanut rubbing oil and massage therapy for polio patients. The visitor center film was excellent and we enjoyed a one-mile walk through the woods and fields where George Washington Carver spent his childhood.

Springfield - After dropping the coach off for repairs, we headed to Springfield's best know attraction - Bass Pro Shops. This is where it all started and the facility - it is way more than just a store - lives up to its reputation. It is huge, over 300,000 square feet and has everything you could possibly want or need in the great outdoors. Entire floors are devoted to fishing, hunting, camping and even golf. There is an indoor stream to try kayaks, outdoor pools to try fly fishing, an art gallery, firing range, waterfalls, exhibits, and much more. We had lunch in an excellent restaurant on the fourth floor, Hemingway's, that has a huge aquarium behind the bar. There is a summer camp for all ages where you have an opportunity to try things you have never done, such as camping, archery, rock climbing, or fishing. There is a lot of building going on but we didn't see any signs indicating what will be added.

Then on to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield to get another stamp for our National Parks book. The Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861 was the second major battle of the Civil War (Bull Run being the first) and opened the Civil War in Missouri. After a bloody five-hour battle leaving more than 2,500 solders killed, wounded or missing, the Union forces withdrew back to Springfield. Although the Confederates considered Wilson's Creek a victory, the Union victory in early 1862 at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas ensured that Missouri would remain a part of the Union. The Union general, Brig. General Nathaniel Lyon, was killed at Wilson's Creek, becoming the first Union general to die in battle in the Civil War. By the end of the war, Missouri had seen so many battles and skirmishes that it ranked as the third most fought-over state in the Union. The visitors center has an excellent 30-minute file and a small museum, and a five-mile driving or walking tour of the battlefield.

On the way back to the coach, we went into historic Springfield to find the site where the nation's first recorded shootout occurred between "Wild Bill" Hickok and Davis Tutt. The gun fight was over a gambling debt when Tutt believed Hickok had cheated him. Tutt was killed and as we all know, Hickok went on to become a western legend. The markers weren't easy to find as very few of the local residents were even aware of them. One marker is in the middle of the street and the other on the side of a building. The scenic town square is totally torn up and under construction.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways – Since it would take a week to ten days for the parts to come in to repair the coach, we decided to see more of Missouri and to get all the Missouri stamps for our the National Parks book. Our first stop was Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southeast Missouri. What a treat! We stayed in the Big Springs campground and had 50-amp power (no water or sewer) for just $8.50/night with our senior pass. Big Spring became a Missouri’s first state park in 1924. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways was established in 1964 to preserve the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork rivers together with their caverns and high-volume springs. Big Spring, along with Alley Spring and Round Spring state parks, were placed under National Park Service Management in 1969.
Big Spring is the largest spring in Missouri and one of the largest in the world with a daily average flow of approximately 286 million gallons. The water literally boils from the base of a bluff, with a temperature between 55 and 58 degrees year round. The water is a glorious aquamarine color thanks to the minerals dissolved in the water. Many other springs feed into the Current and Jacks Forks rivers, including Blue Spring, Alley Spring, and Round Spring. The rivers are a favorite destination for kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. It is not unusual to have over 1,000 people on the river on a summer weekend.

We visited Round Spring and took a two hour tour of the Round Spring Cave. The cave stays at 58 degrees year round and was a welcome respite from the 95 degree heat we had been experiencing for over two weeks. We spent an afternoon at Rocky Falls where the Rocky Creek cascades about fifty feet into a pool of clear, cool water. The water was unexpectedly warm, much warmer than the Current River.

The Ozark Riverways Heritage Days were held in the park while we were there. This festival pays tribute to the traditions and heritage of the Ozark hill pioneers with demonstrations of their skills and stories of their lives. We watched traditional Appalachian clogging, listened to blue grass music, fiddle and banjo tunes, dulcimer music, and storytelling. We saw craftsmen making beautiful fiddles and mandolins, split oak shingles, dutch oven cooking, pottery, crosscut sawing, blacksmithing, and even cedar box turkey call making. There was a display by the local fiber guild from “sheep to shawl” that included shearing sheep, carding the wool, spinning, knitting, and weaving. There were vendors selling hand dyed yarn, finger-woven scarves, hand-made baskets, wooden spoons, candles, soaps, fiddles, giggers (used for gigging, a method of fishing), and more. We enjoyed Friday’s program so much that we decided to extend our stay so we could come back on Saturday.

St. Louis –Like most tourists, we started our visit with a trip to the Gateway Arch. This gleaming stainless steel arch soars 630 feet and commemorates the gateway to the West for thousands of 19th-century pioneers. The arch is 75 feet higher than the Washington Monument and is constructed with 886 tons of stainless steel. We took a tram to the top; it is like being in an egg with five people to a car with a rounded ceiling so low that even my head brushed the top. The ride up takes four minutes and the ride down only three. You can stay at the top for as long as you wish, enjoying the view of the city of St. Louis to the west, with the Mississippi River stretching out along the east side.

After visiting the Arch we walked along the Mississippi River waterfront. Although the water has clearly dropped, parts of the road are still closed and covered with deep mud and waves lap at the stairs leading to the lower walkways. We laughed at the signs pointing to parking lots that are still under water. The only ones who can park there are either boats or perhaps submarines. We don’t know how deep the water is but a only the head and hat are visible on a statue of Lewis and Clark. It looks like he is waving to boats passing by. We could see whole trees with roots and branches floating down the river. Navigation must be fairly dangerous as a collision with one of these monsters could easily sink a small to mid-sized boat. Water levels are expected to remain high all summer.

The next day we visited the Anheuser Busch Brewery, home of Budweiser. We have toured other breweries but this one in St. Louis is special with its well-known historic building. The architecture, both inside and out, is beautiful. There are elaborate railings, arches, and chandeliers that are never seen in other breweries. Even the Clydesdales’ stable is a registered National

Historic Landmarks with a beautiful wrought-iron chandelier in the center. And the manufacturing statistics are unbelievable. The fermenting tanks each hold 3600 barrels of beer; a person would have to drink one beer per hour every day for 137 years to drink just one tank. The bottling line fills 1500 12-ounce bottles of beer per minute or 1950 cans per minute. After the tour, we got two free beers – a great way to end an enjoyable morning.

Following our brewery tour, we went to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Monument. We watched the film, took a brief tour of the farm, visited the museum, and got another stamp for our National Parks Passport. He never spent much time there himself, but his wife and children lived there while he was assigned to the West and during the Civil War.

Then on to the amazing and beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Its unique design combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with Byzantine-style interior. It is one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world covering 83,000 square feet. The mosaics contain 41.5 million pieces of glass tessare of more than 7,000 colors. There are three domes with the central dome soaring 143 feet above the floor. The three domes together with the arches reveal in mosaic art the story of the Catholic Faith from creation to the last judgment. This cathedral is truly a work of art and a “must see” for anyone visiting St. Louis. www.cathedralstl.org/site/ One of my favorite things that we saw was a sculpture in the garden of The Angel of Harmony. His wings were all wind chimes as were the children’s musical instruments.

Leaving St. Louis and heading back to Springfield, we stopped for a few hours in Jefferson City to see the State Capitol. It was very easy to find as it sits on a hill towering over its surroundings and we could see it for several miles as we approached the city. Construction started in 1913 after the previous capitol was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. The building is 437 feet long, 300 feet wide at the center, and the dome towers 262 feet above ground level. The interior and exterior artwork is extensive as there was a $1 million surplus from the building fund after the building was completed. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful capitols in the country and we certainly agree.


After spending a few days back in Springfield having the repair work completed on the RV, we headed west towards Kansas. Although we stayed in Kansas City, Kansas, the city straddles the Missouri River, with most of the city on the Missouri side, and our time there was spent primarily in Missouri. Our first day was spent in Independence where we visited the Harry S Truman National Historic Site and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. His home at 216 N. Delaware Avenue in Independence looks like he just stepped away for a short time. His 1957 Chrysler is parked in the garage, his hat and coat still hang on the coat rack, and the table is set for breakfast. According to the park ranger, there are over 57,000 artifacts in the house and garage. It reminded me of my grandmother’s house. Truman’s wife Bess was born in the house and the Trumans lived there from the time they were married in 1919 until their deaths, except for their time in Washington.

From the Truman House, we went to the Truman Presidential Library and Museum. This was our sixth Presidential Library visited and ranks in the top three, right behind Reagan and Clinton. The museum presents the story of a president, from his humble beginnings in the small mid-America town of Independence, to becoming the most powerful leader in the world. The main level covers the presidential years from the sudden start of the presidency upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, the ending of WWII, including his decision to drop the atomic bomb; the formation of the United Nations, NATO, and the Marshall Plan; the post-war recovery period; the beginning of the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift; his re-election in 1948; the Korean War and his decision to remove Douglas MacArthur; and finally America in 1952 and leaving office in 1952. The displays were excellent and included several interactive theaters where visitors participated in presidential decision making issues. The lower level of the museum covered his family life with wife Bess and daughter Margaret; his early years growing up in Missouri; living in the White House, trips home to Independence, vacationing in Key West, and other travels. The final section dealt with Truman’s retirement, returning to Independence, and developing the Truman Library. He actually had an office at the Library and used it daily from 1957 to 1966. He frequently would talk with visitors, and especially enjoyed school children. Mr. Truman and his wife Bess are buried in the courtyard as is his daughter Margaret and her husband.

The next day we went to the Frontier Trails Museum, again in Independence. It had exhibits for the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the pioneers who made their way west on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails which originated in Independence. I really enjoyed the diary entries from the women and young girls. The hardships they faced over the months spent on the trail are truly inspiring. It’s hard to comprehend how difficult it must have been to give up everything you own, leave family and friends behind, and walk into a truly unknown world. We picked up several National Park brochures and books about the trails as we will cross their paths many times during our travels.

We took a covered wagon trip around Independence. The wagon was pulled by two beautiful Missouri mules and the owner/guide was very knowledgeable. He told stories about the bloody Kansas-Missouri border wars, the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails pioneers, Jesse James and Cole Younger gangs, and Harry Truman. Not only did we see the beginning of the Oregon Trail, but we actually rode in the wagon along a 1/4 mile stretch of the original trail. We really enjoyed the one-hour tour.

We then drove to Liberty, Missouri, site of the nation’s first successful daylight bank robbery on February 13, 1866, and the first robbery attributed to the James Gang. $60,000 in gold, silver, U.S currency and U.S. Treasury bearer bonds were stolen and never recovered, although all but a very few of the bonds were redeemed. This amounts to over $6 million in today’s dollars. The Farmers Exchange Bank was the first bank in western Missouri and the closest bank to all of the territory west of the Mississippi. At the time of the robbery, there were no banks in Kansas City, Independence, St. Joseph, or even San Francisco at this time. The bank building has the original bank vault and safe. The safe cannot be removed from the building as it is larger than the vault doors. The vault was actually built around the safe and was designed to protect the deposits from fire, not theft. Although never convicted of any robberies or other crimes, the James Gang is alleged to have robbed twelve banks, seven trains, six stage coaches, and three others for a total of $226,245, which is equivalent to over $24 million in today’s dollars.

On our Kansas City ‘must see’ list was the World War I Museum and Monument in downtown Kansas City. The view of the city from the Memorial Plaza was beautiful, with Union Station just below and the city skyline behind it. Although the Memorial was erected in 1921, the museum was opened just five years ago to display the ever-expanding collection of WWI memorabilia donated by the families of WWI vets as they passed away. I thought I had a fairly good knowledge of U.S. history but this museum taught me how little I know about WWI . Did you know that Japan was an ally during WWI? Did you know that Indian code-talkers were first used during WW1? Choctaw Indians from Oklahoma to be exact. Did you know that women suffragists were arrested for picketing the White House, taking President Wilson to task for his call to “make the world safe for democracy” when half the American population (women) were barred from voting? The women were jailed and then force-fed when they went on a hunger strike to protest. Did you know that there was an American Protective League, 250,000 members, permitted by the Attorney General to “spy on dissidents, radicals, and “slackers” and to detain draft evaders? I was amazed to learn of the many civilian protests and strikes against the governments of many European nations due to poor working conditions, low pay, rationing, and shortages. There was even a mutiny of German seaman when they were ordered to return to sea when the war was obviously lost. Two officers were executed and over 300 men imprisoned. The war ended just a few days later. The exhibits ended with a short film regarding the Versailles Treaty and the decisions – right or wrong - that were made as world leaders divided up Europe and established new countries and boundaries. The last line on the screen asked a very thought-provoking question – Is peace really possible? We were there when the museum opened at 10 a.m. and didn’t leave until almost 4 p.m. I am sure we could go back again tomorrow and see many things we missed today.

While in Kansas City, we had lunch at Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, the oldest barbecue place in St. Louis. Everyone told us we had to have barbecue in St. Louis as it is the “best in the world”. It was very good and the sandwich was so big we only ordered one. I had a quarter of it and it was more than enough.

On our last day in Missouri, we walked around the City Market. It was a very busy, bustling place, with everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, street entertainers, food vendors, arts and crafts, and even a small train for children. It was relaxing and fun, and a nice way to end our time in Missouri.
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Re: Visiting Missouri 10 years 11 months ago #8661

  • farrout
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Nice trip report. See America first.

The only thing I would add about Branson is that it is a mine field of time share offers.
Don't make eye contact with anyone on the street or they will try to sell you a time share.

Dennis

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Re: Visiting Missouri 10 years 11 months ago #8692

  • lamsan
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We love Branson also and last year we were there for Veterans Day. About 250,000 veterans arrive in Branson for the week of Veterans Day and the pride and appreciation shown the veterans is more than words can describe. The parade is so moving it brings many to tears and it was about 1 1/2 hours long and you will remember it for a long time. My husband the 23 year army hard core darling that he is was brought to tears by the displays and music and the memories it stirred. For those of you with room on your bucket list please add it as you will be glad you did.

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Re: Visiting Missouri 9 years 8 months ago #10601

  • Mailman01
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Outstanding review of your Missouri adventures. Thanks.
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