Written by janeena on 24 Feb, 2010
Founded in 1825, this rough and rugged frontier town still offers a chance to experience first hand what it was like to live on the edge of civilization. Peer into the dark and chilly two foot thick limestone walls of a cell in the 1859…Read More
Founded in 1825, this rough and rugged frontier town still offers a chance to experience first hand what it was like to live on the edge of civilization. Peer into the dark and chilly two foot thick limestone walls of a cell in the 1859 Jail, 217 N. Main, which housed famous outlaws. Tour the 1827 Log Courthouse, 107 W. Kansas, built of sturdy black walnut, or learn about pioneer life at the carefully restored Pioneer Spring Cabin, Truman and Noland.Take a narrated tour in a swaying covered wagon past Civil War sites, historic homes, and the still visible wagon swales cut by the wooden wheels of thousands of wagons heading west. Stroke the fur pelts like the ones mountain men tanned and hear the words of travelers who followed the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails from Independence at the National Frontier Trails Museum, 318 W. Pacific. Wander through the many impressive rooms at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, 313 W. Pacific, furnished with countless unique artifacts and treasures original to the families who lived there. Wonder at the elegance and majesty of the opulent Vaile Mansion, 1500 N. Liberty, known as the House of Gold, adorned with 9 marble fireplace mantles, hand painted ceilings and tastefully crafted woodwork. Stop in at the fascinating restored 1879 two story Chicago and Alton Depot, 318 W. Pacific, which houses not only antique railroad artifacts, but the upstairs living quarters of the station master. Don’t forget the historic Truman Depot just down the street, which President Harry S. Truman and his wife used many times as he traveled back and forth to Washington. Truman’s Courtroom , Main and Lexington, with an audio-visual slide show at the historic Jackson County courthouse just inside is also open for touring.A modest two story white Victorian home at 219 N. Delaware Street was the home of Bess and later the home of Harry and Bess until their deaths. Everything has been kept just as it was when they lived there, including Harry’s hat, coat and cane hanging in the front entry. ( The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, 500 U. S. 24 Highway is a must-see, with major audio visual interactive displays and exhibits, "decision" theaters, a replica of the Oval Office, monumental movies about the life and presidency of Truman, gravesites of Harry and Bess, and children’s activities on the lower level. Visitors can also investigate the incredible story of the Mormon pioneers who settled in the city during the 1830s at several religious legacy sites. The Community of Christ Temple, 201 S. River and Auditorium, 1001 W. Walnut, offer tours, free organ concerts, artwork and a children’s hands on museum known as the Children’s Peace Pavilion. The newly renovated Mormon Visitors Center, 937 W. Walnut, offers many exhibits and displays which are highly interactive and feature cutting edge technology. This free attraction is open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can even learn about the history of puppets and marionettes in the many displays of both at the Puppetry Arts Institute, 11025 E. Winner. All ages enjoy the chances to view puppets from around the world. For a small additional fee, children can select a puppet head, paint and clothe it and stage an impromptu show.The history of a Victorian art form using human hair is illustrated by thousands of pieces of jewelry and art work made of hair at Leila’s Hair Museum, 1333 S. Noland, the only one of its kind in the world. The collection includes over 2,000 pieces of art and jewelry made partially or entirely from human hair. History seems to come alive in the charming bed and breakfasts and in the quaint antique and gift stores lining the streets of the square area surrounding the historic Jackson County Courthouse. Free brochures for marked walking trails (Mormon History and Truman legacy sites) follow bronze sidewalk plaques through leafy shaded streets and around the square or follow the Civil War driving tour (also with free brochure) . For an eye opening pioneer experience, take a covered wagon historical tour of the city with Pioneer Trails Adventures, operating from the Square year-round (weather permitting).The Midwest Genealogy Center, largest free standing public genealogy library in the nation, is a major draw for those searching their family trees. And the newly opened (November 2009) Independence Events Center is home to the professional Missouri Mavericks Hockey team and venue for concerts ranging from Disney to Kenny Rogers to Riverdance, as well as a community ice rink. Lodging information, a calendar of events and current Visitor Guides are online at www.visitindependence.com. Close
Written by callen60 on 19 Jan, 2010
Eight decades or more into the age of commercial air travel, there aren’t many brand new airports opening these days. A new one—and a privately funded one at that—just opened in the Ozarks, and I had the opportunity to fly out of the new Branson…Read More
Eight decades or more into the age of commercial air travel, there aren’t many brand new airports opening these days. A new one—and a privately funded one at that—just opened in the Ozarks, and I had the opportunity to fly out of the new Branson Airport this week, en route to DC.Branson sits about 45 minutes south of Springfield, MO, the home of competitor Springfield-Branson National Airport. The hyphen showed up about 10 years ago, when the booming music show business boosted Branson’s profile as a vacation destination for middle income mid-America. That only stalled local desire to give the country music mecca its own airfield, and in early 2009 the new, privately funded airport announced that AirTran would begin daily service to Atlanta.What’s it like? For starters, it was like having an airport to yourself. It's about 20 minutes southeast of Branson, and the last six miles are well off the highway. Parking in the nearly empty lot made it feel more like the air travel of my childhood days: not so many people flying, no lines, and little of the rushing and noise that characterizes terminals today. I parked in the long-term lot, within 60 yards of the door (I paced it off) and alongside only about 20 other cars, and then waited in line with five other people to belatedly add a checked bag to my online boarding pass. (For $15 extra, I was willing to give someone else the job of keeping an eye on my bag during a four-hour layover.) Everyone, from the counter clerk to the TSA agents, seemed a little distracted, trying to serve the few of us that were there with even fewer people. I was untying my shoes and putting my carry-on through the x-ray machine when the blue-shirted TSA woman rushed up to catch me and ask for my boarding pass and ID. Nonetheless, I was happy with the quickest security clearance I’ve experienced in decades. Shoes retied, I exited the secure area and turned the corner into the terminal: part modern pole barn and part fake Ozarks storefront, right down to the recently weathered wood. The two real establishments—a Famous Dave’s BBQ, housed inside the shell of a pretend sawmill (complete with turning waterwheel) and a Bass Pro Shop’s ‘General Store’—compete visually with the signs for Goldie’s Sawmill, the White River Hotel, and Henry Sullenger’s Saloon. Only the latter made me look twice to see if they were open for business. Why fly here? Service is pretty limited. AirTran operates one flight a day to Atlanta, which in the future departs at 1 pm (it becomes two flights in early April 2010). That might open up more options than the 2:45 flight I’m taking today, depositing me in Atlanta for almost four hours before heading on to Washington Reagan and arriving at 10:35. But it wasn’t the service that attracted me: it was the $238 fare (taxes included), which beat the flights out of Springfield by $300 during my nearly-too-late search for a ticket. Most compendia of travel tips don’t recommend booking a mere 10 days in advance, but it’s rare for a Springfield-DC round trip come in under $400 in the best of circumstances. In addition, I traded a 15-minute trip to Springfield-Branson for an hour drive, but it’s a nice one through the Ozark hills. Parking here is steeper than it should be: the long-term parking was $12/day, even higher than the $10/day at Springfield-Branson (which I always skip for the off-site parking and curbside service from the car rental companies a half-mile away; a bargain at $6/day).If your destination is indeed Branson (or something close), this airport does make a lot of sense. It’s about 6 miles off of US 65, at the end of a dead-end road that winds through Troon Golf’s Branson Creek course and attending developments, plus John Daly’s more recent and oddly named Murder Rock course. Along the way, it will probably strike you that you’re not in the middle of typical airport terrain: the last two miles go up, down and mostly through some pretty impressive Ozark river bluffs, whose limestone still shines bright following the recent blasting that created a road here. It’s odd to find road signs warning you about steep hills and sharp curves as you cover the last miles to an airfield.If you’re visiting Springfield, an hour’s drive will get you to the center of the city, and may be what you’re used to in a larger Metro area. It will also give you a visual introduction to the Ozarks and its limestone that you might miss at the city’s airport on Springfield’s northwest side. And the more southern the location of the family, work, or hotel that brought you here, the less of a premium you’ll pay in transit time. Don’t expect too many of the amenities available at other airports. Springfield’s new Midfield Terminal opened last spring (only partially in response to the new competition in Branson), and includes what many other airports forgot, or ignore: air travel involves not only passengers, but also people who meet them. There’s no space in Branson’s building for doing anything but checking in, and more than enough space in the ‘terminal’ for those who have. Thankfully, the designer chose to forego the standard airport chairs, opting instead for rustic-looking timber-and-upholstery individual chairs. My rear end was noticeably surprised at being comfortable in such a setting. Above all, what stayed with me was the quiet and calm. (The few times that I’ve retreated to a frequent flier lounge, I’ve realized how rare that is in airports, and why some folks might pay $400 a year for what I previously thought of as free cookies and Diet Coke.) Of course, both the owner and new tenants of Branson airport are hoping it won’t stay that way, and it won’t. Either traffic will increase, and this bet will pay off, or it won’t, and the runway that’s wedged atop these hollers will go completely quiet. In the meantime, I’m adding it to my list of airports to consider. Hopefully, its presence will generate enough business to bring down fares at Springfield-Branson. Perhaps the hour’s drive will do what the three-hour trip to Tulsa, Kansas City, Northwest Arkansas and St. Louis has yet to accomplish for Springfield residents. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 22 Aug, 2009
I prayed for peace in Tanzania. I prayed for successful peacemaking efforts around the world. I heard the organ pipes play and voices rise in song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." I was seated in a sanctuary where each day a different country…Read More
I prayed for peace in Tanzania. I prayed for successful peacemaking efforts around the world. I heard the organ pipes play and voices rise in song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." I was seated in a sanctuary where each day a different country is selected for reflection in the Daily Prayer for Peace. On this day, two pre-teen girls, accompanied by their mom, led the service in observation of the United Nations Youth Day. They read scripture, offered a prayer, sang the hymn, and became quiet to allow silent meditation. This brief experience happened in the emblem of peace for the world, the Temple Sanctuary of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri. From the Campus RV Park in Independence where we parked the Prevost, the spire of the Temple rose high about the tree line shining in the August sun like a silver needle poking through a bright blue fabric. This architectural masterpiece is home to the World Headquarters of the Community of Christ, an international denomination with 250,000 members in more than 50 countries. Persons of all faiths are welcome to the Temple which was dedicated in 1994 to the "pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit."The bright light in the Temple entrance showed off a row of international flags along the hallway and many colorful tapestries hanging from a balcony terrace. This initial brightness lasts only until you enter the doors leading to the Worshiper’s Path. These lights are dim here to allow time for reflection at each stop point before reaching the Sanctuary. Symbolic artwork along the Path includes a carved-glass entrance of a grove of trees and a granite sculpture of the return of the prodigal son. A rough-hewn cross proclaims the risen Christ. Ikebana-style floral arrangements symbolize heaven, humanity and earth. And, water flows over a granite pool representing the overflowing of God’s love. The light grows brighter at each station until finally, the grandeur of the Sanctuary overcomes you. Most impressive is the Sanctuary’s spiral ceiling which rises 195 feet. Looking at it, I felt that if were to rise up to its peak, I’d surely float to heaven. That is exactly the effect the designers wanted "to focus on the Divine." I felt certain that our prayers for peace that afternoon went direct to heaven.After participating in the Daily Prayer for Peace, I joined a small tour of the Temple. I walked the Worshiper’s Path again, this time with narration explaining the significance of the art. In the sanctuary my guide warned, "You can become dizzy staring up to the pinnacle." I had already learned this lesson. He pointed out the 102-rank, 5,685-pipe organ in the Sanctuary that has pipes ranging in size from six inches to 32 feet. He invited us to attend one of the organ recitals beginning at 3 PM daily. He called attention to the award-winning stained glass window depicting the harvest of wheat and rice. He took our small group outside to the World Plaza where we walked on a brick inlaid map of the world. We sat in Meditation Chapel which overlooks a Japanese garden. There he answered questions about the Community of Christ and its founder Joseph Smith, Jr. Our group tour ended in the Library where some folks wanted to see the Doctrines and Covenants relating to the Church.I was the only person who wanted to see the adjacent Auditorium. My guide graciously accommodated my interest in seeing more. He led me thorough an underground passageway connecting the Temple to the Auditorium. The Auditorium features a 5,800-seat Conference Chamber with seating in-the-round beneath an expansive domed ceiling measuring 90 feet from the floor, 214 feet wide, and 168 feet long. The 111-rank organ here is among the largest free-standing organs in the United States with 6,500 pipes ranging from ¼ inch to 32 feet. In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman made history in the Auditorium by signing Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the United States armed forces. Now, the Auditorium functions as a religious, cultural and community center for the Kansas City region.In addition to the Auditorium and Temple tour, there was still more to experience at the Community of Christ World Headquarters. A small museum houses 17 exhibits tracing the history of the Church from its origins in the 1820’s to its world missions today. And, then back in the lobby, the tapestries themselves are particularly important. They represent "The Thread Project" – an international exhibition by Terry Helwig. The threads in each tapestry were pulled from the fabric of people’s everyday lives: threads celebrating births and marriage, threads from 9/11 families…over 50,000 threads gathered in 70 countries and seven continents. Then, Helwig enlisted weavers and textile artists worldwide to create the tapestries from these threads. The result of this seven year project is the creation of one World Cloth – a reminder that the human race is a global family of one, united by a common thread.The Community of Christ World Headquarters merits a slow paced visit to absorb all it encompasses – architecture, art, history, meditation and prayer. When you go there, peace will be with you.Community of Christ World Headquarters1001 W. Walnut StreetIndependence, MO 64050816-833-1000www.CofChrist.orgCampus RV Park406 S. Pleasant RoadIndependence, MO 816-254-1815 Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 19 May, 2009
A foot closer and we could have patted the head of the albino deer. Elk grazed not much further away with heads down and butts to our faces. Long horn cattle lounged under a tree within reach if you dared to grab a…Read More
A foot closer and we could have patted the head of the albino deer. Elk grazed not much further away with heads down and butts to our faces. Long horn cattle lounged under a tree within reach if you dared to grab a horn. And, when the tram went into the grass to give the right of way to a momma buffalo and her calf crossing the road, I came face to face with these brown eyed creatures."I’ve been at Grant’s Farm many times and I’ve never seen the animals this close to the tram," Suzie expressed pleasure at the up-close encounter with the animals. Suzie and her boyfriend Matt brought me and my mom aka "Grandma" to Grant’s Farm for a Mother’s Day treat.Families came with moms of all generations to this Anheuser-Busch nature and wildlife preserve to celebrate the special day. Grant’s Farm is renowned and ranked as the 7th best family attraction nationwide by the U.S. Family Travel Guide Zagat Survey. Our experience began with a ride on the tram past a log cabin once owned by General Ulysses S. Grant. The guide called our attention to the unique fence surrounding this property. The vertical bars were gun barrels authentic from hundreds of Civil War rifles. Our amazement over the fence construction gave way to the thrill of seeing the wildlife within reach of the tram’s course through the preserve. The tram ride ended at the milk house. While parents bought baby bottles full of milk that their children – children barely finished with bottle feeding themselves - could feed the tiny goats in the petting zoo, we headed to the Bauernhof for our free samples of beer. Although we enjoyed the refreshing brew, the Bauernhof is more than a place to drink Anheuser-Busch products. It is a 19th Century farm stead that houses the Busch family’s collection of antique carriages, equestrian trophies, and stalls full of horses. Beyond this hospitality area, animals from around the world roam in fenced corrals. Kangaroos, an elephant, lamas, camels, flamingos, lemurs, miniature ponies ,and even bald eagles eat, sleep, groom and entertain all visitors.When we had our fill of animals and our two brew limit, we took the return tram ride - a quick trip from the Bauernhof to the General Store. From there, we followed white horseshoe marking on the pavement leading us to the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Clydesdale Stables. The grand finale! We watched mares, foals, and stallions grazing in the grassy pastures. Some stood tall in their stalls. We posed for photos then called it a day, a wonderful day – a very special Mother’s Day!Grant’s Farm10501 Gravois RoadSt. Louis, Missouri 63123314-843-1700www.grantsfarm.comAlthough admission to Grant’s Farm is free, Parking is $11 per vehicle and $30 for RV’s Close
Written by mlmeredith on 23 Jun, 2008
Climate change notwithstanding, St. Louis is at that dividing line between where the rivers are frozen over and free flowing. The significance of that is that during January and February a large number of eagles move down from the northern states, to take advantage…Read More
Climate change notwithstanding, St. Louis is at that dividing line between where the rivers are frozen over and free flowing. The significance of that is that during January and February a large number of eagles move down from the northern states, to take advantage of the fish in the Mississippi and the Missouri. It’s even more appealing to them because the fish flock to the oxygenated water downstream of the dams at Winfield, Clarksville, Alton and the Chain of Rocks and get a little stunned by their trip through the sluices. That makes them easy prey for the eagles that tend to congregate in the trees on the bluffs of the Great River Road, or near the wetlands of the Mississippi/Missouri Confluence or just on an ice flow sliding south.Oh yeah, it’s cold, but dress warm and you’ll be rewarded. Bring your camera, because you’ll kick yourself if you don’t.My favorite area is along the Great River Road, which runs from north from Alton alongside the Mississippi and the Illinois River. You can take Interstate 270 to Hwy 67 and go north, where you’ll cross over the Missouri and then in short order the Mississippi into downtown Alton. On your way, you can take a detour by the Edward and Pat Jones Confluence Park, a maturing gem of a state park that takes you right to the point where the Mississippi and the Missouri meet.Before you drive through Alton, take an hour or so to visit the National Great Rivers Museum by the Melvin Price Locks and Dam. Besides being an interesting destination on it’s own, you can get daily updates on the best places to see the current eagle population. If you’re coming from the Illinois side, just take Highway 3 north. As you drive through downtown Alton, take note of the waterlines painted on the Peavey Grain facility, you’ll get a feeling for how unruly the Mississippi can be.The eagle photos included with this entry were all taken along the Great River Road, a couple by the bluffs and one (the one I call Big Dude) at a marina. It’s almost as if the eagles know that they’re the show. When you get too cold, there are plenty of places to stop in and warm up with whatever suits your fancy. We like to drive up to Grafton and have lunch in one of the little restaurants there, or beyond to the lodge at Pere Marquette State Park (a great place for family-style fried chicken).Another location that’s fun is the Chain of Rocks Bridge (http://bridgehunter.com/mo/st-louis-city/chain-of-rocks/). It once carried the legendary Route 66 from Illinois into Missouri, but now has been given over to pedestrian and bicycle traffic! The view is great!If you want to make more of a day trip out of things, you can also drive up Highway 79 on the Missouri side through Winfield and Clarksville. You can get more specific information on Missouri Eagle Days through the Missouri Department of Conservation (http://www.mdc.mo.gov/events/eagledays/), or visit the Great River Road web site at http://www.greatriverroad.com/Eagles/eagleCover.htm.Then there are just the casual encounters, even in summer. I've sat at my breakfast table and seen a golden eagle land briefly on a patio umbrella, then spreading its wings and flying away (leaving a couple tiny holes in the fabric). And many's the time that I've glanced over to see a hawk perched on a highway sign or fence, just waiting for a field mouse or snake. There's a pair of red-shouldered hawks that like to visit the trees in our backyard too. There’s a picture of one of them here too. Close
Written by travellingdave on 10 Jan, 2007
Downtown Kansas City is mostly the economic heart of the city, with very little to see and do by itself. There are almost no hotels here, except a few business hotels, and no attractions of great interest. The downtown core is bordered by a ring…Read More
Downtown Kansas City is mostly the economic heart of the city, with very little to see and do by itself. There are almost no hotels here, except a few business hotels, and no attractions of great interest. The downtown core is bordered by a ring of Interstate highways (670, 70, and 35).The interest here lies in the architecture of its many buildings, which some term "Little Manhattan." The city is home to many impressive buildings, from art deco to more modern types. There are a couple things of interest downtown, easily seen on the following walking tour of the downtown core:Start your walk at the transit center of downtown, at 12th and Main. Here you'll find a nice fountain, but a bit tarnished from vandalism. Begin walking west down 12th Street, passing the Marriott Hotel on your right. In front of the Marriott is the beautiful centerpiece of downtown, Allis Plaza. The huge fountain in front of the plaza, modeled as a row of short spouts, spilling down onto a small staircase, is very beautiful and something to be appreciated. Check out the statue in the center of the Plaza, of a soldier on horseback.From Allis Plaza, walk another block west on 12th. On your left you will see the gigantic Kansas City Convention Center, and Bartle Hall. Choose for yourself whether to detour to visit this great center. When you're ready to move on, begin walking north on Broadway Blvd through Kansas City's theatre district, admiring some of the old theatres along the way. Turn left onto 9th Street and walk 4 blocks to Jefferson, then another block on your right to Clark's Point, where the Lewis and Clark statue sits, overlooking the bluffs of the Missouri River. Read about their accomplishments exploring the Missouri, then continue a block east on 8th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Turn left here and walk north a block to 7th Street, then it's a long 1/2 mile walk to Walnut Street.At Walnut, turn north and walk 4 blocks or so to the River Market district, the perfect place to rest your tired feet and enjoy a lunch or a cold brew at the River Market Brewing Company. Wander around the shops here and admire the old buildings, then head back down Walnut, until you reach 8th street. Here, turn left (east) and walk to Oak Street, then make a right and walk south on Oak. You will pass some of Kansas City's most impressive legal buildings, like the Whitaker Federal Courthouse and the Kansas City Municipal Courthouse. When you reach 12th street, head back west, passing City Hall, until you reach your origin point at 12th and Main Street.This walking trip covers the main sights of downtown Kansas City, and shouldn't take you more than 2-3 hours. It's around 3 miles in length, and it's the perfect way to get acquainted with the city center.Discover Downtown Kansas City online at: www.downtownkc.org Close
Written by Jose Kevo on 02 Oct, 2006
They say that "idle hands are the devil's workshop". So what better way to foil temptation than by picking up a canoe paddle, and go idling down the river with IGO's Idler? When Idler mentioned she was heading my way, opportunity knocked to enjoy—camping and…Read More
They say that "idle hands are the devil's workshop". So what better way to foil temptation than by picking up a canoe paddle, and go idling down the river with IGO's Idler? When Idler mentioned she was heading my way, opportunity knocked to enjoy—camping and canoeing. Basically, I made a few recommendations, and Idler the avid travel planner took care of the rest.Avid travel planner, eh? I like that. Very diplomatic of you, Kevo. What you mean is that I’m anal-retentive about planning every little last detail. One of IGO's cyber highlights has been meeting like-minded travelers. After several years acquaintance through journals, emails, and paths almost crossing, we'd finally met in NYC over Memorial Day weekend, '05. Here we were a year later planning to meet in quite a different setting. Yeah, you got that right. Cue the theme music from "Deliverance" and the Jeff Foxworthy jokes. "You know you’re a redneck when… you met your wife at a family reunion." The fact that we were going to meet in the back of beyond in Missouri rather set the stage. What transpired over the next few days led to the sort of one-of-a- kind escapade that only a pair of chronic travelers could concoct.Yeah, and we’re going to tell you all the gory details, right, Kevo?Arriving at the campsite, Idler began setting up her campsite with the efficiency we've so often read about. From a small duffel bag came tent, self-inflating mattress, gas cooking apparatus with utensils; basically all the comforts of home.You didn’t mention the flashlight. Good thing I had one.My excessive camping gear—(but NO flashlight!)—was strewn everywhere, but I soon discovered I'd brought the wrong tent poles and no stakes. Resigned, I said I’d sleep in one of the chaise loungers. Idler didn't say anything, and didn't have to. I'd already picked-up on the remarkable difference when she travels solo compared to having husband and son in tow. And now, me.I have to say you looked perfectly miserable sleeping in that lounge chair, Kevo.—(what do you think the Mama Juana was for?)—Luckily it didn’t rain.Too often women sacrifice vacation leisure while trying to placate family. However, chivalry is far from dead in my campsite and canoe. We may have entered this joint venture as mutual guests and hosts, but I wanted Idler to simply show-up, enjoy herself, and let me take care of the rest.Awww… Isn’t that sweet? And this coming from a man who forgets his tent poles and flashlight. I’m touched. Truly I am. Part of this involved collecting a large pile of wood before she arrived, which seemed to satisfy familiar stereotypes—man's obsession with building huge fires, while woman's needs are simpler—just getting something to eat. Perhaps woman has choked on one too many man-cooked, over-charred hot dogs and marshmallows. Lucky for Idler, these items weren't on the planned menu. I got my fire, she got her meals, and no one choked on anything. It was all quite tasty, Kevo. Not a single thing charred. I still can’t believe you volunteered to do all the cooking.Preparing to embark on our first drift segment, there was momentary hesitation with both of us still on our best company behavior. With two experienced oars people, who was going to command the driver's seat? Much to my relief, I eagerly accepted the nod with the promise to keep us both dry. Not that Idler would have turned madder than a wet hen, but my credibility was in jeopardy.Me, mad? Perish the thought. That ‘honor’ of taking command meant you did most of the paddling, while I sat in the bow and sunbathed.The river immediately whisked us around the first of many bends, and the soothing presence of nature liquefied conversation. The chance to recap our lives' mosaics, while filling in gaps, had greater depths than the waters we navigated, quite proficiently I might add. The greatest threat of capsizing came from relentless laughter; the side-splitting, rupture-the-swollen-surgery-incision-kind which more than rocked the boat.No, the greatest threat of capsizing came whenever you clambered around in the canoe getting another beer from the cooler.The only "crash course" encountered had nothing to do with risk. This was Idler; IGO's version of ask Jeeves. To read her musings is one thing. To further pick her brain in-person, quite another. The woman's breadth of knowledge has never ceased to amaze me, and the on-going commentary identifying birds, plants, insects, and elements of nature was astounding.Really, Kevo, you make me sound like Roger Tory Petersen reincarnated. And those definitely were otters that we saw along the riverbank, by the way. I’ve confirmed it.Paddling with the big city college English and Composition professor, class was in session by default. Idler never whipped out a red pen, but I did cringe when conversation veered towards grammar. She'd already picked up that us Missourians speak using the participle before the direct objective or some form of ill-bred communication. Thankfully, she doesn't edit my journals. Well, I’m editing THIS one. You mean "past tense instead of past participle in compound tenses." And it’s charming, really, in a 19th-century way. When dialectologists get wind of this speech relic, they’ll be beating a path to your door, tape recorders in hand.I kept forgetting that Idler had rural roots like myself, which helped explain her childhood obsession with pet turtles. Not only were stops made to remove turtles from roadways, but quite the endeavor was made in swift waters to rescue a large box turtle swept up in the current. Thankfully, CPR wasn't required, though I've no doubt Idler’s technique would've been proficient.Obsessed? Who says I’m obsessed? Can’t a person rescue a few hapless turtles without being called obsessed? I mean, that one turtle did look a lot like one of the turtles I had growing up, I’ll admit. I’m sure glad we got to him before CPR was necessary. But I wouldn’t call that obsessed. No, definitely not obsessed. Not me. Her appearance in my neck of the woods was thanks to yet another off-beat interest, ragtime music and a large festival she'd just attended in Columbia, Missouri. Her journal on a festival in Budapest had already been my introduction to ragtime, spanning well beyond "The Entertainer" with genres I was sure to enjoy. Oh, god, I hate "The Entertainer." See, that’s what most people think ragtime is—pokey, antiquated-sounding, tame stuff. No! Ragtime was the rock music of its day! The music of rebellion! Sorry… forgot you’d heard that lecture already.When not on the river or at camp, we were tooling around in a sporty yellow rental car with a fresh stack of ragtime cd's. She gave me a running musical commentary, complete with supporting facts and tidbits. Music has a way of conjuring a picture, but these selections perfectly complimented the rolling countryside of Missouri beyond the windows, and of course, the company.Know what, Kevo? Ever since this trip, I can’t listen to Willie "The Lion" Smith’s "Echoes of Spring" without picturing the Missouri countryside.Yeh, me too because before leaving, Idler gave me a couple of downloaded ragtime cd's she'd made just for the occasion. Beyond thoughtfulness, she knows that I relive my travel memories through music. Hey, whaddaya say we do this again sometime? I’ve got a whole bunch of Dr. John boogie-woogie piano music you’re gonna love. Just promise me you’ll bring tent poles. And a flashlight. Close
Written by btwood2 on 13 Feb, 2005
We were lucky that, on the very evening of the day we arrived in Branson, our resort (Sunterra Fall Creek) was putting on this dinner show at Clementine’s, their restaurant. As many as 20 Branson entertainers would be stopping by during the show to…Read More
We were lucky that, on the very evening of the day we arrived in Branson, our resort (Sunterra Fall Creek) was putting on this dinner show at Clementine’s, their restaurant. As many as 20 Branson entertainers would be stopping by during the show to do a number or two. We decided that this would be a good way to get a sampling of the types of shows here for a fraction of the cost of going to each one and that it could make it easier for us to decide which shows to select. We got more than we bargained for!
When we bought the tickets, at $6.50 per adult, we were told to come early to stand in line for a good seat, because this show always sells out. Although we weren’t the first in line, we were fairly fast-moving once the doors opened – no, we didn’t push anyone else aside, but we did manage to get center-front row seats. Probably because a round end table just big enough for two had been placed up in front against a long center table, and others in larger groups all were seating themselves at the longer tables. We lucked out once again when our "row" was selected to be the first at the buffet, an all-you-can-eat selection of spaghetti, salad, bread, spice cake, and beverages, such as sodas, bottled water, and coffee.
The Show Begins Our emcees quickly got things moving when people were finishing dinner and performers began arriving. Fitting with the theme of the evening, the first to arrive were four cute young guys from Lost in the ‘50s singing a medley of songs from that decade. Not to be forgotten from the following decade, a musical duo from #1 Hits of the ‘60s came in bell bottoms and glitter to serenade us. They were followed by Dennis Michael Kolb, all in black leather. Thursday (in two more days), he was putting on "a one man show" at the resort for $18 per couple, with complimentary wine, cheese, and crackers. Dennis sings and does impressions of Roy Orbison, Elvis, Ricky Nelson, and the Beatles.
Well, if it ain’t the Duke Well, sorta… The resemblance is uncanny. John Wain looks an awful lot like John Wayne, and he does capitalize on it. At his weekend shows at the IMAX’s Little Opry Theatre, he also does Walter Brennan imitations. Janelle, the "cave lady" from Talking Rocks Cavern gave us a trivia question: "What is the main function of a cave?" Answer: "Drainage." Tours at this nearby Missouri cave range from mild to wild… Wild = "You will get very dirty in the mud cave." Dress appropriately.
My Husband, the Star Bob got picked to help Mike Douglas look-alike Dave Hamner in a magic trick using metal hoops. All he had to do was sit there, smile and look handsome, and handle some hoops - Dave did all the work. For Bob’s (minimal) efforts, we got a free ticket to Hamner-Barber Variety Show (see entry in this journal). Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede sent us a cowboy to sing "I Shoulda Been a Cowboy," which seemed a bit redundant. But although Dolly isn’t around much at the Stampede, they do have horseback riding competitions, ostrich and pig races, big four-course meals (vegetarian option available upon request), and of course, a "buffalo stampede."
Talented multi-generational Branson Families The Duttons are among them. They sing and play strings, mostly violins, and offer a variety of music, dancing, yodeling, and comedy at their own theater complex. The Hughes Brothers are another Branson family who came to entertain us, singing "Elvira" and other tunes. Country, gospel, and Broadway songs are included in their repertoire. Their family of 18 performers (and probably growing) includes wives and kids at their own Celebrity Theater on the Strip. Newcomers to Branson, the Warnocks from Wyoming work for tips only at the Branson Mall. Dad and four of his bright-eyed, angel-voiced daughters sang "Amazing Grace" for us.
Harley Worthit?: He was pretty silly, representing the Delene show, a country, gospel, and rock songstress providing afternoon shows at Hughes Brothers Theatre. Silly Harley gives new meaning to the words "mismatched." Jim Owen has a long and illustrious country music career, writing 130 hits in the last 35 years, including "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (Loretta Lynn), and he won an Emmy for portraying Hank Williams Sr. in a 1978 PBS special. He gave us a sample of his "Bless his Heart" comedy routine about the dumb things people do, which must have been so stupid that I’ve forgotten them all.
Our Lucky Night Most performers brought brochures and discount coupons to their shows, some for as much as $8 off per person, all passed out to us, the audience. This show was winding to a close, but the emcees told us to wait because they still had door prizes to give out. Everyone had gotten a couple of free raffle tickets when they arrived, and did I say it was our lucky night? I guess it was, because we were the winners of two Passion Play tickets in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. That made it that much easier to decide where our next destination would be…
Written by Jose Kevo on 09 Dec, 2004
In late May 2002, a regular customer requested personal favor. Donna had become property manager for 27 rental houses and needed introductions translated, since most tenants were Hispanic. Stopping at one house, blinds were drawn, but it was obvious somebody up and moved. Needing to…Read More
In late May 2002, a regular customer requested personal favor. Donna had become property manager for 27 rental houses and needed introductions translated, since most tenants were Hispanic. Stopping at one house, blinds were drawn, but it was obvious somebody up and moved. Needing to confirm, stepping through the door, I knew the house was empty, and it was mine!
Don't ask how. It was precise for vibrant visions that I had finally found a home. I picked up my keys on June 3rd, raising blinds and windows, to begin a thorough cleaning. Time had slipped away when I heard pounding on the front door, followed by a rapid request to turn the music down. It was after-hours. Sure enough, when checking, my new neighbor had been prompt at 10pm.
Hispanic Panic is the equivalent of White Flight when African-Americans start moving in, but I undoubtedly helped seal fate for ending up the only Caucasian on my side of the block for quite some time. Blastin' Latin music never warranted another meeting, but she was always lurking, waiting for any opportunity. There was an unlikely mix of family and friends frequently visiting. Using a cordless outside while talking 'hoodish with NYC comrades probably only confused things. Too tanned to be white? Not dark enough to be black? Always keep 'em guessing, or so I'd like to think twisted the neighbor lady during those first months.
A couple of friends joined one early November Sunday for raking and burning. The outdoor boom box gradually escalated in volume as morning wore on. By noon, Hispanic neighbors on the other side began stirring. What erupted was a spontaneous block party disguised as the annual autumn ritual. Eventually, a monster stereo system came out three doors down. Scents of freshly lit grills now mingled with smell of burning leaves. Using a rake as a torrid dance partner only recycled the chore into a fiesta.
All was well until about 4pm, when a car door slammed from other side of the privacy fence. Making a furious beeline, raging about the music -- according to her, "no one would ever want to buy a house on this block" -- she yelled that she had prospective buyers arriving shortly, and something had to be done about the music! With the blankest face possible, I repeatedly asked, "cómo?", causing her to writhe even more until spewing a rapid-fire volley en español that sent her packin', literally!
A young black/Hispanic couple with two rowdy boys eventually moved in, rounding out the block, but raking day was pivotal, beyond learning she was leaving. I met my other neighbors for the first time beyond a "cómo estás" and was rather satisfied. They may have also been perplexed about my identity, but there was no mistaking coming to their defense. After 10pm that night, when finally putting out the fire, Latin music could still be faintly heard from somewhere down the alley...
Island SonsFirst semester back in classes, a faculty member suggested meeting with a 6'8" forward from the basketball team. Not only was he from Puerto Rico, there ended up being three of them! Carlos, Michael, and Hiram turned out to be almost 20-feet worth of island "hoop"-la. There was instant connection, but something greater transpired after my first invitation for dinner at the house.
Lost and out of sorts, these athletes had slipped through the cracks as Americans not eligible for international student perks. English was barely a second language. Cold weather and bland dorm food had them pining away for comforts of home thousands of miles away. My substitute haven, a 15-minute ride from campus, became their private island hide-away. But even more inspiring was the link to home their presence provided, beyond my neighbors' best efforts. Their familiar zest for living founded through dance, food, and thirst for rum was mutually nurturing while reviving my role as surrogate Dad.
The last of the Ricans had flown home for summer when I received a call I'd been waiting almost two years for. Antonio, youngest of the three boys I'd taken off the streets and raised while in NYC, was ready to make good on my ever-standing offer. Within 48 hours, he arrived with all his possessions including a GED; my only requirement for permanently staying.
The scrawny 13-year old was now 6'5" almost 8 years later, with a 94mph fastball that had area coaches drooling over a mythical Dominican pitcher never seen in these parts. Getting him a full ride at the local junior college was no problem. Convincing him to get a job while instilling self discipline in joining the real world was not as easily accomplished.
Calling Emilio over from next door, he agreed to take Antonio to the turkey plant as summer hire. He got the grueling job but called about halfway through his first shift, saying he'd now have to stay until at least 3am. Of all my panicked reasonings, I'd have never guessed a transfer to the graveyard shift's wide-open basement department, because he kept banging his head on processing lines set to accommodate the pint-sized Central Americans!
Lucky for Antonio, my original plans to spend the second half of summer in the islands gave him a free pass for exiting the poultry business early. He headed back to NYC for baseball while I stopped off to visit the Ricans on my way to DR. Before leaving, Emilio agreed to watch the house and personally guard the bottles of Mama Juana.
Beautiful Days in the NeighborhoodPerhaps if Señor Rogers had left the house more, he'd have realized there was a whole other world beyond all that putzing around inside. With the start of another school year, I got Antonio settled into the dorms with a Venezuelan teammate/roommate, only adding to our diversity. The Ricans' basketball season, between fall/spring baseball, made for busy schedules and frequent needed escapes back to Isla de Kevo.
Sundays are Hispanics' traditional family day, with feast and fiesta, while catching up on chores for week ahead. Open houses up and down the block became the norm, sometimes lasting entire weekends. By the time spring 2004 rolled around, few introductions were needed between neighbors and the towering island versions of Latinos. Even more curious were life-long residents and co-workers who might have watched a game or stopped by during the quiet mid-week but petitioned weekend invitations, which proved their closest encounters with foreign travel experiences.
Basic Spanish and English were readily practiced, as were numerous dance steps to ensure that no one felt excluded. Teammates, classmates, and international students only complimented the growing entourage. Gravity proved to have no favoritism for the short or the tall, thanks to neighbors' stockpile of beer and my caché of island potions. Celebrating life is one thing. Having respect for elders is quite another, and it never ceased to amaze me how everyone, regardless of age or race, could put such a lid on things when my parents or 94-year-old grandmother happened to drop in.
Beyond fiestas, the greatest endearments came from quieter, simpler times – sitting on milk crates under a shade tree while talking with Emilio, listening to the sounds of restful sleeping when someone needed a night home, away from the dorms. My created island sanctuary served a purpose far greater than my own, but even a bird's refuge lasts only for a season.
Feather Traces in the NestRestlessness had triumphed over studying for the following day's Spanish presentation. Hiram, also in his senior year, assured we'd have no problem on the joint project, discussing cultural comparisons and differences between the islands known by heart. Actually, we'd been rehearsing since the day we met over two years ago, but voices of input were now limited. A bored peek into the refrigerator was postponed when magnetized photos from days gone by commandingly seized abandoned attention.
As a lottery pick in the 2004 draft, the Braves wanted Antonio closer to Atlanta, justifying transfer to a Florida school. Request for more playing time from Puerto Rico's semi-pro basketball league had scattered Carlos and Michael to Pennsylvania and Iowa. Reuniting with them or the white, toothy smiles on display from my Bayahibe crew would happen again, but not anytime soon enough.
Symbolic hunger bypassed food in lieu of wide-open solitude on the back porch. The house on the other side, where I'd met my original neighbor, had been empty and for sale this entire year, but I was looking head-on towards Emilio's, now darkened for weeks. He'd stashed the family before turning himself in for an extended holiday season back in Guatemala, compliments of INS. He assured me not to worry; they'd all be back within a few months. The damp autumn air had set my mind to roaming. Collected raindrops were splattering to the ground from breezes rustling the trees. Every now and then, a car would pass along Oak Street, familiar Latin tunes increasing with approach, before vanishing into the silence of darkness. Perhaps Mr. Rogers had had similar disquieting experiences for why he always stayed sheltered away inside, and with his unwavering petition...Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Whether from a self-created environment or part of the aging process, turning into a homebody was one of the last things ever expected. This change in lifestyle has been enjoyable while conceding to down-home country roots. However, all work and study without some type of…Read More
Whether from a self-created environment or part of the aging process, turning into a homebody was one of the last things ever expected. This change in lifestyle has been enjoyable while conceding to down-home country roots. However, all work and study without some type of play makes the rut of routine inescapable. Here's some of the ways I shake things up a bit . . .
Wild KingdomCarthage has their own version of a Central Park; at least a dozen of them would fit inside the Great Lawn of NYC's original. There's a larger-than-life bronze statue of Marlin Perkins, one of our Who's Who worth checking out, but my most frequented place is across the street. The Carthage Public Library is one of the original Andrew Carnegie branches, with a beautiful domed rotunda, local displays, and historic literary collections. On days I'm not at the university, this is where I use internet services. Patrons are allowed 1-hour time slots based on computer availabilities, and travelers are welcomed to stop by and to check their email.
Kellogg Lake ParkCentral Ave. is the northern thoroughfare running east and west. Where Highway 96 veers northeast over a historic bridge, Spring River and Kellogg Lake are a quarter mile further on the right. This has always been my local outdoor hangout; a place we used to head when cutting classes during high school.
An outdoor nature trail meanders through several diverse settings used as environmental science labs-expect always-roaming flocks of testy Canada geese. Fishing in the lake is by permit and license only. As for what you'll catch is anybody's guess, but banks are lined with eager fishermen in all kinds of weather. The river draws a wide assortment of locals, especially on weekends, including jet skiers. At no point are waters deeper than 7-feet, only adding to the potential catastrophes of the scattered rope swings that seem to cruelly detect a person's age.
There's a small, manmade dam presenting daring challenges for walking barefoot across the moss-covered top or sliding down the slippery concrete slope. These days the entire park area is used more by the growing Hispanic population. Open containers are legal, provided they're not glass bottles, but the natural settings are a peaceful break from the bustling cow town, especially on hot summer nights, when crickets, June bugs, and other forms of insects fire up their natural orchestra, great for shadow-dancing under streetlamps.
A Land Down UnderNorth of town is what's said to be the largest gray marble quarry in the world. This, coupled with a centuries worth of mining limestone deposits, has created an entire other city known as the Carthage Underground. As teenagers, we used to enjoy the tennis club or high school dances with live bands echoing in cavernous ballrooms. As to actual extent and size of it, this was to be evacuation center for the entire Midwest in case of nuclear disaster. There's said to be enough nonperishable foods to feed multitudes for over a year, but we always considered survival consolation as having the potential access the stock of the three largest beer distributors in the four states.
With the supposed end of the Cold War, cold storage lured development of more than a dozen major enterprises tucked away deep below the surface. After 9/11, a lot of speculation arose towards what's really going on, which local officials remain tight-lipped about. Heightened security increased for entering anywhere off the main roads. Bus-sized blocks of granite line edges of the central pit area. Local kids no longer use Quarry Hill Road for drag-racing, making this another deserted place to enjoy over conversations and 40's. Sitting atop the boulders can create a utopia feel, like there is some surreal, sci-fi world below.
Exploring Our Civil SideCarthage lays claim to hosting the first major land skirmish of the Civil War, which totally destroyed the town. There's an interesting museum off the square, but the valley where hardest fighting took place is more enjoyable. It's a short walk from my parent’s farm and where we used to play as kids. Now it's the official Battle of Carthage State Park, with nice shaded lawns running along bluffs and a small pond fed from natural springs.
The cave entrance has been sealed off, but a tunnel connecting to a grand mansion's basement at top of the hill was an escape route for slaves on the Underground Railroad. Once finished browsing around the park, it's worth a drive up Chestnut Street Hill to see this magnificent house that's been fully restored as a private residence. A historic iron-fence surrounds the property, preventing actual entry. Within view on the right, just outside the city limits, is the old black cemetery. As you come back down the hill, imagine all the bumps and bruises you would have accumulated from recklessly sledding as a kid . . .
Scratching the Flea ItchA 1-block walk from my house on Oak Street is The Route 66 Flea Market, housed in an old car dealership, and across the street is Dean's Furniture and Flea Market, which can turn up some odd finds with enough browsing. They're open daily. Otherwise, the largest concentration of antiques and oddities malls are located around the Carthage Square, with some very upscale finds for collectors.
Regular Pit-StopsWithin an hour's drive of Bentonville, Arkansas, we were blessed with #13 of the original magnetic spend forces, which will gravitate you towards south Grand Avenue. Expect to find whatever you could possibly need-and then some!
SEASONAL FAVORITESWithin walking distance of my house along Route 66 is the Carthage Municipal Park, with scads of picnic grounds, a skating rink, the county fairgrounds that spring to life every July, and one of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the four-state area. However, I opt for where I had my first job.
The public pool has been around for decades, but received major renovations in the ‘80s, dividing the main pool into three sections and reconstructing a new kiddie area. The diving tank is 12-feet deep and has one- and three-meter boards the "old man" still likes to use for keeping up with youngsters. The pool is open Memorial Day through Labor Day 7 days a week from noon to 6pm. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for kids.
GO . . . Greased LightningContinuing west passed the park for a couple more miles is a rare nostalgic find that brings people in by the carloads! The Route 66 Drive-In was one of only four officially licensed theaters on the route-to-route coast and is the only one back in operation today, as well as one of the few drive-ins left in the entire country! Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, property had been converted into an auto salvage yard until historic preservation funding was spent for clean-up and restoration.
As teenagers, we spent countless nights here watching movies while perfecting all the other drive-in-related shenanigans that local youth have obviously revived today. People-watching can still be as interesting as the double features, especially on theme-night parties or when caravans of antique autos traveling the route invade for a blast from the past. New releases showing at regular theaters dominate the big screen, though don't be surprised to find Grease, Where the Boys Are, Animal House and other classics from time to time. The Drive-In is open from May to September on weekends, with shows starting after dusk, and sometimes the second movie doesn't finish until 2am. Admission is $2 for kids, $4 for adults. Call 417/359-5959 to find what's showing.
Alley Cats & Sewer RatsWhen cabin fever sets in, there's some fairly standard activities worth leaving the house for. Star Lanes Bowling, at 219 East 3rd Street off northeast corner of the square, has open bowling on Friday/Saturday nights, with some lanes available on Mondays and Tuesdays. More often than not, we've had the place all to ourselves and gotten pretty creative with the sport. Games run $2.50 per person and $1.50 for shoe rental, but usually the bar tab adds up more quickly while bets are even more costly.
Every now and then, coworkers talk me out for a night on the local town, where downtown bars no longer have darkened stigma of winos and bums waiting for doors to open at 8am. Jim's Place, at 325 East 4th Street, has a nice outdoor beer garden featuring live music on weekends with a $5 cover charge. Crowds are as offbeat and varied as the music; types I never knew existed in these parts. Most groups are local garage bands, whether outdated hippies playing original and cover rock tunes, or metal-techno youth looking as if they've gone AWOL from junior high detention.
Other hot spots doubling as watering holes for wide-spot-in-the-road crowds dot the countryside. The Mill is a dance club in a renovated feed-storage barn that has a deck overlooking Spring River-great for summer happy hours. At times, juiced-up crowds are more entertaining than the Discovery Channel; especially at Roadside Tavern, where sloshed farm girls vie for weekly Tuesday competition titles.