June, 2019 – Anita, Iowa

Before I get into the regular blog, I need to apologize to all of you following my blogs.  With my sister and her granddaughter visiting us for three weeks, I got behind in writing them.  Then we hit Beeds Lake State Park, that I will talk about next week, in rural northern Iowa and the phone connection was too slow to upload pictures.  So you are getting nearly a month’s work of blogs in a single week.  I certainly don’t expect you to binge read them all at once, but I hope you enjoy them.

The trip north out of Missouri into Iowa was simple as we went north on I-35 to Des Moines and then turned west on I-80 to the little town of Anita about half way to Omaha, Nebraska.  With Suzy and Kaytlynn following behind we had the advantage of a couple of rest stops along the way.  Lake Anita State Park is just south of Anita on a 170 acre reservoir.  It is a medium sized campground that is very well maintained.  We were surprised to find out we had a site with full hookups, since I had thought we would only have water and electric hookups.  Of course, the sewer hookup was at the extreme back end of the site, so I had to attach to extension to the hose.  At least we won’t have to worry about filling the gray tank with the extra people this week.  In any case, it was easy backing the RV into the site, which was surprisingly short forcing us to park the truck next to the RV instead of in front of it.  This still left room for Suzy’s car even though it was pretty tight.  Once I saw everyone else parking their vehicles in the grass throughout the park, I did not feel too bad.  We had a nice view of the lake from the campsite until the weekend when the campsites in front of us filled up.

The weather on Tuesday continued to be nice, even if a bit warmer and a lot more humid then I prefer.  There was suppose to be a one mile nature trail in the park, but without a park map we were on our own to find it.  We found a trail near the campground, Grassy Root Trail, that we assumed was it.  We should have known that a paved trail would not likely be a nature trail, however, by the time the trail left the state park and started along the backyards of a residential area Kaytlynn was too far ahead to turn around.  After the paved walkway crossed a road it descended down along a streambed that was very nice, except for the climb back out.  After about 1.5 miles the trail ended in the city park in Anita.  By this point, Suzy and I had lost sight of Kal and Kaytlynn, but assumed they would be somewhere in the small park.  After looking around, we found a shaded bench to rest on figuring they had walked on into town to get something to drink.  Fifteen minutes later they were still missing.  So I called Kal and found out they were nearly back to the car as they had hidden in the pavilion in the park until we passed by them without seeing them.  So Suzy and I started our hike back up along the stream.  It was nice that there were picnic tables strategically located after each uphill stretch and we took advantage of all of them.  We found Kal and Kaytlynn waiting at the car so we headed back to the campsite for more games in the afternoon.

GroupOnTrail

While on the hike the day before, we talked with a gentleman doing yardwork in his backyard about things to do in the area.  He mentioned the Danish Windmill and Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, just a bit west and then north on I-80.  So on Wednesday we decided to check it out.  The Danish Windmill is easy to find as you can see it from quite a distance on the highway into Elk Horn.  It is an authentic 1848 windmill from Denmark that they purchased, dismantled, transported, and reconstructed beginning in 1975.  For many years it was a HUGE community project to raise the money and rebuild with over 300 volunteers from all the surrounding Danish American communities.  It is the only authentic working Danish Windmill in the US, although it was not running the day we were there.  We enjoyed spending time in their gift shop which had all kinds of things from Denmark on sale.  This certainly made it a different kind of “tourist trap” gift shop.  We decided not to take the tour of the mill, since it was lunch time and everyone was getting hungry.  So we drove into town to the site of the Museum of Danish America where we had a nice picnic lunch on the grounds of the museum.

Windmill1

The museum and grounds are both beautiful especially with the backdrop of the Iowa farm lands.  The museum itself was a bit of surprise as I had expected a lot about the history of Danish America immigration and challenges of living in the US.  While there is an area on the ground floor devoted to the stories of immigrants, it was not the main focus of the museum.  Also on the ground floor was a play area for children with all kinds of Legos, which are from Denmark, a gift shop, and a piano owned by Victor Borge.  The second floor was a new exhibit devoted to the New Nordic Cuisine which was a surprise to see.  They did a good job of comparing this popular trend to more traditional Nordic meals, however, it was not what I came to see.  In the basement, however, there was a lot to see.  There was a brief history of Denmark and Danish immigration along two walls, while the center of the very large room was full of Danish American artifacts.  Some were family heirlooms brought from Denmark, but most were the tools, utensils, clothing, etc that made up their new life in America.  It is a small sample of the over 35,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection.  Unfortunately, there was no explanation of what you were looking it so you had to guess about its purpose.

The grounds outside the museum was also a delight as has been transformed into the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park.  It was designed in 2011 intended to celebrate the life and work of Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant who became a leader in landscape architecture as a colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is a beautiful paved trail winding through a mixture of natural and artificial landscapes.  Kaytlynn and I explored the half mile trail that leads back to town where we met Kal and Suzy.  Along the way we spent time playing on their fancy outdoor exercise equipment.  I wonder how long the equipment will survive the harsh winter weather, but Kaytlynn certainly had fun playing on it.  All together it was a very satisfying and different kind of day learning about the Danish American heritage of southwest Iowa.

Thursday we decided to just stay in the campground and play some spades and other games during the afternoon.  I discovered that Kaytlynn really enjoys math so she kept me busy coming up with math puzzles for her most of the morning.  Friday had thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon, so we took off in the morning in search of another point of interest we had learned about.  We drove over to Stuart in search of a painted rock.  As we understood it, an artist decided to paint a rock in each county in Iowa and there was one of these in Stuart.  According to our directions it was suppose to be just north of town, however, we never found it.  All we found was a painted rock about 3 feet high in the shape of an egg outside the police station in the center of town.  I could not talk anybody into getting their picture taken with the egg, so we drove by it a couple of times and just headed back to the campgrounds.  Some days are just a bust!!  In any case, it gave us another good excuse to relax in the campground and play some games in the evening.

Saturday was Suzy and Kaytlynn’s last day with us, so we left it up to them whatever they wanted to do.  After some kidding around they decided they just wanted to spend the day at the RV playing a few games.  Saturday night was also movie night in the state park, which turned out to be Mary Poppins Returns.  Especially since neither Suzy or Kaytlynn had seen it, we had a nice time watching the movie outside under the stars in the state park.  I wish more state parks would offer a movie night, as it was a good close to the evening.

On Sunday we had to say goodbye to Suzy and Kaytlynn who left mid-morning for their long drive back to Knoxville, Tennessee.  After reshuffling the RV, Kal and I settled in to spend the day relaxing by ourselves in the campground.  In addition, I finally had some time to begin catching up on this blog.

June, 2019 – Eagleville, Missouri

We were all ready to leave the crummy campgrounds on Monday and quickly got the RV on the road with Suzy in her car following behind.  Once we got past Kansas City, the trip north on I-35 was an easy drive for the better part of 3 hours.  We had nice rest stops along the Interstate and took our time.  We pulled into our next location just a few miles from the Iowa state line at a little RV Park outside of Eagleville, Missouri called Eagle Ridge RV Par.  Our first impression of this small RV Park was how nice it was after the crummy campground for the past two weeks.  As the name suggests, Eagle Ridge is one the top of a low ridge with a great view off to the west over the new cropfields.  We saw some really nice sunsets during the week when the clouds allowed.  The owners were great providing us a lot of information about things we could do during the week.  However, to be honest, we were just as interested in playing games in the campground.  In particular, we enjoyed teaching Kaytlynn had to play our favorite game, spades and got in quite a few games over the week.

The weather on Tuesday was nice with rain predicted for later in the week, so we headed north into Iowa to explore the Bridges of Madison County.  This may sound familiar as this is the title of a well known book and 1995 movie.   For those of you that never saw the movie, it is a story of a photographer interested in taking pictures of the covered bridges in the county which has the largest collection of surviving covered bridges in Iowa.  This sounds like a lot, but there are only 6 of them of the original 19 in the county.  The range in age from 1870 to 1884.  I was looking forward to being able to compare different covered bridge designs, however, all of these bridges were constructed using the same plans, even down to the red paint on the sides.  Except for the length, they all looked exactly the same.  Kaytlynn enjoyed doing cartwheels down the center of each bridge, so it was worthwhile.  Even though we had a map with the location of each bridge, we decided to follow the signs for the Covered Bridge Scenic Byway.  While it did lead from bridge to bridge, the byway was more interested in showing you the entire county.  Instead of going directly from bridge to bridge it went miles out of the way over dirt roads and farmland.  It was very scenic and if you enjoy driving dirt roads, was actually a lot of fun.  We stopped and took pictures of each bridge, although they are difficult to tell apart, and had a nice picnic lunch at the park at Cedar Bridge.  This was the only bridge that was not original, as it was set on fire for some reason back in 2002 and rebuilt in 2004.  All except for two of the bridges, Cutler-Donahue and Imes Bridges, are at their original locations.  Cutler-Donahue was moved to the Winterset City Park and Imes was moved to be closer to the highway in St. Charles.  With no water under these bridges, they certainly looked strange.  Hogback, Holliwell, and Roseman Bridges can only be accessed by dirt roads which added to the fun, in my opinion.   Consequently, the road trip took the better part of the day and was an unusual day for us.

It rained much of the day on Wednesday, with storms in the afternoon, so we stayed in the campground and played games most of the afternoon and evening.  Thursday was better, so Kaytlynn and I took off to play some disc golf while Kal and Suzy went to the store.  Kaytlynn and I drove north to Lamoni, Iowa to a disc golf course on the campus of Graceland University.  Since the first half of the 18 hole course was around the pond, the showpiece green space for the University, it was all well manicured.  Each fairway was open with very few obstacles except for the pond itself with freshly mowed grass to play on.  Most of the holes were well marked with concrete tee pads and easily seen baskets.  However, the sign for hole 5 ran along the edge of the area with heavy brush on the left side.  According to the sign at the tee the basket was suppose to be along the brush which curved to the left.  When I threw the disc the cross wind caught it and it sailed out of sight into the brush.  After spending 15 minutes looking at the ground into the brush I finally found it stuck about head high into the brush.  I was grateful that I did not lose my favorite driver.  However, two holes later, Kaytlynn finally got an excellent throw at the basket and we watched it sail into the pond.  Since these discs do not float, that was the end of it.  Kaytlynn was still very new at throwing a disc, so it really surprised both of us she managed to throw it into the pond.  At the end of 9 holes, Kaytlynn had had enough.  The weather was sunny, hot, and the course had very little shade.  If not for the wind it would have been a lot worse.  Especially since it appeared that the back 9 wound in through the buildings on campus, I agreed with her in calling it a day and heading back to the campground.

It rained again on Friday, so it was another day hanging out in the campground and playing games.  Saturday was a bit better with only light rain in the morning, so we headed south to the town of Jamesport, Missouri.  This is the location of the largest Amish Settlement west of the Mississippi which was evidenced by the number of families we saw traveling in their horse buggies.  Jamesport is a small town which is in the process of transforming itself into a tourist attraction.  While much of the downtown area is still closed shops, there are a number of stores to attract visitors.  The main difference is these stores feature locally made products instead of the usual tourist trap garbage.  We enjoyed spending time in a couple of stores seeing unusual products, many made by hand.  Then we entered one of the many antique stores in town.  It felt like we were transported back in town to a large garage sale!!  The store was full of all kinds of junk you would find in someone’s garage 10 to 40 years ago.  Everything from old tools, toys, books, records, clothing, and all manner of cheap memorabilia.  While we enjoyed pointing out strange objects to each other, I can’t imagine how the store was going to stay in business.  I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of antiques, unless it is furniture.  We then drove just out of town to an Amish country store.  This store was amazing with all kinds of interesting items you would not find in most stores.  They had every kind of flour I can think of and a very wide selection of jars full of jellies, jams, and preserved vegetables.  Kal did find enough sorghum for all of the kids, as well as, some other choice items.  Then it was off to the bakery next door where we bought some great bread and pineapple carrot cake.

KalSuzyKaytlynn

After lunch at a local barbecue in Jamesport , we decided to check out another historic site in the area we had heard about.  Adam-ondi-Ahman is the site of a Mormon settlement established in 1838.  When Joseph Smith visited the area in the spring he discovered two “altars” on the top of Tower and Spring Hill which he proclaimed were constructed by Adam.  In May he declared this was the site that Adam and Eve came to when they were exiled from the Garden of Eden and by August the town grew to 1500 Mormons.  However, the locals feared the Mormons would seize control of local politics and barred them from voting in the August elections in Gallitin.  The Mormons fought back and the Mormon War began.  It did not last long as the Missouri National Guard was called out and the Mormons were given 10 days to leave.  By November they had moved on to establish a new community in Far West, Missouri.  Today the site is owned and maintained as an historic site by the Church of Later Day Saints and is a very nice place to explore.  Most of the 3000 acres have never been farmed and remain in this pristine environment.  There is a nice picnic area on the site and you can visit the two altars on Tower and Spring Hill.  There are also some nice views of the Grand River Valley from on top of Tower Hill.  Even with this side trip, we had plenty of time to indulge in more games once we returned to the RV for the evening.

We spent Sunday doing laundry and cleaning the RV, which with 3 of us did not take very long.  The rest of the day was spent playing games once again.  By this point Kaytlynn was getting good at spades, except for nils which can take some time to play well.

June, 2019 – Kansas City, Missouri

Our trip north from Nevada to Harrisonville, Missouri was along Interstate 49 and would have taken just over an hour, except we had to make a detour.  We had a 10:00 appointment at Camping World of Kansas City, so we had to get an early start.  We traveled about 30 minutes north of our next location to get to Camping World and we arrived on time.  They took the RV immediately and I assume began working on installing a new set of stairs to replace the ones that broke.  These new stairs would actually rotate up to ride inside the RV instead of the original stairs that fold down on the outside.  We had nowhere to go, so we found a place in their waiting room as I guessed it would take no more than a couple of hours.  After about an hour, we were informed that the stairs they had ordered were 1/2 inch too wide for the doorway.  I have no idea how this happened as we gave them the dimensions of the opening which are printed on the side of the door.  In any case, they had to see if they could located another set of stairs.  So now we had to wait and hope they could find a set that would fit in time to be installed that day.  We went to lunch with still no word, however, when we returned from an extended lunch, we were told they were in the process of picking up a set of stairs.  This was great news since they got the stairs and had them installed before 3:00 in the afternoon, although it was not fun sitting around for 5 hours in their waiting room.  In any case, we were able to drive back south to our next location in Harrisonville, The Oaks at Plaza Drive.  This RV park was not our first choice for the area, however, Peculiar Park Place in Peculiar could not accommodate us for the two weeks and had suggested this park as an alternative.  When we found the park, I wished we had not acted on their suggestion and found an RV park recommended by Good Sams instead.  The only sign for the park was stuck on the side of their dumpster and could only be seen once you made the turn into the park.  There is no office and no apparent way to check in.  There was also no bathroom or any other amenity to speak of.  It was a crummy, dirty RV park with a narrow gravel road and very tight sites.  We managed to pull around a small loop at the end of their 20 sites and stopped to ask another camper about checking in.  He said the office was a real estate office just to the south of the park, but as long as we had reservations, they didn’t care whether we checked in or not.  Since the site we had reserved was open, we proceeded to back the RV into it.  Coming from this direction proved to be impossible due to trees in the way on both sides of the RV and in front of the truck.  So I had to pull the RV out of the park, get turned around in a parking lot for a strip mall next door, and reenter the park going the other direction.   My first attempt at this new direction was still unsuccessful as I tried to angle the RV into the site and it immediately sunk into the mud on the side of the packed gravel area.  I was able to pull it back out without a problem and proceeded to back the RV into a very tight site at right angles with very little room to swing the truck around.  It took multiple attempts, but I finally managed to get the RV into the center of the site.  The only good things about this RV park was it had full hookups and there was a Walmart less than 5 minutes away which we would be visiting at least once a day to use their restroom.  Having a choice of views outside the RV of either the city street or the back side of a strip mall would not be my first choice of camping experience!  In any case, we were close to Kal’s aunt and uncle and the attractions of Kansas City.

Campsite

Tuesday we went to spend the day with Kal’s Uncle Gary and Aunt Chris in Raymore.  They live in a VERY nice 55+ community that Kal and I would like to find when we are ready to settle down again.  We had a very pleasant day with them talking about our travels, childhood memories of Gary with Kal’s dad, and catching up with their kids and grandkids.  Wednesday was another day primarily visiting with Gary and Chris, although this time we took our laundry along and they took us out for a nice Mexican lunch.  The conversation pretty much picked up where it left off the day before and we had another relaxing and enjoyable day.  The picture below left is Gary holding the tub they used on the farm for Saturday night baths.  Kal said she remembers it being bigger, of course, she was a bit smaller.

Thursday was to be a day for sightseeing as we headed north to Independence, Missouri to check out the Harry S Truman National Historic Site and the Truman Library and Museum.  However, first we stopped at Gary and Chris to help them out by taking them to the store since they weekly ride had to cancel.  We were glad to do it and we were still in Independence before 10:00.  The Harry S Truman National Historic Site is primarily the home he retired to in Independence after serving as the 33rd President for 8 years.  It is also the the family home of his wife, Bess Wallace.  While not a modest home for its time, it was also not as large as you might expect for a former President.  It was also interesting that the Visitor Center was not located at the house, but a few blocks away on the edge of the downtown district in a small corner location.  Unfortunately, their movie was not working at the time, so we walked on down to the house after getting tickets for the tour.  Before the tour we checked out the Noland House across the street, which was the residence of Harry’s cousins that he stayed with when he visited Bess while he lived and worked at the family farm in Grandview, about 10 miles away.  The exhibits there centered on his growing up in Independence and his courtship of Bess.  The tour of Truman’s home began in the kitchen where they spent most of their time.  Since Bess bequeathed the house to the NPS when she died in the 1980s, it has all the original furnishings from that time.  Thus the kitchen had a lot of appliances that we recognized from the 1960s and 70s.  The rest of the home was also modestly furnished, as Truman wanted to return to the lifestyle of a middle class mid-westerner after he years in Washington D.C.  Only the formal parlor was decked out with expensive furniture and items for receiving important guests over the years.  His study was crammed full of books as he was an avid reader and even had an old radio set that took up most of one wall in the small study.  Unfortunately the upstairs bedrooms were closed, so we only got to tour the first floor.

After spending a couple of hours at the two homes, we walked back to the truck and rode over to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.  We have seen most of the Presidential Libraries east of the Mississippi (somehow we missed President Kennedy’s)  and we both agreed this was the best we have seen so far.  The main part of the library was devoted to his Presidential years, as you would expect, however, there were some great exhibits in the basement about his life before Washington.  The main level was well organized to lead you through his years as President beginning with a movie overview and then his inauguration from Vice-President after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt just 82 days into his fourth term.   His Presidency covered the period from the end of World War II through the Korean Conflict and the beginning of the Cold War.  The museum is very well organized leading you through his years and the momentous decisions he had to make both domestically and internationally.  He was obviously much more successful on the international stage as a Republican controlled Congress kept him from implementing very much of his domestic agenda.  Beginning with the defeat of Germany, he then had to decide to drop the atomic bombs on Japan and convince Russia to declare war on Japan to force them to surrender.  Then came the beginning of the United Nations and troubles at home with food and housing shortages making the transition back to a peacetime economy difficult.  However, this soon changed and the US entered an extended phase of prosperity.  In Europe, the situation was much more dire as they struggled to recover from the war and the rise of Communism, especially in Eastern Europe.  Thus began the Marshall Plan to assist Europe in their recovery and the Truman Doctrine and NATO to limit the spread of Communism.  This period also saw the rise of Senator McCarthy in answer to the fears of Soviet spies, especially after Russia developed nuclear capability.  The Soviet Union also blockaded Berlin which led to the Berlin airlift to bring in supplies to the parts of the city under non-Soviet control.  All of these plans were very controversial at the time, including the recognition of Israel late in his first term.  Even his reelection was controversial as he was not expected to win according to the experts and polls.  The Democratic Party was fractured with Truman leading the center of the party, the Southern Democrats forming the State’s Rights Party over Civil Rights issues, and the left wing under former Vice-President Wallace forming the Progressive Party.  It seemed like Republican Dewey could not lose.  Truman was woken up the next morning with the news he had won.  His second term saw an intensification of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the emergence of China as a Communist state under Mao Tse-Tung.  The Korean peninsula was the ultimate location where this conflict would play out in the Korean Conflict.  The museum does an excellent job of providing detailed information about each and other decisions Truman had to make, along with some interactive videos where the audience gets to vote on these decisions as well.  The basement of the museum also had some great exhibits about the pre-President years of Truman that cover his boyhood, service in World War I, and his failed haberdashery business, and years as the Jackson County Judge which was an administrative position.  Outside you can also visit the graves of both Harry and Bess Truman and have a look inside the office he used on a daily basis at the Library.  It was certainly a full day learning a lot about the life and times of Harry S. Truman.

Friday started early with a long drive to Liberal, Kansas.  Kal’s dad passed away in February and her mom the previous April, both of them being cremated for later burial.  Now was the time to travel to Liberal for the grave site services.  We had positioned ourselves close to her dad’s brother, Gary, in Kansas City in case they needed a ride to Liberal and to be as far north as possible.  It turned out that Gary and Chris would ride with their son, Bill, to Liberal, so we were on our own.  The trip took 8 hours, so it was a full day driving through Kansas that we knew well from our childhood.  Even though we passed through familiar sounding towns north of Wichita, we did not go through Wichita where we grew up as it was out of our way.  Still it was a drive that reminded us of our childhood, especially for Kal as we left most of the trees behind into southwestern Kansas.  We did drive through her early childhood memories in Kismet, a very small town close to Liberal that is even smaller today.  There are few people there today that probably even remember the Lindsay family, however, we did post the grave services in the local church bulletin in case there were any.  We got in early enough to greet Kal’s brothers, Mark and Phil, along with Mark’s wife, Pam, cousins Holly and Tal, and her aunt Wanda from Wichita.  We got settled in and headed over to a local restaurant where we were met by Gary, Chris, and Bill.  We had a nice time at dinner and then told family stories for hours in the hotel lobby.

Saturday morning was all about the grave site services at 10:00, so we all got into some nice clothes and made the trip to the Liberal grave yard.  Being a minister, Tal was asked to conduct the service which included a ceremony from three local American Legion representatives.  I was not expecting this and was grateful for their participation.  There were even a few people from Kismet and Liberal that remembered the family, so we had a nice small group for the service.  Tal did an excellent job and were thankful that we had a minister in the family.  After the services we went back to the hotel to change and check out before heading over to another restaurant in Liberal for a family lunch.  Unfortunately, Gary, Chris, and Bill had to leave before lunch to pick up a family heirloom being held by local friends.  Even though the group was a little smaller, we still had a great time eating pizza and calzones.

After lunch everyone headed back.  Holly, Tal, and Wanda drove to Wichita, Mark and Pam to Dallas, Phil to catch a plane in Amarillo, and us back to Kansas City.  While those traveling to Wichita or Kansas City had no problems with the trip, Mark had planned to stop in Wichita Falls for the night.  The hotel room was so dirty it gave them headaches and they decided to just drive on home.  We had plans to stop in Pratt which is about half way, however, the hotels were all full for the weekend with a Miss Kansas Pageant and baseball tournament.  So we headed on to Hutchinson only to find out they were full with another baseball tournament and twirling contest.  So it was on again to Newton in search of place to stay only to find out the major hotel chains were full with some kind of pilot convention.  So we ended up finding a room in an old motel for twice the price we paid for a nice hotel in Liberal since now it was nearly 7:00.  However, this is no comparison to the nightmare Phil had with American airline.  He had no problem with the flight into Dallas-Fort Worth, however, his connecting flight to Birmingham was canceled.  The next flight also got canceled, as well as, the last flight to Birmingham.  By now he was faced with spending the night in the airport as the next flight was at 6 the next morning.  The next day way one canceled flight after another leading to yet another night in the airport.  The first flight the next morning was also canceled and the next flight boarded and set on the tarmac for 30 minutes before deplaning as now the pilots had been too long on the job and could not fly the plane!!  So he finally gave up and paid for a seat on United into Birmingham.  I don’t know if he will ever get reimbursed from American and there was never any explanation for the canceled flights since there was NO weather problems.  Kal did some investigation and found that American was having problems agreeing to a new contract with the maintenance and we suspect this was the reason.  In any case, I was glad we did not fly ourselves.

We spent part of the day on Sunday driving on back to our campgrounds in Harrisonville, where we collapsed in the RV for the remainder of the day.  Monday was also spent in the campgrounds waiting for my sister, Suzy and her granddaughter, Kaytlynn.  They were driving up from new Knoxville, TN so it took them most of the day.  We had to do some reshuffling of our things in the RV to make room for them, but the pull out bed in the couch is a welcome addition.

Tuesday morning was busy as we had to get around quickly so we could take the truck into the Ford dealership in Lee’s Summit for servicing.  We knew we had at least the rest of the morning to kill since I asked them to inspect the brakes and replace them if needed.  So we drove over to Camping World so I could get the roof treatment for the RV and spent a couple of hours looking over their RV to give Suzy an idea of what she might be interested in.  She is not sure if she wants to travel by herself in a small RV, but wanted to get an idea of what she would be looking for.  After that we had a very leisurely lunch and headed back to the dealership to find out that the front brakes did need to be replaced.  Thankfully, they were done by 3:00 as we had evening plans to drop in on some college buddies of both Suzy and Kal.  As a reminder to those of you reading this blog, Kal was Suzy’s roommate at Southwestern College in Kansas when I met her and I spent a good bit of time visiting while I was at school at Oklahoma State.  Suzy was a theater major and I truly enjoyed spending time with her fellow theater friends on the weekends, so I also considered them my friends.  It turned out that three of them, Dave Lungren, Bill Christie, and Suzanne Smith along with their significant others, had retired in Kansas City.  We all met at Dave’s house for a cookout surprising Suzy who we had not told before that day.  Since they had not got together since graduating, although Kal was in contact with them using Facebook, we had a lot of catching up to do.  We stayed late and got back to the campground after dark feeling that the day was a huge success.

Wednesday we spent in the campground and I got Kaytlynn out to help me with cleaning the RV and treating the rubber roof.  This took us a couple of hours and both of us got wet in the process.  It is certainly more fun cleaning the RV with a nearly 14 year old to make it enjoyable!

We had made plans to meet Dave at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City on Thursday, since he volunteered there and could give us a private tour.  I must admit that of all the armed conflicts over the history of the United States, I now the least amount about World War I or The Great War.  I knew that basically this was a war between the great empires of Europe and thus included their worldwide colonies and thus was a global war.  I also knew that the United States attempted to remain neutral for the first few years of the war.  After an initial land grab by Germany, the war became essentially a stalemate with both sides dug into a huge network of trenches using artillery and gas bombs against each other.  However, I knew little else about the war.  All of that would change as the National World War I Museum has the largest collection of artifacts from the war in the world.  We learned from our “tour guide” that the original WWI Memorial, completed in 1926, was a granite plaza with two relatively exhibit halls at the east and west end, the Liberty Tower that soars 217 feet in the Kansas City skyline, and two Assyrian Sphinxes with their eyes covered guarding the entrance.  The number of artifacts collected very quickly overfilled the exhibit halls, however, it was not until structural problems closed the memorial in 1994 that major plans were made to expand the museum.  The museum did not reopen until 2006 when a much larger museum under the original memorial was completed.  So we started our “tour” in the original exhibit halls and tower.  The most impressive feature of these exhibit halls are the surviving pieces of the Pantheon de la Guerre.  Painted by a group of artists during the war in Paris, this circular panorama is 402 feet in circumference and 45 feet tall depicting over 6000 prominent Allied wartime figures from around the world.  It was on loan to the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1933-34, however, after the World’s Fair it was forgotten and was stored outside for nearly 20 years.  It was bought at auction in 1953 and donated to the World War I Memorial in 1957.  Of course it was heavily damaged, but pieces were salvaged and put on display in the museum.  While still a VERY impressive work, I can only imagine what the entire painting would have looked like!  After visiting the two old exhibit halls we traveled up the tower for some great views of Kansas City and the surrounding terrain.  From there, Dave treated us to lunch and we proceeded to the newer main gallery.  The main museum is VERY well designed to give visitors the history of the war before overwhelming them with the collected artifacts.  You begin with a video about the factors that led to the war before exiting into the collection of the first two years before the United States entered the war.  The most interesting part of this section of the museum is their recreation of trenches the soldiers lived and fought in.  Through a series of peep holes in the side of the trench you get a good sense of their living conditions and stories.  Then another video presentation give the factors leading to the United States entering the war followed by many exhibits of the war effort and supplies provided by the United States to turn the tide of the war.  Finally, there is a video presentation of the aftermath of the war as you complete the circle back to the entrance.  I was frankly overwhelmed with the artifacts from that time period, as well as, attempting to entertain Kaytlynn who was not really that interested.  This way, Kal and Suzy got to spend more time with Dave in the museum and we all had a good day.

Friday was more sightseeing as we headed back into Kansas City to the banks of the Missouri River and the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  This is a steamboat that hit a snag in the Missouri River in 1856 and sank with over 200 tons of cargo destined for general stores and homes in 16 midwestern frontier towns.   Over 150 years the Missouri had changed its course many times and the steamboat was now buried 45 feet deep in the mud and silt under a cornfield.  Protected from light and air the cargo was amazingly preserved over the years.  In 1987, Bob Hawley and his sons, Dave and Greg were self-styled treasure hunters and went in search of the wreck.  They used old maps and proton magnetometer to locate the wreck.  In November of 1988 the Arabia was exposed and four days later the cargo began to emerge.  For the next three months every day was Christmas as more and more of the cargo was excavated and put into storage in freezers.  The long work of preservation then began and will not be completed until at least 2022.  Organic material such as wood and leather must be treated with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and then freeze dried.  Nitrogen is injected into jars and cans to preserve their contents.  Unfortunately, anything of cotton has deteriorated, so leather boots must be resown.  After about a 20 minute tour and video giving the history of the wreck and recovery, you get to meet one of the owners and get a small look at the largest pre-Civil War artifact collection in the world and it is truly mind blowing.  You feel as if you have entered a pre-Civil War Walmart!!  There is everything imaginable on display and I could not begin to list them all.  Stacks of dishes and china, kitchenware and utensils; leather boots, hats, clothing, and jewelry; jars of medicine, food, and champagne; farm equipment including nails, hammers, shovels, and every imaginable wood working implement.  There were not able to salvage the hull itself, but they did bring up a piece of the stern which is on display.  They also recovered the steam engine and paddlewheel from the wreck.  All in all, it is an amazing display and one that is still growing every day.  You even have the opportunity to watch an expert doing their painstaking preservation work.  After spending at least an hour looking at the artifacts we entered the food market along the river where we had so many choices for lunch it was difficult to get a consensus.  After a late lunch, we had all had enough for the day and retired back to the campground for the afternoon where we broke out our collapsible card table for games of spades and other games.

Saturday was spent with Kal going into town to do laundry, while the three of us cleaned the inside of the RV.  With all three of us, this went very quickly and we had the entire afternoon to play some more games.  In the evening we all went to a party hosted by Gary and Chris to spend time with their son Bill and daughter, Jana and their families.  It was a nice pizza dinner and Kal got to spend time with her relatives.  I attempted to keep Suzy and Kaytlynn somewhat entertained to give Kal the opportunity.  Gary and Chris have a wonderful family and everyone had a good time.

Sunday was our last day in this crummy campground and we relaxed until the US Women’s World Cup match came on in the afternoon.  After we watched them easily win their game against Chile, we had supper and played some more spades and other games in the living room.

May, 2019 – Nevada, Missouri

The trip to the northwest towards Kansas City was a short trip of just under two hours as we bypassed Joplin and went north to Nevada, Missouri.  Since nearly all of the trip was along interstates, it went very quickly.  Our destination was a commercial campground on the edge of Nevada called Osage Prairie RV Park.  Like most commercial RV parks next to an interstate, it was just a bit better than an unpaved parking lot.  The sites were narrow with barely enough room for a picnic table and possibly a tree between them.  However, most of the sites were pull-through, at least for the first RV to pull in as each site was actually for two rigs back-to-back.  Each site had full hookups and 50 amp electrical service.  We were able to easily park the RV and get set up quickly.  This was a good thing, since we were there for just over an hour when the weather turned severe with a nasty thunderstorm and high winds.  The rain continued through most of the night and began a cycle of heavy rain and bad storms.  We had already seen a lot of rain the past month and it was only the beginning!

Campsite

Tuesday morning was still cloudy with light rain, so we planned to stay in the campground.  I checked with the owners and got their recommendation for a local RV repairman to get our stairs fixed.  I talked with him on the phone and sent him pictures of the stairs.  He strongly recommended the Mor-Ryde stairs that are solid stairs that swing up into the doorway when traveling.  However, he would not be able to order them and have them by Thursday which was his day to be in our area that week.  So we called Camping World in Kansas City to have them order the stairs and made an appointment for a week from Monday when we would be traveling to Kansas City.  Hopefully, we will be able to get them installed with enough time to go to our campground without losing any time.  By this time we still had half the day, so we decided to travel south back to Joplin and check out the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Oklahoma just over the state line.  We had a nice afternoon at the casino, although we did not come out as winners.

The weather on Wednesday was a bit better, although there were still storms in the forecast for the afternoon.  So we once again headed south to Joplin, this time to explore the George Washington Carver National Memorial.  Through my agriculture education and visiting Tuskegee Institute where he led the Agriculture Department for over 40 years, I thought I was already familiar with his scientific contributions.  However, I was not familiar with his early life that began on the Carver Farm in Diamond, Missouri.  George Washington Carver was born a slave near the end of the Civil War, when he and his mother were kidnapped by Arkansas raiders and taken to Kentucky.  His owner attempted to track them down, but could only find George and had him returned.  After the Civil War, he and his brother James, were raised by the Carvers as their own children.  George was a sickly child and could not do the physical labor required on the farm.  So he spent his early childhood gaining domestic skills of laundry, cooking, and sewing.  This left him a good bit of time to wander in the woods on the farm where he learned to appreciate and understand the natural world and all its wonders.  All of these skills were important in later life.  He also had a burning desire to get an education, which was difficult for an African-American during Reconstruction in the south.  In fact, he left home at around the age of 10 in search of an education.  He attended school, while working at domestic jobs, at a school for blacks in Neosho before moving to Fort Scott and eventually to Minneapolis, Kansas where he finally obtained his high school diploma.  He then attempted to attend college, however, as a black man this was even more difficult.  Highland University in Kansas initially accepted him and then denied admission when they found out he was black.  After trying his hand at homesteading where he spent more time experimenting with alternative crops and establishing an arboretum he moved to Iowa to attend Simpson College where he studied music and art.  Although a promising artist, his teacher encouraged him to seek a degree in Biology at Iowa State.  He was the first black student at Iowa State where he obtained a Bachelor and Master degrees before joining the teaching faculty.  His research was already gaining national recognition when Booker T. Washington offered a position as Head of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute.  Beginning with nothing more than junk collected from the trash piles, he built a first rate agriculture research program at Tuskegee.  Throughout his career his goal was to develop agriculture practices and programs to assist small black sharecroppers.  He published nearly 50 extension publications on a large range of topics from alternative uses of crops, soil conservation, paints from soils, and the proper storage of vegetables and meat.  He is best known for his work with peanuts as an alternative to cotton, where he found over 150 uses for.  This work with peanuts and other crops were instrumental in creating the scientific field of chemurgy which is today gaining a resurgence in interest.  He became a valued national speaker promoting Tuskegee, peanuts and racial morality.

They have a very nice museum at the National Monument with exhibits and video about his life and career.  Much of the museum is setup for young children to explore and interact with, including a reproduction of a chemistry classroom that is used for school groups that visit.  The most interesting exhibit, however, was the traveling school Carver created to take his wisdom to the public, a model copied by extension services throughout the nation.  There is also a nice trail through the woods he enjoyed in his youth that includes a bronze statue of young George and a reproduction of the home he lived in with the Carver family.  It was a nice short hike as the weather began to be threatening once again.

We headed back to the campground and by 6:00 the weather turned severe.  This time we found ourselves in a Tornado Warning and we were the first to ascend to the office.  Their “tornado shelter” was the women’s bathroom and laundry room in the center of the wooden building.  While not the best structure to shelter in during a tornado, it was the best they had available.  Thankfully, the owners of the RV Park were both retired firemen and had access to the first-responders radio.  They were able to provide constant updates of the location of the tornado, which thankfully stayed about 8 miles to the south of us.  This was the same tornado that did all the damage in Springfield a few hours later.  By this point we had already received more than the average rainfall for the month and flooding was becoming a problem.  Thankfully, the RV Park and interstate are far from any rivers or streams, so local flooding was not a concern.

Thursday was another wet day in the campground with light rain most of the day.  We spent it staying in the campground and working on this blog.  The rain let up on Friday so we headed out to the other National Park in the area, Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas.  This was a quick trip east on US 54 and although it threatened rain all day, it held off until we returned.  Fort Scott is an interesting place that for some reason neither of us had never visited before even though we grew up just a couple of hours away in Wichita.  Most of our vacations growing up were to the west towards the Rockies in Colorado and not to the east.  Fort Scott was established in 1842, as part of a string of forts extending from Minnesota to Louisiana to provide a buffer between the Indian territories to the west and settlers to the east.  It was meant to be a permanent buffer and most of the time was spent running off settlers.  Over the next few years they spent time patrolling the border and providing protection along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails to the west, as much to keep settlers from stopping as to protect them.  However, the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848 pulled most of the soldiers from these forts and the addition of Mexican territory from the war only spurred more settlers and ended the idea of a permanent boundary.  In fact the fort was abandoned in 1853 in favor of the more western Fort Riley and the buildings were sold at auction in 1855.  However, this did not end the history of Fort Scott as a military post as fighting leading up to the Civil War heated up with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.  This Act not only created the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, but also allowed them to determine whether they would enter the Union as either free or slave states based on popular vote.  Men adamant on both sides of the issue began coming to Kansas in order to influence this vote and the blood began to flow, known as “Bleeding Kansas.”  The fort was now the town of Fort Scott and two of the buildings became hotels facing across the drill field from each other.  The Fort Scott Hotel was used by “Free-Staters” and the Western Hotel by proslavery men.  In 1858, radical elements from both factions converged on the area and James Montgomery attempted to burn down the Western Hotel.  During this period, soldiers would return to the fort to restore law and order, which only worked until the soldiers left once again.  While Fort Scott was never attacked during the Civil War, it was used as a supply base, general hospital, training ground, and a haven for people fleeing the war.  The military stores did make it a target for the Confederate General Price who led the Missouri State Guard in two failed attempts to capture it before he was defeated at Pea Ridge in 1862.  Following the Civil War, the nation began the process of healing and railroads were a major factor in this recovery.  Fort Scott became a railroad hub for the area.  The military once again returned to the fort from 1869-1873 to establish the Post of Southeast Kansas, primarily to protect the railroad workers from Indians and upset settlers or squatters that did not want to give up their land to the railroads.  Since the buildings of Fort Scott were never abandoned for long and many continued to used for houses, inns, and business, most of them were still in good condition when the National Park Service obtained the site in 1978.

We had a great time exploring Fort Scott, which at the time was being decked out with 7000 American flags for the upcoming Memorial Day celebration.  The drill field was literally filled with small flags.  Most of the buildings that make up the fort have exhibits in them and have been restored to their original condition and use.  Our exploration started in the Visitor Center within the Fort’s Hospital.  Exhibits upstairs give a good idea of what it looked like as a hospital.  Next is the largest building in the fort, the Dragoon’s stables.  Mounted troops were known as cavalry during the Civil War, but in 1842 they were Dragoons.  The barracks for the dragoons and infantry were interesting since each had its own kitchen, dining room, and laundry on the ground floor with communal sleeping rooms on the second floor.  One of the three story duplex officers quarters is laid out as originally planned with an interesting floor plan.  The first floor had the family parlor and kitchen, whereas it was the second floor that was more formal with an exterior staircase leading up to the balcony.  The third floor were the bedrooms.  Another of the duplexes was used for a number of different purposes after being sold the public and they have left it in the condition as it was when the NPS got it.  They have done a great job with numbered signs and a brochure to show the original structure, as well as, the changes that were made over time.  Very interesting.  The other surprising thing was the open nature of the fort.  There are no surrounding walls or fortifications.  These were deemed to be unnecessary due to the open condition of the tallgrass prairie and accuracy of the artillery.  Besides trees were too valuable for construction to be used for fortification.  It only took a couple of hours to explore the entire site, so we ate lunch at their picnic area and headed back early to the campground.

Saturday was suppose to be wet, especially in the afternoon, so we spent the day in the campground even though it did not rain all day.  Flooding had now become a regional problem, especially south of us in Oklahoma and Arkansas, so we were happy not to see any rain all day.  However, we did learn that the COE campground on Truman Lake was flooded and they had cancelled our reservation.  So we extended our stay in Nevada for another week.  On Sunday, we were not so lucky as it began raining in the morning and we had storms again in the late afternoon.  We were happy to just stay in the campground once again.

Since we did not travel on Monday, we had another day without rain to get out of the campground.  We had already seen the two national parks in the area, so had nothing else we had planned to visit.  After asking the owners we learned of a couple of state parks that sounded interesting in the area.  So, on Monday we drove a short distance north on I-49 to Butler, Missouri where you can find the Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site.  I was correct in assuming it was a Civil War battlesite, but I was wrong in guessing it was a battle involving the Missouri State Guard and General Price.  Instead, it was a battle, more of a skirmish, between Union troops out of Kansas and Confederate guerillas that were causing problems along the state line.  These skirmishes were actually quite common in 1862-1864 along the Missouri-Kansas border.  What made this skirmish unique was the fact the Kansas troops were the First Kansas Colored Volunteers.  Three months before the Emancipation Proclamation and the forming of colored troops in the Union army, the First Kansas Colored Volunteers had already seen action and proved themselves to be fierce fighters as commented on by both sides.  In October, 1862, the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry of 240 soldiers were ordered to clear out the Confederate guerillas encamped at Hog Island on the Marias-des-Cygnes River.  Arriving on October 27, 1862 they commandeered the home of local Southern sympathizers at the Toothman Farm.  Once they realized they were facing a superior force they barricaded the farm with rail fences and named it Fort Africa.  On October 29, the guerillas retaliated by setting the prairie on fire, which was a common guerilla tactic.  The First Kansas responded with a back fire, but the smoke and fire continued to be a problem.  A patrol was sent out to scout the guerilla positions and were soon embroiled in a fire fight.  An additional party of 20 were sent out to extricate the soldiers but they were soon trapped in a ravine they used for cover.  On the southern slope of Island Mound, the troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  When reinforcements from Fort Africa flanked the combat, the rebels fled.  When Union reinforcements arrived the next day and descended on Hog Island and found the guerillas had pulled out.  Exploring the site took less than an hour, as it consists of a 0.6 mile paved loop around the location of Fort Africa.  The battlefield is actually a couple of miles away and is not part of the state historic site.  In fact, they have not even located the farmhouse itself.  So we had a nice short walk around the Toothman Farm fields that are being restored to a tallgrass prairie before returning to the campground.  We did not even take the time to eat lunch before heading back.

Tuesday was another cloudy, cool day without rain, so we headed to another state park south of us, Prairie State Park.  As the name implies, this is a 3500 acre park that is devoted to restoring the natural tallgrass prairie.  We had our choice of hiking trails through different sections of the park, all fairly level and easy grassy trails.  We were lucky to catch the State Ranger at the Nature Center as the Center is not open on Monday and Tuesday.  She provided a map of the many trails and suggestions of where to go.  Areas that were recently burned would be best for wildflowers, trails along the stream were best for birds, and of course the trail behind the Nature Center was best for viewing the bison.  This area is fenced and the 50 head bison herd has free range of the area, so we would have to be careful to stay back from any bison we saw.  We chose this 2.75 mile trail through the restored prairie in the hopes of seeing some bison.  It was an easy trail starting with a small climb to the top of a hill with great views of the park and then down to the stream.  We kept our eyes open for bison, but unfortunately, did not see any.  Except for all the ticks we knocked off our pants, it was a great hike.  The ground was certainly saturated as we had to negotiate mushy ground and mud puddles on the trail even on the top of the hill.  The weather stayed cloudy and the constant westerly wind kept the temperatures cool all morning.  We ate lunch in the truck at the Nature Center before heading back to the campground to more evening showers.  This weather is certainly getting VERY old.

Even though Wednesday was probably the best day with respect to the weather, it was past time to get the laundry done.  So instead of taking advantage of a cool and sunny day with the cold front FINALLY pushing east, we spent the day doing laundry and cleaning the RV.  Hopefully, now we will have a few days without rain allowing the area to dry out a bit.

Thursday was another nice day, however, we decided to give the area a day to dry out after stomping through the muck on Tuesday.  Instead we headed to Pittsburg, Kansas to check out the Kansas Crossroads Casino.  This was another nice, medium sized casino and we spent a couple of hours playing the slots.  While I did alright coming close to breaking even, Kal had a terrible day quickly losing her stake.  Sometimes it is just no fun for one of us.  Thankfully, it rarely happens for both of us.

Friday was another cool and comfortable day so we headed east out of Nevada to explore the nearby Osage Village State Historic Site.  This was the location of one of the large Greater Osage Villages that in the early 1800s numbered between 2000-3000 inhabitants.  The Osage lived in semi-permanent homes made of wood struts and woven mat walls.  They would spend the winters at the village, going out in the spring to hunt beaver and bear for furs, returning in April to plant their crops of corn, beans, and squash.  They would then leave for the summer to hunt and return in the fall to harvest their crops and repair their homes for the winter.  The Osage were the dominant Indian tribe in the region by this time until they were forcibly removed to the Indian Territory in the 1830s.  Except for the kiosk near the parking lot, there is not very much to see at the historic site.  They have a nice loop trail that circles the hilltop with numbered signs that correspond to a brochure.  However, most of the stops tell about other villages, trading posts, and settlements in the surrounding area, which were difficult to understand without some kind of map.  Since the homes were only semi-permanent to start with, it is not surprising there is nothing left today.  Archeological work has found a couple of home sites which are mentioned in the brochure, but there is nothing on the ground to indicate their locations.  Once we traveled around the circle we ended up with more questions about life in the village then when we started.  Since the trail is only an 0.8 mile loop we had another early trip back to the campground.

The weekend was spent in the campgrounds relaxing and working on this blog.  We will have to start to get ready to move on Monday as we need to leave here by 8:00 in the morning to get to Camping World by 10.  This is going to be difficult since I am generally getting up around 7:30 to 8!  Oh, the sacrifices we have to make!!

May, 2019 – Cape Fair, Missouri

The trip north was a short trip of just over an hour as we moved from the southern end of Table Rock Lake in Arkansas, to the northern end in Missouri at Cape Fair Campgrounds.  This was another Corps of Engineers campground that are all around the lake.  Unlike Cricket Creek, Cape Fair was an older campground designed for smaller RVs.  Most of the sites were nicely laid out with rock walls and asphalt pavement.  However, the road through the campground was narrow and winding with sharp turns and rocks to be avoided on both sides.  Our campsite was also narrow with a rock wall on one side and a drop off into the site next to ours.  It would have been very difficult to get into if we showed up later in the week.  Thankfully, on Monday the campground was fairly empty and there was nobody camped in the site across from ours.  I was able to pull straight into the sight across the road and then back the RV into our site with no difficulty.  We got set up quickly and settled in for another week on Table Rock Lake.

Campsite

Tuesday was cloudy, but thankfully no rain so we headed north to Springfield to explore Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  With all the Civil War battlefields east of the Mississippi it can be easy to forget the Civil War was fought west of the Mississippi as well.  In fact, the fighting in Missouri and Kansas started years before the Civil War following the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.   Unlike the Missouri Compromise years earlier that allowed Missouri to be a slave state, Kansas and Nebraska would decide their own fate.  This led to men and their families flooding into Kansas that wanted to influence this decision.  Both pro and anti slave supporters.  Violent clashes between them, as well as, atrocities on both sides occurred on both sides of the state line.  “Bloody Kansas” became a common term for this conflict before the Civil War.  Missouri was also violently split on the issue.  When the Civil War began in 1861, Missouri narrowly voted to stay with the Union.  Governor Jackson did not agree with this and called up the Missouri State Guard to “protect Missouri from all invaders”, which to him meant the Federal troops.  He created Camp Jackson outside of St Louis to train the Guard, which was a direct threat to the vital Federal armory there.  General Lyon understood the threat and surrounded the camp to break it up.  After a couple failed attempts at peace, it was obvious the Governor would settle for nothing less than war.  Most of the Union soldiers in St Louis under the command of General Lyon were from Missouri including a large number German immigrants from St Louis.  The Missouri State Guard were all Missouri natives under the command of General Price.  So began the Civil War in Missouri which was already a civil war between those in favor of and opposed to slavery.  In the spring of 1861, there were a number of skirmishes between the Union and Missouri Guard soldiers until General Lyon was occupying Springfield, the state capitol.  General Price intended to retake Springfield and joined with the Confederate army out of Arkansas commanded by General McCulloch.  With this combination the Confederate army finally outnumbered the Federals, by more than 2-1.  General Lyon knew he needed to withdraw back to St Louis, however, this Confederate army was a serious threat to a safe withdrawal.  He decided to surprise the Confederates, hitting them quick and hard, to allow him an opportunity to withdraw without opposition.  The Confederates were camped along Wilson Creek, south of Springfield and also had plans to attack at the same time.  They broke camp to advance towards Springfield on August 9, but a late afternoon thunderstorm stopped them as they were concerned about keeping their powder dry.  They returned to camp, but failed to reestablish pickets that night, so they had no warning.  The Federal troops also left Springfield on August 9 with plans to attack at dawn the next morning.  Without pickets, the Confederates never saw them coming.  General Lyon was not only going to attack with inferior numbers, but he also split his command with a third of his force, all German immigrants under the command of Colonel Sigel circled around to attack the Confederate rear.  Initially the attack west very well for the Federals with Lyon driving the northern part of camp allowing them to obtain the high ground on what became known as Bloody Hill.  Sigel also successfully made his way around to the rear without detection and hit the camp with an artillery barrage at dawn.  The sleeping Confederates initially scattered allowing Sigel to establish a position across the Wire Road cutting off Confederate retreat.  However, later in the morning he mistook a counterattack for Lyon’s Iowa Company who also wore gray uniforms at this point in the war, allowing them to get within point blank range.  Sigel was routed and scattered to the woods.  In the meantime, Lyon was stopped on top of Bloody Hill and thus began a 5 hour defensive battle.  Three times the superior Confederate forces, now more than 3-1, attempted to drive them from the top of the hill and failed.  On the third attempt General Lyon was killed, thus becoming the first Union General to die in the Civil War.  With the loss of their leader and no sign of Sigel, the Union army withdrew after the third attack.  The Confederates were already running low on ammunition, which was in short supply at this point in the war and chose not to pursue.  So the Confederates won the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, although Lyon achieved his objective which was to eliminate the threat to his withdrawal all the way back to St. Louis.

Kal and I had actually visited this battlefield years ago, but it was during the winter and very cold.  We did not spend much time exploring the battlefield and I really did not remember much of the battle, so it was great to see it again when we could spend the day exploring it.  Once again we purchased the auto tour CD of the battle, which gave a lot more information about the battle, the stops we visited, and the principals involved in the battle.  The auto-tour had 8 stops on it taking us from the northern end of the Confederate camp around to the southern end where Sigel hit them in the rear.  Highlights of the tour were the Ray House, which is the only structure to survive to today, that sits on the Wire Road.  The other highlight was the only monument erected at the battlefield to mark the location of General Lyon when he was killed in a countercharge during the battle.  It was interesting that at the time General Lyon was a national hero for the Union with a funeral train all the way back to Connecticut where he was buried.  In comparison to the monuments at other battlefields, this monument is very modest.  I suppose the reason is that this battle was primarily Missouri versus Missouri soldiers.  It was also interesting to learn that the monument replaced a cairn of rocks that had been built over the years to over 8 feet high.  It was a nice day to be out without dealing with rain.

Wednesday was spent with Kal finding a laundramat in West Branson while I cleaned the RV.  Thursday was also spent in the campground as it rained most of the day.  When I stepped out of the RV after dark, the steps suddenly sagged on the left side.  We got out the flashlight and had a look to discover that the brace that attaches to the RV had broke.  I put some wood under the steps to help hold them up until we could get it fixed.

The weather on Friday was marginally better, at least it was not suppose to rain, so we headed back to Arkansas to explore Pea Ridge National Military Park.  The Civil War battle that took place at Pea Ridge was the next major chapter in the Civil War after Wilson’s Creek.  Following the loss at Wilson’s Creek the Union forces withdrew back to St. Louis where they got a new general, Brigadier General Curtis and reinforcements increasing their number to 10,500 soldiers.  Since Wilson Creek, General Price and the Missouri State Guard had essentially a free run of Missouri during the fall of 1861.  However, this was about to change as General Curtis’ objective was to drive the Confederates from Missouri and keep the state a part of the Union.  By mid-February, 1862 he had chased Price and the Missouri State Guard into northwest Arkansas.  There they once again joined up with Brigadier General McCulloch’s Confederates in the Boston Mountains, south of Fayetteville.  On March 4, Major General Van Dorn took over command of the combined forces that now numbered 16,000 soldiers and led them north.  However, Curtis was now dug in across his path on the bluffs above Little Sugar Creek, not far from Elkhorn Tavern on the Telegraph Road and Elkhorn Mountain on the Pea Ridge plateau.  Knowing a frontal assault would be a mistake, he decided to swing north to come in behind the Federals.  This meant a grueling three day march leaving their supply wagons behind to catch up.  Plans were to strike Elkhorn Tavern at dawn on March 7, however they arrived far behind schedule.  In fact, the Confederates were strung out and General McCulloch’s forces were miles behind General Price.  So Van Dorn decided to divide his army and ordered McCulloch to cut east short of Elkhorn Mountains and approach the Tavern from the west instead of the north.  However, this put McCulloch running into the left flank of Curtis’ forces who had quickly repositioned from the bluffs.  In fact, the intense fire from the Federals killed both McCulloch and his second in command, McIntosh and captured the colonel next in line.  The command structure was practically destroyed, leaving McCulloch’s men scattered without command in the field and effectively out of the fight.  Meanwhile, Van Dorn and Price fared better slowly pushing Curtis south of Elkhorn Tavern when night fell.  The Confederates thought the battle the next day would be short and decisive, however, they forgot that their supply wagons were still attempting to catch up.  On the morning of March 8, Curtis counterattacked the tavern area.  This began as a two hour artillery barrage which for once was terribly effective.  They managed to knock out one Confederate battery after another and then turned on the soldiers dug in on Elkhorn Mountain.  The Confederates thought they had a good position, but against artillery that exploded in the rock walls behind them turned it into a death trap.  They had to withdraw to tavern area.  Meanwhile, Curtis lined all of his soldiers in a long line over 3 football fields long and charged the Elkhorn Tavern.  Even though the Confederates still outnumbered the Federals, their ammunition was dangerously low and they had no choice but to retreat to the north and east and the battle was over with a Union victory.  They had driven the Confederates out of Missouri, securing it for the rest of the war for the Union, although there continued to be guerilla fighting in Missouri for the rest of the war.  This was the second major battle in the Civil War west of the Mississippi and the last.  Nearly all of the troops from both sides were moved east of the Mississippi River for the remainder of the war.  Missouri continued to be technically neutral although it continued to provide men and supplies to both sides.

The Pea Ridge battlefield is actually not very large and the driving tour around the battlefield is only 7 miles long.  Once again we purchased the auto-tour CD which gave some valuable insights on the battle, although it was still difficult to understand the battle itself.  Part of the problem was due to the fact that Van Dorn turned the battle around by circling around to the rear of the Federals.  This meant they were attacking to the south and the Union to the north.  Also the maps in the brochure were terribly confusing and did not match with the very well with the interpretive signs at each of the stops.  We never did figure out the battle near the town of Leetown where McCulloch and McIntosh were killed.  The short trail to the town site did not help since there is nothing left of the town today.  The best part of the trip was the overlook on Elkhorn Mountain.  From there you could see the field where the battle for Elkhorn Tavern took place.  They placed cannon along the line through the field where the Federals lined up for their advance on the morning of March 8.  I was surprised to find that Elkhorn Tavern had survived all of the fighting until I found out it was a replication of the tavern.  There are a number of trials that circle the area around the tavern, however, after walking no more than 100 yards, Kal found three ticks crawling up her pants.  At this point we decided not to take a hike, which turned out to be a good thing as we talked with some other hikers that were very busy picking off ticks!!  Without any hiking, it did not take long to explore the battlefield and we returned to the campgrounds early in the afternoon.

Once again Saturday threatened rain, so we decided to drive back into Branson, this time from the west, to play another couple of rounds of mini-golf that we were both enjoying.  Kal had seen a pretty fancy course last week, so we headed to the Shoot For The Stars Mini-golf.  Visually it was very fancy with a lot of objects depicting Hollywood, including mockups of Gramans and the Hollywood Bowl among others.  The idea was it represented the 18 steps to becoming a movie star.  They had an agent with prerecorded messages at the beginning of each hole, when the recordings worked.  In fact, the course was more glitz then substance.  The holes were very easy with few challenges, but still was enjoyable.  After we finished that course, we decided to go back to Pirates Cove for another round on their more challenging course, Blackbeard.  Of all the mini-golf courses we played in Branson, this was our favorite.  We also checked and found out we had played fewer than half of the mini-golf courses in Branson!

Sunday was spent just relaxing in the campground while it rained once again.  This weather has gotten ridiculous and did not look like it would change anytime soon.

 

May, 2019 – Branson, Missouri

While I have titled this blog as Branson, Missouri where we spent most of our time, our campsite was actually just across the state line in Arkansas.  We were located on the shores of Table Rock Lake in one of the many Corps of Engineer campgrounds on the lake, Cricket Creek Campground.  The trip was a short trip west from our previous location, mostly along US highways, which were still slow and twisted.  Once we got through Harrison, Arkansas, we were on US 62 which is today a 4-lane highway where they have taken out most of the curves and steep gradients.  Just before we crossed the state line into Missouri, we took off to the west for 5 miles down to the shores of Table Rock Lake.  The reservation page on recreation.gov had listed the campground without water hookups, so we showed up with full fresh water tanks, only to find out the webpage was wrong.  Every site had water hookups and 50 amp electrical service.  Each site was also paved with nice stone work around the site.  The site we had also had two stone picnic tables for some reason.  Unfortunately, the trees blocked any views of the lake, but otherwise was a very nice, small campground.  The only challenge was a tree right in the way of backing the RV into the site, making me having to make nearly a 90 degree turn into the site.  Thankfully there was another site across from us, so I was able to use it to get the truck back around in front of the RV.  I had to pull the RV up and back a couple of times to get it all straightened out and then it was easy to put it where we wanted for the week.  It was also great that our site had a paved area to the side where we could put the truck.  Kal really liked this feature.  Thankfully, TV reception was not too bad although it would be nice to have CBS.

The weather on Tuesday was cool and partly cloudy, but thankfully no rain.  So we headed south to the Visitor Center on the Buffalo National River south of Harrison, Arkansas.  Years ago we had visited Buffalo National River with my sister on vacation, so it was a repeat.  The time before we floated down the lower river in a canoe and kayak.  However, that was late summer and this was early spring.  Not only was the temperature too cool for floating down the river, but most of the river was closed due to high water from the all the rain.  This time we were interested in doing some hiking.  After getting information from the Visitor Center about hiking trails in all three sections of the river, we traveled on down to their picnic area where they had tables set up on the bank of the Buffalo River.  It was a very nice spot for lunch.  After lunch we decided to do just an easy 1.25 mile trail near the Visitor Center that started at the Collier Homestead which was settled by a family from Kentucky until the land was sold to the National Park Service.  They have done a little work on preserving the small cabin on the site and their orchard behind the house is still there.  The trail to a spectacular overlook of the Buffalo River was an easy trail.  For those of you not familiar with the Buffalo National River, it was the first National River dedicated back in 1972.  Up to that point, there had been multiple plans and attempts by the Corps of Engineers to dam the river, primarily for flood control and this finally put an end to those attempts.  The Buffalo River is a pristine natural area for plants and wildlife all along the 135 miles within the park.  If I had paid attention, we should have gotten out last week to see some of the lower areas of the park as we were quite close.  I suppose all the rain was another reason we did not take advantage of it.  In any case, we enjoyed the hike until we came back around on the return trail.  This trail started with a steep downhill section along the bluff on the river with a couple of more nice views and then returned back to the farm site through the woods.  Of course, this meant the return trip was mostly uphill and we both regretted not getting in more hikes over the past few months!  By the time we returned to the truck, we had both had enough of hiking, so we returned to the campgrounds.

By Wednesday the rain had returned once again, although there was no severe weather to deal with.  So it was another easy day in the campgrounds.  Thursday also threatened rain, although we saw only a few brief showers, so we headed into Branson, Missouri to see if we could deal with our time share mistake.  We really knew better, but 10 years ago we entered into a very small time share to try out that approach to retirement.  This was before we had made the decision to full time in an RV.  We purchased a single week every other year at a reasonable rate, that came with points that could be used in their transfer program.  As it turned out, it was not cheaper to use a time share, even though the accommodations were a LOT better then we would book ourselves.  We used the system only a couple of times over the years and now that we are living in an RV, it makes no sense at all.  If it were not for the maintenance fees every other year, we would just ignore it.  While these fees are not huge, they are irritating that we continue to pay for something we no longer want.  Since the time share company has the right of first refusal, we figured we would give them their opportunity while we are in the area.  However, the time share office is not open on Thursday and is only opened on Friday, so it was a wasted trip.  So the day was not a complete lost we decided to check out one of the many fancy mini-golf courses in Branson, Dinosaur Canyon.  They had two 18-hole courses that wound around the many dinosaurs and water features in the park.  We played both courses before heading back to the campground and had a great time.

So on Friday, it was back to Branson to meet with someone to discuss the time share property.  We got there early, but had to wait for a 12:00 appointment since we needed to see someone who was not a salesperson.  So we headed out to check out another of the mini-golf courses, Pirates Cove.  Like Dinosaur Canyon, Pirates Cove consisted of two 18-hole courses that wound around some fun scenes and water features.  We took on their more challenging course, which not only included a hole on their pirate ship, but also through and on top of their “mountain”.  The most interesting feature was a hole which was nearly impossible not to bounce the golf ball into the small stream running to the side.  It turned out that this was actually the best chance for a hole in one, since the stream went under a small rock feature which somehow shunted the ball into a pipe that shot the ball at the hole.  Very cool feature!  We did not have enough time to play both courses, as we needed to get a quick lunch before heading back to the time share office.

What then occurred was the most amazing sales pitch I have ever witnessed.  We had the “privilege” of meeting with an independent agent of the time share “police”, although he was still being paid by the time share company.  He was under an “obligation” to inform us of the impact of a relatively new Florida law which is suppose to protect the consumer.  We looked up this Florida law and could not verify anything that he told us about.  It was his “duty” to inform us that this law addressed the three major problems with time share.  First, was the inheritance tax when the time share passes on to our children, none of which are interested in inheriting the time share.  Since time shares have been classified as “luxury items” that are not subject to the exclusion cap for estates and could be taxed as high as 30% of their value depending on the state.  This Florida law, supposedly, remove this luxury tag and our estate would not be hit with this tax.  However, I fail to see how a Florida law would have anything to do with how Alabama wants to define luxury.  Second, is the maintenance fee which you have to pay whether you use the time share or not.  Under this new contract, the company had to refund part of the maintenance fee so long as you relinquish your weeks early enough in the year that they can rent those weeks to non-members.  According to our agent, it was “fortunate” that we bought our time share when we did.  The property we owned had now gone through two owners and the current owner was based in Florida and thus subject to this law.  Our maintenance fee was still tied to the original rennovation schedule for the first company and therefore was quite low by industry standards.  If fact, according to him, the fee was going to jump by over 6 times the current amount and become a significant burden.  Supposedly we had already been notified of this although we never got anything in the mail that we recognized.  In addition, he could not show us what we should have received.  However, under this new contract we would be getting most of this back IF we gave up our weeks each year in January.  Now came the real sales pitch!!  Under our current contract we earned a set number of points each year, which under the new owner was worth 10 times more!!  In other words, our points, which supposedly would not change, would now be worth 10 times as much under the new contract.  So instead of one week every other year, we would have enough points for 5 weeks a year!!  This meant that instead of getting refunded for one week every other year we would receive 5 weeks of refund and still only being paying the original maintenance fee.  So, instead of paying out each year, we would be making a lot of money on the maintenance fee.  Does this sound like a reasonable business model for time shares to you??  Now remember, this guy was “not” a salesperson for the time share company and assured us the time share company does not want us to sign the new contract.  It was important to him that we understood that signing the new contract could not be for purchasing additional points, which it was not.  Each point we currently had would just be worth 10 times more.  Now came the real kicker.  In order to sign a new contract we had to invest additional money up to the current value of the property.  Part of his hand waving now entailed being amazed by the low amount we originally paid for the property which on average everyone paid 5 times more for the same contract.  When asked how this could be possible, he made up a wild story about someone must have defaulted on their deal and the company could only sell it for what was still owed them.  I have never of this kind of restriction on any repossessed property.  Because of this difference, we had “forced equity” which for some reason reduced the amount we would have to pay for the new contract.  This is entirely backwards, since the “investment” was to bring us up to the current value of the property which should mean we would have to invest more not less.  I bet you can guess what the final investment figure was after all his magic was done.  If you guessed 4-5 times our original investment, then you were right.   However, he was not done performing his magic.  The third aspect of the Florida law was that once the company sold off all of a property, they had to establish a “resales office,” the purpose of which was never made clear.  He made it sound like at that time the time share company would begin to buy back property, which makes no business sense at all, without ever actually stating this was their purpose.  Projections are that the current property in Branson would be all sold in less than 3 years, which means at that time we could sell them back our property instead of having to hold it for a minimum of 5 years as required by the Florida law.  So in 3 years we would be able to make a killing on our investment, which has not only increased significantly in value all ready, but would skyrocket because the company is building a new time share in Branson.  For his finale he showed us how the crazy refunds of the maintenance fees would more than offset the monthly payments.  So we would not only be able to make money on the maintenance fees every year, but we would be able to sell this new contract in 3 years for a minimum of triple our investment.  Talk about a “no-brainer”!!!  When asked if he would put all of this in writing, he quickly steered the conversation in another direction and we left after 5 hours with loan forms to fill out overnight and a promise to call to set up a meeting on Saturday.  Of course, we never heard again from this idiot with his no-brainer deal.  Bottomline:  we talked with a non-salesperson who could not sell us additional points, but for an additional huge investment we could get 5 weeks a year and be in a position within 3-5 years of trying to sell back a property in no better position then we are today.  I suppose I am one of the 5 percent of time share owners that could not see the benefits of this new contract.  While it was a waste of time, they did give us a check for $150 for attending their “enrichment seminar.”

While the weather on Friday was not great, it was certainly better than Saturday, when once again it rained off and on all day long.  Sunday was certainly an improvement and since we enjoyed the miniature golf so much, we decided to head back to Branson again to check out some of the other courses.  First, we played the easier course at Pirates Cove since we got half off from the time before.  This second course was also fun, but not as good as the more challenging course.  We still had plenty of time on our hands so took off looking for another course.  The first one we saw was at Bigfoot Fun Park, where the single 18-hole course was around other attractions in the park for young kids.  While this course was not as good as Pirates Cove, it was more difficult.  Not only were there a series of three holes in the dark with black lights, but they had a par 5 hole on top of the cave which it would have been easier with a wedge instead of a putter.  In any case, we had a good afternoon playing around in Branson for our last day in the area.  It was going to take a while to get over the bad memories I now have of Branson.

April, 2019 – Mountain Home, Arkansas

The trip north from Heber Springs to Mountain Home was not very far, but since it was along state highways winding their way through the Ozarks, it was very slow.  It took over two hours for the trip, but it was very scenic the entire way.  Our next destination was Robinson Point Campground, another Corps of Engineers site, on the shore of Norfork Lake, just outside of Mountain Home.  We were now deep into the Ozarks with its oak/hickory forests along with a few shortleaf pines.  Our campsite was actually in the center of a small loop of campsites, which gave us a view of Norfork Lake in three directions.  I was not sure why I had chosen this site, since it was in the middle of the loop until I realized we had the only site with a water hookup next to the RV.  The other sites have water spigots in between two sites that might have required more than the 100 feet of hose we carry with us.  However, I was able to back the RV into the site with no problem and we had both electric and water hookups.  We were soon set up for the week.

Campsite

It was good that there was no state parks or other historical state parks we were wanting to explore, since the weather did not cooperate all week.  In fact, we saw rain every day of the week, including Monday before we pulled out of Heber Springs.  Tuesday was the worst, since there were tornadoes all day long in Missouri and west of our location in Arkansas.  We spent a significant part of the day watching the local TV broadcast of their continuous weather alert.  The storms stayed mostly to our north and strong storms did not hit us until after dark.  Wednesday we got a break although the forecast was for rain throughout the day.  It would have been a day to get out, if you wanted to ignore the forecast.  By Thursday it rained all day long, although no severe storms this time.  Friday was a little better, although there were still periods of rain, so for something to do we both went into Mountain Home to do laundry.  While Kal did the laundry, I ran errands and we both got done at about the same time.  I guess this was the highlight of the week, as it rained again for most of the weekend, especially Saturday night.  Hopefully, the weather will be better next week as there are a couple of places we want to visit.