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Missouri – Part One



We spent the night in Mt Vernon, IL before finishing the drive to the Mississippi River again in Saint Louis, Missouri. It was rather cloudy when we got up this morning and it did rain enroute. By the time we go to the Anheuser Busch Brewery, it had stopped but continued to be overcast. We did the free tour here and were rather pleased as we’d read mixed reviews on the free one but did not feel it was worth paying for extra “free samples”. We saw some Clydesdales, and some of the process, and got a free sample of Bud before finishing in the Biergarten where we got a second sample of our choice; we both chose Stella. Then Doug got the bartender to give him a few “tastes” of several other beers. They had about 20 on tap.

We drove downtown and hunted for parking; lots of parkades which, of course, we cannot enter but we finally did find street parking. We picked up our tickets for the famous Gateway Arch (which is run by the National Parks Board) and headed over. The Old Courthouse where you pick up tickets is the location of the famous Dred Scott trial (a black married couple who tried to sue for their freedom from slavery). There’s a lot of history here.

The sun came out on our way to the tram (elevator) which took us up the south side of the Arch. It is located right on the Mississippi but there are no windows so you just feel your ascent and the curvature of the monument as you ascend. At the top there is small area with a number of windows which are about 8” high and three feet wide. There are some on both sides so you can see both MO and IL from up there. We took the north tram back down; it’s 4 minutes up and 3 down. It was nice and sunny by the time we got down.

The Gateway Arch also has a museum depicting the expansion westward back in the 1800’s but it was under construction so we didn’t get to explore that. The monument stands 630’ tall and is the tallest stainless steel structure in the world; quite a thing to look at from the ground.  When they finish the construction work around the Arch it should be quite the tourist attraction as they are beautifying the riverfront as well.

Friday saw us back at a Cummins location in St. Louis to have an issue with the generator fixed that the Cummins in Little Rock did incorrectly. We camped that night at Washington State Park and took advantage of the power hook up and showers. These types of stops also give us a chance to use a sani dump and get fresh water.

Doug did a good run yesterday for the first time. Two days previous he only ran 11 minutes but today he did 24 and felt quite good. His resting heart rate is back in his “normal” range and his sternum pain has nearly diminished; it’s more like muscle soreness in his chest now.

We drove a lot of back roads on Saturday and stopped in the Mark Twain National Forest in the afternoon to camp for the night for a great price:  FREE!  We had a nice campfire and relaxed by Paddy Creek.   It was sunny while we were camped but we did have a thunderstorm overnight. Southern Missouri is very green this time of year and very rural. A lot of farms, small towns and lots and lots of small road kill. Who knew armadillos lived this far north? We’ve also seen a lot of turtles on the roads.

Sunday was a cloudy day; we awoke to rain and didn’t hang around the campsite long. We took a lot of small country back roads again and made our way to Branson, Missouri. We have a condo here for a week starting the 18th; time to spread out, clean out and install a fourth solar panel on our rig.

Branson is pretty much like the Dells in Wisconsin or Niagara Falls in Ontario; full of tourist traps with lots and lots of entertainment venues with musical acts like tributes and country or gospel shows. There is a theme park near our resort called Silver Dollar City as well. We don’t plan on partaking of much in town while here.

We did do a day trip to see parts of northwestern Arkansas and drive through the Ozark Mountains. The weather cooperated that day as it had rained the past couple of days on and off. It was not that warm (ten degrees lower than normal) but the sun shone through and it cleared up completely by midafternoon. The people here are very friendly and the countryside is beautiful.

We stopped at the Buffalo National River (who knew there was a “national river”? – not us!). It’s 122 miles long and has beautiful sections with bluffs and is a great canoeing river. Wish we had known and made the time. At the “Buffalo Canyon” viewpoint near the tiny town of Jasper; you can see for 30 miles. It was kind of like looking over the smoky mountains in Tennessee without the “smoke”. Being spring, everything is green, there are lots of wild flowers and the grass is long and a beautiful shade of green. The roads are winding and hilly and it was a lovely drive. We took a few back dirt roads and although we looked, never found a single backyard still! J The town of Jasper has some cute streets with a “museum of junk”. There are a huge number of “flea market” type enterprises in this area. As we are not shoppers, we didn’t leave any cash behind us on our walks.

As we were driving we noticed that “Dog Patch” was on our route. We looked for signs but saw nothing. After stopping at the scenic overlook of the valley we saw it was 14 miles back so we thought we’d back track and try and find it. Doug researched on his Wiki reader that it was actually a defunct theme park based on L’il Abner  and not a town (we knew ot rang a bell!) that was closed in the ‘90’s at the town of Marble Falls. Fran remembered seeing a church of Marble Falls so we went in search.

We saw no town sign saying Dog Patch but we did come across the ghost of a theme park. The large (formerly neon) sign was still on the roadside but missing the centre of it and the road was gated off. We parked Tigger and snuck around the gate to take a boo. As there were “private property” and “no trespassing” signs everywhere we didn’t venture too far in but we could see dilapidated buildings, an old water slide and the like.

We drove on to Eureka Springs which is a nicely preserved Victorian village. It’s really very touristy and we did drive through but were unable to find a free parking spot for Tigger so we didn’t go exploring here. Parking seemed at a premium and we cannot even imagine how packed this would be in the summer. We did notice a trolley sign so maybe that’s how the ferry people in when it’s busy, but from where, we never discovered.

We had hoped to visit Thorn Crown Chapel near this town. It is a church built entirely of glass but as we drove to the driveway we saw it was “closed” and found out from someone who was entering there was a wedding taking place and you could not go up the drive without an invitation. Dang!

Friday morning Doug went for an hour long run. He felt great and the dizzy spells on rising too quickly are almost gone.

That night we got tickets and went into town to a Creedance Clearwater Rival tribute show; we’d read it was one of the better shows. We got two for one discounted tickets. The venue is pretty small; holds 185 and so no bad seats. The performers were spot on and if you closed your eyes, you’d think you’d gone back in time. They played all their hits and entertained us with some history of the band. We quite enjoyed it.