Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 30, 2009 Lincoln and Omaha, NE

Today was a "take care of business" day. We went shopping in Lincoln, NE and downtown was a street vendor. Haven't seen one of them for years in Detroit. We took a cue from our MOC friends, Steve and Vicki, and took or sandwich lunch to alongside the road, near a farm. Some goats were having their salad next to us. In Greenwood, NE, we took the advice of our MOC friends that we met last night, Ron and Mary, and discovered Baker's Candies. This is a chocolate factory that sends their treats worldwide. They have a store in front of their factory and, of course, we had to buy some sugar free chocolate. Oh my gosh - it is delicious. Even better than the Russell Stover candy factory we went to in Florida. When we came home, we decided that we could take a quick driving tour of Omaha so off we went. First stop was Boys' Town. It sure looks different than it did in the movie. Father Flannigan's dream had really evolved into a huge venture. We also found that President Gerald Ford was born in Omaha. We went by the location that he was in when born. Nearby in Old Omaha were some huge homes that are called castles, because that is how big they are. We then went to the east side of Omaha which is the Missouri River. Across the river is Council Bluff, IA. Along the river is a sculpture entitled "Labor", which commemorates the people who build Omaha. Behind the sculpture is the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, the only pedestrian bridge to link two states. The bridge is about 3000 feet long and in the center is about 60 feet above the Missouri River. This was supposed to be a slow, catch-up day and became long but very interesting.

April 29, 2009 St Joseph, MO to Greenwood, NE

We woke up in St. Joseph and it was raining, foggy and misty - all at the same time. We had run out of coffee. Seemed like as good a time as any to break camp and leave for our next destination. At various times we could either see for a half mile or so or a couple of hundred feet. We pulled into the Pine Grove RV Park in Greenwood, NE and the rain was slowing down. Soon after setting up we had a new experience. We were to meet some MOC friends in a restaurant located in a lodge in a Nebraska State Park for dinner. Coming from Michigan, we had never heard of a restaurant in a state park, let alone a nice ledge/hotel. Were we ever pleasantly surprised. The park is beautiful and very well maintained. The lodge and restaurant look over the Platte River, the route that the Mormons and settlers took to the west. We met with the Kelpe's and Lichtenberg's and enjoyed a great evening in their company. The view over the river and surrounding area is wonderful. A deer even slowly ate its way by our vista, not even concerned that a group of people in the restaurant was watching. We were given many suggestions of places to go and things to do by these Omaha residents - so many that we will have to do many of them in future visits. Like Steve has said, when they travel and see a site, that seems to open the door to many more to see and do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009 St. Joseph, MO Jesse James et al

Carol's day started with an 8:50AM dentist appointment to repair the tooth that she broke last week. The good that came out of this was that her tooth is fine and she really liked the dentist. We didn't leave Independence until noon or so but that was fine because the trip was only an hour and a half. We are set up at Beacon RV Park in St. Joseph, MO. We will leave here in the morning for Greenwood, NE, just outside of Omaha. St. Joseph is a beautiful, hilly, historic town on the Missouri River. Many of the homes and buildings predate the Civil War. Sprinkled liberally around the central area of the town, nestled into the neighborhoods and hills, are a large number of churches. We saw the original offices and stables of the eastern end of the Pony Express. All of the Pony Express went west from here. The Patee House was constructed in 1858 to be a luxury hotel. During the Civil War, the hotel was used to store the offices of the original owners and operators of the Pony Express and the Provost Marshall of the Union Army. Both Union and Confederate Militia camped around the hotel during the war. Jesse James' house has been moved to the rear of the Patee House. This is the house that Jesse lived in with his wife for a short time and was killed in by fellow gang member, Bob Ford. Jesse had enlisted Ford's help to rob a bank in Platte City, MO so that he could purchase this house. Ford shot him instead to collect the reward and was arrested and tried for murder of Jesse instead of collecting the reward. We travel to Greenwood, NE tomorrow, just west of Omaha, NE. We are meeting two other MOC couples there for dinner and ideas of where to go and what to see in Omaha and during our travels west from there.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27, 2009 Kansas City, MO

This day was rainy and cold and followed days of sun and temps in the lower 80s. Yesterday, the rains began in earnest with high winds and loud thunderboomers. There were tornado warnings and watches and a touchdown in nearby Kansas. Steve and Vicki Reigle, our friends from the MOC, showed us a photograph taken of the Kansas City Library that was most unusual. They asked if we wished to see it and so we went the few miles into neighboring Kansas City today and, through the rain and mist, we saw a beautiful city. The trees are now very green, in addition to the colored trees that we have reported on before. The library frontage covers an entire block and, except for the door, the walls are all reproductions of major tomes. We saw a former church that is being remade into a restaurant. In the front is a "bottle tree." This is a rack containing multiple bottles representing leaves that look like wine bottles. There is wall art throughout the downtown area. The Missouri River flows through town and is swollen and full of flotsam and jetsam from the torrential rains and melting snows. Sculpture and fountains also dot the street scene throughout the area, too. Our friends who became very generous hosts are pictured in the renovated Union Station, a train station that was constructed in 1914 and now also includes restaurants and shops. Kansas City Jazz, which was the start of much of today's jazz, is still being blown in the 18Th and Vine area. This is an old part of this storied city on the Missouri that is still going strong. Tomorrow we go to St. Joseph where we will learn about Jesse James and the Pony Express and who knows what else. We are thinking about adding some of Montana to our trip, around the area of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 25, 2009 Independence, MO Truman Library

The Truman Library was a real learning experience. Harry Truman was one of my boyhood heros. "Give 'em Hell Harry" was one who had strong personal convictions and seemed to stay true to them. The Library was called by the Dallas newspaper "The best of the presidential libraries." Inside, there are several theaters, each showing different portions of President Truman's life from his youth to his death. He was a strong willed man who did not stop until he either accomplished his mission or was convinced that he was wrong. "The buck stops here" and "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" came from this man and he lived his words. He became president when World War II was raging and ended it with his decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. Monday morning quarterbacks still argue whether or not this should have been done but he saved the lives of countless Americans by this performing this act. During the 1948 election, President Truman covered the United States from a train in what was called the Whistle stop Campaign. During this time, he received the keys to many cities, including Flint, MI. I remember taking me to see him at a train station in Michigan during this campaign. Also shown is a reproduction of The Oval Office when he was president. Documents, letters, photographs, audio tapes are present from his handling of WW II, The Cold War, The Korean War, The firing of General Douglas MacArthur, The Berlin Airlift, the economic depression that followed WW II, and the entire chaotic time from 1944 to 1952.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 24, 2009 Independence, MO Battle of Independence

Years ago, we got interested in researching and attending Civil War battle sites. We discover what occurred during the battle and then attend the sites to try to get a feel of what the combatants were seeing, doing and maybe thinking. One of the earliest urban battles of this war was the Battle of Independence and one of the last battles was the Battle of the Little Blue (river). The Little Blue was a small river east of Independence that was under the control of the Union forces. The Confederacy wanted to raid this area to take the heat off of the Eastern Front and ended up being defeated. This was a great step toward ending the war the next year. A concrete base is all that is left of a covered bridge over the Little Blue. A private home was being used by the Union Army as a field hospital. When it was attacked by the Confederates, the upstairs was an operating area and damage to the brick walls from minnie and cannon balls are still observable. We then returned to Independence and saw some trees blooming beautifully. It seems like the buds are sprouting almost instantly. We left town for a couple of hours and seemed to find some of these beauties that may or may not have been there when we left. Note the "two toned" tree - white and pink. SPRING IS HERE!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 23, 2009 Columbia, MO to Independence, MO

This was a travel day but, gratefully, it was a short trip. On the way, we stopped at a Montana Dealership in Grain Valley, MO for some repairs on our awning. Nothing major but, when hauling our home behind us, something minor can explode quite quickly. We are very fortunate to have a great network of friends that can recommend people and places for us. This also came into the front this week when Carol needed a dentist and one has been recommended in Independence. She sees him Tuesday morning to have a look-see at a broken tooth. We are now at Campus RV Park in downtown Independence, within walking distance to the Truman home, etc and downtown. We are camped five sites down from MOC friends, Steve and Vicki Reigle, with whom we went to dinner and a quick tour of the outsides of Independence/Truman sites. There is a NASCAR race near here this weekend and the RV park is getting some of the race crowd. A fellow camper in Columbia gave us his cell number and said that if we wanted tickets to this weeks races to give him a call. Who knows? This temple is right next to our campground. It is the Community of Christ Temple, a similar religion to the Church of Latter Day Saints. It's architecture, as you see, is amazing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22, 2009 Booneville, MO Clydesdale babies and Mighty Mo!

Another thrilling, beautiful day. The Clydesdales are probably Carol's favorite animal and we hoped to see the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales when we were in St. Louis. They are kept at the Grant Farm and we discovered Sunday evening that they are open in this season on Saturday and Sunday only. That means we missed them. There happened to be a front page story in the Sunday St. Louis Post-Dispatch describing a baby Clydesdale being born on their farm in Booneville, MO. This is a birthing farm that is not open to the public. Today we went to Booneville and located an area where we could actually see the Clydesdales, mammas and babies. They are so huge and powerful and their "wee" babies are still big. We saw a little one running after its mother calling "Mom, wait for me!" The baby caught up with mom and began following her everywhere. I told a joke to another baby Clydesdale and it hid its head in its mother and told me that I made it blush. Don't believe it, though. I would never do that. We went another couple of miles and found the Mighty Missouri River flowing greatly along a Federal Wildlife area. This is the river that Lewis and Clarke traveled upstream from its merger with the Mississippi just north of St. Louis to the Pacific. They fought the current, high rocky bluffs, the formidible Rockies and weather throughout the trek. Imagine a group of men pulling large, heavy boats AGAINST the current for so many miles while also meeting indians that either were or were not hostile - they never know what they were going to meet. We feel so very fortunate to be able to be seeing so much of our wonderful country. All our lives, we rushed and hurried to get somewhere to get something done so that we could get somewhere else to do something else. Retirement lets us stop and, believe me, the roses smell beautiful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 21, 2009 E. St Louis, IL to Columbia, MO

Today was a travel day from East St. Louis, IL to Columbia, MO, just a short 125 mile jaunt along I-70. The wind never stopped when we were in St. Louis and seems to have picked up even stronger here in Columbia. Our Weather Bug says it is blowing steady at 25 MPH with gusts up to 40 MPH. We truly are Rockin' and Rollin' without the music. It seems like Missouri is trying to blow us out of their state. We have news for it, though. We have too much to see and do before leaving next week some time. Carol broke a tooth last night and we are hoping to make it to Independence/Kansas City before seeing a dentist, hopefully with a recommendation from friends. We are set up at Cottonwoods RV Park, in Columbia. This is a clean, nice park and the Park Manager met us and checked us in. She was really nice and helpful. We have had great luck with campgrounds on this trip. The people at the Casino Queen campground that we just left couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. Tomorrow we go to Booneville, MO to try to find the mating farm where Anheiser-Busch sends its Clydesdales for breeding. This Central Time Zone is difficult for us to get used to. It doesn't seem like one hour would make that much of a difference but it seems to. One more change will come when we get into the Mountain Time Zone in a couple of weeks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 20, 2009 St. Louis, MO Gateway Arch

We went to the Gateway Arch today and rode the tram up to the very top, 630 feet over St. Louis. Before crossing the Mississippi to the Arch, we took photographs across the river from behind the Casino Queen Hotel and Campground. Very impressive - the massive Gateway Arch and the Mighty Mississippi in one shot. The intellect of man and the power of God all in depicted in one shot. The view from the top is awesome. Busch Stadium and all of St. Louis and East St.Louis below. We had taken photos of the Arch from our Montana and today we took photos of our Montana from the top of the Arch. My favorite shot is one showing the Arch through the leafless trees, the green grass and a still pond. The clouds in the sunset was a perfect way to say "Good night" to St. Louis. For scientific purposes only, of course, we had to go to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand one more time to see if it was as popular on a cold clear evening as it was last night on a cold, windy and rainy evening. It was! (and, by the way, it was just as delicious) Tomorrow we travel to Columbia, MO for two nights. From there, we will go to Boonseville,MO where the Budweiser Clydesdale horses are sent to breed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 18, 19, 2009 Mulberry Grove, IL to E. St Louis, IL

April 18 was a rainy but warm day - in the low 70s. We set out to go to, what was described as, an Agricultural Flea Market. In the heavy rain, we lost track of where we were heading and ended up at a Walmart instead. Today it was raining and we slept in and moved to The Casino Queen Campground in East Saint Louis, IL. This is right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO and the Gateway Arch. When we arrived, the rain and fog were so thick that we could not see the arch across the river. A while after setting up the Montana, the rain and fog slowed down enough for our first look at the Arch. We napped for a while and then drove across the Mississippi into St. Louis and found Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand. My sister had told us that we HAD to go there so, rain or no, we went. WOW!!! What a place. This is like a Dairy Queen on steroids. There is a small parking lot on one side and a huge one on the other. The night was cold and rainy and the lots were mostly full and people coming and going for the fifteen minutes or so that we were there. Judy, it was great but now we have to have QUITE a few less carbs for the next while. Tomorrow we are going to take a tram to the top of the Arch and generally sight-see in St. Louis.

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 16 and 17, 2009 Anderson, IN to Mulberry Grove, IL

We spent yesterday loafing and lallygagging. We were discussing the fact that we feel so tired. We came to the conclusion that we had been planning (plotting?) this trip for so long that, once it arrived, we were exhausted. The campground that we were located in was very nice - green and lots of birds. There were two Shetland ponies lazing our our rear window. It was great to walk and listen and smell the area - fresh, springlike and green. We even saw Daffodils and Tulips in peoples' yards. There was the smell of freshly cut grass throughout the area, too. Today we traveled from Anderson, IN to Mulberry, IL. This is just off I-70 and about 50 miles from St. Louis. We had dinner in Vandella, IL tonight and will return tomorrow as this was the first state capital of Illinois - maybe back in Lincoln's time. The last two days have been sunny and warm. Hopefully this will last a while but it is springtime and there is a blizzard working its way this way from Denver. We leave here Sunday and are probably going to stay in the Casino campground in East St. Louis, IL. This is reportedly a nice park right on the Mississippi River, right across the river from the St. Louis Arch. That should be a great night-time shot with our trusty digital camera. If so, we will post it. We are probably staying in the St Louis area for a couple of days or so and then slowly making our way westward to Kansas City, where we will meet up with some MOC friends. It may take us a week to travel the 250 miles between St. Louis and KC. We were on the road for five hours today and don't want to do that any more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15, 2009 On the Road in Anderson, IN

We FINALLY got moving. It was raining with a cold breeze as we left, cleared up and, as we approached the Indiana border the clouds followed by the rain returned. But, you know what? It's fine because we are in our Montana and "On the road again." We are at the Timberline Campground in Anderson, IN. It was raining lightly when we arrived but we set up and, since this was the first trip of the season, had to see if the new surge protector worked before plugging Monty into the power box. Then the RV antifreeze had to be cleaned from the water pipes before using. The hot water heater is emptied before the antifreeze is added so had to be reconnected to the water lines before being turned on. I've done this many times with various RVs throughout the years but seemed to forget EVERYTHING as this process was being accomplished. Even forgot to turn the TV antenna booster on and so wondered why the reception was so poor even though we are just outside of Indianapolis. Getting older is very nice but is sure is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Neither of us wanted to do anything after finally getting it mostly set up so will stay in and hope to stay awake long enough to see the results show on American Idol. We are going to stay here probably two nights so that we are not rushed and then on to the St. Louis area. My sister told us of a great ice cream parlor in St. Louis that, of course, we just must try. Gotta go up in The Arch, too. So much to do - so little time!