Saturday, October 31, 2009

Abilene State Park-Texas

Its Halloween,so will post an appropriate picture,one I took of a yard in Branson. Yesterday we left Oklahoma City. The day before that city had a record breaking rainfall. John and I seem to be keeping up our record of being rainmakers. At the last rest stop in Oklahoma I saw prairie dogs. They have another name,cynomys,in Greek that means dog mouse. They made a lot of noise when I approached their colony,it sounded like many high pitched yips. They then ran into their burrows, just leaving their tails hanging out. Those tails were waving back and forth madly-must have been some kind of a warning system. Driving down here over the plains of Oklahoma and Texas we had a panoramic view of a lot of nothing. No,the flat landscape was dotted with either oil wells or cattle. And in between those sights were sagebrush and mesquite trees. Coming into Texas we did see fields of cotton. The soil is very red,as you may notice in the picture I took today at Abilene State Park. Abilene does have some high hills around it. There is one area in the park called Buffalo Gap,and a part of Abilene Lake is called Buffalo Waller. Buffalo did roam this area at one time,before man decided to remove the prairie grass and plant trees. We did have many sightings of deer in our hike through the park.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

National Cowboy Museum- October 29

This is an excellent museum located north of Oklahoma city. It sure whetted our appetite for our trip west! John Wayne was quite influential in getting it started. It was founded in 1955 and features paintings and sculptures by such artists as Frederick Remington,James Fraser,Charles Russell and Kenneth Hurley. It has entire rooms with displays of different kinds of barb wire,cattle brands,saddles,cowboy boots,guns and whatever else you can imagine having to do with the western United States. The museum also did not forget the cowgirl and the Native American. It also has a simulated rodeo arena and a 1900 cattle town. The area of the museum I enjoyed most was the Western Performers Gallery. This honors the performers in cinema who have contributed to the making and preservation of the stories and legends of the West. A lot of John Wayne's collection of memorabilia and artwork can be found here. I have posted here a picture of Remington's sculpture entitled "Coming Through the Rye", and a statute of Buffalo Bill Cody done by Leonard McMurry- this artwork is located in the gardens outside of the museum.

Oklahoma City- October 28

After we had seen the memorial site yesterday we walked toward the Myriad Botanical Gardens. I have posted here a picture of its Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. The gardens are quite beautiful;the beauty of the summer is gone,but autumn is making a splash here with her bright colors of yellows and reds. We had a strange experience in the city when we were looking for a place to buy lunch.First of all,the streets seemed fairly devoid of people,and secondly there were no fast food buildings. When I asked a person where to find food he mentioned one cafe in the Bank of America building,and added that there were spots down below. I did not pursue that last remark,but later a strange statue of a big bug on the sidewalk caught my eye-its wire antennae stretched out into the building next to it and down a set of stairs. A sign explaining the organism said that the purpose of its existence was to pique an interest in the underground. It was getting dark,but John and I decided that we could at least walk one more mile out of our way. We did find out that there is a series of tunnels and skywalks in the city which connect stores,hotels and restaurants. Two other pictures I have here are along the canal walk in Bricktown. One is only a small portion of a series of statues depicting the Oklahoma Land Run,and the other is entitled "Dancing Fountains".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum-Oct.27

We arrived here in Oklahoma City last evening. We thought that only a small portion of our day today would be at the memorial,not realizing that the museum associated with it is quite comprehensive in its scope of the events which happened on April 19,1995. It also covers the days,weeks and years following the bombing of the Alfred P.Murrah Federal Building- how the lives of the survivors and the victim's families where impacted by the bombing forever. I found it all quite sobering,and frightening to think that it all happened again in New York City in 2001. There is an exhibit in the museum on the basics of terrorism as it has impacted America from 1985 through 2001. As sad as I felt it to be,I found the museum to be quite excellent in how it covered very detail imaginable related to the bombing. It even explained how the bombers of the building were found and tried-one has since been executed and the other is serving a life sentence. The pictures which I have posted are of the reflecting pool and in the background are chairs representative of each one of the 168 victims,smaller chairs are for the 19 children killed. An old elm tree,located near the Murrah building survived,and an orchard of trees were planted leading up to it. They are representative of the rescuers rushing to the survivors-a redbud tree(state tree of Oklahoma)is located nearest to the "survivor tree". The elm is the tallest tree located in the background of the picture posted here. I have also here a picture of the statue of Christ which was placed at the site of the Catholic rectory(destroyed by the bombing). The title of that statue is "Jesus Wept".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

College of the Ozarks- October 26

Yesterday,Sunday,we attended the Williams Memorial Chapel on this campus. I have posted here a picture of the entrance to the campus-the sign on a pole there reads:"hard work university". That is because the students work for their tuition while learning particular skills. On the campus there is a lodge and restaurant,as well as a farm,gardens and a mill. In that same picture you may note the steeple of a church in the background. It was a joy to worship there and to almost totally be surrounded by young people. The college,which is Presbyterian,seems to have a big emphasis on the religious life of its students. For the service a senior played the organ and the chapel choir sang an anthem. All money collected in the worship services are used to make it possible for the students to do service projects around the world. The campus is very scenic as it has views overlooking the Ozark hills and Lake Taneycomo. We attended a Yakov Smirnoff show in the afternoon. He has a good comedy routine,yet in the course of the show he touched on a couple serious subjects. Two years ago he received his masters in psychology so there seemed to be a lot of wisdom in his discussion on the importance of love and laughter in relationships. The other serious topic he spoke on was on the value of caring for each other. When he and his parents arrived here thirty years ago as Russian immigrants they were given assistance with housing and food from many kind neighbors,and that was something which he has never forgotten. Smirnoff is also a talented artist,has acted in several movies and was a speech writer for President Reagan. Quite a gifted person.

Branson Shows- October 25

The first show we saw yesterday was the Twelve Irish Tenors. We soon discovered that there are more than twelve tenors-some of them do the touring and others stay here in town to perform. Some are from Ireland and have the delightful Irish accent,but a fair number of the men are from the states. They sang a variety of songs from opera to pop. One of the young men we could envision as a future Pavarotti. When we talk to him after the show Jonathan did say his focus of interest is opera. I have posted a picture of the Tenors here. In the evening we saw the Shanghai Circus. Before the show,on a wide screen television, we were treated to a tour of the city of Shanghai. China was touted as a very modernistic,global up and coming country. The performance was awesome,especially the contortionists and acrobats. With out a doubt,one had to be young and physically flexible to accomplish those feats. In the afternoon John and I toured the countryside of Branson-we just could not ignore the warm sunny day! Unfortunately many of the wonderful Ozark mountains vistas which we remembered seeing in the past are now blocked by high rise resorts,condominiums,and show palaces. That is the price of progress.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Day in Branson- October 24

We got a little sprinkling of rain yesterday,but mainly the weather was cloudy and cool. John and I have been to Branson several times in the past,so this time we decided to skip Silver Dollar City and concentrate more on seeing the shows. Already on Thursday we had a chance to take in country,western and bluegrass music here in the activity building of the campground. The Countrymen played for that concert. Yesterday morning we made the rounds of several music halls in Branson to purchase tickets. When John went in to purchase tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi show,he was encouraged to check out the men's bathroom. He did as directed and found the bathroom to be quite opulent,complete with a fireplace and pool table. That afternoon,when we came to the concert,I was more excited about seeing the women's bathroom than the show! I will post several pictures of that room here. It was very beautiful,to say the least. After I used the facilities there was a lady waiting to squirt hand lotion in my hands and to present me with a chocolate mint. All a new experience for me! Tabuchi did have a great show. I always wondered how such a fine violin player could end up in Branson. But Tabuchi came from Japan to Nashville,heard the Smokey Mountain Boys,and decided that the country western music was what he liked. For the show he did a wide variety of music,besides country western;as Broadway hits,classical and rock. He also did a bit of singing.There were quite a number of talented singers and dancers who performed with him,and I had to give them credit for even doing some Polynesian singing and dancing. Those numbers made me feel like I was back in Hawaii! In the evening we saw the Presley Show. This family claims they were one of the first music shows on the Branson strip. It is amazing that they have been going strong with their music and comedy routine for forty years. Most of the family is still performing today.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Branson Missouri- October 23

Yikes-I thought that going south would give us warmer weather. It is now 41 degrees here in Branson. Well,after getting to the freezing point tonight,we may get up to the low 60s tomorrow. We had a wet drive down here yesterday. And yet the fall colors along highway 44 from St.Louis were absolutely stunning-bright yellow and orange leaved trees dotted the rolling hillsides. We had a surprise at a rest area coming down here. The picnic shelters had advertising on them- note the pictures here. Signs of the times,I guess. Actually, once I mulled over this travesty on our green space,I thought it was a rather innovative idea. If that approach keeps our rest areas open, then it is not a bad idea at all. At lunchtime the rest area we were going to take was closed because of construction. That necessitated us to stop on the side of the highway for lunch. It is a bit disconcerting to eat our lunch with huge semis whizzing past us and rocking our rig! But with our large vehicle we can't just pull off an exit and stop at a local burger joint. We had another surprise once we pulled into our campground. Turkey Creek,which is located in the back of this area,is flooded. I posted a picture of that creek here. Fortunately we are parked on high ground. And despite everything,I will always love this area. The Ozark Mountains have always been a place of peace and beauty for me- and even more so now when they are dressed in the colors of autumn!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Frontier Park- October 22

During the past two days we have been either walking or biking the Katy Trail,which is located behind our campground in St.Charles. One picture I have posted here is of the trail,with highway 70 located above it. It is the peak of the fall colors now here in Missouri,but as there as been no hard frost,we are still seeing the beauty of the summer flowers. I have also posted here a picture of a garden located in Frontier park,which runs along the Katy Trail. In addition I have posted a statue of Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark stopped here on their voyage up the Missouri river on May 16,1804. It was their last "civilized" stop on their way west. St.Charles at that time was called Les Petites Cotes(translated in English this means "the little hills"}. As you may guess,this area was mainly settled then by Frenchmen and native American Indians. They came to this land in 1760-the village was officially founded in 1787. Clark wrote that when they visited Les Petites Cotes the inhabitants numbered about 450 and he found them "to live in a state of perfect harmony among each other..they were polite,hospitable and by no means deficient in point of natural genius". What an interesting way to describe the first citizens of this area! This little village became the capital of Missouri in 1821,until 1826-by then it was known as the city of St.Charles.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

City Garden- October 18

The city of St.Louis is finally getting some sparkle to its downtown. In our touring around John and I have found cities with downtown areas which are pleasant to visit. By that I mean city centers with shops,restaurants,gardens and museums all within an easy stroll of each other.These city centers are always bustling with people;its own citizens as well as tourists. The streets of downtown St.Louis have for many years been very bleak-looking and devoid of people(except for the Arch and the grounds surrounding it). This year St.Louis built the City Garden,which is in the heart of its downtown. Once we heard of its existence we had to see it. The park is described as "an urban oasis featuring modern and contemporary sculptures,lush landscape, reflecting pools,a cafe and a playful spray plaza". I have posted here some pictures which I took while there. Looking east from the garden is a wonderful view of the Arch and courthouse. We enjoyed viewing the sculptures;I have posted a couple of them here. The one of the rabbits is an attempt of the artist(Tom Classen)to bring sculptures down to earth,so they have been placed directly on the ground. The other sculpture has the title "Eros Bound". With this sculpture the artist Igor Mitoraj used as his inspiration the ancient relics of Greek and Roman mythology. Eros is the Greek god of love and desire. The bandages which cover his eyes and mouth suggest that desires and ideas have been imprisoned- the bandages also symbolize two opposing views of the world;either civilization is broken beyond repair or that it is being held together despite destructive forces. No,I am not all that erudite to figure that out on my own,there is a container of brochures in the park which explains the art work of the garden. Anyway,if you live near the St.Louis area,come on downtown and check this jewel out. What also thrilled me about this park was that there were quite a few folk strolling through it,despite the chilly weather.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tiemann Shut-Ins- October 14

John felt that I did not post the best pictures of the shut-ins at Millstream Gardens,so I have located the ones which probably are better representative of the area. We are quite uncomfortable right now because of some very cold weather here in St.Charles. Day time temperatures are usually in the high forty degree range. It is a bit unusual for this time of the year here in Missouri. Cloudy and sometimes wet weather also has not make it any better! We have had to extend our time here because our dental office messed up our appointments and we had to reschedule. Our plans are now to leave here the 22nd of October. A positive note to this whole snafu is that we get to see more of family and friends! We are looking forward to this week-end which so far promises to be sunny and warm.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Millstream Gardens Conservation Area- October

This is the area we hiked in on Sunday. The St.Francois River flows through this conservation area to create the only whitewater in Missouri. The river is also notorious for large rocky formations, called the Tiemann Shut-Ins. I must say that I thought that there was only one such area of shut-ins in Missouri, which are the Johnson's Shut-Ins. This area is located eight miles west of Fredericktown, on highway 72. We had a beautiful cool sunny day in which to hike, so the woodland trail along the river was very enjoyable. There are still a few wildflowers around, as the white fireweed, yellow goldenrod and purple aster. Unfortunately this area also sustained some wind damage last spring. We saw many trees which were toppled by the storm and I am not talking small trees. There were quite a few tall massive trees on the ground which were pulled out by their roots!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Farmington Missouri- October 12

Thought I would let our readers know what we have been up to while sitting here in St.Charles. We spent the past week-end in Farmington-to visit John's sister Carolyn and brother-in-law Jim. Jim is the organist at St.Paul's Lutheran church,and it was great hearing him play again at the service there yesterday. Our drive to Farmington on Thursday was very enjoyable what with the colors of fall starting to appear on the trees. We took highway twenty-one which winds around a fairly hilly country-side. We felt bad missing the colors of autumn out east,but this drive south of St.Louis somewhat made up for that. By the way,the St.Francois Mountains are located around Farmington,and are the beginnings of the Ozark Mountains. Actually,they are just big hills,but I have always enjoyed going to Farmington because of the scenery which surrounds the town. I have a picture of some of those hills posted here. Last May when we visited in this area there was a bad storm with strong winds which mostly did damage around the Fredericktown area. We took a drive around that area Friday afternoon. I was surprised to see the large numbers of trees felled by that storm-I have a picture of that here. In Fredericktown we saw several buildings which had been damaged by that storm also.

Friday, October 2, 2009

St.Louis- October 2

We arrived in St.Louis Wednesday evening. As this is our home base,our time here will be spent with doctor's appointments and visiting friends and family. Also both our little Fit and motor home need to go into the shop for some repairs. We are now dealing with some rather cool weather,and may yet have to break down and get out some winter clothes! KC our cat surprised us today. I have been feeling very sorry for him lately because it seems he is getting so old and frail. Brushing him is not very pleasant as I can feel his bones under the brush. But after I had brushed him today he jumped from my lap to the kitchen counter-a distance of at least two feet! And I thought he had arthritis.I think cats have more than nine lives! The pictures I have posted here are humorous signs which we have seen in our travels. One we found in front of the old willow oak at Shirley Plantation,the other is located at Chimney Rock State Park,on a terrace above the parking lot.