Thursday, May 29, 2014

Visiting our Favorites in St. Louis

It has been awhile since our last posting.  As you may have guessed, we are still in St.Louis.  It has been hot and muggy here- we keep wondering why we are still here and have not headed north to cooler temperatures.  That will happen eventually, for right now we still have doctor visits and friends to see in the St.Louis area.  Our little grandson has also proven to a big reason for sticking around the area.
Nathan is pictured above with his mother Melissa.  At 3 months of age he does a lot of laughing, cooing and is absolutely charmed by ceiling fans, they do not even have to be moving!  We saw him and his parents Sunday in Farmington at a graduation party.
 A favorite park of our is Castlewood State Park in Ballwin Missouri.  We hiked the Lone Wolf Trail along the Meramec River, a trail we have taken many times which goes up over river bluffs and then down along the river.  The trail has steep slopes composed of loose rock, and we found it wise not to get too close to the edge of the bluffs, some of which may suddenly plunge dramatically downward.  Despite it being early afternoon and rather humid there were quite a few other hikers also on the trail.
We just were not ready to head home after our hike and listen to the air conditioning roar in our metal box.  We chose instead to head downtown to take in a game.  It was our first visit to Ballpark Village.  The largest venue in the Village is Cardinal Nation, a two story restaurant and bar which also houses the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum and Cardinals retail store.  On its roof top deck is seating which offers a view of the ballpark.   The Ballpark Village seems to add another interesting dimension to the whole experience of watching a Cardinal game.  Many fans wearing red were hanging out here and ready to party two hours before the game.  Our home team played the Yankees last night, it was a game which had a lot of action, but unfortunately the Cardinals lost.
Today, Thursday, we biked around Creve Coeur Lake, another favorite St.Louis spot of ours.  The bike path takes us close to the waterfalls pictured above.  According to legend, the lake is named for a tragedy which happened at this site, called  Dripping Springs.  Here a lovelorn Indian maiden died, and it was her broken heart which gave the lake its sad name of "Creve Coeur".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hannibal to Omaha

The above picture gives you a good perspective of the countryside in northern Missouri along the Mississippi River.  Before arriving at Hannibal we drove through the Missouri river towns of  Elsberry, Clarksville, and Louisiana along Highway 79.  I will grant you that traveling on two lane highways is a slow way to go, but John and I are discovering that the interstates have very little to offer in the way of scenery.  On highway 75 we drove through rolling hills of pastureland and woods.  Along some sections of the highway there are also high river bluffs.  The tiny town of Clarksville is dotted with historic Victorian style homes.  Clarksville is where eagles come to feed along the river during the winter months, we have visited the town during its festival of Eagle Days.
In my last posting I wrote about Hannibal, however there is more to do there other than touring the Mark Twain museums.  After our tour of  them we did took some time to step into a few of the antique shops which are located in the historic area.   We found Mrs.Clemmons Antique Store to be especially interesting with its life-size mannequins.  Who would not like to have Elvis Presley or Harry Potter in their home?
We were in Omaha primarily to attend our nephew's graduation.  However, before the ceremony we walked around in the downtown area and had our lunch at the Table Grace Cafe.
We had a delicious lunch of soup, salad, pizza and cinnamon rolls.  Estimated cost for the lunch was $3.98, but one can pay what they want, or nothing at all.  A restaurant like that is certainly needed in many communities of our country, the cafe certainly had many customers when we visited there.  I promised the manager, pictured in the foreground of the picture above, that I would get the word out about Table Grace.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hannibal, Missouri

We are still located in St.Peters,Missouri.  Last week we made a trip to Omaha to attend the college graduation of our nephew Michael from Creighton University.  It had been at least twenty years or so since we spent any time in Hannibal, so we decided to take an extra day to see the town again. 
Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens), America's best-loved author spent thirteen years of his childhood in this town.  He was born in 1935 and once made the comment that at that time "Missouri was an unknown new state and needed attractions".  He certainly has been an attraction for Hannibal for many years!  Pictured above is Cardiff Hill, the setting for many of his stories, including Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Sam Clemens returned to this town at least seven times after he left it, the last time was in 1902.   On those visits he usually visited Laura Hawkins, the girl known as Becky Thatcher in Mark Twain's books.  Laura Hawkins moved back to the town in 1875.  Her childhood home is pictured below.
That home is currently being restored so we could not tour it.  We were able to visit the homes of Sam Clemens, as well as that of his friend Tom Blankenship (aka Huckleberry Finn, a character in Mark Twain's book).  We could also step into the law office of John Clemens, the father of Samuel.
Growing up in Hannibal certainly provided Mark Twain with plenty to write about in his book.  In the above building he spent a night hiding out when he had played hookey from school.  It so happened that a corpse was lying on the floor of his Dad's office that same night.  A man had recently been stabbed and the town officials were temporarily holding him for the night in that building.  As a child Sam also saw a slave murdered by his white overseer, and another time a shooting took place right outside of his home. 
In Hannibal is located a Museum Interpretive Center where we learned many more interesting facts regarding Clemen's life as a boy in the town, as well as his life as a steamboat pilot, gold miner, and newspaper writer.
In the Mark Twain Museum Gallery are many wonderful displays pertaining to the books Twain wrote, as well as 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings of Tom and Huck.  After touring that museum I wandered to a back room where a man (Jim Waddell),  impersonating Mark Twain, was doing a monologue on Twain's recollections on his brief stint as a soldier during the Civil War.  We spent way more time than we had planned to in Hannibal, but it was certainly time well spent!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Missouri Botanical Garden-Part 2

As I had mentioned in my last posting, there are many different plants, shrubs and trees blooming presently in the garden, one of which is the fringe tree, a native of eastern United States. 
The park does have an azalea-rhododendron garden but we saw blooming azaleas in other sections of the garden, one of which is the Japanese Garden.  In the above picture is an azalea bush along with a couple of Japanese maple trees.   This part of the garden was dedicated in 1977.  It has waterfalls, beaches and plantings designed with a theme of "garden of pure clear harmony and peace".  Spring is certainly a wonderful time to walk through this area of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Something to look for when visiting the garden is Dale Chilhuly Glass sculptures, as well as other artwork, which can be seen in all areas of the park.  They certainly add to the beauty of the various gardens within the park.  The sculpture "Sole Provider" (artist Joe Mutasa) is located in the azalea garden.  It was a gift from the artists of Zimbabwe and Chapunga Sculpture Park "in memory of those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001". 
 I hope that the pictures in this posting, and the previous one, proves to you our readers the truth of my comment that I made when I noted that this is the best time of the year to visit the Missouri Botanical Garden!   Its beauty is quite awesome and I am glad I had my camera with me.

Springtime at Missouri Botanical Garden

This garden has been the subject of at least a couple of other postings which I have written in the past several years.  We visited the garden again yesterday and I must say that this is the best time of the year to view the garden.  Many different wonderful flowers are presently blooming- some are at the end of that time and others just at their peak of beauty.  I was surprised to see that there are amaryllis still in bloom.
The Linnean House was our first stop, where I took the above picture.  The building was built in 1882 and is the oldest continuously operated public greenhouse west of the Mississippi.  The building was originally designed as an orangery to over winter citrus trees and other plant specimens.   As an aside here, and for those of you not familiar with the garden, it was built in 1859 by Henry Shaw a 19th century businessman who lived in St.Louis most of his life.  Not only is the garden's greenhouse  the oldest in the nation, but that can be said also for the Missouri Botanical Garden- that it is the oldest in continuous operation.
I think that the biggest attraction right now in the garden is the Iris patch.  An interpretive sign in the vicinity noted that the "Fleur-de-lis" is a term and symbol associated with a hybrid German iris.  According to legend the flower helped save the French army in the sixth century from a hostile army that had cornered them in a bend of the Rhine River.  The French king spotted a potential ford in the river by the presence of an iris in the water.  He deduced that it indicated a shallow area where it was possible for his army to cross and escape from the enemy.  The grateful king then choose the flower as a symbol for the royal family of France.
A wonderful floral smell was in the air as we approached the flowering bush pictured above.  I mistakenly identified it as a lilac bush.  It is instead a beauty bush from China, a member of the honeysuckle family.
Some of the charm of this garden can be found in its buildings which Henry Shaw constructed.  Pictured above is the neoclassic structure which is one of only five of  the original buildings left on the grounds.  It was constructed between 1859 and 1860.  The building serves as a natural history museum, a library, as well as a herbarium.  A sign in front of the building states that it (the building) "was a visible reminder to all visitors that this Garden is not just a pretty park, but also a scientific institution".
I just could not cover everything we saw in the Garden in one posting- so I will continue this later.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Burden Falls Wilderness

In our travels covering Southern Illinois I have often written of places we have seen within the Shawnee National Forest.  More than 280,000 acres of that forest lie in rough unglaciated areas of southern Illinois known as the Ozark and Shawnee hills.  John and I decided that there was still a lot of the Shawnee Forest we needed to see yet, which prompted us to take another road trip over the roads of southern Illinois yesterday.   And again we found the scenery quite spectacular with rolling hills, meadows and forests dotted with blooming dogwood and red bud trees.  Flowering azaleas, iris, and wisteria are also contributing now to the springtime beauty.  At Bell Smith Springs we saw a fairly large patch of wild flowers.
Shawnee National Forest has seven wilderness areas designated by Congress in 1990.  Yesterday we were in the Burden Falls Wilderness- Bell Smith Springs is located within that area.  We could not do any hiking whatsoever around the springs because of high water which even covered the foot paths.  At Burden Falls, however, we could do a some walking around the falls, but the paths were quite muddy.
Burden Falls is an impressive series of falls with a total drop of 100 feet.  Our last stop of the
day was at Millstone Bluff Trail.  John is pictured below standing in front of the bluff with his grandson Nathan.  The baby has been a good traveler this past week, as long as we keep the car moving!
The bluff use to be the site of an old quarry from which early settlers retrieved sandstone to make millstones.  However, the more important story at the top of the bluff is the presence of a settlement of prehistoric Native Americans 1,500 years ago.   Archeologists have found here what remains of a stone wall, community cemetery, rock carvings and village dwellings.  We hiked up the bluff to view those sites.  Pictured below are the rock formations on which we could barely discern the petroglyphs.  Wind and rain have eroded much of the carvings of the Mississippian people who once lived here.  Looters have removed many of their artifacts.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Marion, Illinois

In my last posting I stated that I would not write anymore on Southern Illinois.  However, we have done more touring of the area in the past couple of days, so I have found additional items which I want to pass on to you our readers.  Marion is the town where our rig is parked .  Our first trip into Marion brought us to the town square, which is dominated by a clock tower.
Williamson County Courthouse once stood where the tower is located, and the square use to be called the Courthouse Square.  The courthouse went into disrepair and was demolished.  The tower was designed as  a memorial to the courthouse, and the square is now dubbed the the Tower Square Plaza.  As we walked around the square we noticed a statue of the current mayor, Robert Butler.  He has been in office since 1963 and is the longest serving mayor in Illinois.  The success of this small town can be seen in some of the newer buildings which surround the square, one of which is the Marion Cultural and Civic center.  It is a state-of-the art facility built in 2004. The charm of this town is in the fact that it also has preserved some of its older buildings, some of which we saw in a driving tour of the older section of town.
Yesterday we returned to downtown Marion where the Williamson County Historical Society Museum is located.  The large brick building in which the museum is housed was constructed in 1913.  It use to serve as the county jail until 1972.  The jail also served as the sheriff's residence, sixteen sheriffs and
their families lived here.  The front portion in which they lived was considered to be an elegant home of the late nineteenth century.  Pictured below is the living room which features a crimson loveseat circa 1850 and a red satin lamp in the "Gone With the Wind" style.
We had a tour guide for the house and jail.  He had a lot of interesting history to share with us regarding some of the jail's famous inmates.  They were:  members of the Charlie Birger gang, the Klu Klux Klan, and defendants awaiting trial for the Herrin Massacre.  The latter had to do with a coal miner's union dispute.
As you can see in the above picture, the museum has kept some of the original cell blocks.  The building is quite large and contains more than twenty rooms focusing on Southern Illinois history.
We returned home that evening to see a bird fly out from under the hood of our motor home.  Upon further inspection of our engine compartment we found the above nest with eggs in it.  Unfortunately we had to remove it, there is no way the eggs will hatch and the little ones leave the nest before we leave in several days!  That is a first for us.