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Adventures in the Villa

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Missouri

2021-08-09 & 10 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Days 12 and 13 – Evansville and Casper, WY

Short stories today. I woke up Monday with a sore throat; Lynda has had a cold since Saturday. We stayed in all day…

We did manage to get outside and walk a bit around the RV park, but it is constantly hot and dusty and windy…

We were feeling well enough to get out about 4:00 and join the club at a very good steak house nearby. After a few Old Fashioneds at the bar, and an appetizer of steak tartare, we joined the others for prime rib and cheesecake…

We returned to the Villa and turned in early…

Tuesday we felt a bit better (or at least Lynda did…) We headed out at 10:00 am to see the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper…

It is located on a bluff adjacent to the Overland Trails – the trails used by the emigrants to Oregon, the 49ers going to California, and the Mormons going to the Great Salt Lake valley…

Before we had left the campground this morning our leaders asked that the ladies wear their Oregon Trail bonnets and dresses… As you might guess, we are non-participants in activities such as this…

We walked toward the museum building…

The building itself reflects a lot of imagery…

The blue wall segments represent the continuous westward trek by the pioneers and the emigrants, always up hill. Missouri is at about 2,000′ elevation, and the continental Divide is at roughly 7,000′ where the trails crossed it…

The stone wall is all native sandstone, and the green wall represents the sagebrush that was the emigrants constant companion on the prairie.

The arch portal, of course, represents the hoops and canvas of the covered wagons…

Inside we watch a short film about the emigrants. The lifesize displays added to the realism of the film…

Some of the Mormon emigrants could not afford oxen or mules, so they carried their possessions for 1,500 miles using handcarts. Lynda gave it a try!

One of the more interesting tidbits of the radical changes the emigrants brought to this region is in addition to all the other self-inflicted damage that I have reported on – loss of food and habitat for Indians, Pony Express ended by the transcontinental telegraph, wagon trains ended by the railroad, small towns ended by the Interstate Highways…

As the 350,000 emigrants passed through here on the trails small settlements sprang up to service the needs of the emigrants. When the trains ended the wagon travel, the rails took a different route again, this time to be more convenient to the coal deposits of southern Wyoming. These settlements slowly vanished…

Outside the Museum is a reproduction of a typical Pony Express station. There is a small stable and a small office for the station master. The station master lived here alone; and he was alone – he was visited by only four Pony Express riders per week. Otherwise he was free to fend for himself. When the Pony Express ended, most of these stations were retrofitted to be relay stations for the telegraph… Adaptive Reuse!

We returned to the Villa. I took a nap… Then we had a modest Happy Hours. We walked around the RV park in the evening…

An enjoyable time was had by all

2021-07-31 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Day 3 – Hiawatha, MO and Grand Island, NE

We hitched up our wagons and the wagon train started west today, following the Oregon Trail… Or at least so it seems…

The Oregon Trail was a 2,170-mile east-west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of what is now the state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the current states of Idaho and Oregon.

The Oregon Trail was laid by fur traders and trappers from about 1811 to 1840 and was only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared increasingly farther west, and eventually reached all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Annual improvements were made in the form of bridges, cutoffs, ferries, and roads, which made the trip faster and safer. From various starting points in Iowa, Missouri, or Nebraska Territory, the routes converged along the lower Platte River Valley near Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory, and led to rich farmlands west of the Rocky Mountains.

From the early to mid-1830s (and particularly through the years 1846–1869) the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, farmers, miners, ranchers, and business owners and their families. The eastern half of the trail was also used by travelers on the California Trail (from 1843), Mormon Trail (from 1847), and Bozeman Trail (from 1863), before turning off to their separate destinations. Use of the trail declined as the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, making the trip west substantially faster, cheaper, and safer. Today, modern highways, such as Interstate 80 and Interstate 84, follow parts of the same course westward and pass through towns originally established to serve those using the Oregon Trail.

Early emigrants

On May 1, 1839, a group of eighteen men from Peoria, Illinois, set out with the intention of colonizing the Oregon country on behalf of the United States of America. The men of the Peoria Party were among the first pioneers to traverse most of the Oregon Trail. They carried a large flag emblazoned with their motto “Oregon Or The Grave“. Nine of these members eventually did reach Oregon.

In September 1840, Robert Newell, Joseph L. Meek, and their families reached Fort Walla Walla with three wagons that they had driven from Fort Hall. Their wagons were the first to reach the Columbia River over land, and they opened the final leg of Oregon Trail to wagon traffic.

In 1841, the Bartleson-Bidwell Party was the first emigrant group credited with using the Oregon Trail to emigrate west. The group set out for California, but about half the party left the original group at Soda Springs, Idaho, and proceeded to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, leaving their wagons at Fort Hall.

On May 16, 1842, the second organized wagon train set out from Elm Grove, Missouri, with more than 100 pioneers. The party was led by Elijah White. The group broke up after passing Fort Hall with most of the single men hurrying ahead and the families following later.

Great Migration of 1843

In what was dubbed “The Great Migration of 1843” or the “Wagon Train of 1843”, an estimated 700 to 1,000 emigrants left for Oregon.  They were led initially by John Gantt, a former U.S. Army Captain and fur trader who was contracted to guide the train to Fort Hall for $1 per person. The winter before, Marcus Whitman had made a brutal mid-winter trip from Oregon to St. Louis to appeal a decision by his mission backers to abandon several of the Oregon missions. He joined the wagon train at the Platte River for the return trip. When the pioneers were told at Fort Hall by agents from the Hudson’s Bay Company that they should abandon their wagons there and use pack animals the rest of the way, Whitman disagreed and volunteered to lead the wagons to Oregon. He believed the wagon trains were large enough that they could build whatever road improvements they needed to make the trip with their wagons. The biggest obstacle they faced was in the Blue Mountains of Oregon where they had to cut and clear a trail through heavy timber. The wagons were stopped at The Dalles, Oregon, by the lack of a road around Mount Hood. The wagons had to be disassembled and floated down the treacherous Columbia River and the animals herded over the rough Lolo trail to get by Mt. Hood. Nearly all of the settlers in the 1843 wagon trains arrived in the Willamette Valley by early October. A passable wagon trail now existed from the Missouri River to The Dalles.

So our wagon train set out for Oregon…

We headed back towards St. Joseph, and crossed over the wide Missouri into Kansas again…

About an hour later we arrived in Hiawatha and found the Brown County Agricultural Museum and Windmill Lane…

It is an interesting place. Many old barns have been moved onto the property, and thousands of ancient home appliances and farm tools and implements, from Tractors and Combines to open end wrenches, are on display.

As we all pulled in together. Parking was a little tight…

Very tight…

In fact, it was so tight that we pulled up close to one another. In the photo below you can see the Villa parked next to a telephone pole. But there will be plenty of room to pull around the pole once the other Airstreams left.

There are probably 50 windmills of all shapes and types. Most often windmills operated pumps bring water up from wells. Some of the windmills charged batteries providing power and lights, and some even generated electricity through a wind-powered generator…

The various bards are full of ancient appliances, tractors, plows, cars, and other miscellaneous things…

As some of the first Airstreams started to pull out it was time to leave. I checked out the space around the telephone pole, backed up a bit to get a little more clearance, and I started to pull forward.

There was plenty of room as my tires went by the pole. However, there was a large low spot adjacent to the pole. Thus, as I pulled forward, the Villa tilted towards the pole to the point that it was within 1/16 of an inch of touching the pole. There we stopped.

Much head-scratching later, we (about 20 Airstream experts) decided that the only way to get past the pole was to jack up the Airstream far enough to get long 2×6 boards under the wheels to un-tilt the Airstream. We found boards, blocks, and three small hydraulic jacks. After much huffing, puffing, and groaning we had the wheels off the ground and the boards and blocks fitted beneath the wheels…

I pulled forward and we were clear, to much applause. All that was left to do was to collect the boards, blocks, and jacks and return them to their rightful places…

And we were on the road again…

We turned north and finally reached Nebraska! We had not been in the Villa in Nebraska before. This is state #41!

Nebraska is, of course, full of corn fields…

About the only difference we could see between Kansas and Nebraska is that Nebraska has more irrigated fields…

We stopped at a Rest Area, where we were joined by another Airstream…

We arrived at our parking spot for two nights – this is Fonner Park, the home of the Nebraska State Fair, located in Grand Island… Lots of room, not too warm, and barely humid…

We celebrated the liberation of the Villa from the pole with Happy Hours; I shared many bottles of my wine with my new friends.

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-07-30 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Day 2 – St. Joseph and Maysville, MO

Today we visited a few attractions in St. Joseph. We began at Western Missouri State College, where they have the Walter Cronkite Memorial…

Walter Cronkite lived 1916 to 2009. He was a reporter during WW II and began leading the news on CBS TV in 1953 until his retirement in 1981. He was an eye witness to all major news stories in the second half of the 20th century.

The exhibit has photos, videos, and memorabilia. It was a very interesting place…

The have a reproduction of his TV news studio…

There was also an interesting but rather bizarre piece of art commemorating Apollo 11 and the space program in general…

The Kennedy assassination…

Famous news stories… Can you find Patty Hearst?

And that’s the way it was…

We then went to the well-visited Stetson Hat Outlet… No, I didn’t buy a cowboy hat. Never wore one, never will..

In downtown St. Joseph we visited the Patee House Hotel.

When John Patee opened his luxurious four-story brick hotel in 1858, he knew it was an innovation for its time, but little did he suspect that 134 years later it would still be attracting visitors from across the United States.

Patee built it as a hotel, a role that was not to be because of its location more than a mile from downtown St. Joseph. Yet it was a hotel three times, a girl’s college twice, and finally a shirt factory for more than 80 years.

I’m always fascinated by these old hotels, exactly because they so rarely last very long. The Patee House was built in 1858. It housed the headquarters of the Pony express in 1860. Then the Civil war came and the army moved in; we had the industrial evolution, and all the “modern” innovations rendered the building obsolete.

This was the grand ballroom, furnished as it was in 1860…

The Dining Room in one of the suites…

The Bridal Suite…

Another suite…

We saw typical bedrooms, bathrooms as renovated in the 1920s, and lots of other historic memorabilia. I would have loved to see more. But we had to gather for the obligatory group photo… Yes, the women are all wearing period-appropriate bonnets…

We toured the Pony Express Museum…

The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse-mounted riders that operated from April 3, 1860, to October 26, 1861, between Missouri and California.

The Pony Express was not a mail service of the USPS. It was owned and operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. It was of great financial importance to the U.S. During its 18 months of operation it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days.  It became the West’s most direct means of east-west communication before the transcontinental telegraph was established in October, 1861. It was vital for tying the new U.S. state of California with the rest of the United States.

The Pony Express was not a financial success and went bankrupt in 18 months, when faster telegraph service was established. Nevertheless, it demonstrated that a unified transcontinental system of communications could be established and operated year-round. When replaced by the telegraph, the Pony Express quickly became romanticized and became part of the lore of the American West. All of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows featured information on the Pony Express. Its reliance on the ability and endurance of individual young, hardy riders and fast horses was seen as evidence of rugged American individualism of the frontier times. As we are finding out on this caravan, every small town along the route today has a Pony Express Museum…

Many people don’t know that the Pony Express only ran for 18 months, and, in fact, it was doomed from the start. The construction of the transcontinental telegraph also began in 1860, The founders of the Pony Express must have known this… Very odd…

So our caravan begins here, at the eastern terminus of the Pony Express. The Oregon Trail follows the west-bound path of the Pony Express for the first few hundred miles…

Oregontrail 1907.jpg

Tomorrow we head west!

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-07-29 – The Oregon Trail caravan begins… Day 1 – Maysville, MO

We are here at the Pony Express RV Park. Today is the official start of the caravan. It is miserably hot and humid, so most of us stayed inside our Airstreams most of the day. Lynda and I walked early to avoid some of the heat. It didn’t help…

We gathered to meet our fellow caravaners and enjoyed a little pizza at the café in the RV Park…

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We did manage to spend a little time sitting outside in the evening, chatting with old friends and new, and watching a thunderstorm pass by just to the north of us

Tomorrow we visit a Pony Express museum and other attractions in St. Joseph.

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-07-28 – Heading to Missouri for the Oregon Trail caravan… Day 6 – Wichita, KS to Maysville, MO

We left the RV park in Wichita mid morning… Did I mention it was hot and humid?

But Kansas is beautiful everywhere we look…

Finally we crossed the wide Missouri…

Missouri is not all that different than Kansas…

At the appointed hour we arrived at our rendezvous point for the caravan: The Pont Express RV Park, outside Maysville, MO. We are about 30 miles east of St. Joseph, which is on the border with Kansas, on the Missouri River. While most of the wagon trains left from Independence, MO, many did leave from St. Joseph. However, the Pony Express was headquartered in St. Joseph, and all the west-bound riders left from St. Joseph. A we soon discovered, the Pony Express and the Oregon trail follow pretty much the same route from Missouri across Kansas and Nebraska…

This is a very nice park, with fishing lakes, farm animals, and lots of open space…

The only downside is that they parked all of us at the bottom of the hill, where it is hotter, more humid, and there is no satellite TV service!

We met the caravan leaders and received our caravan books; we have 21 Airstreams, including the two leaders. As usual, there are many from Texas, Florida, and South Caroline, only one from Israel, and even two from Missouri!

Since it was still too hot and humid to sit outside we turned in early… The adventure begins tomorrow! And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-26 – Home from Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 31 – Parker, AZ to Redlands, CA

The day dawned beautifully. It was warm, but not too warm to walk about the park.

At about 11:00 we set up our lounge chairs on the beach… The river was quiet still, with a few water skiers and very few racing jet skis and motorboats…

But it was hot. Sitting in the shade only lasted about 20 minutes before we had to go dip ourselves in the water to cool off. It was refreshing…

We had lunch in the coolest part of the restaurant, then returned to the beach. But it was hot. We decided to go back to the Villa and relax in the coolness of the AC, but it was hot.

How hot was it?

We decided to head for home early. We quickly packed up the Villa and we were off at about 5:15… About 30 minutes we were back in California. Also, interestingly, we were also back in San Bernardino County, the county in which we live. We will drive through San Bernardino County for the entirety of the trip, another 3 1/2 to 4 hours…

Lots of interesting mountains to see through this stretch of desert wilderness…

Near Desert Center we came across these palm tree farms…

Finally, at 9:10 we pulled into the storage spot in Mentone Beach…

We off-loaded the Villa into the truck, arriving home just after 10:00 pm.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

PS: Next blog begins July 23, when we head to Missouri to participate in the Oregon Trail Caravan…!

2019-06-02 – Traveling West – Eureka Springs and Bentonville, AR

We attended Sunday Services at Thorncrown Chapel.  Worshiping in such a beautiful place is a very special experience…

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An interesting point was that the preacher was the son of the founder and of the chapel… And there was some good old hymn singing going on…

A mystery occurred behind the blue pilaster on the right.  The minister suddenly appeared from behind the pilaster, then he went back again during some of the singing.  Is he just sitting on a chair back there, and had he been there since before we arrived?  Or is there a hidden back door there that he can slip in  and out of?  Or is there a stair to a basement with an exterior entrance?  Any ideas?

After the service we drove to Bentonville; along the way we found, quite by accident, Hoss’s RV Repair.  The place was littered with old Airstreams (23), in various stages of repair and restoration…

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We traveled on…

Bentonville is home of Sam Walton and his family.  And his family’s store:

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The town Square is very nice…

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We had brunch at a very nice modern diner…

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We were very impressed with the center of this town of 70,000 people.  (In 1960 when the first WalMart was built the town had about 3,000 people…)

We wondered, as we looked around at these downtown buildings, how much of this was built, rebuilt, and/or owned by WalMart?  Did the first WalMart, built outside of town on the highway, kill the town?  Did WalMart buy up the deserted buildings and create this Disneyesque town square?  I don’t know…

(By the way, the original Walton’s 5 and dime is just a facade for the WalMart Museum.  There is a WalMart Neighborhood Market just a block away…)

In any case, the reason we were here was to see Crystal Bridges, the Museum of American Art built by the Walton Family Foundation… It is about 3/4 mile from the heart of town…

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The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie, world famous architect…

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The museum sits atop a small creek that has been dammed to form several ponds at several levels.  The weirs (dams) are under the buildings, so the surfaces of the ponds are kept mirror-still…

The vaulted roofs are supported by suspension cables.  Remarkable!

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But the REAL reason we are here is to see a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The Bachman-Wilson House was originally built in New Jersey in the mid 1950s.  Over the years it was lived in by a variety of families.  In 1980 it was restored; unfortunately, the adjacent river took up a bad habit of overflowing its banks on a regular basis.  By 2004 the owners appealed to the Walton family and convinced them that there is no greater American Art than a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house.  The house was disassembled and moved here, and it was reassembled on a site adjacent to the museum…

It is a classic Usonian, which typically turns a blank face to the street for privacy.  FLlW also typically hides the front door…

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There’s the door…

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(Sorry, no interior photos…)

The house bears remarkable similarities to the Spring house in Tallahassee and the Rosenbaum house in Florence, AL.  The board and batten siding, the views out to the forest, the horizontal lines, the cantilevered carports, and the stenciled cut-outs applied to the glass…

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The house has been beautifully restored and preserved… It is, indeed, a piece of American Art…!

But we move on!

In the little town of Bella Vista, in the far northwest corner on Arkansas, within a mile or two of the Missouri and Oklahoma borders, is another Fay Jones chapel…

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In contrast to Thorncrown Chapel, this chapel is built of steel.  Again, the details are beautiful…

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Built to honor Mildred Borum Cooper, wife of John A. Cooper, Sr., founder of Cooper Communities, Inc, the Chapel is a fitting memorial.  Besides being a devoted wife, mother, and member of the community, Mrs. Cooper had a deep spirituality and a love for nature.  Her family commissioned the Chapel in her honor to celebrate her life and her dedication to God and his creations.

We returned to Eureka Springs and enjoyed a dinner in a fine French bistro: Le Stick Nouveau:

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We enjoyed five courses of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres… and a bottle of fine Pinot Noir from Oregon…

As is our custom, we returned to the Villa for Happy Hours and a light supper; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-15 Westbound; De Smet, South Dakota…

We have a leisurely morning of hot showers and grocery shopping…  We drove about two hours to De Smet, SD.

2017-09-15 Map South Dakota

We pulled into the Ingalls Homestead RV Park.  This is adjacent to the Visitors Center. This is the actual homestead where the Ingalls family lived for several years, about a mile from the town of De Smet.  They have several displays and buildings, from the authentic to the replication.  They also offer covered wagon rides across the prairie.  We weren’t interested in the ride, but it was really cool to see a covered wagon pass by on the horizon:

2017-09-15 LIW 03 Homestead Covered Wagon

They had a real dugout/sod house to view:

2017-09-15 LIW 05 Homestead Dugout

2017-09-15 LIW 06 Homestead Dugout

And here is a replica of the claim shanty Pa built here on the homestead claim:

2017-09-15 LIW 07 Homestead Claim Shanty

It was fun to stand here on the prairie and see what the Ingalls family saw 135 years ago:

 

2017-09-15 LIW 02a Homestead Prairie

We asked at the visitors center how far it was into town to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there.  We were told that it is less than a mile; she knew, she said, because the Ingalls girls walked to town to go to school every day.  Well, if three little girls could walk to town, certainly we could, too.

It was 1.6 miles to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society…

The first stop was the Surveyors House:

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Surveyors House

This was the Ingalls family’s first home in De Smet, even before De Smet was started. The Surveyor’s house was built  for the advance crew for the railroad; it was probably built somewhere east of here and dragged along from place to place as the railroad proceeded westward.  Pa Ingalls was asked to stay for the winter after all the railroad crews left to safeguard the railroad equipment, so the Ingalls family moved in.  To them, this was a mansion!  They lived here their first winter in South Dakota, with the house serving as an unofficial hotel/boarding house for settlers coming through on their way west.  The family was living here when Pa walked the 40 miles to Brookings to file his homestead claim.  As soon as he could, Pa built a single room of his claim shanty (see above) and the family moved to the homestead that spring.  At the time, the house was located By the Shores of Silver Lake.  When the Railroad was done with the house, it was bought by a family here and moved to town.  It was later bought by the LIW Memorial Society and moved to this location.

Also on this site is a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old:

2017-09-15 LIW 14 De Smet Brewster

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Brewster

Our guide said this replica is probably bigger than the original…

The best thing here is the original schoolhouse, the first school built here in De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet School

This is the actual location of the school that the Ingalls girls walked to from the Homestead…

The interior:

2017-09-15 LIW 13 De Smet School

The school had been used as a home for many years before it was acquired by the LIW Memorial Society and restored.  The original blackboards are here… These desks are not original, but the school did have store-bought desks, not the home made desks you saw above in the Brewster School.

After seeing these buildings here we went over through downtown De Smet; Pa built a store here in town as an investment; the family lived in the store during The Long Winter, in 1880-1881.  The store is no longer there, but we were able to see the location, here in “downtown” De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Main Street

We then arrived at the Ingalls house, just around the corner:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Ingalls House

The family only lived on the homestead for about seven years; Pa built this house, room by room, and the family lived out their lives here. (Laura never lived here; she had married Almanzo by the time the house was built…)  Carrie and Grace lived here until they married and moved a short distance away.  (Grace lived in Huron, Carrie lived in Keystone…)  Mary, Ma, and Pa lived here for the rest of their lives.  Pa wasn’t much of farmer, and he made his living as a carpenter, Justice of the Peace, and just about any other odd job he could get… They also took in boarders to help pay the bills.  All of the family had had constant health problems, probably due to malnutrition throughout their lives.  Only Laura lived into her 90s.  (Laura died in 1957 in Mansfield, Mo.)

So after this great time seeing the history of this family we walked back to the Villa, hoping to beat the predicted rain; we made it with no problems.  We met our neighbors, who had just pulled in, with tent trailers.  One was from Hull, Iowa, a town full of Dutch people.  This guy had even been an adjunct professor at Dordt College!

Lynda went to walk around the homestead, and she climbed the observation tower to see the views:

2017-09-15 LIW 01 Homestead

2017-09-15 LIW 22 Homestead Villa

There were awesome clouds:

2017-09-15 LIW 10 Homestead Clouds

2017-09-15 LIW 09 Homestead Clouds

Our neighbors had set up their chairs and prepared a campfire.  They invited us to join them… But we politely declined, as we already had begun dinner, and there was football to watch… And then it began to rain. And rain hard.

Our neighbors re-grouped inside their trailers and we settled in for Happy Hours and dinner.  Later that evening we looked out at and saw more beautiful cloud formations, accented with flashes of lightning.  No thunder, just flashes of lightning. Amazing. We had never seen such a thing…

2017-09-15 LIW 11 Homestead Clouds

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-06-16 Missouri, and Eero Saarinen

Before I get to today’s activities, a thought struck me regarding Frank Lloyd Wright and Laura Ingalls Wilder:  They were both born in 1867; she died in 1957 and he died in 1959. They were contemporaries in time, yet I can’t think of two more different people who lived two very different lives… They were born in the age of horse and buggy and covered wagons; they lived to experience trains, planes, and automobiles. She was modest, a simple homebody, and quite introspective; he was arrogant, a home wrecker, and a master designer of our built environment… A very interesting contrast that just appeared on our trip on two adjacent days…

Now, back to our travels:

This morning we walked to Mansfield, and found a delightful little cafe where we had coffee and Belgian waffles. (Ma and Pa’s Diner had terrible Yelp reviews…) Then we packed up and headed the Villa towards St. Louis.

We did our best to avoid the Interstate, because we could. However, whilst driving the back roads of Missouri, it started to rain. Not just any rain, but a true cloud burst like I have never seen. We drove for about 45 minutes with the windshield wipers at full speed, travelling maybe at 30 mph because we could not see any further ahead.  There was thunder and lightning (luckily, no hail – Airstreams hate hail like Superman hates kryptonite…).  Then, suddenly, within a 5 minute time-span, the rain stopped, the road was dry, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and a guy passed us by in a top-down convertible… I’m just glad we had that vent cover fixed!

We proceeded to St. Louis, then immediately crossed the Mississippi river into Illinois to camp at an RV park behind a casino in East St. Louis. It was 94 degrees and very humid, not a breath of air moving. We plugged into shore power, turned on both AC units, and headed back to St. Louis. There was a convenient light rail train service right at the casino, and we soon were walking the streets of St. Louis.

2017-06-16 Map Illinois

We had two goals to accomplish in St. Louis:  BBQ for dinner, and a ride the top of the Jefferson Memorial Arch, designed by Eero Saarinen. (Eero Saarinen died in 1961, so he did not live to see the arch completed.) But remember the name…

We headed towards the Jefferson Memorial. It was started in 1935; they cleared 40 acres of riverfront property to make way for the Arch. The Arch was completed in 1965, and tours to the top began in 1967.  We found that most of the tickets for the day had been sold out, but we were able to get tickets for the 8:35 pm tour.  This left us plenty of time for our BBQ dinner.

BBQ, as most of you know, is a generic term that literally has no meaning. Saying “I am eating BBQ” is like saying , “I’m eating soup” or “I’m eating meat”.  What kind of soup? Cream based or broth based?  Or, what kind of meat? Braised, grilled, or roasted?  All meaningless without many more descriptors.  Having endured living in Texas for some time, there is exactly one thing I love from Texas and that is their style of BBQ. But I am always happy to try others.  St. Louis BBQ refers not to their sauces or type of cooking – you can find both slow smoked and fast grilled BBQ in St. Louis, with a variety of sauces – sweet, vinegar-based, tomato based – whatever you want.  What is unique about St. Louis BBQ is the way they cut their ribs:  According to Wikipedia, “St. Louis-style spare ribs are cut in a particular way with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed so that a well-formed, rectangular-shaped rack is created for presentation.”

There are 2 local places that seem to have their fans – Pappy’s and Bogarts. We opted for Pappy’s, because it was a nicer walk through the city to get there… always a determining factor in our lives…

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It was terrible.

OK. On to the arch…

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The Arch is officially called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, to commemorate Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the massive migration west by the pioneers in the late 19th century as the Federal government literally gave away hundreds of thousands of acres of land. It is probably the largest planned migration of people in the history of the world, and it totally reshaped the USA.

The shape of the arch is what engineers call an inverted catenary arch. It is the shape that a loose chain takes when suspended between 2 points, just up-side-down.  This shape can be calculated using integrated calculus, and it is also the the graph of 100% tension and zero compression, since a chain, while strong in tension, can withstand absolutely no compression. And that is the limit of my knowledge of structural theory, strength of materials, and calculus…

The arch is 630 feet wide, and 630 feet tall. (The Washington Memorial in Washington, DC, is 555′ tall, and would fit under the arch…) The shape of the cross section is an equilateral triangle. As the triangular form ascends to the top of the arch it gets smaller, creating very interesting perspectives…

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The designers knew people would want to ascend to the top, so a complicated tramway system was custom designed to carry 40 people at a time. There are two trams, one in each leg, and the viewing space holds about 100 people… The trams consist of 8 cars each, holding 5 people each. The cars are tiny, cramped compartments, less than 6 feet tall, with a door about 2 feet wide and less than 5 feet tall. As the tram ascends along the curved path of the arch, the tram cars must articulate, a bit like a Ferris wheel, except not in a smooth manner. As the cars ascend they tilt (forward or backward), then abruptly snap back into a vertical position.

It was TERRIFYING!

Once at the top, you can see forever. Since we were there just after sunset, our views are all at night…

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The old courthouse, where the Dred Scott trial was held

 

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Illinois across the Mississippi River – our RV park is back there somewhere…

 

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Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals…

After our terrifying experience (for some reason, Lynda didn’t find it terrifying at all…), we returned home back to the Villa. We have a long drive tomorrow across Illinois and into Indiana…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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