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…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Dinner at Pappys

It was terrible.

OK. On to the arch…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 12

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…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 042017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 022017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 062017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 012017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 112017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 17

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.


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

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 31


The old courthouse, where the Dred Scott trial was held


2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 35

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


2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 34

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…
























2017-06-15 Kansas, Missouri, and Laura Ingalls Wilder

We left Bartlesville after breakfast atop the Price Tower.  We were only a short distance from the border…


A short time later we were at the location of The Little House on the Prairie (No, not the stupid TV show…).  The exact site was only discovered a few years ago, and it is on privately owned farmland, but the owner has erected this small wayside memorial. It includes a reproduction of the log cabin, and some other typical pioneer buildings. The only “real” item is the hand-dug well that Laura’s Pa dug with Mr. Edwards…

2017-06-15 Little House on the Prairie 7


The other structures are fun, but not original…


And the view of the wild prairie Laura must have had from the cabin:

2017-06-15 Little House on the Prairie 4


From here we proceeded east across Kansas…


Our destination:  Mansfield, MO, where Laura and Almanzo Wilder lived for 60 years.  This is where all the Little House books were written. It now has a beautiful museum full of memorabilia, including the Ingalls family Bible, which recorded all the deaths, births, and weddings. Also, Pa’s fiddle is here…

There are 2 houses on the property; the original 1- room farmhouse, built by Almanzo from 1896 to 1913, plus a “modern” cottage (The Rock House), ordered from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, bought by Rose, their daughter, and built in the 1930s.

2017-06-15 Rocky Ridge Farm 2

2017-06-15 Rocky Ridge Farm 3


There is a nice RV park across the street from the museum, and it is about 1 mile into the town of Mansfield.  Lynda found a nice place to “read”…

2017-06-15 LIW RV Park 2


Tomorrow our odyssey continues as we head to St. Louis to see another architectural icon…





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