Friday, October 30, 2009

Little RAINY Rock

We packed up and pulled out of Springfield, in the rain of course and started heading for Little Rock, Arkansas, pretty much just follow US 65 all the way. If it hadn't been raining this would have been a spectacular drive, through the Ozarks with all the fall color, but since it was rainy, overcast and this is an older narrower road with a lot of traffic since it's the main drag between the two cities I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

We're staying at the new North Little Rock City RV park, River View Park, this is right on the banks of the Arkansas River right across from Downtown Little Rock. Both cities have riverfront parks opposite each other and have two foot bridges that cross the river to join them, there is also a trolley system that runs you back and forth for two dollars a day. Of course when we pulled in here to set up it was raining.

View of Little Rock from our camp site.

Clinton Library right across the river from the park

When we were in this area last year we had lunch at the restaurant at the Clinton Library and it was great, so we decided to try it again today, oh yeah it's still raining, well this year lunch was crap, we ordered the same thing that we did last year and this time it was terrible. It's still a downpour outside so we figured that we might as well tour the library, we've done the Truman and Hoover Libraries this month so we might as well add this one to our list. We're really glad that we stayed, the library and displays are done very nice, they're set up so it's never very crowded at any one area and was informative. They have a lot of video's, most with President Clinton explaining some thing on them or some type of comment and I don't care what your politics are he is a funny likable guy. Last year we missed him by two days and this year we were two weeks early, he's coming for the fifth anniversary of the opening of the library.

It's not raining today, in fact the sun is out and it's getting warm so we decided to go about a half mile down the river shore to see the North Little Rock Navy, at least that's what they call it. The World War Two submarine “Razorback” is docked here, the first thing they tell you is that the Razorback is the second largest species of whale and that it was not named for the Arkansas hog.

When we got their we found out that they were into their winter hours and were closed today, as we were standing in the parking lot one of the maintenance guys saw our problem and asked if we were from out of town, when we told him we were he told us that their were a few people in the museum doing paper work and that they wouldn't mind us looking around the museum but we wouldn't be able to get a tour of the submarine, he then took us in the back way to the museum, talk about nice. The curator and his assistant were doing some computer work, but they stopped to set up the 15 minute video for us to watch, Cathy asked them who we should pay and they said don't worry about it. After the video we started to look at the items in the museum when the assistant said, Hey I got time, lets go for a tour of the sub.

Most Naval vessels that you get to tour are totally stripped and would never been sea worthy again but this one is 95% sea worthy, the Navy made them remove the props, which are on display on shore.

The sub has a great history, starting with WW II, the shipyard where she was built launched three subs on the same day, the only time that has happen, she had an impressive career during the war and was invited to be present at Tokyo bay for the signing of the Surrender papers. She then was involved in some classified operations during Korea and Vietnam. When she was decommissioned she was sold to the Turkish Navy for a dollar and served there for thirty years, sinking two Greece ships during their war before being returned to the US and the North Little Rock Navy.

Mothball Certificate from the US Navy

Transfer Certificate from the Turkish Navy back to the North Little Rock Navy.

Since the sub is all original the only way into it is down the hatch, very narrow and deep Cathy decided that she would pass and go back to the museum, I'm not passing up a private tour of the sub so down I went, and I might mention that another 20 pounds and I don't think I would have made it. Since this was a one person tour he pretty much took me everywhere on the ship, the only place that we couldn't go was the conning tower because they were rebuilding the hydraulics on the periscope and they had parts everywhere on the deck. We ended up spending over an hour inside the sub and I have to say it was one of the most interesting hours I can remember.

One of the stories that he told me about the ship was that when it was refitted one time they removed one of the diesel engines which was no longer needed, when they took it out for it's first test they were to do a dive to 400 feet, the limit on this class sub is 600 feet, when they started the dive they lost control of the sub and it just kept diving, by the time they managed to regain control and level it off they were at a depth of 900 feet. They had forgot to recalculate the center of gravity with the engine removed. He had a ton of stories but to hear more you're going to have to tour the sub and hear them from him.

OK, one more story, when they managed to get on of the six inch deck guns for display the city sent over a crane to take it off the truck and put it on display up by the parking lot. The guy running the crane told them that they better get it right the first time because the thing was so heavy that the crane could just barely handle the weight, they got it off the truck and onto the mounts and fastened down. A few hour later they were in the office when they notice 4 blacked out SUV fly into the parking lot, he said a bunch of MEN IN BLACK got out and started gathering around the gun, a couple had binoculars and others were talking into their wrist and mulling around. No one came into the office to say anything and after about twenty minutes they all jumped back in their SUV's and disappeared. Being curious they went up to the guns location and started looking around trying to figure out what was going on when one of them noticed that their brand new 6 inch gun was pointed directly at the brand new Clinton Library across the river.

So once again we end up getting a private tour of a place that is closed, this is probably the 4th or 5th time that this has happened to us, so we must be doing something right or we just look pitiful and they feel sorry for us.

Another day, another rain storm, this is starting to get ridiculous , we haven't had two days straight without rain since we left Michigan. It let up to a regular rain around 1PM so we ran to the car for a little road trip, I told Cathy that I found a great little burger joint just outside of town in Scott Arkansas.

Now just look at this place, doesn't it look like to type of place that you would drive out of your way for. It may not look like much, built in 1912 as a general store for the local plantation, then a military commissary, jail and courthouse, then in 1984 they put a small eating area which was soon discovered by Governor Clinton and the rest is history, everybody knows that Bill knew all the good eating spots and the small area eventually took up the whole store. Famous for their Hubcap Burger which is about as big as a small hubcap, we decided to pass on that and get the daily special which of course was southern fried chicken. The food was great but I don't think we would have stopped here if it wasn't for Bubba blazing the trail, I don't think Hillary ever went here with him.

Back to camp just before the cloud burst, according to the weather there are flash flood warnings out and we're camped between the Arkansas river (right on the bank) and the 12 foot tall flood wall that protects the city. Just saw that we got over 5 inches of rain so far today, buts its starting to let up. Prediction for tomorrow more rain.

We cut our stay here short by three days and cut out a 5 day stop next week so we can just shoot right through to the gulf when we leave here.

Got up this morning to post the blog and guess what, it's RAINING!!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Springfield Missouri

We're in Springfield Missouri and something strange happened, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave the door and windows open, we haven't really seen the sun for about a week now. We're camped a little south of Springfield in the city of Ozark, that just sounds so Red Neck, doesn't it.

Today we drove over to Wilson Creek National Battlefield, they have a 20 minute film explaining the battle, this was the first major battle since the Confederate victory at Bull Run. The battle was fought on August 10, 1861 between 6000 Union army troops led by General Nathaniel Lyon and 5200 Missouri State Guard led by General Sterling Price and 6800 Confederate troop led by General Ben McCulloch. After five hours of battle the Union forces retreated back to Springfield, General Lyons had been killed in battle along with over 2500 hundred soldiers, General Lyon became the first General Officer killed in the Civil War.

From the Visitors center there is a five mile auto tour around the battlefield and a museum located just outside the park which is covered with your admission.

The museum is small but really well organized, it covers the Battle of Wilson Creek and then it has displays covering all the major battles of the Civil War and then a lot of stuff on the Missouri Border Wars with Jessie James and Quantrill's Raiders, it also has some very unique artifacts. From here we headed into Springfield were we stopped at the Springfield / Greene County Library for their Friends of the Library Book Sale, it was huge and we ended with about another 30 pounds to haul around in the motor home.

While looking for the Post Office in Ozark we came across this little bit of information.

It's overcast today but not raining so we're going to give the zoo a try today, once we got there I figured out that I forgot my camera, which turned out not to be a bad thing since this was a very disappointing zoo, about the only thing that was worth while was the elephants, and the rest of the place was just dirty and dingy. It looked like they had about 500-700 man hours tied up in decorating the zoo for Halloween and Zero for cleaning or sweeping anything.

After leaving the zoo we just wandered around the city taking a look see, it appears that the city is under going a rebuilding, most of the run down area downtown is being rebuilt into a yuppie type area and there are new suburbs and shopping centers going in everywhere.

Today we almost witness HELL freezing over, by that I mean it was in the mid thirties and we were in Branson, Missouri, you can't get any closer then that.

We decided that we were only 30 minutes from from Branson so we might as well give it a try, besides Cathy has been wanting to go to Penny Gilliy's restaurant, she kept seeing her ads on the Imus show when he was on RFD-TV. We did two loops through the town, at about 2 mph, before we found it, it's Louisiana Cajun type food and was worth the trouble to find it. We found Branson to be like a combination of Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach & Disney, 5000 restaurants, 5000 shows, 5000 shops and anything else that could grab your money and everybody driving 2 MPH trying to see everything. I think part of the problem is that we have not reached our 8th decade yet and are just to young to appreciate it.

It went down to about 35 last night but the sun is out and it's warming up fast, so before we settle in for Michigan football we're going to drive over to The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden in Nathanael Greene Park, this is a small section of the park that receives very little if any financial support from the city is is maintained by volunteers. We spent a very peaceful hour wandering around the garden, along with the Battlefield this would be another thing to be sure to see. After all that walking and exercise we decided to stop at Culver's for a burger on the way home, it was kind of sad because this is the southern most Culver's (Besides Branson and we all know how I feel about that place) and we won't be able to have another one until our trip north in the spring.

After being in Missouri for the better part of a month I think I now know how the State motto came to be. If any one from Missouri ever comes up to you and sez “I'm from Missouri, SHOW ME” they really mean it, they want you to show them how to do what ever it is because they can't figure it out by themselves.

OK, Collage ball the rest of the day and Pro ball tomorrow then we're off to Little Rock Arkansas, where we expect rain but hope it will be warmer.

Penn State is making the Michigan Wolverines look like a bunch of Wimps, go ahead and laugh Bernie.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Missouri Stuff

tWe drove across Missouri and managed to set up before the rains came, we could handle the rain if it was a little warmer then the mid 40's, it was in the mid 30's when I woke up this morning and it made it all the way up to 46 today. Global Warming, Right.

Our first stop today was at the Truman National Welcome Center, which is only about two miles from the campground, it's located in an old fire station and other then having a 12 minutes film about Truman there was nothing there, other then the fact that this is where you have to buy tickets to tour the Truman house, but since it's being remodeled they are not doing any tours. At short drive brings us to the Harry S Truman Library and Museum, here they had a 40 minute film about Truman's life and political career. After see this all I can say is he had a lot of shady characters helping him out during the start of his political life and “the buck stops here” took on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, still cold wet and cloudy, good thing we planned some indoor stuff today, we're driving to downtown Kansas City. They say that if you go to Kansas City that you have to go to 18th and Vine and that;s where we are standing in front of a building that houses the Jazz Museum and the Negro League Baseball Museum, we neither one of us is that crazy about jazz but we do love our baseball. This a decent size museum and covers Blacks in baseball from right after the civil war up to the present, but focuses on the Negro Leagues. There was way to much information and history there to even think of putting in a blog, we spent over two hours there and it would have been longer if the two school buses hadn't shown up. This museum isn't just for Blacks but for anybody that loves the game of baseball and it's history. Leave your camera in the car, no pictures allowed.
Negro League Baseball Museum

After this it was a short drive over to Overland Park, Kansas for lunch and to stop at another Penzey's Spice store, this makes the eleventh one that we have been to. They have the best selection of spices, if your ever near one give them a try. Pensey's SITE

Thursday, still cloudy, even colder and a light mist in the air but it's time for another historic road trip. Today starts at Fort Osage, pronounced O-SAGE, it's located on the high bluffs above the Missouri River in Sibley, MO. This a location that Lewis and Clark stopped at on their journey west and it was Clark who later recommended this location for a fort. The fort was built in 1808 and was used for many different functions, outpost for the Louisiana Purchase territory, protection for the US factory trade house that was located here and sanctuary of travelers on the Missouri River. Inn the mid 1820's Congress ended the Factory system and the fort was abandon in 1827. To read about the Factory System click on the picture. The fort has been reconstructed just as it was originally and is manned by staff members in costume to answer your questions, there is also a small museum in the basement of the visitors center.

It's still fairly early so we hit the road for Lexington MO about 30 miles down river. During the Civil War Missouri was a divided state, Lexington was controlled by the the Union Army, in September of 1861 the (pro-Confederate) Missouri State Guard, attacked Lexington and started what would be known as the Battle of the Hemp Bales. The reason for the name is that during the battle the union troops were surrounded and held up in the Anderson house, which was the center of the families hemp plantation, the Missouri Guard used the bails as a rolling barricade which they fired from behind, the union bullets and canon where unable to penetrate the bails and the guard moved right up to the house behind them. The Union troops surrendered and were paroled after promising not to take up arms again, the Guard then pulled out of the city and returned to southern Missouri, a few weeks later the Union troops returned to Lexington to control the city again. So pretty much a lot of people died in this week long battle and a few weeks after it was over everything was just the same as when it started.

Lexington is also the location where the steamboat Saluda exploded on April 9, 1852 around 7:30am she had just pulled away from the dock when there was a tremendous explosion which disintegrated 2/3rds of the ship.

Dinner bell and a pulley from the Saluda

Click on picture to read about the Saluda

We found another little park that has one of the original canons from the US Frigate Constitution “Old Ironside” Launched October 21 1797, another chance to reach out and touch history.

And then on the way out of town we found another Madonna of the Trail Statute, this makes 4 that we have found out of the 11 on the National Highway (US-40). This was also the Trail of Death path.

Madonna INFO

All that and we found one of the original Maid - Rite restaurants on Main Street, these were like McDonald's except they were about 30 before McDonald's, they serve a loose burger type sandwich.

OK that's enough for today right , no way we still have another stop to make and it's on the far side of the county, the Battle of Lone Jack Museum, we got there 20 minutes before the museum was to close. We asked if we had time to look around and the volunteer told us not to worry about the time, we paid for our tickets and then he took us on a hour tour of the museum, it's only in this little places that you'll find people willing to do stuff like this.

Pretty much the town of Lone Jack was a center of trade and activity, it was a central location with roads running to all points of the compass, but this came to an end on August 16th 1862. About a week prior to this date the Guard sent some troops up to Independence where they surrounded a Union Headquarters and captured the occupants, this pissed off the Union command so they sent 800 troops south to Lone Jack to teach the Guard a lesson. The Guard had them out numbered by about two to one but with very little ammunition, the predawn battle took place right in the center of town. Five hours later and after much hand to hand combat the Union commanded realized that he could not win and with drew his troops and went back to Lexington. The Guard seeing that then Union had retreated and that they had won then packed up and headed south, with both armies gone the citizens of Lone Jack were left to clean up the mess. Every building in town except one, had been burnt to the ground and 300 dead soldiers were left lying in the streets. This being August in Missouri they had to bury the bodies fast, right in the center of town they dug to 80 foot long ditches six foot deep and seven feet wide. All the Union troops were buried in one and the southerners were buried in the other, this pretty much finished off the town and it was never able to recover to the thriving town that it was.

The house in the background was rebuilt on the original foundation.

Click on this to read about General Order No.11, it's unbelievable how they gave the people just days to leave their farms and homes which were then burnt to the ground. There is a small cemetery with just six bodies and one stone located on a private farm, it's here because Union troops found six farmers loading stuff on their wagons to take with them a few days after the deadline and shot them down.

The monuments in the cemetery for the Union soldiers and the Confederates, Since this cemetery is in Confederate territory it's not hard to tell which monument belongs to who.

Confederate Marker at Cemetery

Notice the stain on the Union marker. Every year during the first few days of October this stain starts to appear as a small spot right around the number 16, as the month progresses the stain spreads out over the stone until by the end of the month the entire stone is covered. They have tried many different things to clean the stain but nothing works, then something happens during Halloween night, and in the morning the stain is completely gone. They told use that they haven't found anyone brave enough to spend the night in the cemetery to see what happens, and I'm not going to volunteer.

Every National Cemetery has a plaque with the Poem "Bivouac of the Dead", I was surprised to find out that it originated here at one of the anniversary's of the battle.
Just a little correction on this, something didn't set right with me on this so after some research I found out the this is an entirely different poem that was about the Battle of Lone Jack ,but has the same title as the more famous one by Theodore O’Hara which was written about the Battle of Buena Vista, which was fought during the Mexican War.

It's pushing 5:30, so it's time to grab a bite to eat and get home in time for the baseball play-offs.

OH, I made up all that crap about the stain, it rained that day, just an early Devils Night prank.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hannibal, MO

H-A-Double N-I--------B-A-L spells Hannibal,
Town of Mark Twain's birth and where he grew up at...................

I'm sorry was that out loud, well I guess you've figured out where we are, Hannibal Missouri the town made famous by Mark Twain, we're camped about 25 miles south of the town in Bowling Green.

Saturday, it's overcast and in the mid 50's but it's not raining so we're going to go for it and do a little Mississippi River road trip, first stop is in Louisiana, MO at Hardee's to fortify us with a big breakfast. As we pull out of the parking lot Cathy spots a historical marker across the street and we try to stop at these just to see what happened there, this one turned out to be pretty interesting. Turns out this is where the Delicious apple was developed, click on the picture of the marker to read all about it, now see that was worth the stop.

If you read down to the bottom of the marker you'll see a reference to Buffalo Fort, I have read about this somewhere in reference to the Buffalo Fort Massacre, as George Carlin use to say,”I really kind of like it when a lot of people die”. So to honor George we're of to find Fort Buffalo. I remember reading about a D Street so we just drove south until we found D Street, we took that about three miles out into the country and found a Monument on the side of the road which marks the spot of the fort.

We spotted a dirt road that was named Buffalo Street so we followed that and in about a mile or so we came across the Jordan Buffalo Cemetery, a pretty little cemetery on a hill side with one large Monolith right near the front of the cemetery. Turns out that this is the spot that the massacre took place and that they buried the bodies right were they found them, so this was also the start of the cemetery, turns out that Captain Robert Jordan and his son were killed here by Indians during the War of 1812 . It also turns out that in Missouri a massacre starts with the killing of two people.

OK, time to get back to the Great River Road and our journey, we're going south to the town of Clarksville, they are having their big Apple Festival this weekend, we can tell when we're getting close to town since the traffic is backed up and moving 2 MPH. We decided to drive through town see what was happening where and then find a place to park and dig into all the apple goodies, remember this area is the home of the Delicious Apple so we should be a few pounds heavier by the time we leave, what will I have first, candy apple, caramel apple, baked apple, apple fritter, no I think it will be a nice large slice of hot homemade apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top and a scope of vanilla ice cream on the side, yea, that's the ticket. Well we drove through town and it was packed with people and hardly any place to park so we turn around and figure we'll just grab the first place we see. Then it dawned on us, with all the set ups they had we did not see one single thing that had anything to do with apples, nothing. We kept our eyes open as we drove back through town, we saw gourds, corn dogs, all you can eat fish fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ of ever type, elephant ears, donuts and cookies, the only place that we saw the word Apple was on the souvenir T-shirts that said APPLEFEST 2009.

We're atta here and back on the road, 50 miles north to Hannibal on the scenic Great River Road, this section of road is also known as the “Fifty miles of Art” (that's another festival in the spring where you can buy corn dogs).

If we were expecting to see the river at all on this drive we were dead wrong, we came across two scenic turn outs that took you up on top of a bluff so you could see the river off in the distance, I don't know how close to the river we were but it felt like we were driving through the mountains in Kentucky. A little break and a chance to see the Mississippi as we past back through Louisiana en-route to Hannibal.

Hannibal is the big city around here, it has the bridge to Illinois and just about every kind of store or business you can think of, the downtown Historic District looked just about how you think it would have during Mark Twain's time. We found a place to park and walked around about as long as our thin jackets would allow us to, it's cloudy and cold and windy so we saw a few sights, took a few pictures and decided to head home.

This turned out to be a great weekend for the little sister and a real bummer for the big brother, no I'm not talking about our grand kids Rachel and Nick, I'm talking about the Spartans of Michigan State and the Wolverines of Michigan, since the Spartans were playing Illinois we managed to listen to there victory on the radio and we got home in time to watch the Iowa Hawk-eyes swoop down, grab the Wolverines up in their claws and carry them away.

It's going down to 31 degrees tonight, so we're just going to sleep in and watch baseball and football all day Sunday, and Cathy promised to make here World Famous Baked Potatoe (in honor of Vice President Quayle) Soup for the very first time,I know, but if she makes it, it will be world famous. I'm going to get some brownie points when she reads that.

SOUPS ON..........more later..........