Rock Bridge State Park, Missouri

Day 451

     We went for a hike to see the Rock Bridge in this Missouri State Park. We were not fully prepared, as we are usually. We stopped on a trial on our way to the Ranger Station to pick up hiking information. This trail was supposed to be .5 miles. It ended up being about 2 miles.

     Normally we carry a backpack with water, snacks, flashlight, compass, etc. Since it was to be a short hike, we had nothing, not even the correct hiking boots.

     So, we died. No more posts.

     The short trail actually went into the trail we were seeking. We decided to push on. The Natural Rock Bridge was formed by a river, which is still flowing.  Since we were wearing tennis shoes, we could not go through it.

     We did hike to it’s mouth, then up the mountain to view from above.

     We also came upon the Devil’s Icebox. It got it’s name because as you descend down to what turned out to be a cave, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees.

     Not having our flashlights we could not go too far in.

     We won’t make this mistake again.

     We did see Mars:

Jefferson City, Missouri

Day 446

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     We walked across a footbridge over the Missouri River to the Capital of Missouri, Jefferson City. The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States. I know, you thought the Mississippi River was the longest. The Mississippi is actually 20 miles shorter than the Missouri. 

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     What is now the State of Missouri was part of the April 30, 1803 Louisiana Purchase (actually the Agreement was signed on May 2, 1803 and backdated).  A statute of the Signing of the Louisiana Purchase Agreement, sits in front the the Missouri Capital Building. 

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     The Missouri State Capital building is the most ornate Capital I have seen. With many archways, it is a visual maze. 

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     It is interesting to note that both Lewis and Clark were each Governors of Missouri after their famous expedition. 

     Let us take a moment to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to bring us smoother roads. 

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Fulton, Missouri

Day 442

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     The town of Fulton, Missouri, was founded in 1825, but was not incorporated until March 14, 1859. The city was named for Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat.

     Westminster College was founded as a college for young men by the Rev. William W. Robertson in 1851 as Fulton College and assumed the present name in 1853. Throughout the next century, Westminster College continued to be an all-male institution until women infiltrated in 1979.

     The Green Foundation Lectureship was established in 1936 as a memorial to John Findley Green, an attorney in St. Louis who graduated from Westminster College in 1884. The foundation provides for lectures designed to promote understanding of economic and social problems of international concern.

     Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born November 30, 1874 in England. At the conclusion of World War II, he was defeated in the election of 1945, and was no longer Prime Minister of Great Britain.

     Winston Churchill, now the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, was invited to speak as part of the Green Foundation Lecture Series in the Gymnasium of Westminister College, which he did on March 5, 1946. During that speech he classified the division of Russia from her neighbors as an “Iron Curtain”.

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     In 1961 Westminister College President, Dr. Robert L. Davidson, decided to make a memorial to Winston Churchill and his speech of 1946. He had read that the war ravaged St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury Church, constructed by Christopher Wren, was slated for demolition.

     The church was originally built about 1200 AD in what is now London, England. Sometime around 1550 it received an endowment from Alderman Bury of London, which is now part of it’s name. On September 2, 1666 the church burned down during the Great Fire of London. The church was rebuilt by architect Christopher Wren, who rebuilt most of London after the Great fire. 

     The church was bombed by the Germans during the blitz of London on December 29, 1940. The church lay in ruins for 20 years until slated for demolition, and was rescued by the Westminister College. 

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     The church was dismantled and rebuilt on this campus and dedicated May 7, 1969. It is the only Christopher Wren church in the United States. The Church now functions as the Chapel of Westminster College. 

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     The National Churchill Museum in Fulton commemorates the statesman and his 1946 Iron Curtain speech in the college gymnasium.  The Museum is located in the lower level of the Church. 

      An interesting thing you will notice about the church, no stained glass windows. Wren thought “nothing can add beauty to light”.

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     Tidbit of Information: Senator Bernie Sanders (they guy who lost to Trump as President) will be speaking as part of the Green Foundation Lecture Series this month on the 21st at Westminister College here in Fulton. He accepted the invitation when he heard we were here and was hoping to meet with us, but we have to move on, sorry, Bernie. 

Technical Stuff:

Litchfield, Illinois to Fulton, Missouri: 167.7 miles

3 hours 25 minutes

11.7 MPG

Diesel: $2.40


Shoji Tabuchi Show, Branson, Missouri

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Shoji Tabuchi, pronounced 田淵 章, is a …>>>>>… guess.

     Shoji Tabuchi was born April 16, 1944 in Daishoji, Ishikawa, Japan. Started playing the violin at age 7. Came to the United States in the 60’s and became an American Citizen. He became well known after playing at the Grand Ole Opera in Tennessee. He started playing in Branson in the 80’s, and now has his own theater. A true American success story.


His step-daughter also performs in the show:

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Branson Landing, Missouri

Day 206


     Barbara needed a shopping fix, so we went to Branson Landing, an outdoor shopping mall. She picked up some small gifts. Can’t buy too much, no place to put it in our 40 ft. home. While she did that, I sat with my new friend.


Walked along the boardwalk by the river. Actually it was a cement walk. 


     There was a neat water display fountain. We were told that in the evening there is a lighted water display presentation. So we chose to eat dinner at a steakhouse restaurant with a balcony over-looking the fountain.


Showboat, Branson, Missouri

Day 204


Went on a riverboat for dinner, a show, and a cruise.


However, most of it was for show. For example, the smoke stacks were for show,


The 10 ft. diameter helm was for show,


     Even the Capitan was for show. Not only that, it wasn’t even a river, it was a lake. The Boat is powered by diesel fuel, which turns a generator, which creates electricity to run the Boat. No steam. The Boat is steered by a computer. 


The knob in the lower left corner turns the rudder, which steers the ship. 


So, before they retrofitted, where was the engine room?


The Boat has a 700 capacity seating theater.


There was a nice meal, (except no soda, and the lemonade was weak) accompanied by singers,






and a Ventriloquist,


If you don’t finish your peas, you walk the plank.


Weird Branson, Missouri

Day 203

    Brief look back at Mount Rushmore, the winter heads were there.


     Like the Wisconsin Dells, weird things seemed to be attracted to Branson, Missouri. For example, why would the Titanic, an ocean liner, be in a landlocked state?


Why would King Kong come here?


     Missouri is an agricultural State, so I can see chickens and meatballs.


Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Branson, Missouri

Day 202


     We travelled around Branson. I don’t know who he is, or supposed to be, but he was big:


     Came across a picture of Whistler’s father:


    Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede is a dinner horse show. No, the horse was not the dinner. 

     Prior to the show was a pre-show with a juggler:

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     Lots of cowboys and cowgirls:

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     Barbara enjoyed the show


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Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO

Day 199

     Silver Dollar City is an  1880s-style theme park located in Branson, Missouri. It is the old west, with numerous craftsman and shows, and a full amusement park for the kids. Most of the venues in Branson are changing over for their christmas shows. Today was the last day of it’s regular shows at Silver City. Tomorrow they will close for 4 days as they convert to their christmas theme which will run through the 1st of the year. 

     We saw numerous shows through out the day, including:

     The dance hall girls at the Silver City Saloon day-199-silver-city-mo-7653_fotor day-199-silver-city-mo-7662_fotor

     Which included a shootout.


     The Homestead Pikers, a backwoods group,


     A presentation on wild horses, which still roam the West,


     Barbara stopped to try on the local fashions,


     The Cajun group was very entertaining. Makes me looking forward to going to New Orleans next year, day-199-silver-city-mo-7727_fotor day-199-silver-city-mo-7717_fotor day-199-silver-city-mo-7734_fotor

     Took a ride on the Stream Engine around the park, which was a real steam engine, day-199-silver-city-mo-7741_fotor day-199-silver-city-mo-7752_fotor day-199-silver-city-mo-7751_fotor

     The train was robbed by backwoods outlaws,


     Saw a magic show, eh! He will never make it to Carniege Hall, day-199-silver-city-mo-7772_fotor

     Now, this is the way life should be,


     Unfortunately, it landed me in the hoosegow


     This guy was taking logs,

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     hand carving them to this for a log cabin, day-199-silver-city-mo-7778_fotor

     And now, our day has

Branson, Missouri

Day 198

     The community of Branson was named after Ruben Branson. In 1882 Reuben opened a general store and post office in the area. Branson was formally incorporated in 1912. 

     Jim Owen, Mayor of Branson for 12 years and entrepreneur, built the first theater in 1934. Called “The Hillbilly Theater” it began to attract people from far and wide to tour the area. 1959 saw the completion of Table Rock Dam on the White River, which created Table Rock Lake. Also in 1959, the Baldknobbers Jamboree opened the first live music show in Branson.

     We are staying at Branson Stagecoach Campground, located next to Table Rock Dam. Unfortunately, you cannot see the lake or dam from the Campground. This is what we see.


     Not as nice as our last campground. 

Technical Stuff:

Lake of the Ozarks, MO to Branson MO 149.2 miles

3 hours 39 minutes

9.7 miles per gallon

Diesel: $2.19


Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Day 195

Technical Stuff:

     No sightseeing today. I am going to give you some insight as to what goes on behind the curtain.

     We are leaving Hannibal, Missouri, as we are Mark Twain’ed out. Barbara wants to go to Branson, Missouri. We will probably spend 1 to 2 weeks there as she wants to see some shows. There appears to be over 100 shows available. 

     Since Branson is about 300 miles from Hannibal it is not feasible to make it in one trip. We make about 50 miles in an hour, plus stop for lunch and stretch our legs, makes it a 7 hour journey. Might be ok in a car, but not pulling the Sphinx. So we need to make a stop in-between. The question is where? There does not appear to be anything of real interest between the two cities. Therefore we are looking for a spot about 150 miles from Hannibal. In a previous post I explained the different tools we use in planning a route. In this case we chose Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri because it sounds cool. 

     In choosing an RV park we look at location, travel distance, and price. We belong to a number of clubs that offer discounts on stays. KOA offers 10%, as does Good Sam, AAA, and AARP. Harvest Hosts offer the best deal, free. Passport America offers 50% off published prices. RV parks that accept Passport America usually do so because they are new, looking to establish a client base, are in an undesirable location, or are old and have gone into disrepair. 

     Cross Creek RV Park in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, accepts Passport America. The nightly stay was only $17.72, with full hook ups, (water, sewer, and electricity). Before we book a site we consult the Web, reviews, Google Earth – which gives us an arial view of the area, Trip Advisor, etc. Consulting all of those, we still might not know everything we should about the site. This RV park was off the beaten track in a hilly area. A hint was when we made the reservation the host said “you will go down a steep hill, which you will also have to go up when you leave.” That ended up being an understatement.

     After leaving the main highway we went down a gravel, washboard road for two and half miles. The grade was so steep I used first gear, if I had a 1/2 gear I would have used that. Don’t forget, I have 16,000 pounds of a moving home pushing the truck. The Sphinx does have electric brakes which are matched to the truck brakes. 

     Upon arrival we were offered two sites. The first a pull through and the second a back-in. They are just as they appear, that is, in a pull through site you enter one end, hook up, and when you leave continue on through the site to exit. Obviously when you have a 21 ft truck and a 40 ft 5th wheel, that is an advantage. In a back-in you must maneuver the truck and RV so that they line up with the utilities. Utilities for all RVs are on the left (driver side) of the campsite. That is fortunate since the RV connections are always on that side. 

     If you are driving a Class A or C RV that is not a problem. You just back it up like you would your car. If your RV is a 5th Wheel, it bends in the middle. When backing up you must turn the steering wheel of the truck in the opposite direction you want the back of the 5th wheel to go. So, if you want the back to go to the right, you must turn the steering wheel to the left. Not intuitive. A trick is to put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand in the same direction you want the rear of the 5th Wheel to turn. Try doing that with your lawn tractor and cart, not as easy as it sounds. 

     We asked to see both sites. The pull through went up a steep hill, then leveled where the utilities were located. It probably would have been ok for a 20 or 25 ft. RV. I don’t think our 40 ft. would have faired well.

     The second site was down by a lake. Because of the configuration of the road you had to back up a considerable distance to get to the site, and then continue backing up to get in the site, but the ground looked level. We chose that site, and this is the view:


     Not bad. Although this was one of the more difficult sites to get into and level, it was the most scenic of all our sites since the Everglades.

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      No traffic sounds from the highway, no trains, no airplanes, and no close neighbors, other than these: 


Quack, Quack, Quack.

Hannibal, Missouri to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri 153.2 miles

3 hours 27 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.27 gallon

Walking Hannibal, Missouri

Day 193

     When we stay in a town we normally spend the first day riding around to get our bearings. The next day or so we tour or hike our areas of interest. Then, if the weather is nice, we walk the town. Today was that day. Mark Twain’s Hannibal is about 10 blocks long by 4 blocks wide.

    We wandered and looked at the various mansions, including touring the Rockcliff Mansion. 


    In Hannibal, you can’t kick a stone without hitting something labeled Mark Twain: Mark Twain restaurant, Mark Twain ice cream parlor, Mark Twain souvenir shop, Mark Twain brewery, Mark Twain candy store, Mark Twain antiques, etc.

     We walked the 244 steps from the statute of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn


to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.


On the way, I think I saw a Monarch Butterfly


     I am not sure, as it was the same size as a regular butterfly. It might have been a Viceroy Butterfly. Maybe Lisa, my sister-in-law, can verify.

      The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse stands on Cardiff Hill overlooking Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. On November 11, 1934 construction on the lighthouse was commenced. The lighthouse was the first in the nation to be “inland”, which rendered it not as an aid to navigation, but to shine light over the year-long festivities surrounding the celebration of Mark Twain’s 100th birthday, and therefore purely for decoration.


     The lighthouse was lit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the White House on January 15, 1935. Technicians installed lines that connected the beacon of the lighthouse to the president’s desk in the Oval Office so that he could light the beacon with the turn of a key. I bet that cost the taxpayers a pretty penny.

  Unfortunately it blew down in a windstorm in 1960.


     It was rebuilt, lit and dedicated on May 24, 1963 by President Kennedy in the same manner that Roosevelt did it in 1935. In 1994 the lighthouse was refurbished and rededicated by President Clinton.

     Today, the lighthouse is again in disrepair. Inside visitation is not allowed as it is structurally unsound. Not a lasting tribute, I would think.

Mark Twain Cave, Hannibal, Missouri

Day 192

     We went to the Mark Twain Cave. It was much more interesting than the Wind Cave. Here, they let you touch the walls. The cave was discovered in 1819 when a hunter was following his dog who went into the cave. Since then it has been a major attraction.

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Numerous people left their mark on the walls.

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     This cave featured prominently in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It is where he and Becky got lost, and where Injun Joe was found dead.

     We also attended a one man show of Mark Twain, Jim Waddell, it was ok, but not great. Barbara and I were the only ones in the audience. I would have thought since it was only the two of us there would have been more interaction between the actor and us. There was none. He played it as if we were not there.

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Hannibal, Missouri

Day 188

     We travelled across the State of Missouri from St. Joseph to Hannibal, a distance of 200 miles which took us just over 4 hours.  

     St. Joseph is on the Missouri river while Hannibal is on the Mississippi. Some of the early pioneers would come down the Mississippi and take the train to St. Joseph, which at that time was as far west as the train went. The train back then took the same amount of time it took us to drive today.

     The obvious attraction today of Hannibal is that it is best known as the home of Samuel Clemens. However, he was not born here. He was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. In fact he only lived here for 10 years from age 4 to 14.


     His father, a lawyer, was not that good at it. Eventually he was appointed a Judge, but even then could barely support his family. He kept moving his family around looking for a better life which he never found.

     Little Sammy, actually he was called Sam, held various jobs growing up, including working in a newspaper printing shop, and piloting a riverboat on the lower Mississippi. During the Civil War he was a confederate soldier for 2 weeks. He did not become famous until he started writing stories in his 40’s about his 10 years in Hannibal. His story of Tom Sawyer under the name Mark Twain eventually brought him fame and fortune.

In his house, they had this door.


Really, you have a door with a knob, and this sign?

     Sammy wasn’t the only now famous person to come from Hannibal. The two you might remember most are Margaret Tobin and Cliff Edwards. Margaret Tobin was born July 18, 1867 in Hannibal growing up in a modest family. At age 18 her family moved to Leadville, Colorado. There she met and married James Joseph Brown. He worked in the mines as an engineer. As luck would have it, he came up with an idea that allowed the mining company to quadruple their gold output. As a reward the company gave him a share of the company which made he and Margaret instant millionaires.

     Margaret became famous when she help save numerous people on the Titanic. She was never called Molly in her lifetime. That was a name given her by Hollywood when they first made the movies about her, calling her the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

     If you are a movie buff, you will recognize the name of Cliff Edwards. He was a character actor in over a 100 films. Before that he played the Ukulele and was nicknamed “Ukulele Ike” by a club owner who could never remember his name. He was also the voice of Walt Disney’s Jimmy the Cricket (he taught you how to spell encyclopedia – see, you just sang it in your head).


Wanted to take my chevy to the levy, but I only had a RAM.


Technical Stuff:

St. Joseph, MO to Hannibal, MO 208.1 miles

4 hours 19 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2:39

The Pony Express, St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 186


     As stated in earlier posts, St. Joseph Missouri was the western most station for the railroad being built from the east. As more and more pioneers traveled to California there was more and more demand for better communication from the east. Family members wanted to keep track of where their kin went, and the 49’ers wanted to tell of there fortunes. The civil war was beginning to brew and the western territories of our Country wanted to know what was going on.


     In 1858 John Patee built this magnificent hotel to serve travelers to St. Joseph. Furnishings were shipped by steamboat. Offices were located on the first floor, the most famous of which was the office of the Pony Express. Hotel rooms were located on the second, third and fourth floors. It was the largest hotel west of the Mississippi River. It boasted such features as gas light, running water and flush toilets.


     On the hotel’s north side, across the street from the Pony Express Stables, was a door which the pony express rider and horse would use to pick up the mail inside the building.


     Contrary to popular belief, the Pony Express was not a government run operations (probably why it was so successful), rather it was the brainchild of three enterprising entrepreneurs, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, who operated a freight company taking supplies out West. They were successful in acquiring the mail contract from the government. Saint  Joseph was selected as the starting point because the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad could bring the mail here from the East Coast.

     The Pony Express only operated for 18 months, from April 3, 1860 to October 21, 1861,  during which time it carried 30,835 letters.  Letters came by train from the East or were mailed locally at the Patee House and assembled into the mochila to be carried 1,966 miles to Sacramento, California, by horseback. Letters cost $5 and would arrive in California in the advertised time of ten days. Completion of the telegraph to California in 1861 eliminated the need for the Pony Express.

     Israel Landis (do you think he was Jewish) designed the pony express saddle and mochila, which was Spanish for knapsack. When the rider mounted, his weight held the mochila in place. Each of the 4 pockets held five pounds of mail apiece. Three of the pockets were locked in St. Joseph and were unlocked in Sacramento. The 4th pocket was not locked and was for dispatches along the route.


     Letters carried by Pony Express were put in the mochila in this room for the 1,966 mile ride to California. There were 172 relay and home stations between here and Sacramento. A relay station was were the rider changed horses, and a home station is where riders were changed. The relay stations were 9 to 15 miles apart, and the home stations 75 to 100 miles apart. It usually took a rider ten to twelve hours to travel between home stations. At the home station, he would wait for the mail from the opposite direction and then retrace his route back to the home station from which he started.


     Johnny Fry was the first Phony Express rider. He left the stables at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 1860. (Like Kennedy and 9-11, everyone remembers where they were on that day).

     On display in the hotel is this 1050 pound ball of twine. It was once featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.


St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 185

     Saint Joseph was first settled as a trading post for the American Fur Co. by Joseph Robidoux in 1826. Later he acquired the site and laid out a town named for his patron saint.

     In looking at a map, you would think that Saint Joseph would have been part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And it would have been but for a clause that gave the Indians in the area this land in perpetuity. That only lasted until 1836 when the Indians sold out (or forced out, depending on who is telling the story) by the Platee Purchase. 

    Coming down the river, or overland from the East, from this point the pioneers took off for the West. By 1859 St. Joseph was the western terminus for the railroad. 

     St. Joseph is also famous for an event that took place here on April 3, 1882: 


     This is the house where that dirty little coward shot Mr. Howard, and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

     We took a detour to go to Missouri Western State University. Before reading any more, do you know why?


     It was to visit the memorial honoring the most trusted man in America.



              Walter let me take his picture.


                                      AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS.

Technical Stuff:

Nebraska City, NE to St. Joseph, MO 86.6 Miles

1 hour 48 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2.32