the Central and Midwestern United States
After Santa Fe, we started the LLLLOOONNNGGG, perilous journey into the central and midwestern portion of the U.S. And man did it suck.
Actually, Texas was short, Oklahoma was WAY greener and nicer than I expected, Kansas was okay, western Missouri (Joplin specifically) was the most miserable (God forsaken) state I've ever been to - pretty much all the land and the people are some of the worst, most inconsiderate, unbelievable people I've seen on the journey, St. Louis was actually really cool, Illinois was short lived, and our stay in Indianapolis was a total breath of fresh air from our life on the road.
OK, here's a few...
Texas was really quite flat - just like I expected. Green though, not like I expected up in the northern part of the state. Also, we did not make it to Palo Duro, which happens to be the second largest canyon in the U.S. Seeing that might have changed my whole outlook on Texas.
Oklahoma was actually a very nice, very green, very clean looking place. I expected dry, parched, dead grasslands with rotting and disintegrating houses. Instead, it was totally nice. We stopped right outside of Oklahoma City. It was hot, but not nasty, humid yet. I do have to say, since leaving Oregon, OKC was our first, real highway traffic jam.
Joplin, Missouri was the most miserable night of the entire trip for all of us. Hot, muggy, nasty, sweaty weather. And for some reason the truck stop next door to the KOA campground is one of the noisiest places on the planet. Throw in a couple drunken, idiotic truck drivers playing with fireworks in the parking lot, and you have the makings of a disaster of a town. Of course the owners of the park don't bother mentioning that. Nor do they opt to put their clients out in the back side of the park away from the truck stop and the fireworks store right next door.
Do me, and yourself a HUGE favor. If you ever want to stop in Missouri for a night - DO NOT stop there. It's a dangerous combination of hillbilly, redneck, and who knows what other assenine adventures you might discover.
The Little House on the Prairie stops were very cool. I thoroughly enjoyed both stops. Unfortunately, both of them are privately operated ventures so there is very little of interest for the kids to really get excited about. And commercially, there is almost nothing that makes you want to just grab a bunch of memorabilia and support everything they're doing.
A hint for anyone running a place like that... visit a national park and see how to really market, and use the prestige of what you have to give visitors an AMAZING experience. The Little House in Missouri gets 50,000 visitors per year, and I can honestly say there was very little in their store that made me want to grab it off the shelf and buy it. And that's sad, because we fully wanted to get something, anything for the girls to remember that place. Besides pictures. BUMMER!
Here's a model of what they think the original Little House on the Prairie actually looked like. It's a small, little unassuming house out in the middle of nowhere. If the dang books weren't so popular, and so cool a person would be all too happy to just cruise right on by it. How do they know that's the spot? Good question. The picture below is why.
This is THE actual well that Pa and Mr. Edwards dug by hand in the book 'Little House on the Prairie'. Yep, by hand. Of course, they have the well capped off by bricks so you can't even look down into it and see what they saw everytime they looked down the well. In fact, the lady who now runs the place doesn't even know how deep the well was. Disappointing!
The second Little House stop wasn't too much better. However, because Laura Ingals Wilder actually lived at this house for a huge part of here life, and in fact wrote most of the books in the series here, they have way more memorabilia and period pieces here. Cool, right? Well, it would be cool. But guess what? You can't take pictures of any of it. I can understand they don't want you using a flash for pictures, but give me a break. You don't have to take pictures only with a flash. If they would let you take pictures inside the museum and the house it would be a much more enjoyable, memorable place. Oh, well. I gotta get over my ranting and raving here. Let me just say this... when you visit a national park you can take thousands of pictures of everything you see. Does that stop people from buying all the other memorabilia inside the stores? NOT AT ALL! Think about that. Being able to take pictures and buy the mementos is an even better marketing idea.
Ah, but amazingly, our camera somehow magically bootlegged a couple of slightly out of focus shots of 2 very important pieces from the museum (without flash I must add).
Pa's Fiddle - Enough Said!
Pa and Ma - notice the wild hair and beard - Pa's trademarks. I don't think you'll find this photo of Pa on any of their postcards, at least none that we saw. This picture is invaluable.
Finally, St. Louis was a very cool town. I'm not going to say anything about Indiana here because I'll probably cover Gary's wedding a little later. So we'll finish up with St. Louis here. First of all - it was hot and muggy here. Unbearable hot, in fact, so we spent a huge amount of time in the pool. How people in the south used to live without pools and A/C I'll never know.
The St. Louis Arch is very cool. If you make it to this town, you simply must stop and check this place out. It's free to get inside of the stores and museum underneath. To go to the top is not free though.
We took a boat trip up the Mississippi River. Here's a very cool little fact... When you park down by the riverside, it only costs $4 to park there all day. And when you park there you will be parking on some rather large cobblestones. Those stones were laid there over 100 years ago, and they paid the laborers $.01 each rock to lay those stones. Yep - $.01. It's pretty cool to park on top of 100 year old hand laid rocks. I think you'll be impressed when you see them too. They don't build stuff like they used to.