September 19 Visiting my son in Missouri

Shutins to Johns Our planned route today through Southern Missouri meandered through the hills and valleys of the Ozarks.  When we woke this morning, the humidity  was so high that the windows were covered with water so heavy it looked as though it had been raining.  All that humidity creates a steamy murkiness to the skies that dulls the view a lot.  Route 160 through the Ozarks is narrow and winding, and only occasionally opens up enough for a view of the larger landscape.  Again, I was disappointed in the lack of anyplace to stop, or park, or even slow down a bit to take some photos.  We passed some picturesque old barns, farms, and fences that would have been pretty  to photograph.  Instead, we kept ambling along, with not an inch of shoulder on the road, and I took a few very bad photos through the windows so that I could remember how we traveled.

Shutins to Johns (11) The focus for this day wasn’t to spend time seeing Missouri, it was to get across Missouri so that I could visit my son who lives near Joplin, on the western side of the state.  His life doesn’t allow him much opportunity to travel, so it is good that I can go to him. We planned to park in his yard, after he assured us he could plug in the MoHo and there wasn’t any problem with being there. 

Once we arrived, however, it was pretty clear that was a mistake.  John’s home is more than 100 years old, a remodeling work in progress, and the electric system couldn’t handle the 20 amps we needed just to run the air conditioner.  With the temperature in the mid 90’s and the night time temperatures not much less, air conditioning was a requirement and we relocated to a nice park not too many miles away.

Missouri_to Kansas (6) Once settled into the Big Red Barn RV Park in Carthage, Missouri, with full hookups and the air conditioner funning full blast, we relaxed into visiting with John and his friend Shannon.  Supper at a new local restaurant gave us time to talk and laugh together over a good meal, and keep nice and cool while doing so.

It was great to spend some time together, to catch up on family goings on, to share some hugs.  I am hoping that John will make it out west again soon to visit and see his sisters.  The last time he was able to come west, (other than when he was truck driving) was for our family reunion in 2007. John loves Missouri.  He has lived here for most of his life, and his father is close by.  He loves the warmth and doesn’t mind the humidity.  He just laughed at me as he watched the water pouring from my body and my dripping wet hair.

More photos are here, (some the not so good windshield variety), and others of my son are linked here>


September 18 Johnson Shut – ins

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>

ShutIns (3) Heck of a name, right? I found this place on Google Earth, trying to locate a place to camp somewhere between Henderson and Joplin where we are going to visit my son tomorrow.  Hot.  Right now it is hot, about 90 degrees or so with 65 percent humidity.  On a Saturday afternoon, we are sitting comfortably air conditioned in the MoHo, waiting for a bit of evening coolness before we take a bike ride around the campground.

When I picked this park, I had no idea what in the world the name meant, but after today, hiking the “shut-ins”, I now know it is a place where hard rock narrows the river to a wild canyon, eroded boulders forming plunge pools and natural slides just made for summer play.  Even though it is September, the park was full of people playing in the river. We watched families cavorting among the rocks and watched a young boy, terrified and ShutIns (10) stranded high above a rushing torrent, slide down safely into his father’s arms.

Our hike on the Shut-ins trail, however, took us far from the noisy kids deep into the oak-hickory woods surrounding the Black River.  It was hot, but still good to get out and walk 2.5 miles or so in an environment totally new to us. There were lots of lizards, no snakes, but turtles both in the water and on the trail.  Occasionally there was a breeze, just a bit of coolness to blow away the gnats whirling around our faces.  It was fun, really it was.

The visitor center here at the state park is new, only completed in 2005 after a break in the Taum Sauk dam sent 1.3 billion gallons of water raging through the park, scouring the landscape and destroying everything in it’s path.  The Black River Center is constructed from stone and wood and houses truly interesting and informative exhibits about the park geology, vegetation, animals, and the history of the flood.  More than 1.5 billion years of geologic history is exposed here, including several varieties of rhyolites from volcanic activity.  I am from an area of recent volcanic activity in the west, with no idea that volcanic rocks existed anywhere in this part of the world.

ShutIns (21) I took advantage of the free backpacks that the center allows campers to check out, and mine was a “tree” backpack, with several tree identification books, magnifiers, a couple of pair of binoculars, kerchiefs, and coloring crayons, of all things.  The flip chart hardwood tree identifier was perfect and I managed to identify a few trees at least.

As the evening comes, the sky is clear of clouds but still a bit murky, whether from haze or humidity, I can’t tell. Because we didn’t have a reservation, our site is in the equestrian portion of the park, used for overflow camping, and we have a large area to tie our horses, and a manure pit across the road.  May sound a bit strange, but it does give us a very open space to camp, with a night sky that is pitch black except for the stars.

September 17 Henderson KY to Johnson Shut-ins, MO

I only took a few photos today, they are posted here.

Evansville_to Black (2) Today was a traveling day, leaving Indiana, crossing the Ohio River into Illinois, and the Mississippi River into Missouri.  Again we took the side roads, but navigation in Illinois is considerably better than Ohio.  The skies were clear, with full sunshine most of the day, but the haze on the horizon belied the humidity of the landscape we crossed.  We stopped for a break in a small town along the route, and enjoyed the Midwest country crafts in the booths before continuing.  I bought a great gourd painted like a witch to add to my Halloween stash. 

Evansville_to Black (21) As we approached the Mississippi Valley, the fields broadened, and wide terraces planted with soybeans ripened in the late summer sun.  In the midst of navigating, I checked out the SoilWeb app on the phone and discovered the Drury soil series, mapped all along these river terraces.  Just about every soil scientist who has mapped soils will know Drury, it’s a soil often used to define soil development in big river systems.

The landscape changed almost immediately when we entered Missouri, broad valleys breaking into the complex hills and winding roads of the Ozarks. The heat was increasing with each mile, and by the time we reached Johnson Shut-ins State Park it was 94 degrees and the humidity was high.  With the park completely reserved for the weekend, the attendant sent us to the equestrian ShutinsPM (5)area, lots of space, no shade, but water and electric.  Good enough for a hot day!  Setup, turn on the air conditioner, and watch a movie! 

  Late evening was cooler, and we went for a bike ride to explore the campground before settling in.  You haven’t heard night songs until you have heard the bugs in the Missouri woods. I recognized the crickets, but all the other deafening sounds were who knows what.  It was perfectly dark and the moon is just about half full.  With the windows opened, the air conditioner off, and the Fantastic Fan going full blast we slept just great.

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>

Teaching in Lincoln and visiting Branson, Missouri and my son

Transcribed form the little red leather journal in April 2011

May 14th, 2007

Lincoln 048 While we were in Lincoln I worked during the days and Mo checked out the town. She found Pioneer park where we rode our bikes one evening after work. She found another lovely park with a lake where Abby got to go swimming until Mo later saw the “no swimming” signs. Then at Pioneer Park Abby went swimming again, although for Abby it really is more like wading.

One evening we went to dinner at what used to be the Fireworks Grill and had steaks with Charlie (a fellow teaching soil scientist) but it turned out to be a real disappointment. Evidently the real Fireworks place has moved out of town on the south end somewhere and we never could find it. Bummer. I ended up eating out with the survey people several nights, including a night at the Cajun place, a night with Doug and Jim and Doug’s wife at the Italian place, Mo and I had pizza at Chicago Pizza and that was really great! Mo also got a chance to see the Haymarket park and sculpture downtown and to visit the capitol.

Lincoln 055 Lincoln 054 When the weekend came, we decided to leave for Branson on Friday night so that we could get there early enough of Saturday to get settled in before time for our shows. I got off work at 530 and we took off south towards Missouri. We got to go into Iowa as well on the way so we could get another state on that trip! I drove a little bit but got tired and went into the back to rest. Loved that part, although it was pretty bumpy and I finally got up around midnight and Mo said she was looking for a place to pull over. Those roads in southern Missouri don’t have much shoulder so it wasn’t easy to find. We were really surprised when we turned a corner and there was a Wal-Mart just waiting for us! Mo said, hope there are some rv’s there and as we drove around the parking lot we found a lineup and we pulled in and settled in for a good nights sleep! Thank goodness for Wal-Mart. In the morning we had a MacD’s breakfast since it was right there and then decided to take HWY 65 all the way south past Branson to Arkansas so we could get that sticker as well. The gas by the border wasn’t too expensive. Back to Branson to find our campground and we were really glad that we had switched since the other one I had originally wasn’t nearly as nice. In spite of the chain link fence, it was a comfortable place.

Lincoln 056 We settled in and didn’t have much time to get ready for our 3pm Broadway show. Decided to leave Abby in the motorhome rather than the kennels and I made sure all the windows were closed in the MoHo and we took off. Turns out that I opened the window instead of closing it and when we got back Abby had jumped out of the truck, was running around on the highway until someone found her and brought her back to the park. She was down in the kennel barking like crazy! What a horrible feeling that was. Just too close, too close to losing her. She was pretty contrite after that and we could tell she was a bit depressed and even more worried than usual.

The Broadway show was really good with lots of great costumes and fun singing. We enjoyed it. We came back to the MoHo and settled in after the trauma with Abby and got ready to go for our evening show which was “that 70’s Show”. Well, what a shock that turned out to be. The venue was a crummy old restaurant in a Ramada Inn that had been converted to a dingy bar, exactly like the 70’s. We knew something might be wrong when a tall thin woman in a very bad blond wig and heavy makeup waved us in from the parking lot. There were probably 20 people altogether in the audience. Funny thing, though, with the free cokes and popcorn and the campy entertainment, it actually turned out to be fun, with some good singing and lots of comedy. We ended up really enjoying ourselves.

Lincoln 060 Lincoln 072 Our next show wasn’t until 11 pm at the downtown Owens’s Theater. We walked around early and watched the fireworks on the River Front but when we got to the theater, the show had been cancelled. We were pretty tired anyway and so it wasn’t too hard to just go home and crawl into bed after that very busy day!

Sunday morning we got up and got ready for my son Johnny and his wife Linda to arrive, cooked a good breakfast and sat out on the covered deck overlooking the Branson trees with our morning coffee. A really lovely moment. The kids got there around 10 or so and we had a great visit. Took them first to the Duck rides. It was great fun and we all enjoyed ourselves. Then Johnny drove us around the different places where he had lived and played as a young boy and we went to the little town of Harrison? For lunch. We ate rather boring food at the Olde English Pub restaurant and then just went back to the campground and visited until they headed back for Joplin.

Lincoln 064 Mo and I got ready for our big night out at the Mickey Gilley show. This one was interesting, and kind of fun, but the people were really really old who were there. It was country music from the era after the Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr time and before the current time so we didn’t know the music that well, but the entertainment was still fun. Sort of campy Branson kind of entertainment I guess. I would imagine that you have to have tickets for the special appearances and special shows, some of them were already sold out when we ordered our tickets so the shows that we saw were more ordinary. After the show we walked down to the riverfront area and really enjoyed seeing how nicely they have upscaled everything there. I could definitely spend some time in that place for sure! We were really lucky because while we were in Branson it wasn’t too hot and didn’t rain or anything unpleasant at all.

Lincoln 079 Monday morning we got up and had cereal for breakfast, broke camp, and headed north by traveling across HWY 65 through the Ozarks into Oklahoma (another state) and along the eastern border of Kansas on what was called the Military Road. It was interesting to see Fort Scott and the restored buildings where 160 people lived at what was once believed to be the final frontier of the west. Back to Lincoln that evening and off to work the next morning for the field day with the students.

Tuesday evening was our chance to ride our bikes at Pioneer park and it was really lovely. Cool and breezy and very pretty and green, with a truly wonderful paved bike trail. Mo finally figured out that we could put a muzzle on Abby and she does ok in the car waiting for us. The muzzle seems to keep her calmer than when she gets herself all worked up and barking.

Wednesday morning I worked, met with the lab people, and managed to get out of the center at 11:30 when Mo picked me up in the MoHo. We bought a taco on the way out of town and headed west to Edna’s house. The trip was fairly uneventful, with clear skies and some cloudiness as we approached Colorado, but we managed to miss all the big rain storms that Edna was getting.