Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Heading South

There are a lot of miles between Davenport, Iowa and our winter destination in Florida – a thousand in fact. Luckily, the state just south of Iowa is Missouri which is my home state. I  have family in St. Louis so we try to stop twice a year as we make the north-south migration (like the “snowbirds” we are).

The drive south through endless corn and soybean farms left us in a little bit of a trance with a very monotypic view of America’s farmbelt.  We pulled into an Army Corps of Engineers campground near Hannibal, Missouri for a one-night stay and quickly wished we had more than one night to enjoy this respite in the woods.  The fall colors were dancing on the trees in the quiet campground which was occupied by one other camper.  The weather was perfectly sunny and cool so we ventured out for a walk and popped into the nature center which had a great view of the lake and short interpretive hiking trail.

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While we didn’t want to leave our quiet, woodsy campsite the need to get our Aqua-Hot heating system serviced was nagging at us – especially with temperatures dipping into the 30’s.  After our service appointment, we decided to stay at a state park nearby in case the repairs were not done properly and needed follow-up (yes, that has happened before so we were just being smart!).  Bennett Spring State Park is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons.  Not only do we like the campground but there are beautiful historic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings that add character, plenty of hiking trails, and it is one of Missouri’s “Trout Parks.”  The park has been in the business of raising fish since the 1930’s at their fish hatchery which are released into the the spring and stream flowing through the park.  Thousands of anglers are attracted to this trout hot spot which can be shoulder to shoulder at times.  Luckily for us, the late fall has less crowds and on weekdays will only draw a handful of anglers.

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Next up on our trek through Missouri was a stop in St. Louis for some family time and to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast.  It was great for us to get to see so many family members especially those who drove up from Arkansas and in from 20161124_174729Pennsylvania.  The fall weather cooperated and was perfect for being outside.  South of the city is Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and Military Post - the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River which is now used as a base for the Army and Air National Guard.  Jefferson Barracks was an important and highly active U.S. Army installation from 1826 through 1946 and by the 1840’s was the largest military establishment in the United States.  It was decommissioned in 1946 and some of the buildings have been transformed into museums, one of which was the Telephone Museum which peaked our interest.  The museum houses hundreds of pieces of telephone-related equipment and tools, and memorabilia from the 1880s through the 2000s.

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St. Louis County has lots of free museums everything from the art museum, the zoo, and a large science center and more.  Since the weather was conducive to being outside we opted to visit the Laumeier Sculpture Garden.  The Laumeier was founded in 1976 and is one of the first and largest sculpture parks in the country.  It all started in 1968 when Mrs. Matilda Laumeier bequeathed the first 72 acres of the future Laumeier Sculpture Park to St. Louis County in memory of her husband, Henry Laumeier.  Shortly thereafter in 1976, local artist Ernest Trova donated 40 works of art (estimated at nearly one million dollars) to St. Louis County for the formation of a sculpture park and gallery.  The park, which is free and open daily, attracts nearly 300,000 annual visitors who come to meander through the grounds decorated with shiny, whimsical, and abstract pieces of art.  They also offer education programs, art classes, guided tours, and much more. One of our favorite pieces was “Deer.”  This 20’ high fiberglass and steel structure garners your intrigue because of its size and interest with its sweet fawn face.  The artist created this much larger than life-size animal to emphasize that nature is out of balance in today’s urban and suburban spaces and humans have impacted other species in the environment.

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With the glorious weather continuing to shine on us we kept looking for outdoor activities and decided to venture across the Missouri River to St. Charles, Missouri.  Historic St. Charles comes alive the weekend after Thanksgiving as they kick off the Christmas season when yesteryear merriment meets the present.  The "Christmas Traditions Festival" is one of the nation's largest Christmas festivals.  Legendary Christmas figures stroll down Main Street, live music fills the air, a festive parade rolls through town, live street performers entertain the crowds, and there is plenty of shopping to help you get a jump on your Christmas lists.  The town is charming with its brick-lined streets that highlight this Nationally Registered Historic District. 

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Before getting too deep into the shopping and events on the street, we popped into the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum.  The museum is appropriately located here as the legendary explorers began their momentous journey westward from St. Charles via the Missouri River.  The museum is an educational attraction with exhibits, artifacts, and videos displayed upstairs about replica keelboats and piroques that resemble those used by the men. 

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After spending a week and a half in St. Louis, it was time to get on the road and make a couple quick overnights so we could get to Florida in time for work.  Yep, it’s back to “work” for us. We will be volunteering at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (in the Florida panhandle) for the winter.  Walks on the white squeaky beach and through the sunlit longleaf pine forests will give us plenty of time to ponder our 2018 travel plans.

























2 comments:

  1. The weather is just beginning to cooperate here in Florida. It's hard to complain knowing what others are going through further north. I left icy Kentucky with a newly repaired furnace (required two separate calls) and can empathize with your reservations; luckily it has remained "fixed". Ironically, I start a volunteering gig just a little further south of you in Crystal River, FL with Save the Manatees. Enjoying your blog! Stay Warm and Safe Travels.

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