Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vacation travelogue

We departed Sand Springs around 11:30 yesterday (Monday). Instead of getting on the turnpike, we followed Route 66 up to Vinita. Realizing I had no map with me, I went into a nearby Wal-Mart and looked at a map to find which road I should take to get to Welsh. We were in search of the gravesite of Ma Barker, notorious outlaw from the early years of the twentieth century.

As arrived in Welsh, we noticed the sky growing dark. The first cache we looked for had the keyword “Alcatraz” in it. I store my coordinates by using a keyword from the cache name. “Alcatraz” was located in a park near a school. The cords led me to an open area with two nearby trees. I searched to big tree, while J searched the smaller tree. J found the cache in the smaller tree. The cache was a log only cache, meaning there was no room for trade items. The cache container was nothing more than a log rolled up and placed inside a small tube about an inch in length and about the diameter of a pencil. It was attached to the tree by a short piece of cable tie.

The wind was picking up as we returned to the car. We noticed drops of rain in the windshield. The rain increased in both strength and quantity. Soon we were in a deluge of rain. We headed for the cemetery where Ma Barker was buried. It was difficult to see much further than 25 feet in front of the car. We arrived at the cemetery gate, but did not get out of the car due to the heavy rain. Instead we hit the road going west, driving all the while at about 30 MPH. We arrived in Miami and decided to stay the night at the EconoLodge Motel.

This morning as I sit in our motel room, we are planning on returning to the cemetery outside Welsh.

When we got up the next morning the weather was better but not great. The temperature was cooler, but there was a light mist in the air. We went to the office where a free continental breakfast could be had. I fixed myself two Belgium waffles; J ate a bowl of cereal.

We loaded up the car and hit the road back to Welsh. Back at the cemetery, we lifted the chain holding the gate closed and went in. My GPS indicated the gravesite was about four hundred feet straight ahead. We walked in the direction the arrow pointed. It led us to some graves in the back of the cemetery. There they were: the Barker gang. All below ground now. Their graves were separate from the others in the small cemetery. Ma Barker died in 1935 along with one of her sons. I think they died in a shootout. There was only one stone. It marked the grave of Herman Barker, who died in 1927. The other members of the Barker gang (4 or 5 others) were marked only with a 5X7 card.

The cache information indicated the cache could be found near the stone for Herman. We looked for it but did not find it.

Next we drove into the town of Welsh. The town is so small it does not even have a McDonald’s. In fact, we saw no restaurant at all. We sought out two other caches but found nothing.
We headed east on Highway 10. We passed through Miami, Commerce (hometown of Mickey Mantle), and Quapaw. All three towns are within a radius of six miles I would guess. We continued on toward Baxter Springs, Kansas, just a few miles north of Miami. There we found three geocaches along the roadside. We passed through Baxter Springs and on toward Interstate 44. I believe this is the first time we have traveled to Missouri from Oklahoma and never got on an interstate highway.

We stopped at Red, White and Blues – a barbeque joint we often eat at when we are in Joplin. It is about a mile off the interstate on Rangeline Road. Even though we were seated in the non-smoking section, the air quality was poor. I asked to be seated elsewhere. The waitress accommodated my request. The air was a little better there. You don’t appreciate Oklahoma’s prohibition on smoking in restaurants until you travel to another state which does not have the same rules.

From Joplin, we drove on in to Springfield. We stayed the night in my parents’ apartment. While here I went to Springfield Music and bought three pieces of piano duet sheet music.
Today was the third day of this vacation. We stayed in Springfield, Mo. for the day. J worked on Dad’s computer, while I read a magazine. In the afternoon we went to Golden Corral, except for Mother who stayed at the apartment. I filled up on catfish at GC.

In the afternoon we went to the AAA office and got some tour books for Missouri and Illinois. We also stopped at a store called Book Castle (a used bookstore) or something similar and looked at the books. J bought three books for our grandchildren. I didn’t see anything I was dying to have.

Tonight I walked with Dad as he made his round through The Abbey. When we reached the west side we took the elevator down to the first floor. There is a small lending library there. By small I mean maybe 150 volumes. I borrowed three volumes and brought them back to the apartment.

Michael Moore was on the Larry King show tonight. We watched the show. I want to see Moore’s new movie called “Capitalism: A Love Story” in October. I have seen a few other films by Michael Moore and have liked them all. Tomorrow we plan to head toward St. Louis.

We drove to Troy, Missouri today. When we got to Rolla the heavens opened up and we got drenched. We have seen plenty of rain on this trip. When we got to Troy, we went directly to Kay and Jim’s farm. The farm is about ten miles north of Troy. We bypassed St. Louis by taking highway 47 north from St. Clair. Hwy 47 goes directly to Troy.

When we arrived at the farm, Jim showed us a plot of flowers he was growing. He has some Zinnias that are very high – around seven feet high. Jim had built a trellis for his tomatoes. The trellis was large enough that you could walk through it.

Today we drove down to St. Charles, the point of debarkation for Lewis and Clark on their voyage of discovery in 1804. I learned that St. Charles was the first capital of Missouri. It served as the capital for just a few years in the early 1800s. While in St. Charles, we found four geocaches. Two were virtual caches; the other two were small and micro size. One cache was inside a shrine built to honor a saint. I believe her name was Duchesne. We looked over the grounds of the shrine, which also housed a school. While in Troy we stayed at the Lexington Hotel.

This is our second day in Hannibal, hometown of Mark Twain. Twain is one of my favorite writers. His novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been called the greatest American novel. I would agree with that assessment. While here we have toured the structures associated with Twain. We also went up the river on a dinner cruise for two hours. Today we attended a presentation by Richard Geray as Mark Twain. Afterwards we strolled the streets and went in some shops which were open on this Sunday evening. Tomorrow we move on the Springfield, Illinois, Abe Lincoln country.

It has been a while since I updated this record of our vacation. I’ve been too busy with various activities. I have enjoyed geocaching some of the time. I found a few caches in Illinois and a few more here in Missouri. Before we got to Illinois, I found a few in Oklahoma and Missouri. One thing we have not done is to go volkswalking. When we get back home I will have to resume my habit of walking. I have gone almost two weeks with no exercise, except for what I pick up incidentally – which I don’t count.

When we arrived in Springfield, Ill. The first thing we did was go to the botanical gardens. We saw and hear the carillon in the gardens. There is a labyrinth (of sorts) in the gardens. It is not a conventional labyrinth. It looks like a labyrinth that someone started but gave up on. We went through a building on the gardens with various displays.

That afternoon, we checked in to The State House Hotel just across from the state capitol building. We found parking to be scare in downtown Springfield. The hotel has parking, though, so we would often go on foot to see the sights. We trekked down to the Lincoln Museum and spent a few hours there seeing the exhibits. I have visited three other presidential libraries/museums (Clinton, Eisenhower, Truman), but I think this one tops them all. Perhaps it is the period in which Lincoln lived – the Civil War period – that lends itself to such high drama. The museum utilized the latest high tech gadgetry to tell the Lincoln story. For example, in one of the theaters a short film or maybe presentation about 15 minutes long is “shown.” I’m having trouble saying what I saw because at times it seemed like I was watching a film and at other times it appeared to be a person alive on stage. Anyway, whenever the presentation comes to a close, the speaker fades away. Whatever is behind the speaker becomes visible through the speaker. The speaker slowly fades out leaving the scenery with no speaker. I don’t know how this trick was pulled off.

On another day we toured the old capital building where Lincoln served in the Illinois state legislature. Across the street were the law offices of Lincoln & Herndon. We took the tour through that building also.One day we toured the home of poet Vachel Lindsay. We saw the bed on which Lindsay came into this world, and upstairs we saw the bed on which Lindsay exited this world. He lived for 52 years, and his early exit may have been due to a mental illness he suffered from. He committed suicide by drinking something poisonous. Our tour guide, Marlene, did an excellent job of bringing Lindsay to life.

(To be continued)

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