Saturday, June 29, 2024

Castle in the Sky? In Missouri??

Location: Damsite Campground (COE); Hermitage, Missouri

It's a kick back and relax stop at this COE campground. It's also a day of air conditioning because there is a heat advisory for today. Combining temps in the mid 90's and high humidity gives a heat index of 108. I had hopes that the storms that passed through last night and this morning would bring cooler temperatures but I was wrong. The storms approached from the west without any cool temps behind the front. Oh well, it's just for today and the temps will moderate beginning tomorrow.

I took this picture as I was leaving the last campground. I tried it get it several times but forgot to have the phone ready until the day I was leaving.

Representative of rural country road in south central Missouri

This is a frightening thing for RV'ers traveling down strange two lane roads in the middle of nowhere. I saw the bridge a long time before seeing the clearance sign, then breathed a sigh of relief. Upon see the bridge from the distance, I suddenly remembered I haven't been checking bridge clearances when planning a tow.

Recently overlaid four lane highway with little traffic on a pretty weather day. Nice.

This is the view of the campground and lake as you enter.

Nice campsite.

While Liberty's AC was cooling things off after getting set up, I drove to the back side of the dam to check it out. Looked like the gate were opened fully and releasing the max. It had an unusual amount of foam which smelled badly. The foam is decaying biological junk. 
A nicely framed picture of the lake while out walking around the campground.

Talking about weather, I have a new problem. The Mississippi River is flooding in Minnesota and moving south. I have reservations for three days beginning July 14th at Hickory Creek (COE campground) which is on the banks of the Mississippi River just south of Davenport, Iowa. Checking online, the Corps has closed the campground and it is due to re-open (post-flood?) on July 12th which is two days before my reservation. That's only a two day margin of error. Am I willing to bank on that two days or should I cancel and make another reservation further inland? I was looking forward to staying at Hickory Creek so I could drive into Davenport to look at the Roller Gate Dam I saw a few years ago. There aren't any COE campgrounds in that area that aren't on the banks of the river and that fit into the path of my travels and current reservations. I was able to find a couple of Illinois State parks that seems to have plenty of vacancies. That many vacancies on just two week notice is a little troublesome, but I think it will be OK if I need them. My plan is to wait and see while keeping up with the flood and state park vacancies. If it isn't one thing, it's another. But things like this is what makes life less boring. 

After doing laundry at a small but nice laundromat and getting a haircut from Walmart (by the way, the stylist wanted to escape her life and was hoping to hitch a ride with me. I sympathized with her life, but it was a big NO on giving a ride), I was able to explore something interesting. Is an old dilapidated castle on the top of a semi-mountain interesting? If you're anything like me, you just said, "a castle in Missouri"? After traveling around this country, I'm not too surprised about some of the things people have done. 

A Kansas City business man bought 5,000 acres of land in the foothills of the Ozarks back in the early 1900's. His plan was to build a retirement home and disappear from civilization. He imported skilled Scottish masons to build him a castle using local stone. Sadly, he never saw it finished. He died in one of the first car accident in Missouri around 1906. His sons finished the job but the castle was gutted by fire in 1942 and bad luck seemed to follow. I gave up my research at that point since I didn't want to jinx myself with any more bad ju-ju. I have enough to spare and can loan my excess to anybody who wants some. Anyway, I saw a picture of the ruins of the castle several weeks ago and wanted to see it in person. I was most interested in the use of the buttresses I saw in the picture. They are very impressive in real life. Instead of explaining them, I'll try to remember to point them out in one of my pictures. It was an interesting visit that lasted only about an hour, was free and included a one mile walk. All in all, a good day.

This the remnants of the carriage house near the parking lot. It was also gutted with fire along with the castle.

This is the first view of the castle. Each exterior wall had buttresses. 

The castle is fenced off due to liability reasons. Just a few years ago, you could wander around inside and inspect the construction.

This is the rear of the castle with it's own set of buttresses. If the buttress wasn't connected to the castle at the bottom then it would be considered a "flying buttress". 

This is the view from the castle. 

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed about 180 miles north to Mark Twain country. It will be the longest tow so far on this trip and I weirdly am looking forward to the long drive. The road looks nice and the weather a little cooler. I'll use to trip to do some "thinking driving" and tighten the knots on some of my memory demons that are trying to get loose. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe, I'll Cya down the road.  


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Cosmic Caverns

Campbell's Point Campground (COE); Shell Knob, Missouri

This is the eighth Corps of Engineers campground I've stayed at on this trip. I haven't counted them up but I would guess I've stayed in about 100 of them over the last 10 years and have only had one bad experience. One interesting thing has occurred this year compared to the past. Even though there are camp hosts, they don't routinely occupy the gate house or travel around the campground. Of the 8 campground on this trip, only one gate house has been manned. In the years past, the gate house was not only manned but they almost always wanted to see my senior pass and driver's license before logging me into the campground. The good part of this setup is I can show up before the check-in time and if my campsite is empty I can set up. So far, it's worked out pretty good. 

This campground is located in southern Missouri about half way between Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. Although there are a few "high hills" or "small mountains" it is not as someone would think about if you say you're staying in the Ozark Mountains. There are some good vista views and the roads are in above average to very good condition. Freedom and Liberty sort of like the winding and hilly roads (I'm just along for the ride sometimes).

I think this was southern Missouri and not northern Arkansas. It may have been psychological, but there did appear to be a difference in landscape once I crossed the state line.

This is about 10 miles from the campground. You drop down from this hill/mountain into the valley below.

This is the same view as the one above but is from a vista turnoff that I drove back to after setting up camp.

Although it is in a very rural area, the feel of the campground is "big-city".

The view out my back window

The main reason for my stopping here was to visit and explore the Cosmic Caverns of North Arkansas. They are Arkansas's largest privately owned show caves and were first discovered in 1845 but weren't developed until 1927. There are at least two lakes in the cavern and are considered to be "bottomless" since divers have not found their bottom. There was no evidence of the caves ever being used or visited by the native Americans.

The Cosmic Caverns are my fourth caverns I've toured and explore. The other three are Carlsbad, Longhorn and Mammoth. All four are different and after visiting Cosmic yesterday, I can't decide which one is the best and worse. I'm usually pretty good at ranking things, but am unable to do so with the caverns.

This is the map of the caverns

This is at the very beginning. That horizontal shaft in the center of the picture is a new exploration tunnel. During heavy rains, they have been hearing a tremendous amount of water rushing behind that wall. They suspect a possible underground waterfall, but haven't found it yet. By the way, that thing hanging down is a part of a stethoscope.

There was a large variety of geological formations.

An example of the walkway. This was the sturdier of all of them.

Fins and bacon. It did look like bacon.

There were some low hanging head knockers and narrow passages. 

That is the last of the lakes

Stalactites and our tour guide, Meagan, born in Beaumont, Texas.

Last picture.
The caverns are definitely worth a stop. You spend about 1 1/2 hours on the tour in 65 degree weather but very, very humid (90+ %).

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading about 125 miles north of here to another COE campground in Central Missouri. That campground should be close to the northern edge of the Ozarks and it will be interesting to see the change in landscape. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Two Top 10 Museums in the Aux Arcs

 Location: Hickory Creek Campground (COE); Northwest Arkansas

I didn't list a town for this campground because there are so many that are close by that I just listed the location as Northwest Arkansas. I originally had reservations in a campground about 30 miles north of here but the Corps had to close that campground because a tornado hit it a few weeks ago causing severe damage. I was lucky in two ways. One by not being in the campground when the storm hit, and two, by being able to find a vacancy at this campground on such short notice. 

Over the last few weeks, I have grown used to having a water view at my campsite but this one, although near the water, doesn't have nice watery view. This is also the first of my campground where I've stopped for four days instead of three. I did this on purpose because I've learned over the years that I routinely need a longer stay about every three weeks to "let time catch up".  Think about that for a second. When was the last time that you spent a day seeing everything for the first time. Now multiply that by three weeks. When moving every three days and seeing all new stuff, it takes a while for my mind to categorize and file away all of the new memories (silent echoes).

This picture is for all of the RV travelers out there who have visited (explored?) a campground dump station. This is from my last campground as I was leaving. The weather wasn't too hot, there wasn't a waiting line, no one was behind me so I wasn't rushed, there was water from the black tank flush, there was pavement instead of dirt or rock. I know non-RV'ers are going to think I'm crazy. I'm OK with that because I've learned over the years, I may be, just a little though.
My current campsite. Nice morning and evening shade. Today is moving day.
The view out my back window. That is a road in the distance going to the marina, but still nice. 

This area is on the southern edge of the Ozarks. Remember, earlier this year, when we explored the Arkansas River through the state, we learned the Ozarks are generally north of Interstate 40 and the Ouachita Mountains are south of the interstate. It's interesting in how the Ozarks got their name. As the French trappers where exploiting/exploring the lands of the Illini Indians of Illinois, they were told about the Quapaw Indians which the Illini called the "Arcansas's" which meant "people of the south wind". The French didn't like the Indian word so they changed it to "Arkansas". That word came to represent this entire region and became the name of the major river. They established a trading post near the junction of the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers called "The Arkansas Post". We explored that area earlier this year. Lots of circles being completed, uh? The official French documents in the late 1600's and early 1700's used the term "Aux Arcs" to describe this area of the Quapaws. Along came the English and whenever they heard or read the words Aux Arcs, they would pronounce it as Ozarks. The name stuck and carries on till today.

I only did a minimal amount of exploring because it was supposed to be more of rest stop but I was rewarded with two great museums. 

Yeah, you read that last sentence correctly. After not finding a really good museum in a while, I got lucky (get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of lucky). I found two museums that rank in the top 10 of the museums I've explored. I haven't counted them up recently, but I would estimate the number being greater than 100. Over the years I've become jaded to museums but can never resist exploring one that sounds interesting. 

I believe these two were way above average because their subject matter covered thousands of years. Too many museums are focused only on one thing and usually one time frame. You would think that would make it easier to drill down deeper in what they are showcasing. I guess if I had lots more time to spend studying the subject, I may like it more. But, moving quickly like I do, I only need a surface view. These two museums gave me an option to dig deeper or not. Life is always easier if you have options. I dug deeper in some areas and not so much in others. I spent about 2 hours in each of the museums and came away feeling about right. With most museums, it seems I either feel disappointed and at other times I'm blown away. Uhhmmm,,,, I wonder if it's me or the museums? In terms of ranking, I would rate both about an 8 1/2 to 9 out of a possible 10.

The first one was the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. It is a very nice city-owned museum that covers this entire area going back thousands of years. 

I could have stayed at this one for a lot longer but school buses of children began showing up which encouraged me to move on down the road. The children were very orderly so that wasn't a problem. It was just time to move on.
This is the best geographical representation of the Ozarks that I've found over the years. Wow, I can still spit out weasel words when I need to,,,,lol

They had some nice and interesting things. This represents of the prehistoric things found in the Ozarks. I also got a new "thinking bench" to try out. A little uncomfortable, but OK.

The same bench. I include this picture because of the picture in the background of the elephant/mammoth. 

The second great museum was the Museum of Native American History. Surprisingly, it is a privately owned and operated museum using things mostly from a person's private collection. Like the other museum, it covers things going back thousands of year as well as places in Central and South America. If you're into arrowheads, this is the place for you. There must be at least a couple thousand of them on display. They are grouped by name and locations. Very impressive. 

The sign at the door warns people that mammoth sounds are ahead. 

This is what you're greeted with as you enter the door. It a recreation of a wooly mammoth skeleton complete with sounds. Of course they are just guessing at the sound since no one knows for sure. 

The museum also includes several paintings. I liked this one of some plains Indians. It must have been an important place they were going to because of the highly decorative headdress and lance. If it was simply a hunting party, they would have been dressed more simply.

Everything was displayed perfectly and had excellent descriptions. You also carried a listening device that would give you more information by pressing a number shown near the display.

This one was interesting. It is decorative, maybe useful, things from the Mayans of Central America.

This takes us back to North America. It is a calendar made by an Indian names Lone Dog. He would ask the elders of the tribe what event should be used to represent the current year. He would then draw a image to represent it onto a bison hide. It begins in the center and spirals outward. The time frame is from 1800 to 1870. 

This is the legend key to the symbols used by Lone Dog

just some of the elaborate headdresses.

I got this picture as I was heading out. To me, it represents books, sculpture and painting. Three pretty good things.

Today is moving day and with only one campground in the state this time, I'll be leaving Arkansas behind. I'll be heading into the heart of the Ozarks to another COE campground, this one in Missouri. It looks like it will be kind of rural and remote so I hope there is a good cell signal so I can have internet. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Last Dam and A Jewish Museum

 Location: Afton Landing Campground (Corps of Engineers); Wagoner, Oklahoma (about 40 minutes southeast of Tulsa)

Another great COE campground. This one is an exorbitant (sarcasm) $9.00 per night with the America the Beautiful pass. It's a small campground along the banks of an oxbow of the Verdigris River. The Verdigris is a major tributary to the Arkansas River. As you're heading upriver, the Verdigris splits off of the Arkansas around Muskogee. The Corp of Engineers decided to continue navigation up the Verdigris instead of the Arkansas because the Arkansas was prone to the creation of  lots of sand bars. About 10 miles north of my current campground lock and dam #18 which is the last lock and dam on the Arkansas/Verdigris navigation system. I stopped here so I could visit it since I got as close as I could to see the first lock and dam earlier this year down where the Arkansas/White River joins the Mississippi River. This visit sort of closes a circle. I didn't explore every lock and dam along the river but was able to visit more than half. See, sometimes I wander aimlessly, but not always. 

I was rewarded with this sunrise on the morning I left the last campground at Cowlington Point. It was a nice one and it was while looking out my back window.

The roads and weather was nice on this moving day

My campsite here at Afton Landing

The view out my back window. I'm glad that tree is gone.

I can't remember the last time I saw such a nice Weeping Willow

This is lock and dam #18. Looking upstream. The end of the line is about an hour away at the Port of Catoosa on the northeast side of Tulsa.

Looking downstream at the lock. The dark color on the gates gives an idea of the drop/rise height of the lock.

They have a small self directed visitors center with an enclosed viewing platform. This poster shows and overview of the entire system. I'm glad I explored most of it.

This shows the efficiency and dramatic difference between barge traffic, train and 18-wheelers. 

The second thing I came to see was in Tulsa, which seemed to me to be a weird town to drive around in. Traffic wasn't terrible but it took a long time to get anywhere. I'll definitely put it on my bad vibe list of city and places. Anyway, I was able to find something that sounded interesting. It was the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. Beside art exhibits, there is also a Holocaust Remembrance Center which was the primary reason for me visiting. I've studied a lot about World War II and the Holocaust but I wanted to see how it was presented at this museum. They did a very good job. They present the information in a clear format without beating you over the head with it. If you can't understand or pick up on the evil that was done during the Holocaust, then the onus is on you. 

One of the first indications of the evil that would eventually infect the 80,000,000 Germans was the event called "The Night of Broken Glass". About 6 months after Hitler annexed Austria but before his invasion of Poland, he let loose his storm troopers, Hitler Youth and ordinary German civilians on the Jews of Germany. During November 9th and 10th of 1938, 1000 synagogues, 7,500 Jewish businesses and 1000's of private homes were destroyed by mobs of people throughout the entire country. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. While all of this was being done, the German authorities and police stood by and did nothing. All of this was well documented for the entire world to see and very little was done to condemn it. FDR withdrew our Ambassador, but very little else. Shameful.

The view of the Lobby of the museum from the second floor. The stained glass was very nice.

This exhibit represents "The Night of Broken Glass"

This shows the Nazi's were elected overwhelmingly by the German people. 

Just so we remember; the German people overwhelmingly elected the Nazi's and put them in dictatorial positions. As a result, between 1933 and 1945, the German people sanctioned the murder of 6 million Jews, 3.3 million Soviet POW's, 1.8 million Non-Jewish Poles, 400,000 Romani's (Gypsies), 310,000 Serbs and 300,000 people with any type of disability. Most of the disabled were willingly killed by their own doctors. 

This is a time in world history that needs to be remembered so it is never repeated.

True words

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be leaving Oklahoma as I enter the northwest corner of Arkansas for another COE campground. The weather is still cooperating with temperatures in the upper 80's to low 90's. While warm, the humidity is generally below 50% which makes it comfortable. I'm sad to say I didn't have the chance to see any descent sunrises or sunsets while here, perhaps I'll be luckier at the next campground.  

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe, I'll Cya down the road.