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Trip Report Trip Report - one week in Missouri, KC, Black River area, St. Louis

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Although it isn't an exotic trip, I thought a trip report of my week long roadtrip with my niece might hold some items of interest.

I posted just before my 18 year old niece came for a visit with my planned itinerary and asked for input. I got some good suggestions and while not able to incorporate them all, I tucked them away for future reference - so thanks(:

Some days were more exciting than others, but I've included them all!

Day 1
Picked up the niece at 8:30 am at the Kansas City International Airport after a redeye. This meant that the immediate activity was to take her home for a nap and a shower. We then headed back out for some shopping as the only thing she said when I asked her what she wanted to do on this trip was "Shop." I leave northeast of KC by quite a ways, so we went to Zona Rosa and then a quick stop at Metro North (the echoing mall of vacant storefronts) on the way back. Zona Rosa is really lovely as an outdoors oriented shopping area, but is so oriented to teen shops that it doesn't hold much interest for me. But, the niece of course is 18. This was about all we could fit in as it was Sunday afternoon.

On the way back we took a side trip off of Hwy 69 into Mosby. Mosby is a rather brokendown little town, but for some reason one little item there tickles my fancy. It is a sheet metal rooster someone has fashioned in their yard. It is about 7 or 8 feet tall, and quite well done! She didn't seem to be quite as amused by it as I am.

We did stop in Excelsior Springs for dinner at the Wabash BBQ. She was suitably impressed by the baby back ribs. If you are near KC, check out www.wabashbbq.com. It is a smokehouse bbq, so of course everything is smoked, but I swear to you that those baby backs are some of the best I've had anywhere. For those of you who keep track, $22 per rack. I'm not as fond of the short ribs(: Also, many Sat nights there is the outdoor ice house blues garden where the music is free. Fun place for families and all ages.

Day 2
This was a Monday, and I dragged her out of bed (between the jet lag and not being a morning person, this was lots of fun) and took her down to the Country Club Plaza for more shopping, and looking at fountains and statuary(: At one end of the plaza there is a condo with what normally I would call gargoyles at the top. But these were very modern heads. One of which had ivy growing all over. (envision Chia Gargoyle) Who knows why but she thought this was hilarious and we had to come back so she could take pictures.

18 year olds are hard to figure, and when it came time for lunch she chose Buca di Bepo--hard to figure with all the good restaurants in the Plaza area, but it was her vacation so off we went. She was suitably entertained by a very very talkative host who spent a lot of time at our table giving us tips on other tourist activities.

From here we went over to Crown Center for a bit more shopping. On the way we detoured through the Union Hill neighborhood where I could ooh and ahh over the Victorian style houses.

The hit at Crown Center was the Crayola store. Really it was mainly browsing at Crown Center. The KC store (can't remember the name, maybe Best of KC?) had some souviner stuff, and we did go into the oodles more thing people collect exhibit. We enjoyed the Seattle Worlds' Fair collectibles and the vintage skirts collections, but the most unusual had to be the Viagra branded giveaway collection. Unfortunately the Hallmark Vistor's Center was closed so we didn't go over there. I have to say I thought Crown Center in the shopping area seemed kind of worn. I hadn't been there in a long time, but some of the areas didn't look to me like they are being kept up. Not sure I would take another visitor back.

Then we headed over to Union Station. After a struggle to figure out the parking, we went in. Alas, it being Monday, almost everything was closed. She actually thought the building was very cool and said she would like to come back when it was open. This was not to be however. So, I'll just have to take someone else back on a day when it is open.

We headed up to Liberty Memorial for the best view in Kansas City. I pointed out the inscription to her which referenced only "The World War" as it is a memorial for the 1st World War, and of course at that time there was no other war. We looked at the remembrance bricks, as well as walking up for the view. The view from the front is really the best one I know of overlooking the city (although I hear the top of city hall has a great view too). She seemed pretty intrigued by the memorial, and the sphinxes, and the detailed tilework inside the entries and around the windows of the two buildings flanking the memorial. She took lots of pictures and we hung around for awhile.

We then took a stop at a statue just across the entrance to the memorial. It was in rememberance of the Spanish War. Then we pulled up and walked to the top of a hill in Penn Valley Park (I think that is where we were) to look at a statue there which was a tribute to Pioneer Mothers. The thing that amused her most about this stop was that on a tree to the side of the path, branches were ornamented with beer cans and a liter liquor bottle. The pull tabs on the beer cans were used to fasten them to branches, the bottleneck for the bottle. She took pictures. Yep, between the sheet metal rooster and the beer can tree, we are a family that is easily amused.

Dinner that night was simply me grilling. Burgers, potato salad, Old Settler's Baked Beans and corn on the cob in case you are interested.

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    Day 3

    This is the last day in KC, and all the museums are now open so we had back downtown. We start at the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine district. She aspires to be an elementary music teacher, plays cello, brother and grandfather play sax, so thought this would be of interest. Indeed, this was a big hit and I loved it too, so both of us were happy. If you haven't been, it is a really cool museum. Almost every exhibit has a listening station so you can listen to all the different styles of music, different artists, etc referred to in the exhibits. Some of the stations let you do your own mixing. As always seems to be the case, a few of the stations didn't work quite right. That kind of exhibit is pretty tough to keep up. The Negro Leagues museum is there as well. She was not much intereted in baseball so we didn't visit this time, but, this would also be a great trip.

    We got lucky as well on our visit because a big tour came in from Memphis while we were there, and one of the museum guys was giving them a guided tour. So, we eavesdropped(:

    Cool statue of Charlie Parker outside (pictures were taken) as well as a sculpture of jazz and baseball figures outside near the outdoor stage. Whitney also took pictures of the jazz oriented cow from the KC Cow Parade that was right next to the Gem Theatre.

    We spent a little time and money in the gift shop then headed on. I must say I can't believe I hadn't gone there before, but it there's nothing like visitors from out of town to make you rediscover parts of the area you live in.

    We headed from there over to the Nelson Atkins Art (Museum, Gallery? I can never remember as we just always call it the Nelson). Again, it's hard to figure what 18 year olds will like! The best part of this to her? The Shuttlecocks--the huge instalation by Claus Oldenburg with the badminton birdies scattered on the lawn. We had to walk to every one of them for photos. I did drag her though a few galleries and pointed out a few paintings I thought might interest her, but nothing was as intriguing as the birdies. The carved wooden temple did rate some oh my's but over all after stopping at the gift shop again, we were on our way.

    It was lunchtime again, and what does she pick? The Cheesecake Factory on the Plaza. Oh well, an adventurous eater she is not. But, she enjoyed it, and actually the Thai chicken dish I had was pretty good.

    I have golf league that night so we have to be to Liberty MO by 5, meaning we needed to keep an eye on the clock. She's Norwegian, and has decided she wants to visit the Scandanavian Country Store in Excelsior Springs. If we didn't go today, there probably wouldn't be another chance so we decide after lunch to drive back to ES. But first, a fast stop at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. There was an exhibit I wanted to see, but I'll have to go another time--this stop is so I can make her take a picture under the huge spider sculpture on the front lawn. That done, we visit the gift shop again. She buys paper flowers to decorate her dorm room in the fall.

    That done we head up the highway. The Scandinavian Country Store is on Broadway in DT Excelsior Springs and is one of my favorite shops. The owners are Danish, but you can find all things Scandanavian. I especially like the Danish ironwork they often have. Whitney buys a few pieces for her dorm room, then we visit the Olde English Garden Shop, peer in at the Hall of Waters, then head over to Dari B. Dari B is on Hwy 10 heading out of ES towards Richmond MO and has to be a gold mine for its owners. Only open from Memorial Day through October, all walk up, no inside seats, any given summer night you can find folks lined up for ice cream. We buy sundaes including one for my husband and head home. I leave them with their sundaes and head out to golf; Whitney is eating Cheesecake Factory leftovers for dinner and seems happy to sit down with a book for the evening.

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    Day 4

    Yikes, I hope you don't mind how wordy I am!

    This is a road trip day. I had planned to get out of town early, but that didn't happen, so we quite literally spent most of the day on the road. We headed out from Excelsior Springs MO on Hwy 10 to Hwy 13 near Richmond. To my surprise, there is a new bridge over the Missouri river near Lexington, meaning I didn't have to fear for my life as we used to crossing the old one. We hit Hwy 70 past Higginsville and head east and I think we are making good time. Oh no! Road Construction on 70 just before the Missouri River. Get through that, then drop down Hwy 63 all the way to Rolla. It's lovely country to drive through, but hit road contstruction again south of Rolla. At this point I realize I'm never going to make my original plan of driving all the way down to Round Spring and Ally Spring that day and back up to the Black River, so at Salem we head east 32 on to 72 through the Mark Twain National Forest. I'm not originally from Missouri, so this is country I've never travelled before. It's gorgeous! Just really really beautiful treelined two-lane hwy. There is no cell signal to be found though which was a challenge as I was supposed to participate in a 3 pm conference call with my boss and her boss! Yikes, but this is resolved later.

    We make our way to Lesterville, then as directed find Lenny's (convenience store) and head on Peola road, across the new bridge at the Black River, and on to Wilderness Lodge Resort where we will stay for two nights. We checked in and headed to our cabin, which was up a very steep onelane road, at the very very end. We are laughing wildly at our end of the road journey now. We do have cell phone coverage here as well.

    We loved the place, and my husband and I plan on going back for a week sometime. We had one of the Hillside Cabins, the top floor. We got my niece her own room, but the screened in porch had a connecting door. So, she was on our side most of the time, but had her own private space as well. The cabins are a bit like being a camp. Each had a double and single bed, and a sort of day bed in front of the fireplace that served as a couch, and could of course also be made up and slept on. There was a little table in each room with two chairs, and a bedside table, as well as a chest of drawers. All seemed to be antiques. There is a little refrigerator and some dishes as well as a coffeemaker and little sink. There were two closets. The bathroom was standard, the water pressure great (I mention all these things because sometimes people like to know!) There was a screened in porch with two chairs and a table, with plenty of light to read by in the evening. No televisiion or TV.

    The place was built I think in 1929. There is a main lodge area with the dining room and lounge, and a small pool. There is meal service which you can pay a set fee for. While reasonable, we probably won't do this next time. For us it was too restrictive to have to be there certain times for the meals. It was $16 per day per person for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast time on the table there was a carafe of coffee, bowl of fruit, and bowl of cereals with a pitcher of milk. You also then had a choice of orange juice, bacon or sausage, pancakes, biscuits, scrambled eggs, etc. Dinners were their choice. Neither dinner was a repeat choice for us. The first night was barbecued pork steak and baked beans which were pretty decent, with coleslaw and pasta salad. You had to feel a little bad for the waitress/cook as not one of us likes coleslaw, and I'm the only one who ate the pasta salad. What are you going to do? Chocolate cake for dessert. The next dinner had freshbaked bread which was a huge hit, then a Bermuda salad. We had never heard of this before and later at home looked it up on the Internet and it does exist. We were bemused by this combination of iceberg lettuce, sliced cauliflower, sliced pimento stuffed green olives, sliced red onions with french dressing and blue cheese crumbles. This was followed by chicken and seasoned rice which was okay, then warm apple cobbler with ice cream which was a huge hit. We each had a soda with our meals each night. I mention this because when we checked out, I realized those six sode cost $21.00. This seems very high to me.

    The two nights, for three people two rooms plus meal package was $444. I thought this was pretty good.

    You can look up the lodge at www.wildernesslodgeresort.com. It has new owners, and they seem to be doing some sprucing up. In addition to the Hillside Cabins, there are three stone houses near the main lodge, a building called Turkey Run and one called Jack's Cabin, and one Riversedge suite. I think they are also affiliated with the Riversedge campground nearby.

    There's a little miniature golf course, horseshoe bits, shuffleboard area, playground, and a game room with video games and pool table.

    They provide outfitter services for canoing and tubing, and again, we defintely plan to come back for a week.

    Day 5

    Up for breakfast then we head out. It takes about an hour but we make our way down hwy 21 to Ellington then West on 106 to Eminence. Then we go on to Ally Spring. This is another huge hit with the niece. The springs are gorgeous, an amazing turquoise blue, water rushes out to the tune of 81 million gallons a day. The mill building is well kept by the park service and has cool displays inside. Walking around the spring in a little loop brings you past lots of cool rock formations and the beautiful stream that comes out of the spring. Whitney says she can spend all day here. We do spend quite a bit of time, visit the schoolhouse and general store as well.

    Eventually we head north on 19 to Round Spring to visit another spring. This oe doesn't impress her quite as much, but it is beautiful too. We pause for some oranges and apples from the cooler then head up 19 to A and cut aross back to 72 and down to Centerville looking for lunch. There is no one to be seen on A, and I enjoy the beautiful drive as my husband and niece nap.

    In Centerville we stop at the 21 Cafe for lunch. It's your basic small town diner and Steve and I both order tenderloins. We realize Whitney has never had one as they don't serve these back home and give her a bite. Later we will go out for a real one so she can enjoy a midwestern treat.

    On to Johnson Shutins. If you are not from this area, you wouldn't know that in December the Taum Sauk Resevoir failed and there was quite a bit of devastation, including the Johnson Shutins. While they are working hard, there is still a lot of work to be done. You can't hike down to the shutins anymore, all you can do is look at them from a boardwalk up above. I wish we had been able to see them before, and I hope they will be able to bring back the area.

    It was pretty hot by then, and hiking up the trail in heat she wasn't used to has worn out my niece so we head back to the lodge. We will have to do Elephant Rock State Park another time.

    We had time for dip in the pool before dinner, then dinner and back to the cabin. STeve and I enjoyed the screened in porch on the warm summer night, Whitney text-messaged her friends.

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    Day 6

    Another road trip day. But first a stop down the road to the Peola Valley Store. Beautiful pottery, some made with Missouri clay.

    Then it was 21 to 72 to 67 north till we hit 55 and on in to St Louis. We arrived at my nephew's about noon, then headed out for a little St. Louis site-seeing. We managed to see the Arch, more pictures, the courthouse where the Dred Scott case was tried. Again, surprises. She really enjoyed th e courthouse and lingered at all the exhibits. We had an early night and ordered in pizza as I was a little wiped from all the driving.

    Day 7

    We headed out first to the Missouri Botanical Garden. We thought we should do the outdoor stuff early while it was cooler for our little out of towner. We were going their primarily for the Chihuly exhibit. This was something we were going to see because I wanted to see it, so I was pleasantly surprised when both the niece and the nephew were really wowed and took tons of pictures. The exhibit is primarily in the Climatron (tropical glass house). So fanciful. Every corner you turned you would see some beautiful fanciful glass piece. There were his famous chandeliers, lovely garden pieces, urchins and more. Really, I can't say it often enough, if you are in the St. Louis area while there, you should go. The niece said after this that maybe she should visit the Museum of Glass in Tacoma (near where she lives) and the nephew go to thinking maybe he should join the Missouri Botanical Garden.

    After the garden we headed to Ted Drewes for the obligatory frozen custard. Then we headed over to St. Charles for more shopping, showed her the Lewis and Clark statues and so on. After a bit of a break at Ben's condo, we went back out to dinner in University City at a greek place, I think it was Mo Mo's. It was very good and I ordered saganaki for my niece so that she could see flaming cheese. Hey, again, easily amused.

    We then drove over to Clayton so we could find a Starbucks so she could get a St. Louis mug, then took a night time tour of Forest Park. And actually, a night time tour was still pretty beautiful!

    Day 8

    As always, not enough time and we have to head back across the state. We take off on 70 towards KC, and stop in Rocheport to have lunch at the winery bistro there and go to look at the beautiful view from the bluffs above the Missouri river. Both Steve and I had the steak sandwiches, which sounds so simple but you would not believe how good these were! Then it was on home and laundry etc as I had to go back to work the next day.

    Day 9

    While I worked, niece at last had a chance to sleep in. At lunch time we went in to Excelsior Springs to Ray's Lunch so she could have a tenderloin sandwich all her own. Ray's Lunch is tiny and has been around forever. One lunch counter and I think 4 or 5 tablse inside. She enjoyed the tenderloin.

    Then after work we headed back down to the Country Club Plaza one more time for a little shopping and picture taking. We also stopped at the Starbucks there to find a Kansas City Starbucks mug to find that they were discontinued. Is that true? Bummer.

    And yes, she made me eat at Buca de Bepo again!

    That concludes it. I hope maybe you found something here of interest!

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    Very nice, detailed report Toucan! Lots of info to help future travelers. We too may be in the area later this summer so I will save your report.

    And your Niece sounds very lucky to have you!
    (I too am very close to my nieces)

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    Toucan2 thanks for your great report. We were in SW Missouri last week and it was beautiful. Thanks for the info on Ally Spring and the Johnson Shut-ins. We almost went to Rocheport but decided to skip it this trip. Darn! After reading about the steak sandwiches you ordered, I'm regretting that decision.

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    Ahhh- that was great! My ex is from Ironton Mo so have spent a lot of time in that area going to the Shut Inns and all the springs. Would love to go back.

    I was in KC a couple of weeks ago- I think KC is a beautiful city- and the Country Club Plaza off the charts for shopping and dining-

    Thanks for the report
    glad you had a nice trip

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    Toucan, thank you for writing and posting your report! I read and contributed to your post requesting suggestions, and its always nice to read the follow-up. It sounds like you had a great time!

    Tracy

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    Thanks for the replies. Tracy, your suggestion of Onandanga (did I spell that right) caves has been passed on to my nephew in St. Louis and I'd like to make that side trip sometime too. I looked it up after your suggestion and it does look cool.

    Would have loved to have fit in all the suggestions from you and others, but of course you just run out of time.

    We are planning on another trip next year and hope to visit some of the other places, as well as do a float trip.

    I know the businesses around the Black River are worried that lots of folks will think that the waters are still cloudy, but they aren't. They are very clear, and we saw lots of people on the river, so hopefully their tourism industry won't get too slammed this summer.

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    Toucan2
    Are there any fireworks/festivals in KC on July 4th? The only thing I could find was on July 1 at the river market and on July 4 at Corporate Woods. By the way, your niece is very lucky to have such an adventuresome aunt!!

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    I think most of the displays are over the weekend and on July 3. You might check out Riverfest as I think they are supposed to have quite a fireworks show. There's always Worlds of Fun, and they will have fireworks on the fourth.

    Nice of you to say that the nieces and nephews are lucky, but I'm pretty darned sure I'm the lucky one. If you have the time and several bottles of wine, I'd be happy to tell you how unique, special, talented they all are (:

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