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As we drove west out of the Atlanta area to begin
the first stage of our plan to tour the Dakotas this summer, we
couldn't help but realize how incredibly fortunate we were to have been
able to retire young and live this lifestyle that allows us to travel
where we want, when we want, and stay as long as we want. Neither Diane
nor I take this opportunity for granted. We are very thankful that we
were able to implement a retirement lifestyle that we dreamed about and
which we prepared as much as we could during our working years.
Our first stop on the way to South Dakota was
Tupelo, MS. When we looked at the various ways we could get to South
Dakota it became clear that we could take a route that would let us
visit some places that were on our list and had to do with Elvis.
Neither of us were Elvis fanatics, but we were both fans and liked his
were enthralled by the story of a poor boy who became a legend in Rock
and Roll. Both of us had always wanted to visit Graceland in Memphis.
So that became our route to get to the Dakotas.
We spent most of a day across the river in St.
Louis at the Arch. It's certainly not for the
claustrophobic as the tram cars are small 5-seaters for a 4-minute ride
to the top. But the views were worth it. And this time I
to spend enough time in the museum. We bought the combo ticket
for the tram ride and the IMAX Lewis and Clark movie. We had seen
the movie, but it was worth a repeat. Great movie. When
it was said that the Lewis & Clark trek was like man's first trip
to the moon, I
couldn't have agreed more. Actually, I think it was physically
Lewis & Clark. What an incredible journey. Those
tough men, and one woman (Sacagawea). We spent about half a day at the
Arch and totally enjoyed it.
We walked around a bit, had lunch, and went to see
the old courthouse. It was the site where the Dred Scott slavery trials
began. In a ruling that blackens the history of our country, the United
States Supreme Court, in March 1857, declared that all blacks, slave or
free, were not and could never become citizens of the United States. At
the same time, the Court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise,
which was legislation that restricted slavery in certain territories,
permitting slavery in all of the country's territories.
The story actually started some ten years earlier
in 1847. Dred Scott was a slave who had lived in the free state of
Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin. He moved back to the
slave state of Missouri and sued for his freedom. It took ten years of
appeals and court reversals to finally get the case up to the U.S.
Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger Brook Taney was a supporter of
slavery and wrote the majority opinion on the Dred Scott case. He
stated that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore
had no right to sue. Taney went on to say the framers of the
Constitution believed that blacks "had no rights which the
white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and
lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold
and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever
profit could be made by it."
It was no surprise that slave holders in the South
welcomed the decision, but northerners were incensed by the decision.
The Dred Scott decision influenced the
nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the Republican Party and his
subsequent election. That, in turn, led to the South's secession from
the Union and the eventual start of the Civil War. After spending some
time in the old courthouse, we
walked back towards the Arch and over to see the old cathedral
next door before heading back to the campground.
I had sent out a note telling folks what our path would be for the next several weeks. Stan and Betty Bober decided to hook up with us on their way out to the Great North American Rally in Hutchison, Kansas. They arrived at the Casino Queen Campground shortly before we returned and we got to chat for a while. We were out of synch for dinner as we had a late lunch at TGI Friday's and they were planning an early dinner. But we met for the buffet breakfast at 10 the following morning (who the heck is up before 10 anyway?). We enjoyed a nice, long breakfast chatting away the time. It was nice to see them again, albeit only for a couple of days.
We enjoyed our stay in the St. Louis area. Besides the Arch, we got to take in a St. Louis Cardinal's baseball game (which made Diane happy); we rode on the great Metro Link a few times, which was very convenient to get to the Arch and the baseball stadium; and went to see Union Station, a train station that now houses shops and restaurants. What a great way to use an old train station.
From St. Louis we drove to Du Quoin, IL to attend the Newmar International Rally. We were scheduled to enter the fairgrounds between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday, so we figured we would boondock in the Wal-Mart parking lot the night before. We had been in touch with Bob and Joy Silber to hook up and go into the rally together. They were at a campground east of Du Quoin and rode over to see if we had arrived at the Wal-Mart. While we were all inside the motorhome chatting there was a knock at the door. I opened it and didn't recognize the guy standing there. He introduced himself as Rich Williams and proceeded to tell me that he had just arrived to spend the night and go into the rally in the morning and that he recognized the mural on the back of our rig. I invited him in and he went on to tell us that he had been monitoring our web site and following our travels for the past few years and they were now new full-time RVers. We made plans to meet up during the rally to chat some more. Small world.
And here's yet another kind of small world story.
When I worked in Atlanta, Bill Lanum was a colleague of mine. We worked
together on a project for several years and had many great trips out to
the San Francisco area where we both enjoyed eating on the Wharf many
nights after work. To this day, San Francisco has remained Diane's and
my favorite USA city. In a note to our website readers, I mentioned
that we would be going to Du Quoin. I received a response from Bill
telling me that he grew up in Du Quoin and I should look up his older
brother, Ed Lanum. Unfortunately, Bill wasn't going to be there during
the time we were in the area, so we missed seeing him by a couple of
weeks. However, I called Ed to tell him we were parked at the Wal-Mart
and he came over to visit with us. It was dinner time, so Ed took us
down the road for some good barbecue at Larry's BBQ. We had a very nice
visit and learned about life growing up in a small town,
Bob and Joy came over to the Wal-Mart on Saturday
morning and we all drove over to the fairgrounds. The parking crew was
efficient and we were parked immediately. There was a short, but very
heavy storm the night before, so some of the grounds were soft. We were
lucky to be in an area that drained fairly well and had no problem
getting parked. Later in that morning, we learned that at least one rig
had to be pulled out of the mud by a tractor. Whew. Lucky us.
Well, the Newmar International rally in Du Quoin,
IL (population 660)
is over and it's 7 a.m. on departure day as I write this. Why am
I up so
Two reasons. First, the earliest I heard someone leave this
morning was at 4:30. Sigh. The folks who go to bed and get
up with the chickens started leaving in earnest around 6 and many had
to pass right in front of our rig. Of course, there were also the
inevitable inconsiderate boobs who think it's cool to blow their air
horns at 6 a.m. So I figured there was no sense fighting it, and
I wasn't going to get back to sleep, so I figured I'd get up and write
this part of the travelog. As a result, it is written in the
present tense rather than the past tense. Or maybe the tenses
will be mixed. Oh well, no one is grading my writing
anymore. ;-) We won't leave until around 10 as we have some
friends, Fran and Karl,
who said they'd come over to say good-bye. They are staying an
extra day in the fairgrounds.
The rally was fun. There were 869 rigs. The club president said was the norm for a Newmar International rally. The Dutch Star was, by far, the largest contingent of rigs here this week, but there were also lots of Mountain Aires and, amazingly, to me at least, a lot of Essex units. We got to see the new 2005 models: Dutch Stars around $250K+; Mountain Aires around $325K+; and Essex around $500K. And they sell a lot of them.
We had four nights of entertainment, one of which was great, one was very good, one we left after about an hour, and the talent show where there is always a mix of "talent". The food was good for the two dinners and two breakfasts they gave us, and we got to eat dinner at three local restaurants (Larry's BBQ, Alongi's (Italian), and Don Tequila's (Mexican). We also had a great breakfast at BJ's where you could get a couple of eggs and toast for a buck fifty. I had three slices of French Toast topped with two eggs for $2.50. Hard to beat that.
Diane and I even got to see a movie (The Terminal with Tom Hanks) 20 miles down the road in Carbondale, home of the Southern Illinois University Salukis (that one's for you, Bill).
And, of course, we got to visit with old friends:
Bob & Joy Silber; Karl & Fran Winckel and met new friends: Rich
& Maude Williams; Phillip & Paulina Mitchell; John &
Roberta Hirth. When we visited with Rich and Maude, I said we were
eventually going to be at Hart Ranch in Rapid City, South Dakota. They
decided it would be great to hook up there, so they made reservations
the same week we would be at Hart Ranch.
On our penultimate evening on Thursday, it was announced at the entertainment venue that something spectacular might happen, but not to panic. The evening went on and we were in bed watching TV when, around 10:45, I heard a fire engine approaching. It got louder and it became obvious that it was coming into the fairgrounds. Thinking there might be a fire in one of the rigs, I got dressed and went outside. It was no fire. A fire engine came down the road to my left and turned left onto our road and around the road circling the practice harness racing track in front of us. Then I saw police cars and flashing lights of volunteer fire folks followed by a line of cars and pickups with folks making all kinds of noise and signs saying thanks for coming to Du Quoin and come again. The town had concocted a plan to come to the fairgrounds to give us a rousing send off. They circled the track and came down in front of the rigs on our street. Pretty cool. Who knows. The folks from Du Quoin may have set a precedent that will get around to other rally sites. The International next year will be in Salem, OR.
Unfortunately, we also received some sad news
while we were in Du Quoin. If you have followed our travels for some
time, you may remember reading about Melva King and Linda Karr. Melva
was a big part of the RVAMERICA bulletin board and the two Y2K parties
that came out of that board. We learned last year that Melva lost her
daughter to cancer. On June 23, she lost her own battle with that
Linda Karr was a friend if mine from way back in
When we hit the road in 2000, we stopped in the Hudson Valley in New
York to visit family and friends. It was at that time that I learned
that Linda was fighting pancreatic cancer, which took my dad's life.
She caught it early enough to have surgery and undergo treatments. Sad
to say that Linda lost her battle on June 24.
Those two news items did put a little damper on
the week in Du Quoin. They say that death comes in threes. A few weeks
after the rally I heard from my friend Frank Gallo who has also been in
several of our travelogs. We were boyhood friends and lived only a few
blocks from each other on Long Island. He told me that his mom died on
June 27. Although she was 84 years old, it was still sad news. I am not
in the least bit superstitious, but the timing floored me as that was
the third death in a short time span of people I loved in my life.
Back in 2000 when we were on our maiden "Friends
and Family Tour", we stopped in Springfield, Illinois to visit Charlie
Vrabel, another boyhood friend of mine, and his wife Dee. It would have
been unthinkable to be so close and not visit, so we headed up to
Springfield for a couple of days to visit and catch up. Charlie was now
retired and totally enjoying the easy life. Dee was still working, but
planning to retire in September. How nice it was to see them again. It
was hard to believe that four years had passed since we came through
the area, so we had four years to catch up on.
We visited some Lincoln sites the last time we
were here, so this
time Charlie and Dee took us to see Rockome Gardens in Amish country.
It was a place of unique stonework and large gardens created and
maintained by two generations of the Yoder family. They used native
rock and cement to craft fences, archways, large hearts, cups and
saucers, birdhouses. There were also a couple of small "bottle houses"
made from bottles. It was quite interesting and amusing.
Our final stop before entering the Dakotas was St.
Joseph, Missouri. It was a town rich in history where the Pony Express
began and Jesse James met his end. St. Joseph is located on river
bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Lewis & Clark camped in the
summer of 1804 on the banks of what is now St. Joseph. The city was the
starting point for wagon trains filled with pioneers seeking fame and
fortune in the West.
Following Norm and Linda's lead, we stayed at the
Beacon RV Park. It was an okay park for a short stay, but there
were lots of rigs that seemed to be filled with families staying there
while husbands/fathers worked in the area. As a result, there were lots
of kids and lots of noise, both from adults and kids. The sites weren't
very wide so the noise was obvious. We are both might owls, so it
wasn't very troublesome. We just shut the windows and turned on the
A/C units to drown out some of the noise.
There were a few sites we wanted to see in the St.
Joseph area. One was the Patee House Museum, which started as a
luxurious hotel built by John Patee in 1858. Today it is a
National Historic Landmark for its role as headquarters for the Pony
Express starting on April 3, 1860. That was the day the Pony Express
sent off its first rider to Sacramento to carry mail to the western
frontier. The Pony Express only lasted 18 months, but it became a
legend. A larger-than-life monument to the Pony Express was dedicated
in 1940 and located in the downtown area.
There were many interesting displays in the museum
that kept us occupied for a couple of hours. One of the more famous
people from St. Joseph was Walter Cronkite. His father and grandfather
were dentists in St. Joseph for 78 years from 1893 to 1971. We also
learned that Aunt Jemima (pancakes) started in St. Joseph.
The Jesse James Home was located next door to the
Patee House Museum. Jesse was shot and killed on April 3, 1882 by Bob
Ford, a member of the James gang, to collect a $10,000 reward. Jesse
James was a ruthless outlaw for 16 years before meeting his end at the
age of 34. At the time of his death, he was living with his wife and
two children under the assumed name of Tom Howard. Usually very
cautious and not trusting of people, Jesse turned his back on Ford to
stand on a chair to straighten out a picture of his home. Bob Ford shot
Jesse in the back. The bullet hole was still in the wall where it
lodged after passing through Jesse's body.
Leavenworth, Kansas was the first city
incorporated in Kansas in 1854. We drove down there one day to visit
Ft. Leavenworth which is known as the "Post that opened the West". We
entered Fort Leavenworth to tour the grounds and found security to be
very tight. The soldiers asked to see both of our drivers licenses and
asked us to get out of the car. A couple of guys proceeded to search
the car, including under the seats, under the hood, and the rear. It
didn't take very long as they were very efficient. After they decided
we seemed okay, we entered the grounds of the fort.
We stopped at the Frontier Army Museum that tells
the story of the fort. The fort was established on May 8, 1827 by
Colonel Henry Leavenworth and 188 officers and men of the 3rd Infantry
Regiment. Col. Leavenworth was ordered to build a fort to protect the
wagon trains headed west along the Santa Fe Trail. We enjoyed studying
the exhibits in the museum and then headed out to tour more of the
Our next stop was Memorial Chapel built in 1878 by
prison labor. The chapel is still used as a house of worship. From
there we proceeded to find the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails that passed
through the fort.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were staffed
entirely by African-American soldiers. These soldiers proved their
bravery throughout the Indian Wars and won the respect of the Cheyenne
warriors who named them "Buffalo Soldiers". A monument to these
soldiers was the idea of Gen. Colin Powell. It is a 16-foot bronze
statue of a soldier reining in his horse on the edge of a cliff. The
monument was completed and dedicated in 1992.
We saw signs pointing the way to the Berlin Wall
sections on display in the fort. However, we were told the sections
were moved. We asked several people where they were moved to, but no
one had a clue.
Until next time, safe travels.....
Copyright © 2004, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved