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Excerpts of Missouri Travel Diary
State 32 - MISSOURI 11 OCT 99 - 15 OCT 99

 

In the City

This is the first campground we've visited that's located in the heart of a big city. I hadn't noticed this before now, but I find I prefer city life. As soon as we park Harvey, I pull up the shades to see skyscrapers all around us and hear the buzz and bustle of a pulsing city. But the greatest joy is seeing 'The Arch,' the famous stainless steel Gateway to the West, right outside our windows. What a thrill! At first I was disappointed that the campground is a blacktopped parking lot. No grass anywhere. In its vacant state, it looks like an empty drive-in movie theater. But we've got a good site with the trailer backed up against the trees separating the us from the local high school. As we unpack our stuff, I can hear the high school band practicing. It's a real kick. Life! This is what I like about the city campground versus rural campgrounds far removed from any action. I really feel a part of something here.

The weekend

It's amazing to me how an RV Park changes on the weekend. When we arrived here at 2PM yesterday, no one was here. The place was empty. But after a day of touring we came home to a jam-packed parking lot full of RVs, trucks and people sitting out in lawn chairs drinking beer, playing cards, laughing. It's the same everywhere (although in rural campgrounds, grills or campfires are usually blazing). It's kinda weird, too, because most of the RVs here are the single-unit, bus-like Type A or Type C, which means that if the owners want to go touring, they have to take their whole house with them (unless they have a tow car.) This morning when I drew the shades the place was empty again, all our neighbors gone until late afternoon or evening. It's the weirdest thing to have your neighbors' houses constantly coming and going. What a drag it must be for them to have to drive these buses through the tightly trafficked city streets and try to find parking spaces for these long, longer, longest vehicles. Sure glad we opted to pull a trailer instead.

Jewel Box

Today we're at Forest Park, the place where the 1904 World's Exhibition Fair was held. This park is the largest urban park in America. It's so big and beautiful -- with every type of recreation imaginable: trails, gardens, a zoo, and even a history, art and science museum. But my favorite place is the "Jewel Box," a small conservatory that looks like a glass jewelry box. The surrounding grounds have two arbors, two reflecting ponds, some tall grasses, colorful and aromatic annuals and a pink-cement walkway lined with coleus plants in colors I'd never seen before . . . bold pink, pale pink, deep purple, light lilac, kelly green, lime green, bright orange and fiery red. I have never seen such a palette of colors on such hardy plants. Everywhere along the garden are quotes, like "to cultivate a garden is to walk with God." But my favorite quote is "Life is measured in deeds, not years," written on the garden sundial. It stopped me dead in my tracks. If you think about life that way, then it doesn't matter how long one lives, but the deeds that were done by that person. Did he stop to help someone today? Did she create beauty somewhere? Did he show tenderness, understanding, kindness today? It's a great quote. Makes me feel that each day is special. Each day I have an opportunity to be selfish and miserable, or selfless and beneficial. The "Jewel Box" is a perfect name for this place.

The Arches

Across the street from the gigantic, awesome, elegant St. Louis Arch is the riverfront, and docked in the water is what appears to be a Riverboat, but, guess what? It's a MacDonald's restaurant in disguise. Ya gotta love these guys. If you're gonna have a fast food restaurant near a national or state monument, at least make it blend with the theme. I noticed MacDonald's does that here, and also at the New Salem Historic Site back in Lincoln-land. That was a site that had preserved the town of New Salem when Lincoln had lived there, around 1837. And right out front (to our hungry and thankful eyes) was a MacDonald's, but designed to blend in with the theme of the historic site. Say all you want about fast food, but when one is on the road with nothing in one's tummy for hours, and driving through some remote place where no food or any sign of life exists . . . those Golden Arches look mighty good. One is assured of standard fare, standard prices, standard cleanliness. A real comfort to roadsters. I guess in our parent's day they felt that way about the orange-roofed Howard Johnson's. But for me, give me the Golden Arches. I know my meal will be quick, sanitary, and inexpensive. And let's face it, if you're gonna eat out, you're gonna eat junk anyway, no matter what restaurant you choose (unless it's noted for all natural foods), so it may as well be quick, cheap, and clean. Thus ends my ode to MacDonalds.

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