From NW Arkansas Into SW Missouri


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June 23rd 2010
Published: June 27th 2010
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From Fayetteville AR to Joplin MO


Even though scattered thunderstorms were in the forecast, Wednesday morning June 16, 2010 was another blue-sky morning. The drive to the Joplin MO area was only about 1-1/2 hours. Since I wanted to stop at the Missouri Welcome Center, we started northbound on I-540. Like many interstate highways under development, I-540 is a controlled access highway in those sections that have been completed and a two- or four-lane highway in those segments that have not - in this case, US 71. The only portion of our route that was not controlled access was a thirteen-mile stretch right at the AR-MO line.

Originally, we had planned to stop at the Veterans Wall of Honor in Bella Vista AR on the way to Joplin. When we visited the monument on June 11, I was baffled at the volume of traffic at that particular time of day. Now I understand! That section of US 71 (not yet completed I-540) going through Bella Vista was a genuine bottleneck. Given the multitude of difficulties we had on June 11, I was extremely glad we had made that stop without the Pilgrim in tow. The remainder of the trip to the Big Red Barn RV Park
The Pride Of Jasper CountyThe Pride Of Jasper CountyThe Pride Of Jasper County

Jasper County Courthouse - Carthage MO
in Carthage MO (just north of Joplin) was uneventful.

I had resisted staying at the more expensive RV parks - particularly after my disappointing experience in Austin TX in mid-April, but this park is a jewel in its own right. The park is, quite frankly, a no-frills park - no pool, no fishing lake, no hiking trails, no weekend breakfast, no basketball court, but the spaces are wide, level and shaded. Every site has a picnic table on a concrete pad with grass between spaces that beckons the lawn chairs. The WiFi and cable TV are included in the price. Refreshingly and importantly, the park is promoted as what it is, and those features are well done! Big Red Barn is not a destination RV Park, but it is perfect for the tourist to come back to after a day of sightseeing.

Our traditional visit to the Visitor Bureau happened in Carthage MO first thing Thursday morning. Our next stop was the Jasper County Courthouse which is an absolute gem inside and out. The exterior is reminiscent of a medieval castle, and the interior is a museum in its own right. The elevator has an open hoist way,
Seven Cents A GallonSeven Cents A GallonSeven Cents A Gallon

Red Oak II - Carthage MO
an open car and a real, live, breathing elevator operator. In addition to the photos I’ve selected for the blog, there is a harbor mine from the Spanish-American War era, a Civil War era canon, a wooden (indoor) telephone booth, a mural depicting the history of Jasper County, historic Route 66 memorabilia and numerous display cases with local artifacts. One easily could spend 1-2 hours looking at the architecture of the courthouse and other historic buildings surrounding the square and then checking out the displays on all three floors of the still-operational courthouse.

Our third stop of the day was the Red Oak II near Carthage - a medley of historic buildings, antique farm equipment, vintage cars and more. Although not officially open for business, one of the three caretakers working on the property told us to make ourselves at home. He told us the “village” recently had been acquired and the new owner wants to have it ready for a grand re-opening in about a year. Apparently, the property became too much for the former owner to manage, and the property began to deteriorate. I’m not sure of what the village was in its prime nor of what
Pond Formed By The Stream Where Young George PlayedPond Formed By The Stream Where Young George PlayedPond Formed By The Stream Where Young George Played

George Wshington Carver National Moument - Diamond Grove MO
vision the current owner has for the future, but the property has some interesting relics that give the place plenty of character. Red Oak II is listed in the State of Missouri tourism guide and is in my GPS instruction set, but I have no idea of whether it will become a “must see” or a “ho-hum.” It could go either way.

George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond Grove MO was our final stop of the day. About 1864, George was born into slavery under the ownership of Moses and Susan Carver. When he was very young, he and his mother, Mary, were stolen and taken to Arkansas. George was found almost dead from whooping cough, but Mary was never recovered. Deprived of a formal education because of his race (the closest Negro school was some eleven miles away), he learned as much as he could from Moses and Susan and stayed with the Carvers until about age 11 when he left home to attend school in Neosho MO. Carver’s youth is extremely interesting, and walking the ground that engendered such a complex, selfless man is humbling. Not only was Carver an awesome scientist, he was an artist
Street CarStreet CarStreet Car

Webb City MO
whose painting won an honorable mention at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and a philosopher who taught that the success of one’s life can be measured by the extent he has helped others. A must see!

Friday, June 18, 2010 found us with two cities on the agenda - Webb City and Joplin. There were two attractions we wanted to visit in Webb City, but, as usual, our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce. On the way, we spotted the Webb City Mural and stopped for contemplation and a photograph. Resuming Irene’s instruction set (my GPS), we found the COC and all our other Webb City objectives. After chatting with the ladies at the COC, we took unplanned photographs of “The Kneeling Miner” and “The Praying Hands” statues. Then we hopped aboard the streetcar (which only runs during the Friday Farmers Market) for a couple of laps around the city park. It turns out there is no Streetcar Museum per se, but our timing and the streetcar ride more than compensated. Then we strolled over to the Farmers Market, purchased some vegetables and set sail for Joplin.

Irene guided us to the Joplin COC where we learned
Incredible SpecimensIncredible SpecimensIncredible Specimens

Museum Complex - Joplin MO
there is no street address for the Joplin Museum Complex, but I did get driving instructions to the location of the museums in the center of Shifferdecker Park. Actually, entering the park from the intersection of South Shifferdecker Avenue and West 4th Street and going to the top of the hill will get you to the Museum Complex. The complex, indeed, is an interesting potpourri of artifacts that has something for almost everyone - The National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum, an extensive collection of china dolls, a sports hall of fame with the famous (Mickey Mantle) and the not-so-famous represented, a handful of miniature circuses, famous native sons such as Dennis Weaver of “Gunsmoke” fame, 1930-40ish appliances courtesy of the Empire District Electric Company and several rooms with turn-of-the-century furnishings. A separate wing is dedicated to geology, minerals and mining with some very impressive mineral specimens and an interesting explanation of the differences between elements, minerals, ores, etc. and other mining terms. Worth a visit when you’re in Joplin since you’ll probably find several different displays interesting.

Virtually every tourist discussion we have had included an inquiry about our visit to the Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens in Carthage
Chapel MuralChapel MuralChapel Mural

Precious Moments Park & Chapel - Carthage MO
MO, and we expected that, in the future, most people who learned we had been to the Joplin area would make the same inquiry. With a couple of hours remaining on the Tommy Tourist meter, we stopped on the way back to the Big Red Barn. I’m glad we did - as long as it was only a couple of miles out of the way. I expected a gift (the attraction is free) from Precious Moments to hold a high standard of quality but never expected that level of quantity. Precious Moments collectors should make it a destination, religious and sentimental types could spend the entire day and almost everybody should find it beautifully inspiring.

On Saturday, June 19, 2010, we decided to take in the Tour of the Murals. The temperatures have been in the low- to mid-90s for several days and the humidity has been about equal to the temperature. Mural looking would require virtually no walking and only brief spells out of the air-conditioned truck. Driving southbound on MO 59, I finally had an opportunity to get a photo of a chicken ranch. We had seen them throughout most of Arkansas, but the roadway had always been too narrow or there had been too much traffic or it was in a blind spot on the roadway. Finally! Along the way, a couple of old barns were begging to be electronically recorded. One with a stone foundation was particularly interesting.

Our first stop was in Granby MO to see the “Granby Mining Museum” and “Remember When” murals. They were outside the Granby Mining Museum (go figure) so we stepped inside to see what the museum had to offer. One of the best things about this particular small town museum is that the artifacts are meticulously documented. Oftentimes, I have found that neither the volunteer on duty nor I can identify or explain some unusual, undocumented item. The husband of the couple on duty is a former Marine who was lucky enough to get out of the Corps just as Vietnam was ramping up. We had a nice conversation about life in the Corps.

Our next stop was in Stella MO at the Le-Ru Telephone Company. No exterior mural, and the office was closed. Next, we headed for Newtonia MO and the Ritchey Civil War Mansion that had been headquarters both to Union and Confederate forces
Beauty In The DowntownBeauty In The DowntownBeauty In The Downtown

Granby Miners Museum - Granby MO
during the Civil War. Open by appointment only. Before we left Carthage we never realized that many of the murals would be inside and that many of those establishments would be closed on Saturday, so we quickly abandoned our original objective and decided to see what murals we could and to embrace alternate opportunities as they arose. FLEXIBILITY! Adjacent to the Ritchey Mansion was an old cemetery so we walked over to check out some of the headstones. Most of the interred had lived through the Civil War. The stories they would be able to tell!

Onward to Neosho and the Neosho Newton County Library to see “Centennial Mural.” Surely the library would be open on Saturday midday. It was. Then down the street to see “Neosho Mural” at the Mills Park Center. This mural happened to be outside and across the street from Mills Park where we ate our picnic lunch. There was a nearby wading pool, and it was a treat to watch the kids - easy to sort the first-timers from the seasoned veterans. After lunch, we walked across the street to a small spring-fed lagoon to watch the ducks and some large trout. By now,
Chicken RanchChicken RanchChicken Ranch

Newton County MO
we both were getting quite heated and decided to call it a day. Back in the cool of the Pilgrim, we took turns watching TV and napping. After the heat of the day had passed, we grilled some rib eyes. Overall, still a good day.

We have been trying to relax, catch up and finish the blog on Sunday and Monday and to move to a new destination on Tuesday. Our one-day stop at Winn Creek RV Park in Fayetteville sorta upset that apple cart. Since we didn’t have a Missouri Travel Guide until we were entering Missouri (the web site really sucks) and since we were way behind on our planning for the Kansas City area, we decided to stay a couple more days here at the Big Red Barn. We were pleased with our visit to Joplin and were ready to relax and surf the Internet for a while. After all, I got my picture of a chicken ranch!



Additional photos below
Photos: 38, Displayed: 29


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Jasper County Courthouse - Carthage MO
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