The sky is only kinda dark and vaguely threatening in the morning, but there's supposed to be a wicked front coming in later today. I had originally planned on leaving Missouri today, to head up to South Dakota and visit with Lindy, but weather is always a consideration on a motorcycle trip, and flexibility is a virtue. :) Besides, it feels like too short of a visit with my sister. I'm staying put one extra day.
My sister indulges me, and we decide to do one of my favorite things, a little Civil War sightseeing. Kay, the kids and I pile into the minivan and head north to Lexington MO, site of a battle which occured early in the war. (Kay wrote a nice entry in her blog about our visit, if you'd like to check it out.) It's now a state park. In the 1860's, Missouri was considered to be pretty much the far western edge of civilization, with only frontier expansion and post-Gold Rush California lying beyond. Most of the wealth in the state was concentrated along the Missouri River, and in these places, many of the great families lived in the old Southern style, plantations with slave labor, etc. In the days before massive railroad development, rivers equaled commerce. Most of the political sentiment by the ruling powers of the day was firmly Confederate-leaning. In fact, while only eleven states seceded, there are thirteen stars on the Stars and Bars -- it's Missouri and Kentucky who were expected to join their sister Rebel states, eventually, but that's a whole different story ...
The museum is a good little one, as these things go. It's a little short on artifacts but long on interesting displays with lots of history to read. I love it. The kids are BORED. I think they go from humoring their nutty Auntie Boo to barely tolerating me to eye-rolling and 'can we just GO' but I refuse to be hurried, at least not much. At one point, my nephew is quite literally grabbing my arm and trying to drag me along (he's only seven, he can't budge me, but ohh he wants to.) I stop reading and hunker down a little, so I can talk to him not towering over him, and tell him that everyone enjoys doing different things, and that looking at stuff in museums is my idea of fun, saying "I really like this. This is like Nintendo for me." He gets it (even if he thinks the notion is somewhat loopy) and says, "OK" and skips off to be bored & find a little trouble elsewhere. My niece (who I am sure also gets what I'm saying) thinks that it is quite possibly the most insane statement she's heard in a while. "But Auntie Boo, how can this be like Nintendo for you? This is like history and dead people and stuff," she gasps as only an exasperated pre-teen can. I swear, that child is gonna hurt herself if she rolls her eyes any farther ;)
Well, I'm not that into torturing the kids for too long, and we all agree to watch the visitor's center video. It is fifteen minutes and predictably cheesy. I am surprised by the pro-Southern bias of the piece, but the story is told as a first-person POV based on a planter's wife's diary, and anyway Kay and I have a good laugh about it afterward. The Unpleasantries Between The States has been over for 140 years, and people are still strange about that war. Walking out of auditorium (a generous name for a room with four rows of folding chairs & a crappy combo TV-VCR set up on a rolling cart) Kay asks, "What do we do now?" I say, "We go on the walking tour, of course." I explain to her the parts of the Historical Battlesite Visit. There is ALWAYS a museum, even if it's a room with a couple of dusty displays. And then there is ALWAYS a video, and it is ALWAYS cheesy. And then there is ALWAYS a walking tour, usually with a badly xeroxed sheet of paper with varying degrees of accuracy, and you do it last because what you've seen in the museum and in the film give you a much better idea of what you are looking at. Sometimes, there's a driving tour as well. Here, there is also the option of touring inside the Anderson House, and the 45-minute guided tour is just about to start. Sounds interesting, but we knew the kids couldn't take it, even though they said they wanted to ... they would have been bored stiff after ten minutes. So it's off to the walking tour with the bad Xerox, and it's an interesting little hike over the battleground. The Anderson House still stands, bricks scarred by minie balls and artillery. Walking around the house, locations are marked: here is where the carriage house stood. This is where the slave quarters were. Looping back 'round to the east, the garden has been restored - soldiers charged through here - and beyond that, what remains of the earthworks lie on the rolling hills. We walk through, and I am fascinated by the terrain. Trenches that were dug in 1861 have been almost completely smoothed by time's passage. You really have to look to see where they were. The rain, which has been threatening all day, gets quite serious with its threats as we get towards the end of the walk. In fact, Kay and I decide to cut it a bit short. It looks like it's gonna rain like heck in ten minutes or less and there's thunder and lightning getting close, and we thought that the path along a small ridgeline would be best avoided. We turn and walk back to the car, not exactly hustling but not dawdling either. I can smell the approaching storm in the air.
We make it back to the parking lot as the first few tentative drops start sprinkling down. The air is so heavy that it's hard to tell exactly when it starts raining, but the temps are dropping and it is getting awfully dark. We pile in the van, Kay gets us pointed the right way and headed back home, and within minutes it's coming down in buckets. Woo, we made the right choice back there, hightailing it for the car when we did. Now, on the highway, the rain keeps coming heavier and heavier and the winds are kicking up too, enough that it's making Kay incredibly tense behind the wheel as she fights the elements. She snaps at the kids when they are noisily horsing around in the back seat. I watch the rain come down in sheets, and the wind whipping through the corn, bending the stalks over, making the fields look like stormy wave-tossed seas of broad dark green leaves. Oh, this is a bad one, the wind is pushing the van all over the road, thunder and lighting crashing around us (but not as close as what I rode through in Tennessee.) Am I ever GLAD I decided to stay that extra day! This would have been horrible to ride in.
Kay gets us safely home, thank goodness, and we spend the afternoon hanging out, talking, playing with the kids, and doing a whole bunch of nothing. Mike, who has been working with the builders out at the dome site, returns saying that they'd sealed a second row of seams but the concrete didn't have time to set before the rain hit ... it'll probably have to be redone. We go out for barbeque that night, one of those funky little local places that has scarred linoleum tabletops, plastic forks, and exquisite ribs. You know the type. Yummm. The rain really doesn't let up much for the rest of the day, continuing all the way past dinnertime. This wasn't one of those hit-and-run Midwest storms, but an all-day deal. I wouldn't have been able to wait out this one for half an hour under a gas station canopy somewhere.
Now, I'm a day behind to get to Boise, but the Weather Channel is predicting a good day tomorrow, and I hope to make up some of it. I'll try to get an early start.
Next: Day Thirteen