Missouri    Iowa   

In July 2018 I drove a nice loop through Missouri and Iowa for 12 days. The main purpose was to get to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America (BMWMOA) National Rally in Des Moines, Iowa. The route in Missouri will be to St Louis for a couple nights over the 4th of July Holiday, then drive across southern Missouri and the Mark Twain Forest, then Branson for a couple nights, through the Ozarks, and finally heading up the western side of Missouri to Kansas City. Then I cross into Iowa to see a number of things before going to the BMW National Motorcycle Rally in Des Moines. I'll have four nights at the rally before heading home.

The drive down to St. Louis was hot. About an hour out of St Louis I stopped for a cold orange cream shake (Dreamsicle) and cold water. Key word - cold! I arrived early afternoon on the 4th of July. The reported weather while I'm staying in St. Louis is 92°F (33°C) now, 92°F tomorrow, but down to 84°F (29°C) Friday when I leave. I had directions of how to get to the hotel after crossing over the Mississippi River from Illinois into Missouri. The problem was, there were a number of exit and road closures all over downtown because of the activities going on in the Gateway Arch Park for the 4th of July festivities. I had to circle around a bit, but eventually got to the hotel. My Hotel was right downtown, I couldn't quite see the Gateway Arch from my room window, but I could see the one end of the Gateway Arch Park. However, when I exit the hotel door, I'm right there in the park. Along the Mississippi River in the Gateway Arch Park, they had a lot of food vendors, a band shell with a number of different performers throughout the day, and an air show with them flying right behind the arch. This was also where the evening fireworks display was.

The next day in St. Louis was a pretty full day, and hot and sunny. Yesterday I bought the 3-pack of tickets for the Gateway Arch tour options for today. Amazingly, pretty reasonable at $34. I went to the top of the 630-foot (192 metre) Gateway Arch about 11:00 a.m. Afterwards, I got some lunch, then took a cruise down the Mississippi at 01:30 p.m. Then I had some time to walk around the St. Louis downtown area before heading to the movie about the history of the building of the Gateway Arch at 04:00 p.m., they have some pretty amazing video of the actual construction from back in the 60s. Then I roamed around some more downtown, including seeing the St. Louis Cardinals' Stadium, they were in San Francisco in case you're interested. I happened upon a nice big gourmet grocery store where I was able to get a good dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a piece of lemon cake for dessert.

When I left St. Louis, I drove some Interstate to get away from the city before exiting to side roads near Cuba, Missouri. I spent some time looking for the cemetery where my brother's wife's relatives are buried, unfortunately I'm not sure if it exists anymore or at least is not accessible from the road. Not far from there was Meramec Caverns, as they say, world-famous. I got there and within one minute the cave tour started. Lucky! Since today was in the 90s°F (30s°C), the 60°F (15°C) cave was refreshing. After the tour, I drove down through the Mark Twain National Forest in the southeast part of Missouri. Wonderful roads for the bike, not crowded, well paved, shaded with the trees from the heat, and lots of twists and turns. A slight detour out of the forest, I spent the night in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. I wanted to get a steak dinner in St. Louis, but it was a ton of money. So, I had a phenomenal ribeye steak dinner here for less than half the price of St. Louis. After all, who comes to Poplar Bluff for a steak dinner?

The next day I continued my journey driving through the Mark Twain National Forest. Being it was away from everything, there was almost no traffic until I got to Branson, Missouri. In fact, I passed only 3 cars in the almost 200 miles (322 kilometers). Well, make that 2 cars and 1 pickup truck with a sofa in the back and 3 guys sitting on it actually drinking beer. After all, I am near the Ozarks, hillbilly country. Branson, like Las Vegas and the Wisconsin Dells, is mostly one great big long strip. Its slogan is 'The Center Point of Entertainment'. Everything is on the strip, from one end to the other. This also means a solid line of cars going in both directions through almost the whole town. My hotel was exactly in the middle, and when I got there, I walked the one leg, over 5 miles (8 kilometres) roundtrip. After I got something to eat for dinner, I walked by the Presley Country Jubilee Theater. They were having a show at 08:00 p.m., so I grabbed a ticket rather than sitting in the hotel for 2 hours. It actually is the original show that started Branson being what it is today. They talked about the history and the fact that they were the first to hold shows here. Pretty entertaining, they have a whole bunch of different performers besides their family members. They ended the show with a salute to America, and just as I was leaving the theater, across the street were the Branson fireworks going off, kind of cool. It was a very late night in the entertainment capital of the world.

I had another day in Branson. This time going the other direction down the strip from my hotel. I started the day taking the Ducks Boat Tour. For those who don't know what a Duck is, it is a military vehicle that can drive on land and on the water. It actually drove quite a bit around the area showing us back roads and mountain tops with some great views, before finally going into the Table Rock Lake. We were actually in the water for quite a while. I walked to the Branson historic old part of the town, Branson Landing. Some old buildings there, but also a lot built up around it now. In Branson Landing, I had a quick early lunch since I was going to a dinner show later. I bought a ticket to the 05:30 p.m. Dolly Parton Stampede show. It was kind of like a western Medieval Times with the center ring, horses, and the performers. Throw in some country music and comedy, and you've got yourself an entertaining show. The dinner was an entire small chicken, slice of pork roast, half corn on the cob, half baked potato, some cream of vegetable soup, and an apple turnover for dessert. Everything, including the show, overall, really good. On my way walking back to the hotel, I bought a ticket and went through the Titanic exhibit. They do have an incredible number of items and artifacts, all of which have to be priceless. They recreated the main staircase of the Titanic, unfortunately, no video or photography is allowed through the whole exhibit.

When I left Branson, it was early enough in the morning to avoid all the congestion on the strip. My first stop was in Springfield, Missouri, where the world's largest Bass Pro Shop is located. It's their headquarters, so they have a bunch of extra special stuff there. They have a giant aquarium, a car exhibit of all the racing cars they sponsor, a history of Bass Pro Shop, and a couple other things. So, take the normal Bass Pro Shop, which is already huge, and multiply it by 6. I continued my drive through the Lake of the Ozarks area. The Ozarks scenery was not quite as spectacular as it's made out to be (or I remember from my youth). I detoured a bit to go to Jefferson City, the forgotten state capital. The area around the capitol is the Old Jefferson City Historic Area. So, it had a couple nice old main streets as well as the capital building. Unfortunately, as you will see in the photograph, the capital is under construction for repair. I finally made it to the area that I'll be spending the night. Sedalia, Knob Noster, and Warrensburg. This is where my brother was stationed for a while at the Whiteman AFB. I can't remember how long it's been since I've been around this area, maybe since high school.

My next stop was a very short drive, only about an hour to Kansas City, Missouri. Good thing it was short, once again another day in the 90s°F (30s°C). It's been very hot the whole trip. I stopped at Engle Motors BMW motorcycle dealer in Kansas City before heading to my hotel about Noon. Fortunately, they had my room available and the air conditioning was already on. I walked around downtown Kansas City. Surprisingly, the city during the day is not very active at all. Also shocking, not a lot of places to eat in the downtown area. I thought I would get something to eat but had trouble finding a place. I walked down to their Union Station building which was pretty spectacular, it was built in 1914. Luckily, they had several places to eat there. Then just across from that was the National World War I Museum and Memorial that was built, amazingly, in 1926 only 8 years after WWI ended (of course, the original name of the museum was the Liberty Memorial Museum). From what I can see, this is the only thing like this in the United States for World War I. Pretty neat. BTW: Kind of getting spoiled by the U.S. hotels. All of them have had big rooms, super comfy beds, nice air conditioning, and relatively easy to find. Oh, and English spoken on the programs on the television.

For some reason I can't explain, I found there were a number of birthplaces in Iowa for some famous people. So, I crossed into Iowa and drove to Shenandoah, Iowa because they have an Iowa Star Walk of Fame. It's kind of like the Hollywood Star Walk of Fame, but with people from Iowa. Imagine my surprise when I came upon this - the Everly Brothers Family Home. It really was not much more than a single room. They moved here when they were 5 and 7, and remained here all the way through high school. It was two years later they got their first record contract. Fun fact: Phil was born in Chicago in 1939. Once I crossed into Iowa, pretty much all of the roads were straight but surprisingly very hilly. From what I heard about the Iowa roads from the rally goers, most of Iowa's going to be pretty flat. Next stop, Clarinda, Iowa, the birthplace of Glenn Miller. They have a museum here, as well as the restored birthplace home. The home was bought by his youngest daughter back in 1989. Compared to the small Everly Brothers house, this has 3 big rooms on the ground floor as well as 2 bedrooms upstairs, not to mention the basement. During the tour, I asked what the father did to be able to afford such a big home, they actually don't know other than he was a general craftsman and seemed to be a steady worker which was how they were able to afford this home. The kitchen had a pretty impressive stove, along with a washing machine that was original to the home. Remember, this was back in 1904.

The next celebrity home was in Winterset, Iowa, where I got to see the birthplace of John Wayne. They also have a big museum there with a lot of clothes and his personal artifacts. Pretty cool. Then in Corning, Iowa, I stopped by the birthplace of Johnny Carson. The building is only open Sunday from 01:00 p.m. to 05:00 p.m., but I was able to see the outside and walk around it. Also, pretty cool. Okay, the reason I went to Stanton, Iowa is because they have the world's largest Swedish coffee pot. What, what? It's 125 feet (38 metres) tall, and holds approximately 640,000 cups of coffee (I don't think there is a metric equivalent for this). I couldn't pass this up. But then it got even better, Stanton is the birthplace of Virginia Christine. Huh? I hear you all saying. Perhaps the name Mrs. Olson from the Folgers Coffee commercial rings a bell. I think it's commonly known that birthplaces come in threes. Or maybe it's something else.

As I neared Des Moines, I drove through the area known famously for the Bridges of Madison County. I couldn't actually drive over the couple I saw since they are historical, but I stopped and took some photos. I finally arrived in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and the BMWMOA National Rally. For the first couple days, I spent several hours of the day going to various seminars they had. Then the rest of the day was going through the motorcycle vendors both inside and outside. It was very hot as I was outside in the heat walking up and down where all the motorcycles were, so periodically I was going inside to cool off. I did happen upon an ambulance in the camping area. It seems one of the attendees was overcome with heat and they called an ambulance for him. Of the expected 4,000 motorcycles, I only saw 8 like mine. As usual, I received quite a few compliments on my bike. The rally fee includes free camping on the grounds. However, with the heat, I stayed at a hotel. Good thing. I got back to my hotel from dinner about 07:30 p.m., then about 08:30 p.m., torrential super-duper heavy downpours came for like an hour and a half.

The rally had arranged a shuttle from the fairgrounds to downtown Des Moines. My plan was to go to the one seminar at 11:00 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., then take the shuttle downtown for lunch and walk around downtown Des Moines to get pictures. Oddly, the shuttle ran from morning till night on Thursday and Friday, but on Saturday it ended at 02:00 p.m. So, I ended up spending the last full day of the rally walking around some more, seeing more bikes. I never did make it to downtown Des Moines. At the closing ceremony, they gave away some big prizes. Unfortunately, I did not win anything. Total attendance for the rally was 4,580 riders.

As I left the rally to head home, the last major stop I planned was at Riverside, Iowa. This is considered the "future" birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. Apparently, in the original series it was mentioned about the year of his birth and that he was from Iowa. When they went to do the movie with the new cast (2009), they gave him the same birthday as William Shatner, since the day had not been clarified before. Consequently, some guy in Iowa contacted the film's production staff about the birthplace prior to them making the first movie with a new cast. He convinced them to use Riverside as the town James T. Kirk was born in. So, in the new Star Trek movie with the new cast, they specifically mentioned the month, day, year, and town in Iowa (March 22, 2228 and Riverside, Iowa). Thus, a tourist attraction was born. They have a monument, some street sign banners with pictures of the original cast stating "Where the Trek begins", and a small Star Trek Museum. They also have Trek days, however that is at the end of June every year. My last stop before getting home was a big mother trucker stop in Walcott, Iowa. It is the World's Largest Truckstop, just west of the Iowa/Illinois border at Exit 284 on I-80. It is referred to as a Trucker's Disneyland.

Fortunately, I did not run into any anomalies and made it back home in warp speed. Total miles for this trip was 1,964 miles (3,161 kilometres).

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St. Louis, Missouri - The iconic Gateway Arch is 630-feet (192-metres) wide as well as tall.


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St, Louis, Missouri - Being there on the 4th of July, fireworks and the Arch.


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Stanton, Missouri - Meramec Caverns is a 4.6-mile (7.4 km) cavern system in the Ozarks. Nice and cool on a hot summer day.


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Branson, Missouri - Lots of entertainment here, I saw several comedy and music live shows and had some great dining options.


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Branson, Missouri - At Dolly Parton's Stampede show, got the best of everything. Music, show, and food.


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Jefferson City, Missouri - Yes, Jefferson City is the Capitol of Missouri, despite what you might think. It was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson (and no, he wasn't from there).


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Kansas City, Missouri - I'm going to Kansas City. Kansas City here I come.


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Kansas City, Missouri - The National WWI Museum and Memorial opened as the Liberty Memorial Museum in 1926. Its name was changed for obvious reasons. The tower is still called the Liberty Memorial.


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Shenandoah, Iowa - The Everly Brother's (Phil and Don) childhood family home. All I Have To Do Is Dream, and I can see them living there.


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Clarinda, Iowa - Glenn Miller's birthplace and museum. Sign on the lawn said Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree.


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Clarinda, Iowa - With this heat it's hard to get In the Mood to do anything. A Little Brown Jug of cool water would be nice.


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Stanton, Iowa - Birthplace of Virginia Christine, you likely know her as Mrs. Olson from the Folgers Coffee commercials. It is also home to the largest Swedish coffee pot in the world (there's also a matching cup).


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Corning, Iowa - Heeeeeere's Johnny Carson's birthplace home. I wonder if he gets Ed McMahon's mail?


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Winterset, Iowa - Birthplace of John Wayne. 'I'm responsible only for what I say, not what you understand.' - John Wayne


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Des Moines, Iowa - I guess I'm in the right place. The 2018 BMWMOA National Rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.


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Des Moines, Iowa - Classics. Anything under 50 years old is not even considered vintage.


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Des Moines, Iowa - Hey, look at me! I made it on the big screen.


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Des Moines, Iowa - Couldn't pass up this photo opportunity. Several others like mine at the rally. Cool.


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Riverside, Iowa - The town's slogan is 'Where the Trek begins'. Behind this barbershop lies a secret.


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Riverside, Iowa - Future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Now you understand the slogan.


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Walcott, Iowa - As the World's Largest Truckstop, it has everything you need. Basically, it's a mini-town.