Thursday, September 8, 2011

Odds 'N Ends and Days Off!

We survived Labor Day weekend (just barely). Jerri and Homer led the Pet Parade on Saturday. Homer was quite happy to be in charge and looked the part. We humans, on the other hand, worked like dogs the entire weekend. On Sunday night we were the only staff on duty and were pretty ragged by the end of shift.
As always, Homer enjoys a good treat.

We were ecstatic that Labor Day was over and our days off soon followed. On our 'errand' day we visited the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, stopped by the Branson KOA to visit friends who work there, and made the weekly Wal-Mart trek for food.

The fish hatchery was very informative. They breed and stock Brown and Rainbow Trout. The runs are all covered to protect the trout from predatory birds like heron, osprey and others. The view of the back side of Table Rock Dam is impressive, too. There are thousands of trout of various ages in the runs. The small trout in the photo are about 7 months old. The two large rainbows are mature breeders.

On our second day off we went to Legends in Concert at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater. It was a total blast! We had such fun watching Patsy Cline, Johnny Mathis, The Blues Brothers, Bette Midler and Elvis perform.

Jerri and 'Elvis'

Elwood, Kathy and Jake

Dean Z, who portrays Elvis, did a fantastic and quite believable job. It was so believable, that the elderly lady sitting next to Kathy turned to her and said, "He's so good, he kinda makes you horny, don't he?" For once, Kathy was speechless... except when she went on stage to have her photo snapped with The Blues Brothers.

Jerri received three kisses from Elvis and commented that 'his lips were very soft.' And for our good friend Ruth Healy, that's your Elvis jacket in the photo. Elvis liked the jacket a lot. We believe Dean Z did Elvis proud, and the lady who sat next to Kathy can attest to that.

May you have a cheesy, good time too!

Saturday, September 3, 2011


One hot summer's day a small group of adventurous spirits from Compton Ridge Campground decided to go ziplining. Initially there were six adventurous spirits, but after one dropped out (literally) at the first tower (it was Kathy), then there were five.

It was an awesome day to face one's fears (fear of heights, fear of falling, fear of peeing your pants...). When Kathy found out you can't zip with your eyes closed, it was a no-go for her (although she is very brave in other ways).

After gearing up and meeting your guides (all cute, college-age boys), the day's adventure begins with a death-defying ATV ride at full throttle over bumps, through bushes and over a highway into the woods. After you pry your hands off the back of the seats and settle your shaking knees, you are led to a clothesline-looking cable area to 'practice' ziplining where you are given instructions, words of encouragement and one try to get it right. Next, you hike through the woods to a very tall, tiny tower with the longest spiral staircase ever. After huffing and puffing your way to the top of the tower where you are carabinered to the railing in case you'd like to leave or possibly fall over the railing, you are again given instructions and told what a 'blast' and 'rush' you would feel (or just plain nausea as Kathy would attest). Kathy discovered this was the best place to chicken out as there were still stairs to descend. Chickening out later means a guide has to rappel you down from even greater heights.

Of all of our party left, Jerri was the only one who smiled as she zipped over the trees and through the canopy. In total there were 7 different ziplines, 3 rope bridges and a lot of fun. If you are looking for an adventure loving partner to zip with, Jerri is available.

Life is an adventure.  Live it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We Got Our Kicks....

A couple of weeks ago, we got a couple of extra days off and found ourselves (+ doggies) headed to St. Louis. Couldn't come to Missouri and not see the Arch, but let's begin at the beginning.

Anyway, we managed to travel on part of Historic Route 66 (hence, we got our kicks). Visited Mr. C's Route 66 store. Not only does Mr. C own the patent for the famous Route 66 Root Beer (and other flavored Route 66 beverages), but is chock full of various information about Route 66 and other stuff. If you get the chance to stop in, you will find any kind of Route 66 memorabilia, souvenir, schotchkes, etc. You will also find a handsome display of guitars, gold records and other stuff previously owned by the late, great blues man, 'Muddy Waters.' Come to find out the proprietor of Mr. C's was the former business manager for Muddy Waters. Stick with us, we find out the most obscure details in all the weird places.

The Missouri Welcome Center on I-44 was interesting and informative with verrrrrryyy clean restrooms, but none of the discount coupons our cheap, little hearts were wanting. Our travel day was very overcast and rainy and we saw several wrecks involving tractor trailers on the way to St. Louis.

Instead of staying downtown in St. Louis (too expensive), we stayed at a Drury Inn and Suites in Fenton, MO, which was about 18 minutes from downtown and the Arch. The rates were quite reasonable, they allowed pets (and did not charge extra); breakfast was included each morning; popcorn and soda was included from 3 - 9 PM daily; and heavy snacks (basically dinner) included daily from 5:30 - 7PM. What a deal!

Of course, The Gateway Arch was first on our list of things to see and do. An absolutely modern marvel of engineering. It's 630 feet to the top and a little creepy and weird to ride up in an egg-shaped compartment with people you don't know in a very confined space.  Taking only 4 minutes to travel up and 3 minutes to travel back down, it is doable.  The view from the top was fabulous. You could see across the Mississippi river into Illinois on one side and the other side gave a great view of Busch Stadium and the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was heard (a long time ago). This inverted catenary curve of gleaming stainless steel is ingenious in its simplicity.  The span of the two legs at ground level is the same as the height. 

The Jefferson National Expansion Park is fun to explore and includes the Gateway Arch. The Arch is operated by the National Park Service and access to it is underground. We opted for the package that included the ride to the top of the Arch and the Lewis and Clark movie (very informative, in case you wondered). The Museum of Westward Expansion was vast and our feet tired of it too soon, although the parts we saw were significant.

We walked the park along the river and viewed the Eads Bridge but did not travel on it. Built in 1894, it was the first major railroad bridge across the Mississippi and the first to utilize steel truss construction. 

Upon recommendation of the Park Service personnel, we next visited Union Station, the oldest train station in the U.S. which has now been converted into an indoor mall of sorts. We lunched at the St. Louis Hard Rock Cafe. Kathy got her fix of grilled portobello mushrooms once again (yum!). The young man at The Fudgery was a real hoot. Very reminiscent of an old-time street vendor/actor/salesman/entrepreneur, all rolled into one.

Next, we went to the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica (admission is free, although donations are appreciated). Architecture fascinates us, particularly Gothic. When in St. Louis, put this on your must-see list. The gold mosaic tiles are enough to make you want to see it, let alone the time it took from construction to completion and the wealth inside this building.

There is just no way a camera can do justice. The light plays on all the mosaic tiles in various degrees, almost bringing movement. The dome is 240 feet tall and the ceiling alcove above the statue of Christ is 90 feet tall. The angels around the inside of the dome are each 30 feet tall. Each mosaic tile was set by hand and turned by a craftsman to catch the light to maximize the gold glitter.

Between the architecture of the Gateway Arch and the Cathedral Basilica, we had an awe-inspiring, awesome trip, even if it was a short trip.

On the return trip we opted to forgo Grant's Farm and the Botanical Gardens because of the dogs. With temps 95 and above, it would have been just too cruel to ask them to wait in the car. The dogs traveled very well and particularly enjoyed the expanded channel selection in the room while we were out for the day.

Hope we've inspired you to 'get your kicks'