After enjoying a wonderful week with Dave and Sue (and Lewis) along Conesus Lake, we finally pointed the motorhome west with our home in Boulder City, NV the ultimate destination. Driving between 225 and 300 miles a day, we made our way through Pennsylvania into southern Ohio. Rain held us up a couple of days just north of Cincinnati before we headed through Kentucky and southern Indiana into Illinois.
At a rest stop in Ohio we found that our starter batteries were providing inadequate power to start the engine. But an electronic (called a BIRD, for bi-directional) switch on the motorhome allows you to add the power of the house batteries to the starter batteries, so we were easily able to get started. The two starter batteries are over eight years old so we had anticipated their demise in the near future. While north of Cincinnati we stopped at a large Freightliner dealer but they did not have the batteries we wanted. We called a Freightliner dealer at our next destination, Mt. Vernon, IL, and found they had two in stock.
After arriving in Mt. Vernon early in the afternoon (we had left Cincinnati very early to beat the traffic and also changed time zones), John picked up the new batteries (not easy as they are very heavy) and installed them. That left us with time to visit one of the local attractions, the Fifth District Appellate Court House.
Built in 1854, this building is the last courthouse to hold a trial where Abraham Lincoln served as an attorney (1859).
A statue of Lincoln stands near the main entrance along with a plaque commemorating the event.
The courthouse is still functioning today, holding a couple hundred trials each year. While court was not in session during our visit, a security guard gave us a nice tour of the building.
After a short stay in Mt. Vernon to get our batteries charged (literally) and visit with Abe, we continued our trip west, crossing the Mississippi at St. Louis.
Below is a picture of Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. I-64 runs right past the stadium. Unfortunately for us, the nice view of the stadium means we missed the turn on to I-44 south, which was located just before the stadium. Fortunately, we were able to turn on to Grand Ave. in just a few miles and drive a mile south to the correct highway.
Our next stop was near Springfield, MO where we took a walk around the campus of Missouri State University and made a visit to the Nathanael Green/Close Memorial Gardens.
MSU has a decent campus, but the heavy use of light colored concrete and stone gave many of the buildings a very institutional look.
We do not often visit parks with botanical gardens (one of us has less than a little interest in plants), but we needed some exercise and the paths were mainly shaded by the numerous trees, an important feature on a very hot afternoon.
We continued our trip west for a visit to Pawhuska, OK. We realize most of our readers have already spent time in Pawhuska, but, believe it or not, this is our first visit. And what brings us to a tiny town in the middle of the Osage Nation? It is home to the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, of Food Network fame. Ree records her show in a beautiful lodge located in the middle of the huge cattle farm owned and operated by her husband, Ladd, his brother, Tim, and their father. Two years ago Ree and Ladd completed renovations of the old mercantile building they purchased in the heart of the town. The building is now home to a restaurant and mercantile store on the main floor and a coffee shop and bakery on the second floor. Next door they have completed a boutique hotel called the Boarding House with eighth themed rooms available to the public.
The Drumonds recently opened P-Town Pizza across the street. More on that later.
At the Mercantile we asked for directions to the ranch where the Pioneer Woman program is recorded. The directions also serve as a ticket to get into that building. To get there we drove west on US 60 for about 12 miles and turned north on to Foraker, a well-maintained dirt road. About six miles up that road we turned east on another dirt road for about a mile to the small parking area at what they call the Drummond Lodge.
Since there was no recording activity during our visit, the building was open for the public to walk through.
While in the Lodge we were able to get the Drummond family to sit down for a photograph.
Ranches are great places for dogs, and the Drummond Cattle Ranch is no exception. These two guys are very comfortable around strangers. In fact, they didn’t even budge when the treat lady (minus a pocket of treats) showed up.
The Lodge is also a guest house, with five or six bedrooms. Ree and her family live in a farmhouse complex about a mile and a half to the south.
Instead of returning back to Pawhuska we continued on a series of dirt roads for a drive through the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is owned and managed by a non-profit group called The Nature Conservancy. It is protected as the largest tract of remaining tallgrass prairie in the world. The preserve contains 39,000 acres owned by the Conservancy and another 6,000 acres leased. It is a small part of what was the original tallgrass region of the Great Plains that stretched from Texas to Manitoba. The preserve is home to a herd of over 2,500 bison. The day of our visit was very hot, so most of the bison were taking shelter in the trees. But we were able to spot a group of about 25 grazing in the open.
We returned to Pawhuska for dinner at the P-Town Pizza Shop. There is a take-out store at street level and a dining room on the second floor.
The beer menu was a bit limited, but the nimble hiker enjoyed a tasty bottle of Not Your Father’s Root Beer.
Many online reviews recommended an appetizer called Not-Knots. We tried a basket and found them to be pretty tasty.
We shared an Italian Chopped Salad and a small Fig and Prosciutto Pizza. Both were delicious!
After what turned out to be a very interesting visit, we are now continuing our journey west as we head for our house in Boulder City. We’re still a long way from home so there may be a few more adventures along the way.
More on that later . . .