In the winter of 1983, I visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Mo. First impressions of the Show-Me State included broiling in my purple snowmobile suit and Moon Boots, riding an elevator the size of a ammo can, and being too short to see out the window. Thankfully, future experiences of Missouri were much improved.
Did you know Missouri offers scuba in a flooded lead mine, the largest WWI museum in the nation, and more fountains than Rome?
Fountains, trains, World War I, T.S. Eliot, Al Capone, and the Jazz Age have something in common: Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO).
KCMO reportedly has more fountains than Rome. Maybe that is where Eliot got his imagery of the pool filled with water out of sunlight? Before the fountains came the wagons; in the 1800s, this was the jump off point for the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. No covered wagons these days, but there good chuck at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ.
I would be here till the cows came home if I tried to relate all the tales of gangsters, locomotives, poets and saxophones, so I provided links. The one thing I do want to mention is the World War I Museum, as the War That Didn’t End Any Wars, Actually began 100 years ago this past week. The official WWI museum of the US, it has a gripping visual of the cost of war. You enter the lobby over a vast field of poppies … and a sign explains that each flower represents 1,000 dead.
If you don’t like cities but do like breathing underwater … Missouri offers Bonne Terre Mine. Caveat emptor: the owners have a monopoly on dive sites in St. Francois County, so the costs are high. (Apparently abandoned lead mines flooded with a billion gallons of vodka-clear water don’t pop up on Zillow just every day.)
Diving Bonne Terre Mine is like flying through the Mines of Moria, with fewer goblins. Tracks and equipment sit visibly rusting between hand-chipped pillars 60 feet tall. Get there the day before and take the narrated boat tour; the mine’s century of operation includes underground mules and an entire submerged city (still there and diveable if you have your cave rating). And you can pick up your dive gear at Diver’s Equipment and Repair back in KCMO [insert shameless plug for the best dive shop in the Midwest].
I will just briefly touch on the Cave Restaurant, since it has closed. This was a neat little place where you could dine underground. Average food, but it was a fun evening and close to Fort Leonard Wood.
And the story behind “Show Me?” After years of befuddlement, I did finally get the 411 on its mysterious state motto: apparently it comes from a 118-year-old political speech.
“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” Perhaps he was decrying 1899’s version of fake news? Maine attacked in Havana last year?
One more in memory of the Cave Restaurant in Pulaski County. It now lives only in legend and song. But you can still swing by Lost in the Woods and check out the U.S. Army Military Police Museum. Of the troops, for the troops … ticket the troops going 29 in a 25 through a NON housing area on Fort Leavenworth that SHOULD have been 35. Not that I’m holding onto that or anything.
Next up … Texas! There’s so much more than the two options provided by Gunny Hartman.