Category Archives: Historic Site

photo of Jim Experiencing Scenic Point near Jasper, Arkansas

The Ambassador in the Ozarks

photo of the Mimosa trees that are common along the road

Mimosa trees are common along the road

After having lunch at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, it was time to beat feet. It looked like a 4-hour trip to Little Rock, but we didn’t know the roads and couldn’t go quite as fast as travel estimates since we were pulling the Ambassador. It looked pretty doable though, and Marilyn is a master navigator. As she considered various routes, I enjoyed the scenery.

As we crossed the border into Arkansas, Marilyn settled on Highway 7 — a route that would take us through the Ozarks. Based on the National Geographic Road Atlas, it looked like the most direct path and seemed to be on a substantial road. It was very scenic, but the road was winding, narrow and hilly. I was hoping the travel estimates accounted for diminished road speed and began to think we might be a little late into Little Rock. This is part of traveling through new territory. You can’t always predict what you’ll find, and you just have accept it.

photo of The Tower

The Tower

The forest and road seemed to go on forever. We had passed through Harrison some time ago and the road was still narrow and hilly. The dense Ozark forest was interesting though.  Then, we began ascending and had to slow down. After passing through Jasper, we continued up the mountain. In a little while, we broke into a clearing and were on top of the world. Stopping at the Scenic Point Gift Shop, we got out to look around. The views were spectacular, and best of all, there was an old wooden tower to climb. From the top, you could see the Buffalo River basin. Missouri is visible to the north, with views that encompass about 1.3 million acres in all directions. Far from an unwanted delay in our trip, this had turned serendipitous, with the discovery of a place we would have to revisit and explore. Salute!


photo of Buffalo River Canyon

Buffalo River Canyon

photo of One happy gardener!

Seed Geek’s Heaven – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

graphic of Baker Creek Banner

Baker Creek Banner

As we started planning our trip, I noticed that we would be going close to Mansfield, Missouri, the home of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I became aware of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at The Natural Gardener, one of the most unique and beautiful garden centers in the world. I discovered it in 2005, upon my arrival in Austin. A rack of colorful seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds had appeared in the store and I took a few to try. I was hooked. I started searching for more information and discovered some of the interesting facts about the company. The business has grown since it was founded by Jeremiath “Jere” Gettle at age 17, in his bedroom on his family’s civil war-era farm in the rolling hills of the Ozark region. The catalog, lavishly illustrated with vibrant, colorful photographs, offers more than 1,800 varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers from 75 countries.

We drove from Springfield to Mansfield and followed the directions to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have created an old-timey pioneer village that was built with the assistance of Amish and Mennonite carpenters. Bakerville is reminiscent of a late 19th century homestead. We began exploring the village that includes a mercantile, restaurant, a natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, a windmill, speaker and music barns. It is also home to many breeds of historic poultry and livestock. I was amazed by the seed store with hundreds of seeds and wanted one of everything. As we were looking down on test gardens, seed warehouses and the Amish barn where orders are processed, I recognized David Kaiser. He appears in many of the catalogue photographs, videos and on the website and has achieved celebrity status. He was a neighbor who made friends with Jere and has assumed the role of sidekick modeled after “Gabby Hayes.” Dave has been described as a people person. He greeted us and chatted with us as we ate lunch. A true talking icon who made us feel very welcome. Check out Baker Creek’s Whole Seed Catalogue.

photo of Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

photo of An Amish "tractor"

Touring the Amish Country

Teardrop trail log: June 23

photo of A shock of oats

A shock of oats

After the memorable breakfast at Funny Pages, we had a few hours to explore. Our friend Kevin Darst, a mail carrier in the area and International Harvester collector had suggested visiting the Amish country in nearby Clark, Missouri. We set off, expecting to find the businesses located in the center of town but that wasn’t the case. A quick search on the Internet produced a map of the stores in the Amish Community. The colony was founded in 1953 and is one of the three largest in the state. The region is described as “a tightly knit area with Amish farms adjacent to each other for miles along its country roads.” The shops, located at the farms and along the rural roads sell rugs and leather, and other businesses dot the community. Many homes sell eggs, baked goods and produce in season.

photo of Amish buggy

Amish high style transportation

We stopped at South Side Sales, an Amish Grocery. A buggy was parked across from the entrance. They specialize in bulk foods with 16 kinds of beans, 18 kinds of flour and over 100 kinds of spices. They also sell produce from neighboring Amish families. Many of the products sold in the store come from a company in Pennsylvania that sells products from many of the Amish farms in the southeastern part of the state. We picked up some egg noodles to enjoy at home, memories of our trip.

Farming remains an important aspect of life. We watched the farmers cutting and loose stacking the hay in the field with their horse-drawn equipment. What a contrast between men with draft horses doing the tasks and the farm equipment at Red Power Round Up! Watching for the horse-drawn buggies we headed toward Madison.

photo of a horse-drawn buggy

A friendly wave

photo of Taliesin tour


Teardrop Trail Log: June 21

We left Governor Dodge State Park and headed to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architectural school located in the rolling hills near Spring Green. Visiting Taliesin had been on my bucket list after knowing several friends in Arizona who had attended Taliesin West. The name, Taliesin meaning shining brow, is a nod to Wright’s Welsh heritage. The Visitors Center was originally built as the Riverview Terrace Restaurant in 1953 where we met our tour guide as well as the rest of the folks on the house tour. We drove past the waterfall at the dammed stream and up the winding road of the 490-acre estate. Our knowledgeable tour guide introduced us to the court yard, studio and living quarters. She shared the history and important aspects of his architecture, interior design, furniture and light fixtures. She also discussed the challenge of maintaining the various aspects of the architecture as it was in Wright’s time. He was fond of Asian designs and collected artifacts. But he also collaborated with sculptor Richard Bock on other sculptures. Wright was not a very tall man and he had a fondness for lower ceilings and passage ways that challenged a member of the tour who was seven feet tall.

Wright loved music and felt that music and architecture were closely related. The tour explored the famed living room, complete with the Steinway Art Grand Piano and the unique music stand he designed for a quartet. It had been the scene of nightly concerts. Wright was an accomplished pianist. In addition to the works of many composers, he performed works by his father, William Carey Wright who was a composer, music teacher and itinerant Protestant minister. Please enjoy his 1851 composition, L’ Agréable Réverie, played by Jim for this post.

Stories about the people who had lived in Taliesin were an important part of the tour. From his mother to Mamah Cheney – his mistress, the two later wives, his children, the community of students and clients, the property was the setting of a tempestuous domestic life complete with scandals, murders, fires and other dramas.

After the tour, we returned to the Visitors Center and enjoyed a wonderful lunch in
the Riverview Terrace Café, complete with an awe-inspiring view and equally inspiring meal of local food and beverages.

A view of Taliesen


Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and listen to his father’s music:

Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss

The Music of William C. Wright: Solo Piano and Vocal Works 1847-1893

photo of Wisconsin Capitol and Fountain

Exploring Madison

Teardrop trail Log: June 19, 2016

photo of the Capitol majestic dome

the majestic dome

We departed the Old Fashioned after the wonderful Wisconsin lunch – on to explore the city. Jim’s career in higher education information and instructional technology had taken him to Madison for conferences in the past. He would be my tour guide to this beautiful city.  Our first stop would be to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Wisconsin Capitol, where the corner stone was laid in 1837.

photo of the Classic interior of the Capitol

Classic Capitol Interior

The building was erected on the highest point of the isthmus of Lake Mendota and Monona. The dome was modeled after the dome of the United States Capitol and is topped by Daniel Chester French’s elegant gilded bronze statue, “Wisconsin.” The walls were decorated with colorful murals, stone from around the world, hand-carved furniture and exquisite gold mosaics. From the observation deck, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the city.

photo of Student Union on Lake Mendota

Student Union on Lake Mendota

We then proceeded down “The Drag” (State Street) to the University of Wisconsin – Madison also located on the isthmus. We walked along the landscaped campus that has the familiar feel of academia until we reached the Memorial Student Union, considered one of the most scenic student unions in the country.

photo of Most of Madison enjoying The Terrace

Most of Madison enjoying The Terrace

We entered the building and walked past the Rathskeller, a German pub adjacent to the lake terrace overlooking the shore of Lake Mendota. The Terrace was crowded, filled with both students and members of the public enjoying the picture-perfect sunny day, socializing, gazing at the lake and the sailboats. Picture perfect. Hard to image how this idyllic view would look in January, something Jim and I continued to discuss as we toured the state.

On the way back to the car, we indulged in some window shopping walking up State Street.  From indie book stores to the incredible range of locally-owned specialty stores and boutiques filled with treasures, we were treated to a fun-filled afternoon. Lo and behold, we spotted the familiar green logo – Starbucks and it was Mocha time.

photo of Windsurfing on Lake Mendota

Windsurfing on Lake Mendota

photo of building that is All dolled up

Antiques in Perry

Map of the Mark Twain Lake area

Mark Twain Lake area

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

We’re rarely on the road early, and by the time we visited the Mark Twain Birthplace and navigated across Mark Twain Lake it was nearly noon. Just as the thought of lunch was occurring to me, we pulled into Perry, Missouri. Once a booming coal town, it is now a destination for lake fun and antique shopping. It is also one of the prettiest small towns in Missouri.

After lunch at the Hootenanny, I wanted to walk around and photograph some of the buildings. Within a block of Palmyra and Main, there are several ornate examples of late-nineteenth century commercial architecture including wood, brick and cast iron façades.

photo of Miss Daisy's Antiques

Miss Daisy’s Antiques

Many of the buildings now house antique stores. We took the time to explore one particularly promising one. I’m a woodworker and enjoy finding, restoring and using old hand tools. This store had a generous supply of old saws, planes, chisels and the like and I couldn’t resist exploring. There were lots of other things to look at, and we spent about an hour there. We were definitely going to have to visit again when we had more time. Sadly, we needed reach Peoria by late afternoon and play time in Missouri was over for now!

photo of The Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site

Mark Twain’s Birthplace

photo of Mark Twain's birthplace in Florida Missouri

Mark Twain’s birthplace in Florida Missouri

photo of Mark Twain's birthplace bedroom

The bedroom as it was

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

After a night in Mark Twain State Park, we decided to visit his birthplace, accidentally discovered the day before. The original two-room clapboard structure is housed in a substantial museum, with exhibits, a reading room, several first editions of his novels and a handwritten manuscript of Tom Sawyer.

The house itself was moved from it’s original nearby site, now flooded in the reservoir created by damming the Salt River. It is furnished, and gives a good idea of early nineteenth-century life in the midwest.

Samuel Clemens, who went by the pen name Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri on November of 1835 and lived there for the first four years of his life. The family then moved to Hannibal, Missouri — more famously known as his boyhood home.

photo of placard with Mark Twain quote

Without doing any work …

One exhibit on flax, a primary crop of early America, shows the stages of production. From planting in the spring to harvest, to processing, spinning and weaving with period tools. A river boat exhibit shows various artifacts including a wheelhouse mockup. Another outlines Twain’s interest in technology including the first private telephone in the world. It is complete with handwritten records showing service outages — perhaps the forerunner of modern Internet uptime agreements?

Finally, there are several exhibits of furniture and other effects from his late nineteenth-century home in Hartford, Connecticut. The exhibit includes a carriage and street diorama.

photo of campsite at Mark Twain State Park

The Girl Strikes Again

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

image of online map

The Girl

Jim was enjoying his mocha as we left Morberly and headed for Mark Twain State Park in Florida, Missouri. We pulled out the National Geographic Road Atlas and double-checked the route, before we left civilization. We’d learned the hard way about reliable Internet connectivity in rural areas, so I Googled the trip – 49 min (40.8 mi) via US-24 E and MO-154 E. It seemed simple enough, but the “Girl,” our name for the online voice that provides directions, created delays and led us to some very unusual destinations on other trips down the Teardrop Trail. We needed to get there early enough to get a campsite. We headed out along Route 24, turning on Missouri 154, a two lane rural road taking commands from the “Girl.” She lead us to Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site. Confused, we walked up to the door only see that the facility had closed. No campground in sight. We decided to back track. As we proceeded back on MO-154, we saw a rather large stone display that said “Florida.”

photo of Florida, Missouri sign

Florida, Missouri

We were in the right place, sort of. Soon we found a sign that pointed to camping. We searched and eventually found the Badger Campground and the entrance booth was still staffed by the friendly campground host. We had arrived just in time to get the camp site. The “Girl” had struck again.


photo of interior of River Reader Books

On to Lexington

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

photo of stuffed bear in Pat's Army Store

Pat’s Army Store Inmate

I was introduced to historic Lexington, Missouri when I was in the neighborhood for a presentation in June on my cookbook – Canning, Pickling and Freezing, with Irma Harding. The meeting of the Missouri Cattlewomen was held at the historic Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs. I researched the Resort built in 1898, and discovered it was “haunted.” I had previous experience with haunted hotels when I worked in Santa Fe so I felt right at home. Actually, the hotel had several interesting guests including Al Capone and Harry S. Truman. It was an amazing experience. My talk, “Eat, Drink, and Pickle!” was at VanTill’s Family Farm & Vineyard. I fell in love with the area and the people.

Photo of River Reader Façade

River Reader

As we left Kansas City, I was looking at the atlas and Lexington was only about 50 miles away. We were so close, I suggested we take a side trip so Jim could meet my friends and see Lexington where there is lot’s of history from the Civil War. After parking the Lady and the Ambassador, we stopped in at Pat’s Army Store, located in an old Baptist Church. Next, we stopped by the Old Trails Region to see Marsha Corbin, my host. I met Marsha at last year’s Red Power Round Up where she’d heard my presentation. She was just down the street for a meeting, so we proceeded to say hello. Next stop was one of the most amazing independent bookstores, River Reader owned by Pat and Gary Worth. I had a great book signing at River Reader. Pat offered a couple of bottles of cold water on the warm day and It was nice to connect everyone with Jim.

We left River Reader and Jim was taken by the scenic beauty of the town. The Greek Revival Lafayette County Courthouse built in 1847 and other historic buildings led the town to bill itself as the “Athens on the Missouri” and became subjects for his photography.

photo of The Pool at Balmorhea

Balmorhea, A Cool Oasis in the High Desert

Teardrop Trail Log: March 28, 2016

We headed north from Fort Davis to Balmorhea State Park. The park’s name comes from four men’s surnames: E.D. Balcom, H.R. Morrow, Joe Rhea and John Rhea – Bal-mor-hea. They formed an irrigation company in the early 20th century.

The park is located on the San Solomon Springs. In 1849, the springs were known as Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache who watered their horses here. The 1.75-acre pool with 3.5-million gallons of crystal-clear freshwater was built around the springs, one of the largest artesian, spring-fed pools in the world. It’s now considered one of the best swimming holes in Texas. The water is 72 to 76 degrees year-round and the constant flow of water means no chlorination is required.

photo of Spanish Revival Archecture

Spanish Revival Architecture

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the pool during FDR’s New Deal between 1936 and 1941. In addition to the pool, they built barracks, a concession building, two bath houses and San Solomon Courts using local limestone. They also made adobe bricks for the construction.

photo of Our campsite

Our campsite

I’d spoken with several folks from the park while we traveled and it was nice to put names and faces with the voices. They were very welcoming. The campground is a small jewel with only 34 sites. We backed the Ambassador into our site and began to settle into the magic that is Balmorhea. We took a stroll around the pool. There’s a high diving board and the shallow end has a concrete floor. We forgot to bring bathing suits on this trip so we will be coming back to Balmorhea.

photo of a Camp Inn Teardrop

Camp Inn Teardrop

The next day we headed off to the McDonald Observatory, another must-do on anyone’s West Texas visit. Our return to Balmorhea was like coming home. It’s always fun to check out the other campers and trailers in the campground. There was another teardrop, a Camp Inn.  We also caught up with another couple we’d met in the campground outside Big Bend. We noticed their distinctive Scamp trailer with its unusual aerodynamic design near the showers. On our last day, Moth Man and his wife, the couple we met in Seminole Canyon, stopped by to Balmorhea for a short visit. We have made many good friends on the Teardrop Trail.

photo of sunset over Balmorhea campground

The magic …