Welcome to Missouri. Known to many as the “Show Me State” Missouri is much more than that. It is a state rich in heritage, and in the heart of history just as surely as it is in the heart of the country.
Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821 as part of the Missouri Compromise. That legislation mandated Missouri become a member of the Union as a slave state. The “compromise” was cutting north-Massachusetts off from the rest of the Bay State and calling the severed part “Maine.” That left the slave state/free state balance in place until the Compromise was negated by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the Civil War that started in 1861.
While Missouri has changed with the times, it remains a thought-process anomaly. It is a northern state! Kansas City is an equal latitude to northern California’s Santa Rosa! However, Missourians identify as southerners. So, with courtly southern hospitality, they welcome The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken.
Missouri is bordered on the west and southwest by Kansas and Oklahoma. Nebraska provides the border on the northwest. Arkansas is to the south, and Iowa is up north. The Mississippi River provides the eastern terminus, separating Missouri from Illinois to the east and Tennessee to the southeast.
Missouri is a balanced urban/rural state, with just a lean toward the urban side of things. It is the 21st largest state in total area, with the 18th highest population. The capital is located in Jefferson City, and Kansas City is the largest city. Those two cities are joined by St. Louis and Independence among places with more than 100,000 residents.
The highest point in the state is found on the 1,772 foot high flat top of Taum Sauk Mountain in southeastern Missouri. The lowest point is 230 feet above sea level along the St. Francis River at the Arkansas border. The geographic center of Missouri is found near the Miller County town of Eldon.
All of Missouri is in the Central Time Zone. It does recognize Daylight Savings Time.
Major Airports in Missouri:
Columbia Regional serves about 50,000 flyers a year. Chicago is the most common destination.
Springfield-Branson National sees almost 350,000 passengers each year. Dallas is the favorite place to go.
Kansas City International sees almost five million customers each year. Atlanta is the favorite destination.
St. Louis Lambert International greets over six million passengers annually. Atlanta is the most common place to go.
Top Movies Filmed in Missouri:
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Presidents Harry Truman and First Ladies Bess Truman and Julia Grant.
Military/Politics: General Omar Bradley, General John (Black Jack) Pershing, William Fulbright, and Nellie Tayloe Ross.
Actors: Wallace Beery, Evan Peters, Ginger Rogers, John Goodman, Dennis Weaver, Lucas Grabeel, John Goodman, Carlos Pena, Jr., Robert Cummings, Dick Van Dyke, Jane
Darwell, Vincent Price, Taylor Momsen, Katharine McNamara, Jeanne Eagles, Geraldine Page, Ellie Kemper, Redd Foxx, Jean Harlow, Nick Merico, Jenifer Lewis, Jessica Capshaw, and Betty Grable.
Entertainers: Robert Altman, Grant Landis, Eminem, Burt Bacharach, Ashley Purdy, Akon, Josephine Baker, Grace Bumbry, Sarah Caldwell, John Huston, Rush Limbaugh, Camryn Bridges, Dallon Weekes, Misty Copeland, Dick Gregory, Tech N9ne, SZA, Cailee Rae, Chuck Berry, Metro Boomin, Sheryl Crow, and Gladys Swarthout.
Athletes: Yogi Berra, Candace Parker, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Garagiola, Casey Stengel, and Bill Bradley.
Writers: Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), T.S. Eliot, Eugene Field, Marianne Moore, and Sara Teasdale.
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Missouri:
The ‘Show Me State’ expression dates from 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver said, “I’m from Missouri and you’ve got to show me.”
Iced tea and the ice cream cone were invented at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
The 1904 World’s Fair was also the first example of major outdoor electrification.
St. Louis is called, “The Gateway to the West” and “Home of the Blues.”
Warsaw holds the state record for low temperature (-40 on Feb. 13, 1905), and the record high temperature (118 degrees on July 14, 1954.)
Kansas City has more miles of freeway than any other major city and more fountains than any city except Rome.
Chartered in 1832, Saint Louis University is the oldest University west of the Mississippi.
Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour was the first ready-mix food ever introduced commercially. It was developed in St. Joseph in 1889.
The tallest man in documented medical history was Robert Pershing Wadlow from St. Louis. He was 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall.
Dyed-in-the-wool Democrat Valentine Tapley from Pike County swore he would never shave again if Abraham Lincoln were elected. Tapley died in 1910. His beard was 12’ 6” long.
Missouri’s oldest community, Saint Genevieve, was founded in 1735.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Missouri!
What would you rather do? Lay in bed or get up and cross Missouri with me? There’s a good kid. Along the way, we will hear some good music, go underground, scratch our heads over what were they thinking, and go back in time. It will be 348 miles from southwest to northeast. Pack for about five nights, and let’s do this thing!
We start our trip in Branson. You may have heard of Branson, but there are things you can’t know about the place until you have been there. You will be impressed by what we experience here from an entertainment standpoint, however you may be supremely unimpressed with the traffic.
Branson is packed with entertainment! It is wall-to-wall theaters, providing any kind of entertainment imaginable. Literally, every kind! From live bands to family friendly shows to tribute bands to magic shows, Branson is the place to come, at least once in your life.
Tonight, we’re going to enjoy a multi-generational entertainment spectacle at the Dutton Family Theater starring, well, the Dutton Family, of course. It’s one of the most popular and highest-rated shows in Branson.
We’re spending two nights at the Branson Yellow Rose Inn and Suites for $59 a night. Tomorrow we’re going to see something completely different from anything we have seen so far on The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken.
Tribute bands! Love them or loathe them they are an important part of this neck of the woods. After all, we are on the threshold of the Ozarks! Sit back and enjoy legendary (almost like the original) music. It’s called The Legends in Concert show at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater. At this show, we will see a re-creation of performances by Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, The Blues Brothers and Elvis. All in one night and all in one place! I told you, Branson is like nowhere else.
We’re up bright and early the next day. I think we have only stopped to fish at one place since we started the Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken. Today, we’re going to stop to fish again, but there is more to Bennett Spring State Park than fish.
Near Lebanon, Missouri, Bennett Spring is one of America’s premier trout destinations. This is where people come to wrestle with rainbow trout and revel in a clear running stream. The park also offers hiking trails that vary from simple to strenuous, and a lodge with hearty stick-to-your-ribs food. After two days of shows seen from a comfortable theater seat, this is a great idea!
We already touched on Missouri as the “Show Me State,” but to the locals, it is more commonly known as the “Cave State.” Missouri is literally dotted with cavern systems. Over 6,000 of them have been documented and mapped. Some are accessible only by trained professionals, while some are drive-through, welcoming people of all ages and physical abilities. The best caves are those that split the difference between those two extremes.
Onondaga Cave State Park in the middle of the state is a good cave, but today we are going to visit Meramec Caverns. They are just an hour west of St. Louis, near Sullivan.
The largest cave system in Missouri, Meramec rests beneath the fertile rolling hills of the Meramec Valley. Down and inside, we find caverns containing a complex mixture of mineral formations and colors that are at once rare, unique and beautiful. These jewels took nature thousands of years to grow. It will take our tour guide a couple of hours to show them off.
We’ll check in at the Hampton Inn & Suites St. Louis at Forest Park for $99 a night. We will be here two nights. Tomorrow we are going on an all-day walking tour. Get some sleep, and know this isn’t something we would try in mid-summer. It would be too hot and humid in the summer to walk this city.
We chose a hotel with the name “Forest Park” in it for a reason. Forest Park, near downtown St. Louis, isn’t your everyday park. It covers 1,293 acres and is a prominent civic center, as well. The park opened in 1876 and has hosted many significant events. Just a few include the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 and the 1904 Summer Olympics. (Boy, 1904 was quite the year for St. Louis!)
We will take the better part of the morning strolling through the park. Then we head eastbound on Chouteau Avenue to the part of town known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
The most prominent part of the Jefferson Memorial is, of course, the Gateway Arch. Completed on Oct. 28, 1965, to symbolize the opening of the American west, it is an awe-inspiring sight from a distance, but you know going inside is better yet! A $13.00 ticket gains us access to a film about the building of the Arch. The film is great, but it is an appetizer. Next, we climb aboard an egg.
It’s called that from its shape. It’s cramped when filled to its four-person capacity, a little bumpy, and a whole lot of fun! The egg lets us off at the top of the Arch, where a series of windows allows us to see in all directions. On a clear day, we can see a hundred miles into Illinois, west into the prairie and straight down inside Busch Stadium. It gives us a chance to get our bearings in this part of the United States and is something everyone should do when they come to St. Louis.
Another thing everyone should see is The Old Courthouse. “Why?” you say. “I can see an old courthouse in almost any town.”
We need to see this old courthouse for what it says about us as a people. Let’s talk about Dred Scott.
Mr. Scott was a black man, born into slavery. He traveled north, hoping to be allowed to become a citizen. In this courthouse on March 6, 1857, he was told the following:
“A Negro, whose ancestors were imported into the U.S., and sold as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court.” It was further decided that “the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States.”
It was supposed to settle the question of slavery for good. Of course, it didn’t, thanks to northern abolitionists and a man named Lincoln who had something to say about the matter.
What does this kind of thing say about us as a people? You and I will ponder that as we drive north, toward Hannibal. We will spend the night at the Best Western On the River. It is the perfect location for what tomorrow will bring. At $79 a night it is a good value.
Hannibal, Missouri! The childhood home of Sam Clemens, who took the pen name of Mark Twain. It was in Hannibal, on the shores of the Mississippi River, that young Mr. Clemens grew up, played with his friends, and fell in love with Becky Thatcher. He camped out on a nearby island in the middle of the river. He imagined what it would be like to attend his own funeral. All of this and more became The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The newer part of Hannibal is a typical small midwestern city. The older part of Hannibal is all Twain all the time. We will visit his childhood home, and take a turn whitewashing the picket fence made famous in his book. We will have ice cream where he had ice cream. He liked oyster ice cream, but we’ll stick with strawberries and cream.
Just outside of town is another cave system. (They really do need to change the official nickname of this place.) It is the cave made famous by Twain in his most famous work of literature. Tours are led by guides who are working their way through the local school systems.
We have seen some amazing sights. Hopefully, we have also been educated on our trip through Missouri. As we take our leave over a root beer float at the Mark Twain Dinette (Where has this place been all my life?) we look forward to Kansas. Join us, won’t you?