It’s Summer 2016! And – Papa’s got a brand “new” toy! In past summer’s blogs, H had a 1985 Citation I/O boat that he’s had for the last umpteen years. He sold it last fall and with his back getting as grouchy as he is, he also sold his small fiberglass fishing boat this spring, because it needed a good tug on the starter rope and a stronger back to adjust the 15 hp Honda engine that powered it. The newest occupant of the now emptier garage is a 2001 Tracker V16 with a 40 hp Mercury engine. As in “olden days” when our kids were young – we are now “Gone Fishing” at least one day a week! The second week he owned it we drug both it and the trailer up to a favorite chain of lakes and Angel Cove Campground in Coldwater Michigan. The boat worked well and we could squeeze thru/under almost all of the low/narrow bridges and culverts that we could with the smaller boat! H was happy! A stop in Hillsdale Michigan and Baw Beese Lake topped off the venture and the fishing was good besides! Too bad that Michigan law says that Bass must be 14 inches to keep since all of ours were 12-13 inches!! Some really good fillets got slipped back into the water that day!
The boat was backed into the garage and the van was backed out for our hasty jaunt to Branson Missouri on Tues, June 14th. Evansville Indiana, down on the Ohio River, was our first nights stop over. After unloading our suitcases at the motel we headed “downtown” and the river to do some local exploring. We found the massive 1888 Vanderburgh County Courthouse right away and were so impressed that the folks there have preserved it so well – not like some other towns who have demolished and then rebuilt a modern block of blah for their official buildings. It was after we got home and did some research that I found out that both Harry Truman and John F Kennedy both used the courthouse steps during their presidential campaigns! And, that grand lady was no longer being used as a courthouse but was now offices and venues for parties. Oh well.
|Evansville In. - Ohio River|
Driving up and down the riverfront, we found the Casino, a little park that encased several old restored railroad trestles, the Evansville built WWII landing vessel – the LST325 that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, and
wonderful views of downtown Evansville and it’s major mode of river transportation – the river barges!
Wednesday morning we crossed over the corner of Kentucky and the bottom edge of Illinois and wound up on the very scenic, VERY winding RT 160, heading west in Missouri! It was hot when we left Michigan and got even hotter every day. H selected a motel as soon as we arrived and we set off to go explore the local area and get acclimated – of course in the comfort of the air-conditioned minivan! The traffic on the main thoroughfare was hectic and the heat made it worse. Neon lights, resorts, theaters touting famous past entertainers and even the Titanic and King Kong lined the way! Historic downtown was crowded and too hot to do much exploration by foot. We did check out the new Bass Pro Shop, which was right on the riverfront! The waterfront had plenty of seating areas for people to watch the delightful dancing fountains that lit up at night!
Thursday morning H chose to go find Table Rock Lake and the mammoth dam that holds it all back. Right over several hills (they’re not big nuff to call mountains!) and about 6 miles from town sits the Table Rock Dam and the Shepherd of the Hills (see!!) Fish Hatchery, that sits at the bottom of the huge cement spillway. We toured the hatchery and the adjoining nature center – just in time to watch several snakes devouring their breakfasts of whole (thankfully - already dead) mice. Ugh!!! I do have pictures but H said it was not appropriate to put them on the blog.
We located all the best viewing sites - both on the river below and the sprawling lake above. We found the boat launches, the marina, the campgrounds, the visitor center and its 3 story tall overlook! Back in the van we ventured out again to see if we could drive around at least part of the lake and find the bridge that cuts it in half at Kimberling City. We stopped for lunch at a small conglomerate of businesses all in one building that had a restaurant and enjoyed greasy but good Reubens! The owner of the store came over to chat and told us she was from St Joe Michigan, which is across the state from us!
Temps in Branson reached a scorching 101 while we were there so the decision was made to head back home. We avoided RT 160 but chose Rt 60 instead – a bit farther north but a much more level path! In one small farming town, with the help of a mailman who was walking his route, we found Clarks -a small local eating place right on the town square! Such a breakfast! Fit for a hard working farmer! Instead of toast we were served biscuits, swimming in a large bowl of fresh hot sausage gravy! And then she brought out the eggs, sausage, and potatoes!
Before we exited Missouri, we hesitated in Cape Girardeau to see the historic downtown area and the floodgates that protect the town from the Mississippi river when she floods. The massive walls were decorated from end to end with vibrant murals that depict the town’s history. The courthouse sits up the hill – 3 blocks from the riverfront! Time to move on and cross the mighty river once more – on across southern Illinois and then Indiana. Our final motel stop was just north of Evansville again and then came the hard push to get home Saturday evening.