We just got back from another family road trip, on the Speers America Tour. You know. The old fashioned, grab your bags, pack the car and head out for hours upon hours of paved highway travel.
It was great.
Missouri was our target destination after being sidetracked from going last year due to an illness that put Quinn in the hospital. There was no stopping us this time.
We went via traveling through Oklahoma first to attend the annual adopted family Korea Camp in Tulsa, which was great as ever. Before we got there our vacation started with a little day stop in Turner Falls, just 50 miles after crossing into Oklahoma and boy what a small treasure we found! This place was like a slice of Colorado purposefully misplaced by God himself! Large mountain type terrain with cliffs, a “castle” to explore, and super cool waterfall that fed into a very large natural swimming area. Add a slide and diving board and the kids went nuts. We ended up being there for hours and wore ourselves out before our trip really even got started. It was great and we will certainly be going back for some day trips as it is only 2 hours away.
Tulsa is the nicest area of Oklahoma, and that’s about all. Dillon International is why we love this city. A few days of seeing our adoptive family friends and playing in Korea Camp and we were ready to head out east to the true mid-west. The Show Me State was about to show us some true family fun!
I can honestly say we were not disappointed at all in our time in Missouri. First of all, it was beautiful. Driving down I-44 (the new Route 66), it was captivating the entire time. Nothing like driving out west of DFW or through Oklahoma, that’s for sure. Julie and I enjoyed that which made the 7 hour haul from Tulsa much more bearable. We got in late and crashed in the heart of the Brentwood area, which was very nice. We soon found out we were only about 10 minutes from anything we wanted to do.
Day One: After getting up and celebrating Quinn’s 7th birthday in our jammies, we headed straight for the St. Louis Zoo, rated one of the best in the nation and one of the last ones in America that is free. It was hot as crud and humid so a lot of the good animals were in hiding, but the zoo was great. Not the best ever, but certainly good and worth visiting. The Sea Lion show and petting the Sting Rays was a hit for sure. For some reason the 2 humped camels really stuck with us too. This about wore us out so we headed to “The Hill” to check out future places to eat in this Italian city located within St. Louis. It was crazy busy so we just drove through. We ended up trying some “St. Louis style” pizza at a local chain that was recommended called IMOs. Ugh, yea…bad idea. We quickly learned this mystery pizza was based on a mystery cheese brew called “Provel”. Basically processed cheese. You know…velveta on a pizza crust. Not. Good. At. All. Only bummer of the trip though. Another highlight of our time here was learning about The Heights Community Center. Our hotel gave us free passes to this place. It had a great indoor kids swimming area, and a spa and steam room for us! Ding, ding, ding! We got a winner Johnny! It was awesome.
Day Two: This day we had outlined as a day to tour the downtown riverbasin, GateWay Arch area. Seeing the Mississippi River and all of the old history along the riveside was great. We toured Union Station (dead mall inside but very cool building), ate at Hard Rock Café, toured the Anhesier Bush brewery (way cool), and even took a Mark Twain riverboat tour down the Mississippi. I was in photography heaven…buildings, bridges, you name it…
But nothing compares to the Arch and our trip to the top, in the smallest of small elevator pods. Wow. A little concerning I might say. But once we got to the top it was so worth it. What a feeling too as you walk along the ridgepoint of the Arch. Gravity pulls at you from 630 feet in the air. Again, I was taking photos like a mad man recently released from solitary confinement. It was awesome and the kids loved every minute of it. Got a great view of the city, Illinois, the river and Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals, and game 6 for the Rangers. Over all the Arch area was so peaceful and nice. It was a great way to educate the kids on America’s growth of expanding west too. We tried to end that day at a local dessert place called “Cravings” but we decided we had no cravings for the place and ended up relaxing outside at Cheesecake Factory tired but ready for day three. We could have slept outside that night it was so nice.
Day Three: We started by having breakfast at “City Diner” which a local told us about. It was right in downtown next to the historical Fox Theater so that was neat. Food was nothing special but the place was neat. The weather made it even better. But this day was marked as our day for the famous, yet hardly known place called “City Museum” and wow, wow, wow. It was the highlight of the trip and truly rivaled the fun times had at even places like Disney World, but in an entirely different way. Just imagine a 10 storey old building that someone bought and turned into the world’s craziest, most random, jungle gym, play area for kids and adults. All organic and recycled too. Created by one man with a passion to rebel against regulations. It was so up my alley and Quinn was in total, freak out, ADD, overload from the moment he walked in. The only way to grasp this place is to watch the videos I posted on Youtube or check out some of our pictures. All I can say was we would travel all the way back there just to go again. It was THAT good and THAT fun. Scary at times, but let your hair down and say who cares type fun. Thanks to our neighbors and my parents for telling us about it! Needless to say we were toast by the time we left. So we decided to back to “The Hill” area and eat at an authentic Italian place we saw on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives called “Anthonino’s”. Yea, this place rocked our world in a good, non-St. Louis style way. Toasted raviolis….that’s all I can say. It wasn’t busy. Service was great and it was a nice small place too. Perfect. A little more swimming at our favorite community center and we were ready for bed.
Day Four: Our last day in St. Louis started by having breakfast at you guessed it, CFA. Finally, found one. It was heaven. Plus it was close to another great place for kids called “The Magic House” which was our plan for this day. This was along the lines of the Houston Children’s Museum. It was very neat and very much a hands on learning, type place. Kids loved it. We spent about 5 hours roaming this old, huge home and doing all they had to do. It was well worth it for sure. Kids could have stayed there for a week. We ran back into downtown for a meal we called Lupper or Linner, since it was our only big meal of the day at 4pm. We found a super neat burger place called “Bailey’s Range”. Shakes were amazing and the food was original and good.
We had decided to head back across the state that night and get a head start on getting back…but we had one final thing we wanted to do on the way. It was located in Springfield called “Fantastic Caves” and it was indeed fantastic. We rushed back across the state and arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. Thankfully St. Louis traffic is nothing compared to the Metroplex and the kids didn’t beg to stop every 10 miles because it was the last thing on our list and I wanted to do it. No one but me had ever seen a cave and this one took us on a drive through it! I have to be honest, it was pretty darn cool. A little creepy but interesting for sure and a perfect way to end our time in the great state of Missouri. We won’t do it again but everyone should do it at least once. The history behind the place was really neat and the kids were truly perplexed at the hugeness of this underground world.
In all, this trip was a year late, but perfectly timed too. It was awesome and Missouri rocks!