Missouri State Capitol

Missouri State Capitol

Missouri State Capitol building


Jefferson City, MO

I’m a few days behind on bringing you up to date, so here I go.

We left the Chicago area on Friday morning and drove to Jefferson City, MO. You say, why Jefferson City? There are no direct Interstates that go there, it is sort of out of the way for the big city destinations, but we chose Jefferson City for one reason, and that was to take the Missouri State Penitentiary tour. Now we all have heard of Alcatraz, but I had never heard of the Missouri prison until I started reading about things to do in the state of Missouri. Befoe I go on I will say that it was worth the extra time and distance to travel to Jefferson City.

The Penitentiary was decommissioned in 2004 and moved about 7 miles out of town to a new faciity. The day we were there they were celebrating the 175th anniversary of the prison. To help correlate the year it was opened, the Battle of the Alamo ocurred in 1836 and that is when this prison was open, amazing. The Alamo is still standing and so is this prison.

Regrettably the Penitentiary has not had much financial support and has been exposed to the weather conditions so it has fallen into disrepair. It is my understanding that portions of it has been torn down and there is an ongoing discussion of what to do with the facility. Once you get by the raw condition of the buildings listening to the history and picturing what it was like you can get lost in the moment.

We had an excellent tour guide, Mike. He was one of the previous wardens of the Penitentiary, how can it get any better. He was a wealth of knowledge and had some funny stories, and also some rather sad ones also. I could have listened to him all day. We took the 2 hour history tour, but there is also a 3 hour history tour, and starting in 2011 they now do ghost tours. I’m really sorry we missed the ghost tour as that sounded like lots of fun and really scary. I believe they have “sleep over” tours, but I would suggest you inquire about this as I’m sure advance reservations are needed and they are only at certain times.

We were able to see 2 cell blocks, one built in the mid-1800’s and the other built in the early 1900’s. Much of the presentation was how prison life has changed over the years, and how prisons were built back then and the changes in building style that occurred. The conditions were deplorable, that’s all I can say. This prison had some famous inmates such as James Earl Ray, and Sonny Liston. In addition to the cell blocks we also saw the “buried cells’, or as I would say the dungeon, and also toured the gas chamber. This Penitentiary did execute 40 inmates during it’s lifespan.

What’s also amazing about this Penitentiary is that it housed up to 5000 inmates at one time, while Alcatraz never exceeded 800. It gives you an idea of the scope of this place, the conditions that existed. If you stood still and closed your eyes while our tour director talked you could actually imagine what it was like. And I can tell you imagine is all I would ever want to do.

Some of you might be saying now, why would I go see this. From my viewpoint, it is a part of history, it was extremely educational and I can certainly tell you that if you were on the edge of committing a crime, once seeing this facility it might make you rethink your direction in life. If was one of the most infomative and enjoyable tours that I have taken and I know much of that was because of our tour guide, he made the tour excellent.

Now, there is one other place you should visit while in Jefferson City and that is the Missouri State Capitol. It is a beautiful building and what is unique about this building compared to other Capitol buildings is the artwork. The Capitol was completed in 1917 and is in downtown Jefferson City, only about 7 blocks to the Peniteniary. On a nice day it is walkable. When the Capitol was built they issued bonds. They were able to complete the building with an excess of about $1 million. Since this could not be refunded they used these funds to acquire artwork both in the building and on the grounds. They have tours from 9AM to 5PM daily (except for lunch) and it is free, it’s about 55 minutes. Once the tour is completed you can walk around the building and go back and look at the artwork in more detail. You can visit the Capitol without taking the tour, but the tour guide provides details that you would not get on your own.

Jefferson City is not a large city but they provide a very good Visitor’s guide that I’m sure you can look at on line also. I hope you consider Jefferson City as one of your future destinations or stop overs, and do hope you enjoy. Check for schedules as this part of the country does get cold and it does snow. I will be posting some photos shortly. Take care and continue traveling safely down your road you are traveling.

A day in Volo at the Antique Auto Museum

This one wouldn’t be bad to have either

Flinstonemobile – could resist the photo op!

A very nice looking Chevelle Supersport 396

Very Nice Car, only upper $70’s for anyone interested,

Munster Mobile

Another retro 60’s TV program

These are just a few of the cars at the Volo Antique Auto Museum in Volo, IL.  This is a far North suburb of Chicago.  In addition to the photos they have a lot of antiques to look at.  So if part of your group wants to look at cars and the other look at antiques there is enough of each to keep everyone busy.  It’s well done and I think you would enjoy your time visiting.

They do have a diner for lunch, but you get a wrist tag, so if you have time, about 1/2 mile away is a fast food restaraunt where you can go and have a good Chicago Vienna hotdog, or Italian Beef. If this is your first time in the Chicago area, please try the Vienna hotdogs, this is truly Chicago.  The place is called Fratello’s and I don’t think you would be disappointed, this is a good lunch spot.

Have fun if you go.  Tonight we were in Joplin, MO after spending the day in Jefferson City, MO and I’ll give you the update in the next post.  Saw some intersesting things and can’t wait to tell you about them.  Also have some photos to share.  So until the next post we’ll be on the road traveling towards Texas.

Last Day Visiting Friends and Family

Last day here in the Chicago area. The weather has changed and it’s one of those cold and rainy days, shorts and tank tops put away and out with the jeans, sweaters and jackets. We had a very nice time while here. We were able to meet with our friends and family, and most visits were over lunch or dinner. So much for starting that diet, still on the “to do” list. We have enjoyed our many Chicago thin crust pizzas, and also our Vienna Hotdogs. Can’t come to Chicago and not have a pizza or hot dog. When I mention Chicago and pizza, most people think deep dish, nope, grew up on thin crust pizza, made round like all pizzas are, but cut in squares.  A round thin crust pizza cut in squares, to my knowledge, is only found in the Chicago area. Boy, do I miss these pizzas and hot dogs! It’s truly amazing when you drive around the area, there seems to be either a pizza place or hot dog fast food place on every corner you go by.

We were able to go to Lake Geneva earlier this week, and today we went to the Volo Antique Auto Museum, which is in the suburb of Volo. They have really expanded and now have 4 buildings of cars, a military building and once done with the museum, they have another 4 builidings of antiques. You can visit the antique stores without going to the auto museum. You only have to pay for the museum, you can just go shopping if you want to. If you do both this is easily a half day. You can eat lunch on site and on the weekends they have a trolley tour you can take. I would suggest a visit especially if you like looking at vintage cars, a very good collection, and all are for sale, so you might want to bring one home with you.

Really enjoyed visiting with everyone, was great catching up on all the family news and seeing the kids. We stayed with my husband’s oldest daughter and his oldest grandson was very nice to give up his bedroom for the week, thanks Zach.

We’re off tomorrow and our first stop is Jefferson City, MO so just a day of traveling with really no scheduled stops. Will update all on Jeffereson City on Saturday, so until then we’ll be traveling down the road…….

Museums in Bentonville, AR

Cyrstal Museum and the Native American Museum, both in Bentonville, AR are excellent and if in the area you should make time to see them. For a small town I was surprised at the quality of these museums and what they offered. Worth seeing both

Home again…….

Didn’t write a post for a few days as we have been busy visiting with family and friends.  Thursday was an extremely long day.  We drove from Branson MO to Grayslake, IL.  MapQuest told us about a 10 hour drive, and because we chose to be adventurous we added an hour to the day.  The drive started out in MO with nice rolling countryside but all interstate driving so no small town adventures, just straight thru driving.  We traveled straight thru Saint Louis and traffic cooperated.  Went right by the Arch and made it to Illinois on track to our time.  Now I am born and lived most of my life in Illinois, but I think it’s about time that Illinois joins the rest of the Country and raise their speed limit to 70 mph.  For some reason they still think 65 mph is reasonable.  After the first 20 miles of looking at corn fields and soybean fields you’re also done with the 65 mph speed.  So as we traveled north we were just going to hit the outskirts of Chicago at Rush hour.   So living here as we did for years, we thought let’s take Rt 47 and bypass the city expressways.  Well the 2 lane farm road is now a busy 2 lane road with lots and lots of stoplights and lots and lots of traffic, so much for the farm road.

Along our route most gas prices were in the $3.59 to $3.79/gallon then we were in IL, and the price is between $4.07 to $4.09/gallon and some higher.  And traffic, OMG, we lived in the far northwest suburbs and traffic has increased greatly since we were here last, yet many roads have not been upgraded, and only a few are under construction to increase the 2 lanes to 4 lanes.  Although that will be helpful, that won’t take away the number of stoplights.  You just get going and you’re already at the next light.  When you live someplace you don’t notice the change, as you deal with it every day, but when you’re away for a few years and come back, it is definitely noticeable.  We are looking to going back to our small town traffic issues.

We have been visiting with family and friends and last night enjoyed a party held by my husband’s previous boss and owner of the last company he worked at here in IL.  Although I didn’t know the people very well, it was still enjoyable and I know my husband really had a good time seeing many of these people as it’s been 9 years since our last attendance to this party.  The hosts have a beautiful home and they throw a great party, very nice and very well done.

Today we will be off to visit Lake Geneva, which is just over the WI border.  We used to boat on this lake but it has been at least 10 years since we were there, so we are looking at visiting and seeing the changes.  Lake Geneva is a cute small town with quaint shops and many restaurants so looking forward to a nice afternoon, and the weather is just wonderful, cool and sunny, what I remember as a nice Fall day in the Midwest.  Have always liked this time of year, and being here reinforces this, regrettably the trees are not turning color yet, just a little too early.

Many friends and family to visit this week, so we will be out and about for the next few days.  Exciting for us, but probably not for you, so will catch up with you when we get back on the road to traveling home.