Hank – We stayed with Tim and Mary Beth for a few days. We took the time to do bike maintenance, check all our gear, relax, and have a little fun.
We had an unfortunate incident involving our new tent. Tim and Mary Beth have a dog named Laika who likes to go into the garage and pull random items out onto the lawn. Tim forgot about that and somebody left the garage door open. I had left the tent in the garage with the bikes since we didn’t need to use it. Laika grabbed the bag and carried it outside. Then she chewed off the end of the drawstring, opened the bag, and removed all the contents. In the process of removing the tent, rain fly, and footprint, she tore holes in the bottom and walls of the tent. REI doesn’t sell just the parts so we had to buy a whole new tent. It’s waiting for us at the St Louis store. Tim and Mary Beth insisted in paying for it but we just laughed it off. Things happen. When I called REI to ask about buying just the tent and told them why we needed to replace it they gave me a 20% off coupon so that saved us a chunk of money. I appreciated that.
Kathy and I checked out the Uranus Fudge Factory. It’s a tourist trap but it’s a fun one. When you walk into the store you’re greeted with, “Welcome to Uranus!” If you buy some fudge then they ask you, “How would you like you fudge packed? (pause) In a box or a bag?” I said to the person behind the counter, “That never gets old, does it?” “Nope,” he replied with a big smile. And when you leave they yell, “Thank you for picking Uranus!” If you couldn’t tell from the photos, there are a lot of clothing items for sale displaying a wide variety of “Uranus” and “fudge packing” puns.
We also visited the Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which includes the remains of a “castle” built a little over 100 years ago. A businessman named Robert Snyder bought the land and decided to build a mansion there. The year after construction started he died in one of the first vehicle accidents in Kansas City, Missouri, which was his home town. His son finished building it and moved in. People referred to it as a castle, hence the nickname. Anyway, the place burned down back in 1942 and its been an empty hulk ever since. Now it’s a tourist attraction at a state park. And we saw it.
One of the fun things I did with Tim was write a song for him. He has come up with several joking entrepreneurial ideas. My favorite is a deliverable snack food called Gravy On A Stick. You’re driving down the road and you’re hungry. You call Casper’s Gravy On A Stick and a van pulls up besides you. You pay and you get a biscuit in the shape of a long stick coated with gravy. It’s ridiculously funny. (Sorry for the vertical video. I didn’t shoot it.)
You can probably tell I got my haircut at the barber shop on Fort Leonard Wood. I think I’m good until I get home in August. And if you’re wondering what that black and white thing is in the foreground, it’s a homemade slide for a cigar box guitar. Tim made a couple of guitars, too. I used a napkin inside the slide to help it stay on my finger. Speaking of homemade guitars, while Tim and Mary Beth were visiting the Virgin Islands he found a couple of Virgin Islands license plates and gifted me one. Whoo-hoo!
We also learned a couple of new (to us) games at Tim and Mary Beth’s house. One is Ave Caesar. It’s easy to learn and play. The rules for Sushi Go are not very clear so we had a very confusing time trying to play it. I found a better rules explanation later on. Now we know for next time.
One evening, after dinner at a Mexican restaurant where “fish bowl” margaritas were involved, we checked out the Pine River Brewery. We had live music and good beer.
We went to the St Louis Cardinals game on Sunday. It was a cold and windy day. After the game Tim and Mary Beth stopped by REI on their way back home and managed to change the payment for the tent so they covered the cost instead of us. It was sneaky and unnecessary, but appreciated. We had a great time with them and their youngest son, Alex, who graduates from high school next month. We look forward to getting together again, especially if we can get to a cigar box guitar festival.
Kathy – It was such a relaxing a fun time spending s few days with my sister Mary Beth and her husband Tim in Plato, Missouri. Mary Beth is a registered nurse working in home health traveling all around these country roads near Fort Leonard Wood Army facility caring for people in their homes. She enjoys her work and advocates strongly for her patients. They are lucky to have her. Tim is retired from the Army. He is now in his second career working for the Army again, however now in a civilian position doing computer networking on the fort.
Mary Beth and Tim are not only family but you could say close friends to us. Maybe we are really close because of our military connection (Hank retired from the Air Force in his first career) or maybe because Mary Beth and I are both nurses and Tim and Hank are both computer guys. Both couples have three children (two boys and a girl) …ok, let’s just say we have a lot in common and it’s always fun to hang out with these two.
We traveled about (by car, not bike) and saw some sights in Southern Missouri and visited some different establishments, which were all good. However the best part of the last few days was simply relaxing and spending time with Mary Beth, Tim and their son Alex. Alex is super smart but a little on the shy side. We did have some good conversations with him and got him to smile regularly. He’s taking college classes now while finishing up in high school and it looks like there’s going to be another computer geek in the family. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation Alex! 🎊 👨🎓 🎉
Mary Beth and Tim live on a six acre farm that is in the middle of a whole lot of nothing but Missouri countryside. They have done an amazing job of remodeling their home and farmland over the last ten or so years. They no longer have any cattle; just two really smart and fun dogs that love to play (and one that likes to eat new tents). Their property line connects to the Mark Twain National Forest. From their home it is a 20 – 30 minute drive minimum on two-lane country roads to any form of civilization. The views are of long and often steep rolling hills (happy we are not on bikes right now), pine and dogwood trees and farmlands. The dogwood trees are in full bloom right now and their white flower blossoms really contrast nicely among the many green trees. It is very quaint, beautiful and relaxing here.
We also had just a little excitement at Mary Beth and Tim’s house. They have four cars so while they were all at work and school one day Hank and I went out sight seeing in their old van. Well, suddenly the rear drivers side sliding door opened while we were driving on the freeway! Yes, we were like what in the heck is going on? We pulled over and worked for almost an hour trying to get the door to stay shut. It would open and close very randomly and would not stay closed. We searched the internet for solutions and eventually Hank took the tow strap that was in the car and wrapped it around the door handle, under the drivers seat and around the rear passenger seat to help keep the door closed as we drove back to Mary Beth and Tim’s place. The door kept opening and closing (only a tiny bit since it was somewhat tied shut) during our 30 minute drive back and Hank would reach back and grab the strap and pull the door closed while still driving. Hank continued to pull the door closed every few minutes until we arrived back at Mary Beth and Tim’s place. And of course we got to listen to the alarm system dinging constantly (and very loudly) for the 30 minute drive home. Come to find out this is a common problem for this make and model of vans and a recall is available for repairs. Looks like the van is going into the shop soon. I’m telling you it was pretty crazy to see the door just suddenly and frequently open as you are driving along!
Tim turned off the automatic doors on the van and managed to get the door to latch temporally after we got back to their place. Well….we decided to take the van to the state park because it had plenty of room for five people. Since Tim had the sliding doors on manual setting we felt a bit more safe. I sat in the rear passenger side since that door was working fine. So as we were driving on the freeway to the state park, the rubber seal around the windshield on the right side suddenly came off and was flapping in the wind and frequently hitting the passenger side front window! I’m like, what in the heck is going on with this van? Should we call an Uber? Is this van safe to drive? I’m not feeling too safe! Tim quickly pulled over and put things back in place. Apparently the windshield has been replaced in the past and maybe the seal was not properly installed. Regardless, I’m done with the old family van. I’m only riding in their jeep, truck, or the Mini Cooper from now on! Really though, we were all fine on both occasions and we all had some good laughs about the van’s “issues.”
Our last day with Mary Beth and Tim we drove three hours to St. Louis, Missouri where we they treated us to a Cardinals baseball game. This was super cool as I am a life-long Cardinals fan. I grew up just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Southern Illinois. I am #6 of 9 children and we grew up very poor. In grade school and middle school if you had all A’s you received two tickets to six Cardinal games per year. Well, I was all over that since we didn’t have finances to do a whole lot. So I grew up loving the Cardinals and it will continue until my dying day. Go Cards!!!
Well, at the game the Cardinals won against the Cincinnati Reds 5 to 2!!! 🎉 It was freezing cold with temps in the mid 40’s to low 50’s. The winds were blowing strongly all day and the sun was shining on part of Busch Stadium…but not the part we were sitting in. Regardless, I was super pumped and it was awesome to go to the game. Danielle (Mary Beth and Tim’s daughter) and her adorable two children Atticus and Ryker (six and five years old) joined us at the game. Those little ones are just precious. Hank and I can’t wait for grand-kids (none in the near future that we know of) so we would have loved to take Atticus and Ryker for a few days a spoil them rotten. We did manage to get hot dogs, french fries, kettle corn popcorn, soda, donuts in them. Gosh, they were cute!
Atticus won a lottery and got to go out on the field before the game while the players practiced nearby so Mary Beth and Tim (grandparents) joined him. Lucky them. This allowed Alex, Danielle, Hank and I some time to connect…and freeze while we waited for the game to start. All in all it was fantastic to see the game and enjoy the wonderful company.
It was truly wonderful to reconnect with Mary Beth and Tim. They are both hardworking and very compassionate people who made our stay in their home super comfortable. The days were filled with nonstop talking and tons of laughter. We are so thankful for all their outstanding hospitality. And, we are grateful for our time with them and miss them already.
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