Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Coming Home to Kansas, Part 2

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coming Home to Kansas, Part 2

The next town we visited was Joplin, Missouri.  It was a surprise to both Rosemary and Jack that the biggest continuing flowing waterfall in Missouri is right there, just about 30-45 minutes away from their home. Grand Falls is fondly called ‘Little Niagara’ because, although it is not tall at 25 feet, it spans a wide area, thereby looking just like its big brother. We had so much fun taking many photos and marveling at the marble-like rocks, carved by the waters that run through them, all around it. We wondered more at the many residential homes that surrounded the largely unprotected mini-wonder.

Just a few miles beyond the falls in Carthage, Missouri stands a man-made wonder, the Precious Moments Chapel and Garden.  Inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome, Precious Moments artist and creator, Samuel J. Butcher, designed and constructed the Precious Moments Chapel as his way of sharing the joy of his faith with the world. He used his beautiful and innocent Precious Moments messengers to bring well known and loved stories from the Bible to life in dozens of murals – all hand-painted by Sam himself, covering nearly 5,000 sq. ft.. And, leading to the Chapel is the Avenue of Angels. It was especially interesting for me to find out that Sam makes the Philippines his home now and there built a wood works and a doll factory! 

After being inspired by a wonder of nature and a man-made wonder, we were led next to the wonder of a man.  The George Washington Carver National Monument in Joplin is a tribute to George Washington Carver (1864–1943), an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Much of Carver's fame is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts (more than 300 uses) and sweet potatoes (more than 100 uses). He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.
In addition to his work on agricultural extension education, Carver's important accomplishments also included improvement of racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, and religion. He served as an example of the importance of hard work, a positive attitude, and a good education.  He is also remembered for his humility, humanitarianism, good nature, frugality, and rejection of economic materialism. Thus his life undermined the widespread stereotype of the time that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed him a "Black Leonardo".
It was a very inspirational day for us and soon we went home to beef mechado that was slowly cooking in Rosemary’s wonderful crockpot.  The next day, Bill and I went to the thrift store to buy our own small one for M’A’turn. After the rest day, we headed for Kansas City. Rosemary has three children from a previous marriage to the godfather of Frontenac, Kansas, which adjoins Pitstburg. Dick Palucca owns and operates Palucca and Sons, a well patronized deli and store.  Becky, the youngest, a Pittsnurg law enforcement officer lives in Frontenac and helps his father.  Joe and Bill live in Kansas City. 
Before meeting them, we went on 2 tours: the Harley-Davidson plant tour and the Hall Mark Visitors’ Center, both of which were in the Missouri side of the city. Harley’s headquarters is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it operates four vehicle and powertrain operations centers where they also conduct tours for the public. The Kansas Center is the only place where they build motorcycles end-to-end.  The Dyna, Sportster, and V-Rod models are built there. It takes only about 45 minutes for the final assembly of a unit.  Harley-Davidson is the undisputed largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
The national headquarters of Hallmark is in Kansas City.  Its Visitors’ Center had many interesting things on display:  the history of the company, its keepsakes, its longest most popular line of cards, Pansy, the Presidential card line, the 17 different themed Christmas trees gifted to Joyce Hall, the founder, by the employees each year and the hundreds of crowns, each one creatively crafted by volunteer employees for their 100th anniversary this year. There were also stations where the process of card-making was explained.  Finally, we all got souvenir Hallmark cards that sang 'Stand by Me' when you opened them.
Then we proceeded to Bill’s home. Bill graduated summa cum laude from Pittsburg State University where there is a plaque in his honor and currently works for a big textbook publishing firm.  His partner, Kevin, is a gifted artist so their home is well-appointed with nice works of art, paintings and prints.  We even got a special tour of the lovely garden that he tends. Actually, they had just come back from Paris where they had a private tour of the Louvre!!!  Soon Joe called to tell us that his meeting was over (he works for Accenture) so we all had dinner at Hereford House, a famous steak house in Kansas city.
We got home close to midnight so the next day was another rest day before we moved on to Colorado. Even good things must come to an end so we bid Rosemary and Jack goodbye for 2 of the best weeks we have had. Our trip out was going to be or 12 hours so we stopped at Salina, Kansas for the night.  We camped at the largest chain of camps in the country…Walmart.  Bill and I had a kick out of setting out our lawn chairs on the grassy portion of the parking lot, talking to our fellow RVers who were also parked there for the night, getting updated with our emails, and simply chillaxin with beer and iced tea.  
And before we touched the Colorado hills, we bid more goodbyes to the great Kansas plains…the herds of cattle, the lone small oil rig on vast fields of wheat, the low-flying crop dusters, and the dwarfed motorcycles on the wide, empty highways below the blue and white tapestry of skies.

Next Stop: Denver, Crested Butte, and the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado