Where the Buck Stopped

Sunday, August 09, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

CANADA OR BUST, CHAPTER 2:  IN WHICH  WE REFUSE TO PASS THE BUCK


Day 2:  Marion, IL to St. Joseph, MO.  After fueling up on gas and food at a local Kroger, we left Marion about 7:45 a.m., a bit before our target departure.  The temp was 71°, same as when we left home in Georgia yesterday about the same hour.  We were surprised to note that the humidity level felt similar also.

Forty miles north on I-57 led us to I-64, which would take us into Missouri.  Skies had become overcast, and a look at the NOAA radar app indicated that our approach to St. Louis, 70 miles away, would resemble our stormy arrival into that city in April.

Our Missouri filter
Again we were fortunate to dodge the worst of the storm cell as it blew through just north of I-64 ahead of us.  Thankful it was Sunday morning, we breezed through St. Louis on I-64, which gave us a very convenient opportunity to stop at the Whole Foods Market we visited in April, where we picked up some healthy ingredients for our lunch salad.

Leaving St. Louis, we wound up the final 30 miles of I-64, transferring to I-70 when the 64 terminated at Wentzville.  Near Wright City, we paused our XM Radio Bluesville marathon long enough for a brief rest area stop.  Yesterday we enjoyed several Car Talk podcasts while we traveled, but today we were chasing the blues again.  Sunday mornings bring out some classics old and new, and we heard some great ones, highlighted by Mean Church People (MSG Acoustic Blues Trio) and Let Me Roll Your Lemon (Bo Carter).


As we passed the big Ozarkland gift shop/tourist trap in Kingdom City, skies were cloudy and the temp was up to 83°.  With a high of 96 in their forecast for today, we were happy to be just passing through.  At 11:45, we stopped at Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area near Millersburg to eat our picnic lunch—a superb salad with arugula, edamame, chickpeas, quinoa, tomato, seared tofu, and blue cheese.  With a hummus-coated wild mushroom and truffle flatbread on the side, the meal could not have been better.  The 26-quart electric cooler we bought last week has been a major factor in our healthier lunches on this trip, as it will easily accommodate a variety of fresh ingredients for salad making on the fly.

While we were sitting in the car eating, Ken spied a bald eagle landing in a dead tree nearby.  We watched him scouting the lake area until he was spooked by a couple of fishermen walking noisily past his tree and moved on.  By 12:30 we were back on I-70 continuing our journey westward toward Independence, Missouri's fourth largest city (pop. 116,830), and home of the Harry S Truman National Historic Site.  Apparently the buck stopped there, so we planned to as well.

The temp and humidity continued to climb, reaching eyeglass-fogging levels by the time we stopped at a rest area near Boonville, MO.  As we traveled west, the land became considerably hillier with frequent limestone faces lining the roadside where the highway had been cut through some of those hills.

After several signs warning of looming traffic snarls, we exited I-70 near Nelson and continued west on parallel surface roads to Marshall Junction, returning to the freeway a mile and a half before the point of promised congestion.  There was none, but shortly the warning signs popped up again.  We were beginning to wonder if Chicken Little had joined the road crew, but our window of opportunity to visit the two Truman sites in Independence would slam shut at 5 p.m., and the clock was pushing 2:30.  So we returned to the surface streets for the final 20 miles to Independence, just in case there really was a bottleneck to avoid.

Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Finally after all those detours, we arrived at the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum shortly after 3 p.m.  The requisite Oval Office replica was front and center near the entrance, and we were fascinated to see what the Presidential workplace looked like with 1940s technology.

Truman version of the Oval Office
An extensive permanent exhibition highlighting Truman's personal history and a 70th anniversary special exhibit with artifacts from the final year of World War II filled the lower floor.

At first glance, I thought all Truman's children really looked like their father.  Then I remembered he had only a daughter.
Truman and his wife and lifelong love Bess are entombed in a well-tended courtyard encircled by the library and museum.  Though the space is expansive and monumental, their markers, surrounded by a bevy of red begonias, are quite humble.

Truman graves
By the time we left the Truman Presidential complex, a unit of the National Archives, the heat index in Independence had reached a sultry 104°, but we were still determined to visit the HST National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service.  At their visitor center, we learned that the final tour of the Truman house for the day had begun ten minutes before we arrived.  But the ranger was quick to assure us that the 8-person limit for that tour had been filled this morning anyway.  We did drive the five blocks over to the white Victorian house where the Trumans lived for more than 50 years—both before and after their sojourn at a more fashionable white house in Washington, DC.

Truman House in Independence
From Independence, we followed I-70 into Kansas City, hopping off briefly to check out the sculpture garden of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.  The primary draw was an installation of Claes Oldenburg shuttlecocks, but we were rewarded with other interesting works as well.

Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
After the museum, we followed I-29 north out of Kansas City another 65 miles to Saint Joseph (pop. 76,780), our stopover for tonight.  Affectionately called St. Joe, the city was founded on the banks of the Missouri River in the early 1800s and is still best known as the starting point of the Pony Express in its service to the West.  Oh, and there was that unfortunate business of local citizen Jesse James being killed by one of his confederates in his St. Joseph home in 1882.  (Yes, that Jesse James.)

Tomorrow we plan to fill in a conspicuous blank in our “state capitols visited” list.  Though we have seen all the statehouses in the surrounding states, we have yet to check out Nebraska’s “tower on the prairie.”  Our close proximity to Lincoln will give us the opportunity to correct that oversight on this trip.

Daily Stats

Miles driven:  456
Letterboxes:  not today
Weather:  71° to 90°, rainy to sunny
Gas:  33 gallons
Gas price (premium):  $2.609 in Marion, IL; $2.839 in Kansas City, MO

Harry S Truman Stats

# of books he read in local public library as a child:  ALL
Middle name:  none (Initial S honored both grandfathers.)
Times he met with FDR while vice-president:  2
Days of experience as VP before FDR died:  82
Presidential ranking by scholars:  5th

More Photos from Today

More Truman Exhibits
The famous sign on Truman's Oval Office desk.   
Truman memorial courtyard
This Truman silhouette adorns many banners on the streets of Independence.
And one more shuttlecock behind the museum