I slept like a rock. I awoke the next morning revitalized, refreshed, and ravenous.
The chef had prepared a sweet potato casserole with homemade sausage, onions, green peppers, and cheese. On the side was a slice of toast and some fruit. I munched away as I continued reading the investigations of Nero Wolfe. During the meal, I met Gary, owner of Walnut Street Inn, and found him to be a most gregarious and gracious host.
After my meal, I requested breakfast for the same time on Monday and left for my big event of the day: a tour of Fantastic Caverns.
Fantastic Caverns is the only driving cave tour in the Americas and one of only ten in the world. It was discovered in 1862 by a farmer’s dog who found the proverbial needle in the haystack when he clambered through a small hold hidden by an overgrowth of ivy and grass. The cave did not get a proper exploration until 1867. Astonishingly, for the time, the explorers were 12 members of a women’s athletics club who answered an ad for explorers. Their ages ranged from 13-18 and they signed one of the walls.
It was a blisteringly hot day, so the cave, which remains a constant 60 degrees year round, was quite a relief from the heat and humidity. I’m not partial to puns in my writing, but Fantastic Caverns was, well, cavernous. I’ve toured several caves, but have not seen anything to compare with the sheer massiveness of Fantastic Caverns. Descriptions fail me. It must be experienced, but I hope my pictures do the tour some modicum of justice.
The tour was helped by our guides, Brandon and Joey. Joey, in particular, was a very animated talker who gave a lot of zip to the stories of Fantastic Caverns and there were plenty. One of the most intriguing tales was that Fantastic Caverns was the birthplace of Ozark music. A radio/stage show called Farmarama took place in the caves from 1961 to 1968 and featured many of the big names of country music.
After 55 minutes, the tour came to an end, but I highly suggest taking some time to experience Fantastic Caverns for yourself and I’d like to thank the staff of Fantastic Caverns for allowing me to tour the caves for free for my article.
Back in the swelter, I walked a couple of small trails near the caverns before driving back into town. I wandered around the town a bit and paid a brief visit to Battlefield Mall. It was too hot for walking around so I returned to Walnut Street Inn where I caught a small nap and finished The League of Frightened Men.
For dinner, I walked down to Ebbets Field for my dinner. Ebbets Field is a sports bar and several TVs featuring multiple sports played throughout the establishment. I decided to try the Da Sandy, a cheeseburger basted in Ebbets homemade hot sauce with fresh made fries. It was quite tasty and actually hit the spot.
Afterwards, it was back to Walnut Street Inn for a quiet and relaxing evening.
I enjoyed a long bath and shave the next morning and was met with a breakfast of scrambled eggs with Tabasco, bacon, fruit, toast, and orange juice.
Breakfast was a pleasant affair as I enjoyed a good conversation with Jennifer Wilkinson, the Study Abroad Manager for the University of Roehampton in London and another family visiting Springfield. I swapped business cards with Jennifer, then returned to my room to begin preparing for my journey home.
I wish I had a few more days to spend in Springfield due to all of the things to do and places to go. It’s a fine place to visit and if chance or design brings you to the region, get a room for yourself at Walnut Street Inn. The hospitality is top notch. The rooms are unique and comfortable. The food is great and the company cannot be beat.