Meandering in Missouri, Day 3: A Fantastic Tour & Breakfast

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.

Sweet potato casserole, toast, and fruit.

Sweet potato casserole, toast, and fruit.

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.

The first explorers of Fantastic Caverns.  They were 12 women of a local athletics club.

The first explorers of Fantastic Caverns. They were 12 women of a local athletics club.

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.

022031029028

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.

The spring of Fantastic Caverns' Spring Trail

The spring of Fantastic Caverns’ Spring Trail

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.

Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, and bacon.

Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, and bacon.

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.

Meandering in Missouri, Day 2: The Haunted Castle Switcheroo

Walnut Street Inn

Walnut Street Inn

About 2:30 the next day, I found myself in Springfield, MO, the third largest city in Missouri.  During the run of this project, I’ve visited OK inns, decent inns, great inns, and several superior inns.  Walnut Street Inn has been added to the category of superior inns.

This inn is everything that a bed and breakfast should be.  The house has character and history.  The rooms are unique and comfortable.  And it just has that indescribable x quality that pushes it over the line from great to superior.

I began my stay in the Wilder room (named for author, Laura Ingalls Wilder).  Now this was a writer’s room.  It was nice and secluded and had a private balcony suitable for people watching.  Connected to my balcony was a spiral staircase.  I’ve always liked this type of staircase since I was a child, so of course I had to climb up and down.

The Wilder Room.  Originally this was to be my room until I was upgraded due to several soldiers desiring to get blotto.

The Wilder Room. Originally this was to be my room until I was upgraded.

007

Private balcony of Wilder Room

Private balcony of Wilder Room

2nd floor commons area

2nd floor commons area

Front desk check in and main staircase

Front desk check in and main staircase

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

I didn’t have much time to settle in as I planned to attend worship services at St Joseph Catholic Church.  So after chucking my suitcase into a corner and taking some photos of the house, I was off to the house of the Lord.

St Joseph Catholic Church

St Joseph Catholic Church

This was one of the best services I had attended in quite a while.  The sermon was given by a guest speaker, Father Poisson.  He had a warm, welcoming style of speaking and he works for Cross Catholic Outreach.  Father Poisson has worked in many poverty stricken countries and Cross Catholic Outreach is dedicated to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and rebuilding the homes of the needy in these countries.  He told several stories, but the one that resonated with me was the story he told about meeting a young boy named Jose.

Jose and the other village children were about to receive a rare treat.  They were going to eat fast food for the very first time.  Each child received what was essentially a happy meal.  Jose’s meal consisted of two pieces of chicken (very thin since the chickens of the region were also malnourished) and a small envelope of French fries.  Father Poisson noticed that Jose ate two bites of chicken and just two or three fries before closing up his box.

Concerned, Father Poisson asked the translator to ask Jose if he was ill or had already eaten that day.  The translator said no.  He said Jose was going to take the rest of the meal to this brothers and sisters who had not had anything to eat that day.

That got me.  95 cents out of every dollar donated to Cross Catholic Outreach goes to help the poor which is an incredibly high rate of return for fundraising.  I’m going to donate a little and you can click on this link if you’d like to make a contribution as well.

After that moving service, I returned to the inn where the clerk told me she had not done me any favors.  That caught me up a bit short and I looked at her with a puzzled expression.  She told me she had just booked 3 young soldiers in the room across the hall from me and they were very honest and said they planned to get soused that night.  Normally they would not stay in a B & B, but the hotel they tried to get into was sold out and they referred the soldiers to Walnut Street Inn.

To make certain I would not be disturbed in case the boys got rowdy, the clerk upgraded me to the Carver Room located on the inn’s first floor at no additional charge.

The Carver Room.  This is the room to which I was upgraded.

The Carver Room. This is the room to which I was upgraded.

037039040

This was a good writing room, too.  I especially liked the faux bookcase, fireplace, and Jacuzzi bathtub.  After moving my belongings, I decided it was time to eat.

I walked down the street to Rama Thai Café for my supper.  The restaurant (plus many others in the area) was housed in an old house.  I had chicken with garlic and peppers.  While tasty, it needed to be much spicier for my tastes.  But it filled the cavity.

Rama Thai Cafe.  Many restaurants in area are actually in houses.

Rama Thai Cafe. Many restaurants in area are actually in houses.

After dinner, I traveled to Pythian Castle for its ghost tour.  Pythian Castle was built by the Knights of Pythias which is an organization like the Shriners or Freemasons.  The castle was built to house elderly knights and the children of deceased Knights.  During World War II it served as a military command center, P.O.W. camp, and a place for the soldiers to enjoy some R and R.

Pythian Castle

Pythian Castle

The tour was disappointing.  I suspect there was not much difference between it and the normal history tour except for the heftier price tag.  There were no interesting stories about the castle’s haunted history.  The ghost stories were just tales of odd experiences that were had by staff members of the castle.  I do not recommend it at all.

After the tour, I returned to Walnut Street Inn where I had a long hot soak and shave before passing out in my bed for the night.