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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sioux Falls, SD

When we left last Thursday to visit Sioux Falls, I anticipated a weekend at the South Dakota Peach Festival, meeting people and talking about my books and photography. I didn't expect to fall in love with the city.
US Courthouse Downtown Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls is a little-known gem. It's beautiful, vibrant and filled with citizens who love their city. Hot in the summer, yes. Cold in the winter, yes, but the people adapt.

The downtown is vibrant, filled with people going about their business or just walking about enjoying the sculptures and flower-lined streets. Buildings may have been constructed of quartzite many years ago, recently renovated, or brand-spanking new. What strikes the visitor is the cleanliness and obvious pride in the city.

Falls Park
Falls Park, the home of the falls from which the city derived its name, is in the middle of town. Here the Big Sioux River tumbles over boulder after boulder of beautiful rocks. Not only is it picturesque, it is also a great outdoor destination for visitors and residents. Kids of all ages climb on the rocks from dawn to dusk. I, like other photographers, scampered around from one vantage point to another. (Truthfully, I'm wearing a boot, so scampering doesn't exactly describe my activity, but that's another story). 

We saw people enjoying the many parks and trails. It's a young demographic, loads of families spending time together. Not only did I enjoy the beauty, but I truly felt the energy of the city.

If you're traveling I-29, take time to explore Sioux Falls.

Falls Park

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Waynesville Square
Anyone remember that song? Composed in 1946, it has been recorded by many artists since Nat King Cole first sang it. (Hear his version at ). Today, not only Americans share a fascination with this nostalgic piece of Americana. Wherever I talk to people along Route 66, they always mention the number of international visitors who are following at least part of the historic route.
I recently attended the NSS Convention (cavers) in Pulaski County, MO, and spent several days relishing Route 66 history. My husband and I took in the historical sites as well as the fun and unique attractions.
We toured the Old Stagecoach Stop on the Waynesville square. Built before the Civil War, this building has functioned as a stagecoach stop, a wartime hospital and a hotel before it was finally condemned. Check its history at
Devil's Elbow, MO
We sampled wines and ate a delicious dinner at Cellar 66 on the Waynesville Square with Karen Hood and Laura Huffman from the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau. (By the way, I found a Missouri wine I really like - Vignoles by Hermannoff).
We visited the Trail of Tears Monument on the National Historical Trail. Small groups of Cherokee rested and camped here during their forced trek westward. (
Near old trestle railroad bridge
If you're looking for the unique, travel the original road to Devil's Elbow. The town gets its name from a bend in the Big Piney River. Drive the backroads here to discover the Ozarks beauty. Turn left before the old 1923 bridge. You'll find the old Shelden's Market. If you follow that road, you go under an old trestle railroad bridge.
The town's restaurant, the Elbow Inn traces its history back to the 1930s when it was opened as the Munger Moss Sandwich Shop. The Munger Moss later relocated to Lebanon and that hotel is another great stop on Route 66. Today it operates at the unique Elbow Inn. Try their barbecue or the famous Taterburger. Oh, and be sure to check the ceiling above the bar.
I hope I've given you a taste of Route 66 in Pulaski Country. There's much more and it's definitely a fun adventure. Visit  for more info.

Sheldon's Market, Devil's Elbow

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail site on the banks of Roubidoux Creek

Pulaski County has a varied and interesting history. From pre-Civil War to present, travelers have passed through and settlers have found homes in the region.
History of the Roubidoux

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, demanding Indians relocate west of the Mississippi River. Many of the Indians refused to voluntarily leave. By 1838, the Army began the forced removal of those remaining. Chief John Ross asked the government to let the Cherokee control their journey. He then organized detachments of approximately 1,000 each. The Indians traveled by foot or horse and wagon to complete the 800-mile journey.

Roubidoux Creek
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail follows the routes the Cherokees took in their forced march from their homes in the southeastern US to the newly established Indian territory in Oklahoma. The northern route took them through southern Missouri. In 1838-1839, thousands of Cherokees camped next to the Roubidoux Spring in Waynesville.

Trail of Tears Monument in Waynesville

Resting Place for the Weary

From Rev Daniel S Butrick's diary
They made camp next to the creek, ate from their meager food supply and rested before continuing on their journey. Illness, bad weather, hunger and death became their constant companions and the trail is littered with the graves of those who never reached their destination.
The Roubidoux monument is one of several across southern Missouri. This trail commemorates a dark piece of American history. Take the time to visit one or more sites along this trail.
A friend, author Kitty Sutton, has written a series of young adult novels based on the Trail of Tears. Check them out on

Monday, July 13, 2015

In the Missouri Ozarks

Frog Rock
I'm visiting Pulaski County, MO, for the NSS 2015 Convention this week. Approximately 1,000 cavers from around the world are gathering here in the Cave State to visit many of our state's caves. I've met lots of interesting folks who know the cave world. Some folks this morning said they've attended all but two of the annual conferences since 1974.

I plan to learn about caves, bats, cave art and photography, and check out the Batmobile. Pulaski County has rolled out the red carpet and the enthusiasm is contagious.

Where is Pulaski County? If you've traveled I-44 from Oklahoma to St. Louis, you've passed right through it. It is the home of Ft. Leonard Wood and the towns of Waynesville and St. Robert. Not to mention that it is home to a fascinating stretch of Route 66.

Most of the southern Missouri rivers have receding flood waters and some caves are closed, but today it is hot and muggy. Summer is here in full force.

The first photo is of WH Croaker, the frog rock that overlooks Route 66 in Waynesville. The second and third show the beauty of the Ozarks. Everything is green after the recent rains.

While most of the rivers are muddy from the flood waters, we found this crystal clear stream.