As we leave the gently rolling and heavily forested mountains of Kentucky and move through Missouri the land becomes flat. The green of the forests is replaced with the green of the large farms.
We then entered the Ozarks region and the hills and trees were back.
We camped at Big Spring RV Campground in Van Buren, Missouri. Missouri is state #24. Van Buren is in the Ozark's National Scenic River area next to the Mark Twain National Forest. The Current River flows through town and right next to our campground. It is a wide gently moving river perfect for floating. We had our camp host drive us to a drop point and had a wonderful day floating the 8 miles back to the campground. Exquisite! The kids and Bob swam the last 500 yards with huge smiles.
The kids and I spent another day on the river and earned badge #45. What a beautiful place. We ended that afternoon with a trip to Jolly Cone in town.
We wanted to spend another day floating on the river but threats of thunderstorms kept us away. We did visit the Big Spring. 233 million gallons pour out each day. The large boulders at the entrance make it appear that the water is boiling. It has enough water flowing out of it to fill Busch Stadium in St Louis to the top every 33 hours. There is a nice short hike around there and a playground. Nice picnic tables for a quiet dinner.
We drove around as the sunset watching the woodchucks and the many many deer congregating in the field. (There are 1930s Army Corps of Engineers cabins you can stay in overnight here.).
The kids eventually fell asleep and Bob and I drove up to a pullout and watched the sun set from the roof of the truck.
On our last morning Matilda and I did a short float in tubes on the river. It was peaceful and sweet and a great mamma daughter date. We saw herons and a huge snake and lots of turtles. What an adventure.
We drove west across Missouri to Mansfield. It is the place where Laura Ingalls Wilder settled with Almanzo at the age of 27 and lived here til she died at 90. She wrote all the Little House on the Prairie books here.
We are staying at the Laura Ingalls Wilder RV Park which is right across the street from the museum at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home. Their slogan is "Park your little house on our prairie" It is an idyllic spot. The sites are shady and you can sit and watch the kids play at the great playground. There is a pond and a creek and some woods. The family that owns it is beyond nice. The kids played with their kids and another camping child for hours and hours.
There is a cave on the property next to the campground. The owners allow you to explore the cave if you check in and sign a release. It was pretty flooded so we didn't get to explore far but it was a fun adventure.
I went to watch the Ozark Mountain Players perform "Laura's Memories", an original musical play about LIW life. It was adorable, especially the little kiddos. ($10/5 cash at the Ampitheater by the school and city park)
We walked across the street to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum. The museum is in a new large building. It has some wonderful displays of her books and artifacts from her life. It is a bit expensive to get in but worth it. ($14/7) you can see her manuscripts, sewing projects, the small porcelin box she received for Christmas in the book and even see Pa's fiddle.
Then you can walk over to the house she shared with Almanzo and their daughter Rose. They bought 40 acres with a log cabin and slowly built the house that stands there now bit by bit and grew their farm into 200 acres. She worked on the farm, as a newspaper editor and writer, and as bank loan officer. At the age of 63 Laura began writing her memories from childhood after realizing she had lived so many distinct parts of the history of the United States from living in a one room log cabin in Minnesota to repeatedly moving as pioneers in covered wagon cross crossing the country, living in the prairie in Indian territory, living in small towns on the frontier, seeing the railroads cross the country and living long enough to travel by airplane. I am grateful she wrote those books I loved as a child and now share with our kids. It was very cool to see her house just as it was when she passed, to see the furniture Almanzo made and the kitchen Laura designed and the desk she wrote her books at.
The campground owners recommended we eat at a local Amish restaurant. R and M Dutch Cooking is located at 2994 south Highway E in Norwood, Mo. It is located in a steel barn along their farm. It is family owned and run. They are open Thursday through Saturday. It is cheap and delicious, completely homemade. The blackberry crisp is amazing. It was so good we ate there two days of our three in town and would have eaten there Sunday if it had been open. They only take cash. Go if in the area.
There are many Amish and Menonites living in the area. The land around there is so beautiful. We drove around enjoying one beautiful view after another of the hillsides and the farms.
We visited Bakers Seed Company and Pioneer Village. They have festivals the first Sunday of each month but not today. It was still a lovely place to visit. They have an amazing seed store full of heirloom non GMO seeds. There is also a stage, a few stores and beautiful gardens to walk around. There are chickens and goats and donkeys to visit. It is beautiful and is all free to visit. They are closed Saturday.
We had wanted to get ice cream at the drugstore in Ava but it is closed on Sunday. Their ice cream is 50 cents a scoop (just raised the price from 25 cents).
What beautiful country. We were sincerely tempted to stay.