no matter where you go, there you are

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all - laura ingalls wilder

Our time in St. Louis was short; early the next morning we ate a quick breakfast, packed up the car and were on our way west towards southwest Missouri to the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Though her childhood is chronicled in her "Little House" book series, her home in Mansfield, MO is where she spent her later years with her husband and children and is where she wrote her series.
getting gas, we saw this huge inflatable chicken bucket
The town of Mansfield is quite small and the Wilder house is located a mile or so from the downtown area. We arrived and the next tour wasn't for a little while so we took our time browsing the small museum which housed a great number of treasures from Laura Ingalls Wilder's past. There were photos, drawings, toys, clothing, kitchen utensils, name it. Items were organized starting with Laura's childhood on the prairie, through her marriage to Almanzo Wilder and through her later years as a writer, and even had a lot of information regarding her daughter Rose's writing career.

The tour then began with an informational and background video followed by a lovely tour through the small farmhouse. Explanations of the furniture, kitchen appliances, design, architecture were all quite interesting and I thought the guides did a great job with everything. The group had a hard time squeezing into the small rooms but it never became claustrophobic. After the tour it was suggested to check out the house down the road where the Wilder's lived for a short period, but moved back to the original house because Laura didn't like the larger one. However, since we still had quite a bit of traveling to do for the day we opted out on that visit and instead visited the Wilder's graves before heading out of town.

Continuing west, we traveled into Kansas where we subsequently got lost. Note to future travelers: when searching for a cabin in the middle of Farmland, USA don't trust GoogleMaps. Where we were was the definition of middle of nowhere Farmland, USA. Where I had thought we needed to go turned out to be really far from where we actually wanted to go. Luckily, Molly was able to access limited internet on her phone and looked up the actual directions to the "Little House on the Prairie" cabin from their website. This was something I probably should have done instead of relying on GoogleMaps getting their address correct in a land where streets are called "County Rd 4100."

example of road signs in southeast kansas
the roads of Farmland, USA
kansas, you name your gas stations well
Although we were only on Day 3 of our trek, this "failure" on my part didn't make me very happy but it was only 1 of 2 blunders we really incurred. I know people get lost all the time and we didn't even have a GPS, or recent map for that matter, but I still felt bad about getting us lost on roads that weren't even paved. I knew Molly really wanted to see the cabin and the prairie, but we were also losing time in getting to our housing in Omaha for the night. I had thought we'd be arriving around 930 or 10pm, and now it was looking like 11 or 1130. Since it was a college friend of my mom's we were staying with and we didn't want to make her wait up, this part of the afternoon was lousy for me with deciding what to do. Looking back it probably wasn't that bad of a situation, but I get anxious and nervous over schedules and keeping people happy and such.

Finally at the cabin, we made it there with 5 minutes to spare before closing. It really is just a cabin on the prairie; free admission and there's even the cutest little post office and school house to go into as well. There's a gift shop as part of a neighboring farmhouse and miles of fields and farms to look out over. Bales of hay littered the land and it was quite picturesque.

replica of the "little house on the prairie"
travel wagon
"welcome to sunny side"
inside sunny side schoolhouse
wayside post office; was in use until the 1970s
farmland, USA

Our "Little House on the Prairie" tour was now concluded and all that was left for the day was to drive north through the back highways of Kansas and Nebraska. Based on where we were, the interstate option may have looked faster but because it was out of the way to get there, the mileage was longer so taking them would have been no faster. And as we had quickly learned to hate the massive 18-wheeler trucks, we wanted to avoid the interstates as much as possible. Taking the back highways was really quite fun for the most part and driving through all the different towns was a great way to see "Small Town, USA" One town was having some sort of event like a rodeo or something that seemed to attract many of its citizens. Molly and I also discovered the wonder that is Sonic in one of these small towns. More on Sonic and other fast food discoveries later.

The drive up to Omaha was pretty uneventful until the sun set. From then on it was all delirium and craziness. Doing our best to stay awake, we'd run out of music to sing along to and topics to talk about so we resorted to singing songs from the old "Wee Sing" kids videos. We performed the whole repertoire from "Wee Sing in Sillyville" and touched upon some of the numbers from "Grandpa's Magical Toy Shop." Added to the singing delirium, we were also killing thousands of crickets by the minute. I think some of the carcasses are still on Molly's car. It was an interesting night to say the least but we did make it to Omaha around 1130 and Sandy, my mom's friend had graciously stayed awake to let us into her house. Just like the night before, Molly and I went to sleep so fast you would have thought we hadn't slept in days.

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