Filled to the point of bursting with old-timey metal signs, figurines, and Humphrey Bogart posters. Though we were sorely tempted by quite a few of the items there, we managed to reserve our spending to a Route 66 magnet and continued on.
Our next stop was at the National Churchill Memorial and Museum. We didn't want to pay to see the museum although it looked pretty impressive (we didn't have all day). But there was still quite a few things to see. The first was a memorial to freedom made out of eight real sections of the Berlin Wall.The second was this handsome statue of Winston himself (I also have a special place in my heart for this man because my Jr. High was named after him. My years spent at Churchill were some of my favorites). I believe the main character from despicable me was inspired by Churchill.
With those little detours behind us we finally drove on into Jefferson City to check out the capital. As soon as we entered the city we saw that the capital building dominated the skyline. A beautiful thing.
Since it was still the 4th of July holiday, the building was operating under its weekend schedule. It took us a while to find the only door in operation but it gave us a good chance to check out the grounds. There was a statue of Jefferson signing the Louisiana Purchase (Jefferson is everything to Missouri, hence the name of the capital city). There were mythologically huge statues of a man and woman on either side of the main entrance that represented the Father of Waters (AKA the Mississippi River) and the Mother of Waters (AKA the Missouri River) which meet in Missouri and water the rest of the country.
Once inside we jumped onto a tour group just leaving. The capital building is much bigger than the Tennessee capital building. Four stories with a lot to see. These are its claims to fame.
1. The longest indoor-outdoor staircase in the world
2. The world's largest single canvas painting
3. Some seriously awesome 3-point perspective paintings.
4. A hall of famous Missourians with bronze busts added each year.
We spent about two and a half hours wandering around and appreciating everything. We couldn't appreciate number 1 because the big doors that separate the inside and outside parts of the staircase wasn't open on the weekend schedule. Number two was breathtaking though. It was in the room where their legislative body meets. It was painted in a hangar in France commemorating the U.S. involvement in WWI. Specifically, the painting is about the regiment of soldiers that Harry S. Truman belonged to. He is Missouri's only president, and that is why the Missouri capital got it in the first place. It is huge, and not a seam anywhere.The whole room is majestic. A tribute to how proud we are of democracy.
Ever since visiting the TN capitol I occasionally quiz Kortney on which three presidents are from TN (Jackson, Polk, and Johnson) now we'll have to add Truman onto the list of presidents who are from states whose capitals we've visited. 48 more capitals, 39 more presidents.
The last thing we saw on our tour was seriously breathtaking. It was the "Senate Lounge" which used to be the actual Senate. It was a room covered floor to ceiling with murals detailing Missouri's history. It was incredible. Our tour guide slowly went around the room and described what everything was and funny stories associated with the mural itself. I know I'm indulging myself but I just want to put all the pictures of it up.The most interesting part of it all was this little vignette in the corner of the first wall. It depicts the eviction of the Mormons from Missouri.
The short version told to us by the tour guide was that Mormons were a devoutly religious people who were opposed to slavery, believing that no man should own another man, and this caused a stur among the locals eventually leading the governor to sign the extermination order. She admitted that she had never heard of this until she started working as a tour guide five years ago despite living in Missouri her whole life. The painting shows the friendliness towards blacks as cause and tar and feathering as effect. Very interesting.
Once we were done at the capitol, we wanted to make sure we weren't missing out on anything else Jefferson City had to offer since the chances of us coming back anytime soon were low. The only other thing we found was this beauty.
A giant pacifier made out of, wait for it, cigarette butts!
At first I was sort of repulsed by the concept. A pacifier of all things! But then the message kind of dawned on me, and I think that the artist's intention is to cause that jarring sensation. After seeing it and reading a little about it I found it to be a really amazing piece of work. His point is that we toss cigarette butts on the ground like its nothing and our we almost don't even register them visually as they litter our entire world. His point was that we mistakenly believe that they will easily decompose but they are in fact made out of material that will take centuries to fully decompose and therefore his monument to this fact will stand a long time, proving his point.
Wow, this is getting long, I know. But we just don't get out like we used to you know? We were on the way home and it was only 5:00pm so we were discussing whether or not we wanted to do anything else with our day and I knew that if we went home now, we wouldn't go back out, so I proposed that we head south and check out some caverns that were highly advertised along the road when we were first coming into St. Louis back in May. The Meramac Caverns. We did, and we were glad we did.
That's right. Two Jesse James sights in one day (he was included on the mural in Jefferson City). They counted their loot in this cave and escaped out an unknown undergroud river. Pretty sweet.
The tour was divided into two main parts. The first half led down to the heart of the cave. Different rooms had different stories. There was the Jesse James area of course. Then there was the Hollywood room where a scene from Lassie was filmed and also a scene in the adventures of Tom Sawyer. For the most part these were small formations but we had a lot of fun looking at them. Also, there was a token Asian tourist family in our group which made the experience that much better.
Then we headed up to the upper parts of the cave where the largest formations were. Including the world's third largest stalagmite. Jealous? The coolest formation was what was called a wine table. Only two exist in the world and this one is the larger of the two. It only forms underwater and kind of looks like a dinosaur. Check it out.
The tour ended at this huge wall of stalagtites which took longer to form then the grand canyon. It was pretty incredible to see. We got a light show and everything. This was a good place to end it because it was seriously breathtaking. We learned here that Missouri is also called the Cave State. I had no idea but apparently there are over 20 public caverns across the state. Sadly, this is probably the only one we'll be going to this summer.
When we were done with the tour we bought a magnet (our tradition for things like this) and headed for home. It was a long day, but if you only get a precious few days off, you can't go wasting them. And we certainly didn't waste this one.