Branson, Missouri

branson Scenic railway train ride

Branson was a bit like Las Vegas mixed with Disneyland! Lots of Casinos, Vegas type shows with “Tribute” shows for various artists and all kinds of kids entertainment: we opted for more scenic fun, like this 40 mile round trip train ride on antique rail cars. This engine is circa mid 1950s.

The car we rode in was one of those domed observation cars. It was from the late 1940s I think!
This was a city campground right near the train station downtown. We stayed further out.
Going across an old wooden trestles; I assumed they keep it maintained!

Some areas were pretty tight! They only blasted out as much as they needed to get through I guess!
There were two tunnels to go through too.
While in the darkness of the tunnel the interior lights came on including these light up handrails on the stairs. Must be the predecessor of fiber optics?!? (sorry for the blurred picture, I took this with my phone)
The second tunnel.

A view of the Branson harbor area of Lake Taneycomo in downtown Branson near the train station.

table rock lakeshore trail

We found this lovely short trail on the shore of Table Rock Lake, as the name implies.
Lots of pretty flowers and greenery all along it.

Interesting root system on this old tree!
And of course my favorite; dead trees!
This one looked to me like a moma and adolescent Iguana together!
Nice wide trail; we wished we’d brought our bikes!
This is the Branson Belle. They offer lunch/dinner cruises and other special occasion cruises.

fantastic caverns in springfield, missouri

We’d seen billboards for this attraction up in Springfield and had enough of Branson craziness so we went and checked it out. It’s a tour that takes you through the cavern with a Jeep pulling a trailer. Jan and I got to ride in the back seat of the Jeep.
Just outside the entrance to the cavern was this wood fired stem generator they used to use to light the Edison light bulbs inside. They now of course have been replaced with electric LED lights throughout run by normal electric service.
Kind of eerie in there but huge! Not cold, but is always around 60 degrees. It felt good on a hot day!
The caverns are left over from an old underground river that carved it out of the surrounding limestone.

Some very interesting formations! We were told they only grow about 1/4″ every 100 years!

As a comparison, here is one of the Edison bulbs they used back then. Not quite as bright as the LEDs for sure!
Another tour group.
The owner of the property discovered the cavern in 1862 but kept it a secret until 1867 to explore it. He waited until after the Civil War in fears it would be used and possibly destroyed by either side. These are the names of the 12 women from the Springfield Athletic club who answered his add for explorers to investigate the caverns! Mind you they only had candles in a crude tin can lantern to see by; VERY dark and unknown territory! Our guide turned off the lights for a minute or so, so we could see how dark it is. You can’t see ANYTHING!

This is the entry/exit of the caverns.
We never knew Missouri had so many caverns!
One of their earlier tour vehicles. I’m pretty sure those white wall tires are not original!

Another older generator.
They eventually started using Jeeps like this one. It looks to be 1950s?
I’m not sure why there are 4 gearshifts. One for the tranny but 3 for the transfer case?
1929 or so Ford pickup truck with an interesting way of running the generator for the lights in the bed!

I REALLY wanted to push that button!
Another Jeep, a bit newer than the green one I think.
Here is a Jeepster pulling an old teardrop camper.

After our underground tour we walked down a short path to the river behind.

The boardwalk ended where the water exits the caverns during the rainy season. They had this cool sitting area complete with outdoor furniture!


This is the exit point for the water. By the looks of it, it gets pretty intense at times!




toad suck FERRY DAMSITE park

Toad Suck Ferry Park is on the banks of the Arkansas River. It was part of the Army Corps of Engineers development of the bridge, dam and locks to regulate the river to prevent flooding. It’s a beautiful park!
There is a lock at the other side of the river to allow these river barges to get through.

Most of the week we had this end of the park pretty much to ourselves!
Our campsite was very nice, although quite a challenge to get into, especially since there was a torrential downpour just as we arrived.

toad suck daze

This is an annual event held here since 1982. It was originally held at Toad Suck Park but was moved in 1990 to Conway and has been held there every year since. It was just our luck it happened to be while we were there!
There were the usual state fair type food vendors, games and activities. This was for the kids; they gave them tools and let them take this SUV apart!
There was this booth that lets the kids build different piping configurations to carry water. Of course since it was hot many got wet!

This awesome truck was just a promo for an auto shop, but it is pretty cool!
The main event of course is the Toad races happening throughout the 3 day fair!
We were there for one of the races with the kids competing. Pretty entertaining to watch!
They line-up, trying to keep them contained until the start of the race.
And they’re off, now trying to keep them headed in the right direction. These are not professional toads, they were just sitting on the bank of the river minding their own business yesterday! They’ll be returned there after the races are through. They probably will never be the same after this brief spot of glory as a racer!

The trophies to be awarded. I’m pretty sure the toads don’t get one though!

Arkansas 7 scenic byway through the ozarks

This was a very beautiful drive through forests of green!

Many colorful flowers too.
Along the way we stopped at The Cliff House for lunch. A very picturesque location! They have an attached Inn to.
The view from their balcony was awesome too!

All along this route were spectacular views!
There was this observation tower, but I can see just fine standing on solid ground!

Louisiana- New Iberia, Avery Island, Jefferson Island and Jeanerette

new iberia

We had a very nice campsite here, lots of trees (but not in the way of getting into our site! Although we planned to spend only 3 days, specifically to see the Tabasco Factory, once we saw all the other things to see and do we extended our stay to 8 days! So happy to have that kind of flexibility.
While out running errands we came across this abandoned Sugar Mill.

This old home was called Shadows on the Teche. Very beautiful grounds with the Bayou Teche running behind it!
Lots of gorgeous old Live Oaks!

Live Oaks with Spanish moss and the Bayou in the background.

The home had these cisterns on all the downspouts to collect the rainwater.
The front entrance, very grand!
I managed to snap this one picture of the inside before our Docent told us no inside pictures were allowed!
Nearby was this tribute to their sugar industry; Sugar Mill Park.
While in New Iberia we also visited the Konriko Rice Mill; the oldest operating rice mill in the country!
They were working on this. Its the auger in the ground that takes the raw rice from the trucks into the mill.
This metal bin goes on top of that auger; this is where the trucks drive through to deliver the raw rice.
A mock-up model of the plant process, very fascinating process!

avery island-the home of tabasco hot sauce company

I’ve always wanted to visit this place! All my life I was under the impression it was actually on an island and that you’d need to take a boat or something to get there. It turns out Avery Island is really just the top of a salt dome! There are 4 of them here in Louisiana!
You actually do cross a small bridge to get onto the “Island”!
The front of the main factory building.
Inside the museum they have many promo artifacts from their past, very cool to see!

This was a one-off surfboard they had made in 2000. Very rare; this is the only one in existence, it never went into production!

A piece of the salt dome from their mine.

This is what it looked like when they were mining. All mining stopped when the Union forces destroyed the mine during the Civil War.
They still use salt today in their aging process. It’s placed like this on top of each barrel full of pepper slurry and aged for at least 3 years before being processed into the final product.
And they make LOTS of it!

This is where they mix the slurry to produce the hot sauce. These machines run 24/7!

Some of the white oak barrels they used. To this day they still use the same type of barrel. When they receive them they have iron barrel straps. Prior to using them they switch them out for stainless steel straps; the iron one wouldn’t hold up against cosmic pepper slurry!
When barrels are no longer useable, they make them into wood chips to sell as smoking chips; I need to get some of these!
For obvious cleanliness concerns the factory tour is through windows, still interesting to see. This one factory produces all the Tabasco products made and shipped all over the world!

This is the daily counter of production. Over 84,000 bottles for that day and it was only about 11:00AM!
This is where they start the pepper plants before they’re put in the field.

This fish sculpture was done for them; it’s titled “TA-BASS-CO”!  Notice the fish is biting a pepper on a fishing hook!

On our way between buildings we saw this sign!

The Jungle Gardens tour is a drive with some places to get out for a better look.

The boathouse where Mr. McIlhenny kept his boat and those of some of his friends.

Huge stand of bamboo to the right!
Very lush here! Things growing everywhere. This moss and ferns growing on the trunk of a live oak tree!

Even this dead tree is still supporting Spanish Moss!
One of the walking parts was this garden complete with a Budda.

Part of this jungle paradise is Bird City as Mr. Ned (E.A. McIlhenny’s nick name used by his friends and employees) started this Egret sanctuary with 8 birds in 1890. The fashion of the time was Egret feathers in the ladies hats so these birds were hunted almost to extinction; this was his reason for starting it. The Egrets migrate across the Gulf of Mexico but return every year; there are now hundreds if not thousands!

And turtles!

jefferson island and the rip van winkle gardens

The grand entrance to the Jefferson Plantation and Rip Van Winkle Gardens.

As we started walking out onto the grounds this Peacock came and led the way; our personal escort!

The mansion! Beautiful full front porch complete with big rocking chairs!
This marks the Lafayette Oak where , in 1923, they discovered  3 pots of gold coins hidden by the pirate Lafayette many years earlier!

We assumed this was one of those pots (minus the treasure of course!)
One of the beautiful fountains on the property.

The marker for the Cleveland Oak, named after President Cleveland who was good friends with both Jefferson and Mr. McIlhenny. There’s another Cleveland oak on Avery Island as well.

One of the resident peacocks. We never knew they could fly!

The view out over the property from the front porch.
At the rear of the house were these giant cisterns to capture the rainwater from the gutters.

There was a cage with doves as well!

A couple of the female peacocks.
One of the interesting things in this area was Lake Peigneur. It was a small freshwater lake only 10 or 15 feet deep, but in 1981 while drilling for oil Texaco accidentally punched one of the salt mine shafts in the salt dome and the entire lake was drained into the mines! There were 50 miners down there at the time but miraculously no one was injured or killed! One funny thing happened during this, the force of the water actually reversed the flow of the river and refilled the lake 10 times bigger. It’s now as deep as 125 feet! Also, when the water finally subsided and equalized, the barges that had been sucked down popped back up to the surface!
In the process of this a house built by Jefferson at the edge of the lake was also sucked in; all that remains today is the fireplace and chimney!

jeanerette museum

We visited the Jeanerette Museum on a recommendation because they had a short film about the history of the on going sugar mill industry here.
They had lots of artifacts on display. These were one of the many wooden molds used to cast gears.

This carved alligator was hand carved from a single piece of wood!
Cast iron kitchen utensils and an old oil stove. A far cry from the Viking we had at our house!
These folks were hunters; this fellow was one of many mounted trophies!
Antique toy tractor.
One room was filled with costumes from their Mardi Gras celebrations.

Out back they had some old sugar harvesting machinery and this fire engine; I’m pretty sure it no longer runs!

Bayou Teche runs behind the building. The docent told us there is an alligator in there but that he never comes up further than that pole in the water. We didn’t test it though!

Some of the more famous prior residents. Who’d have thought, Beyonce!
These folks discovered  sunken steamship SS New York in the Gulf of Mexico after 16 years of searching!
Parts of the find including the ship’s bell.

The Bayou Teche

Some interesting bronze sculptures

When we were leaving the docent told up we HAD to stop at this bakery for their famous fresh French bread. She said if the red light was on that meant they had just put a fresh warm batch out. We did and it was awesome! As you can see, the bakery has been in business since 1884!
On the way home Jan spotted this multi-colored house and had to get a few pictures!