Geocaching in Joplin

My husband Travis and I both work at home.

 

Somehow, our marriage has survived 7 years of this arrangement.

 

Maybe it’s because every day I sequester myself in my daughter’s bedroom with my laptop to write while she’s at school, and her room is on the opposite side of the house from where my husband is talking on the phone with his clients.

 

And that’s how my husband and I are able to both work at home together and still enjoy wedded bliss.

 

Each of us also makes sure to take sanity breaks during the day. Travis and I love to be outdoors, so we make sure to leave our house/office at least once during the workday and take a walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

 

We generally take our sanity breaks in solitude because, hey, that’s the point. But sometimes we take our breaks together.

 

Gasp!

 

Like we need more togetherness, right?

 

geo-couple

 

But there’s a lot of value in disconnecting from work and home responsibilities in order to reconnect with your partner. Sometimes, Travis and I will pack a picnic lunch and dine al fresco at a local park. Sometimes we’ll grab our hiking boots and hit some nearby trails.

 

Sometimes we’ll play games.

 

Specifically, I’m talking about a game that can be played outdoors – anywhere, anytime.

 

It’s called geocaching.

 

Geocaching is basically an outdoor scavenger hunt that combines adventure with technology. It involves searching for an object that is hidden outside by using GPS coordinates which are posted online.

 

You’d be surprised at how many caches are hidden all over the Joplin area – or anywhere, for that matter, as geocaching is a game that’s played all over the world.

 

On a recent lunch break, Travis and I decided to combine a short hike at Wildcat Park with a game of geocaching.

 

Before we left our house, I checked for local caches on my smartphone’s geocaching app. Cachebot offers a free app which allows you to view nearby caches on a map, as well as detailed descriptions of, and coordinates for, up to three caches per day; if you want to research more, then you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

 

Travis has the classic version of the Groundspeak Navigation app on his phone, which he downloaded several years ago. When I recently signed up for the free version of the app, I found it to be very limited; I could see nearby caches, but had to upgrade to a monthly or yearly membership in order to retrieve the details and coordinates of the caches.

 

Regardless of which app you choose, you’ll need to create an account on a cache listing site (geocaching.com) and link it to your app. This sounds like a complicated process, but it’s a one-time deal that will allow you to track your finds forever. And it’s free!

 

If you want to go old-school, you can use a handheld GPS navigator, such as those made by Garmin. But since most people have smartphones on them these days, it’s more convenient to use a phone app.

 

After looking for nearby caches on my app, I selected one located on a bluff trail at Wildcat Park. The cache is called Love Hollow at Mother Nature’s Crack, which sounds both romantic and crass at the same time.

 

But knowing that Mother Nature’s Crack refers to a fissure in a particular rock outcropping on the trail rather than a part of the human anatomy, I focused on the enticing “Love Hollow” part of the cache name instead. The person who hid the cache did so as a gift for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day to mark the spot where they and their friends had gathered for years and created happy memories.

 

I thought that sounded sweet when I first read it, but then I thought how disappointed I would be if my guy got me a Valentine’s Day gift and then immediately hid it.

 

Forever.

 

It’s a romantic gesture, nonetheless, and it made for a nice backstory for my geocaching lunch date adventure with Travis.

 

When Travis and I reached Mother Nature’s Crack on the hiking trail, he pulled out his phone and read the hint that was given about where to find the cache: Look for the dead trees.

 

Hmm. There were several dead trees lying on the forest floor on the hill above us, but my attention was drawn to a group of them several feet up from the cliff. As I circled around them, I saw what I thought was a piece of trash tucked between the tree and a pile of leaves.

 

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was writing on this “trash” which indicated that it was, indeed, the Love Hollow cache.

 

geo-bag

I felt giddy that I found the treasure on our scavenger hunt, but also a bit disappointed at the state of the cache itself. This weathered plastic Ziploc bag with a hole in one end was not was I was expecting.

 

Typically, caches are protected in metal boxes which can withstand the elements, like these that my kids have found on previous geocaching outings:

 

geo-shoal

 

geo-big-boxBut there was nothing inside of the partially disintegrated baggie at Love Hollow.

 

Usually, there’s a log to sign when you find a cache. I like to glance through these logs to see who else has found them, and when they found them. Granted, I can read cache logs online (plus add our own find to the log), but it’s more personal to see different people’s writing on a piece of paper.

 

Also, there weren’t any trackables in the bag. Trackables are items that move from one cache to another, and you can follow their movements online, which is another fun part of the geocaching experience.

 

Although there were no trackables or log entries for me to read about, I was still satisfied because I had found the cache (as you can tell from my smug posture).

 

geo-lounge

 

What did Travis find?

 

geo-glove

Well, he found a glove on the ground. It was totally unrelated to our mission, but he seemed pleased with himself. Considering the glove blended in with the rocks on the ground like an object in an I Spy book, finding it was definitely an accomplishment.

 

The best part of hunting for the Love Hollow cache was its location. I know you have been curious about this since the beginning of the post, so here you go: This is Mother Nature’s Crack.

 

geo-crack-view

Even when the trees are bare, this is a beautiful view.

 

geo-standing-on-crack

 

Travis and I decided to take a selfie to commemorate our Love Hollow lunch date. As I was struggling to position my smartphone to take the photo, Travis showed me how to use the photo timer for the selfie.

 

The what?

 

This was a game-changer for me.

 

Up to this point, the few selfies that I’ve taken have been blurry, a result of me trying to look into the lens while simultaneously looking for the camera button.

 

I’m sure this timer thing is common knowledge to the majority of smartphone wielding population, but I’ve arrived a bit late to the selfie culture.

 

geo-selfie

Here I am just after processing this new knowledge. Travis is looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but that’s okay. I learned something new!

 

We left Mother Nature’s Crack behind us and hiked back to the car. I had seen another cache that I wanted to stop at before our lunch break was over. This cache is called Winged Cross, and it marks the edge of the area where an EF5 tornado touched down on May 22, 2011.

 

Unlike traditional caches, which are hidden, this cache is in the open, and is considered a landmark cache. Located on a corner in a residential area, the Winged Cross stands over 5 feet tall and was carved from a tree that was several hundred years old.

 

geo-cross

 

I thought I’d seen all of the commemorative works that have popped up in Joplin after the tornado, but I had never seen this – nor had I heard about it until Travis and I decided to go geocaching.

 

So here you have it, the secret to being able to work at home with your spouse: Be sure to take sanity breaks during the day, and make sure you add a little adventure together every now and then.

 

 

To learn more about geocaching, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

JBs Dueling Pianos

After a week of basking in unseasonably warm fall temperatures that enabled my hibiscus plants to continue blooming through November, I was jolted out of my capris-wearing phase and forced to start dressing in layers when a brisk – and unwelcome – cold front blew into town.

 

The shock to my system made me want to don my fuzzy socks, envelop myself in a fluffy down comforter, and watch Netflix in bed.

 

I wanted to hibernate.

 

However, I’d already committed to going out. My husband Travis and had made plans with friends to go listen to live music, so I reluctantly grabbed my winter coat and out the door we went.

 

We were going to meet another couple at JBs Downtown for Dueling Piano Night, which had just recently returned to the venue after being on hiatus for a few years. JBs is a hot spot in Joplin for live music, featuring bands, musicians, and even karaoke, every week.

 

Travis and I found a table and settled in for the show. I kept my coat on, fantasizing that it was my down comforter, keeping me warm and snug.

 

There was no sign of the other couple we were supposed to meet, so Travis and I went ahead and placed our drink order with our server.

 

jbs-warm-up

The piano players began warming up for the show.

 

Still no sign of our friends.

 

Then, just before the show was about to begin, my phone lit up with a text message notification: We won’t be able to make it tonight. So sorry!

 

Now, not only was I cold, but I was disappointed, too. I was looking forward to spending time with our friends, which is a rare thing these days, and now it wasn’t going to happen.

 

At that moment, I wasn’t the most content person at JBs. I felt a bit sorry for the piano players because I was a pretty tough customer; it was going to take something monumentally entertaining to shake me out of my somber mood.

 

Godspeed, piano men. Let the show begin.

 

jbs-crowd

I watched as the tables in the room filled up with people talking and laughing, ready to have a good time. Most of them were about half my age, but I spotted a few others representing other decades, too.

 

The show opened with the gregarious Mike Manson playing the piano on the right, and the hipster BJ Huffman playing the piano on the left, and Ron Savage joining them on drums in the center of the stage.

 

jbs-trio

Their fingers danced across the ivories, pushing the lively music through the keys and out into the room, where it touched the audience members with its upbeat energy.

 

Okay, piano men. You have my attention.

 

Requests started pouring in, with audience members dropping slips of paper into glasses positioned on either piano.

 

Mike and BJ took turns playing the requests, which included songs that represented different decades, like Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” from the ‘80s, Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” from the ‘90s, and John Legend’s “All of Me”, a current hit.

 

 

Then the notes to a ‘70s classic filled the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a subtle movement. Was that my boot-clad foot actually tapping along to the beat?

 

Sweet Caroline,

Good times never felt so good

 

“So good, so good, so good!” 

 

That was me, my voice joining others in the crowd responding to Neil Diamond’s famous chorus lyrics.

 

I’d been infected by the music.

 

I was having fun.

 

My coat was off. My phone was tucked into my purse so that I wouldn’t have to read another apologetic text from my absent friend.

 

My mind was right there in the room at JBs, focusing on the moment and allowing myself to feel the excitement and joy of hearing live music.

 

jbs-ymca

“YMCA” was a crowd favorite that night.

 

Then Mike read the next request, scratched his head, then declared, “Whether we know it or don’t know it, we’ll try it.” With that, he picked up his phone and searched for the lyrics of the requested song: Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman.”

 

He then proceeded to play his heart out while reading the lyrics, doing a great job of performing a song that was unfamiliar to him.

 

The audience also got a kick out of hearing him sing, “Man, I feel like a woman.”

 

I’d started the night cold and disappointed and in a foul mood, but experiencing the palpable energy of live music cleared my head and allowed room for something more joyous.

 

So now I’ll let my gal Shania sum up the rest of my night at JBs:

 

The best thing about being a woman

Is the prerogative to have a little fun.

 
Well done, piano men!

 

 

JBs Downtown is located at 112 South Main Street. Click here to visit its website.

 

Check out these other Joplin venues where you can hear live music: Blackthorn Pizza & Pub, Turtleheads Raw Bar, and Tropicana Bar & Grill.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Girls’ Day at George Washington Carver National Monument

My friend Johanna is a firecracker: fun, friendly, and full of energy. Her life has been an adventure; she came to Joplin from Germany almost two decades ago and has traveled to over 20 states, which is more than many Americans can claim. I think she also knows more about our country’s history than many Americans, too.

 

Time spent with Johanna activates my wanderlust and elevates my IQ.

 

Ever since Johanna moved from Joplin to Oklahoma a few years ago, I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. When she does visit, we try to maximize our time together by doing things that speak to our combined love of travel and history.

 

And the outdoors.

 

After all, this woman grew up with the Alps as her playground. 

 

Johanna visited Joplin recently, on an autumn weekend when the sun’s rays beamed down as strong as on a summer’s day, and the air felt balmy. We wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably warm day, so we ditched our lunch plans and instead met at a place where we could spend time outdoors basking in the sun, then venture inside to soak up history and learn something new.

 

That and wrinkle cream would keep us young, we figured.

 

We decided on a place just south of Joplin that offers heavy doses of nature therapy, as well as educational, historical, and even spiritual lessons: George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond.

 

This 240-acre park was established in 1943 and is part of the National Park Service. It’s also the first national park to be named after a non-president, as well as the first one to be dedicated to an African American.

 

It’s also one of my favorite places to visit in southwest Missouri.

 

I met Johanna at the welcome center, which houses a variety of exhibits. Although I’d been to this park numerous times before, I’d always come with my kids, finding it challenging to immerse myself in the exhibits while trying to keep track of them.

 

So coming that day with Johanna was like seeing parts of the center for the first time; specifically, the first-floor exhibit which details the biography of George Washington Carver. This time, I actually got the chance to read and learn about Carver without little hands tugging on my shirt sleeve.

 

gwc-girls-boy-painting

George Washington Carver was a slave owned by Moses and Susan Carver. The Carvers raised George on their farm in Diamond Grove after his mother was kidnapped by Confederate night-raiders when George was a baby. George was a sickly boy, so he was excused from chores and allowed to wander the woods and prairie instead, during which time he learned about native plants and developed a talent for taking care of them, earning the name of the “Plant Doctor.”

 

“Hmm,” said Johanna. “I’d always thought he was ‘The Peanut Man.’”

 

While Carver is known as “The Peanut Man” because he discovered multiple ways to use peanuts, he also invented uses for a variety of other crops. He spent his life exploring and educating, and blazed the trail for other African Americans to follow.

 

gwc-discovery

On the second floor of the center, there’s an interactive science and nature exhibit which features examples of the animals that Carver encountered on his daily walks around the homestead, as well as native plants and the multiple uses that Carver found for them, which is extensive.

 

gwc-girls-lab

Next to this area is a lab where demonstrations, like how to make peanut milk, are held on the weekend.

 

gwc-girls-classroom

Also upstairs is one of my favorite places at the center: the schoolroom.

 

“Check these out,” I said to Johanna, placing a 100-year-old schoolbook and an iPad-sized slate board in front of where she was seated at the wooden table. “Can you imagine what our kids would think if these were their school supplies?”

 

“I’m not sure they would understand what to do with the chalk,” she said with a chuckle.

 

Besides the novelty of looking at the teaching tools from Carver’s era, what I love most about this schoolroom is the information on its walls which offers examples of Carver acting as a humanitarian and teacher.

 

For instance, Carver the scientist never patented his inventions; he wanted everyone to have access so that they could use them.

 

gwc-girls-schoolroom-painting

As a teacher, Carver shared eight cardinal virtues with his students:

 

1st: Be clean both inside and outside.

2nd: Who neither looks up to the rich or down to the poor.

3rd: Who loses, if needs be, without squealing.

4th: Who wins without bragging.

5th: Who is always considerate of women, children and old people.

6th: Who is too brave to lie.

7th: Who is too generous to cheat.

8th: Who takes his share of the world and lets others have theirs.

 

 

“Carver would have made a great president,” I said to Johanna.

 

 

At this point, we wanted to get outside and explore the area that inspired the great and humble Carver, so we hit the trail.

 

Before entering the forest, the ¾-mile nature trail passes a replica of the base of the cabin in which Carver was born.

 

“It says here that the cabin measured 12 feet by 12 feet,” said Johanna, reading the historical marker. “Can you imagine that?”

 

“Um, no.”

 

We continued our walk, watching leaves detach from the branches above, dance through the air, then come to rest on the forest floor. At one point, we paused on a bridge that spanned a sparkling spring and admired the reflection of the autumn sky mixed with the fallen leaves.

 

gwc-girls-trees-1

In the silence, I thought about Carver’s quote: I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.

 

At that moment, I had adjusted the dial and was all ears.

 

That connection remained with me as I continued on the trail, observing the nature around me: the occasional twitter of songbirds, and squirrels searching earnestly for a winter hiding spot for their acorns.

 

I savored that connected feeling as we passed the Carver homestead, emerging from the forest and onto the open prairie, which provided a contrasting landscape and beauty of its own.

 

gwc-girls-homestead

At the end of the trail, we stopped at the bronze bust of Carver and I thought about how this former slave rose from his circumstances and forged a successful path in his life all on his own.

 

More than just a girls’ afternoon excursion, this trip to George Washington Carver National Monument had proven to be a day of education and inspiration.

 

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.   – George Washington Carver

 
 

George Washington Carver National Monument is located at 5646 Carver Road in Diamond, Missouri. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Siblings Improv

The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.

 

I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.

 

siblings-guys

I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!

 

But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.

 

siblings-group-front

Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.

 

This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have, performing regularly at JBs Downtown Joplin, where I happened to be watching them that night, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment.

siblings-ladies

It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.

 

The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!

 

“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:

 

I’m Susan.

Not “B. Anthony.”

“B. Tony.”

 

siblings-susan

Susan B. Tony

 

Quick wit – I love it!

 

In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public. 

 

Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.

 

For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation

“I’ve been wanting to go inside this house since I was a little kid.”

 

The man in line in front of me articulated a general sentiment among many of the people huddled underneath the tent that protected us from the steady drizzle on that appropriately eerie Halloween Eve.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-north

We were waiting to enter the magnificent historic home of Charles Schifferdecker, one of the founding fathers of Joplin. With its three-story battlement-topped tower and raised foundation made from rough-faced stone, the home resembles a castle. I’d driven by countless times and was always curious to see what the interior looked like, and after listening to the people in line with me that night, I realized that I wasn’t the only one.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-front

Thanks to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, we were getting the chance to glimpse inside this stately home as part of a special two-day celebration which commemorated the 100-year anniversary of Charles Schifferdecker’s death and which celebrated the many contributions that he made to the city of Joplin during his life.

 

Named after the first residential neighborhood in Joplin, Historic Murphysburg Preservation is a non-profit group dedicated to historic preservation through education and community involvement. The group organizes events which invite people inside some of Joplin’s oldest structures so that they can better understand – and appreciate – the roots of our modern city.

 

Held on the last weekend of October 2015, the “Mr. Charles Schifferdecker…Remembered and Revisited” event spanned two days and three locations, kicking off with a Friday night tour of the Schifferdecker home on 422 Sergeant, which was built in 1890.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mannequins

Halloween decorations filled the grounds, and the rainy night created patches of fog that swirled mysteriously around the entrance to the home, creating a spooky vibe. I thought for sure I would be greeted by the ghost of Charles Schifferdecker himself when I stepped inside the home, but instead I found the interior to be warm and welcoming – and not the least bit haunted.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-dining

A man and woman dressed as Charles Schifferdecker and his wife Wilhelmina greeted those of us on the tour and told us about the history of the home and its architectural details. The arched windows, elegant stained glass, and rich wood trim work were carefully crafted by workers that Schifferdecker brought over from his native Germany, and represent the success that Schifferdecker enjoyed during his life in Joplin.

 

murphysburg-schiff-photo

After touring the first floor of the home, we stopped at the refreshment table to get some goodies to snack on, then sat down under a tent on the outside patio to watch a performance from the American Opera Studio, performed in period costumes, of course.

 

The entire experience of that evening provided us with a living history lesson, and gave us a greater appreciation for one of Joplin’s founding fathers.

 

Activities planned for the following day – Halloween – included a tour of the elaborate Schifferdecker Family Mausoleum (with two sphinxes standing guard at the entrance), and then a tour of the Schifferdecker Beer and Picnic Gardens, which was established around 1876, and is now a private residence. Although I didn’t make it to the mausoleum tour, I did visit the beer gardens.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-front

Charles Schifferdecker arrived in Joplin with the goal of opening up a brewery which would serve the hardworking miners in the area. He established “Turkey Creek Brewery” on the banks of – you guessed it – Turkey Creek, located in what is now the north part of Joplin on a dead-end road. Because of its hidden location, I never knew that this oasis existed just moments from the bustling commercial Range Line Road until Historic Murphysburg Preservation invited the public to come explore the house and grounds.

 

In addition to serving beer at this brewery, Schifferdecker also provided entertainment in the gardens. There was a raised platform for dancing, plus an expansive grassy area with lawn bowling lanes. Historic Murphysburg Preservation recreated the essence of what it was like back in the brewery days.

 

There was a performance by the American Opera Studio (in period attire).

 

murphysburg-shiff-house-opera

There was lawn bowling for visitors to enjoy. My daughter really got into it!

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-lawn

And there was a beer tent where people could sample and purchase beer and other beverages.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-beer

We were also able to tour Schifferdecker’s historic home, which was built against a bluff and had a beer cave next to it that always stays below 50 degrees – a perfect place to chill beer and to seek some sweet relief on sweltering Ozark summer days.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-side

After touring the home, we took a leisurely stroll along picturesque Turkey Creek, which borders the gardens. The image that we saw of the trees’ changing leaves reflecting on the clear water was probably identical to the image that Charles Schifferdecker saw on Halloween in 1876.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-creek

Over a century has passed, but not much has changed in the gardens, and it kind of boggles the mind to think about that.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation holds various events throughout the year, opening up historic locations for the public to view and to experience firsthand. These events offer an immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect to Joplin’s history and community in a uniquely captivating way.

 

For more information on Historic Murphysburg Preservation’s events, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Joplin Trails

Ding.

 

My gaze shifted from my laptop screen over to my phone where a message illuminated my home screen: Looking forward to Happy Hour.

 

I smiled as I typed my response: Only two more hours!

 

Happy Hour was dangling in front of me like a carrot that Friday afternoon, driving me to finish up my work so that I could reward myself by meeting my friend Shanon for some quality time together.

 

The plan was for me to meet her after work. She’s a schoolteacher, so her work day ends in the late afternoon, giving us a head start on celebrating the weekend. So once my own kids got home from school and got settled, I bolted for the door.

 

“Don’t get too crazy,” cautioned my husband.

 

I laughed – kind of crazily, I might add.

 

The moment I got in the car, I rolled down the windows and cranked up the volume on the radio. The breeze swirled around me, removing any remnants of stress that had attached to me that week and forcing them out the window. Ah, sweet release.

 

I pulled next to Shanon’s car in the parking lot. She was standing behind it with her foot up on the bumper, tying the laces on her walking shoes. She was dressed in her yoga pants and t-shirt, ready to hit the trails.

 

Trails?

 

But I thought this was Happy Hour, you say.

 

It is. It’s our version of Happy Hour (well, one of them, anyway); it’s where we escape from work and from home and find solitude on the walking trails in Joplin. At this stage of our lives, this is our definition of happiness, and we were going to enjoy an hour of it that Friday afternoon.

 

girilfriend-trails-canopy

 

That day we were walking the Frisco Greenway Trail in the north part of the city. The Frisco Trail was a “rails-to-trails” project; a 3.5-mile portion of the former St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad, once important to the mining industry in the Joplin and Webb City areas, was converted into a hiking and biking trail in an effort to promote a healthier community.

 

What Shanon and I like about the Frisco Trail is that it’s conveniently located within the city, yet with the canopy of trees overhead, it feels like we are miles from civilization. We passed a few joggers and bikers, but the rest of the time we had the trail to ourselves, giving us the opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives without interruption – which is a rare thing for us these days.

 

girlfriend-trails-caterpillar

We turned off the crushed gravel portion of the trail onto the paved spur that follows Turkey Creek, giving us a peaceful view of the water on one side and the woods on the other. We walked until we realized that the sun had dipped past the horizon, then we begrudgingly turned back. Happy Hour was ending just when we felt like it was getting started!

 

But once you experience Happy Hour, you’re left craving more, so as Shanon and I walked back to our cars we discussed plans for our next one.

 

And with several trail systems in the Joplin area, we could even trail-hop if we wanted to. 

 

The following Joplin trails are great places to enjoy Happy Hour. So raise your water bottle and say “Cheers!”

 

Frisco Trail: There are three parking areas available along the Frisco Trail, one at each trail head: the south end (on East North Street between North School and North Division Streets); midway (on North Saint Louis Avenue, just south of Zora Street); and the north end (behind Crowder College at Ellis and 5th Streets in Webb City). Click here for coordinates for the trailheads from the Joplin Trail’s Coalition website.

 

Turkey Creek Trail: Just east of the Frisco Trail, this 1.5-mile paved trail is hilly in some spots, but its short distance makes it doable. For those who want more of a challenge, there are some single-track trails located off of the main trail, one of which follows the edge of a bluff. The parking lot for Turkey Creek Trail is located at North Florida Avenue and Newman Road.

 

Wildcat Park: Located just south of Joplin, this park has over 4 miles of walking trails, one that cuts through the desert-like chert glade, one that winds through the woods and along the banks of sparkling Shoal Creek, and one that climbs a hill and follows the the edge of a bluff, offering a bird’s eye view of the creek below. Wildcat Park is located at 201 Riviera Drive.

 

girlfriend-trails-wildcat-bluff

 

Walter Woods Conservation Area: Also south of Joplin, this conservation area is filled with towering oak and hickory trees, tranquil ponds and a bubbling, freshwater spring. The 1-mile trail system here is paved, and pets are welcome. Walter Woods is located at 5265 Eland Road.

 

girlfriend-trails-ww-pond

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Schifferdecker Golf Course

I always welcome any chance to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day in the Ozarks. And if I can do so while spending some kid-free quality time with my husband – even better.

 

Such an opportunity came my way a few weeks ago on a picture-perfect late summer day, complete with azure skies and balmy temperatures. While the kids were at school, my husband and I seized the moment, dusted off our golf clubs and zipped across town to Schifferdecker Golf Course.

 

Situated on historic Route 66 (Seventh Street) and Schifferdecker Avenue, Schifferdecker is Joplin’s only public 18-hole course. Designed by Jim “Slat” Larimere, it opened on June 29, 1922, and each year it hosts the Ozark Amateur, one of the oldest medal-play tournaments in the U.S.

 

Schiff golf clubhouse

While I wasn’t expecting to win a trophy on the day we went (I hadn’t played since before having kids), I did hope to learn a tip or two from my, ahem, ever-patient husband who is much more experienced than I am at playing golf.

 

We checked in at the historic clubhouse, and took a moment to look around the inside which is filled with photos of past golf champs like Leonard Ott, a local pro who won the 1929 Ozark Amateur.

 

Schiff golf ott

There’s also a map hanging on the wall, dated April 4, 1965. It gave me an overview of what I could expect on the course that day.

 

Schiff golf map

In order to cover that distance efficiently (like, before the kids got home from school), my husband and I picked up the keys to these fancy wheels.

 

Schiff golf carts

At the first hole, I was excited to reacquaint myself with my favorite golf club, the driver, and to hear the thwacking sound it makes when it contacts the ball. I couldn’t wait to see my ball sail over hundreds of yards of Schifferdecker’s Bermuda fairways.

 

schiff golf fairway

Did I say yards? I meant feet. And not hundreds of them. But, hey, a girl can dream.

 

While the course is relatively flat, there are some small rolling hills. Growing up in Illinois, I was used to flat golf courses, so when we came across this periscope at the second hole, my husband had to explain its purpose to me.

 

Schiff golf peri

He instructed me to look through the periscope to see if the golfers in front of us had finished playing the second hole and had cleared the valley. Luckily I checked; otherwise my super fierce drive might have knocked one of them out cold.

 

I’m glad I didn’t hit anyone that day, and I’m relieved that I never had to fish my ball out of any water, either. Fortunately, Schifferdecker’s course only has two areas of water, and my ball somehow managed to avoid them.

 

Schiff golf water

While my favorite part of the game was driving the ball down the fairway, my best strokes that day proved to be on the green. After all, I’ve honed my putting skills after years of mini-golf with the kids.

 

Schiff golf green

What are the best things about playing golf at Schifferdecker Golf Course? It’s open year-round, it’s accessible to golfers of all skill levels, and the fees are very reasonable.

 

schiff golf swing

When I asked my husband what he thought about Schifferdecker’s course, he said that he liked its openness because it makes for a much more forgiving course.

 

Hmm, I wonder if he’s forgiven the tree that his ball ricocheted off of and then sent flying over to the neighboring fairway…

 

 

Schifferdecker Golf Course is located at 506 South Schifferdecker Avenue. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Joplin Arts Fest

Ah, September in southwest Missouri.

 

It’s a time when the weighty summer air dissipates, revealing a clear sky the color of a robin’s egg. After spending the sizzling days of summer indoors in the air-conditioning, people emerge from their homes to breathe in the cooler air and to reconnect – with the outdoors, and with each other.

 

When summer hibernation ends, the community festival season begins. One of the first festivals of the season is Joplin Arts Fest.  While art is the star of the festival, you can also listen to live music, grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks, cool down with a drink from the beer/wine tent, and watch the kids get creative doing artistic activities (and get their faces painted, too).

 

joplin arts fest overall

The tranquil setting of Joplin’s Mercy Park serves as a backdrop for this festival which features over 40 local and regional artists displaying a variety of work. There’s pottery, glass art, sculptures, drawings, photography, woodworking, and jewelry. Here are some of the highlights of art I saw, along with links to the artists’ websites so you can see for yourself how gifted they are.

 

Steve Doerr of The Wooden Doerr turns pieces of wood into works of art.

 

joplin arts-fest-wooden-doerr

To me, it’s a miracle how he does it. Check out the brilliant turquoise running through this piece of maple. It’s absolutely stunning!

 

arts-fest-wooden-doerr-turquoise

The work of Andrew Batcheller, a Kansas City native living in Joplin, has an otherworldly feeling to it.

 

joplin arts fest batcheller

Batcheller frequently uses birds as subjects to represent the human condition. His work is powerful and deep, and I find myself seeking the artist’s description of his work in order to fully understand the meaning behind each piece.

 

Sometimes photographs can look like paintings, and the work of Ron Mellott of Bloomington, Indiana, is an example of that. Here is a photo he took of some aspens in autumn in Colorado.

 

joplin arts fest mellott

Now for Natalie Wiseman, a previous Joplin Arts Fest Best in Show winner.

 

arts-fest-natalie-wiseman

I was introduced to Natalie’s work at Spiva Center for the Arts a few years ago and became an instant fan. Her bright, somewhat surreal still life paintings are whimsical and fun, like this one called Sink or Swim.

 

arts-fest-wiseman-sink-or-swim

Arts Fest also has booths offering children’s activities, like this one from Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center where kids can make a painting with a fish stamp.

 

arts-fest-fish-painting

Live music has its place at Joplin Arts Fest, as well.  There’s a pavilion next to the water where local musicians perform throughout the day. Past performers include JOMO JazzJoshin the Giants (bluegrass and country), Kufara (a marimba ensemble), and Ozark Bards (folk songs of the Ozarks).

 

joplin arts fest music

Cool off with an adult beverage from the beer/wine tent, and be sure to sample from the variety of food trucks at the festival, including Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse PizzaEl Taco Loco (street tacos), Fried Fancies (gourmet funnel cakes), and Pineapple Bliss (low-calorie, soft-serve frozen treats).

 

joplin arts fest-pineapple-bliss

Turn off the A/C, open those windows, and let that cool September air flow through your house. Meanwhile, you can join your friends and neighbors in beautiful Mercy Park to celebrate the beauty of the season at Joplin Arts Fest.

 


Joplin Arts Fest is held at Mercy Park, 3002 St. John’s Boulevard. For details about this year’s event, visit JoplinArtsFest.com.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

(Updated 9/21/18)

Water’s Edge Girls’ Float Trip

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Silence engulfed me. It was 8:00 a.m. and all of my children were off to school. The house was finally still.

 

This was the time of day when I usually fired up my laptop and started working. But not today. I opened my eyes and reached for my cell phone. “Ready?” I typed.

 

“I was born ready,” came the response from my friend Julie.

 

Five minutes later I was at her doorstep, giddy with excitement. While our kids were at school and most everybody else we knew was working, we were playing hooky.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-selfie

 

A warm breeze wafted through the trees, foreshadowing a hot September afternoon. “Did you pack sunscreen?” Julie asked.

 

“Two bottles.” We would definitely need it that day. With the sun reflecting off the sparkling waters of Shoal Creek and onto our skin, we’d be red as heirloom tomatoes in under an hour without protection.

 

Our mission that day was to leave the fast-paced, obligation-filled world behind us, immersing ourselves in the serenity of nature.

 

Just two girls and a canoe.

 

And sunscreen.

 

And a cooler with beverages and snacks, and a waterproof bag for our keys and cell phones (yes, we brought those because what if the schools needed to reach us about our kids?).

 

Julie and I had planned this getaway for months. This was our chance to disconnect from our responsibilities and just go with the flow, literally. We had reserved a canoe at Water’s Edge Campground, just south of Joplin, and we were going to spend the next few hours floating our cares away.

 

waters-edge-sign

Water’s Edge is comprised of 43 acres of raw southwest Missouri beauty, with pristine Shoal Creek meandering through it. Visitors can purchase a day pass for swimming and fishing, or they can rent a canoe and spend the day floating on the creek. There’s also a campground on the property that offers RV and primitive camping.

 

After checking in, Julie and I were driven from the rental area to the put-in point where we began our trip. Julie got in the canoe like the old pro that she is (well, she’s not “old,” just much more experienced at canoeing than I am), but I wobbled a bit as I entered, losing my grip on the bag I was holding, sending it splashing into the water.

 

Julie quickly fished it out of the creek before it sank. “And so our adventure begins,” she laughed. I was thankful that my husband had given us the waterproof bag that he brings with him on his fishing trips, and all of our things remained nice and dry.

 

Once we got settled, we pushed off from the bank. The lush trees formed a canopy overhead, nestling us in their shade. Neither one of us spoke for several minutes; we were lost in our thoughts, hypnotized by the rhythmic sound of the paddles sploshing through the water and the occasional call of a songbird.

 

“…all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young, the music issued at the lips.”― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

 
waters-edge-girls-float-creek

Being infused with a dose of the great outdoors was as therapeutic as a day at the spa – maybe even more so. And the fact that we were playing hooky from our regular responsibilities intensified the experience.

 

“We’re like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, mischievously skipping school and whiling away the day on the water, seeking out adventure,” I mused.

 

“But way cooler, because we’re girls,” Julie joked.

 

But her comment made me think (because that’s what you do when you’re floating down a river). How often do we, as working moms, give ourselves permission to have a “ditch day?”

 

Not often enough.

 

As Julie and I made our way back to the campground area, we occasionally paused to watching a turtle surface or a snake wiggle its way to shore. The wildlife seemed undisturbed by our presence, and since it was a school/work day, we only passed one other canoe the entire time – a fellow rebel.

 

“We should make this a yearly tradition, Tom” said Julie.

 

“I agree, Huck.”

 

I could get used to this carefree, rebellious life.

 

“They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.”

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

 

 

Water’s Edge is located at 6614 Old Highway 71 in Joplin. Click here to visit Water’s Edge on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Girls’ Weekend in Joplin

Back in 1982, the bubbly all-girl rock band, the Go-Go’s, released a song that I immediately adopted as my holiday anthem.

 

Vacation, all I ever wanted

Vacation, had to get away

 

The Go-Go’s showed me that spending time with my girlfriends could be a blast; in the video for their songVacation,” I watched all five of these band members and friends water ski in formation while wearing tutus and tiaras.

 

It was ridiculous and fun, and after seeing their video, I vowed to be as carefree as the Go-Go’s and to continue to make time to play with my friends – even as a grown-up.

 

So, did I keep that vow?

 

Although it can be challenging these days to round up my friends, find tiaras and tutus, and rent waterskis, I do try to fit in some girl time whenever possible. Recently, I was able to get my friends to agree to an entire weekend of play. I thought long and hard about where we could go and what we could do, and finally came up with an itinerary that would maximize our fun time.

 

I suggested doing a staycation right here in Joplin.

 

By booking a room at a local hotel, we’d still be able to get away from our everyday responsibilities, plus we’d have more time for doing fun things because we wouldn’t have to spend time in the car traveling to another city.

 

My friends agreed. We packed our bags, said goodbye to our families, and transformed ourselves into tourists in our hometown for one blissful weekend.

 

Friday

We kicked off our staycation on a Friday afternoon by heading to downtown Joplin to do some serious shopping. I felt giddy about being able to take my time perusing the hip boutiques and markets. I could linger at these stores because there were no time limitations on this staycation, either. That is, we could stay and shop until the stores closed their doors. And, I was prepared to do just that.

 

blue moon canopy

 
Hours later, we suddenly realized that we were ravenous. We wanted a nearby place where we could rest our feet and enjoy a good meal. We chose to eat at the Red Onion Cafe, a casual urban restaurant that’s been one of the top restaurants in Joplin since it opened in 1995.

 

Saturday

It’s an unwritten rule that any girls’ weekend must include some form of pampering. This is one rule that I have no intention of ever breaking. So, after a light breakfast at the hotel, my friends and I spent the rest of the morning letting others take care of us at Oasis Salon and Day Spa, a full-service spa and salon, where the magical staff is always able to melt away the stress in my life and leave me feeling blissful.

 

oasis fountain

 

Why is it that time at the spa seems to go so quickly? Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. We decided to eat at Ichiban, a sushi restaurant close to Oasis. Light and healthy, sushi was the perfect post-spa meal.

 

Still, we were exhausted from being catered to all morning, so we went back to the hotel to nap. Such problems, right?

 

When we woke up, we wanted to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, so we decided to take a walk through Joplin’s original residential district, Murphysburg. The grand homes here still stand proud, more than a century after they were built. Seeing the different architectural styles and learning the history of the homes made this a unique and memorable walk.

 

Tour Schifferdecker

 

Since Murphysburg is just a few blocks from bustling Main Street, we chose to finish off our evening enjoying cocktails and dinner at the popular Club 609. There’s a daily happy hour here, which made us very, very happy. The food here ranges from light appetizers to casual gourmet entrees, and is consistently delicious.

 

Sunday

The last day of our staycation. Sniff Sniff. We checked out of the hotel and headed straight to our favorite breakfast place, The Bruncheonette. It might not look like much on the outside, but this farm-to-table establishment creates breakfast, brunch, and lunch items that make your mouth sing.

 

brunch micro greens

 

After stuffing ourselves at The Bruncheonette, we desperately fought off the urge to nap. My friend suggested another walk downtown. Because it was Sunday, I didn’t think we’d be able to see much, but she reminded me that there are things that we can see and appreciate in Joplin any day of the year: our town’s murals. Appreciating public art on a beautiful day? Count me in.

 

keltoi teardrops 2

 

The mural tour took about an hour, leaving us plenty of time for the last stop on our staycation: Keltoi Winery. Located just north of Joplin in Oronogo, Missouri, Keltoi is an Irish winery that offers wine tastings and the perfect location to chill with your friends for an afternoon. And we did just that, chatting on the patio and sipping our wine right up until Keltoi closed for the day.

 

Staycation, all I ever wanted

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.