Digging into Joplin History

My dad’s the type of guy who devours books about history for fun. I think he’s read every David McCullough book out there, and he retains all that information. At age 86, he’s a walking encyclopedia (or is database a more relevant term?) of historical facts.

 

When I was a kid, our summer vacations included stops at museums and important historical sites like Gettysburg and Vicksburg, where my siblings and I would pout because there we were, standing on empty battlefields instead of splashing in a hotel pool like our peers.

 

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for dragging me to a museum on my summer vacation…

 

But, decades later, I find myself seeking stories of local places, and the people connected to them, and writing about these subjects for a living.

 

How’s that for karma?

 

With age comes wisdom, and while I might not read history books for pleasure like my dad does, I have acquired a healthy respect for it.

 

To demonstrate that (and to atone for my lousy adolescent attitude), I often take my dad to historical places in the Joplin area when he and my mom come to visit from Chicago (now via a direct flight from O’Hare to the Joplin Regional Airport – woohoo!).

 

Here’s what we did on their most recent trip to Joplin.

 

 

Friday

After a lazy morning, I rounded up the troops and we headed to the Joplin Museum Complex (JMC), a collection of museums which comprehensively covers the different aspects and eras of Joplin’s history.

 

Our first stop at the JMC was the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, which details the extensive mining industry that put Joplin on the map. The entrance to the museum resembles a mine shaft, with numerous slabs of rocks and minerals on display. “Everything here is so sparkly!” said my youngest daughter, her eyes wide with amazement.

 

“Look at this,” my mom said, waving my daughter over to an exhibit. “Can you believe there once was a giant cave made of crystals right here in Joplin? They even held concerts inside!”

 

My daughter’s mind was blown.

 

My mom was referring to Crystal Cave, which was discovered in 1893. Comprised of calcite crystals, the cave was considered one of the world’s largest geodes, and was a popular tourist attraction in the early 20th century. But when the area mines closed, the water pumps that kept the cave dry were turned off, allowing groundwater to flood it. Today, an asphalt parking lot lies over the sealed off cave, with a small sign offering the only indication of the magnificent geological formation underfoot.

 

After learning about the industry that built our city, we walked to the south side of the museum complex to the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum to see how mining impacted Joplin’s civic and cultural development. Here, artifacts are displayed from the most significant periods in Joplin’s history.

 

“Well, I’ll be,” I heard my dad say as he examined something in the collection. “That’s Bonnie Parker,” he said, pointing to a black-and-white photo of the woman who comprised one half of the infamous duo of Bonnie and Clyde.

 

“And that’s some of the jewelry that she wore,” I said, pointing to several colorful pieces of costume jewelry in the display case. “She left it behind when the apartment they were hiding in right here in Joplin was ambushed.”

 

“Is the building still here?” my dad asked.

 

“Actually, it’s the next stop on our list.”

 

We drove about four miles to 3347 ½ Oak Ridge Drive to the garage apartment that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, along with Buck and Blanche Barrow (Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law), and W.D. Jones (another member of the gang) stayed at in April 1933. They were there for nearly two weeks when, on April 13, several lawmen approached the building, having been tipped off that there might be some bootleggers holing up there. The gang immediately began firing on the lawmen, killing two of them, then fled in Clyde’s Ford-V8.

 

In the chaos of the ambush, they left behind guns, jewelry, and a roll of film that contained photos of the gang members, including the iconic photo of Bonnie posing with a cigar in her mouth and a gun at her side.

 

After my dad snapped photos of the gang’s hideout, he said, “I wonder what it looks like on the inside.”

 

“Well, if you want to spend the night in it, you can,” I told him. “It’s listed on AirBnB.”

 

He looked puzzled. “On what?

 

“I’ll explain it over lunch,” I said, heading back to the car. We loaded up our gang – a much less scandalous one than Barrow’s – and headed a mile south to The Eagle Drive-In.

 

 

This small drive-in may feel like a typical burger joint, but one glance at the menu and you know that it is anything but. For example, the signature beef burger here is topped with a quail egg, and from there, the burger meat choices become more exotic: elk, bison, and lamb.

 

 

My oldest daughter ordered The #6 Burger, which was comprised of an elk patty with Malbec and clover honey, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese. I went the meatless route and ordered the Falafel Burger, topped with onion, tomatoes, feta, and tzatziki sauce.

 

Portions are generous at The Eagle Drive-In, and after our meal, we were ready to head back to our house, change into some forgiving pants, and rest up for the next day of exploring.

 

 

Saturday

“Rise and shine!” I summoned my inner Mary Poppins as I went from room to room, waking my children, who were reluctant to rise so early on a Saturday morning. When I knocked on my parents’ door, my dad answered, already dressed for the day. He was eager to start exploring.

 

I wanted to get to The Bruncheonette for breakfast early, as this tiny, yet popular, farm-to-table diner often fills up within minutes of opening. We lucked out and secured a position toward the front of the line. As my parents examined the menu at the counter, I explained that the “Benny” options were variations of traditional Eggs Benedict, which I knew was one of my mom’s favorite breakfast dishes.

 

“Oh, this is a hard decision,” she said. “But I think I’ll go with the Benny Harper.” This version is made with bacon and avocado in addition to the traditional elements. I ordered the Garden Benny, made with asparagus, tomatoes, truffled arugula, and beet Hollandaise.

 

 

Other dishes that our group ordered ranged from the savory Darth Vato Tacos, filled with scrambled eggs and chorizo, to the sweet Crepes with Bananas and Nutella.

 

After breakfast, we drove just a few blocks to the historic Murphysburg district, the very first residential area of Joplin where the founding fathers of the city built stately homes over a century ago. “This reminds me of the Garden District in New Orleans,” said my mom, taking in the sight of full, mature trees, and the variety of intricate and graceful architectural styles.

 

“That’s what I’ve always thought,” I agreed.

 

 

In 1871, Patrick Murphy purchased 41 acres of land near what is now downtown Joplin and named this area Murphysburg. In 1873, it merged with Joplin City to become Joplin.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation, the organization that promotes that preservation of this residential district, has created a tour of Murphysburg that can be found online. While this tour can be done by car, my family was itching to explore it on foot.

 

We strolled along the shaded sidewalks, careful to sidestep the areas where the strong tree roots had pushed the concrete out their way in a show of dominance. I’d picked up a history guide and a brochure of the different architectural styles of Murphysburg from the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau to provide some additional historical details to my family during our tour.

 

“Ooh, that one is my favorite!” my youngest daughter said, pointing to a graceful Queen Anne home painted the color of sunshine. “Yellow is my favorite color,” she explained to my parents.

 

 

“That’s the Dr. Albert Winchester House,” I said. “Dr. Winchester reportedly delivered over 2,500 babies in Joplin.”

 

We saw a few more homes on that block and then headed north, pausing at the intersection of 4th and Sergeant. “That house reminds me of a castle,” my middle daughter said, referring to the imposing Romanesque style of the Charles Schifferdecker House.

 

“That’s because it was built to look like a castle from Germany, which is where Charles Schifferdecker was from.” One of the most important figures in Joplin’s history, Schifferdecker had come to the area at age 18 and opened a brewery, and later work in the mining industry. A successful businessman, he became one of the greatest philanthropists of our city.

 

At the end of the tour, the group was ready to rest and refuel before seeing more downtown sights, so we drove to Main Street to have lunch at M&M Bistro. Owned by Mehrdad Alvandi (the host with the kind smile) and his wife Minoo (the talented chef), this restaurant brings Mediterranean fare such as spanakopita, moussaka, and gyro sandwiches to the Joplin area.

 

 

The portions here are generous, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a piece of the sweet and flaky baklava for dessert. I think it might be encoded in my family’s DNA that we physically cannot resist an opportunity to eat dessert.

 

 

As we left the restaurant, I asked “Who’s ready to learn about Route 66 and how this important highway impacted Joplin?” My Baby Boomer parents enthusiastically said, “We are!” while my children tried unsuccessfully to stifle their yawns.

 

Their bored expressions reminded me of how I must have looked to my parents on those road trips decades ago. But despite my desire to be swimming instead of reading placards at a historical battlefield and other such places, I actually did learn things, and I did form memories that have spanned the years. Someday my kids will say the same about our travel experiences, too.

 

I hope.

 

“You all know that we are standing on Main Street right now,” I began, “but did you know that this was part of the original Route 66, too? And across the street is a park dedicated to just that.”

 

Route 66 Mural Park is an urban space that features an oversized 45-record imprint of the iconic song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, plus two murals: Cruisin’ into Joplin, and below that, The American Ribbon, which traces Route 66 from beginning to end, and has a curious object in front of it – a bifurcated red 1964 Corvette (which happens to make a great backdrop for photos).

 

 

After seeing the car, my dad turned to me and said, “Remember my ‘51 Chevy?”

 

How could I not? He had bought that car when I was a teen, and I remember him puffing on a fat Macanudo cigar in the front seat, blissfully unaware of my discomfort in the back, the itchy wool seats and lack of air conditioning making me long for the modern comforts of our ‘80s station wagon.

 

Traveling in the air-conditioned station wagon.

But seeing the wistful look in his eyes, I didn’t dare crush his spirit by telling him how exactly I remembered his Chevy, so I simply said, “Yes.”

 

“Now, that was a great cruising car.” There was something about the way he said that that shifted something inside of me. Instead of using my teenager eyes and viewing that old car as an annoyance, I finally saw it through my dad’s eyes: as a virtual time machine, transporting him back to the carefree times of his youth.

 

I got it now.

 

“Want to see what Joplin looked like in the heyday of the Route 66 era?” I asked. We walked across the street to Joplin City Hall, which is located in the historic Newman Building, a building which housed a thriving department store during most of the last century.

 

Inside, I led them to the mural called Route 66, Joplin, Missouri, painted by Anthony Benton Gude. It’s filled with classic ‘50s images of soda fountains and classic cars cruising down Main Street. My dad’s ‘51 Chevy would have fit right in.

 

 

“The next mural depicts Joplin right after the mines started booming,” I said, leading them to Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, which was painted by Gude’s famous uncle Thomas Hart Benton. In it, symbols of possibility and success are juxtaposed with those of the corruption and debauchery common in old mining towns.

 

 

I pointed to the bottom of the painting. “See those men gambling? They’re doing so in the House of Lords. That’s the famous saloon that was once here.”

 

“I remember seeing the roulette wheel from House of Lords at the museum,” said my dad.

 

“That’s right. And, if you want to learn more about the different objects that Benton chose for this mural there’s an exhibit upstairs called Evolution of a Mural where you can read about it.”

 

I could tell that my kids were in need of a break by that point, so I sent my husband Travis (who is, ironically, also a history buff) with my dad to learn more about the mural, and I led my mom and my daughters back out to Main Street to do some shopping, popping in at their favorite local stores: Sophie, Blush Boutique, and Blue Moon Boutique.

 

We met back at the car a little after 5 p.m. because I wanted to make one last stop before dinner. No trip to Joplin is complete without a visit to Candy House Gourmet – definitely not for my family members!

 

This confectionery has been making original recipe treats for decades, including toffee, turtles, brittle, fudge, and caramels. I let each family member pick out a treat with the promise that there would be no eating – not even one nibble – until after dinner.

 

After shopping for candy, we went to the nearby Red Onion Cafe, a casual, urban restaurant that has been serving quality American food for over twenty years. There’s something on the menu here to make everyone happy, making it the perfect place to bring the whole family.

 

We ordered Red Onion’s famous creamy and spicy Smoked Chicken Dip as an appetizer, which is served with tortilla chips for dipping. The entrees ordered by our group ranged from the refreshing ROC Chicken Salad Sandwich, to the popular Dave’s Fried Chicken Salad Sandwich (made with coconut-breaded chicken), to the elegant Chicken Tuscany.

 

 

And, believe it or not, my kids convinced me to let them order dessert, despite the fact that we had a carload of treats from Candy House Gourmet: “The candy will keep for a few days, Mom, but we don’t get to have the Caramel Fudge Pecan Cake very often.”

 

 

How could I argue with that logic?

 

Sunday

Since we’d been running hard with a packed schedule all weekend, I thought I’d make Sunday all about relaxation: a slow-paced breakfast, an easy stroll through the woods, and a leisurely Sunday drive south of Joplin.

 

Our first destination was Undercliff Grill & Bar, in an area close to Shoal Creek known as Tipton Ford. You might think this an odd choice for a Sunday morning, but this establishment transforms from a typical bar-and-grill to a breakfast spot from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. And, did I say it was typical? I misspoke. The Undercliff has a rich history spanning over a century, plus it’s built right into the side of a cliff.

 

 

“There used to be a general store here,” I explained to my parents. “People used to travel between Joplin and Neosho by rail,” I said, pointing to the train tracks built just in front of the building, “and they would often stop here.”

 

“Unfortunately, this was also the site of one of the deadliest train accidents in American history,” I said. I went on to tell them that on the night of August 5, 1914, two trains collided and a number of people lost their lives, many of whom were on their way back to Neosho after participating in Joplin’s Emancipation Park Day event.

 

“Well, you sure know how to be a Debbie Downer,” my oldest daughter said, rolling her eyes.

 

“Okay, okay,” I laughed. “Enough of that. Let’s order some food!”

 

 

From sweet, fluffy pancakes, to savory omelets, to the popular Round Barn Breakfast (consisting of two eggs, your choice of meat, toast, and a pancake), there was something on the menu that appealed to everyone.

 

We wrapped up breakfast, then drove less than ten miles to George Washington Carver National Monument, the first site in the National Park Service dedicated to an African American. It consists of an education center, plus an outdoor loop trail for exploring the nature of Carver’s world.

 

Nature was, in fact, the driving force behind Carver’s education, laboratory experiments, and lasting contributions to society. All of this is detailed in a short biographical film that we watched at the Carver education center.

 

“I didn’t realize he faced so many health challenges,” my mom commented when the film ended. Carver had been born into slavery to a couple owned by Moses Carver, but was such a sickly child that he wasn’t able to do chores like the other slaves. Instead, he spent his time walking around the forest and prairie surrounding the Carver homestead. In doing so, he observed and learned the properties of many plants, and demonstrated an innate ability to care for them, earning him the nickname “The Plant Doctor.”

 

“This sign says that he’s also known as the Peanut Man,” said my middle daughter. “I guess I should thank him for inventing the peanut butter in my Reese’s cups,” she laughed.

 

“Actually, he didn’t invent peanut butter,” I said. “But he did discover over 300 uses for peanuts, plus uses for other things, like sweet potatoes.”

 

“I’m amazed that he chose not to patent any of his inventions,” my dad added. “Apparently he wasn’t interested in money or fame; he just wanted his contributions to help others.”

 

My daughters ruminated on that concept as we walked outside on the paved hiking trail that led us through the woods, over a crystal-clear creek, past the old Carver homestead, and out to the prairie, which was speckled with purple and yellow wildflowers. I watched them study different plants with interest, perhaps imagining how they could experiment with them to create something impactful for the community.

 

I hope they’d been inspired.

 

On the drive back to Joplin, I asked each person to tell me one interesting thing they’d learned during our history weekend. I was pleasantly surprised to hear my daughters each come up with something different. They had been paying attention!

 

Then I looked over at my dad and asked, “What did you learn?”

 

His warm chocolate eyes filled with pride. “I learned that my daughter likes history after all.”

 

Thanks for all of the history lessons, Mom and Dad.

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

Expanding Young Minds: Weekend Programs for Kids

Learning doesn’t have to stop at end of school week (although kids might want it to). Many places in the Joplin area offer weekend programs and activities that are so inventive and engaging that your kids will be having too much fun to realize that they’re actually learning something – on the weekend.

 

EXPLORE

George Washington Carver National Monument646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Known as the “Peanut Man” and the “Plant Doctor,” George Washington Carver grew up exploring nature around his home in Diamond, Missouri, where a national monument was later built in honor of his scientific and agricultural contributions to society, which include the discovery of over 300 uses of the peanut. On weekend lab demo days, kids can recreate some of Carver’s experiments, such as making milk out of peanuts (read more here). At the Agricultural School on Wheels program, they can learn about Carver’s Jesup Wagon which carried agricultural tools to area farmers. Other weekend programs here include Raptors of Prey, where kids (and adults) can learn about and see live raptors. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

gwc-beaker

Making peanut milk at Carver National Monument

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Kids can have hands-on learning experiences at this garden center. They can plant seeds and transplant flowers and veggies to take home at the Little Seedlings in the Garden program, and learn about one of the most intriguing plants (and take one home) at the Kids Venus Flytrap Workshop. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Joplin Public Library1901 E. 20th Street, Joplin

There’s something entertaining and educational for kids of all ages at the Joplin Public Library. Little ones, ages 1 to 5 years, are invited to the monthly Saturday Explore & Play program, where they will learn early literacy skills through play at exploration stations. Older kids and teens, in grades 6 to 12, are welcome to socialize and create at the Give it a Shot programs, where they can construct objects using different materials like Legos and littleBits electronic pieces (for building Droids). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Kids love to visit this center to explore the interactive nature discovery area, watch the turtles and fish swim in the huge aquarium, and walk the trails that surround the center. Formerly known as Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, it offers a variety of nature programming geared toward different age groups, like Little Acorns: Terrific Trees (ages 3 to 6), Monachs Rule! (ages 5 and up), and scavenger hunts (all ages). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Southeast Kansas Nature Center3511 South Main Street, Galena, KS

Kansas! Why is something in Kansas on this list? Because this gem of a nature center is only 15 minutes from downtown Joplin. The center offers occasional weekend programs, like Bat Saturday, where kids can learn about these creatures through interactive displays, crafts, and activities. Afterward, take a walk on the trails outside and peek into Schermerhorn cave to see if you can spy any bats yourself. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

sek-jenn

Learning about snakes at the Southeast Kansas Nature Center

 

 

CREATE

Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

Kids ages 10 and up are welcome to participate in a 2-hour drop-in session at this pottery studio where they will receive personalized instruction. The session fee includes materials, plus firing and glazing of the pottery. For more information, click here.

 

Firehouse Pottery112 South Main Street, Joplin

Little ones can listen to a story, then paint a piece of pottery based on that story at Firehouse’s monthly Storytime Pottery program. Other children’s programs at Firehouse include the Superhero Event, the Trolls Pajama Party, and Kid-Parent Date Day. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Firehouse-tile

Painting pottery at Firehouse

 

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

This paint-and-sip studio is known for offering evening painting classes (and cocktails) to adults, but on Saturday afternoons, it closes the bar and welcomes children of all ages at the Family Paint class (they must have an adult with them, though). Depending on the nature of the class, there may be a minimum age requirement; for instance, the minimum age for the Wooden Sign Painting class is 8 years old. All classes are taught step-by-step, so no experience is necessary. For upcoming sessions, click here.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts223 West Third Street, Joplin

There are a variety of classes for kids to choose from at this art hub of the Four States. Saturday classes include Mini Makers (ages 3 to 5), and the Tween Workshop (ages 12 to 14). (The class for ages 6 to 11, Creation Station, is offered during the week on Tuesday afternoons). Other programs include Wand Making (ages 7 and older), and photography classes (divided into three age groups). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

So, the next weekend that you hear your kids say, “I’m bored,” you can refer to this list and find something constructive, educational, and fun to keep their growing minds stimulated.

 

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

Get Creative: Weekend Fun Isn’t Just for Kids!

To me, the arrival of the weekend is like savoring a piece of rich, dark chocolate after a day of drinking green smoothies and eating salmon and vegetables. It’s a treat, a reward for all the hard work we adults do at our professional and parenting jobs during the week.

 

We celebrate our weekend time in a variety of ways. We watch movies, meet friends for dinner, go on trail runs or, conversely, sit on our bums and scroll through Facebook for hours. All of these ways to unwind from the workweek have merit, but we often find ourselves repeating the same activities over and over again.

 

Then we get in a rut. And somehow the weekend is just not that rewarding anymore.

 

That’s when it’s time to try something new, something that challenges us and enables us to discover skills and talents that we didn’t know we had. That’s when it’s time to learn.

 

There are many area organizations that offer weekend programs for adults in art, history, gardening, nature, yoga, and more. Look over this list and see if something stirs your soul to learn, create, and move.

 

 

LEARN

gwc-mortar

Making peanut milk in the lab at Carver

 

George Washington Carver National Monument, 646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Just a 20-minute drive south of Joplin, this national park celebrates the life of George Washington Carver, a former slave who became an accomplished scientist, teacher, and philanthropist. The visitor center here offers programs which honor Carver’s passion for nature and learning. Channel your inner scientist at a lab demonstration (I made peanut milk at the one I went to), attend a special program such as Wonders of the Night Sky or the Plant-Based Cooking Workshop, or listen and learn at special presentations such as Women in Carver’s Life or Encouraging the Next Generation. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

More than just a great place to buy healthy plants (it’s where I buy mine every spring!), Joplin Greenhouse is also a learning center, offering workshops such as Beginning Beekeeping and Hipster Houseplants. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Surrounded by some of the area’s most scenic hiking trails, this center (formerly known as Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center) contains a nature discovery area and classrooms for special programming. Learn about local nature at Discover Winter Birds or Ozark Chinquapin: A Lost Treasure. The center also offers skills sessions for hunter education. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

CREATE

rsvp-people-painting

Painting pet portraits at RSVPaint

 

Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio, 3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

This laid-back studio invites you to learn how to make pottery at your own leisure at the Saturday drop-in class (read about my experience here), or attend scheduled programs in a variety of mediums, like the Birdhouse Workshop, Watercolor Painting, or Jewelry-Making Basics. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Firehouse Pottery, 112 South Main Street, Joplin

This paint-your-own pottery studio makes it easy to individualize a piece of art. Drop in during studio hours, select an unfinished piece of pottery and paint colors, then personalize your creation. The staff at Firehouse will guide you along the way. Bring your special someone for Friday night Date Night, or your BFF for Girls’ Night (which is on Tuesdays, but I’m including this so you can plan a weekday escape, too! Read about my experience here.) Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Yes, Joplin Greenhouse makes the list again! This time, it’s for hands-on workshops where you can create things like Fairy Gardens, Macramé Hangers, and Christmas Wreaths. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

Here’s another studio where you can create and socialize. Also, at RSVPaint you can imbibe in your favorite drink as you create (bring your own, or purchase one at the studio’s bar). RSVPaint offers a variety of class theme. I’ve been to one where my friends and I painted designs on wine glasses, one where I painted a portrait of my dog (click here to read about it), and a Date Night class where my husband and I each painted a panel that, when put next to the other, made a complete picture (read about it here). Click here (then scroll down) for upcoming classes.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts, 223 West Third Street, Joplin

Since 1947, Spiva has served as the art hub of the Four States, thanks to the many classes and programs its offers the community. Try Basic Drawing, Fun & Funky Upcycled Hats, Pysanky Egg Decorating, or the Fused Glass Tray class (read about my experience here). Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

MOVE

 

 

soar open jump

Play on trampolines at Soar’s ExSOARcise class

4 States Yoga and Restoration Center, 2615 North Range Line Road, Joplin

In addition to a weekend Vinyasa Yoga class, 4 States Yoga offers Barre and Tai Chi classes, as well as special workshops, like Aerial Yoga and Self-Defense. Click here for classes and programs.

 

 

Soar Trampoline Park, 1502 South Madison Street, Webb City, MO

Get a cardio workout while jumping on trampolines! Soar’s 45-minute Saturday morning ExSOARcise class includes jumping and floor exercises, and is open to all experience levels. Click here for more information.

 

If you’re content with your current weekend plans, kudos to you. But if you ever find yourself in a rut, come back to this list. There’s sure to be something at one of these locations that will beckon you to learn, create, or move.

 

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

 

Girls’ Weekend in Joplin: The Great Outdoors

There are times when the planets align and miraculous things happen.

 

For me, that was last weekend.

 

My husband went out of town to visit a college friend, and my girls were spending quality time with their grandparents, so I had the house all to myself.

 

My family sure knows what to get me as an early Mother’s Day gift. I love them so.

 

For weeks prior to the Miraculous Weekend, I thought and thought about how I would spend my time. I knew I wanted to do something with my girlfriends, but what would we do?

 

An idea came to me as I was driving around town doing my routine activities. I noticed that more vibrant green leaves had grown on the trees, confirming the fact that spring had definitely arrived. I rolled down the car window to catch a breeze of the changing air, air which promised warm, carefree days ahead.

 

That’s when I caught spring fever – and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do on my Miraculous Weekend: I wanted to be outside and embrace the season which I’d longed for throughout the cold winter.

 

And I wanted to celebrate it with my friends.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-selfie

 

 

Friday

“Enjoy having the house to yourself,” said my teenager (with more than a bit of jealousy, I might add) as she and her younger siblings marched out the front door and into their grandmother’s car, which looked as magical as Cinderella’s glass carriage to me at that moment.

 

Since my husband had already left on his trip, I was free – yes, free – to kick off my Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend, so as soon as the glass carriage exited the driveway, I hopped in my car and drove to meet my friend Shanon.

 

Shanon and I meet occasionally on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end of the work week with a different kind of Happy Hour. Instead of going to a bar and sipping a cocktail (don’t get me wrong – we sometimes do that, too) we’ll meet in the heart of the city at the Frisco Greenway Trail for a stress-relieving walk through through the woods.

 

girilfriend-trails-canopy

On this spring afternoon, Shanon was waiting for me in the parking lot. “You escaped!” she said, giving me a warm hug.

 

We escaped,” I said, our footsteps falling in sync as our shoes crunched the fine gravel beneath our feet. I felt like a kid at recess, catching up with my friend while enjoying a slice of freedom from our schoolwork.

 

After our walk, we wanted to keep up the health-conscious theme we had going, so we decided to get ourselves some nutritious smoothies at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company, a hip downtown Joplin coffee house that also serves tea, sweet treats, and healthy food options from a delivery service called Fit Foods.

 

coffee-menu

Shanon ordered the Dirty Monkey Smoothie, made with peanut butter, banana, and mocha, as well as a ready-made Turkey Hummus Wrap to take home with her for lunch the next day. I ordered the Berry Vanilla Detox Smoothie; packed with fresh fruit, protein and chia seeds, it felt like a nutrient infusion, and filled me up to the point to where I decided to just count that as my dinner that night. Yay! No cooking for me.

 

I went home afterward and lit some candles, put on soft music, and sank into a cloud of bubbles and warm water in the bathtub – a sublime way to end the first day of my Miraculous Weekend.

 

 

Saturday

Another day, another hug from a friend whom I hadn’t seen in months. Johanna had driven in from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and was now at my front door. “Are you ready?” she asked.

 

“I just need to grab my yoga mat and I will be,” I said. We were headed to a Yoga in Nature class, held under a pavilion at Wildcat Park

 

We unrolled our mats and faced in the direction of Shoal Creek.

 

wildcat-creek-springtime

The area between us and the creek was the chert glade, a rare, desert-like ecosystem that exists right here in southwest Missouri. As we saluted the sun, colorful butterflies danced around the blooming bushes just outside the pavilion, joyously welcoming in the season of renewal.

 

Instead of hiking the trails at Wildcat that day – which we did the last time Johanna was in town – we decided to walk the trails at George Washington Carver National Monument. But first, we needed to get a bite to eat.

 

On the way from Wildcat to the restaurant, we passed Grand Falls. “Do you mind if we stopped?” Johanna asked. “I haven’t seen the Falls in a while.”

 

falls-mist

As the largest continuously running waterfall in the state of Missouri, Grand Falls is one of the prettiest natural attractions in the area, and visitors stop here throughout the year. As Johanna and I navigated our way among the chert (more chert!) outcroppings to get closer to the falls, we noticed that we weren’t the only ones enjoying the view that morning; there were a few men fishing in the creek, and some kids splashing in the shallow pools.

 

From Grand Falls, we took the scenic roads to Sandstone Gardens, a 50,000-square-foot home interior showroom housed inside a stately French chateau. In addition to offering shoppers a one-of-a-kind experience, it also offered us somewhere to eat.

 

Located in the east side of the building is the Bistro, a warm and welcoming place for lunch. I had the Chicken Salad, made with fresh, crunchy grapes, and Johanna ordered the Reuben, which is one of the restaurant’s specialties.

 

bistro-dessert

Since the desserts at the Bistro are made from scratch on site, I felt it would be disrespectful not to order one, so Johanna and I split a piece of heavenly German Chocolate Cake.

 

Then, we were off to George Washington Carver National Monument, located twenty minutes south of Joplin in Diamond. We arrived there just in time to catch the end of the lab demonstration where participants were invited to make peanut milk, so we got to join along.

 

gwc-mortar

George Washington Carver was an educator and scientist who discovered multiple uses for peanuts and other crops, and he was born in a cabin on the land on which the monument sits. The center houses exhibits which detail Carver’s life, and the trail outside offers a glimpse of the world that Carver saw as a boy meandering through the thick woods and across the blooming prairie.

 

gwc-carver-statue-with-butterfly

After hiking the trail, we started back toward Joplin, my appetite growing bigger with every mile we passed. “How about grabbing dinner at The Eagle?” I asked.

 

“You know it’s one of my favorite restaurants,” Johanna said. “Do they still have the Bison Burger?”

 

“They do. They also have killer Jalapeno Margaritas, if you are up for some spice.”

 

We lingered at The Eagle Drive-In, eating burgers and sipping margaritas until the sun dipped behind the horizon, completing a perfect day.

 

 

Sunday

This was it. This was the day I was going big, putting the final dot on the exclamation point of the Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend! My friend Julie and I were going up a creek – with two paddles, on a Shoal Creek float trip.

 

But first, we needed to fuel up. I picked up Julie and we went to Club 1201 for brunch. I ordered my favorite dish, Eggs Benedict, and Julie tried the Artisan French Toast. We celebrated Float Trip Day by toasting our drink glasses which we customized at the Bloody Mary Bar.

 

club-1201-brunch-bmb1

 

After brunch, we drove just south of Joplin to Water’s Edge, where we got set up with our canoe. For several hours, it was just me, Julie, and the rhythmic sounds of our paddles pushing through the water. Oh, and an occasional turtle.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-creek

With just the two of us – no distractions – we were able to discuss all of the things that we had on our mental checklists to talk to each other about whenever we had the chance. And today, we had that chance.

 

Now we were good for a few more months.

 

I relished my Miraculous Weekend at home – alone, and I cherished the time I spent with my friends as we explored the great outdoors, reveling in the warmth of the spring air. I felt refreshed and alive, and ready to jump back into my responsibilities as a mom.

 

Yet, even though I had a phenomenal time with my friends, nothing from that weekend compared to the unbridled joy I felt when I saw my daughters walk through the door Sunday night.

 

That is, until ten minutes later when they started to bicker…

 

 

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

Nature & History

Doctor Mom Knows Best: 

A mother’s prescription for restless kids involves Joplin’s beautiful parks

by Christine Smith

 

When cabin fever runs rampant in my house here in Joplin, I become Doctor Mom and order one of the following prescriptions for my three restless daughters, who range in age from 5 to 13: 

 

Comb through exposed rocks from the creek bottom and find a treasured fossil or arrowhead.


comb through
Wind your way up Bluff Trail and enjoy and a bird’s-eye view of sparkling Shoal Creek below.

 

wind your
Count the number of turtles you see sunbathing on tree limbs that have fallen into Williams Pond.

 

count the

 

The first two prescriptions can be filled at Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, and the final one at George Washington Carver National Monument. As Doctor Mom, I’ve chosen these two centers for restlessness rehab because they are close to home, they offer a variety of remedies for my not-so-patient patients, and they are stunningly beautiful.

 

Thanks to these resources, I’m proud to say Doctor Mom’s cure rate is 100%. What’s even more exciting is that it works on anyone, even people just visiting Joplin. In fact, visitors may enjoy their dose of nature therapy so much that they’ll feel compelled to return multiple times for follow-up appointments.

 


wildcate glades

 

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center

 

When the kids need to step away from the television and get some fresh air, I turn off the TV and say, “Let’s go to Shoal Creek and Wildcat Park!” 

 


The girls cheerfully chat during the car ride over to Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, located just south of Joplin. The center, which utilizes green technology, offers environmental education classes, children’s nature programming, and a discovery center.

 


the girls cheerfully
Once inside, each girl becomes engrossed in her own thing: one follows the fluid movements of the native turtles and fish inside the impressive 1,300-gallon tank; another watches in fascination as a native rat snake uncoils its shiny body and begins exploring the perimeter of its terrarium; and the youngest stands in front of an interactive learning exhibit, gleefully pressing buttons as she learns more about the local environment.

 


once inside each girl
Moments later, we prepare to hit the trails located around the center, in the area known as Wildcat Park. There are seven to choose from, and they cover more than three miles of diverse landscape—some of it rather unusual.

 

Once we exit the rear doors of the center, we immediately feel like we’ve been transported to Arizona. We see cacti growing along the trail and lizards scurrying across the arid ground. This desert-like ecosystem, filled with an unusual combination of plants and animals, represents some of the last remaining exposed chert glades in the world.

 


we exit

 As we continue along the path, the scenery changes from the dry, sunny glades to the cool, wooded forest by Shoal Creek. My husband and I often hike the mile-long Bluff Trail, which offers stunning views of the creek, but today my daughters unanimously vote for taking St. John’s Creek Trail. Why? Because this half-mile path goes past a cave, and for three young girls, looking in to a cave is practically magical. Though the cave entrance is closed to the public, I still love watching their imaginations run wild together.

 


as we continue
Imaginations have been sparked among my patients. Doctor Mom smiles, satisfied that the treatment plan is working.

 

 

George Washington Carver National Monument

For Doctor Mom, visiting the birthplace of the “Plant Doctor,” is like a pilgrimage; in addition to superior nature therapy, it offers rich historical, educational, and spiritual lessons, as well.

 

During the short drive south of Joplin to Diamond, my girls ask me questions like, “Who was George Washington Carver?” and, “How come he has a park named after him?”

 

George Washington Carver was born into slavery toward the end of the Civil War, most likely in 1864, one of many siblings. Soon after his birth, he, one of his sisters and his mother were kidnapped, and Moses Carver, who owned George and his mother, paid an agent to track them down. Of the three only the infant George was located and returned. Moses and Susan Carver then raised George and his brother, James, as their own. Being a sickly boy, 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.”

 

Carver’s thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, and he spent his life exploring and educating, blazing the trail for other African Americans to follow.

 

To honor the important agricultural and educational contributions that Carver made to this country, the George Washington Carver National Monument was established in 1943. This 240-acre park is part of the National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. 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.

 

When we arrive at the park’s visitors center, my husband and I enjoy reading about Carver’s life in the museum exhibit, the kids look at slides of native plant and insect specimens under microscopes in the discovery area, and play teacher in the old-fashioned school room, instructing their students to write their names on the individual slate boards at their desks.

 

 when we arrive at the park 1          

 when we arrive at the park 2

      

when we arrive at the park 3
Then we go outside to walk the 3/4-mile nature trail. Near the beginning, we see a replica of the base of the 12′ x 12′ cabin where Carver was born. Doctor Mom gathers her patients inside of it and asks, “Can you imagine if we all lived together in such a small space? Talk about cabin fever!” Their eyes grow wide, and in them I see a new appreciation for their individual bedrooms in our modern house.

 

The trail, which is nicely paved, leads into the thick woods. As we pause to look at a bronze statue of Carver as a boy, a blue butterfly lands on it. Even the likeness of Carver seems to commune with nature.

 

the trail which is

 

We cross the pristine Carver Spring, then loop around Williams Pond, our voices startling turtles on the banks, causing them to dive in the water with loud plunks.

we cross the pristine
After walking through the 1881 Carver homestead, we finally emerge in the prairie restoration area.

 

I slow my pace, allowing my family to move ahead of me on the path. I watch as butterflies dance around their contented faces. I understand why Carver saw divine goodness in the natural world around him, rising early each day to take a devotional walk in the woods in order “to talk with God.”

 

i slow my pace

 

The natural beauty of this area possesses great power; it can raise doleful spirits, entertain the minds of children, and bring smiles to faces.

 

Just like what Doctor Mom ordered.

 

Explore the outdoors in Joplin on some of the best trails.

 

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

 

(Updated 9/17/19)