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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center. During this mild time of the year, the yoga class is held just outside the center under a pavilion.
We unrolled our mats and faced in the direction of Shoal Creek.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.