Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Out of Dodge: To Paris, Florida, Santa Fe, Mexico . . .

Last weekend was the homecoming for Lincoln University, and since we live near downtown and on a major beeline to the university, our home promised even less solace and solitude than usual. Lots of cars. And honestly? I've been needing to get away. The interior of the house reflects the mess inside my head, and I live and work at home. I needed to get out of my cage.

Friday night was a big Lincoln homecoming shindig with fireworks--fun to watch from our third-floor windows--but the steady traffic on Broadway and the expressway, the sirens of numerous emergency vehicles, and voices of passersby below our windows kept us up late.

Saturday would begin with the big parade. We decided to get out of town before all that even started.

We were planning just a quick morning trip to the Pinnacles Youth Park north of Columbia, but as it turned out, we kept going . . .

You know how it is. Sometimes, once you start driving away from your house, your work, you just keep going. You can't stop and turn around until you're exhausted, until the idea of your own bed starts sounding like a good idea again.

It was a big loop, and when I tell you where we went, you'll laugh. Look how far we got!

Paris . . . Florida . . . Santa Fe . . . Mexico. . . . We were like world travelers!

One of the reasons Missouri got such place-names was because this area was a major stepping-off point for westering travelers in the 1800s. Missouri also has a Taos, a Nevada (pronounced "nuh-VAY-duh," of course), a Louisiana, a California, and many others.

Amid our "intercontinental" travels yesterday, we also paid homage to perhaps the most famous Missourian ever: Samuel L. Clemens--Mark Twain.

We also learned a little about transportation history and engineering by visiting the Union Covered Bridge, our state's one surviving example of a Burr-arch truss bridge, now a Missouri State Historic Site.

I'm not going to go into much detail here, since there is already plenty of information available on other websites (links provided below). If you're in Columbia and are wanting to take a pleasant day trip over picturesque roads, this makes a nice loop and a varied day.

1. The Pinnacles Youth Park is about twelve miles north of Columbia on Highway 63. Allow yourself a couple of hours there to visit the nifty shelf cave and, best, to explore the pinnacles themselves. To do the latter, be prepared to clamber among big rocks high above the creek below. Acrophobes need not apply. Also, crossing the creek could potentially get your feet wet--be prepared for that.

2. North on 63, then east on Highway 22 to Centralia. North from Centralia on Route C to the Union Covered Bridge. Unlike Ohio and Indiana (for instance), Missouri doesn't have many surviving covered bridges (we have only four). This is the only one in Missouri with a Burr-arch truss design and horizontal siding, so it's extra special. It's in a peaceful setting near shimmering soybean fields, and an interpretive kiosk will educate you about how these bridges were designed. There are no picnic tables or trash cans, but this would be a pleasant place for lunch.

You'll notice in my photo that some siding is missing from the bridge. The DNR had to remove it in 2008 when a big flash flood threatened to destroy the bridge. They're currently trying to find funding to repair it.

3. North on C and east on 24 to Paris, Missouri. Paris is an attractive town with lovely historic homes. The banners on utility poles in Paris have a little picture of the Eiffel Tower on them, but that's about where visible connection to the City of Light ends. You will not find a single French restaurant in the city of Paris. There is a Subway, however. (I'm partial to the Cold Cut Combo; and to be honest, I wasn't in the mood for snails, anyway.)

4. From Paris, take Highway 154 east into Mark Twain State Park. Following signs for the Mark Twain Birthplace, head north on Route E. The Mark Twain Birthplace Shrine is in the state park, on a peninsula with a scenic view of Mark Twain Lake (a reservoir created by Clarence Cannon Dam, which impounded the Salt River). This would be another good place for a picnic lunch.

The humble, two-room clapboard house in which the author of America's most famous novel was born is sheltered by a modern structure with a sweeping, pointed roof. There is also a museum in the building with many artifacts of Twain's life (from furniture to original letters and manuscripts and much more) and an A/V presentation telling the story of Twain's life.

5. Florida, Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain, is very close to the Birthplace Shrine. A historical marker in this tiny town shows the original location of the little house where, during the 1835 visit of Halley's Comet, Mark Twain arrived into this world--a couple of months before he was expected. If you want to spend more time around here, there is a hiking trail nearby.

6. Retrace your route south on E to D, then west on D to Santa Fe. There isn't much here, folks. Just as there's no cuisine fran├žaise in Paris, there isn't even a Taco Bell in Santa Fe. No place for nopales, or chili rellenos, or chili verde. There's not even a Subway. But here's a picture of the post office, to prove that we went to Santa Fe on Saturday.

7. From Santa Fe, continue west on D to Route ZZ. It's a scenic drive southwest on Route ZZ, which traces the Salt River. It joins briefly with Route Z before connecting to Highway 15, which you can take all the way to Mexico. Mexico is indeed a little south of Santa Fe, which is kinda fitting. Mexico, compared to the other places so far on this trip, is a bustling metropolis, with restaurants and everything. If you're looking for something to "do" there, the first, most natural thing, is to visit the Audrain County Historical Society Museum and its lovely, landscaped grounds, which include several other historic structures.

Mexico was famous for Tom Bass, a nationally known and respected horse breeder and trainer. The respect that people gave him during his life is more remarkable, given the time period, since he was black. Rex McDonald, a championship show horse, is buried on the park grounds.

There is also an interesting piece of machinery there--a brick-producing machine that was used in the early years by the A. P. Green Company, a manufacturer of bricks and one of Mexico's most important industries. The machine lies in state here, with a plaque from the company thanking it for its years of selfless, dedicated service. (I guess a gold watch wasn't very fitting.)

8. From Mexico, we drove south on Highway 54 through Auxvasse to I-70, and thence home. The sun was setting, and the bed was going to feel extra cozy after all that hiking, sight-seeing, and time in the driver's seat. Got me a snoot full of fresh air, I did.

Bonus Information You Just Have to Read!

People in Mexico, Missouri, insist that you not call them Mexicans. That term is reserved for people who are from the nation of Mexico. So, you might ask, what do people from Mexico, Missouri, call themselves? Mexicoans. That extra syllable makes all the difference.

Which means that a native of the country of Mexico, who is living in Mexico, Missouri, is a "Mexican Mexicoan."

Or! When you go to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Mexico, Mo., technically, you are eating "Mexicoan Mexican food."

Or! When Senator Bond (who is from Mexico, Missouri) goes on a junket down to our neighbor to the south, he is a "Mexicoan visiting the Mexicans." Get it?

Meanwhile . . . I have it on very good authority that people in Paris, Missouri, are not called "Parisians." Indeed! Are you ready for this? They are--Parisites.


Osage Bluff Quilter said...

Not that it's famous . . . but have you ever been to Natural Bridge near Henley?

Julianna Schroeder said...

No! I didn't know there was a natural bridge down there. How can I find it? Is it on public land?