Tag Archives: Missouri

Père Marquette | Missionary & Explorer

by Jim and Melanie

We grew up, and continue to live, in the upper midwest not far from the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. We have seen many references around the region of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa to the travels of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet. They are well-known as the first white men to explore the upper part of the Mississippi River in 1673. They were commissioned by Louis, comte de Frontenac, governor of New France, to find the direction and the mouth of the Mississippi.

The two set out from St. Ignace with five men and two canoes. They traveled the upper part of Lake Michigan and entered Green Bay, where they paddled up the Fox River nearly to its headwaters. A short portage of only about two miles put them into the Wisconsin River. The city of Portage, WI is now at that site. The Wisconsin River carried them to the Mississippi at what is now the town of Prairie du Chien. We have visited that town a couple of times.

The Mississippi River carried them south just past the mouth of the Arkansas River, where they decided to stop. They were warned of white men with guns farther south. They were Spanish, and the Marquette-Jolliet party feared a conflict. The explorers headed back up the Mississippi. North of St. Louis they took a shorter alternate route along the Illinois River. They portaged over the land in what is now the Chicago region to get back onto Lake Michigan. They split up near Green Bay, where Marquette stayed to rest. Jolliet continued back to Canada to report of their discoveries. This map illustrates their long journey.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. | Click to embiggen

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Meet Me in Kansas City

by Jim and Melanie

The phone rang Thursday evening. It was our son. He had a three day weekend coming up. His other last-minute attempts to plan some diversion didn’t pan out. Would we meet him halfway, in Kansas City.

We’re not the most spontaneous people in the world, but we agreed to meet him on Saturday at a hotel in downtown KC, MO. It was well-located near the spots we wanted to visit. After driving through blizzard conditions for part of our trip, we arrived safely.

None of us had spent time there before, but we all had ideas of what to see and do. First on the list was the historic Union Station. As with many old city train stations, it had been a hub for both passenger and freight travel. The old building had fallen into disrepair and disuse. Efforts to renovate were successful, and it again serves as a hub for the city and as an Amtrak station.

Of course you can’t go to Kansas City without stopping for barbecue. Son had already eaten a full lunch of it, but was game to go for dinner, too. We went to Arthur Bryant’s for ribs, burnt ends, and a perfect potato salad.

Sunday began with a tourist experience of a different kind. Our son is interested in the brewing of beer and the distilling of spirits. He wanted us to tour the Boulevard Brewing Company plant. The tour included free sampling, so before heading there, we had a quick lunch of empanadas, arepas, and black beans.

Though naps were tempting, we wanted to take in two more destinations before giving in. In the 18th and Vine district, one building houses the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. In addition, there is a fine gallery of jazz-related art, most of it two-dimensional. The baseball museum was especially fascinating. Anyone who cares about either baseball or the history of post-Civil War segregation could spend many hours immersed in the rich collection of photos, film clips, and memorabilia. No photos were allowed, but we urge you to visit if you have the chance.

The day was punctuated with dinner at a restaurant called the Vietnam Cafe. It is located in an old store-front building on the corner of two very narrow streets. Tightly packed tables filled quickly, customers wanting to assure their meal before closing time of 6:00. We started with a dish of beef pho, with delicate, aromatic broth. We each ordered a separate entree and ate eagerly. The flavors were balanced well and layered, without the heavy hit of soy sauce that often comes with Americanized Asian foods.

Besides the meals and tourist stops, we all enjoyed the landscape. Broad expanses covered with rail tracks, beat-down commercial districts, and historic buildings gave plenty to take in. Kansas City proved to be much more interesting and diverse than we could have guessed. Next time Son asks us to meet him, we’ll say “Kansas City, here I come!”

Great Chicago Wheel of 1893 – World’s Greatest Ride

How I See It

World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was the subject of a book my wife, Melanie, and I discussed. The exposition was in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. A centerpiece of the exposition was the huge Chicago Wheel 264 feet high, meant to rival the Eiffel Tower. I love science and technology. The idea of this giant wheel being the first Ferris wheel fascinated me.

Rotating wheel rides have been around since the 17th century. They were known as ‘pleasure wheels’. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  secured the patents for the larger metal concept which came to be known as Ferris wheels. Ferris was born in Galesburg, IL, in 1859. That is not far from where I grew up. The family moved to Nevada when he was six. He attended college at California Military Academy…

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