Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the Way to St. Louis

I left Oklahoma, headed for St. Louis, on May 10. The WINs were getting together on May 12 so I had a couple of days to travel the 500+ miles and do some sightseeing along the way.
I had heard of Fantastic Caverns for many years, but never stopped, so this time, I did. Not the best cave, but interesting.
As you can see above, you ride through the cave in a tram drawn by a jeep.

Above is the current cave entrance.
The cave was found in 1850 by Mr. Knox. He kept the cave a secret, especially after the Civil War broke out (he did not want either side to use the cave for an advantage). In 1867 he advertised for people to come help explore the cave. Twelve women from an adventure club answered the ad, so the first people to explore Fantastic Caverns were women. They all signed their names on the cave walls and are still there to see today.

In the 1880s electrical lights were added using this wood fired, steam generator. Although the cave was a popular place to go, it was more for the electric lights, than the cave.

This is the original cave opening. In 1867 this was the only way to enter the cave, so all twelve women, dressed in their long dresses, all had to crawl through this small hole. Later larger entrances were created to make it easier for people to visit.
In the early 1900s the cave was used for a speak easy and tavern during prohibition, but it closed after a shooting incident in 1924. During the next 20 years or so it was used only by vigilante groups for secret meetings.
But in the 1950s it was opened again and throughg the 1960s many famous country and bluegrass musicians came to play in the auditorium room in the cave. They built a stage and people would pay $1 to get out of the hot Missouri heat for a few hours and get to listen to some great music too. Buck Owens, Bobby Bare and the Ozark Mountain Boys are just a few who played at Fantastic Caverns.
Since the 1960/1970s they have given all tours in a tram pulled by a jeep. They say they are the only drive through cave tour in the U.S. and only 1 of 4 in the world. What I noticed was no air control, no air locks or anything like most of the caves I have visited in the last year.
I walked down to the nearby river and spotted this spring.

The spring is usually dry unless there is lots of rain.

On down the road another 100 miles or so I spotted this sign. Since I had been to another rocker with the same claim down in Biloxi, MS, last fall, I had to go see.

Here it is. Don't really know if it is taller or not. I couldn't find info on how big the rocker was in MS, so I couldn't compare. They both look big.

But this place has the Guiness World Records Certificate to prove theirs is largest.

I think this little gift shop just wanted something to draw in tourists. Well, it worked.

I did like thier mural on the side of the building though.

And their collection of Route 66 pop.

They told me to check out the town of Cuba and its murals if I like the ones on their building. So I did. Almost every downtown building has a mural.

This almost looked real. The people are life size and right on the sidewalk.

Here is a mural of where Harry Truman stopped by to campaign for president in 1940. He wasn't getting much attention because everyone was walking right on by. Turned out there was a local fair going on down the street. So Truman moved down to the entrance of the fair and campaigned from there.
There was supposed to be another mural of Betty Davis, but I never found it. The story goes a local newspaper photographer asked to take her picture when she was in town in 1947, but her husband said no. The photographer followed her and took her picture anyway. When he took the picture her husband chased him and tried to make him give up the film. The newspaper photographer refused and the mural is supposed to be what the photo looked like. Too bad I couldn 't find the mural.

This is of the original bank president and his family and it is painted on the side of the bank.

I stayed overnight at a Passport America park since it was pouring rain, and decided to visit another cave. The Onondaga Cave is near the Meramac Caverns, but is not as well known. Since it wasn't busy, I got my own private tour from one of the ranger reseachers. My hour long tour took 2 hours. Above are not stalagmites or stalactites, but are stromatalites. They are formed by blue green growing algae in tropical waters. These were formed back when Missouri was a tropical ocean. They form a type of coral and this is all that is left. Different from normal cave formations, these no longer are growing. They are not found in many caves and are considered rare.

These are called Cave Lillies. There were several pools of water with these.

I thought the reflection of the formations was quite impressive.

The pure white flowstone.

If you want to know how fast formations can grow, these handrails were installed in 1957 and look how the formations have covered them.

This reminded me of a scene from some science fiction movie on Mars.

Lots of water in this cave. Onondaga Cave has a river running through the cave. Years ago they even gave boat tours.,

The spring/river coming out of the cave puts out about 1-2 million gallons of water per day.

Another shot of the spring.

This is actually where the water comes out of the cave. Several years ago the whole area flooded and the spring increased to 27 million gallons per day. Much of the cave was flooded and most of the walkways were under water for a time. I think this cave was one of my favorites.

I found these butterflies (maybe moths?) on the path and they did not seem to mind that I was taking their picture. They seem real intent on whatever that is in the middle. It looked like a large rock to me.

They let me get real close.


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