Blogazzette Rides Again! (Midwestern Segment)

April 17, 2011

Hello all ye faithful followers of Blogazzette; it’s been a long time since any new posts have appeared here. (Like December 2009?) I’m sure that you’ve all been doing ample things to fill the void, but there were some who said we never shoulda come home? 😉 Since then, there have been a surprising number of ongoing hits on the site, most notably for the entry from Asheville, NC, where we took our readers into the Biltmore House, replete with forbidden photos.

But that was then, and now is now. As it happened, we were still on our Prius journey, driving along somewhere in Mississippi, when the iPhone (AKA car phone) rang. It was a timeshare dude, touting a really special deal for visiting Hilton Head, SC. Well, that was easy to shrug off, we’d already been there, done that, end of discussion – Wait! How about Branson, MO? Why, for $139.00, you can have 3 days/3 nights at Branson, show tix, etc. We hadn’t been there, and it sounded intriguing, it was a weak moment, and we bit on it. We paid with a credit card, and had until May 2011 to honor our reservations. So about a year later, they started calling to ask when we were coming, yada yada, until finally we relented and decided to take them up on it, scheduling our trip both to Branson and a broader sweep of the Midwest, namely Memphis, Nashville, and St. Louis as well. All these places we’d never visited before, so we’re sorta filling some of our U.S. touring “Punch List” through this trip.

The PLAN for blogging our trip involved making our way to Branson, in Southwestern Missouri about 250 miles from St. Louis, and during our 3-day stay there, we’d avail ourselves of the wi-fi service of the Howard Johnson hotel where we’d be staying. That just didn’t happen. HoJo was a NoSho on wi-fi. So, we’re a little late getting off the dime, got some catching up to do.

On April 12th, we set forth on American Airlines (hey, what’s Advantage Mileage FOR?) from SFO to St. Louis, rented a car, and drove to a Holiday Inn Express right across the street from the Lambert airport. Although our sleep there was good, I felt the sign on the window didn’t bode well for us had our quarters been swept by fire? I suppose the idea is that if a fire does break out, and you can’t escape through the room door, well, you can just smash out the window with a convenient chair leg, and then make your escape, right through the window! Sounds simple enough, right? Only one small problem. Outside the window, there’s no fire escape, no ledge to stand on, nothing. All there is is a sheer FIVE-STORY drop to the pavement!

Now, those of you who’ve followed our adventures before know that we’re suckers for out-of-the-way, unusual museums. I mean, we’ve gone to the Jello Museum, the Desi and Lucy Museum, the Salt and Pepper Shaker museum, and even the Towing Museum. No doubt about it, we’re hooked on museums. So imagine our surprise, driving SW through Missouri along i44, (which tracks the old Route 66 through that area) when the following billboard loomed up ahead:

Jane said, “You won’t believe this. Look at that, a Vacuum Cleaner Museum!” I shook my head, immediately resigning myself to the fact that we’d visit that museum, no matter what! As it turned out, due to local sign ordinances, the place was VERY difficult to find off the freeway, but after asking around a bit, a local native told us just where we could find it, “Right over by that big water tower, can’t miss it.” What we found was the Tacony Vacuum Factory and Museum, of St. James, MO. This place is actually a working factory on its second floor, with more than 150 employees engaged in producing American-made vacuum cleaners under their own and other labels. AND, there’s a museum at the ground level, housing a massive collection of vacuum cleaners and other cleaning implements dating back to about 1910. The guy who collected all these machines, Tom Gasko, has been collecting them since he was 6; he’s now 49, so he’s had LOTS of years to put his collection together. Well, we reviewed a fabulous collection of cleaning instruments, from yesterday to modern times, and wound up buying one for ourselves, to be shipped upon our return. See today’s gallery to see how it all played out. There, you can see a photo of Tom Gasko himself, a photo of our very own new vacuum cleaner, AND, the official vacuum cleaner of Air Force One!

Further down the i44, we decided to drop into Mansfield, MO, to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. We got there too late in the day (4PM) to take in everything before their 5PM closing, but had a brief docent tour of the house built by Almanzo Wilder for his darling little (4’10”) wife Laura.

From the time the Wilders moved to Missouri near Mansfield in 1894, over the next 20 years Almanzo built their dream house. Every stick of this place was cut, hammered in, and painted by Almanzo, including all the furniture inside, everything. It’s a tribute to his skill that most of his original work is still intact, and showing there in the house. Quite impressive! Again, you can check the gallery for more images. Of great historical significance is the fact that this house was the place where Laura Ingalls Wilder began her writing career at the young age of 65, penning all of her “Little House on the Prairie” books here as chronicles of her own early life. Laura and Almanzo’s only daughter Rose also grew up to be a noted author, and did much of her writing in this very house.

Out of Mansfield, we traveled forth into the Ozarks, finally winding up in Branson for the night, more about which later. 😉


2 Responses to “Blogazzette Rides Again! (Midwestern Segment)”

  1. Sharon said

    Sounds as though things are going well. Hope the rest of the trip is wonderful.

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