Archive for the ‘Missourri’ Category

Fort Lost In The Woods

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Justin and I rolled through the gates of Fort Leonard Wood in the early evening hours, and as soon as we did Justin was all business. We had stopped at a Wal Mart to do some grocery shopping,(where I learned that you can buy hard liquor at grocery stores and at Wal Marts in the state of Missouri, which says to me that they are well aware that their state is dull and are doing all they can to help) but after we got back to his apartment and ate dinner, Justin was very adamant on getting to bed since he had to be up at 4:45 am the next day. I begrudgingly agreed to an early bedtime, because when you are living in a one bedroom studio apartment supplied by the Army you don’t really have many other options for entertainment or other places to go if someone wants to sleep. He got up at the ungodly hour he needed to on Monday and I was left to my own devices, and they were limited. I did some laundry and spent some time on my computer, but that was about as exciting as my day got. Fort Leonard Wood is a training base, and a large one at that. This means that it is full of lots of vast empty spaces (much like the rest of Missouri) which surround just about every building. Since everything is so spread out Justin drives to work every morning.  Fort Leonard Wood, MO is affectionately refereed to by soldiers that have passed through it as “Fort Lost in the Woods of Misery,” and this is a fairly accurate description of the place. If I had really gone loopy I could have pulled a Maria Von Trapp and gone twirling and dancing in the open fields that I found myself stuck in the middle of, but as my friend Yaella pointed out, someone might have thought I was some loopy terrorist and shot me.

 

So with nowhere to go, no way to get there, and nothing to do I was left sitting in his one room apartment, by myself, without a car, and copious amounts of free time. I couldn’t even shop or go anywhere on base because I was without a Military ID. I had thought that coming there I would just fill my days with cooking and make complex dinners and deserts every day and be the perfect little desperate housewife and have dinner ready every day when Justin got home. I could have done that for a week. Well, not only could I not grocery shop by myself, but even if I had, Justin had no oven, well, I shouldn’t say that, he had an oven, but it had been disconnected by the Army and had a large sign placed over it that said “Inoperable oven, storage use only.” Some short-coming with the electrical system of the building made it so that the ovens could not be used, leaving each room a range with three lopsided electrical burners and a toaster for cooking. I knew from the first day I was there that it was going to be a long week.

Lost in the woods of Misery!

I ended up filling most of my time that week catching up on my blog entires from my family’s trip to Australia, watching DVDs that Justin owned, and talking to friends from home. The internet connection in his room terribly slow, but its not like I was in any rush. Each day Justin would leave early in the morning while I was still asleep to go to physical training for an hour, then come back, shower and go to work, usually without me even noticing he was up. I would wake up around 11 am and whittle away the hours in an off-hand way until he returned home around 4:30- 5pm and then we had a three-four hour window to eat, do any shopping we needed to do and just generally spend time with each other until it was bedtime once again. It was a thrilling life I led for that one week in Missouri.

From Monday to Wednesday I never left Justin’s apartment. I suppose I could have if I had developed a bad case of cabin fever, but the week I was there temperatures were sneaking over 100 degrees every day, and I saw no reason to sit outside in 100 degree weather just for the sake of going outside. Wednesday night Justin took me to the officers club to meet his friends and hang out, it was also karaoke night which is a weekly event. Justin had never participated in this, which I found to be odd since he sang in high school and in college. I pushed him to get up and sing, which I think he was a bit embarrassed to do in front of his friends, but he did anyway. He picked a song from Third Eye Blind that was really too low for his tenor voice, but I fairly certain he intentionally batched the song so they would never ask him to sing again. O well, can’t say I didn’t try.

On Friday Justin had plans to take me to a barbeque that his class was putting on for the incoming class of officers. All the guys had pooled their money to buy hot dogs and hamburgers, but I wanted to contribute a dessert.  I did some research on no-bake recipes and ended up putting making chocolate and peanut butter rice krispie treats which were a bit hit. Before going to Missouri I baked three dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Justin to hand out to his friends, and I brought them in a giant Tupperware container with a red lid. Of course these were enthusiastically received and he came back with only crumbs in the container. So, when I showed up to the picnic with the same container everyone was delighted and asked what baked goods I had brought this time. I think I might have developed a reputation for being the baked goods girl, which I’m totally fine with. I was happy to bring a little home cooked happiness to his friends.  Friday while Justin was at work I also made a big batch of guacamole and a mint infused simple syrup that we used later that evening to make mojitos. Housewifery at its finest. After the picnic we headed back to the officers club with his friends and stayed there until late in the evening. By the end of the week the heat had finally broken, so after everyone was a few drinks in they headed outside to the volleyball court behind the club and played for a little under an hour before calling it a night.

 

We woke up on Saturday and had a leisurely morning before headed back up north to St Louis where we would spend the night so I could catch my early flight back in the morning.We got into St Louis late afternoon, and after we made the mandatory stop at Chipotle so Justin could get his fix, we headed to the mall to kill the rest of the day. Since Justin had recently gotten into golfing with some of the guys on base, we set out to find some golf clothes that would breathe well in the oppressive heat. We had an awful time finding anything in a size smaller than a large, apparently people who wear L, XL, XXL, and XXXL sizes don’t do much golfing because all those sizes we found. We did find a few things though, and jokingly Justin picked out a hot pink shirt. We were speculating as to how flamboyant he would look in it, but it was on clearance for $10 so I insisted that he at least try it on. Turns out, pink doesn’t look half bad on him. Looks a little fabulous, but not too bad. He actually ended up buying it with very little provocation from me. The real test will be if he wears it, as this remains to be seen.

only a little fabulous

 

Later that evening we hung out with Chucks family and took Chuck out for ice cream before going to bed so we could be up in time for my 730 am flight back to Charlotte, NC where I would catch my connecting flight back to Dulles. We made it to the airport on time the next day, but when we got there we found out that my flight had been cancelled due to “crew availability,” whatever that means. What it ended up meaning was that I stood in a very long line of disgruntled and whiny customers while everyone waited to be re-ticketed. While that was somewhat frustrating I ended up getting a direct flight to Washington National instead of the layover in North Carolina, but this flight left at 11. I didn’t mind the extra wait as I got a little more time with Justin and I didn’t have to deal with a layover.

All in all it worked out. I’m glad I went to see Justin, but I am not terribly eager to go back to Missouri anytime soon.

Meet Me In St. Louis

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

I made my official and triumphant return to the United States on July 20th, and a little over a week later I found myself packing and boarding yet another airplane. Why would I do this you might ask. I had just gotten home! My travel lust had been effectively quelled!  So what could possibly make me want to sit on yet another airplane when I had just endured the most hellish cross continental episode of airline travel? A boy. Of course.

Currently my boyfriend, (that still feels super weird to say) Justin is in the Army, stationed at Ft Leonard

Wood, Missouri where he is completing his branch detail training in the Chemical Corp. I hadn’t seen him since he visited me in Sydney in late May and I had promised him that since he flew all the way to Australia to see me I could probably handle flying to Missouri to see him. I found a relatively inexpensive flight that left from Dulles Airport at 5 am (ugh) and sent me to Charlotte NC(which I’m sure is why it was cheap) for a layover, before finally landing in St Louis at Lambert International Airport.

I didn’t even bother going to sleep the night before I left since I had to be at the airport around 3 am. Thankfully my friend Ian had volunteered to take me to the airport so my family didn’t have to. My flights were all on time and I arrived in St Louis tired, but in one piece around 8 am. Once on the ground I had all day to rest and explore since Justin wouldn’t get off work until around 5pm and then it would be another two hours for him to drive from Ft. Leonard Wood to St Louis. We planned on spending the weekend exploring the city, and hanging out with his college roommate whose family lived in Chesterfield, a suburb about 30 minutes from downtown St Louis. I waited around all day until Justin showed up and then we went out to dinner, but having gotten up at 5 am, worked all day, and then driven two hours he wasn’t good for much else, so we went to bed early so we could start early the next day and explore St. Louis.

In talking to my friend Becky who makes frequent trips to St Louis to visit her boyfriend, and Justin’s sister in law Laura, who had also spent some time there, we had compiled a list of locations we wanted to visit. Becky had suggested the museum under the arch, the historic downtown courthouse, the City Museum, and some restaurants around town. Laura had made some restaurant suggestions as well, but strongly encouraged us to visit the City Museum as well. Neither Becky nor Laura had gone into great detail about what we could expect at the City Museum, but they both strongly advocated for it, saying that while it was really for kids during the day, after hours they served alcoholic beverages and it became an adult playground. We were sold on this idea after the two vehement endorsements we received, but we first had to fill the daylight hours.

It was a gloomy rainy day when we set out into the city on Saturday morning, but we were determined not to let this dampen our spirits. We first headed to the most famous St. Louis landmark- the Arch.

under the arch

 

Gateway to the West

 

We had no real intention of spending any money to go up inside of it, but we did want to check out the free museum underneath it which was all about Lewis, Clark, and Westward Expansion.

Museum entrance under the arch

Justin and I are both history nerds and can easily spend hours in a single room of a museum, so walking into this one we were very excited, only to be incredibly disappointed. When you walked past the giant stuffed bear at the entrance, you found yourself in a circle, and as you moved away from it in any direction, numbers on the ceiling denoted a different year in history. We couldn’t figure out if you were supposed to walk around the room in half circles back and forth, or if you were supposed to go straight back. We tried a little of each method, but neither made much sense. We tried to stay open minded, but then we ran into this befuddling piece of history.

What does Albert Einstein and the atom bomb have to do with Westward expansion? Anyone?

It’s a giant picture of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Japan, and a quote about it from Albert Einstein. What does this have to do with Lewis and Clark? None of the dates on the ceiling went past the 1800s so we couldn’t conceive how they might have thought the atom bomb belonged in this museum.  Justin and I speculated endlessly on this, but couldn’t come to any logical conclusion. We were willing to forgive this one misplaced historical oddity, but we kept finding them.

FDR? ok.....Still not quite sure what this has to do with Lewis and Clark

We puttered around the museum for a bit longer before finally becoming more frustrated than interested. We took a quick trip to the gift shop where we found all sorts of odd items with the image of the arch printed on them. There were coffee mugs, water bottles, sweatshirts, 3D puzzles, back packs and even DOG CLOTHES. I know there isn’t a whole lot to be proud of in the midwest, but really? This seemed a bit overzealous. It’s an arch people. As far as architectural marvels go its not really that exciting. One of my Australian program friends Andy, who I teased endlessly about being from Iowa and I were talking one night, and when I told him that I might be going to visit Justin in Missouri he said, “UGH! Missouri is AWFUL! Why would you EVER want to go there?!” Coming from someone from IOWA that meant something, and I was beginning to understand what.

 

Across the street from the Arch is the across the street from the historic courthouse, so we headed there.

Historic courthouse where the Dred Scott case was heard

The architectural details of this building were incredible, and it was all decked out in red white and blue so I felt like I had stepped into a set for The Music Man. The court house was not only beautiful, but it featured many great exhibits on the Dred Scott case, Missouri’s history, and the civil rights movement.

America!

 

ceiling

By the time we finished up at the courthouse it was closing time, and time to eat. Chuck’s parents had invited us to join them at a St Louis landmark for dinner, Blueberry Hill, a historic location near the St Louis Walk of Fame where Chuck Berry makes monthly appearances to perform and eat. After dinner Mr and Mrs. Long left Chuck in our care as we headed to a bar first, and then to the city museum.

Bus atop the City Museum

We arrived at the city museum around 10 pm and with our purchase of an admission ticket we were given a miniature flashlight key chain. Chuck had been before, but Justin and I hadn’t and we were stoked that we would need a flashlight for this venture. The city museum bills itself as a “museum consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building. It is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” Visitors are encouraged to feel, touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits both indoors and out.

Outdoor jungle gym

 

Slides that start inside and go outside

A description and a bit of history from the museums wikipedia page: The first floor is home of the museum is home to a life-size Bowhead Whale that guests can walk through and view a large fish tank from the mezzanine. Also on the first floor, are a number of tunnels that run across the ceiling, hiding above a sea of fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles. To get into these one can climb up a Slinky, aka old refrigerating coil(donated by Anhueser-Busch), or through a tree house which leads into a giant hollowed out tree that leads to a cabin on the other side of the floor. The floor itself is covered with the LARGEST continuous mosaic piece in the US, which then morph their way up columns, consuming every section of this floor. In one area you will find a tunnel known as the “Underground Whaleway” which runs beneath the floor and into the “Original Caves.”

 

The Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor. In the Enchanted Caves, guests will find an elaborate cave system that was hand-sculpted. Everywhere you turn you see a different creature staring back at you. The Shoe Shafts were left over from when the building was the International Shoe distribution building. To get the shoes from floor to floor, staff would place the shoes on the spiral shafts that would lead down to the loading dock. When the caves originally opened up in 2003, there was only one spiral shoe slide that was three stories tall, but in 2008 a second one was opened, becoming the daddy of them all. A ten story spiral slide, that starts at the roof and takes you down to caves’ entrance.

The roof houses the bar and a small old fashioned Ferris Wheel that you can ride on. It also has a slide that goes under a small pond. The pond has stepping stones that go from one side to the other. The roof also has a school bus that had actually worked once, extending past the edge of the building. You can walk in the school bus, and open the door from the driver’s seat. Also found on the roof are a giant rope swing contained in a free-standing aluminum dome underneath the roof’s centerpiece; a giant metal praying mantis. You can climb a series of enclosed metal ladders inside the dome to an exit at the top.

inside

 

So much to explore!

The three of us spent upwards of three hours running around the museum like little kids on sugar highs. We had a glorious time, staying till they closed their doors at one am.

 

The next day we had breakfast with Chuck and then headed back down to Ft. Leonard Wood, so I could begin my trial run as a military housewife for the week.