Category Archives: Write Anywhere Venues

Write Anywhere #75

I believe you can find the fuel for creativity anywhere.

I’m kind of passionate about it.

I think it stems from a conversation I had when I was young and impressionable. Not really a conversation but a statement presented to me as gospel. Someone who I looked up to and was supposed to be a nurturing presence told me I wasn’t creative. Flat out. Not creative.

Oh, yes, you are a pretty girl and yes, very smart. But you can’t do ‘arty’ things.

This person told me Continue reading

Write Anywhere #74

We’ve reached the last part of my August travels. It’s been a wonderful journey that I’ve enjoyed reliving by sharing it with you here on the blog. I know most of you have probably caught up with me at this point, but just in case, here is how the adventure went down:

Driving down Interstate 44 towards Tulsa, I reflected upon all my experiences over the past week. No matter how much you want to shield your children from hurt in this world, it’s going to happen in one form or another. As devastating as their experience was, I was proud of how the kids were handling it. I knew they would be okay.

I also discovered  Continue reading

Write Anywhere #73

Two more stops on my August adventure to make it back home. Have you seen where I’ve been so far?

The moments spent with BAM and his parents flew by. Though life would always be different for them, they began to fall into the regular routine of their lives. Time for Nani to get out from underfoot.

Sent off with big hugs and a few tears, I headed out early on a Wednesday, with lots of time for reflection during the eight-hour drive. I decided to take a quick detour to a place that had been calling me to exit the interstate and explore it for decades.

Write Anywhere #73: In A Cave

Meramec Caverns, entrance

leading the way to the caverns

Meramac Caverns has long been on my ‘explore this’ list. I can remember from my youth the billboards and barn roofs painted with the familiar advertisement along Interstate 44, which follows much of the path of the original Route 66 through Missouri.

Meramec_Caverns_Barn_(162826555)

Meremac Caverns Barn advertisement, photo courtesy Brett Moore, Creative Commons

Meramac Caverns is the largest cave system in Missouri, which is known as ‘The Cave State’ with about 6,000 identified caves. After exiting the interstate, I followed a beautiful tree-lined road about ten miles to the entrance.

Meramec Caverns, entrance and stores, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

Meramec Caverns from the outside

The outside of the cave looks rather kitschy, with some storefronts, a restaurant, and a ton of gaudy souvenirs for purchase, but once you walk into the actual cave system itself, the atmosphere changes, literally. Even though it was ninety+ degrees outside, plus high humidity from an abundance of rain the day before, inside the cave the temperature stays at a steady and cool sixty degrees.

At first I thought I’d get the chance to walk through the cave on a self-guided tour, but it ended up being much bigger than I thought. All visitors must take the tour with a uniformed guide. Our group gathered to about 75 people before they herded us into the first wide opening.

Meramec Caverns, The Ballroom, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

The Ballroom

According to historical accounts this area of the cave held an abundance of saltpeter, also known as potassium nitrate, an important ingredient in gunpowder. It was mined for saltpeter from the 1700′s right through to the Civil War.

While the cavern was in Union hands, a small contingent of Confederate soldiers attacked the Army’s mining venture. Legend has it that one of those soldiers was the infamous bank robber Jesse James, who along with his brother Frank, later used the cave to hide from the law. The owner of the cave, Lester Dill, found some artifacts that were traced to a train robbery at Gadshill, Missouri that Jesse James was known to have been involved in, so it could be true.

After its saltpeter days up through the 1940′s the huge entrance was given a floor and used as a dance hall, and today is known as the ‘Ballroom’. They built a stage for bands to play Saturday night dances and Sunday night gospel singalongs. The echoes in the room would make for a freaky awesome sound. Wonder what some modern-day electric guitars might sound like?

After the Ballroom, the tour guide took us back further into the cave system, and the air became damper, and of course, it was pitch black without lights. The guides would flip a switch and lights came on ahead of us, then flip another and the lights turned off behind us. I could see why they didn’t want people just wandering around on their own. The roar of an underground river bouncing off the cave walls combined with the dark gave me a bit of vertigo. The group had to cross a bridge over the river (which was really the size of a large creek) and I have to admit I tried to hold on tight to the rails. Only problem, everything is coated with a film of dampness, so that didn’t make me feel any more secure.

Several areas offered a close-up look at stalagmites and stalagtites, the perfect recipe of water and minerals that happen in limestone caves, dripping and growing centimeter by centimeter over thousands of years. They placed clear plastic walls between visitors and mineral formations to prevent any contact with them, as something as innocuous as skin oils can damage them and stunt their growth. It was very hard to take any good photos in the dark and cramped conditions (seventy-five people trying to look at the same rock in a cave is cramped!) but here are a few that turned out:

Meramec Caverns, stalagmites and stalagtites, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

stalagmites and stalagtites with a pool of water

Botryoid mineral formations, Meramec Caverns, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

Botryoid formations: grape-shaped

large stalagmite, Meramec Caverns, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

large stalagmite

We moved up and down throughout the cave system, and at one point a climb of almost forty very steep stairs had the tour guide asking ‘those with knee and cardiac issues’ to wait at the bottom. I climbed the stairs huffing and puffing with most of the group to view the famous ‘Wine Table’. It’s a very rare formation, with only one other in the world in Italy. My lungs did not appreciate the rarity, but instead complained about how out of shape their owner was.

The final stop on the tour was the spectacular Stage Curtain. You can tell where it gets its name:

Stage Curtain, Meramec Caverns, Missouri, photo by kristin nador

The Stage Curtain

And harking back to a time when Americans were much more easily entertained, we sat down in theatre seats in front of the Stage Curtain for a light show.

Hokey and simplistic now, it was a technological thrill during its time. It’s the original light show owner Lester Dill installed to showcase this natural wonder. The tour guide has to throw switches for all the lights throughout the show, so if you are there in person, you mostly hear the clicking of the switches. Dill was very proud that Kate Smith actually came to sing ‘God Bless America’ there in front of the Stage Curtain in the 1940′s, and the governor of Missouri gifted the cave with the American Flag light. They can only leave it on now for 25 seconds or the bulb burns out.

After the tour guide led us back to the start of our journey, I found a bench near the tour start, and pulled out my phone. It was a little too dark to see my own writing on paper, so with a note-taking app, I wrote down some of my impressions and worked on  sensory phrases that described what I experienced. A scene in my in-progress historical fiction calls for my protagonist to sneak into a series of limestone caves being used to store and age kegs of beer, and the sensory phrases I came up with will hopefully enhance that scene. My lungs appreciated the bench rest as well.

The strangest part of my visit to Meramec Caverns had to be coming out of the cave into the noonday sun. It took a while to adjust to the brightness and the heat seemed so much hotter than it should have after spending almost two hours in the cool of the caverns.

I headed out back onto Interstate 44 with plenty of time to spare to make it back to Tulsa. Or so I thought. The last and most bizarre part of my adventure would start only about thirty miles ahead.

Where did you write this week?

Write Anywhere #72

It’s been a long time getting through my August adventure. We’re almost there! If you’d like to follow along from the beginning check out the following posts. If you’re up to date, start right after the jump:

 

Musician Daughter and Musician-in-Law had to make a decision. Just a week before, they lost their baby to miscarriage. Now their son Destined-To-Be-A-Musician’s (BAM for short) second birthday was days away. Would it be right to have a festive party while still mourning their loss? Would it feel right? Would friends and family understand? They didn’t want to deprive BAM, but the thought of birthdays seemed too much, the heart wounds still too raw.

We all decided to focus on the positive for BAM’s sake, and instead of an all-out birthday party, we planned for a casual day at a favorite local attraction. BAM could have a fun time, oblivious to the inner turmoil of his parents, and the bittersweet reminders did not have to sting quite so sharply.

Write Anywhere #72: Grant’s Farm

Hardscrabble U.S. Grant Cabin

‘Hardscrabble’ Ulysses S. Grant Cabin, near St. Louis, Missouri, public domain

Grant’s Farm is a 281-acre animal reserve nestled at the edge of south St. Louis owned by the Busch family of Anheuser-Busch company fame. Part of the acreage was the original homestead of Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Northern Armies during the Civil War and the 18th president of the United States. The cabin he built in the 1850′s before he became president, nicknamed ‘Hardscrabble’, still stands and can be viewed on a tram tour of the park. Visiting the park is free except for parking and buying food if you choose.

This is where we took BAM for his big day, and he couldn’t have cared less about all that history. There were more interesting things for a 2-year old to think about.

Tram at Grant's Farm, St. Louis, Missouri

BAM and tram

The first thing to fascinate BAM was the tram itself. Never having been in anything like it, he enjoyed the open-air ride and spotting animals along the path to the main park area.

Grant's Farm, roaming animals, St. Louis, MO

our view from the tram

When we reached the main park, which is more like a zoo than a farm, we encountered the goat pens. For fifty cents you could purchase baby bottles with milk to feed the goats. BAM didn’t understand the point of standing in line with all those interesting goats running around, and let us know he was not pleased.  But the wait paid off when he got to feed the hungry goats. At first he got confused and thought Mama wanted HIM to drink the baby bottle. Didn’t he graduate to sippy cups already? But then he watched the other children and got the hang of it.

boy bottle feeding goats, Grant's Farm, St. Louis, MO photo by kristin nador

greedy goats

I worried the pushy goats might overwhelm BAM, and the many flies he feared that hung out with those goats, but seeing other kids involved and the novelty of these silly critters drinking baby bottles kept him focused. He even wanted to give some of the goats a brushing.

brushing the goat

brushing the goat

Next we saw a macaw show, and BAM was fascinated enough with the birds to sit still for all of 10 minutes. That’s a long time for a two-year old!

Macaw on rollerskates, Grant's Farm, St. Louis, Missouri photo by kristin nador

Macaw on skates!

After the show BAM spotted the carousel. His parents didn’t want to take the ride, because his last visit to a merry-go-round ended in tears. Well, this one did, too, but not because he was afraid, but because he didn’t want it to end! Turning two gives you a different perspective on life, I suppose. :)

carousel at Grant's Farm, St. Louis, MO photo by kristin nador

fun on the carousel

We walked through more animal exhibits, with monkeys, elephants, and a camel ride. BAM took a quick stop at the ducks and geese for more feeding.

feeding geese Grant's Farm, St. Louis, MO photo by kristin nador

feeding geese

BAM had fun throwing the food, but the heat was getting to all of us. Time for a snow cone break! And free beer (limit 2) for the adults!

Umbrella in the biergarten, Grant's Farm, St. Louis, MO photo by kristin nador

getting some shade

At the end of the day we took BAM to the famous Clydesdales paddocks, but he didn’t want to get too close. Goats are okay, but horses are something else altogether.

young clydesdales, Grant's Farm, St. Louis, MO photo by kristin nador

beautiful young Clydesdales

I wrote by documenting the day in a journal-type book that I will give to BAM in the future. Sometimes writing is not creating fictional worlds but just a way to be a witness to real life. As BAM and I ran around Grant’s Farm together, and his parents saw his happy smiles, I felt I witnessed a small bit of healing start that day as well.

Where did you write this week?

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Write Anywhere #71

Here’s another twist on my interesting August adventure. I hope it inspires you to look for creativity and inspiration wherever you might find yourself. If you aren’t up-to-date on the trip so far, you can follow along through these past blog posts:

On my drive back into town, I stopped at the stop light in front of one of the two biggest employers in town: the Federal Prison. The other is a Christian college. The prison houses minimum security federal prisoners. Bet there are a lot of stories in there. On the right corner I spotted a brown road sign that said ‘Tourist Attraction: Marcoot Creamery 3 miles.’ On a whim I took a right and decided to follow the signs and see what I would find.

Write Anywhere #71: Creamery

Marcoot Creamery, Greenville, Illinois, photo by kristin nador, kristin nador writes anywhere

Marcoot Jersey Creamery

The street became a two-lane blacktop and soybean, corn, and wheat crops made a patchwork of the fields as I continued on farther into the rural landscape. Three turkey buzzards refused to allow me to take their picture, my payback for rudely interrupting their roadkill dinner. I passed dilapidated and abandoned farms and wondered if this creamery might look like its neighbors.

abandoned barn, Greenville, Illinois photo by kristin nador, for kristin nador writes anywhere blog

ghost barn

Just when I decided to turn around, over a hill stood the dairy farm.

working dairy farm

working dairy farm

Marcoot Jersey Creamery continues the tradition of dairy farming started seven generations before by their Swiss ancestors. The comfort of the storefront filled with cheeses and ice creams offered a cool respite from the August heat. Since I was the only tourist for the moment, I was given a casual tour of the cheese-making going on that day.

 

chopping the curds

chopping the curds

The best part of the tour: samples! Cheese, cheese curds, cheese spreads, and beer cheese. Yum!

Then it was back out into the heat for a self-guided tour of the calf barn. Even with large fans going it was full of flies, but are these guys cute or what:

Jersey calf, Marcoot Creamery, Greenville, Illinois, photo by kristin nador

big brown eyes

Jersey calf #2, Marcoot Creamery, Greenville, Illinois, photo by kristin nador

so sweet

I didn’t do any writing at the dairy farm, but I journaled about it later. I thought I’d take BAM back there for the tour and an ice cream cone, until discovering one of the few things he has a thing about: flies. Oh well, maybe when you’re older, BAM.

Where did you write this week?