Summer Vacation Day 1: Missouri

This summer was always going to be really busy for Sarah and I, but we decided early on that we wanted to go away for a bit. We just got back, which means it's time to share some photos.

We took a while to decide where we wanted to go, but in the end we felt like we wanted to get out of the state, but we didn't want to drive too far. So, we ended up going to Branson, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas (that's pronounced "Ark-in-saw", not "Ar-Kansas", for any confused Australians). When we told people our plans, their reactions consisted of "Branson's so touristy and commercialized" and "What on earth is there to do in Little Rock?" So I guess there's no way we can win.

Beyond having our hotels booked, we didn't really have much of a plan. We figured we'd look for whatever sounded interesting along the way and go there.

Step one was jumping on I-44 and heading toward Missouri. We didn't stop in Oklahoma except for fuel (we reasoned that if there was anything interesting along the way, we could make a day trip out of it some other time). We noticed that our entry to Missouri took us close to the Kansas border as well, so we made a detour into there. That detour was a little longer than intended after I missed a turn though...

Eventually, we found the marker showing the point where the three states meet.

Not quite as noteworthy as the four corners, but we thought it was exciting anyway. What it did was that I doubled the number of US states that I've been in, in a matter of minutes.

Venturing a little further on, we found a Missouri information center, with this guy to greet us.

Next stop was Joplin, where we discovered the Wildcat Glades Audubon Center, which is a neat little conservation area with trails that lead to a beautiful creek and a very cool visitors center. The only downside was the outside temperature (a recurring theme on this trip). We still loved it.

Also in Joplin we found "Grand Falls", which were okay, I guess, but not as exciting as we thought they might be. The information bragged about this being the "biggest continually flowing waterfall in Missouri", but it mostly earns this claim by being just downstream of a dam. The main thing we remember was our fear that the kids playing on top of it were going to fall over the edge.

We kept driving, looking through the Internet and the brochures we'd acquired to see if there was anything interesting in Springfield. Though, if you pay attention to the billboards along I-44, you'll be assaulted with ads for a place called "Fantastic Caverns", which is, apparently, America's only cave tour you ride through instead of walk. We were both thoroughly baffled by what this cave involves, though, given the strange combinations of advertising slogans and web domains these caves seem to have. We decided that this really must be the most exciting place in the world if the billboards were anything to go by.

No idea if that's true. We didn't go.

We continued on to Branson, braved the crazy traffic that comes with being in a tourist town, found our hotel, and ordered a pizza. And our first day was done.

Coming up next: Shaun faces his fears in old-timey America.