Monday, July 29, 2013

Trip to Branson and Nauvoo, June 28-July 6, 2013

A cave on our hike near Branson
Judy and Mike near Branson

Dorine and I near Branson
The OKC bombing memorial
The Beatles tribute band we saw in Branson - loads of fun!

In Nauvoo at the "Last Ride" monument
In front of our hotel room in Nauvoo

At the Browning gunsmithing shop
Outside the visitors' center, Nauvoo
An original (?) sunstone from the temple
Dorine on one of the carriage tours

Mike before the "Sunset" show
Outside the printing shop

On the banks of the Mississippi
"Sunset Over the Mississippi"

Seventies Hall - Interior
On a barge of the type used to ferry wagons

Mike with a petite guide at the BY home
Seventies Hall - Exterior

With the draft horses used for the carriage
Dorine outside BY's root cellar

At the tinsmith's shop
At the "coopering" display

Quote by Louisa Barnes Pratt
Pointing out Rebecca Mangum's name
"Bueller?  Bueller?"

Carthage Jail
4th of July parade in Carthage, IL

Looking down where Joseph fell
Carthage Jail

The hole from the bullet that killed Hyrum
Old Nauvoo Burial Ground
On the spot where Joseph was martyred

At the graves of Joseph, Emma, Hyrum
Old Smith/Bidamon family home

At the Smith "Red Brick" store
Mansion House
At the site of Porter Rockwell's residence in Nauvoo

"The Prophet's Last Ride"
Rebuilt Nauvoo Temple

Liberty Jail
Sunset over the River

Awful place to spend five months
Liberty Jail

At the Cheesecake Factory in KC
Outside Liberty Jail

"Oh Lord, my God!"
Outside the Cheesecake Factory in KC
Family Living Center in Nauvoo
BYU fans are everywhere

Dorine and I traveled with Mike and Judy to the Midwest for some sight-seeing.  I got to visit or pass through a number of states that I'd never been to before -- Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois (except an airport), Iowa, and Kansas, to be exact.  The trip had two real aims: one was to visit Branson, Missouri and see a couple of shows there, and the other was to take a tour of church-history sites in Nauvoo, Illinois, Carthage, Illinois, and Liberty, Missouri.

We left Albuquerque on the morning of Friday, June 28, driving east on I-40 to Oklahoma City and staying the night in a Residence Inn there.  We ate dinner at a popular local steakhouse (whose name escapes me), although I wasn't too impressed after waiting for an hour for a table and then getting a cut of meat with more than a little gristle in it.  That night we drove down to the Oklahoma City National Memorial (the site of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995, in which 168 people were killed), which was both impressive and somewhat eerie.

The next morning we got back on the road and drove to Branson.  I"d pictured Branson as being a greener, more-humid version of the Las Vegas Strip, but it actually doesn't have gambling and is located in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks.  We stayed two nights at the Worldmark resort there, seeing a Beatles tribute band ("Liverpool Legends") at the Andy Williams Theater on Saturday and a show of Chinese acrobats at the New Shanghai Theater on Sunday.  In between, we attended sacrament meeting in one of the Branson wards and took a hike on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday morning, July 1, we hopped in the car and headed northeast to Nauvoo.  It was a bit of an adventure finding it, especially using the "eccentric" GPS in Mike's Lexus; we ended up on several obscure back roads trying to get across the Mississippi River, then we drove north on the Illinois side to Nauvoo.  I'm not sure what I was expecting when we got there, but our hotel (the Nauvoo Family Inn & Suites) was decent, if expensive.  The most-striking things about Nauvoo are (a) the massive investment that the LDS Church has sunk into restoring much of it -- including re-building the long-gone Nauvoo Temple (in which we did an endowment session on Wednesday, July 3) -- as a site to do missionary work, and (b) the fact that most of the local residents, generally not Mormons, seem unenthused about any aspect of the tourist trade beyond what it does for the local economy. 

In general, the Mormons were in the area only about seven years (1839-1846), from the time they were driven out of Missouri to the time when they were more or less driven out of Illinois; however, that period looms so large in Mormon lore that most active Mormons will make a pilgrimage there at some time in their lives.  I have ancestors on both sides of my family who lived in Nauvoo -- Kartchners, Hunts, and Pratts on my dad's side, and Richeys, Mangums, and Chapmans on my mom's side -- and thus I've long felt a particular draw to the place, notwithstanding my not ever going there before.  (Note the pictures above that show me with (a) the name of Rebecca Mangum, a third-great grandmother on my mother's side, who died at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and (b) a plaque on the "Trail of Hope" with a quote from Louisa Barnes (not Barns) Pratt, a third-great grandmother on my father's side -- obviously a true pioneer in women's rights.)

We toured most of the church sites and displays/demonstrations in the three days we were in Nauvoo.  The younger "performing" missionaries -- singers, musicians, actors -- do much to give a "period" flavor to the place; especially affecting were the twilight "Trail of Hope" vignettes acted out along Parley Street, the Saints' route of evacuation from the city (and across the frozen river) in 1846.  On Thursday, we got around to touring the "Community of Christ" (f/k/a the Reorganized LDS Church) facilities, which include the Joseph Smith home, the Mansion House, the Smith family cemetery, and the Smith "Red Brick Store."  It provided a stark contrast with the LDS presence: one, the information was presented from almost a strictly secular-history viewpoint; and, two, it emphasized the fact that Emma, Joseph Smith's widow, stayed in Nauvoo, married a man named Lewis Bidamon, and was instrumental in convincing her oldest son, Joseph Smith III, to "reorganize" the church some years after the bulk of the Saints had gone to Utah and had recognized Brigham Young as Joseph's successor.  One senses that the Community of Christ, which hardly seems to venerate Joseph Smith these days, is sort of bored with Nauvoo; it wouldn't surprise me if, someday soon, it sold the Smith sites to the LDS Church for the big money that the latter would certainly pay for them.

We also drove to Carthage, Illinois and toured the old Carthage Jail, where Joseph Smith and his older brother Hyrum were assassinated by a mob in June 1844.  It is a somber place that causes one to meditate sincerely on Joseph's life and prophetic calling, although, again, the local population seems largely oblivious to the jail's significance to Mormons.  (On the way to Carthage, we passed through a small village called "Ferris"; I couldn't resist taking a photo of the town's water tower and then using Microsoft Paint to add the word "SAVE" as an homage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (See above.)

We drove down the river a ways on the evening of July 4 to watch Keokuk, Iowa's fireworks display from across the river in Illinois.  The next day, we left Nauvoo and started driving home, passing first through Liberty, Missouri, stopping at the church's facility at the Liberty Jail, where Joseph was held in jail for five long, cold months in 1838-1839.  We then stopped in Kansas City, where we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.  Later, we spent the night in Wichita, Kansas, where I had an incredible fit of what literally must have been hay fever.  And we finally arrived back home on Saturday, July 6; it was on that day that I finally realized just how much time we'd spent in the car -- what a slog!

Overall, I enjoyed the trip immensely and am glad we went.  We like to travel with Mike and Judy, as they are always good company and take the tedium out of long stretches on the highway.