Monday, September 15, 2014

Tour of Missouri: The Great Pershing Balloon Derby

Any other weekend it looks just like a farmer's field accessed by a country road off an under-traveled state highway. It is no different than the other farmer's fields that surround it.

That all changes on Labor Day Weekend. That is when the farmer's field  transforms into a launching pad for a Hot Air Balloon Festival that has been occurring every Labor Day for the past thirty-eight years. The Great Pershing Balloon Derby occurs just west of Brookfield, Missouri every Labor Day weekend.



 The festivities need a small amount of luck; the weather conditions have to be perfect to fly a hot air balloon. So, if the rain stays at bay and the winds are low it is worth the drive to this north-central community to see the balloons.

The schedule is pretty much the same every year. There is a flight and night glow Friday night, Saturday and Sunday evenings of the festival. There is also morning flights on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings. There are small town festival activities Saturday as well; a parade, free entertainment, baby contest, and a dance.


We decided to camp at Long Branch State Park the weekend of the Derby. It was a 40 minute drive to and from the state park to the launch site. We arrived at the field around 4:30 p.m. shortly after the gates opened. We easily found a place on the grass for our chairs and picnic basket right near the boundary flags separating the balloonist from the crowd.


Food and novelty vendors helped pass the time until the launch was scheduled. The weather was questionable and the balloonist took their time deciding if it was safe enough to launch. Luckily for us, they waited long enough and the conditions became favorable! Once a decision was made, the balloonist raced to a spot on the field and raced to launch.


We were so close to the action! The night we were there around 30 balloonist took the field and later the air. The crew carried out the baskets, dragged the giant balloons out and began the process of filling them with hot air. It seemed to take forever for them to fill and stand up tall but then next to no time before they we taking the sky.


Watching the balloonist leave the ground and watching the sky fill with the hot air balloons is just an amazing site! The Short Chic loved every second of it and immediately began asking if we could come back again next year.


Several of the balloonist lifted and sat right back down so they could return and do the night glow. In the night glow, the balloons are filled with hot air but they do not launch. Instead the propane burners light the hole balloon up against the fading night sky.  During this part the crowd is invited to duck under the boundary flags and walk up close to the balloonist. The Balloonist even have trading cards made up and hand them out to the crowd.

All day The Short Chic had begged to ride in a balloon. She had declared it one of her life's dreams (mind you at the age of 6)! She quickly changed her mind when we got up close to the balloon and she heard the loud noise of the propane burners. She could not get far enough away!



Tour of Missouri: Long Branch State Park

Labor Day Weekend we achieved one of our 2014 goals. We visited our fifth state park in a year and earned our Camper's Award from the State of Missouri.

Long Branch State Park is located in Macon, Missouri right at the intersection of 36 and 63 Highways. For those of you from the Kansas City area it reminds me a lot of Smithville Lake. The lake is completely the focus of this state park.


We explored the lake by driving around. It was apparent really quickly that this lake is huge. Not only did we find Long Branch Lake but we also found Macon Lake. Both entertained us.

Long Branch has a camping area with electric hook-ups but they also have primitive camping available as well as hike-in camping. Our campsite was located in a tree grove which provided great coverage from the sun.  The shade coverage provided us with amazing sleep both nights because the sun was kept at bay. We also enjoyed two rain showers during our holiday weekend.


We like to hike during our state park visits. Long Branch Park only has four hiking trails. Two of them are long; really long - in excess of 3 miles long.  Most of them were also in full sun with little shade as they were in areas we have come to know as "Prairie Restoration Areas".  Meaning, no shade. We selected a path with some shade that was under 2 miles and hiked it; The Lakeview Trail. The Short Chic thanked us. The Dog thanked us too.  The Dog is over hiking! We found many Missouri Wildflowers on our trip. They flourish in Prairie Restoration Areas.



Long Branch has a public access beach that we visited and enjoyed the cool water on one of the last warm days Missouri was forecasted to have. The swimming area is nice with gradual slopes that allow everyone to play in the water. The Short Chic and her Daddy made a sand castle before calling it a day.


The location of the state park was convenient for us as it allowed others to visit us. My mother, oldest brother, his girlfriend and some high school friends all visited us at the campsite. We selected this state park due to its proximity to the annual Labor Day Balloon Festival at a nearby town. If you were looking for things to do outside the state park, you could visit the childhood home of Walt Disney (Marceline, Missouri) and tour the local museum.



This is our 7th camping trip this year. Our sixth state park (including Katy Trail State Park).  This was the first camping trip that we encountered the walking stick. He showed up at our camp site the morning of our second day and hung around all weekend. At one point, The Walking Stick decided to leave the post he had been guarding and decided to introduce himself to The Short Chic. I am sure the entire campground heard her scream. That makes two creatures she has no need for (the crawdad and the walking stick).

Happy Camping!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

See You Soon

This week we have to say "see you soon" to some dear friends. Their life journey is taking them away from Kansas City and across the country. I have spent some time reflecting on our friendship and time together. 


I met my friend Meeghan in graduate school before I was married; back when it was just The Boy and I. Meeghan's husband grew up in a small Kansas town which is where she lived when we met. Meeghan introduced us to her husband's childhood best friend and his wife ((Glen and Jen) when they moved to Kansas City. All three of us ended up having little girls that were exactly six months apart. The Short Chic is the youngest. 


Through the years we have had a lot of fun memories. Fourth of July parties in a small Kansas town. A lot of birthday parties. Even swimming and gymnastics all at different times. There have been so many social gatherings in the years that we have been friends.  



Baby brothers have been added to the mix. Older brothers have grown a great deal. Even these three girls have gotten so big!


Do you remember when we went to The American Royal Parade? I hardly remember a thing about it other than we drove your car into a parking barrier as we tried to leave!  Do you remember our monthly dinners at each others houses? Or do you remember the time we "lost the kids" at the Fourth of July celebration? The Short Chic will never forget the giant sized candy bar you gave her Halloween. And I might never forget playing the Wii with our husbands back when that was a new thing!  I will forever cherish the scrapbooking adventure at the garage. I am sure those men folk still are trying to figure all of that out! Or, how about the homemade pinata that refused to break?  I am thankful for the bike rally's, deck building, and all the other random moments we have shared together.


Jen is the kind of person that shy's away from the spotlight. She is the kind of friend that is always by your side when you need it. When I was undergoing chemotherapy she brought my family dinner at the beginning of every treatment. She asked her mother-in-law to make me a quilt. She put all of their hand-prints on the backside of the quilt. I know I will forever cherish it. 

When The Boy had his appendicitis attack Jen dropped everything and came to the hospital. She sat with him and me all night. All night. All. Night. 



Jen has always done such nice things for others. She just has the biggest, most loving heart! But she is also the type of person who rarely lets others do for her. Since she has never really allowed me to "return the favor" I have taken to paying it forward. She has inspired me.



I am saddened by the fact that she is no longer across town but instead resides across the county. We have a birthday party next month and just the thought that they won't be there is a huge hole in our hearts.


I know your life is on a new adventure. I do wish you the best!  So, yes, I part from you with a smile on my face because I am excited for you. But, I also leave fighting back the tears for I know that you will be missed!  We will not say good-byes! We will see each other again. Instead I shall say...

See you Soon! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Weekend Project: A PVC Camping Lamp Post and Flag Holder



I have seen a few of these around campsites and I knew I would like to have one. The only problem that I had is The Husband.

He already thinks we drag too much stuff with us when we go camping and if I had told him my desire to have a PVC Camping Light Pole he would have shut it down quickly!

So, that leaves a girl with only one choice: Figure out how to do it by herself.

I did some internet searching and found a few road maps on RV forums. They seemed easy enough!

I visited the local hardware store for the supplies:

  • An exterior post lantern light
  • 2 inch PVC pipe (I used 5 feet but had to purchase a 10 foot piece)
  • A 3 inch toilet flange
  • A 3 inch to 2 inch Reducer
  • PVC Glue
  • A 12 foot electric cord kit
  • 2 - 3/4 inch PVC Caps
I also used a few supplies we already had on hand:








  • White Spray Paint







  • 3 1/2 foot - 3/4 inch PVC Pipe
  • Drill Bits (1 inch and 1/2 inch)
  • Tent Stakes


  • The first step was preparing the lantern light. I could only find black in the store and I knew I wanted all white. I covered the glass with paper and tape then used some white spray paint I had on hand and painted the light. 

    Next, it was time to prepare the 2 inch PVC pole. I needed a 1 inch hole at the top to put the 3/4 inch pipe through. I also needed a smaller hole at the bottom for the cord to come out through. The Husband and his friend, Gary, actually helped with the drilling. We do not have a drill press so we knew getting the hole level would be tricky. If you can't tell from the photos, we are off a bit but I am okay with how close we got. 

    Afterwards, I trimmed up the smaller side with a saw. I put end caps on the two ends of the smaller PVC pipe. I glued one end cap on (the longer side) and did not glue the smaller end. (This will allow the smaller pipe to be removed.)

    The next step was to secure the pole to the base. I used the 3-inch toliet flange as a base. I read that you could attach the flange to wood but I decided that wood would take up space on the transport. So, I opted to use tent stakes to secure the flange to the ground.   Assembling this was easy. You put some glue inside the flange and push the reducer in. Add some more glue to the inside of the reducer and push the PVC pipe into it. 


    Normally my projects do not include drills, saws, and electrical wiring. After helping with the holes, I had to keep reminding The Husband that this was my project and I would ask him if I needed help!

    The wiring was easy.  I threaded the electrical cord in through the small hole we drilled and up through the top. The lantern came with two wires: a black and white. The cord kits also came with two wires.  I easily twisted the four wires together and put the cap on. Afterwards I pushed the extra back down in the pipe. 


    The final step was putting the lantern on the pvc pole. We selected to not glue or otherwise permanently adhere the lantern to the top of the pole. We wanted to be able to access the wiring if something went wrong. We were also mindful of storing and transporting the pole.




    To summarize, the light comes off and the small PVC pole can come out for easy storage.  The total project cost me about $50.  I have found and ordered a personalized sign that I will hang from the larger side of the 3/4 inch PVC pipe. I am so excited about this find! You can even personalize the camper to match your own camper! I found them on Etsy and you can check them out here!


                                                 Pop Up Camper Camping Campsite Welcome SIGN PERSONALIZED Weatherproof Great Gift

    This was a relatively easy project to make. I am thankful The Husband helped with the drilling, that would have been a bit intimidating for a newbie like me. However, I did manage to  use a saw and did some basic electrical wiring. 




    Happy Camping!

    I have linked up to these great parties!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Wordless Wednesday: First Day!

     We started school today. The Short Chic started first grade. She was so excited. She allowed me to walk her to the bus but that was it.  Her favorite food is cheese pizza. Her favorite thing to drink is Sprite (but she only gets it with pizza!) Her favorite tv show is Jessie!  When she grows up she wants to be a Disney actress, a dancer, a gymnast, and a designer. (She believes in keeping her options open!) She hates to clean her bedroom or pick up after herself. She also does not like bugs or crawfish.  She loves Monster High and American Girl Dolls.


    He is a Senior. Today was his last first day. Well, except for college. He recently decided he might want to be a teacher when he grows up. His favorite food is Mexican Food. His recently gave up drinking soda.  He loves sports. He hates vegetables. He spent the afternoon getting a job (the second one this week). He starts tomorrow afternoon. I can't believe he is graduating in nine months!





    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Tour of Missouri: Bennett Springs State Park

    It does seem as if we make an annual trip to Bennett Springs State Park. We love the camping there and the fishing! This year we also planned a float trip down the Niangua River as we also try to take at least one float trip per year. 

    Bennett Springs State Park is only a few hours from our home; making this a really reasonable drive. There are six total campgrounds and we prefer campground Number 2. The bathrooms/shower facilities are a little dated but the space the park gives you per camp-sight is worth it!

    As we drove in we encountered a female deer and two fawns. I was happy to find that we encountered them several times during our stay. They even made an appearance during dinner on our first night. 


    I wonder...does anyone else have to take American Girls along on their camping trips?


    The Niangua River is a spring fed river so it is might chilly. It is rocky. And it is traditionally known as a party river because it is so close and accessible. While law enforcement officials have a strong presence on the river on the weekend, we decided that we still did not want to take a chance since we were canoeing with the young ones. We opted to float on a weekday. 

    Bennett Springs State Park does rent canoe's but we opted to rent from Sands Spring Resort instead. They are conveniently located next to the park and they allow those over 21 to bring adult beverages along. Their staff were super friendly and even shared some fishing tips with The Husband on the drive home. 

    We had been on the river less than five minutes and trouble hit. We ran the canoe into a rock, which The Husband and I were able to manuever but it did let in some water. Moments later as we bumped into another rock and took in some more water, The Short Chic started freaking out because we had a "lobster" in the canoe.  Of course there was no lobster but instead a tiny crawfish but that did not stop The Short Chic from upsetting the balance of the canoe and tipping us over. The canoe hit my head, I hit the rocks, and my flip flops floated down stream. Man, we must have been one crazy sight!

    Next year, she will get her own floating devise!  As much fear as she has over crawfish, she has no fear in other areas. The half way point to our float was this mud bank. The water below is super deep and allows for some safe cliff jumping. As soon as she saw the others jumping, The Short Chic wanted to jump too. We bargained with her to do the mudslide instead.  


                                                     

    (sorry about the sideways video. For the life of me I could not figure out how to rotate it on youtube!)


    The rest of the float trip was uneventful. The Short Chic's friend showed her how to "body surf" down the rapids using their flotation devises. We encountered lots of wild life on the river; fish, crawfish, snakes, turtles, birds, and even a fawn.

    After our fun day of foating, the men folk started fly fishing. We actually had seven fishermen in our group and they all managed to catch a few fish (even the newbie)! Our hope is that they catch enough to feed us one night and I think they all felt the pressure to preform. 



    While the men folk fished on Saturday, we girls went for a hike. As we have found in other state parks, a lot of the trails are connected so we started on one path and found ourselves ending on another. I believe we tried to hike The Bridge Trail, switched over to the Bluff Trail, might have wondered onto the Whistle Trail and ended up taking the Spring Trail to the end. 


    All-in-all, we hiked for nearly four miles, climbed one huge hill, and got ourselves completely eaten by chiggers!  One of the coolest parts was after climbing the really tall hill, we were able to spy our men folk fishing in the river below. 


    Another cool site we saw was the actual spring. I love how the water changes colors and you know right were the spring is located. Spying this was practice for The Short Chic for bigger trips to come!


    By the time we made it to the gauge house they were pretty exhausted of walking. Thankfully they thought the gauge house looked like Rapunzel's tower and were inspired enough to stop complaining for a few minutes. 


    The park is full of rock spillways and dams and bridges. It is a very scenic park to be in. Everywhere you turn, you will find fishermen trying to catch a trout.



    The water is crystal clear and while the fish may not bite your hook, it is a source of great frustration to the fisherman that they can see the fish they are so badly wanting to catch but at last are not biting!


    Bennett Springs State Park also has a fish hatchery. They raise baby trout and release them every day. The girls love feeding the fish on our visits.


    After three full days of fishing, the end of the weekend is near.  It comes time to rest and relax. Maybe the writing was on the asphalt all along!

    The party sign caught a lot of attention at the state park campground! Even the camp host and park rangers stopped by to check on us. ( I should also say they came back later to praise our fish cooking skills!)



    The party is really about frying up the mess of fish the group caught collectively.  It is also about telling fishing stories. Talking about how hard it is to catch that first fish after you start. Or what bait the fish responded to the best.  Mostly it is about having a good time on a Saturday night before you have to pack up and head home in the morning!


                        
    After dinner comes the adult time. Don't let the photo below fool you. The Boy maybe serving as bartender to the adults but that is where it stops. The Boy mixed up our "paint can" drink, which we women loved! We had a great time sipping on the paint can and playing Catch Phrase.


    That night we had a bright full moon. On the way from the party camp-sight to our camp-sight the moon really caught my attention. I went in and grabbed my camera to take some photos of it. I am not sure this was the "super moon" we are expecting to see this year but it was worth visiting. 

    As I was taking photos of the moon, The Boy was making a trip to the camper. He must have thought his mom had lost her mind for sitting in the road taking photos of the moon because he went back to the party camp-sight and told everyone still awake. 


    The next thing I knew, The Husband had come over to drag me out of the camper because he had something to show me. These yahoo's heard I was snapping photos of the moon and they wanted me to see another type of moon....


    They ya have it! May the moon shine brightly for you tonight too!

    Missouri Miles Completed: 146
    State Parks visited this year: 7 (our 4th one to spend the night in)
    Number of Super Moons witnessed this summer: 6 :-)

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    National S'mores Day: Reese's Peanut Butter S'more

    Happy National S'more's Day! How appropriate is it that my family was camping with friends the weekend before National S'more's Day.


    We love s'mores and camping as often as we do affords us ample opportunities to create the perfect s'more. My perfect s'more has a fully toasted, maybe even slightly charred marshmallow hot enough to melt the chocolate. 

    Over the course of the summer we have experimented with different wafers, different marshmallows, and different chocolates.  In theory I wanted a Reese's Peanut Butter S'more but I found that traditional Reese's Peanut Butter Cups did not melt the way I like them to. 

    This past weekend, just in time for National S'mores Day, we found these Reese's Peanut Butter bars that resembles Hershey's Chocolate bars. My immediate hope was that they would melt like a Hershey's Chocolate bar. 


     My wishes were granted and the Reese's bars did melt in the most perfect way! Crunchy graham cracker topped with a toasted hot marshmallow then two bars of Reese's Peanut Butter bars topped with another toasted hot marshmallow and another crunchy graham cracker.

    Perfect!

    And judging by how fast the bar was devoured I don't think I was the only one who fell in love with this new twist on an old campfire favorite.