After a late night drinking and chatting with Gary and Ginger we woke late. It was about ten am and I felt awful that we had been occupying their lounge, holding up their day, and wasting valuable time. True, Rik had driven 800 miles in two days but I surely had no excuse.
No matter, we were awake now, and Gary and Ginger took us out for breakfast and a tour of Springfield.
We started at Aunt Martha's Pancake House where I had a huge and delicious breakfast of ham and eggs (sunny side up) - how American does that sound! Going out for breakfast is not something that really happens in England - unless you are on the road and then you'll be lucky to find a proper 'greasy spoon' serving a 'full English'. More likely it will be the Little Chef chain. These options are nothing like the breakfast places in the US. Lovely and clean, with plenty of room between the tables. The ham on my plate of ham and eggs was a huge slab of tasty meat. The eggs were tasty and beautifully cooked - a good yellow yolk that was nice and runny when I cut into it. Also on the plate was a hash brown. Forget the mean, dense, compacted chunk of frozen grated potato on offer in MacDonald's or from a supermarket freezer. This was a tasty, freshly cooked pile of grated potato, nice and brown and crisp on the top. The meal came with the choice of pancakes and syrup or biscuits and gravy. The biscuit was a lovely soft scone-type bread and the gravy was a seasoned white sauce with bits of sausage in it. Yum! The coffee was good and continually refilled without our asking.
Gary drove us around some of the residential areas so we could see both how different they were from the UK and how different the areas were: poorer neighbourhoods and well-to-do ones. I loved Ginger's description of a house that looked very much like hers, but larger - "that's what my house wants to be when it grows up". As nearly all the houses are wooden, and therefore need a lot more maintenance than the brick build houses in which I grew up, the main obvious difference, apart from size (of both the house and the surrounding land), between the 'good' neighbourhoods' and the poorer ones was the condition they were in. If you don't have the money to do the maintenance on your house it shows. A very few of the houses in the very-well-to-do area were two story and I think I saw a few brick built ones too. It was strange to see mock-tudor in Missouri - and there were more than one or two. It was nice to see that their was little ostentation - the 'posh' houses weren't over-the-top or ostentatious, just 'nicer'.
Knowing that Rik and I are both fans of the work of Dale Chihuly http://www.chihuly.com, Gary took us to a local hotel that had some glass behind the front desk that, so he had read, was Chihuly. When I asked the staff if they would mind if I photographed it, I asked if they were by Chihuly. They told me that they were by a man in Dallas Texas (whose name I have forgotten!) who had worked with Chihuly. But definitely influenced by him.
Gary had read that the glass in this hotel lobby in Springfield was by Dale Chihuly. We went to look and, when I asked the staff if they would mind if I photographed it, I asked if they were by Chihuly. They told me that they were by a man in Dallas Texas (whose name I have forgotten!) who had worked with Chihuly. There was no name that I could see anywhere in the lobby or on the outside of the building so I don't know which hotel it is. Gary and Ginger didn't know either. We assumed that the lack of name meant that it was undergoing a change of name and/or ownership.
Around the town
Then we parked up and wandered around on foot for a while. In part of the town the shops have closed. One of these was Woolworth's and I asked Ginger if they had closed recently (in the UK they closed at the beginning of 2009). She told me they closed down several years ago. Wikipedia says that the US stores closed in the late 90s and that the Woolworth's supermarkets in New Zealand have never been connected to FW Woolworth. Although closed, the shops were not boarded up and the windows were not smashed. The streets were clean with no evidence (that I could see) of gum or dog mess. It didn't have the same depressing feel that an area of closed shops in the UK would have.
They are not all closed, off course, and we were soon in streets where little, mainly arty, shops were open, including a glass shop where they did their own glass blowing. It's just as well I have no room in my luggage and have six more flights before I get to NZ - no way could I even consider buying anything. Then we went into
This is a new branch and it's lovely. Nice and quiet (just as a library should be), airy and spacious but with a cosy feel to it to. I'd love a local library like this. Ginger told me that she can order a book online and it will be delivered to the library and she .can pick it up two days later. I was suprised to see three (or four?) 'pods' where people could curl up with a book in their own little space. One had a couple curled up inside sharing a book. I'd love to have taken a photo of the row of them but it felt too intrusive. As it was I took this rather surreptitiously (sp?) leaving the camera on while hung around my neck and pressing the button when I thought I was pointing the right way. I'm glad to see that I didn't really get anyone's face. I love people shots but it feels intrusive to take them. What I wanted to capture was the ambience.
Back in the car and heading for the lake, Rik mentioned that I had said I was going to look out for a 'Route 66' sign that I could kick. It just so happened that the road we were on at the time was part of route 66 and we had passed some signs and mosaics on the wall at the side of the road. It was a rather insalubrious area and the first one that actually felt slightly 'dodgy' to me. Or maybe that was because Gary said 'there are enough of us to look out for you' as I got out of the car to take a picture.
Then we drove down to the lake and got out to take a few photographs. The cloudless sky was a brilliant blue and the sun sparkled on the water and brought out the deep greens of the grass - there were clumps of it in the water. Only the colour of what was left of the leaves on the trees told me it was autumn, not summer.
The Bass Pro Shop
In the early evening, before collecting Ginger's children and going to dinner, they took us to Bass Pro http://www.basspro.com . They didn't tell us where we were going until we got there. As we parked Ginger said something like "remember, this is a shop, despite how it may look". The next thing she said, after we'd walked in, was "you can lift your jaw now!" I'm not sure words can do it justice because any description will just make it sound like a large shop. Which is what it is, of course. But it's more like a fairyland for anything and everything even remotely outdoorsy and whatever your interests there will be something that interests you. We walked into a large, high space with big, painted glass light fittings and lots of stuffed deer. To our right was an area done out like a bayou, with Spanish moss hanging from tree branches, and ponds with fish and even a white alligator. Was it real? Ginger swears she saw it blink. Twice. The rest of us are not sure it's real and the more we doubted it, the more Ginger's attempts to convince us otherwise sounded to me like parents trying to convince a child that Santa really does exist. She's probably still thinking 'stupid Brits, can't they see it's real? The fence around the pool in which the alligator was housed had glass behind it. The other pools didn't. Ginger's argument that this was surely there to protect us from the alligator has a lot going for it. Cynic that I am, I wondered if it was actually there to reinforce the idea that a stuffed alligator was real.
There were gun departments, including a section for 'fine guns' - very old and very expensive, very beautiful, too. Gary explained that he had changed his ideas about people owning guns since he had been living here. His in-laws, he told us, live 25 miles away from anyone, including any law enforcement. If someone broke in and attacked them they would be dead before any help could get to them. Under those conditions I'm pretty sure I'd keep a gun under the bed. But probably not one of the girly pink ones they had on sale! I'd take their lessons in how to shoot, too. Other sections had buggies, camping equipment, sofas and reclining chairs in camouflage fabric (where would you use them?), fishing equipment, clothes, so much stuff. The story goes that the founder started selling fishing bait on one shelf in his father's liquor store about 40 years ago. Now he has shops all over the US and Canada.
Then it was off to collect the kids from youth group at church. Gary and Ginger gave us a tour: The buildings and facilities are much nicer than any in which I or my children went to church clubs.
After dinner at Backyard Burgers it was back to theirs for another very late night chatting and enjoying each other's company. It's amazing how alike Rik and Gary (who had never met each other before) are in so many of their interests and their ways. We spent much of the evening playing with cameras (well we did meet them on flickr) and being both silly and geeky taking photos of all of us with all our cameras and laptops.
There are more photos on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacqib/sets/72157622568734995/