Janice had a birthday this week and since we don’t exchange presents (we have the stuff we want anyway), we usually try to do a little something special on each others natal day. Last year for my birthday Janice surprised me with a train trip to Kansas City which has sort of set the gold standard. This year I decided to take Janice to a model train museum we had see in the electric co-op magazine a while back. The problem was it is only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Janice’s birthday was Thursday.
Janice decided that she wanted to go to Hermann which is what we did last year on her birthday because it is a nice place to visit and they have a couple of great sausage places to stock up at. She saw that we could visit a state park and a state historic site as well. We started at Graham Cave state park north of Hermann where the main feature is a cave that was used by ancient native Americans as far back as 20,000 years ago. They had a nice interpretive kiosk that talked a lot about the various artifacts they found and then we went to the cave.
It is not a typical cave with an small entrance that goes deep into the ground, this is a very wide cave that is like a large overhang where they stored goods and sought shelter. At the very back is a very small tunnel that goes deeper. As caves go it was just so-so but worth the stop.
We headed back to Hermann to visit the Deutschheim historic site. It is basically a German style home that was built when the town was settled back in the 1800’s. It looks nice from the outside but the only way to see the inside is to take the tour which was 90 minutes, too long to get to both the Wurthuas in Hermann and the Swiss meats which is down the road. We opted to walk around and take some pictures and then did our shopping.
Deutschheim House and visitor center
Friday morning we headed out and I drove because Janice had no idea where we were going, which is odd because she always drives the first leg of a trip. I added a couple of state parks that we had not seen in the St. Louis area to the “birthday” trip since the museum didn’t open until 1PM. The first park was Castlewood State park which is near Eureka and is right on the Meramec River. We drive in toward where the river access was and I spotted a couple of deer in a clearing so Janice hopped out and got a couple of nice photos with her new camera. We walked down to the river which was not very high and took more photos.
Next up was Babler Memorial State Park just north and west of there. It is a beautiful park with a large monument to Dr. Henry Babler who was a well known surgeon in St. Louis in the early 20th century. The visitor center was very nice with several exhibits and some history about how the park was acquired.
Memorial to Dr. Babler
It was then time to head over to Washington to see the Iron Spike Model Train Museum. I expected to see a few layouts and some old models on display and that is what they had in the front portion but then our guide took us into the back shop and we were not prepared for what we saw. They have an area about 100′ x 50′ full of huge layouts that were purchased or donated that they are restoring and expanding. The detail on some was amazing and the scope of the large layouts impressive. Some of these layouts had to have been in dedicated buildings because they would never fit in a basement or den.
The tour lasted nearly two hours and since we were the only two there we got very personalized treatment. Janice really enjoyed it and so did I so my birthday surprise was a good one.
Some of the layouts in the shop
A nice farm on one of the layouts
Saturday we headed west to Springfield and the Ozark Mini Maker Faire. It was at the conference center at Bass Pro Shop which is an amazing place. I remember when it was just a huge outdoors store but now it has expanded so much it takes up city blocks. The newest attraction is the wildlife museum that after years of delays is finally opening and of course the conference center. The Maker faire was filled with exhibits and vendors showing off all kinds of 3D printers, CNC wood engravers, and other things for makers of all ages. STEM was highlighted in many exhibits and even local engineering firms were present. The best part was seeing how many young people were interested in the technology and not so technical maker stuff. It is good to get kids interested making things and learning skills as early as possible.
One of the exhibits that Janice liked was the blacksmith instructor. He had a portable forge setup and did some demonstrations while promoted his blacksmithing school. If it was not so far away from us Janice would be tempted to attend but it is north of Kansas City so would involve a long drive and some oversight stays. In spite of that, she is considering it so time will tell.
We headed home in the afternoon, had a nice dinner in Rolla and then relaxed at home the rest of the night. It was nice to stay home Sunday and Monday but errands to run the rest of the week will keep us busy again. Who said retirement was boring?