Thursday, November 19, 2015

The missing weeks

Well, here it is. The long overdue, hardly anticipated, missing week of my summer vacation! We'll start out with two warnings. 

1. I'm warning you up front this is a very Mormon-y post. I don't hide the fact that I'm LDS. I'm Mormon. I know it. I love it. I live it. And even more so after this trip. 

2. I'm warning you this is a very, VERY long post and has a crap ton of pictures. You'll see why I've been putting of posting it- because it's freaking long!

Going on a church history tour was amazing. I've learned and read about these places my whole life but to actually go there and see these things made that history become so much more personal to me. A year or so ago my sister, Kim and I decided we wanted to go on a trip. For different reasons the trip never happened. It kept getting put off. But last year, after Melanie died, we decided to just do it. And my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary in March so we decided to take them along with us as an anniversary gift.

We flew out of Salt Lake and landed in Rochester, NY. There we met up with the rest of our tour group. 

Little did I know when I took this selfie how much we'd come to love all these cheeseballs sitting behind us. We had a great group- the tour was led by Jack Marshall. He's an institute teacher at the U and just a really fantastic guy.

Our first stop on the tour was the Whitmer Farm in Fayette, NY. This little home is where the church was first organized. 

 It's kind of hard to imagine all those people crammed into this small space on that April day in 1830.

Not only was the church organized here, but also a lot of revelations were received.

I see how people lived back then and I'm so grateful for what I have now. I mean, this was probably considered a very comfortable home- and I just look at how simple things are and then I look at my own little apartment- I would never have made it living in that time period. I am definitely a 20th/21st century kind of gal. 

This is the Stake Center/visitors center they have built there right by the Whitmer farm. There was a funeral going on so we didn't spend much time inside. Although it was a perfectly lovely building.

It was great having Jack... er... Brother Marshall as our guide. I'm pretty sure he knows everything. He was so filled with information. We had these little headphone thingies so he could talk and we could wander around looking at things and still hear him- or we could sit and listen.

Our next stop took us to Palmyra. This is where the Smith family lived when Joseph first questioned religion.  We stopped at the small cemetery where his brother, Alvin was buried. Having buried my own beloved sister, I can only imagine how hard this was for their family.Alvin was too young- but illness took him.

Also in Palmyra we visited the print shop that published the first edition of the Book of Mormon.

I found it interesting that a lot of books came without bindings- that way you could choose the binding and all your books would match. That makes sense- and explains a lot about some of the older libraries I've seen.

This is a copy of the original handwritten transcript from the Book of Mormon.

The ink on the walls is the original ink from the Grandin Press. Some of this ink may be splashes off the first edition of the Book of Mormon!

I find old printing presses extremely fascinating. How they figured out which pages would go where and printed them out in those big sheets that had 16 or 20 book size pages on them- all different directions but when they were folded would be correctly in order. It's amazing.

And they didn't have typewriters- each word- each letter and punctuation mark- had to be placed individually. The type setter was so skilled that he didn't even have to look to see what letter he was grabbing. He knew by feel which letter- upper and lower case- he was using. The apprentices would get majorly reamed if they were not vigilant about putting the letters back in the correct spaces.

This is the book press. All the dried papers would be put in here and pressed, sewn and then cut so the pages were uniform.

I grew up seeing these pictures. They were always used in primary and Sunday school... they are very familiar to all Mormons (one being a depiction of Mormon, himself). I may have *squeed* a little bit seeing the original paintings. They're real! They're really real!

Our next stop was the Martin Harris Farm. This is where Martin lived when he met the Smith family. It was here that the 116 pages of the manuscript went missing.

His wife insisted on seeing proof of what he was working on. After all, he had mortgaged his farm to help pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon. (I'm not defending her... but come on- that would be hard for you too)

After the Harris Farm, we drove to the Smith cabin. This is a replica, but it is on the original foundation. So all the events talked of in church history happened- right here.

I doubt the fan is original to the house- but it was well placed for one of Kim's hot flashes.

In this upstairs loft, all the children slept. The boys all shared these two beds.

Which means this is where Joseph was- and he was not alone (all his sleeping brothers) when Moroni first visited him.

Joseph's sisters were in the next room.

The Garden.

Mother and Father Smith's bedroom. That "rug" is a painting. I love how frontier families were so creative making their cabins more homey.

This is the original frame home that the Smith family lived in. It was Alvin's idea to build his parent's a house, but he died before it was completed. For years a missionary family lived in the home- just in the area to try to make good relations with the neighborhood and ease the tension against the church that had been there since Joseph first received his mission.

After years of tutelage from Moroni, Joseph received the record. There were several times groups of men would try to steal them. The Smith's had to get pretty imaginative with some of the hiding places to keep the ancient record safe. At one point, they were hidden beneath the hearth stones of this fireplace. These very bricks. This is not a replica.

One night, the family saw a mob coming and had to quickly find a place to hide the plates. In this bedroom, two of Joseph's little sisters were sleeping. He tucked the record in between them and covered it with a blanket. When the mob entered the house and demanded to search- the family stepped aside and let them search. When they approached this room they saw the two sleeping girls and didn't want to disturb them so they left this room alone.

This sink is not original to the house, but it is original to the time.

Can you imagine the conversations that were had in this dining room?

and this yard...? I can just see the Smith children running, having stick pulls and playing stick ball. It doesn't even take that much imagination. And you know, some of the trees there are so old- I betcha they were there.

These next few are just of the property, the barns and such (replicas).

Finally that brings us to the Sacred Grove. It is not just a clump of trees. It is a beautiful wooded area where sound does not travel. Or maybe it does but people were just being reverent. There is a little group of benches where a group can sit and have a meeting. We sat and listened to Jack tell us the history of this place and some of the things that transpired.

We were then allowed to walk freely through the areas along the trails. I chose a different direction than the crowd so that I could be alone and reflect. Other than the mosquitoes that decided I was lunch, this place felt to me as peaceful as a temple. What a beautiful place for 14 year old Joseph to choose for such an important prayer. I found a bench and sat alone, contemplating and singing the words to Joseph Smith's First Prayer.

I wandered and wandered and eventually ran into Kim. We got so lost trying to find mom and dad. We were probably halfway to Ohio before we finally found the right path to take us back to the farm. Our parents had been there the whole time. They took a much shorter path than we did.

It was truly a great experience to be here. To walk where so many sacred events took place.

Before heading to the pageant, we had time to swing by the Palmyra Temple.

I'm not sure who is the bigger cheese- me or my dad.

He is.

That evening we spent at the Hill Cumorah. No one is exactly sure where the plates were buried, but a statue of Moroni stands on the top of the hill.

We walked down the hill (and that is a freaking steep hill!) to the visitor's center where they talk about Joseph's first vision and receiving the plates.

That evening we attended the Hill Cumorah Pageant. It was really fun to see scenes from the Book of Mormon reenacted. The kid on the left is from Idaho Falls and goes to school with my niece Sadie. Small world, innit? I've always wanted to see the Cumorah Pageant and it was awesome- but is it bad that the things I'm going to remember the most from that night are the Salt Potatoes that we bought from the Lion's Club? Oh my gosh! So amazing! A heart attack on a paper plate- but what a way to go!

That's the end of Day One.

On Day Two we woke up and drove to Niagra. Let me give you a little background. The first time I went to the Grand Canyon I was extremely underwhelmed. I remember thinking, "This is it? it's just a hole in the ground." I pretended to be impressed, but really I thought that was a long drive for nothing. I think seeing it in photos and movies and stuff had just made it so much grander in my head. (This was back when I was dumb and didn't appreciate the beauty of nature. Believe me, I've changed)

Anyway, I was really afraid the same thing was going to happen with Niagra Falls. You've seen one waterfall, you've seen 'em all, right? I mean, waterfalls are always impressive to me- and majestic. But nothing to take your breath away. Again, I thought perhaps Hollywood had spoiled the grandeur for me. And when I finally saw it...

I was right.

JUUUUUUUST kidding! As we drove up to it we could see the mist coming off the falls so I knew it was going to be big. But still, when I first saw it- I thought, well... ok, it's a big waterfall. that's pretty cool, I guess.

But what you don't know, is that from the American side you can't really see the whole thing. So we got tickets to take a little ride on the Maid of the Mist.

We donned our super awesome Smurf suits and boarded the boat.

It's not until the boat takes you out and around the bend that you get the full effect and see the famous part of the falls. And yes. It took my breath away. Not just because it was hard to breath in all that mist- but because it was truly fantastic to see. Absolutely beautiful. My pictures don't do it justice because all that mist blocked out so much of the picture!

On the Canadian side you can walk behind the falls. We didn't have time to go to Canada. We just had to yell a hello from the boat.

See? the falls created a lovely backdrop for this picture- but you can't even see it! I guess iPad cameras are not the ideal cameras for capturing water falls.

Dad was pretty excited because the Canadian side was part of his mission. He served here over 50 years ago. He said that once he saw the falls turned off. Yes. they can turn off the falls. Cool, huh?

Kim and Canada

The 'rents and Canada

Me and Canada. What a happy little Smurf.

Say hello to all the people on the Canadian boat! They all waved back. It was awesome.

If we'd had more time we would have walked across the rainbow bridge- but there just wasn't time. Maybe next visit. I would love to be able to say I walked to Canada.

Seriusly, he was pretty happy to be back near his mission.

Some of us had more trouble than others extracting ourselves from the ponchos.

Like, a lot of trouble.  Did we help her? Oh, no. We stood back and laughed at her.

At the base of the hill there was a place where you could hike up closer to the falls. I only went part way up- but it was far enough for me. Once again, all that white is falls. It was almost a good picture.

From the American side.

It started out a good hair day... oh well. It was worth it.

Me and my mommy.

The little trail of blue is all the people hiking up. I didn't go because it was too crowded. (that sounds better than saying because I was too lazy.)

After the boat, we wandered around the grounds park for a while, shopped and ate Dipp'n Dots. We thought we had to be back to the bus at 12:30 so we started meandering that way around 12. I got us fully and utterly lost. We were not even close to where we were to meet the bus and we backtracked a lot. But we didn't rush because we thought we still had time. Wrong-o! When we finally saw our bus, we saw Jack waving his yellow flag and rushing off into the park. We knew that was the symbol that he was looking for someone. "poor schmucks" we thought as we got on the bus. Little did we know that it was us he'd been looking for. He'd called me, but I left my phone on the bus, Kim never answers hers and he didn't have my parent's numbers.

This particular day we were occupying the last  row of the bus- so that walk of shame all the way to the back of the bus was really long. We were never late again.

We hit the road and drove to Ohio. Kim was very excited about this leg of the trip because this was her mission. She said a lot has changed since she was there- but there was a lot that she remembered.

Our first stop was the John Johnson Home in Hiram, OH.

A lot of significant things happened in this house. Joseph and Emma lived here for a while with the Johnsons and for a time, this home was the location of the church headquarters.  It was in this house that a mob broke in, dragged Joseph out into the cold, beat him, tried to force him to drink poison, tarred and feathered him, and left him for dead.

I think this is the room- they called the "sick room"  It was most likely in this room that Joseph was sleeping with his young adopted son, Joseph Smith Murdock. Because the baby was already sick, when the mob left the door open, the baby got worse and eventually died from exposure.

This was Brother Johnson's little office.

I believe one of these was Joseph and Emma's room... I would be more sure about it had I blogged it sooner. Now I'm starting to forget things. sorry.

Because this house was temporarily church headquarters, they built on to it and added some extra beds for missionaries who needed a place to stay while they were on their way to wherever.

They had a loom and were always very industrious.

This is the room that Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were in when the heavens opened and they received a vision that is now section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the 3 degrees of glory. Joseph received several other revelations while living in this house.

The night after Joseph was ravaged by the mob, he stood on this very porch and preached to a crowd that had come to listen to him- proving to the mob that they could not stop the work from progressing.

End of Day 2.

If this were a talk in church this is where we'd stop and have a musical number or something to get you to stand up and stretch. Go ahead, go have a bathroom break, get a snack...

Ready? ok.

Day 3 we headed into Kirtland. Our first stop was Historic Kirtland. It did not look anything like I had it in my head. I've heard the stories, read books and seen movies depicting the area- and seeing the real thing was nothing like what I imagined. I'm sure it looks a lot different now than it did then, but still...

The first place we visited in the neighborhood was Newell K Whitney's home. When Joseph and Emma first arrived in Kirtland, the first place they went was to the Whitney store. After years of study and searching for the truth, Brother and sister Whitney came across the Book of Mormon and were taught and baptized. Shortly thereafter Newel was praying to meet the prophet Joseph.

In February of 1831 a man walked in to NK Whitney's store and said, "Thou art the man." Never having met the man before, Newel asked who he was. "I am Joseph the Prophet. You prayed me here; now what do you want of me?"

Many miracles took place in this home. Joseph healed Elsa Whitney's lame arm, and several revelations were received here in the time Joseph and Emma stayed with them.

Remember the Johnsons? When they moved to Kirtland they opened an Inn next to the NK Whitney store.

Also in the area was a sawmill. Most of the work for the Kirtland temple happened here.

There is also an Ashery where even more work for the temple- and other buildings- took place. It was very fascinating to learn about the process and how industry worked.

That takes us to the NK Whitney Store. A lot of incredible things happened here. They have a book of all the customers who frequented the store. It was kind of fun to browse and see if any relations had shopped there in its day.

I'd still rather shop here than Walmart.

For a time, Joseph and Emma lived above the store.

It was also the site of the first School of the Prophets. Several miraculous things happened in this very room.
my great great great great uncle, Zebedee Coltrin was a member of the school of the prophets and had this experience:
I saw a person passing through the room as plainly as I see you now. Joseph asked us if we knew who it was and answered himself, ‘That is Jesus our Elder Brother, the Son of God!’ After the vision closed, Joseph then told those present to resume their former position of prayer. Again I saw passing through the same room, a personage whose glory and brightness was so great, that I can liken it to nothing but the burning bush that Moses saw, and its power was so great that had it continued much longer I believe it would have consumed us. After this personage had disappeared from the room, Joseph announced that the men had seen the father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pretty incredible if you ask me. It was also where the Word of Wisdom was revealed.

Also in the little historic area is a rebuilt schoolhouse. We stopped there for a while for some instruction from Jack. No, we were not praying- everyone was just worn out from wandering through all those buildings and it was a hot, humid day!

Finally we were able to take a bus down the street and see the temple. I've been dreaming my whole life of seeing this temple. The first temple built in our dispensation. It's very different from the temples built today- but it was built with a different purpose. It was built for education and restoration of keys. Today's temples are built for education and saving ordinances. 

A decent one of the temple- and a decent one of me- not in the same picture. Photoshop anyone?

You all know that I'm a bit of a taphophile (I really like cemeteries) and this one was no exception. Right across from the temple is a cemetery filled with names I recognized from church history. This particular monument- though not someone I was familiar with, was one of the strangest headstones I've ever seen.

The temple is owned an operated by the Community of Christ church- with a lot of support from the LDS church.  It was amazing to be inside of it and see the workmanship that went into it. A lot of sacrifice was made to erect this beautiful building. And it was so worth it.

I had to prove that I was there and that these aren't just photos that I stole from online.

Kim was so excited to be back in her missionary stomping grounds.

That night we headed in to Amish territory and went to an amazing restaurant called Mary Yoder's. Oh my goodness. I ate till my head fell off- and that lemonade? amaaazing! It's always fun to be amongst those who are different. As Mormons we're always accused of being peculiar- so it was fun to be in Amish territory where I felt we weren't the only peculiar people around (and I mean that in the nicest way).

We knew that the Amish don't really care to have their photos taken so we tried to be respectful of that- but it was still a bit of a challenge to see who could get a good photo of passing buggies.

Clearly I lost.

That night when we went back to our hotel we were all tired and worn out- but I made mom go outside with me once it got properly dark. She had never seen a lightening bug in her life. I love them so much and I remember the first time I saw one on my mission- it was amazing. So I took her outside and we watched for fireflies.

It took a while to see them, but once we walked out near the bushes they were all over the place. Mom was so giggly and cute about finally seeing a firefly. By the end of our trip outside we had a little bit of a crowd with us. Some people from our group had seen us and asked what we were doing. They hadn't realized that there would be fireflies out so they'd run and get others in their group who had never seen one. It was fun, all of outside catching magical little bugs.

End of day 3

How ya doin? Still with me?

The next day we flew to Independence, MO. We visited the CoC temple, but I didn't take any pictures of it.
Right across the street from it though is this rather unassuming stretch of lawn.  But this is actually dedicated land. This is the space Joseph dedicated to be the site for the Independence temple.

We then went to visit the Liberty Jail.

For five horrific months Joseph and few companions were crammed into the dungeon of this prison. The ceilings were so low that the men couldn't even stand upright. It was one of the most trying times of Joseph's life. But even in the midst of this hell, he received some beautiful revelations that have taught us about faith in adversity and given comfort to many since that day.

As the sun was setting we had time for one more stop. We drove past the Kansas City temple and were able to get out for a few minutes and walk around.

There may have been some verses of "Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City" sung on this day.

End of day 4

Day 5 was the longest day of the trip. We started out on a little jaunt to Far West. Here is the site of another temple.

The cornerstones were laid but because of persecution the saints were forced out of the area- but the cornerstones are still there. Because of our fun little headsets we were able to walk around the area and check things out while still listening to Jack teach us.

Me and my daddy.

We continued down the road to a beautiful place called Adam-ondi-Ahman. The place where Adam dwelt when he and Eve were cast from the garden. This is also a dedicated temple site but again, because of persecution, the saints were force to leave. Someday though... someday.

Please pay no attention to the weird face on the selfie person in this photo.

After a lovely little picnic in this beautiful place, we hit the bus and stayed there

The bus driver (bless his heart) decided that it would be faster to take the back country roads rather than travel all the way to the interstate. It may have been shorter from like, point A to B, but with all the windy and hilly roads, it would have been better for my stomach if he'd taken the freeway. Plus it's not like there was anything to look at. It was corn. All you could see for the entire day was corn. CORN! Corn is boring!

That night we gratefully entered the beautiful city Nauvoo. We had planned that night to see a pageant. It is a newer pageant about the British saints and how the church was introduced in England and their emigration from the British Isles. By the time we got there it was pretty dismal and rainy- but I was not about to let that upset me. Several people we trying to talk me into giving up the pageant because of the rain. I simply stated, "No. I want to see the pageant and I'm going to see the pageant The rain is going to clear up and they are going to perform it."

We went to the visitor center and they put on a little show for us there starring the senior missionaries and a few of the performing missionaries. It was called Moonlight on the Mississippi. It was just fun singing and dancing. They did a very lovely tribute to all those who have served in our military. It was fantastic.

And when it was over, we walked outside and the sun had come out. Poo on those who doubted me. I'm a lucky traveler and I get what I want!

The British pageant was great- and I'm not just being biased because they had bagpipes and men in kilts (ok, maybe a little biased).

Truth Will Prevail!

End of Day 5

The following morning we were up bright and early. Because it had been too dark the night before, this was my frist real experience seeing the Mighty Mississippi river.

It's almost impossible to try to imagine that vast river, frozen over solid enough to walk across with horse and carts. But the saints did it. And that is amazing. I may or may not have sung a few verses of "Old Man River" that day.

We visited both the LDS and CoC visitors centers. We split up into groups and took a tour of the buildings that are owned and kept by the CoC church.

The first was the Smith homestead. I don't know if you've noticed that I've said a lot that Joseph and Emma stayed here or there in all of these towns- but this home- was finally their first home that was all their own. It also served as the headquarters of the church for a couple of years.

This is the view they had from their backyard. It looked out over this field on onto the Mississippi.

You can hardly blame Emma for not being super willing to part with it.

On this property is a small cemetery. The Smith family cemetery. These are Joseph's parents, Joseph Sr and Lucy Mack Smith.

And not far from the house are the burial sites of Joseph, Emma and Joseph's brother, Hyrum. It was very emotional to be there at their resting place. I said a very heartfelt thank you to them. I'm sure that they can hear it wherever you are, but it's still something else to be there. That family went through so much hardship.

Across the street from the homestead is the Mansion House. Joseph only lived here a short time before he was martyred, but it was a project they'd worked on together.

Another project the Smith family had going on (as if they weren't busy enough) was the Red Brick Store. The store was a dry goods store, and then upstairs was used as a meeting area. It was here that Joseph organized the Relief Society and was given the revelation about the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. 

After that tour we were cut free and sent out on our own.  My family chose to take the time and visit the Nauvoo temple.  There is a little building across the street where we could change our clothes so we were a little more fit to enter the temple. I looked like a wrinkled mess, all my stuff shoved in my backpack, but the worker there said that was a common look so I didn't feel so bad.

It is so incredibly beautiful. Inside and out. What a beautiful temple. It's a shame that the original was destroyed, but what a beautiful reconstruction.

This was another one of those places I've wanted to visit all my life. Even before they rebuilt it in 2002.

This is the view from the temple, out over the Mississippi.

After our session at the temple, we wandered down into the old part of Nauvoo to check out a few of the buildings. This was the Cultural hall where I learned that Brigham Young was a bit of a performer.

We visited the bakery- because we're Bakers and we never pass up the opportunity to use that as a punchline.

By this time most of the homes were closed but we just wandered around the neighborhood. This was Lucy Mack Smith's home- Joseph's mother.

They also have a pretty famous brickyard. We didn't get there in time to see a demonstration or get a free brick. Dangit!

This is Heber C Kimball's home. They lived in this beautiful home less than a year before they had to just lock the doors and walk away.

Joseph and Hyrum;  brothers in life, brothers in death.

Brothers... and sisters...

This the store in the "new" part of Nauvoo. Thank heaven it stayed open past 6:00! Everything else was closed and Kim and I needed to do some serious shopping!

One last attempt at a good photo...

That night we were able to watch the Nauvoo pageant. It told the story of all those flooding in from all over and helping to settle the area, making it one of the largest cities in Illinois (at the time).

The performance was wonderful. The story was touching and the Spirit was great. I highly recommend it.

End of Day 6

Do you feel it? we're in the homestretch here! 

The last day we drove to Carthage, Il. 

The jail doesn't seem that daunting- in fact, compared to Liberty Jail it was a paradise.

The men were not held in the holding cell

 But instead allowed to stay in the upstairs bedroom.

It was here that Joseph and Hyrum (along with John Taylor and Willard Richards) were imprisoned under false charges.  John Taylor, who had a lovely singing voice sang Joseph's favorite hymn, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief to comfort his friend and prophet.

Suddenly, a mob of men who had painted their faces black- as not to be recognized- charged up the stairs to the upper room.

They were calling for the life of the prophet. They wanted his blood. He had done nothing to them but they cried for vengeance. They tried to force open the door. Hyrum, putting all his strength into keeping the door closed, was the first one shot.

The bullet that made this hole hit him in the face. He cried, "I am a dead man!" and fell to the floor.


With his his brother dead, Joseph probably thought his best bet to save the others was to take the violence elsewhere.  He went to this window and attempted to jump. He was shot from both front and behind. As he fell from the window he murmured the words, "Oh Lord, my God."

He fell from the window and was most likely still alive when he hit the corner of the well. With the mob surrounding him, there he died. The prophet of the Lord died. Not because he was a guilty man, but because he refused to deny the testimony he had gained.

Willard Richards and John Taylor walked away fairly unscathed, but never denied the validity of the prophet Joseph.

Joseph and Hyrum sealed their testimonies with their blood. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to go on this trip. And to share it with my parents and Kim. I have always known that Joseph is a prophet but it just made things a little more personal being able to walk in his footsteps and be in some of the places that some of the most miraculous and sacred things have taken place.

Once again- I just had to prove I was there. I couldn't smile because this is a very solemn place and I didn't want to seem like I was making light of it- hence, the weird face.

Thus ends the official tour. We gathered everyone together for one final group picture.

Isn't that a good looking bunch? They were from all over the place- Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, Canada (what? Canada?)  with an age range from 12 to 93. It was a really special group and I'm so glad we were able to be a part of it. There is not one person in that group that I wouldn't go on another trip with.

We took one group of people to the airport but the rest of us didn't have to be there until that evening so we elected to keep our bus driver captive and make him take us to the St Louis Temple. (again, I may have sung a few verses of "Meet Me in St Louis" but you'll never know)

I don't know what these flowers are- are they verbena...? anyway, I just loved that they were pink and yellow coming from the same stalk.

and this little bug- he looks like a caterpillar- but he flew away!

We still had some time to kill so our driver took us downtown and gave us a home town tour of the city. He'd lived there for a gazillion years so he talked about all the buildings and what was there and what used to be there. I love it when people do stuff like that.

Then he took us to the arch. We didn't have long to see it, but most of us made the quick jaunt through all the construction to go up to the base of it.

 It was tricky to get the arch in a selfie.

So we employed one of our tour buddies to take one for us.

Our photographer "the other Craig" (btw- he's really fun to go shopping with- especially if you hide bottles of wine in his shopping cart without his noticing.)

As we got back on the bus we were stuck at a stoplight. My new friend, Marv had 20 seconds to hop off the bus and take this amazing picture for all of us.

There it is. St Louis

Then it was time to fly the friendly skies.

The flight was only exciting because I got to sit next to this girl. She is a hoot and a holler!

We had a stop in Denver and had to change planes. We were running late for our connecting flight and had to RUN like mad to get to the other plane. I'm pretty sure they shut the doors on my heels. On this flight I was next to a sweet older lady who just wanted to talk about her daughter's wedding that she was going to. She was so funny.

And that, boys and girls is the end of my story. If you stuck with me this far, congratulations! I wish I had prizes for the people who endured to the end!

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