Day 8

I actually beat Rachel out of bed today! That doesn't happen often. We spent the morning getting ready for the flight home. Turns out the defrag I did on Joy and Pat's computer made it worse. I feel pretty bad about it, although i JUST did a defrag... no funny business.

On the way back to St Louis we made a few stops. The first was a "general store" where we bought some candy and ice cream for real cheap! Rachel and i used the bathrooms. Mine was atrocious... filthy and full of flies and the wood floor was warped and damp from years of bad aim. Rachel's wasn't quite as bad. On the way out of the parking lot Joy backed into another car. It was a student driver vehicle, so the dent probably would have gone unnoticed. Joy did the right thing, though, and tracked down the owner. High marks.

Afterward we stopped by a really old family graveyard on the side of the road. I went crazy with the camera while Joy, Pat and Rachel marveled at the antiquity of the place. It was really quite a sight.

Our last stop before reaching St. Louis was a nice little restaurant called Blue Owl. Everyone went with the special and I, once again, tried for the BBQ sandwich. They had it! AND it was good. For dessert Rachel got a slice of "levee high caramel apple pie". It was HUGE! We all helped a little, especially Joy. After the morning's ice cream, I was pretty sweeted out so i didn't help too much. On the way out Pat transcribed a recipe for vidalia onion casserole out of a book at the front counter onto a napkin all sneaky-like. There was a sweet shop next door so we checked it out and Rachel and Pat sampled their wares (this family's sweet tooth is legendary).

(St Louis Botanical Gardens - fountain)

I was overjoyed to discover our next destination (after reaching St Louis) was the botanical gardens! I could hardly contain my excitement [*sarcasm*]. OK, the gardens were actually beautiful and had i brought sunscreen and not worn pants, i would have probably enjoyed myself (it was hot and muggy). I got to see and smell an elderberry bush, so now i have a point of reference when someone says my father smells of elderberries.

It was interesting to note that Chihuly and Solari both had work in the gardens. I assumed they were local-famous, not actual-famous. who knew?

(Rachel + Chihuly)

(Arcosanti bells)

(Monsanto Sustainability Garden?!)

Pat was the last to tire of the place and we left. From the gardens it was straight to the airport. On the drive there we got a closer view of the Arch and the Mississippi river. I saw, but did not visit, Illinois on the far side. We also saw some of "East St. Louis" off the freeway... pretty scary looking!

We said our goodbyes at the airport curb, checked some bags and headed through security. We got stopped again, and we were uncertain of the location of the infamous leatherman, so i got kinda nervous. Rachel decided against bringing the hummingbird, so that wasn't an issue. Luckily they just looked in Rachel's crock and swabbed for incriminating residue, and we were home free. Now for a 2 hr wait in which i complete this journal.

The end!
well... our flight was delayed because of a shortage of flight attendants and once on the plane the lady behind us dug her gnarly toenails into Rachel's arm. ew! OK, now really that's the end.

Day 7

The original plan for today was to go to Paducah, Kentucky (where they have no poison ivy, from what i'm told). Everyone was worn out, however, so we had another easy day. Joy and Rachel spent most of the day making an agitator for her new butter churn and a wooden "pioneer plate" like one she saw in her newly acquired book. I hung out with them for a while in Joy's incredible woodshop. The rest of the time while they were working i spent my time defragging Joy's computer and playing Medal of Honor on the PSP to kill the battery so i could recharge it for tomorrow's flight.

Before lunch Rachel tried buttermilk for the first time and nearly threw up. You'd have thought someone made her drink something off of Fear Factor with the production she put on.

Lunch was "grab" and sandwiches. While we were eating Rachel saw a woodchuck outside sniffing around. Cute, right? Pat didn't want it in her garden, so she asked Joy to kill it. Joy wanted to finish lunch first, but Pat was very insistent. Rachel was pretty upset that she had even brought it to anyone's attention, because she didn't want the little fella to get killed.

Joy went and retrieved his .22 and returned to the dining room and opened fire basically from the lunch table! AWESOME. He missed the first shot and had to go for another bullet Barney Fife style (his words). He missed the 2nd shot as well and the woodchuck, completely unfazed, meandered off into the brush. I kinda think maybe he missed on purpose for Rachel's benefit. She was quite relieved.

After lunch Pat showed Rachel how to make pie crust, and made a blueberry pie with the berries we picked as a demo. I was supposed to watch too, but fell asleep. Later on we got Joy to dig out his bb gun so rachel and i could plink at some cans. Once we got it sighted in, she was quite the dead-eye. She started getting eaten by mosquitoes and there was a big wasp nest nearby so we didn't do it for too long. She really enjoyed it though and i think we're gonna get one when we get back to the world.

Dinner was cabbage and sausage, so Rachel and I went to pick a cabbage from the garden. The best one we could find looked pretty worm-eaten. Pat cut it up and picked out all the cocoons and gross bits, though. Kinda makes it easier to understand why all these farmers so eagerly jump on board with Monsanto.

We had a rifle-free dinner and ate the blueberry pie with frozen yogurt for dessert. It was fantastic! My first fresh, from scratch blueberry pie. Good job Rachel and Pat!

Joy and I took another spanking at Sequence after dinner then went back to the woodshop to work on Rachel's "pioneer plate".

We leave tomorrow, so we packed up as much as we could and settled in for one more night in MO.

Tick count: 0
Vocab: blinky - adj. used to describe milk that is not quite good and not quite bad.

Day 6

Something ate me alive last night or sometime yesterday. I woke with itchy bug bites all over my legs. Rachel told me i had to hurry and get ready because we were on the verge of leaving for our canoe trip. No one gave Pat the memo. She was out tending to her garden and after my rush to get ready, I had to wait around for about an hour.

We went to a place called Jacks Fork to rent canoes at this rental place/convience store. Boy... it smelled terrible. Those folks were no recreational smokers. They were pros. They did, however, have a few hummingbird feeders out front and Rachel counted 10+ birds out there at once.

They loaded up our canoe and we got in their truck to go up river. On my way in I smashed my knee on the door jamb. Man, did it hurt! I felt nauseous for a spell, but did my best to suck it up. Our driver was a young man and avid outdoorsman. He explained that the reason a lot of the trees were fallen was due to a recent tornado. He also answered Rachel's questions about bears and wild cats. It turns out he shot a mountain lion that was 7' long, not including the tail! Ah, my first country yarn (in MO, anyhow). He also told us it was illegal to have done so, and that they were beautiful creatures. The concept of finding an animal beautiful, then killing it is not one i really understand.

The canoe ride was fun and beautiful and wasn't anything like "Deliverance" would have you believe. We saw lots of different kinds and sizes of fish, we saw soft shell and regular turtles, and luckily we didn't see any snakes. We stopped and swam for a little while when we found a spot deep enough.

We had the place to ourselves for the most part, but eventually we caught up to a family that was having a good-ol-time, but being loud and scaring off all the wildlife before Rachel and I could get to it. When we finally got around them, we were basically at the end of the ride.

(me, Pat, and Joy, Alley Springs)

Joy and Pat met us at the canoe drop off point and took us to Alley Springs for a picnic. It too was beautiful and peaceful. Joy gave me a history lesson on the place, which i found fascinating. Well, i should clarify... a recent history. Mostly about the place during his lifetime. How it went from a state park to a national park and underwent many changes. Most of which he seemed unhappy about. I thought it was funny that while it was a state park, or at least before it fell into national hands, there was a still on the property and you could buy moonshine.

(Alley Springs)

(some caves by Alley Springs)

After lunch we went to the mill and got a brief tour of the facilities. The people there were nice enough to fire up the mill for us, even though it wasn't a scheduled time. Rachel bought a book on pioneers while we were there, and i saw my first muskrat!

(The mill)

(detail of a wall of the mill)

Pat and Joy gave me an impromptu lesson on how to identify poison ivy. I wondered why they chose to do it now, on day 6, and not before. Then Rachel informed me I had just walked through some. OOPS! [as i'm writing this Rachel tells me i need to get in the shower immediately and spray my legs with hot water to get off the poison. My legs are pretty sunburnt from the canoe ride... this is going to be fun.]

There was an old 1 room schoolhouse on the lot and Rachel and I wanted to look in it, but a nasty bunch of wasps had taken up residence in a knot hole right next to the front door. We decided we didn't need to see it that badly.

We stopped by the restored "general store", which was a museum and gift shop. They had a sign outside advertising old-time candy and sodas. Unfortunately the sodas were just over priced Sioux City brand, so i didn't get any. Rachel bought some salt water taffy and a stick of cherry hard candy.

(Big Springs)

Those of us not driving napped on the way to our next stop, Big Springs, which made it a quick trip. Big Springs was much like Alley Springs, only without the mill. And they had lots of tourists with little dogs.

(the fearsome Cave Rachel)

(fern+rock, Big Springs)

Rachel and I hiked the trail going around the spring and saw a little cave that was big enough to get in, and not deep enough to hide any wild animals. We each crawled in for a look around. Joy and Pat met us at the other end of the trail to pick us up. While we were getting in the truck Joy pointed out some woodchucks... another first!

From there we thought we'd check out the park eatery, which was a nice looking cabin-style lodge. Pat determined through questioning the waitress that none of the food was made there, and it was all frozen. So we left and went to Hayden's.

Finally the infamous Hayden's! Hayden's is a converted ice/gas station that is now a 50's style diner that serves BBQ pork. Fortunately for me they also had hamburgers. Rachel insisted I get the "world famous" pink lemonade. It tasted like Smarties to me, which i'm not overly fond of. Rachel ordered a side of fried okra and she and Pat made me eat some against my wishes. The batter was good and the ranch dip was good, but the okra was not good. While this was going on Pat grilled me about when i was going to come around to liking vegetables. Veggies to me are a necessary evil. PROBABLY necessary, that is.

After dinner we took the long way home to see some of Poplar Bluff and then settled in for the night. While i was getting ready for a shave and shower, I realized the shaving cream was absent. I didn't have a shirt so i went as-is and asked Joy for some and he saw my tattoo. I guess Rachel got questioned pretty thoroughly about it. Poor girl!

Tick count: 0
Vocab: Pallet - picnic blanket

Day 5

Last to wake, as usual. Slept OK, but my shoulder was achey. I forgot to do my rehab exercises last night. I had turkey bacon, toast and blueberries for breakfast. We were informed that today was going to be an easy day at home to let Rachel's grandparents rest.

Joy and Pat skipped church because they didn't want to leave us alone. Joy told Rachel we should go because the sermon was only half an hour. They spend the remaining hour singing! I can't speak for Rachel, but to me that's the worst part. I don't mind sermons. I rather like them, in fact. Church singing, on the other hand...

For most of the day we hung out in the TV room. Joy working his crosswords, Pat and Rachel engaging in crocheting lessons, and I editing my friend Dustin's book (don't worry... I'm not the final editing stop). We broke for lunch, which was "grab" with cooked carrots thrown in for good measure. After lunch we played Sequence some more, with Rachel and Pat starting a pattern of beating Joy and myself mercilessly. After Joy had his fill, we resumed our morning's activities.

Mid afternoon we took a walk outside to stretch and i was informed that there was a lake right across the street that i had never seen because the trees here are so thick. I asked if we could go fishing. We inquired to Joy about the legal requirements of such an endeavor, to which he replied, "None. It's private property, and we own that bit right there." While gesturing towards the lake. Unfortunately he didn't have any bait and we couldn't seem to find any nightcrawlers, which are usually plentiful. So back inside we went.

On the way back in Rachel found a hummingbird that had killed itself against a window, and decided we needed to keep it. As in bring a dead bird back to AZ in our luggage. Not only that, but she packed it in salt and wrapped it in plastic so now it looks like a wad of narcotics! What could possibly go wrong? I'll have to talk her out of it somehow.

Once again we tried the elusive Hayden's, but it seemed they were closed for the weekend so we had chicken and the potatoes we picked the other day. We played a few games of Sequence after dinner (Joy and I getting the short end of the stick again), then back to relaxing for the rest of the evening.

Tick count: 0 (i'm getting good at this!)

Day 4

Slept well again and didn't have to get up excessively early. Found eggs and turkey waiting for me in the kitchen. I guess everyone else already ate. Today's the 4th of July so we had to get ready for the morning parade downtown.

Joy offered me the use of his razor. I guess I was looking pretty shaggy. I couldn't bring my own because the TSA doesn't want anyone on airplanes to bust into the cockpit and give the copilot a close, comfortable shave. I was planning on just letting it grow for the week. We're close to Amish country, after all. I guess that's unacceptable behavior in the Henthorn household, though. So I shaved. [since writing this I've learned that you CAN bring cartridge razors onto flights... Unkempt copilots beware!]

The parade was about what i expected. I've been to small town parades before. This one, however, had Pres. Obama in it! OK, it was a guy in a mask advertising for a limo rental company. Come to think of it, there were a LOT of people in the parade just driving their work trucks/cars in shameless shows of advertising. No float, no costume, not even some streamers. Apparently the only criteria for participating is that you bring a bucket of cheap candy. Oh, and beads. I had enough beads thrown at me to supply myself, Rachel, and the girl sitting to my right! I guess what they say about country boys is true. I certainly won't be wandering about town after dark by myself. Apparently the temptation is too much to resist! (just kidding... not all country boys are gay)

The parade ended and we tried to go to a BBQ place called Haydens, but it was closed so we went home and had hamburgers. I helped Pat clean up and everyone took a nap while I took time to catch up on this journal.

Until dinner time we hung around the house. Rachel, Joy and i picked some potatoes for use at an undisclosed time. Rachel found it VERY exciting and thought i should as well.

For dinner we had home made pizza. They had zucchini on 'em, which was a first for me. Joy wished that they had mushrooms to add. I, on the other hand, was thankful for their absence. The pizzas were "white", which around here means "no sauce". After dinner we went to the newly opened cold-slab ice cream, which was a treat. We don't eat at such places back home, because Rachel says they're food poisoning factories.

We staked our claim out front of the Colosseum, which I assumed was a venue for shows. Earlier in the day Rachel read that Whitesnake was going to be playing there in some 80's hair-metal reunion extravaganza. I wonder if Whitesnake knows that they'll be playing at the town's indoor swimming pool. Oh, to see the looks on their faces. Rachel discovered that her name was on a brick in front of the joint. Turns out Joy's brother had something to do with the construction of the place and put it in there, which was really sweet.

Before the display everyone we could see, and some we couldn't, were shooting off fireworks in anticipation of the big show. At one point the fire truck went tearing off, no doubt to put out a fireworks-related fire. The cops had to put a stop to some teenagers lighting off works under the covered walkway going into the Colosseum right next to us.

Pat brought some heavy-duty bug repellent (reserved for special occasions) and i used it liberally. While we were in the downtown area I went to take a picture of a beautiful old building (not ruined) that had a lovely "Historic Downtown Poplar Bluff" sign painted on the side of it that i had noticed earlier at the parade (but forgot the camera). In a shop in the very same building I saw some people Rachel's and my age that looked like the sort of art-folks we hang out with on 3rd Fridays downtown in Phoenix. Unfortunately I didn't have time to approach them.

The fireworks display was easily just as good as any i'd ever seen. I was quite impressed. A big difference from the parade earlier in the day. I guess if anyone can just go buy their own fireworks, you'd really have to step it up for the official display.

Traffic back to the house was monstrous. It took us quite a while to get home. That night we went to sleep to the sounds of distant, and not so distant, explosions.

Tick count: 0
Vocab: you'uns - you (plural)

Day 3

Slept well. didn't have to get up excessively early today. The Hemingway house closes at 3 and is across the border, so we head out after breakfast. The drive to Arkansas is beautiful and the road is dotted with run down houses, barns, gas stations, etc.. I wish i had my proper camera equipment. Everyone keeps asking about the status of my passport. Kinda funny, but it made me expect Arkansas to be a lot worse. I really couldn't tell the difference between it and Missouri.

(above: Hemingway's first wife's family's house)

The Hemingway house was great. There were some before and after photos of ASU's (not to be confused with ASU) restoration of the building. I didn't know it had to be restored. Apparently it went vacant for quite a spell and ASU got it for very cheap. The restoration, on the other hand, cost a bundle. I kinda wish i could have seen it before. In the pictures it looked like a haunted house.

(above: The barn in which the upstairs was converted to Hemingway's writing space. Also pictured: The Hemingway water fountain)

Our tour guide was informative and managed to get Joy off his seat on the stairs with an "Oh!" at the mention of some kind of wood furniture made by some guy I'd never heard of. He asked a lot of questions about the construction of the place and the restoration process. I liked seeing him get excited about it. He also seemed pretty fixated on Hemingway's relationship with Castro. He had more to say about it than our guide, as well as telling me about it before we left the house that morning.

Pat perked up at the mention of a quilt show they have every year. Apparently Hemingway's mother-in-law was quite a quilt collector. She also explained to all (including our guide) what a "hair receiver" was, as they had one on display in the master bedroom. I didn't know people made crafts out of human hair. Seems kinda creepy to me. From our guide Rachel and I gathered mostly that Hemingway was a bum and a philanderer and reminded us of our friend's deadbeat husband.

After our tour we went to downtown Piggott for lunch. Our guide recommended a diner, so we went there. In the town square some girl's team of some sort was on the street corners begging for money to go to state. No car wash. No bake sale. No raffle tickets. Just begging. Pretty disappointing.

Speaking of disappointing, the diner that was recommended to us was more like a factory cafeteria. The waitress sold us on the buffet so we went to check it out. It didn't seem like the waitress knew much of what was going on, though. Besides looking like the food had been out for a couple days, the items she had sold us on weren't there. Apparently what i thought were chicken wings were actually frog legs. YIKES! Pat and Rachel decided we had to go. I hunted down our waitress and let her know before she served our drinks. Everyone else was already outside.

Luckily there was "Donna's Country Kitchen" next door. This place looked a little more like what i expected: small and homey. It was apparent that everyone knew each other. Our waitress told us about "the special" which was fried chicken (all out of legs) and a variety of sides to choose from. When we asked for a menu, she gave us a puzzled look and went off to see if she could find some. I guess not many people can resist the draw of "the special".

She returned with some menus and everyone decided on "the special", except i thought i'd try the BBQ sandwich. The waitress informed me there was no BBQ so i too went with "the special", fearing the menu was for ceremonial purposes only.

The chicken was fantastic and the "earthquake cake" was equally good. It was like a richer, more dense German chocolate cake with cream cheese in it. I might just have a new favorite dessert.

After lunch we hit some of the local antique shops where Rachel bought a crock. While i was looking around i noticed that on the wall of one of the side streets, someone had spray painted some occult symbols on a wall. They weren't your typical teen angst swastikas and pentagrams either. They looked legit. Made me wonder what kind of Lovecraftian things went on in this town after dark. Come to think of it, our guide did kinda have the Innsmouth look (not joking).

Our shopping complete, we went back to the Hemingway house because there was a second museum there that we didn't go to yet. This one was the house of one of Hemingway's sister-in-laws (I think). She was an avid mineral collector in life and had her house made into a museum to showcase her collection after she died. Joy was getting pretty worn out out so we left after a short time.

On the way out of town we stopped by a convenience store so Joy could get a Mt. Dew. Because we all went in, Pat worried that the clerk thought we looked like a bunch of thieves, which i found humorous. Joy = John Dillinger and we're his gang.

On the way back to Poplar Bluff we drove through peach country so Pat could get some peaches for her Dr. in St. Louis. Unfortunately the place we went to were out of "ripes" so we got some "firms" which, as it turns out, are more expensive. None of us seemed to understand why. Apparently no one else did eather because the cheaper ripe ones were sold out.

We also stopped by an old bridge that used to rotate to let riverboats by. Joy was brave enough to drive across it (twice!), which is more than i could say for myself. It was a neat looking old bridge and it was exciting traversing it, so i'm glad we stopped by.

Back at the house everyone settled in for a quiet evening. Dinner was "grab", which means leftovers. Joy and Pat introduced me to a game called Sequence after dinner. Kinda a cross between cards and connect 4. It was fun. We only played a couple times then retired to the TV room to read, relax, crossword, etc.. Joy turned on the TV long enough to get the weather report and to see that Gov. Palin stepped down! That was unexpected.

Also unexpected was that a mud dauber landed on my leg! I know they don't really attack much, but if angered enough they can give a rather painful sting. Needless to say, I didn't want it on my leg. I coaxed it onto a piece of paper an took it outside without incident. I spent the rest of the night reading "The Man in the High Castle" by Phillip K Dick. It took 2 thirds of the book to get interesting and then it leaves you hanging at the end. It had a lot of very interesting concepts, but the lack of any kind of wrap-up is intolerable. How did this book get a Hugo Award? They must be pretty easy to get... Free with purchase of a Hugo brand typewriter!

I had another run in with the 7-legged spider in the basement. as i was going down to put some clothes in the wash he was waiting for me at the base of the stairs. we froze and stared at each other like 2 gunfighters at high noon. i had no shoes on. he had missing legs. a stalemate? I ran back upstairs and put my shoes in order to put an end to his harassment. This time i finished the job.

Tick count: 0 (although 1 mud dauber)
Vocab: grab - leftovers

Day 2

Woke up WAY too early. Not much sleep after the nightmare woke us last night. I agitated my shoulder and it's pretty sore this morning. On my way to breakfast Pat made a comment about snakes coming to get me while tickling my ribs. I guess Rachel told them already. Off to pick blueberries!

I've never seen blueberries on the bush, much less tasted them. That was fun... for a while anyway. It started getting hot and i dumped my bucket all over the ground when it came loose from my belt. I decided to wait in the shade and go through the camera manual while Pat and Rachel finished picking berries. The guy overcharged us and Pat vowed to return to make good on it.

From the berry farm we went to Pat and Joy's friend's house who raises chickens to buy some eggs and to show Rachel. They have some very pretty birds, including a couple of magnificent looking roosters. All the same, I'm glad they're not in my back yard. Those suckers were loud!

While we were there Pat told her friend all about my snake nightmare. It's starting to bother me that I'm "that city-slicker wot's 'fraid uh snakes" now. We also met their 100 year old mother, which i found to be an incredible feat of longevity. She was up and mobile, but couldn't talk and I'm not sure she was completely aware of what was going on around her. It was a little saddening. Rachel never wants to die, and live to 100+. I'd rather cash in early via a heart attack than have to live like that. give me cheese!

Back to Joy and Pat's where Joy had left to meet with some of his buddies. From what Pat said, they talk about politics and what-not, and a couple were WW2 vets. I would have liked to have gone. I enjoy the company of older folks. They have great stories and usually lots of wisdom to impart. Who knows... maybe they just get together to tell fart jokes and take time away from their wives so they can eat food they're not supposed to.

Lunch and a nap. Well, I finished the camera manual and I'm writing this while everyone else naps. I'm going to poke around the property a while until everyone's up again.

After nap time we went to an antique mall where they were playing a radio station that played ALL Elvis ALL the time. It was pretty fun looking at all the old stuff but it was way overpriced, so no one bought'n anything. Afterwards we went to "Mexican" food for dinner. Judging by the decor and the latin folk working there, I thought we might be in for some actual Mexican food.


I won't dwell on it. It was just bad. Back to Joy and Pat's place for a pie Pat made that tasted like Orange Julius. Yum-yum!

Time to buy fireworks! This was very exciting for me, because i haven't done it since i was in kindergarten. We bought all kinds of exciting things, most of which were disappointing, except the roman candles. I knew what i was getting into with those. Rachel's favorites are the chicken and rooster (big surprise). The chicken is supposed to "lay eggs". It really just farted flames for a bit then caught fire. The rooster was about the same, only the flames came out of the front end. Not sure exactly what the symbolism was there. I got the more militaristic stuff... tanks, bombers, missile batteries, etc.. talk about false advertising. the tank didn't shoot anything or move around much at all. it just did a sparkler routine out the front then caught fire. the bomber didn't fly around and drop bombs or parachuting GIs. it just spun like a top going straight up in the air then caught fire. Even though some were disappointing, they were still FIREWORKS and therefore awesome.

We saved a few for tomorrow and went inside to wash off the smoke and ticks. Tomorrow i think we're going to the Hemingway house, which is probably what i've most been looking forward to, so I'm excited. Speaking of authors, I didn't even think about Mark Twain! We're practically in his back yard! Hopefully we can see some kind of Mark Twain landmark before we go (besides Mark Twain National Forest).

Bedtime. We're taking the painting off the wall tonight to avoid any nightmare-related damage.

Tick Count: 3

Day 1

Woke up WAY too early. Changed the sheets for Dan and Cathi while Rachel did her outside stuff. She's worried Dan won't take care of things sufficiently. I have faith.

Went to our neighbor Marv's place so he could take us to the airport. I discovered he hasn't been on the freeway in years, and i had to direct him to and through the airport. Not a big deal... PHX can be tricky.

While going through security we hit a snag as Rachel tried smuggling a machete onto the plane (or so TSA would have you believe). She had to go back and check her bag, which she worried would cause us to miss our flight. The TSA guy said otherwise, however, so i didn't worry too much at the time. half an hour later they call for our group to line up and Rachel's still absent... NOW i'm worried. I can't board because i'm carrying 3 bags (my 2 + Rachel's 2nd), so I wait. Luckily she showed up just in the nick of time and we boarded without a hitch. Apparently she ran half way across the airport barefooted to make it to our terminal. What a trooper!

During the flight I spent most of my time looking out of the window at the miniature world below, which I always find interesting.I tried napping, but couldn't because i was cold. I didn't ask for a blanket because Rachel assured me they all had smallpox on them. She was getting annoyed because a rather inconsiderate young man in front of us had some sinus problem and kept snorting his nose rather loudly. Eventually he fell asleep, and so did she.

Coming into St. Louis I saw the Mississippi River and that big arch, or gateway, or whatever it is... both pretty cool. We were greeted warmly in the airport by Rachel's grandparents, Pat (grandmother) and Joy (grandfather). Then we headed down to baggage claim and crossed our fingers that her bag (and machete) had made it onto the plane. Luckily for us, it did.

Pat and Joy took us to a nice Vietnamese place for lunch called Mai Lee, or some-such. The food was excellent, but our waiter left much to be desired. Among other things, he served us 1 at a time with about 5 minutes in between. That is except mine, which apparently needed special attention and was especially tardy. But, like i said, it was very tasty.

We then went to the St. Louis Zoo, which was quite nice. I was surprised to learn that it is free to the public. We couldn't stay long because Pat and Joy were getting tired and had a pressing appointment at Honey Baked Ham, so we only saw a few of the exhibits. We saw bears, big cats, the reptile house, the bird house, and penguins.

The penguin house was FREEZING and stank of fish, which i guess stands to reason... they eat and poop it constantly and it's an inclosed space with limited outside ventilation.

I'd never seen a grizzly bear that big before. It's hard to tell in the photo, but it was HUGE. The bird house was really well put together, and was probably my favorite part of the zoo (that we saw).

(i like how the reflection of my feet censor the chimp's genitals)

I forgot about the apes! we saw chimps and orangutans. Both were amusing, but the orangutans stole the show when we got to see one drink the other's urine straight from the tap. Now that's thirsty! We also saw some Amish people! they weren't on display... just hanging out. I didn't take any pictures as i'm pretty sure it steals their souls.

The reptile house was nice, but unremarkable. Others would have you believe I was moved by it, but I'll get more into that later. While Pat and I were waiting for Rachel and Joy to bring the car around, I looked at a display on spiders in the zoo's auditorium. It had some of the local representatives of the spider population cast in resin cubes, a-la Mayme Kratz. One of which was a brown recluse, which I'd never seen before but have heard lots of horror stories about.

Off to the grocery store! Not too much to report here. Trader Joe's. Whole Foods. And Honey Baked Ham! Pat argued about the price of ham bones and we bought a turkey loaf. Now i know why we had to hurry over here.

The trip to Poplar Bluff was long and i was tired. I napped briefly despite Rachel's repetitive warnings of "you'll regret it". We saw lots of lush, green country, as well as lots of family graveyards. I guess that's a big thing around these parts. There were also lots of run-down old barns, houses, and trailers. I wish i had my good photo gear instead of just our little point-n-shoot. I'll have to bone up on it so i can get some nice shots. Luckily i anticipated this and brought the manual.

When we finally got to Rachel's grandparent's place I was amazed to see the house Joy built with his own 2 hands. This place is incredible. While on the grand tour Rachel was showing me the basement where i was startled by a spider on one of the shelves. It was so still i at first mistook it for a toy or figurine, but it wasn't! Not only was it real, but it was a brown recluse just like i saw at the zoo! After rachel and I tried smashing it with various pieces of antique glassware (unsuccessfully), we decided maybe that wasn't such a good idea. It got away anyhow... -1 leg, though!

Outside the night was flickering with fireflies. wow! what a crazy little bug. I'd never seen them before. we caught a couple but immediately released them. I had a healthy coat of bug repellant on, so i'm sure it was an unpleasant experience for them. They really are beautiful to watch... Like the bushes and grass are shooting off sparks.

Finally bedtime. I did my shoulder exercises and hit the hay. That night i had a nightmare about snakes that shot me out of bed flailing wildly, which is odd because i'm not particularly afraid of snakes (except the poisonous ones). There was a painting hanging precariously over our bed in place of a headboard and i jostled it pretty good, which angered Rachel (and because i woke her). That angered me because the painting was fine, and as she used to suffer from "night terrors" I expect a little more understanding out of her when this sort of thing happens. I can't control it.

Tick count: 1
Vocab: bought'n - past tense of "to buy"