Wine, College, and Christmas in June!

Wandering through Missouri and Kansas.

Denver was the destination. Coming from Memphis, that meant driving through Missouri and Kansas. Neither of us was very excited about the drive, expecting a lot of boredom; and we knew we had to stop for a week somewhere so we could work. I don’t think I’d ever been to Missouri before (maybe drove through it) and remember a lot of wheat fields and a huge tornado from my one and only drive through Kansas many, (cough) many years ago. I’m happy to say that age (dare I say, wisdom?) and eyes that are more open have changed my thoughts about the two states.

Wine in Missouri

Our first stop was just outside of Springfield, Missouri, for an overnight at a Harvest Hosts winery. For those who don’t know, Harvest Hosts is an RV membership that provides free (for a very small annual fee) overnight stays at farms, wineries, and other places where owners have space for one or more RVs. They even added hundreds of golf courses last year. There are no hookups or public facilities, so you have to be self-contained, and you’re expected to purchase something from the business as a sort of gift or donation for letting you stay there.

The winery is OOVVDA, which is a small winery (no vineyards) nestled in the farmland surround Springfield. OOVVDA is a play on the Swedish phrase ‘uff da’. I”m sure most of our Seattle people know what it means. 😉 The property is smallish, just a house with a separate building for the winery; but it’s cute and has a lot of lawn with tables and chairs. They encourage people to bring a picnic, taste (for free) and purchase some wine, then hang out on the lawn. They also have quite a bit of room for the RVs that stay there right next to the lawn and about a 20 second walk to the tasting room.

We were greeted with smiles and quickly shown where to park even though they already had customers. After getting settled, we walked to the tasting room where we were given samples of 30 wines! Mind you, I didn’t taste them all; but the ones I did try were lovely. Instead of purchasing one bottle for our ‘donation’, we ended up buying four!

Just as we started, a family came in with their RV and quickly joined us for the tasting. We introduced ourselves and ended up hanging out with them after we came back from dinner. We found out they’re traveling over the summer from Florida to the Seattle area and plan to live near other family members there. What a fun coincidence! He’s a music instructor and she’s a massage therapist. They have their daughter with them as well as her (the mom’s) brother. I even got an excellent free massage out of it because she’s building her portfolio and traded for photos of her working on me. You can see their travel and massage photos on Instagram at travelingthaiyogini. We really enjoyed getting to know all of them and hanging out!

Clinton Lake State Park

The next morning we drove to Clinton Lake State Park outside of Lawrence, Kansas. We’d seen that it was fairly wooded and on a lake (reservoir) when we made the reservations, and we were looking forward to having a week to relax between Memphis and Denver. We weren’t disappointed. The park was beautiful, with lots of large trees, green rolling hills, and huge fields with high grasses.

Unfortunately for anyone wanting to swim or boat on the lake, the dam had been closed to help prevent flooding farther downstream in Missouri and Arkansas and the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed the lake level to rise 19 feet above normal. This meant the trails along the lake and the marina with the boat launch were all inaccessible. However, right next to the State Park is the smaller, but still beautiful, Overlook Park. Part of its trail was flooded, but you could still get down to the water. We visited the park a couple of times and Brian even got a chance to fly his drone for a bit!

Lawrence

The state park was about ten minutes from Lawrence which, it turns out, is where the University of Kansas is located. We had no idea when we booked our reservations that we’d be staying near a college town! We love areas like this because they’re so eclectic, open, and progressive. Lawrence is fairly small, but it has a lively downtown with plenty of good restaurants and shops as well as some of the typical chain stores on the outskirts. Our server at 715 Restaurant told us her favorite thing to do is tour the Natural History Museum on campus. It sounded amazing and I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to go there. Our dinner at 715 was excellent! Mine was a lovely salmon with a myriad of vegetables and a few mandarin orange slices. We’d definitely recommend putting both 715 Restaurant and the Natural History Museum on your list when visiting Lawrence!

Wakeeney

After six days enjoying lower temperatures, a soothing breeze, and explorations of town and country, we packed up and continued westward toward Denver. Our last stop was at a KOA in Wakeeney, Kansas. Wakeeney is definitely small town America. Brian and I drove into town (about 2 miles) for dinner. Main Street was a couple of blocks long and the rest of the area was scattered businesses and farmland. It was very picturesque. As we turned onto Main Street, I noticed two things: how empty it was (literally one other car) and an alley that had a sort of Christmas scene in it. Then I noticed small metal Christmas trees scattered along the sidewalks. I remarked to Brian that they must decorate the street and shut it down for the holidays. Then we walked into the restaurant – The Western Kansas Saloon and Grill – which had a decorated Christmas tree just inside the door. Interesting…

The next day was Father’s Day and Brian wanted breakfast out, so we again wandered into town to Jake and Chet’s Cafe. They had holiday wreaths hanging on their walls! I finally took a minute to search the Internet for what the heck was going on in Wakeeney and found that they are the Christmas City of the High Plains. Yes. Volunteers from the town decorate Main Street every holiday season with a large tree, wreaths, and lights. That’s so cool! I really love small town communities that get into the spirit of holidays.

By the way, if you ever stop by Wakeeney, both the Saloon and the Cafe had nice, friendly staff who served awesome food. Really, our dinner and our breakfast were excellent!

After breakfast, we put Denver in our sights and continued west; but our adventures in Denver are for another day.

Thanks for reading, friends, and remember to live your journey…

~Julie