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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dam, Flowers, Caves, and Wine

After a great rally with Pleasure-Way owners from across the country, it was time to start wandering toward home. On the way out of Branson we wanted to see the park at Table Rock Lake, so crossed over the dam and pulled in.
The Dewey Short visitor center welcomes tourists with good exhibits and great views from suspended balconies. Opened in 2012, this modern building contains information about the dam, hydroelectric power, boating safety, and the history of the area.
The balcony view shows the shelf, or table, along the shore line and the dark waters of the deep lake just beyond. Buoy's warn boaters to stay away from the dam.
Looking down on the lower level exhibit area, the floor is a huge map of the area that supplies the lake.

An interactive safety exhibit encouraged kids to sit in a boat, then don a lifejacket while a timer showed how long before everyone had their life jackets secured.

The signage shows how long it usually takes to drown. "Beer goggles" were also available to simulate the affects of alcohol. Wearing a life jacket is always better than having one nearby!
Heading out, we found an overlook that gives a good view of the Table Rock Dam.

Beth's penchant for research yielded a treat when she directed us to the College Creamery at the College of the Ozarks. The ice cream was delicious, and made even more so when we learned it was made and served by students. Students here combine on-campus work with scholarships so no one pays tuition or graduates with student debt. The unofficial name is "Hard Work U".  This is a christian liberal arts college founded by a Presbyterian minister.

After ice cream, we decided we needed to take a walk, so headed for Springfield Botanical Gardens.

Parking near the first entrance, we walked through the gardens to the visitor's center. A string concert was underway inside, so we didn't get a chance to look around. We suspect it had been moved there due to the threat of thunder storms. With the look of the sky and a quick check of radar, we quickly retraced our steps back to the parking lot - making it almost all the way back before the ran started.

Where can you go and stay dry? We opted to head underground with a visit to Fantastic Caverns.

This is a zero exercise tour as you get a ride on a propane powered jeep. They have used several kinds of tour vehicles over the years and a few were on display.

Once in the cave, we were impressed by the well placed lights. Formations were illuminated, but the lights were strategically hidden.
The jeep driver/tour guide shined his flashlight on photo sensors to turn banks of lights on and off. He, of course, turned all the lights off at one point so we could experience the total darkness of being underground.
Discovered in 1862 by a farmer's dog, the cave was first explored by twelve women who answered an advertisement in the local paper. Their names were still visible on the cave wall as we passed by.
I found these to be some of the most interesting formations. Very little human caused damage is evident in this cave since people are confined to vehicles during the tour.
One section of the cave did see lots of human activity. During prohibition, a speakeasy and dance hall was hidden here. The bar and stage still stand as reminders.
These are the current day vehicles that ply the cavern roads. You can ride in the trailer or, if you are lucky like us, hop in the back of the jeep.
One last look at the cavern grounds shows this classic jeep and camping trailer combination.
Overnight parking was at Oovvda Winery, a Harvest Hosts location.  We were there in plenty of time to sample their fruit based wines and hear the story of the winery. Being the only folks there in the late afternoon, the owner invited us to sit outside where his wife joined us for a glass of wine and interesting conversation. The owner's health is failing, so fruit is no longer grown on the property. Unfortunately, the winery is for sale, so may not be on the Harvest Hosts path in the future.

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