We’ve been traveling through Missouri for almost a month now and we’ll soon be heading west. The latest city we visited was Independence which is about 10 miles east of Kansas City. With its brick houses, narrow streets, trees, grass, and humidity, it felt like a city on the east coast. Watching the fireflies or “lightning bugs” as we called them when we were kids, I had flashbacks of growing up in New Jersey and trying to capture them.
Independence is chock full of history. It was the point of departure for the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails and hometown to Harry Truman, our 33rd president.
Naturally, we visited the Truman Presidential Library and Museum. It is a well done museum and the exhibits did a great job of explaining the issues he faced during his presidency. Some of the decisions he made during his presidency, such as dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, were controversial and unpopular, but the museum doesn’t shy away from presenting the pros and cons of such decisions. There are also rotating exhibits and lectures on American history which keep the museum current. I walked away with a greater appreciation of the man and the challenges during that time. It is the best of the presidential libraries we have visited so far. (The other three we visited were Hoover, Eisenhower, and Clinton.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same feeling about the National Frontier Trails Museum. This city-run museum, which opened in 1998, was uninspiring and unimaginative. The displays were outdated with lots of reading. The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, Wyoming was much better.
Independence is also home to the headquarters of several churches – Church of Christ, Community of Christ, and the Latter Day Saints. The Church of Christ and Community of Christ are part of the LDS movement begun by Joseph Smith in the late 1800s. However, differences is direction and beliefs caused a split. The campground we stayed at was actually owned by the Community of Christ and its temple
, built for 35 million dollars, soared high above the campground. This was a weird place for us non-believers to be camping in.
With temperatures still in the mid-90s, we skipped the sightseeing tour of downtown Kansas City. I just couldn’t imagine walking around in the city in that heat. Instead, we opted for a trip to the Kansas City Zoo. We got up early to beat the heat and the crowds (which never materialized on Father’s Day). It has probably been about 25 years since I’ve been to a zoo so I have nothing for comparison. However, it was a fun way to spend the day.
We are now in St. Joseph, Missouri. We’ll be leaving here on Sunday and starting our trek west.