I’m a geek. I admit it. I geeked out about this total solar eclipse….geeked out to the point that I scheduled a work trip to get me close to a place where I could view the 100% eclipse.
About an hour north of Kansas City lies the town of St. Joseph, Missouri. St. Joseph just happened to be right in the eclipse pathway so guess who had to get up early to make the drive up? Yep. At 7:00 AM, Miss HeatherLynnP was headed north on I-29 to find a prime piece of real estate to park it with her snacks and eclipse glasses. Friend Boo Boo in tow, we made it to St. Joe with plenty of time to do some sightseeing (duh) before the big event.
St. Joe is an interesting little town. I’m sure I’ve been through more than a handful of times in my life, but I couldn’t recall taking time to check out the town itself. St. Joe boasts two claims to fame: it’s one of two endpoints for the Pony Express and it’s the place where Jesse James died. The town is right on the Missouri River and was a rough and tumble frontier town that was incorporated in 1843. The city has had many ups and downs in its history and that’s really evident when you wander around town.
The downtown melds together boutique shops, art, and abandoned, run-down buildings. I’d recommend finding a place to park so that you can wander around to check out the many sculptures and murals that line the streets of St. Joseph.
You can tell there was once money here. Nowhere can you see a better example of just how much money than at the Wyeth Tootle Mansion. This turn of the century mansion has 40 (FORTY! who needs that much space?) rooms and has been lovingly restored. We didn’t get to go into the mansion on this trip as a special luncheon was being held in conjunction with the eclipse, but you can get a good idea about the riches involved on the website. Across the street, a home which Boo
Boo coined as the town’s “haunted mansion,” stands another behemoth once owned by someone who made his money in the meat packing industry.
You can see remnants of wealth in other places, too, like the large, abandoned homes that have fallen into disrepair around the historic neighborhood. It always makes me a bit sad and nostalgic to imagine what these boarded up structures might have looked like in their heyday.
Churches can fall victims of abandonment, too, until a group of citizens step in. While taking a look at a gorgeous old cathedral, a couple of gentlemen came to say hello as they’d noticed we were starting at the facade of what is now the Immaculate Conception Shrine. The Shrine had previously been the Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1908. Membership waned and the church closed until a group purchased the property and re-opened it as a shrine and national pro-life memorial. Miss HeatherLynnP isn’t interested in discussing her personal politics, but if
you appreciate a beautiful building and peaceful place, drop in. The Shrine is being lovingly restored, piece by piece as money allows, and it holds some lovely stained glass.
After getting my fill of historic buildings in various states of dilapidation, Boo Boo and I headed out to get some caffeine and to see if we could locate a couple of lawn chairs. After a bit of discussion, we decided that we’d head out to Remington Nature Center, one of the preferred eclipse viewing sites. We figured the $10 parking fee was worth an organized clearing with bathrooms. The skies in St. Joe were mostly cloudy, but we were hopeful that the clouds would burn off as eclipse time neared.
We didn’t get that clear sky, but the clouds broke apart often enough that we did get several good views of the eclipse. When the rain started falling and the sky looked socked in, we decided to head out. Braving the much heavier return traffic to Kansas City, we pulled off of the Interstate simply to be outdoors when the total eclipse actually happened. Even with cloudy skies, the feeling in the air changed dramatically. Things got very quiet and still….except the weird kid in front of us dancing up and down the off-ramp. He might have been on something or maybe he was just high on eclipse energy. Whatever, dude. Get your eclipse celebration on!