When our children were young, we took a family vacation every summer whether we could afford it or not.


When our children were young, we took a family vacation every summer whether we could afford it or not. For several years, we used my brother’s tent camper. If you pulled out all of the stops, the camper would sleep six, a tight fit for our family. This camper didn’t hold all that charm for the woman of the tent since she was stuck with the cooking and cleaning. To compensate for this, we had to motel-up about the fourth night to relieve Ann from all the drudgery.

Our first trip with the camper was in 1970 for what we dubbed our “All Missouri” vacation. The first night, we camped out in Knob Noster State Park. We visited the historic Anderson House and the battlefield in Lexington, where a Civil War cannon ball was still lodged in a column at the old courthouse.

One of the most delightful stops was at Arrow Rock, just off of Interstate 70 near Marshall. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the town has a tavern dating back to 1823. This is where early travelers going west crossed the Missouri River on what became the Santa Fe Trail. It was the home of John Sappington of quinine fame, John Caleb Bingham, a famous artist, and three Missouri governors. The children were intrigued by the town’s one-man jail. The movie “Tom Sawyer” was filmed here in that the town resembled Hannibal of the Mark Twain era. The day we were there, two retired school teachers served us lunch in the town’s general store. The Lyceum Theater in this town, population 76, features Broadway type shows throughout the summer.

Our visit to Johnson Shut-ins State Park was the most enjoyable stop for the kids. Each youngster had his / her own little private swimming pool created in the rocks over millenniums. We went to the top of Tom Sauk Mountain, elevation 1,772, the highest point in Missouri. In 2005, the breach of the Tom Sauk Reservoir almost destroyed Johnson Shut-Ins. Another interesting attraction was Elephant Rocks State Park, located in Iron County. It was interesting to see the children climb the giant red granite boulders and have their picture taken, appearing to push them apart.

Mark Twain State Park was our next designation. From here, we visited Hannibal, Samuel Clemens’ hometown. After a night at Merimac State Park, the kids enjoyed a day at Six Flags over Missouri. To round out the vacation, we spent a night at Graham Cave State Park near Montgomery City.

The state of Missouri has much to offer. Don’t think that you have to travel hundreds of miles to find interesting attractions. In subsequent weeks, we will wheel the camper out for more ambitious trips.

Roy Shaver writes a weekly column for the Daily News.