"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bass Pro Shop's Wonders of Wildlife - Missouri

Fordland, Missouri
Moochdocking


It has been about 15 years or more since we have seen our dear friends, Jimmy and Jo.  We both used to raise and show dairy goats.  Yep, GOATS. (ha ha, go ahead and laugh!)  We were really looking forward to this part of our trip and were very happy when we found we wouldn't be too far away.
 
They have some beautiful property in the rolling hills and invited us to stay at their place.  We had their address which seemed simple enough to get to.  We should've asked more questions!  Our GPS and maps took us the backway and once we hit a very small dirt road we stopped and walked it a bit.  It didn't look promising.  Of course the signal was very poor and when Jo sent Jimmy out to find us it turned into a circus.  He forgot to take his phone with him and we lost our signal so none of us could contact the other!  A nice gentleman drove over to us and suggested we back up on to his property and turn around.  Steve ended up backing up a quarter of a mile just perfectly and thankfully we were able to turn around and pick up a signal further back.  Geez, it took an hour longer but we finally made it to our destination!
Our backyard view.
They had a present ready for Hurley.  So sweet.
 
Jo made a nice pizza for us and we talked for a couple of hours before crashing for the night. 
After a yummy home cooked breakfast casserole we were off for the day. They showed us around the area and then we took a tour at Mother's Brewery.

Old Goat Buddies!
Look who joined us for the tour!
They had some unusual decorations throughout.  It really looked like this guy was coming through the door.
Free tastings.
 
Afterwards they took us to a fun place called Lambert's CafĂ© in Ozark just south of Springfield.  They told us they throw rolls at you.  I thought, "Whaaat?"  Turns out they don't actually throw them AT you, they throw them TO you.  From across the restaurant!  More like a toss actually.  I was a little bit disappointed though that they said no when I asked if I could throw some back at them.  Fair is fair, right? :-)
Jimmy and Jo.  Just as sweet and funny as ever!
They serve free appetizers of fried okra, macaroni with tomato sauce, pinto beans and these wonderful fried potatoes among a couple of other items.  Good southern cooking.  Jimmy had Chicken Fried Steak, I had Pork Roast and Steve and Jo decided to try the Fried Pork Jowls!  I had some diced up on an Arugula Salad back in Vermont and it was really good.  Like bacon.  Well, it looked like thick sliced bacon... BUT it was quite salty, crunchy and very, very fatty.  We all tasted it and decided "Yuck" as a meal.  AND, it didn't come with anything else!  Thank goodness for the appetizers that you get all-you-can-eat.  We thought the Jowls would be better if we took them home and crushed them up a bit and cooked them in some pinto beans.  We actually did that later and it was great!  We sure got a good laugh about it though!

Now for the best part of the trip! (aside from seeing Jimmy & Jo of course).  A visit to the newly opened Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium and Museum created by Bass Pro Shop.  While I've been to Bass Pro Shops, I'd not heard of it but we were here for the grand opening.  Jo had bought an annual pass which treated us to a free entry.  Thanks guys!
This place is HUGE and absolutely amazing!  The Animal Galleries have state-of-the-art 4D dioramas that surround you with the sights, sounds and smells of the planet's wildlife habitats.  The Aquarium is in its own section and contains 1.5 million gallons of freshwater and saltwater habitats with 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds representing more than 800 species.
It's $14.95 for adults for the Wildlife Gallery, $29.95 for the aquarium or $39.95 for a combo ticket.
The amount of detail, artwork and backdrop painting and effects really put this place above other similar places.  We were just blown away!  We spent all day here until closing and that was just going through the aquarium and animal sections.  We didn't even look around at the shopping.  We could've easily spent two days in here!
As you start into the Animal exhibits you first go through some displays about the Native Americans, famous outdoor artists, adventurers, art, etc.  I didn't get many pictures that came out good enough to use but the displays were wonderful.  They are still working on this section.
It was sad to see just how quickly buffalo were hunted down just for sport until Teddy Roosevelt and others put some restrictions on it.  There is a fantastic area here all about Conservation and preserving the environment for future generations. 
 
 
And then you enter into the 4-D animal display.  These aren't your old school dioramas.  Most areas you walk through. Not just looking at them.  Really cool.

The art work on the backdrops is just gorgeous.  Lighting changes as you walk through some areas, mist and rain and stars, sounds to that particular area, so life-like.


 
They put a lot into explaining conservation over the years.  This is great as some people don't really understand how licensed hunting and fishing contributes greatly to conservation and preservation.

This section has displays of trophy animal mounts of many species.  Typical and Atypical bucks and a lot of exhibits most don't know about.

Atypical buck mount.

I knew what a piebald was, but it was the first time I heard of a cactus buck.
"Cactus Buck"
If looking at mounts are not your thing you can skip this section.  There is a lot of really interesting information here though and you'll see animals you've probably never seen or heard of.

 





 







The Bayou section.

For those interested they had a museum of guns, rifles, knives, swords, etc from early times to present.  Some were very rare.  This was another section that surprised me in how informative and interesting I found it.  The craftsmanship on some of these items were very impressive!


 
After all that walking we were hungry.  They have a great restaurant/bar inside the Bass Pro Shop so we went there for a break before hitting the aquarium.  We decided to partake of the Buffet.  The price was decent and we looked it over and the choices were fantastic.  Great breakfast, lunch and dinner choices!  We left very happy and full.
 
Right off the bat the aquarium impresses.  More life-like displays and walk-through environments of different regions of the world.
 


 
There were sections on fishing equipment over the years, top fishing men/women, world records, etc.
Bass Force One.  Love it!  The actual boat is here too.
A fish "tornado".


There is a huge ray touch pool where you are allowed and encourage to feel the rays.  There are many interactive areas throughout the aquarium for children as well.
I think this guy was happy to see us.
This guy, not so much!
 
Cute little sea creatures that I couldn't find the name of.



Where's my pole?


Many brightly colored salt water fish.

No Steve didn't jump into the tank.  They have many tanks that you can stand up in the middle.  There are also long tank "tunnels" where you walk through the tanks surrounded by all the fish. 
You can see a stand up section in this picture.
 

There was also a large reptile section.
 
 
These cuties would "chase" me when I ran back and forth to both ends of their area.  So funny!
 
The jellyfish tanks were neat to see to.  So many shapes and sizes and colors.
Of course there are all types of sharks everywhere!  I liked the heart I spotted in the background!

Off to the Bat Cave!
 
This place surpasses any I've been to including Atlanta.  This is a must see if you're in the Springfield, Missouri area.  I'd actually make it a destination.  They are currently building a hotel at the Bass Pro Shop too.  Our feet were sore after a full day.  By time we got out of the gift shop they had the whole place shut down.  I would recommend breaking this up into a two day trip.