We cautiously make our way further North in the Spring of 2022 from Southern Missouri to snowless but blustery Northern Missouri. There we check out the “hometown” of Walt Disney and his family.
Yes! Did you know that “Disney” is in Missouri as well as California and Florida? Actually, Walt Disney’s family were in several places between Orlando, Chicago, and Kansas City in the late 1800s and early 1900s before Walt went out to California to build the empire you know about today. We purposefully made a detour in our return to Wisconsin in the spring of 2022 to visit the hometown of the Disney family, which is in Marceline (pro. mar-se-lean), Missouri. Walt’s impression of this small town stayed with him, memories he reproduced in his parks and at his home in California.
The short of it? If you are a Disney fanatic interested in Walt’s life history, the museum is worth it! However, do not make it a destination alone. Stop in if you are driving by the area.
But first, before we could get to this area from Branson, Missouri, we had to make an overnight stop in Springfield at Fantastic Caverns after which we stopped for the week in Macon, Missouri, at the Long Branch State Park.
Both of us like caves anyway, but what better can a cave be than to be guided by a Jeep through it? Plus it was a Harvest Hosts site so we could use it as a stop-over point between Branson and Macon which are on opposite ends of Missouri. Fantastic Caverns are located Northwest of Springfield along some small, winding, country roads that are a bit white-knuckling to get to it. Honestly driving some of these roads with the motorhome, and with the Jeep in tow, is scarier than rock crawling with the Jeep.
There is your traditional souvenir “junk” shop in the waiting area with some static displays to educate you on the area and the cave before your group is called. Obviously, the caverns are pretty sizable when you can drive a Jeep through them but there are some points where the driver will warn you that you need to crouch down to avoid hitting your head. They even provide the entire group with a photo from inside the cave at no additional cost! This tour is well worth your time and money.
As a Harvest Host site, they are embracing RVs by having adequate parking alongside the driveway. We talked with a van lifer that was in the area for the overlander expedition at the fairgrounds and he was turned away for the night since he was not a member. The only downfall of this location is the constant public address system that is on every light pole in the parking lot. “Why they don’t turn it off at night,” will be a question running through your head that will drive you as crazy as the announcements themselves!
Long Branch State Park
We were able to snag a decent RV site at Long Branch State Park Northwest of Macon, Missouri, from Sunday through Thursday night. This is pretty typical of our travel pattern, where we can get the “off nights” during the week and then have trouble with weekend nights during the normal camping season. The campground is at the “back” of the state park and you will need to travel typical low-speed park roads for about 10 minutes to get from the park entrance to your campsite. Our site was concrete and decently level, however, that did not appear to be the case for all sites.
A backup plan for this state park in this area is the Macon County Fairgrounds RV park. There you will get full hookups for the same price as the state park and you will be just one block off the main drag in town but on the edge of town overlooking Missouri farmland. We spoke with some fairground volunteers there and the campground is mostly available outside of fair dates. The only downfall we saw was the lack of a solid base course on the sites, you will be on grass which may be a problem if wet. You also may need a good amount of hose depending on the site, the water spigot is at every other site. This campground appears to be open year-round.
Walt Disney Hometown Museum
After enjoying lunch in town we drove around the little town and spotted the architecture Walt based the main streets of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom upon. The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is located in the railroad depot. We even got goosebumps when a freight train went barrelling through town shaking the little depot. This museum is focused on Walt’s family living in this area for a few years in Walt’s adolescent years. There are artifacts from the family here, but it is not a Disney family sponsored museum.
The museum fails to convey what it really is about, it really undersells the importance of the history it contains. If you are interested in Walt’s family history while in Marceline then you need to check out this museum. You can get through the museum in a few hours, not more than half a day even if you read and watched everything.
The wind was crazy the entire week we were here. We were rocked by 60 MPH winds and rain for almost the entire week. That gave both of us some crazy headaches from time to time as the barometer kept changing. We were surprised that the park staff did not enforce a no-burning ban in those winds and we watched some crazy locals pull in and build a fire. Fortunately, they were downwind of us and nothing happened, but we shook our heads watching it.
In the final stretch of our return from Florida to Wisconsin over the spring, we try to beat the winds by driving early in the morning and preparing to stop when the winds picked up. We made it as far as the Iowa/Minnesota border before we had to pull over into a casino we had identified using our membership to overnightrvparking.com.
We made it back to our home base in Wisconsin just in time for Easter weekend. Given the forecast of diesel fuel prices for the summer, and Jason’s work projects, the plan is to stay still for the summer.