Strawberries and Gelato and Steamships--Oh, My!

June 24, 2010

My final day in Missouri, we went to the City Market and the Arabia Museum in Kansas City. I drooled over the large produce stands selling one-pound containers of strawberries for a dollar, as well as jewel-like cherries, peppers and lettuces. At least two vendors carried bulk spices, their luscious aromas perfuming the air. Fresh flowers, homemade fudge and fresh-baked breads tempted me, too, and it was a delicate form of torture to wander through the stands and not be able to buy anything because I was flying home the next day. (I consoled myself with a triple chocolate gelato from an Italian deli.)

Garden art--so cute!

In addition to the produce and food stands, the City Market has shops, restaurants and the Arabia Steamboat Museum, an attraction my aunt, who is an archaeologist, had been dying to visit. A little history: in 1856, the Arabia steamed up the Missouri River, laden with more than 200 tons of merchandise bound for pioneer settlements and general stores. When she hit a “snag,” or submerged tree, she sank in mere minutes, taking her cargo with her. All 130 human passengers survived; the only fatality was a mule, who has now been nicknamed Lawrence (of Arabia—get it?). Museum visitors are encouraged to pay their respects to Lawrence as they leave the exhibits.

A fraction of the Arabia's cargo.

But back to the Arabia (see how easily I’m distracted by anything equine?). Over time the Missouri River changed its course, leaving the Arabia buried 45 feet beneath a Kansas corn field, half a mile from the river’s edge. Arabia was excavated in 1988-1989. Her amazingly well-preserved cargo is the largest pre-Civil war artifact collection in the world—everything from dishware, clothing, tools, guns, foodstuffs, medicine, trade beads and buttons. They’re still restoring what was excavated, and expect to have at least 15 more years of work ahead of them! At the preservation lab in the museum, we watched a restorer work on a pair of boots, and sniffed a sample of perfume recovered from the Arabia. To learn more about the Arabia, visit, or read Treasure in a Cornfield, by Greg Hawley.

More treasure.

And that concludes our trip through Missouri. Thanks for traveling with me—I’ve enjoyed reliving it all!

Rest in peace, Lawrence.

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  1. Have you considered applying for a position as a tour guide? You're doing one fine job! This was so interesting! I'd never heard of The Arabia, but read on, more and more fascinated as I read. Imagine a pre-Civil war cargo ship buried under a cornfield! You know what they say, "fact is stranger than fiction".

    Good job, Kathy.. thanks for sharing. Where to on our next trip? ;-)

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Teresa. I had never heard of the Arabia before, either, but it was so interesting. I just heard today that a ship was found in Lake Michigan with its cargo (from the 1890s)intact, too. It will be interesting to see what is down there.

    Hmmm...I'm not sure where to may have to be one of Laure's imaginary trips!

  3. What interesting tidbits you have shared. The old market definitely looks like a fun thing to visit I would have been tempted for all the treats as well - especially the strawberries and chocolate gelato.

    Hey - great pictures to paint from too!

  4. Claire--I can highly recommend the gelato :)

    Funny you should mention pictures to paint from...I took several photos at different locations with the express intention of painting them! We were supposed to visit a covered bridge, which I thought would be a great subject, but we couldn't reach it because of flooding. Too bad. Maybe one day I'll post the pictures and the paintings--when I finally manage to paint them.

  5. What an amazing treasure trove of memorabilia -- and all underneath a cornfield! I love old things, and I could probably spend way too long perusing all of that, even on their webpage. I can hardly believe all the old clothing that survived. Too bad we can't say the same about poor Lawrence. :(

    Sounds like it was a wonderful trip, Kathy. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

  6. You're welcome, Meredith. I hope I didn't bore everyone with the trip--I sort of felt like I was forcing everyone to look at my vacation photos! But then, I always like to hear about others' trips because I always learn things, and sometimes discover a place I'd like to visit myself.

  7. cool! I loved reading this post and the previous posts. I'd love to see those artifacts, and so would Matty (who wants to be either a vet or an archeologist). My parents visited here a few years ago and thought I'd like to see it too. You did a great job telling the story.

  8. Glad you enjoyed the posts, Kelly. It was such an interesting trip. I like Matty's career choices--they both sound fascinating.