Travelogue: Journey To Excelsior Springs

Hall of Waters, Excelsior Springs, MO

Editor’s Note: The car trouble we experienced below and the stress that caused is one reason why I empathize with the financial struggles of working class people under free-market capitalism.

I will just start off by saying that yesterday was an interesting day.

We’re currently up here in Missouri to celebrate my nephew’s birthday and to spend time with my wife’s side of the family. Since we live so far away in Alabama in the Deep South, we don’t travel up here to Missouri as often as we would like because of the time and distance.

Yesterday, it was my wife’s birthday and to celebrate her birthday we decided that we would drive out to western Missouri to see the birthplace of Jesse James. She was raised as a proud Missourian and proud Southerner so naturally Jesse James who robbed banks and trains to seek revenge on the Yankees for the defeat of the Confederacy became one of her heroes in her youth.

I’m more of a “Salt Life” Southerner from near the Gulf Coast and had never been out to that part of Missouri and was eager to check it out to see what of Southern civilization has survived in Little Dixie. I’ve read there was a bit of ethnic cleansing there after the war. The Deep South has a very different look and feel from northwest Missouri. There are endless cornfields here and it snows and gets bitterly cold in the winter while that is a rare occurence that provokes wonder where I am from.

After eating breakfast, we set out from the St. Louis suburbs to travel to Kearny, MO north of Kansas City to see this Jesse James museum. The first stop we made was at Mizzou in Columbia. I wanted to check out the campus and the bookstore in order to buy a good book on the history of Missouri. I’ve already studied the history of Alabama and the history of Florida. Unfortunately, the Mizzou Store seems to be devoid of books for some reason, so I settled for this coffee cup and a present for my nephew.

We stopped and bought a memento at Mizzou

Whenever I travel, I like to buy history books about local places to learn more about their past and collect coffee cups. We did the same thing at Jamestowne and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia earlier this month. While I was there, I found an excellent book called For God, King, and People: Forging Commonwealth Bonds in Renassiance Virginia which I will be reviewing in May. I also later ordered The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America which is waiting for me back at home to read and review. I’m also planning to review that book in May.

We were really having a great day traveling through rural Missouri talking about history, religion, politics, culture. I’m an INTP. My wife is an ENTP. This is why she debates me about everything. We made it to Excelsior Springs, MO literally ten minutes away when disaster struck.  My wife’s car started acting weird and it was clear the transmission was giving us trouble. We managed to hobble into a local mechanic shop to get it checked out and hoped to get back on the open road.


It turns out that for whatever reason the transmission module on her car had gone out. I also learned that it was going to cost around $1,400 to replace to the transmission module. Also, we won’t know if the transmission itself is gone on this car until the mechanic goes in to replace the module. She literally bought this car at the beginning of January and this is what happened to her on her birthday less than ten minutes away from seeing the birthplace of Jesse James.

It is the nature of life to throw curveballs at you and this one was particularly upsetting for my wife. Imagine being broke down in rural Missouri around 3 and 1/2 hours from where you are staying and ultimately 12 and 1/2 hours from home. There was nothing we could do at that point but call it a day. We called my mother-in-law and she came with our son (he was enjoying the day spending time with his grandmother) to come pick us up in Excelsior Springs.

The people at the mechanic shop were kind enough to drop us off at this really nice local hotel called The Elms. Since we were stranded, we had a few hours to spare and decided to spend it walking around and exploring this quaint 92.6% White town in western Missouri, which turns out to be a really fascinating destination in its own right. Apparently, there are lots of natural springs in this town and the warm healing waters made it a big tourist destination back in the day. President Harry Truman stayed there the night that he stunned the world by defeating Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election.

President Harry Truman learned in Excelsior Springs, MO that he had been reelected in 1948. This image was taken at his triumph in nearby Kansas City

I could have easily let this ruin our day.

As I thought about it though, I realized there was no point in getting upset about having to eat $1,400 to fix the car after reading the reference guide to measuring rim size and realizing the amount of work that goes into it. Moreso, there is no point in getting angry or upset about fate. Life is a series of moments and memories and it is too short to be full of bad ones. While this was a bad moment, I reminded myself that until tragedy struck the day had been going great and it would be followed by better ones. I spent the next few hours trying and succeeding in cheering up my wife and making lemonade out of lemons.

In order to calm down my wife, I got philosophical for a moment. I told her about how I had studied Epicurus after college. Unlike Aristotle, Epicurus believed that ataraxia or tranquility was the highest good in life. I explained that it wasn’t worth getting stressed out about the car because there was really nothing we could do about it but the enjoy the rest of our day. We don’t even need that many material possessions and the distress those possessions cause us in order to experience pleasure.

Do you know what we had at that moment? We had a beautiful day, warm spring weather and a new place to explore. We were really fine because our family was coming to pick us up. We had come all this way to explore a new place and that is what we ended up doing anyway.

Want to relax?

Do you need to take a load off and unwind? Have you ever wanted to tune out of the modern world for a minute? We had unwittingly stumbled upon the right place:


“In ancient Rome, Roman baths consisted of a series of rooms offering cold, warm and hot baths, as well as steamy and dry rooms, all designed to offer restoration and repose.The Grotto at The Elms Hotel & Spa is our modern take on a traditional Roman bath, featuring a collection of soothing chambers in which to relax and rejuvenate in richly appointed surroundings. Like those who, for the last century and a quarter, made the pilgrimage to Excelsior Springs for the curative effects of the area’s mineral waters, you can unwind and revive, but in the modern comfort of The Elms’ Grotto.”

I will just say the Lord works in mysterious ways and this providential experience proved to be a better and more relaxing suggestion than going to the Jesse James museum. The Elms Hotel & Spa would be an excellent, off the grid spot to hold a future conference!

It is interesting that we ended up getting stranded in Excelsior Springs because lately I have been harping on the accomplishments of the populist-progressive coalition of the New Deal era:


Hall of Waters is short walk from The Elms. It was built by the WPA under President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Today, it is Excelsior Springs City Hall, but if you can look past the Art Deco architecture it was a fantastic public works project that was enjoyed by everyone:

“The Hall of Waters was built as a Federal Public Works Administration project and the project was for building the Hall, purchase of the mineral water rights, and piping the waters to bottling facilities within. Architecturally, the $1,000,000 Hall of Waters is significant as the most ambitious project to have been undertaken by the PWA in Missouri. The interior and exterior decoration incorporates Art Deco and Depression Modern styling with motifs of Mayan Indian tradition relating to water and Water Gods.

At the time of construction, there was both a men’s and women’s bath department, each handled as many as 300 people at any one time. There is a competition-size swimming pool that was filled with salt water and a polio-pool located on lower levels, along with the bottling works. Pipes were designed especially for each type of mineral water and a system to bring them all to the site was developed.

At its height, the Hall of Waters was the most completely outfitted health resort in the state and possibly the region. Waters of the ten main springs were piped into the longest mineral water bar in the world, which is still open to the public today. Known as the Hall of Springs, the solarium was the first section of the Hall to be opened in 1937. Five varieties of mineral water were bottled here and shipped all over the world.

By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the popularity of the Hall of Waters and other spas and clinics began to decline. The bottling operation was moved from the Hall to a new plant south across Fishing River and operated for a short time.”


Siloam Mountain Park is across the street from The Elms Hotel & Spa and down the street from the Hall of Waters. I really enjoyed this park for several reasons:

1.) After taking a long soak in a Roman bath at The Elms, you can walk across the street into Siloam Mountain Park. There are some good running trails in the park. We took advantage of them.

2.) Excelsior Springs is 92.6% White and most importantly quiet. It isn’t a tourist trap. In between The Elms and Siloam Mountain Park, this is an ideal place to relax, think and write.

3.) This place is only 30 minutes out from Kansas City. There is no reason why you can’t just fly into here and easily get to the hotel.

Around 9:00 PM last night, my mother-in-law and son arrived to pick us up from Excelsior Springs where we had spent the afternoon and the evening exploring the places above. We drove from there to Kansas City to get some of that world famous brisket before driving back to St. Louis. It had been a long and eventful day and we got home late this morning and in spite of it costing me over $1,400 was nevertheless an interesting experience that made it worthwhile!

Note: I’m going to return to Excelsior Springs at some point just because the combination of the Roman baths and the isolation. If I ever host a conference for this website, this is where it will be.

joking/not joking The Outlaw Josey Wales had the right attitude toward life

About Hunter Wallace 12380 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. When you go home you should come back south thru Missouri through the Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas. This region is very different from where you are visiting. Mostly a land forests and pastures, many streams and lakes. ruggedly hilly and wild. James brothers, along with a lot of other southern outlaws often hid out in this region. Important Civil War battles were fought her for control of Missouri. Arkansas. Lots of trees, not much corn. milder weather too.

    • A few years ago, we went down to Tom Sauk Mountain to hike through the Ozarks. We also drove up the east side of Missouri through Hannibal to check out southeastern Iowa. I’m very familiar with eastern Missouri but much less so the western side.

      My mother-in-law family is from Mississippi County in southeast Missouri. The area was settled by West Tennesseans who crossed the Mississippi River after the War Between the States.

  2. “I’ve read there was a bit of ethnic cleansing there after the war.”

    A good many of the survivors went to North Texas. The novel “Gone to Texas” is based on the Missouri Diaspora. The Outlaw Josey Wales is based on the novel. Sam Clement, who settled in Fannin County, Texas, is the basis of the character Josey Wales. I went to school with a girl who is related to him on her father’s side. She still has family in Missouri. A lot of North Texans have familial connections to Missouri.

    The same people who settled Missouri, also settled North Texas. That’s why North Texas is more like the upper South, than Central and South Texas, which are a colony of Alabama.

    It shows in the agriculture here, too. We raise more cattle, horses, wheat, corn, sorghum and alfalfa, than cotton. We get snow, from time to time, too. But it’s still rare.

    When I went to Missouri, it felt a lot like North Texas. Some parts even looked like it. The towns and crops and livestock certainly weren’t unfamiliar to me.
    Nor the BBQ pits and Cafes.

    If Missouri is a Northern state, or a “Midwestern” state, I couldn’t tell it. But then, the Yankees are starting to classify Virginia and Maryland as Northeastern states, and Texas and Oklahoma as a “Midwestern” states.

    Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas are what I call West Dixie.

    The Katy Railroad called it the Southwest.

    Southwest= Western South.

      • During the original colonisation phase, settlers came by ship from Mobile, to the Texas coast. Alabama established and official colony in South Texas. The Alabama Red Rovers were a ranger company that fought in the Texas Revolution and were later folded into the Texas Rangers.

        As an aside, we’d root for the Crimson Tide, when we weren’t rooting for a team from Texas.

      • In the movie, they mention fannin County, which is the next county over from me. Quantrill’s winter camp was right west of where I grew up. The Texas Road ended in Grayson County.

        In the movie, they have Wales end up in badlands/desert. But North Texas is Black Belt prairie, Crosstimbers and Piney Woods.

        I’ve got that movie and Ride with The Devil. They appeal to me because I’m interested in the war in the Transmississipi, in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

  3. I am sorry that disaster struck and that disaster will be so costly. I always rent vehicles when engaging in long road trips. That way, the rental agency is responsible for maintenance and replacement. Yet – your story reveals how functional our Nation still is. Even though your were very far from your home, and the home of your wife’s family – help was almost immediately at hand. You were fortunate enough to be dealing with Whites. Friendly, honest, and helpful. Dagda Forfend that a breakdown like this occurred anywhere near Detroit, or East Saint Louis. I’m glad that you were able to take advantage of the opportunity to explore a place you wouldn’t have considered before. Lemons into lemonade!

    • Believe me, I have learned my lesson.

      It is only going to be flights and rental cars from here on out. This is just too far and puts too much wear and tear on our vehicles!

      • Extended warranties are a good bet—get one through the cars manufacturer. Many car companies offer road service now, you get it with your purchase, and AAA which I have belonged to for almost 40 years is slipping and not offering the services they did in the past.

        Be sure and call the manufacturer on their toll free line and complain—you are better off going to the manufacturer’s dealer. Today the dealer only has access to parts, or an independent has to buy parts thru them.

        I would call the manufacturer, and tell them what you are being quoted for the part & service.

      • Hunter – in the days of my Not Terribly Wild Youth – I’d rent cars on New Year’s Eve, to travel in town. Even if I was only driving a mile or so. I am a pretty decent driver – but so many others aren’t. I used to be afraid to drive my own car, because of all the drunks on the road. My friends thought I was crazy to rent a car, overnight, to drive a mile and a half – but I’d get fully insured via the rental company, as well as the rental of the car, itself, for approx. $25.00 – $30.00. It’s not that much more for car rentals now, and you can get deals if you rent for a week, or a weekend special, etc.

        Regarding my New Year’s Eve overnight rentals – I’d wind up driving pals home from our parties. I’m not a big drinker – and my pals used to spend more on booze and food for the night, than I’d spend on the car. I never had an accident, but the peace of mind was totally worth it for me.

        I still rent cars when I’m doing long drives. I’d rather drive than fly. I only fly if I have to drive more than 2 days. I’m not afraid of flying; I love airplanes – but it’s the reliance on so many others. You never know if there will be a problem or cancellation of a flight, etc. You have to deal with so many other people. I’ve also had to deal with 2 vacation disasters, where-in I had to go to enormous lengths to get home, and I had to jump through hoops to re-arrange flights. I like cars because you can just go according to your own time frames and whims. Car rental agencies will come and get you and replace the vehicle if something goes awry. And you own personal car is safe and sound and awaiting your return!

    • AAA road service is handy. Not purchasing american cars is also helpful. If you don’t like to do your own repair work Toyotas are probably the most reliable albeit boring.

  4. My mother and her family are also from southeast Missouri, around Kennet and Sikeston, had many relatives from there.

      • Born in St. Louis (Jewish Hospital, LOL) And raised in East Prairie. The 1961 B-movie The Intruder was filmed there and in Charleston. The backstory and topic of the film (desegregation) are pretty interesting. Once the townspeople of E.P. figured out that the film was anti-segregation, things got tense and Roger Corman, William Shatner and the crew shot the last scene and blew town in a hurry !

  5. There’s no trouble like car trouble! Rolling money pits .. Godspeed & safe journey to you. The travelogues are, for me, enjoyable & fascinating glimpses of parts of the country I will never see.

  6. I love the photos. Excelsior Springs looks like a lovely, relaxing, beautiful place. I’ve been planning off the beaten path trips. There are still lovely places in this country. I want to see as many as possible – before they’re gone….

  7. If you have the time, a good route south through Missouri back to Alabama is US Hwy 63 to I-20. Pick up 63 from I-44 (Route 66) in Rolla, MO (check out the half scale Stonehenge on campus of UMST), down through Mammoth Springs, AR and the Ozarks, down to I-20 in Rushton (did you know that Shreveport LA is the capital of East Texas? lol), then back to AL via Vicksburg, MS (check out the Vicksburg Military Battlefield .. great bookstore … the various Regimental monuments, North and South … and the USS Cairo) then fast drive through Jackson and Meridian to AL.

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