Friday, September 01, 2006

Meramec Caverns - Stanton, Missouri

The Following is from the Roadside America Site:

Meramec Caverns - Stanton, Missouri This is one of the giants among Missouri's show caves. You don't even reach the mouth until you drive past the Meramec Caverns motel and RV park, park half a mile away, and claw your way through the ice cream stand, game arcade and huge gift shop. Boys of all nations gather at the toy gun rack, firing off shots in all directions. The whole complex is packed with vacationers desperate for an excuse to get out of the heat. Meramec satisfies in this regard, providing guests with an 80-minute journey through its clammy passages. Flag CurtainThe cavern bills itself as "Jesse James's Hideout," but the tiny cabin in the cave mouth (under the neon "Meramec Caverns" sign) belonged to a moonshiner, not Jesse.

Just beyond lies the Grand Ballroom, with a mirrored disco ball hanging over its tiled floor and signs along its lumpy walls boasting of TV shows and movies that were filmed here, like "Lassie." Dim, drippy, lesser passages extend beyond here, packed solid with tour after tour of lock-stepped heat-beaters. The booming voices of well-rehearsed tour guides lecture adjacent groups about cave nodules and Art Linkletter (another TV show filmed here), blend into an eerie audio mosaic. All of this leads to the last room, where a theater of tiered plastic chairs spreads out from a great curtain wall of striking flowstone formations. The better for visitors to appreciate nature's handiwork? Hah! How long do you think Meramec Caverns would've stayed in business if that's all that were here? Meramec's founders foresightedly created in this room "the greatest show under the earth" -- a triumph of 1946 technology.

As the tour guide manually throws noisy toggles that turn colored lights on and off, a well-worn recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" echoes off the surrounding stone. The clacking switches add staccato overtones to the murky music, as the show climaxes in a slide of a waving American flag projected in the middle of the flashing blues and reds and greens. The tour group, happy after finally being allowed to sit, bursts into applause.


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