St. Robert is kind of in the middle of nowhere, Missouri. Located in Pulaski County between St. Louis and Branson, it is considered the gateway community to the U.S. Army’s Fort Leonard Wood. Indeed, that was why we were there. We were celebrating Jacob’s graduation from basic training, and with that, the family day we were able to spend with him.
There isn’t much to do in St. Robert off base. It is rather away from the more frequented areas of Missouri, however, as Jacob wanted to spend the day away from the base, we searched for things to do in the area. While there was not much within about a 30-minute drive, there were some attractions that were of interest beside the Starbucks.
After receiving our instructions and picking up Jacob with tears of joy, we headed off the base and to his requested brunch spot: the Waffle House. He had heard his peers talking about ‘this great place where they served waffles,’ and he wanted to try it. I guess I took for granted that he had never been to one being out in California, but as there wasn’t much around and waffles are always a good idea no matter what time of day, to Waffle House we would go. The food was decent and the coffee plentiful, so it was a good start to the day. But brunch could only take so long, and we had what felt like plenty more time to hang out. So we headed to an interesting destination along the old Mother Road– Uranus, Missouri.
I suppose the best way to describe Uranus is that is a sideshow-type roadside tourist stop that is modeled to look like a quirky old town. While it is not actually a municipality, it does have a self-proclaimed ‘mayor,’ a (fake) city squad car and jail, the world’s largest belt-buckle as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, as well as a large gift shop. It was exactly the kind of place I would expect to find along Route 66.
I was worried that a potty pun-happy place like Uranus would be a bit undignified, but it was all in good fun, and it turned out that many of the families visiting their soldiers-in-training had the same idea. I guess the combination of there not being much else to do in the immediate vicinity of the base along with the oddity of the ‘town’ would draw families to the attraction. And it was, in its way, fun. We walked around the shops and even bought some fudge to enjoy. It was actually really good fudge, living up to the motto “The best fudge comes from Uranus.”
For those with more time and money, there is a sideshow museum that features curiosities and historic pieces from sideshows of days gone by. Unfortunately, the Axe-hole indoor axe-throwing center was closed for remodeling. The general store had a wide selection of candies, snacks, and of course, fudge, as well as shirts and other giftables. We got a good kick out of the funny and punny novelty tees.
After spending a nice chunk of time in Uranus, we headed out and drove over to Devil’s Elbow in Pulaski County. The historic truss bridge there spans the Big Piney River and yields beautiful views of the Hiawatha Bluffs. I thought that we might be able to hike in the area, but we just drove over the bridge and turned around. So we headed back to St. Robert and grabbed coffees at the local Starbucks before heading back to the base.
Once back at Fort Leonard Wood, we drove over to the Fort Leonard Wood Museum. The fort is home to the Military Police, Army Engineer School, and the Chemical Corps. As such, there were some really neat exhibits documenting the history of the corps. This was probably one of the coolest things we did, in my opinion, learning about the role of the Chemical Corps throughout the various global conflicts and seeing science applied in the defense of our country and its history. The Chemical Corps originated in 1917 in response to the use of gas during World War I. The primary function of the Chemical Warfare Service was to develop defensive measures against chemical attacks and became a part of the Army in 1920. In 1946, Chemical Corps became an official part of the U.S. Army. Since then, the Chemical Corps has played a role in global conflicts from Korea and Vietnam to the wars in the Middle East, in both offensive and defensive capabilities. It was quite interesting learning of the evolution of the Chemical Corps over the years. While checking out the branches of the museum, Jacob ran into more of his friends from his battalion, and it was nice to see that once again, other families had the same ideas for family day activities.
Too soon, however, it was time to return Jacob to his battalion. Family day was coming to an end, and after picking him up some dinner at the post exchange, we headed to the designated meeting place. It was tough, even while knowing that we would be back the next day for his graduation. But I also knew that this path was what he chose, what he wanted since he was a kid, and that we would support him in his journey. After all, that’s what we as parents do- we train our kids the best we can, and cheer them on as they accomplish their goals, by the grace of God. As hard as it was to leave, I was truly thankful for the time spent in Pulaski County- and even in a place called Uranus, Missouri.
To plan your visit, check out:
Visit Pulaski County
*Please note that some of the tabs on the Uranus website are a bit outdated. For specific information, you might want to call ahead. Have fun exploring!
“The U.S. Army Chemical Corps: Past, Present, and Future.” The Campaign for the National Museum of the United States Army, https://armyhistory.org/the-u-s-army-chemical-corps-past-present-and-future/#:~:text=On%202%20August%201946%2C%20Congress,tabun%2C%20sarin%2C%20and%20soman.