REVIEW: Pioneer Trails Adventures [History Tour]

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I have seen this tour wagon on Independence Square in Independence, Missouri many times, but never had a chance to do it until now. Being able to take the tour happened purely by chance as the little dude and I visited the 1859 Jail and Marshall’s Home to get a museum passport book stamped (and to see a new section that was refurbished, maybe another article will be warrened) one more time, and stumbled on the mule-driven cart waiting for a 4:00 PM tour. He was more than happy to sit with us for a while and offer us a spot on the tour which we accepted. Prices are pretty good for an hour and a half tour – $30 for adults and $10 for children. He has stuff for sale in his wagon, and allows people to eat and drink while the tour goes on, which is pretty surprising.

Pioneer Trails Adventures, Independence, MO

Ralph Goldsmith is a great tour guide, and gives a pretty comprehensive tour of Independence’s Historic spots of interest in a somewhat short amount of time. Highlights include:

  • The first Battle of Independence – which I discussed here
  • The Second Battle of Independence – which I discussed here
  • Frank and Jesse James – which I discussed here and here, and here
  • William C. Quantrill and his raiders – which I discussed here and here
  • Harry S. Truman’s Life – which I discussed here
  • The Civil War in Missouri, including General Order No. 11 – which I discussed here
  • Local industries including Waggoner-Gates Milling Co – which I discussed here and here
  • Wild Bill’s run-ins with locals
  • The Santa Fe Trail – which I discussed here and here
  • War Veterans
  • and finally….Mules in the “Old West”

As you can see, I’ve done a lot of the stuff covered on the tour myself, but for most folks this would be an AMAZING jumping on point for local history. You can get a good sense of what happened in a number of historic sites for a relatively small time commitment and price. This tour is amazing way to get started on local history with the added perk of riding on a mule-drawn wagon. It’s great for kids, and fun for all ages.

Background:

“At first, all Ralph dreamed of was a simple ride around the Independence Square; “carriage therapy,” a bit of relaxation in a hectic world. But it didn’t take him long to realize Independence visitors and residents had access to the site of Harry S Truman’s first job. Not to mention, the courthouse that the future president built. Just a block down was the jail that held “the most dangerous outlaw in the world,” Frank James. Nearby was a marker commemorating the tremendous 2nd Battle of Independence. Names like “William Clark Quantrill” and “George Caleb Bingham” kept popping up. Who were they? As he began researching, Ralph discovered a vein of historic gold as rich as anything struck in California. So Pioneer Trails Adventures was born. An educational wagon ride through history! “

From the above website

Reading:

Ralph wrote a short autobiography about his dream of starting his own business and the unique opportunities and problems that come from being a historical tour guide. It’s a short book, and somewhat more religious than I enjoy, but nonetheless a cool look at a prominent fixture of this city. A review will be forthcoming.

The Trip:

Ralph usually parks outside of the Truman Visitor’s Center on the corner of Truman and Main Street. One can wait for him to be there on a weekend or arrange for a tour on his website. This location is right next to the 1859 Jail, so I would recommend doing both at the same time as he talks about the jail extensively. I live in Independence, so any reports on traffic and such are pretty insignificant. While you’re there check out the Scandinavian store a few businesses down, it’s pretty cool as well.

Conclusion:

I’ve been on paid tours before in the past, and there are very few as engaging and worthwhile as this tour. Even with my knowledge of local history, the fun anecdotes, character voices, and overall humor in the tour is great. Ralph engages with children and loves entertaining. If you live in the overall Kansas City area, I’d recommend this whole-heartedly.

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