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Jefferson City, MO: What a capital idea!

Jefferson City, Mo.—Congress is not in session in Missouri this week so the State Capitol building was less crowded than a normal Friday. Except for the groups we dubbed the Capitol walkers.

“Five times around any of the three [open] floors is a mile,” Chris said, nodding toward a group of women that just crossed the opposite side of the rotunda. He is a tour guide at the Capitol. “If you walk outside, then it is only four times around the building for a mile.”

Local power walkers use the capitol building to exercise. During the one-hour guided tour we spotted two different groups huffin’ around the granite walkways. Wearing trainers, they stride silently along the polished marble floors, zipping from one passage to another, and leaving the rest of us visitors startled in their wake.

No matter. The building is spectacular. In its third incarnation in Jefferson City—fire claimed it twice—the Capitol is respected for its architectural features but it is revered by elementary students statewide for its art collection. Well, they really like the demilune murals on the second floor. There are 41 of these lunettes representing the state’s resources and history. Each one is painted using the three point style. This style creates an optical illusion of movement in the painting as you walk from one side to the other. So the red farm tractor you see in the center of the painting when you stand on its left, appears to move to the left as you cross the front of the painting. The same is true if you start out on the right, only the tractor “moves” in the opposite direction. Even adults have been seen in front of a lunette retracing their steps until they figure it out.

A tour of the capitol is the perfect rainy day activity for vacationers. P.S. With the exception of the Jefferson County Historical Society, all public buildings, museums, parks, and trails are free to the public, whether you are a resident or not.

When the weather cooperates, like today with temperatures in the low 80s and hardly a cloud in the sky, a drive over to the Runge Conservation Nature Center is in order. What a place. Located on Truman Drive, about 10 minutes from the Capitol, Runge was built on 100 acres of old farmland to showcase the state’s diverse landscapes. Inside and out the center is accessible, for adults and for children. There are a variety of trails that wend through tall grass prairie, across a stream, next to a fire tower, and along habitats for turkeys, raccoons, bees, and birds.

A glass-walled viewing area in the museum faces woodland, which has been wired for sound in two places and wired for red lighting, too. Red lighting does not affect the night vision of nocturnal forest creatures. The use of red lighting enables visitors to observe nocturnal animals in a natural setting.

By now we were itching to get outside ourselves so we took off for the Katy Trail State Park.

From Clinton to St. Charles, the trail rolls over 225 miles of hills, scenic outlooks, and bluffs. We were eying the 10.4-mile segment from the city to Hartsburg, where a newly opened coffee shop was calling our names. Along the way we were told that there would be photo opps that only pros usually discover. My friend explained as she unlocked her bike rack, “The view of the capitol dome from one of the trestle crossings is one in a million.”

Yes, I agreed to myself, looking down the straightaway, just like today in central Missouri.