Day 1: June 10, 2004
Mounds & More



I was on the road at 4:30 PM Wednesday and, just like the staging day for last year's trip to the festival in Springfield, ended the day in the area near the Chain of Rock bridge. There had been an afternoon storm in Cincinnati and I encountered spotty rain as I hurried west on I-74 and I-70 but it was dry as I looked for the night's resting place. Remaining east of the Mississippi, I drove by a couple of motels with names that I knew but ultimately decided to look elsewhere. Perhaps part of the reason was that, from the expressway, I had seen ads for motels in nearby Collinsville. As everyone surely knows, Collinsville is home to the "World's Largest Catsup Bottle", so maybe the thought of visiting this attraction - and sleeping near it - influenced my motel decision. What ever the reason, I headed to Collinsville and spent an extra twenty dollars ($55 vs. $35) for a room at the Super 8.

Another benefit of staying in Collinsville was that it is the location of a World Heritage site, the Cahokia Mounds. This was the largest prehistoric Indian city north of Mexico and 69 mounds remain from the more than 120 built here. The name comes from a tribe who lived here just before the French arrived in the late 1600s and long after the original builders abandoned the huge complex before 1400. The largest of the mounds is called Monk Mound and, except for the one of the entrance sign, these photos are of or from it. It is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas.

Proof that spirits abound can be seen in the white apparition that tried to jump in front of my camera as I walked to the mound. Actually, that's a flapping page from the handouts I was carrying but is the only shot I have of the whole mound. The stairs are the second of two sets leading to the top. There are 96 steps in this set; 58 precede it. The three views from the top show the Cahokia Interpretive Center across the street, what appeared to be an ongoing "dig", and the city of St Louis. There is lots of haze but, toward the right of the picture, the arch and some of the taller buildings can be seen.

Next it was off to the Lewis & Clark site just north of I-270. I had stopped by here last September but it was too early for the museum to be open and I had an appointment with a bridge. There are some great displays about the preparation for the big trip and the time spent here in Camp River Dubois before the corps headed up the Missouri in May of 1804. One of the most interesting displays is the full size replica of the keel boat that held many of their supplies. One entire side is open to view so that the tightly packed supplies can be seen. Museum volunteers Brandon and Zig had all the answers to questions about the boat and probably many of the other displays as well. Besides providing plenty of information about the Corps of Discovery and its equipment, Zig shared his knowledge of other local attractions. Among his memories (he's 78) are family picnics at the Cahokia mound when trees covered much of them. As a child in the 1930s, Zig and friends would roll down the sides of the mounds until they were dizzy. Outside the museum building, Camp River Dubois is duplicated as near as records permit.

Just outside of the recreated Camp River Dubois, I met this group of cyclists who were just starting out to retrace the entire Lewis & Clark journey to Oregon. They are guessing at a 77 day journey but scheduling is, as expected, rather loose. Even though I chatted with them about the trip and took six pictures with six cameras (each of theirs plus mine) I later realized that Dave (second from left) was the only name I knew. The lone female of the group told me that she would send me her email journal under the name Mother Goose but I'm pretty sure that is an alias. Their journey may not be the equal of heading into the great northwest in 1804 but it sure makes driving a car down some old roads seem easy.

Even though I had been on some bits of Route 66 while looking for a motel, I didn't really consider this a 66 trip until I left the expressway west of St Louis. I had decided to go around the big city and spend my time filling in some gaps from past trips. One of these was world famous Meramec Caverns near Stanton. I didn't actually tour the caves but at least I toured the parking lot. It is a rather impressive and fairly busy operation. On the way back to old 66, I grabbed these shots of other attractions on the road to the caves. I did not verify that the promised critters were there and as dangerous as the signs implied but I could see that the old Route 66 entrepreneurial spirit is still around.

I left Cincinnati with firm plans to stop by the Elbow Inn on this pass. I've missed it twice before, and was not going to do it again. I didn't and made it for an afternoon refresher stop. Inside I had some friendly conversation with Bob, Popeye, and another fellow whose name I didn't get or didn't hang onto. It had just started to rain as I pulled in and there was a light drizzle when I headed on.

I had vague ideas of spending the night in Joplin or Springfield but the rain picked up and I started thinking about an earlier stop. I knew the Munger Moss was just ahead. I stayed there last June and, although I was "filling in gaps", would not mind stopping there again. However, just before Lebanon, the rain stopped and I decided that my day was not yet over. To see me through, I stopped just up the road at Wrink's for a Dr Pepper and munchies. Glen Wrinkle told me that this was the first day of his 55th year in business and he seemed just as friendly as I'm guessing he was on that 1950 June 10th and he probably isn't quite as stressed. I'm sure glad I stopped and will never pass Wrink's by again.

I somehow got through Springfield without stopping and ended up in Joplin much later than I would have liked. Locals directed me to the motel district and I checked into the Best Western. I plugged into the free ethernet connection and almost immediately saw an e-group message from Swa Frantzen. It reported that he was in Tulsa and would arrive in Tulsa tomorrow. I guessed that one of these was in error and further guessed that it was the "in" that was wrong and not the "will arrive". I checked via email and found out that he was in the Holiday Inn right across the street. At Swa's invitation, I headed over. I soon learned that, although on my side of the street motels sat almost on the road and almost on top of each other, Swa was staying in the swankier section where, even though a Holiday Inn sign was near the curb opposite mine, the motel itself was still some distance off. But it was a pleasant night and a worthwhile walk in more ways than one.

As I've said, I've used the directions on Swa's web site several times and we have had email conversations but this was our first meeting. A very pleasant visit and I expect we'll see more of each other in Tulsa before he heads on to the end of 66 on Sunday. Besides some good times for Swa and his wife, this trip will lead to some updates to the directions on his web site. It just keeps getting better.

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