St Louis

The fields in western Indiana show signs of spring, planting and new growth, compared to the western Ohio and Eastern Indiana fields.  It was definitely spring in the east, and it’s definitely full blown summer in western Indiana.  It was warm and buggy in the evening, but when we went to bed, we opened up the RV and slept quite comfortably.  We slept so comfortably that we overslept.  There were no birds chirping, no traffic noise, no people, no airplanes overhead, no whispering trees,  no nothing.  I think that it’s one of the quietest places that we’ve ever stayed.

We had some difficulty finding fuel in Terre Haute, but after we did the traffic was light heading west.  There were lots of trucks, but everyone was traveling sensibly, so it was quite smooth.  We saw some oil wells pumping in corn fields after we were in Illinois, and Louise wryly asked if that was where corn oil came from.  Very good! On the Grandpa Kelly scale, it scores a 9.  The trees in Illinois were in full summer regalia.  All of the Locust Trees were in bloom and the sides of the road were covered with blooming honeysuckle.  The only smells to make it inside the RV was that of new mown hay.  Very nice! Illinois on Route 70 is flat. I’m used to living in the northeast where there is a store on every corner, and a mall at every interstate exit or interchange. There are cornfields out here and a promise of a town somewhere in the general vicinity anywhere you look.

We passed signs for the worlds largest wind chime and world’s largest golf tee at exit 127 on Route 70 in Illinois.  We continued. It was a warm day, about 81 degrees, and the air-conditioning was having difficulty in keeping up.  It topped out about 89 degrees, but the humidity was OK, and there was a cooling breeze.  The GPS’s aren’t talking to each other.  The Garmin is showing it’s inner city tendencies and wants me to go down every industrial street and side road we pass.  The Google maps are dreamy and produce an inexact route that seems to wander around.  The settings must be messed up somewhere.

We arrived at Horseshoe Lake State Park, about 15 minutes to the west of the Gateway Arch National Park, and checked into the office. There are about 40 camping sites, each of which is equipped with a table, a fire ring and a gravel parking pad.  We selected site 25 and it was level enough that I didn’t bother putting out any of the leveling blocks. We decided to leave the bikes at the campsite, and found that one of the locks had become unlockable after being unlocked, so it took a little more time than we anticipated to secure things and go to St Louis.  We were fortunate in that there was a time change, Eastern to Central, so we gained the hour we seemed to have misplaced.

gateway_topThere was parking close to the Gateway Arch for RV’s for only $4 right on the riverfront, so we saw where the riverboats once came and went.  St Louis wound up on its side of the river because it was built on the largest, most stable, highest area around, nearest to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  As a result, the levees are close to the river and the arch and the historic courthouse to the west effectively sit on a bluff overlooking the Illinois side of the river. I’d been to the Gateway Arch once before, many, many years ago and arrived five minutes after closing, but this time things were in full swing.  We purchased tickets for the ride to the top.  I expected that the cars acted like a Ferris Wheel, over the top and through the basement, and I was wrong.  You ride to the top in a very small escape pod like contraption that’s a modified elevator.  The top of the arch is small, too small for any conveyance.  It’s a very clever arrangement, and there are ‘elevators’ on each side of the arch.  We were lucky again, and it was a beautiful clear day to see the sights.  We snapped a slew of pictures and stayed at the top for almost a half an hour.  The museum in the base is interesting and focuses on Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the Pacific.  The museum is in a large circular room, and I’m not sure if I was tired, but I turned right as I entered the room and managed to view the expedition in reverse.  They had some interesting unlabeled objects, and again the museum made the Marine Corps Museum shine.  I think that if federal funds are used to put a museum together, the curators should be required to view the Marine Corps Museum to see how it should be done. The Gateway Arch is a great place to visit, but I think one visit a lifetime can suffice.

We talked about seeing some more sights, but it was 3:45 PM local time, 4:45 Bob & Louise time, so we opted to get some Barbecue and return to the park, have dinner and get to bed early.  We were recommended several barbecue places, Smoki-O’s, Pappy’s Smokehouse and Bandana’s.  We chose Smoki’s and even though I like my barbecued ribs better, it was worth the stop.  The neighborhood is undergoing renovation, ie: the local buildings are either bricked up, or someone is changing them into an upscale hip destination.  However, there are no, upscale, hip destinations currently open in the neighborhood.  Smoki’s building is painted a crisp white with red lettering, and if you have to change your mind about what you want to eat, step outside where there is more room.  We were cordially greeted by Miss Walker, the proprietor, who after a few minutes asked us how long we were married, and then told us we were silly. I’m not sure that she approved of our antics, we were very polite, but funny, but she is the epitome of refined behavior.

smokiWe talked to her son Chris, who started off a little reserved, but we had such a grand old time trading stories that either he or I forgot the sodas we ordered.  We made it back to the park without much rush hour traffic which seemed to be everywhere but where we were.  We did some chores (remount the bikes, cool off the RV, set the stabilizer bars) and then sat down to eat.  We ordered a brisket sandwich and an order of ribs, with potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans and green beans. The ribs were good, but I prefer the ribs I slow cook at home with my dry rub.  The sauce was good with a smoky tang.  The brisket sandwich was the best I’ve had.  The baked beans were sweet and smoky; the cole slaw was a vinegar preparation with celery seed in just the right amount and very nice.  The potato salad was a mashed potato concoction with boiled eggs and pickle relish.  I’ve never had anything like it in texture; there were no potato chunks, but it was the essence of good southern potato salad. The green beans were a surprise.  I think there was a dash of cayenne pepper in them and they were both refreshing and spicy at the same time.  I’m not sure that I would like a plate of them, but as a side they were new and interesting.

I’m glad that I made it to a real St Louis barbeque place.  I thought that the bar was set much higher, and I know that the places I’ve had good barbeque at are actually better than I thought.

There are three other people in the park besides us, and we are far away from the main portion of the park where fishing appears to be very important.  We are the only people on this side of the loop, there are woods in the center of the loop so you can’t see the other side, and every 10 minutes or so, someone either blows through at 40 miles an hour (camp speed is 10) in a cloud of dust, or someone cruises by.  I feel like an exhibit at the zoo. This is the busiest emptiest place that we’ve ever stayed in.  We are off to family just north of Omaha tomorrow, so hopefully the parade will quiet, the breeze will pick up, and the temperature will abate.