The Road Trip, Part II

The saga continues…

We drove to Paducah by way of St Louis. What a mess St. Louis was, part of the freeway thru downtown was shut down, which we didn’t know, so we ended up rerouting a few times before we finally figured out how to get out of town to get where we wanted to go. Now THERE was an adventure. South on the freeway, exit, north on the freeway, exit, drive a few city streets, back on the freeway, oops not THAT way, don’t miss the NEXT EXIT, ARGH, missed it, get the next one, and then finally we were headed toward Paducah. 

As we continued on, the countryside and river were just so peaceful and beautiful. That’ was a lot of the fun of the trip, just being relaxed and seeing the scenery, not knowing what was ahead, and on the way, we found Clarksville. No, not THAT Clarksville, although I’m going to pretend it is. IMG_3451This one is a really tiny town, with the railroad running through it, between town and the river. As we got to the river, we could see there had been major flooding this year. A rock monument by the river marked a high-water spot from 1973 and some folks we spoke with said this year eclipsed that easily. Many of the businesses have not yet recovered and reopened. It’s a cute town, with a lovely area along the river where it looks like they might have a farmer’s market, and a great spot for tourists to stop and hopefully they’ll be able to get back on their feet. After I got home, I posted a photo Gina took of me under the brick arch by the railroad track in Clarksville, where the RR crossing was visible, and put it on Twitter, tagging Micky Dolenz (yes, THAT Mickey Dolenz) saying “look what I found on the Great River Road”. The next day he had clicked “like”. Am I absurd because I’m completely geeking out over that?

We made it to Paducah that afternoon, and found it to be delightful!  On the way down we tried to get an air B&B, but all were filled. Gina called the Hotel 1857, and they had one room left. Just as she was about to tell them we’d take it, they told us the owner had just opened up his condo across the street for rent, for $10 more. So instead of $165 a night for a nice hotel room, did we want to pay $175 for a newly renovated half million-dollar warehouse condo that was 2800 square feet, 2 levels with a private entrance and 2 decks? Um, heck yes! Within walking distance to everything, it was a fabulous place, and normally rents for $275 a night so if you ever are in Paducah, check out the condo with the hotel. It had hardwood floors throughout, an up-to-date kitchen that was stocked with basic necessities if you want to cook, and well-appointed guest rooms. The master suite had a beautiful glass walled walk-in shower that was about 6 x 10 feet, with a rain-style shower head, and towel warmer.

The town had a catastrophic flood in 1937, and built a concrete flood-wall for protection, The panels that face away from the river are painted with murals that tell the history of the town, and on the river side are two areas with multiple steps, like an amphitheater. There is a place for a stage, and musicians play in the summer. Behind the stage is a sloped concrete boat ramp about a block long, and wide enough for several lanes of cars. While it functions as a boat ramp, on that warm summer night with a full moon it looked more like a summer cruise lane with cars driving continuously across, coming in one side of the open flood wall and going out the other.


Paducah is also the home of all things quilting, the national quilt museum and Hancock’s of Paducah, one of the largest quilt fabric stores I’ve ever seen (i.e. mecca for quilters.) Imagine fabric, tools and patterns spread over an area the size of 2 basketball courts, and you’d about have it.  I spent over 2 hours shopping for fabric and could easily have spent 2 or 3 more. While I’ll be going back, I hope that the next time I’ll pick a weekend that isn’t the National Quilt Show, which was the reason why all of the hotel rooms were sold out! You couldn’t throw a rock that weekend in Paducah without hitting a quilter, and while I wish I’d had time to get to the museum, unfortunately we just couldn’t make that work. 

After Paducah, we took a little trip to Metropolis, home of Superman. Yep, there really is a town called Metropolis, IL, just over the Ohio River from Paducah. IMG_3433They have a huge Superman statue in the town square, a museum, and some other artifacts. All a bit silly and lot of fun! Of course, we HAD to take our picture with Superman.

From there we drove across MO to Jefferson City to spend a night with my husband’s nieces, his most fun and delightful relatives. While not as picturesque as the river drive, it was nearly as interesting. There was a time or two I told Gina I was really happy I knew I’d just had my car serviced and gotten new tires, because I wouldn’t have wanted to break down where we were. We saw a Confederate flag or two flying, and there were places were the general state of run-down made us feel like we were definitely not somewhere we were comfortable. I even remember one spot on highway 72, where we saw a multi-unit housing complex, like a 4-plex, right on the side of the road that had been abandoned, maybe 20 or 30 years ago. It’s slowly being swallowed by nature, vines are growing over it, trees up and around it. It won’t be long before you can’t see it, and it’s either swallowed up completely or falls down. It’s sad, so desolate and deserted. How does that happen? People just walk away, stop fixing things up? There were lots of little towns too, although calling them towns was generous, as they weren’t more than a handful of houses clustered together.

fullsizeoutput_9f9fWe got to Jefferson City around 6, unpacked the car and headed downtown with my husband’s nieces and had a wonderful dinner. They both are the most gracious hostesses, and I love spending time with them.  After dinner we sat on their deck and had a margarita, enjoyed the warm evening, watched and photographed the antics of a couple of praying mantises as we made friends with their beloved 19-year old Missy Kitty. I’m so glad I got to meet that lovely beauty as I learned she passed away a few weeks ago. She was lucky to have moms that loved her as much as those two did. 

The drive home on Sunday was LONG…almost 7 hours from Jefferson City to home, but the trip was fantastic. The difficult part was that the shortest route from there is very zig-zaggy – as in, go north 3 miles, then west 2.5, then north 5, then west 1 etc. and we kept doing that for what felt like forever, until we finally connected with the freeway somewhere south of Des Moines, IA. The alternative would have been to either head straight west to catch I-35, or go to Columbia and then get on some more main highways to Minneapolis but those would all have been longer routes.  The trade-off was shorter but lots of turns, or longer and a few turns and then just drive. No great choices either way, so we went with shorter. We (meaning me) rewarded myself with a stop in Des Moines at Krispy Kreme, because of course, why not?

So, the adventure is done, and it certainly was one. Would I do it again? Absolutely!! It was fun, I learned a lot about my cousin and myself, and had a great time. 

The Road Trip, Part 1

When my husband told me he was going to go on a camping trip with a couple of guys again this year, I decided I was NOT going to be left out. No siree, I was going to have a little fun of my own, and got ahold of my cousin who is also one of my dearest friends and asked if she would like to go on a vacation with me. Her response was an instant “of course!” and after a lot of back and forth as to where we’d go, we settled on a road trip down the Great River Road, driving down along the Mississippi River for 5 days. One of our aunts asked if we were going to be like Thelma and Louise, and if we were smart, we’d have gotten t-shirts about the movie (or at least a couple of them with Brad Pitt’s face on ’em, goodness!) But it certainly was an adventure, and I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.

Day 1

Got only a little lost, twice, because really it wouldn’t be a road trip without getting lost, right? To our credit we were following the map we got from the Great River Road website, but it was a really crappy map. But that’s ok because getting lost was part of the adventure, and who cares, it’s vacation. We spent the first night in a lovely hotel in Muscatine, Iowa, called The Merrill, right on the river. If you’re ever in Muscatine, I highly recommend staying there. It’s a new hotel, the staff couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming and helpful, the rooms were comfortable and clean, with nice amenities and the price was good. Breakfast the next morning was excellent (steel cut oats with dried fruit compote and creme brulee-like crust of brown sugar on top. It was absolutely heaven, and then once again we were on our way. 

Day 2

As we continued down the road, we stumbled on Fulton, where we noticed a huge windmill in the center of town. Being we are both of Dutch descent we had to check that out, so we drove to it and found out it was one of two working windmills in the US. IMG_3393Fulton was settled by the Dutch, and as they say “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much” so I guess it’s a swell little town. We took selfies by the windmill (it’s REALLY hard to take a selfie while facing the sun and trying to make sure you get the windmill included in the background, just sayin’), then texted our moms and told them we lied about the road trip and flew to Holland instead. I’m pretty sure neither of them bought it, but it was still fun anyhow, and just the kind of mischief our grandpa Cornie would have loved. 

Continuing the drive south from there, we wound alongside the river, through farmlands, and just enjoyed the scenery of the midwest. We had hoped to make it through St. Louis when there wasn’t rush hour, but I guess there is no such time. We also didn’t know that the route we planned to take had an unexpected closure due to a chemical spill, so that caused us to get slightly lost the second time as we couldn’t take the exit we planned to, shot farther south than expected, went off the freeway and turned back north, got on the freeway, then went past where we wanted to be, had to exit the freeway again and ended up in a residential area that quite frankly had seen slightly better days before we were able to find the reroute we needed. 

We finally got to Hannibal, MO that second night, home of Mark Twain. We thought about touring his boyhood home but decided against it as we thought $12 seemed a bit much. I didn’t know his home was only a block from the Mississippi River, which helps to explain its influence on his life. Dinner was a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, and I’m fairly certain that other than the crew we were the youngest ones there. We did meet a lovely couple in their 60’s who made it a goal to visit all 50 states, and this year they were on #’s 44-47. Next year they will finish the last 3. They fly from home and fly state to state, taking in something of each state over a period of a few days. When they finish next year they’ll wrap up their trip in Fargo, ND, because apparently at the visitors board in Fargo you can have your photo taken next to a statue of the woodchipper from the movie “Fargo”, complete with a fake leg coming out of it, if you’ve visited all 50 states, and you get a certificate indicating you’ve completed all 50. Since their last name is Fargo, she said it just seemed apropos.

The dinner on the boat was nice, the ride on the river was fun, but the downside was returning to the dock.  The gnats/bugs were swarming the dock lights, which were right outside the exit door. And when I say swarming, I mean when I first saw them, they were so thick I thought it was fog! Leaving the gift shop, you literally had to hold your breath, duck your head and run. My cousin and I could do it, but the older folks on board had a hard time of it, and even running we still had to swipe bugs off our clothes when we got to the car. A nice heavy-duty fan to blow them away wouldn’t have gone amiss there!

That night we stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Hannibal and I’ve never had a bad night at one, until that night. We were awakened sometime after midnight to the sound of what seemed like bowling balls being dropped on the floor. Repeatedly. After several minutes of heavy footfalls, repeated thumps and no speaking, we called management who said they would take care of it. The noises stopped; we went back to sleep only to be reawakened a short time later by the same noises. Another phone call to the management, another request to have it handled. Then at 5, my cousin woke me saying “do you hear that?” it was water (or some clear liquid) dripping onto her bed from the ceiling. It was in a straight line, about 18″ long, steadily dripping. Another call to management, but this time we asked him to come to the room. He did, where the poor 30-year old manager was confronted by 2 tired and crabby middle-aged women. We showed him the issue and handed him the bill that had been slipped under the door and my cousin just said “take care of this. We’ve had a horrible night between the guys above us and now this, and we aren’t paying for this room.” Fortunately, we’d gotten a room with 2 beds, so rather than move to another room we shared my bed for a couple more hours of sleep before getting up and heading on our way. But I swear I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck those guys were doing up there? Meth lab? Dismembering bodies? Good lord I know I have a vivid imagination, but who makes that much noise in the middle of the night without talking? Seriously!

Day 3

Before leaving Hannibal, we thought about touring the Mark Twain caves, but decided not to pay the $20 admission fee and instead drove up a lovely overlook called “Lovers Leap”.

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There’s a legend about an Indian Princess and her lover, who leapt to their deaths rather than be separated.  Here are photos of the monument to them along with one with the story. fullsizeoutput_9f53There was also a monument there to 3 boys who disappeared from near there after going exploring one day, back in the late 1960’s. To this day they’ve never been found and it’s not known if they fell into some caves and couldn’t get out, were abducted or what happened. fullsizeoutput_9f58Look the story up, it’s spooky and very odd.

 

 

 

Still to come, Paducah, KY, the confederate flag, Jefferson City and donuts! Next up, “The Road Trip, Part 2” and the rest of our adventure.