Missouri and Arkansas Travelogue and Photos - 1996
Let's see, last time we went on a summertime trip, we chose hot and humid Houston, TX. Sure, it was a lot of fun. So when Labour Day rolled around and we were thinking of where to visit, what sprang to mind? Why, St. Louis of course! St. Louis, Missouri, right on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, land of humidity and heat. What could be better!
The Airline Gods were with us on this trip. Perhaps our suffering last time was taken as an offering. In any case, we drove into Logan, found parking, got the plane, and there were NO DELAYS! The plane took off! It landed in Chicago! Of course, this was during the Democratic convention, so all sorts of other interesting creatures were in Chicago. Creatures looking like humans but in red-white-blue spandex and acting quite ... bouncy. We were happy our layover was only an hour!
Then on to St. Louis. By some strange twist of fate we flew out of Boston WITHOUT ANY HOTEL RESERVATIONS. Don't ask how this happened. So of course everything within an hour drive of St Louis was booked, on and off. We found a single night in town for Thursday night, and figured we'd start with that. So we land, get into the hotel at 11:30 at night, and kerplunk, fall asleep.
Friday morning, we're off again. The wandering nomads. Hey, I figure, Route 66 is right around here somewhere - they've got tons of motels! Pink and green and blue and purple motels. Motels with strange facades of western hotels. This could be fun!
Down Gravois we go. All the way out to 270. Up Manchester we drive. All the way back into Kingshighway. No Route 66. I look through my AAA books - Route 66 seems to have stopped existing! Strange. We look for Ted Drewes, too - home of quite famous frozen custard. No luck. So eventually we wend our ways up 270 and hunt down a hotel with a room (yup, for one night) right around the corner from our dinner choice - Robata of Japan. So we make the reservations, grab some aspirin and head off to Robata!
Now, see, Robata was voted 'Best Japanese in St Louis'. And I'd been there before, in my youth, and thought it was pretty good. So I was surprised when we got up there and the waitress goes 'Plum wine? I don't think we carry that...' But they did. Had their own brand in fact. So I forgave them. Then Lori, Jeremy, and Christie and Scott arrived, and we grabbed our table.
So, let's see. The meat was good! They had no sushi, just pre-wrapped californian rolls. The onion soup (no miso) was served with stainless steel soup spoons. It was just ... sad. Good, some of it, but sad. So we had our orange sherbert and headed out.
Lori found us (of course, Lori the pool hall goddess) a pub in the plaza with a back room - all ours!! We played good songs in the jukebox and had fun for the evening. Eventually we rolled an exit up the highway and fell asleep.
Saturday was going to be blues festival day - St Louis has a huge festival on the riverfront over Labour Day weekend. We got up late, and headed down to McGurks (FANTASTIC Irish food) for lunch. Met there by Lori, Jeremy, Pat and daughter. We got a fantastic outdoor patio table (thanks to Lori again) where we could watch the turtles in the fountain ... Bob and I shared a corned beef and even had toasted raviolis! Delicious. And of course, their famous irish coffee for dessert. And a chocolate cake - apparently their superb Irish Heather Cake is no more. I'll write them for the recipe to that and to the irish coffee.
Lori and Jeremy bailed on our blues scheme, so before we left we asked for directions to Ted Drewes. Manchester! Lori says, and not WEST of Kingshighway, but EAST. OK, we make a mental note, think a while, and decided to do the blues later and headed off to the Omnimax for the shark show. Quite fun! We explored the science center, played with optical illusions, all the rest. Then it was close to dinnertime, so we headed north to the 94th AeroSquadron, which is right on the Lambert International Airport runway - you get to watch all sorts of neat planes take off and land! We sat on the patio a while, enjoying ourselves, then went in for a wonderful dinner. Ribs and shrimp, yummmmm! Tony was supposed to meet us, but got distracted somewhere. So there we are, wondering what to do ... no hotel, of course ... and it occurs to us! The Bass Pro shop is only four hours away, in Springfield, MO. Biggest sports shop in the multiverse. And ... we're off!
Zoooom, Bob drives us, we hit Springfield about midnight and find somewhere to snuggle in.
Next morning, bright and early, we're at the shop, marvelling at the indoor lake, 4-story-waterfall, museum, McDonalds, regular restaurant, hair salon, you name it. Tons of fishing, camping, and hunting stuff. A good supply of other, strange things. It was great fun. A lot of people had camcorders, but they needn't have bothered - they sold videos OF THE STORE there! They had a board of people who had visited in the past month and they had them from every state - 300 from CT, 180 from Maine, tens of thousands from TX, it was pretty impressive.
So, we're done. It's 2:30 in lower Missouri. My little brain gears start turning. LOWER Missouri. As in, NEAR ARKANSAS. Neat! I've never BEEN to Arkansas. I already picked up a shotglass and magnet at the Bass Pro Shop for Missouri (no thimbles there, though - go figure...), so here was my chance to get my collection enhanced with Arkansanian stuff!
After some pleading, Bob is convinced of the validity of my request. Plus, he's always up for roaming around new places in nice air conditioning. So down we go. First we have to pass through Branson. OK, Branson is a scary place. Ten miles of billboards on the way down describe the wonders of Tony Orlando, and the Osmond Brothers (sans Donnie and Marie), Lawrence Welk, etc. Apparently this is a HUGE show place, on a strip only 2 miles long. Surrounded by .... hills and cows. Like I said, scary. We zoomed through there as quickly as we could.
Then *poof* we were in Arkansas! Stepped foot (tire) in it! Neat. Lots of .... cows. And hills. Oh, and more cows. We stopped at a walmart, but no magnets (nor shotglasses nor thimbles). So we decided to go back to St Louis the 'scenic' route - across the top of Arkansas. After a minor mishap which almost got us into Little Rock (eeeek!) we were on our merry way.
And way. And way. The day dragged on. The little almost dirt road twisted and turned. Around 7pm we were only 2/3rds the way across (never mind back up through Missouri). We stopped in Pocohontas at a Pizza Hut - a small indication of civilization. We placed our order after 15 minutes (after all, there were 2 other customers) and ... waited. Eventually got some bread sticks and ... waited. Finally after 40 minutes Bob wandered up counter-wise and asked what the time estimate was for our pizza. "Pizza?" says the counter person blankly. We knew we were doomed, and escaped, hungry. We eventually came across a McDs and, though it was slow, it was food!!
We cross the Missouri border without having even glimpsed anything remotely resembling a magnet, shotglass, or thimble. I know it may be cheating, but I'm going to mail order them. Back up through Missouri. We got to listen to the blues festival live from the Landing on the way back, so that was fun. Eventually we got to our hotel for that night around 12:30 and fell promptly asleep.
Monday morning, the nomads feel like exploring the Orient. Off we go to the Missouri Botanical Gardens for their Japanese Festival! We get to see the three sturgeons, the bell tree, the four ladies dancing under a tree. The Japanese garden is, of course, incredible. The fishy fishies are all trying to catch the food in their mouths. We wander the twisty pier. We get to see Dave Lowry do his ancient sword-fending style! And we get to hear the San Jose Taiko drummers. Great fun.
Lisa & Dave Lowry
After the festival, we think, Ted Drewes! We go EAST of Kingshighway. NEVER go east on Kingshighway. We're talking broken down buildings, strange vagrants on the streets, people lurking at phone booths. We decide Lori is temporarily insane. Next, we hunt down John Ladley and agree on after-dinner drinks. We then tromp out to Sports Authority to look at bows, in West County. No prob, they say, there's this place 15 minutes away in Grey Summit. Zoooom we go, though all sorts of strange back areas, and after 1/2 hr trundle up to the archery shop. It's closed, but *poof* the owner appears and lets us in anyway! We try out his bows at the range and Bob gets a nice recurve. Back we zoom into St Louis, to hang out with John and family. Talk about the old days at BCBS. Try some fantastic madeira. It was sweet and luscious.
So, John, we say, we've been hunting for Route 66. You know, pink-blue-purple-green motels. Sure, they say, we *stayed* at one of those slimy places for 'the experience'. Well, they *tried* to stay. They lasted a few hours and then the combination of vermin and sagging bed got to them. But apparently Route 66 is Watson Road, which we drove around many, many times. We are encouraged. We'll get to see Route 66.
So next we ask John the Oracle, where is Ted Drewes? You guessed it! It's on Route 66. And it's WEST of Kingshighway. So after one final medira we head out. Sure enough, Watson is 66! What an interesting sight. And sure enough, we hit Ted Drewes! Bob gets an incredibly smooth toffee creation, and I get a chocolate chip, and we're quite content. We get a little lost heading in to our hotel, but find it, and tuck in around 11:30.
Finally, Tuesday morning, we hit the airport for an 8:10am flight out, no problems at all, and zip-zoom we're back home in cozy New England! No worse for the wear, and bearing interesting memories of our trip westwards.
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