As we hit the road to southern Missouri (which some folks here pronounce Missourah) we passed through a LOT of flooded areas, especially near the Illinois state line and Big Muddy. Several roads were closed including the Great River Road, which was to be our route. At one riverside rest area, the entire place was flooded with signs sticking up 20′ out into the water. A lot of the flood waters are stagnant with huge piles of wood and debris washed up into the shallows. There have got to be a LOT of farmers hurting from it, and a huge population of mosquitoes loving it!
The detour route took us through Chester, Illinois, and as we came into town, we stopped at a McDonald’s to take advantage of the free wifi. Not too far from their parking lot was a statue that we couldn’t identify from a distance. Upon closer inspection, it was the Sea Hag from the Popeye comic strip. Turns out that E. C. Segar, creator of Popeye, was from this small town. To honor him, they have statues of quite a few of the characters including Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swea’Pea, Pupeye, Bluto, Wimpy, and Cole Oyl. After breakfast sandwiches and uploading pics, we enjoyed a little statue scavenger hunt. There was also a nice mural in town that honored Segar. Popeye, himself, was our last stop, located at the welcome center overlooking the river. Again you could really see how high the water is.
Leaving Chester, we crossed the river into Missouri and headed over towards US 67 North. Later in the day we came upon Tip-Top Park, a roadside overlook near Ironton with a nice picnic table in the shade. There was no real view from the table, but from the observation platform you could see several ridges in the distance. This is fairly dense, forested country with low undergrowth. Some of the rural roads are very curvy and have short, steep hills, which sometimes makes it feel like you are on a roller coaster. On the way back to our main route from the lunch stop, we popped into the Thee Abbey Kitchen in Arcadia for a spot of ice cream.
We arrived fairly early to St. Francois State Park, our home for the next three nights. This park is beautiful. There was a long drive in to the campground past several picnic areas, playgrounds, and river access areas. The campground was mostly pull-through sites, although we chose a really nice back-in at the far end of the park. (Unfortunately, that mean’t a long walk to the bathhouse for MW.) Although it was electric only (30 amp, but there are some 50s available), there are plenty of water faucets around. Our site had one close enough to fill up after we parked. There were only a few occupied sites for our entire stay, but amazingly, the family with the barking dog and outdoor radio was right next door. We ended up drowning the noise out with the a/c most of the time. After getting everything set up, I worked a bit and we relaxed for the evening.
The next morning we headed out really early to check off another national park. Traffic into St. Louis wasn’t too bad at 6 AM, and we made good time to Gateway Arch National Park. We had tickets for the first tram to the top at 8:10 AM, so we walked around the park until it was time to go in. Here again, you can really see the flooding. At the base of the arch on the river side there are steps going down to access the waterfront. There is a road at the bottom of the steps and gangways on the other side out to the riverboats. Normally you can buy tickets to ride the riverboats in the arch, but right now the steps disappear into the Mighty Mississippi hiding the road and gangways. The boats are floating about 50 yards or so from the waterline.
Once inside, we headed straight for the tram. The view from the top is amazing, and looking down to see the bottom of the arch below you is just a little bit freaky. The tram was nothing to sneeze at, either. The engineering it took to get it to follow the inside of the arch is really cool. In the museum below, they have a model to show how it does it. The also have a lot of exhibits about westward expansion and the area dating back to the 1700s. Sad to think that the guy who designed the arch (Eero Saarinen) died before construction ever began. Too bad he didn’t get to experience it. Across from the arch is the Old Courthouse that was instrumental in the Dred Scott trials, and there are history markers around the park explaining the significance of that and other information about the area. This was a good visit made even better by no traffic and nice weather. Although it would get hot later, it was nice early in the morning.
After leaving the Arch, we headed west to check out the Daniel Boone Home. When we were almost there, we were again detoured by flood water, which added about 40 minutes to the drive, taking us through New Melle. Arriving at the park around 11 AM, we were told that house tours would not start until 1 PM today because there were several groups of school kids on the property. We decided not to wait for the official tour and just walked around the grounds. The house is beautiful, but did not actually belong to Boone. His son Nathan Boone traded a horse, bridle, and saddle for the land (I think it was 650 acres), then later constructed the house. The home is four stories tall and has limestone walls that are 2-1/2 feet thick, designed as protection from Indian attack. Since becoming a historic site, several historic buildings have been moved there, too. We stood on what was the front yard of the house up on a hill surrounded by a low, rock fence and tried to imagine what it was like with no one else around and a valley spread before you. It would have been amazing.
When we finished up there, it was mid-afternoon and we needed lunch. We tried a place in New Melle, but they only had two tables, both of which were occupied. That turned out to be a blessing, because we ended up at the Tilted Skillet in Washington. Wow….very good. MW had the Tuna Salad Sandwich with Slaw, and I had the Smoked Chicken Salad Wrap with Rosemary Parmesan Potatoes. The portions were huge, and there was truly nothing bad you could say. Just go there if you are in the area. Tired and full, we went back and relaxed for the evening.
The next morning was a slow one for me. I got up and worked a bit, then tried out the outdoor stove to cook breakfast (sausage, egg, cheese, and grits bowls). I used the cast iron griddle, which would have worked okay if the operator had her brain turned on. As you can see in the picture, I had it straddled over both burners. That was fine except at some point it slid forward and was touching the knobs. Let me just say that hot cast iron trumps plastic knob pretty much any day. I didn’t notice until I was finishing up and reached to turn the stove off. Yes, it was HOT! I’m just glad I didn’t grab it too tightly in the melted plastic area…bye, bye fingerprints! MW managed to get them turned off, and we waited for the plastic to harden to remove the knob so we can figure out what to replace it with. You can bet it won’t be a little plastic one again!
About 11 AM, we headed over to check out Ste. Genevieve, on the Mississippi River. This town was on a list of 50 places to see, is the oldest town in Missouri, and it is the nation’s newest National Historic Park. (That’s like a little trifecta, isn’t it!). Our first stop was the welcome center, where we picked up information and watched a video about the area. The French settled the area and town in the early 1700s, and much of the town has French architecture that is not found in many other areas of the county. In fact, three of only five existing US examples of vertical beam houses are here. The first brick house west of the Mississippi was built here in 1785, which is also where the first American court was held. Despite the heat, we enjoyed walking around town. I did cool off with a cone from a local shop, though. We also took note of the flood pole that shows flood heights. Wow! After spending a couple of hours in town, we headed back to relax at the campsite. Later in the evening the campground host came around to let everyone know that there were severe thunderstorms headed our way. We kept an eye out, but there was only a little rain and thunder in the distance. Guess we dodged that one.
On Thursday we hit the road early for the long drive over to the next stop. After the cold front passed last night, it was much cooler this morning with highs expected for the next three days in the low to mid 70s! We were even able to sleep with the windows open for a couple of nights. LOVE IT! The drive was relatively uneventful, but beautiful. I really can’t say enough about staying on the back roads. We stopped in Steelville to have breakfast and upload pics. While I was working on that, MW went for a walk through the hardware store up the hill. A nice old gentleman started up a conversation while I was finishing up. I’ve never subscribed to the “don’t talk to strangers” adage, and have met the most interesting people. Aside from gas stops, we just enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the drive. We arrived at the park mid-afternoon. Backing up Petunia is what intimidates me the most, but I have to give myself two thumbs up on this leg. Once we got her all settled in, we relaxed for the evening.
Harry S. Truman State Park is amazing. It is very big, and the sites are wooded and not too close together. They are electric-only, but there are water faucets throughout the campgrounds. The bathrooms/showers were very clean and nice. In addition to the campground, they also had a playground, a few hiking trails, several boat launches, a marina with a camp store, wifi (although the range is limited), and a beach. It also has a the best dump setup we’ve seen. You could approach from either side, and four trailers could be dumping at the same time! (Anyone who has sat in line to wait before can appreciate this as the process takes from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your rig.) This one goes on our list of favorite campgrounds (to be published later) for sure.
On Friday morning we got up and took a hike on the Bluff Ridge Trail that went out to a hill overlooking Truman Lake. We stirred up a couple of deer along the way and enjoyed the perfect hiking weather with temperatures in the 50s. Back at Petunia we got cleaned up. There was work to be done, and our site was in a bit of a hole with poor reception, so back to McDonald’s I went. MW opted to stay at the site and enjoy the wonderful weather. I worked for several hours, then came back to cook dinner…Black Beans & Rice. This has been the best weather of the trip so far!
The next morning we headed out to check out the Osage Village State Historic Site. It was a very rural drive to get there and a beautiful day for it. The icing on the cake was the last 3 miles on the gravel road. (I love it when the pavement ends!) The site is the former location of a village with 2,000 to 3,000 people and 200 lodges. Now it is a huge, open field of prairie grass with a 3/4 mile interpretive trail running through it. We enjoyed the walk and trying to picture thousands of Osage Indians living in the middle of this beautiful land. The weather was warming up again, but the breeze through the field grasses was great. We noticed several areas where deer or some other large animal bedded down in the chest-high grass.
Back in Brutus, we headed to El Dorado Springs to see about finding some lunch. We found Pappy’s Homestyle Cooking, which has a buffet on the weekends. While we were eating, we started up a conversation with the owner, Stan Benton, and he sat down with us for a while. He retired as a history teacher, and his wife, Mary Beth, was an OBGYN. When they moved back to the area (where she was from), they first did a bit of cattle ranching. Then the popular restaurant closed leaving the town with few options, they opened this place in 2016 to provide good food and jobs for the community. The food was good, and the company even better. We will have to pop back in and visit if we make it through this area again.
After lunch we went into downtown to see the spring…yes, there actually is one. The original spring flows at a trickle and was thought to have medicinal value in 1881 when the town was founded. They’ve built a nice bandstand area and park around it where there is also a stone basin that was cut by an unknown pioneer before the town was founded and used by travelers along the trail. Pretty cool. The stone was traced to the nearby Grindstone Quarry, where early pioneers secured stone for their grindstones.
On the way back to Petunia, we went to the Harry S. Truman Dam in Warsaw. The road to the actual dam was closed, but there is a visitor’s center up on a bluff overlooking it all. It had pretty detailed information about the area and the dam, including a dinosaur bone display. Apparently there were a LOT of dinosaur bones found in the immediate area. The dam is on the Osage River and creates the largest, flood-control lake in Missouri.
Earlier in the day I started feeling a little off, and by the time we got back to the park, I knew there was definitely a problem. Once again, on a road trip, I came up with a urinary tract infection. I told MW we were going to need to find an urgent care, then remembered that we can use AmWell online. I drove up to the bathhouse where the wifi signal was stronger and logged in. The whole process took about 30 minutes and in the end, I had a video call with a doctor and a prescription was called in. The only negative for the whole thing was that pharmacies were already closed and the only one that would be open in the area on Sunday was…Walmart!!! If you know me well, you know this is a problem. I bit the bullet and told her to send it there. Ugh!!
After a rough night, we headed out later than usual this morning, but still well before the pharmacy opened. We stopped in at McDonald’s to download pics and so I could get a little work done. MW went and walked around at Walmart, and we met at the pharmacy at 10 AM. I had to wait a little longer for them to get it filled, but we were on the road at 10:30 AM. I told MW I guess this breaks the 10-year ban on shopping at Walmart, but he said we weren’t buying anything else! LOL. He has picked up the torch!
See you on the path!
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