- Where We Started: Columbia, Mo.
- Where We Ended: Springfield, Ill.
- Miles Driven: 331 (17,107 total).
- New States: Illinois.
- States So Far: 31 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The FHMA crew woke up Monday feeling a rare bit of time pressure. Before we make our final four-day barnstorming tour of the northeast, we need to stop at home Friday because I have a meeting. Because of our goal to do something in each of the 48 contiguous states before May 19, that means we still have to zig-zag to cover most of the Midwestern states, and still handle the 948 miles between Columbia and Great Falls. In the end, we made it a bit farther than scheduled on Monday, but clearly still have three long days ahead of us.
Our first stop of the day was the Winston Churchill Memorial & Library in Fulton, Mo. Why would a library honoring the former British prime minister be located in Fulton, Mo., you ask? That is where Churchill delivered his famous speech on March 5, 1946, at the town's Westminster College. In this speech, Churchill popularized the term "iron curtain" to describe the Soviet Union's control over Eastern Europe. The speech, criticized by many at first -- since the Soviets were still considered allies at that point -- is now regarded by many as a prescient. Then again, Churchill always did seem to have problems convincing people he was right.
Ich bin ein Beagle. Hank and Fred pose in front of a portion of the Berlin Wall at the Winston Churchill Library in Fulton, Mo. For the record, Joan did not want me to use this picture, but I wanted it just for the Ich bin ein reference. Was it worth it?
From Fulton, we headed to the St. Louis area. We met a friend of mine from high school, Maggi Gottsegen Helmkampf, for lunch in Creve Coeur. She was nice enough to bring a gift toy for each dog. We got one stuffed hamburger toy and one stuffed hot dog toy. After lunch, we got in the car, gave them the toys and -- as dogs are wont to do -- they decided they both wanted the hamburger. A brief brawl ensued in the back seat that ended up with Hank standing on top of Fred, who was on his back. After we separated them, Fred moped for a while, but it didn't last long (and we didn't get any pictures this time). After an hour, the dogs were back in each other's good graces. We both believe Hank was the instigator again this time. He looks so cute...
The next stop was the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which commemorates St. Louis's role in our country's westward expansion. The memorial's most famous feature is the Gateway Arch -- or, as some call it, the Gateway to the West. Completed in 1965, it's a striking monument, and in places, beautifully frames the city's skyline. The broader memorial site also incorporates the old courthouse where the local trials were held in the Dred Scott case in 1847, and the Museum of Westward Expansion, which sits underneath the Arch. It was a beautiful day in St. Louis, and it was a field day on the photography front.
Three small girls pose for a photo at the top of the steps leading to the Gateway Arch. An odd optical illusion: While it appears the girls are looking at the flag, the flag is actually flying off the top of a skyscraper many blocks away. (Photo by Jim)
We were supposed to have dinner in St. Louis with a friend of Joan's from high school, but that fell through because of some unavoidable conflicts, so after we left the Gateway Arch, we left St. Louis. We tried to get a view of the confluence of the United States' two longest rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi, which occurs a few miles north of St. Louis. But the clumsily named Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park was closed because of flooding, and the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site had just closed for the day and put up gates that blocked us from the water. Moving up the Illinois coast a bit, we finally were able to get a shot of the confluence from Grafton, Ill., a nice little resort town that is unfortunately dealing with some flooding issues right now.
The confluence of the Missouri (left) and Mississippi (right), as seen from a flooded beach in Grafton, Ill. Although the Missouri is a tributary of the Mississippi, it's actually the longer of the two rivers. The Missouri is 2,540 miles; the Mississippi 2,320 miles.
After hugging the Great River Road for another 20 miles or so, we decided it was time to head to Springfield for food and rest. We were ahead of our planned stop of St. Louis, but still had some long driving days ahead of us.
- A number of you sent e-mails or made comments on the blog suggesting that we screwed up in Omaha when we opted for a fish place over a steak place. Let me be clear: You were all absolutely right. I have no idea what we were thinking. We were tired, and also still running on the fumes of what had been a great Roadfood lunch in Sioux Falls, S.D., so maybe we felt like we were on a Roadfood roll. But, clearly, we were not thinking. We should have gone for a great Omaha steak.
- Springfield's airport is called Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. Look, I admire Lincoln as much as anyone, but does it seem right to name an airport after someone who died 40 years before we even had airplanes? Charlottesville didn't name its airport after Thomas Jefferson. Philly didn't name its airport after Benjamin Franklin. Let's be honest: If you go to Springfield, its Lincoln connection doesn't go unmentioned for a single block. Did they really need to name the airport after him too? Yes, it is true that there's also an aircraft carrier named the USS Abraham Lincoln. But while there may not have been aircraft carriers in Lincoln's day -- you know, since there were no aircraft -- at least there were ships of some kind, so naming a ship after him seems OK. But I found the airport thing odd. I can just imagine the scene in heaven when Lincoln was told his hometown had named an airport after him. "Hey, that's great! ... What the hell is an airport?"
- While we were on our way to Springfield, we got behind a slow-moving car with an interesting license plate: I LUV DW 1. Now, I knew the driver of this car was probably proclaiming his love for something or someone with the initials DW, but something about that license plate struck me as odd. Finally, I realized I was reading it as I LUV DWI. Since I'm relatively sure it would be a bad strategy to proclaim a love for drunken driving on a personalized license plate, I never actually thought that's what it said, but some subliminal part of my brain was reading it that way, so maybe a cop's would as well. Anyway, we finally passed this car, and the guy driving was a bazillion years old, so drinking while driving was probably the least of his problems.
- Joan did her second face plant of the trip while leaving the hotel in Columbia, Mo., on Monday. The first fall occurred in Boise, when the dogs pulled Joan down part of a flight of stairs at our hotel. No significant injuries were incurred on that fall, besides those to Joan's pride. This tumble -- which occurred as we were walking out to pack the car -- was the result of Joan trying to handle both dogs and carry a few bags as well. (Note: I was carrying a bunch of bags myself; I was not using her as a pack horse). Monday's fall resulted in a nice, fat bruise on the knee that limited her mobility for the rest of the day. But Joan played hurt, trouper that she is. The sad part: I didn't see either face plant. Now, before you think I'm being mean, Joan has a natural tendency to laugh at me when I injure myself. I once slammed my finger in the door of our bathroom on a cruise ship, and she laughed so hard, she cried. Which was good, since I was already crying because of the intense pain.
- A five-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in St. Louis is officially named Mark McGwire Highway, which is especially appropriate since the former St. Louis Cardinals baseball star hit 70 home runs the season he broke the all-time record. But his alleged involvement with steroids has led some Missouri congressmen to push to have his name removed, and replaced with the road's previous name, the Mark Twain Highway. This would have the added benefit of meaning only half the sign would need to be redone. (And, yes, Mark Twain was still alive when cars were invented).
- On our short ride up the Great River Road, one of the towns we passed through was Carrollton, Ill., which is the birthplace of Marion Ravenwood, i.e. actress Karen Allen in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" series.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Bittersweet Symphony," by The Verve. I loved this song the first time I heard it -- a rarity for me; songs usually have to grow on me -- thanks to the interesting mix of an orchestral and rock arrangement. What I didn't know was about the legal battle that the song created between The Verve and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, since this song uses a sample from the Rolling Stones song, "The Last Time." The ensuing court battle went Mick and Keith's way, which some believe led to the eventual breakup of The Verve, since the band couldn't capitalize financially from what was -- and still is -- its best-known song.
- Here's the Day 9 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Calvera's Return," by Elmer Bernstein (from "The Magnificent Seven."
Last Song of the Day: "Carolina on My Mind," by James Taylor.
- Best Songs: "The Camera Eye," by Rush; "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," by Elvis Presley; "Can't Stand Losing You'," by The Police; "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'," by The Rolling Stones; "Canon," by Pachelbel (By the way, is there such a thing as a one-hit wonder in classical music? Was Pachelbel the Hues Corporation of his time?); "Capriccio Italien, Op. 45," by Tchaikovsky; "Carnival," by Natalie Merchant.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Calypsico," by the Zydeco All-Stars; "Careful With That Ax, Eugene," by Pink Floyd.
- Guilty Pleasures: "Can't Fight This Feeling," by REO Speedwagon; "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons; "Car Wash," by Rose Royce.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Can't Live Without You," by The Scorpions.
- Great Rediscoveries: "Can't Stop Loving You," by Van Halen; "Captain Jack," by Billy Joel; "Career Opportunities," by The Clash; "Carmen," by Paula Cole.
- First Song of the Day: "Calvera's Return," by Elmer Bernstein (from "The Magnificent Seven."
- Lunch: Brio Tuscan Grille, Creve Coeur, Mo.: We had a blast hanging out with Maggi, who in addition to bringing the aforementioned dog toys, helped arrange it so that Fred and Hank could be tied up near us on the outside porch. The food at this chain restaurant -- Joan's been to the one in Tysons Corner, though I haven't -- was very good. I had a personal pizza and Joan had eggplant pomodoro, and all three of us split the calamari. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Not one of my worst meals, which is faint praise indeed. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Red Lobster, Springfield, Ill.: I had not been to a Red Lobster in about a decade, but we were left with no choice after finding out that Springfield apparently closes at 8pm. After arriving in town around 8:15pm, our first attempted stop was the famous Cozy Dog Drive In, which isn't a drive in and claims to have been the first restaurant to put corn dogs on a stick. It had closed at 8pm. I checked out all our food books, and found nothing. Desperate, I tried one of our general travel books, and it recommended a place called Brewhaus. We arrived at about 8:30pm, and discovered that, while open for drinks, it had stopped serving food at 8pm. Yes, 8pm. The bartender there told us that the only place still open in town that was serving food was a nearby Bennigan's. Yes, at 8:30pm, we were down to one place in the capital city of Illinois to eat. No wonder Lincoln was so thin. I guess he wasn't a Bennigan's fan. Instead of going to the only restaurant still open downtown, we figured we'd get on the interstate and find a chain place, and when I saw Red Lobster, I figured what the hell. Of course, I didn't eat all that well anyway, with a bowl of New England clam chowder and pasta with lobster and shrimp. Joan had a side salad, and a bowl of clam chowder. It was solid, and nothing more, but considering how hard it was to find a place, we were happy just to eat. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5).
- Baymont Inn & Suites, Springfield, Ill.: Our run of good Baymonts continued, as we had another happily consistent experience. We had a big room and a comfortable bed, and we barely heard a sound all night long. The wireless connection was also excellent. Baymont was one of the real discoveries for us on this trip. Predictability is important when you're on the road this long, and Baymont has been more dependable than Quality Inns, Best Westerns and La Quinta Inns. Don't get me wrong, these are not Westins or Ritz-Carltons, but for a high-end budget motel, Baymonts are quite good. Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- There was one oddity to this Baymont experience, however. We got an upgrade because our room was not ready when we arrived, which was odd since it was 10pm, but whatever. The upgrade was the presence of a Jacuzzi in the room. And I mean "in the room." It wasn't in the bathroom; it was right out in the open, right next to the TV and the desk. It was surrounded by mirrors, including one on the ceiling. I don't think I need to say any more.
COMMENT OF THE DAY