Travels with Snowbirds Quest for The Stamp May 6-7-8 2017 St Louis MO Cahokia Parque RV

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May 8th 2017
Published: May 9th 2017
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Branson to St Louis

Note the ‘que’ in parque. You might think it exudes elegance.

Up and out of Branson at 8:30 Saturday morning. We had a 270 or so mile trip to St. Louis, one of our longest days, over roads we were not sure were not flooded (sorry, something about double negatives there.) I find the MODot web site very poor, and the app that you must download to use the website on your iPhone is even worse. Very frustrating. Google maps wasn’t much better for showing us closed roads. Son, Tim, suggested WAZE and the problem with that, if there are no cars driving on the road there is no data for that road and the app doesn’t show the roads closed. We drove by the seat of our pants. The condition of the US and Interstate roads from Branson to Rolla, MO (the locals say Ralla) was great. Not too many potholes, not too much flooding seen. We stopped at a rest area and regrouped a little, then made a fuel stop and parked at a Walmart, perhaps the smallest Walmart and the smallest Walmart parking lot I have ever seen. At one end of the lot was a lane where you picked up your bulk topsoil or fertilizer – go inside to pay, show your receipt to the employee, pick up your purchases. The very nice employee showed us how to get out of the lot and how to get back on the interstate, all the while with his arm around me and grinning is toothless grin. He was a godsend and a really nice guy. As we got closer to St. Louis there was more and more flooding in the roadside fields and streams, but no water on I44. Since the big storm, they have been talking about flooding from the Meramec River – I hae heard this storm system called a 100 year event. When we crossed over it, everything I saw on TV was more than accurate. When you don’t know the area and you go over a river or stream, or travel along the Mississippi you don’t know where the banks normally are, so it is tough to assess actual height of flooding. You will see from pictures I took of Ol’ Man River in downtown St Louis, the street signs and Arch flags are covered, and the walkway to the Riverboat is underwater. More
Mississippi flood waters at ArchMississippi flood waters at ArchMississippi flood waters at Arch

Those flags are in 8 feet of water
on that later.

Nevertheless, we made it safely to our campground. I finished one audiobook and started another during our 5-hour drive,(An Agent Pendergast novel and a Mickey Haller novel for anyone interested.) Cahokia RV Parque. It has a great location, on the Illinois side of the River, about a 7 minute Sunday drive to the Arch. We are all in back in sites, with another camper backed in up against us from the other side. We are high and dry, with gravel and cement pad. There are several other transients here, including a popup next to me with 2 adults and 4 kids. The rest of the 100 sites are long term residents, some very long. My view is of the orange doors of the storage facility next door. They are building some ‘cabin’s’ which look like they have maybe a bed and a table and chair and are occupied by blue collar worker types. There is a pond, which I was told is at flood stage, filled with turtles. There are some low-lying areas. I do not want to be here when the mosquitoes breed. Now, all this is leading up to the price. On this trip, I have stayed in gorgeous campsites in the woods for $11/night. This parque is $30/night, before tax and after the $4/night Good Sam Club discount for full hookup and free wifi. I do have 27 awesome, free air antenna channels. That’s the painful part. BUT, when you look at the price of what other campgrounds are close to the city, this one is equal to them. There are no nearby state parks or national park campgrounds. The owners are very nice. There is a restaurant on site that is the #5 place to eat BBQ in the area. The resident kids are very nice and respectful, and I don’t begrudge them their bike races thru the campsites. I do detest the last campers in this site who left their cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and used Glide floss picks scattered where my dog wanted to get at them and eat them. No matter how poor you are, you can have pride in yourself and clean up your mess. Done with my rant.

I paid bills and balanced my checkbook and sorted money things out. I straightened food cabinets to see what I have left. We opted to eat in and finish some of our leftovers.

Up and out early Sunday morning for the assigned tram ride up the Arch at 9:30. I tried WAZE again, but that failed, dear son, Tim, I am sorry to say. If no traffic uses the road it shows up clean and green with no issue. Waze man, (is it Nathan Lane??) directed us down into the river, a road with no barrier to the water. Brakes don’t fail Ginnie now. We could not get to the closest parking lot. To make matters worse, there was a charity marathon on the route we got diverted to. Nowhere, no place did any of us see or read about a charity marathon for a local blind assistance group happening at our tour time. There was a priest standing on one side of the barricade who was directing his parishioners where to park for mass. He also directed us up the hill, operative words being “UP THE HILL,” to a parking lot. We found a surface lot and parked in it and walked DOWN THE HILL to the Arch area. The only thing I ever heard about this marathon is that it raised $150K for its charity, whatever that was.

Since the hills at the Branson campground, I have had knee pain, and have been trying to take it easy. Fortunately, I brought my cane this day and sure was happy. It takes some weight off my right knee and made moving easier. Total walking for today was 4.0 miles. What do you think of that Angel, Teresa, and Deb!!!! Good for wobbly Kat, for sure. Once to the Arch area, we were diverted around by construction fence to the south tram entrance.

The Arch is really called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It is the Gateway to the West. “The memorial allows us to contemplate the epic mass migration and settlement of the American West during the 1880s.” Remember that term from high school, Manifest Destiny? (The idea that it was God’s will and the right of Americans to take over the whole continent. hmmmmmm) It started here. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was designated a national historic site in 1925 to honor the Anglo-Saxon frontier hero. Today the park pays tribute to the multicultural aspect of the peopling of America. To create the Gateway Arch park, 40 blocks of buildings were levelled in the core of the downtown area. It was in this area that the French first set up their fur trading business. The structure was built between 1963 and 1965, is a sandwich made of stainless steel on the outside, carbon steel on the inside, and concrete in the middle. The legs were built freestanding and connected. I watched the movie while Ginnie and Kim took the tram to the top. No thank, you, not for me. No how, no way. The security system at the entrance rivaled that of the TSA. And the guards were just as unfriendly. The movie was awesome. So many facts! Most memorable, when they went to put the last piece in, (let’s call it the keystone, even though it is not) it was 1.5 inches off, due to the sun expanding the metal on the outside of the south tower. St. Louis FD came in and hosed the south tower down to shrink it so it would fit. That must have been something to see. I met the girls in the gift shop, (sticker for Moya’s side, $1.99), they declined the movie as we needed to get to our next event. They used words like, stimulating, claustrophobic, curvy, ratchetting, terrifying, on and on. I was very happy I made the decision not to go. I would never have gotten into or out of the pod. You have all seen many pictures of the Arch, I took some unusual ones, check them out. A total of 5 Stamps gained here. Kim took great pictures which I have posted here.

WAZE again to the Lumiere Hotel and Casino parking lot to look for the noon St. Louis Fun City tour bus. We did not have tickets. I called their number, was told there were seats available for the tour, and where to park and where to buy tickets. WAZE don’t fail me now. Yup. Damned Nathan Lane, if that’s who he is. Pulled over to the side of the road studying the layout of the land, the hotel security guard told Ginnie she couldn’t park there, she told him she wasn’t parking, she was lost. He directed us where to go, where to park, they dropped me off, I bought tickets, they parked, and we got on the trolley with plenty of time to spare.

Rich was our guide. Very knowledgeable, but he had a rattle in his voice that I didn’t like. The girls had no problem, but for me it was like nails on blackboard. Our 90-minute tour around town was limited by the height of the river preventing us driving along it, and other roads closed for construction. St. Louis is like NYC!! So much construction, so much scaffolding, so many orange cones! We did see a lot of the city, including many locations within Forest Park - the art museum (with a Degas exhibit and he’s my favorite) the free zoo, the free botanical garden, the golf courses, ($25 to play) and beautiful meadows and reflecting pools. This park housed the 1904 Worlds’ Fair and St. Louis also hosted the Olympics that year AT THE SAME TIME.!! Amazing. Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, meet me at The Fair!! St Louis truly is a lovely town with great things to do and great places to live, or at least it looked that way.

Once the tour completed, the girls let me gamble for 30 minutes, I lost, but had a great time. Nice casino at the Lumiere!

We stopped for gas at a nearby gas station, it was one
of those places that the drawer slides out for you to put your money or credit card in. I could not understand the clerk due to her unusual diction and elocution. Patrons were in the lot shouting at each other. Left very quickly. Back to the rigs for a late lunch and doggie bio break then back into the car for the 9-mile drive to Cahokia Mounds in Collierville, IL, a State Historic Site, National Historic Landmark, and World Heritage Site. These mounds look the same as those we saw in Natchez, but on a much grander scale. 20,000 Native Americans, Mississippians, had a complex social and political system here until they disappeared in 1300AD or so. They were hunter, gatherers as well as farmers. I put a new fact into my brain here – what made all these civilizations disappear, pretty much at the same time in Mexico and here. One guide included depleting natural resources as a reason I had not heard of or thought about before. They used so much wood to build their lodges and ceremonial buildings and because of the moist climate, had to be built every few years. I must mull that over for a bit, but it sure does beat disease or meteor in my mind. Informative movie, diorama type interpretive center, gift shop, and finally we crawled back to the rigs, exhausted. Thank goodness it was a relatively cool low humidity day, that helped. They have their own stamp for the Missouri Passport Stamp Map – we put their stamp in our books. We missed Kathy today this was a place on her bucket list, and Kathy I will tell you more about it when we see you. I saved the literature for you. XXXOX

Monday, we lingered in for a bit, and headed for the Anheuser Busch Free Brewery tour. Good job on Kim’s part for finding this gem. The girls wanted to go to the main Clydesdale farm, Warm Springs Farm, about 40 miles west, but it is closed Monday and Tuesday. A few Clydesdale’s are rotated between the brewery and Grant’s Farm, a few miles out of St. Louis. Grant’s Farm also gives tours, closed Monday and Tuesday. Sigh. We opted for the ‘free’ tour instead of choosing one of the ‘for pay’ tours that Kim read were not much better than the ‘free’ tour. We had 2 guides. Girl #1 gave the intro, and she spoke in a monotone with words connected. Lousy elocution and diction. Girl #2 started out the same, but improved a little as we proceeded. Is it me or is it something about the way the St. Louisans speak? We saw the Clydesdale barn and paddock with show wagons and full harness and other tack – 150 pounds’ worth. All the buildings we toured are gorgeous. Red brick on the outside, with gargoyles on top. Inside, beautiful details and chandeliers with terrazzo or brick floors. I took the elevator down at one point and got on with 4 other ladies – all of us carrying Vera Bradley bags, all similar ages, 2 others limping worse than me; I tried to hide mine a bit. Laugh.

We were offered a free 6-ounce plastic glass with either Bud or Bud light, served to us by singing bar men who were not having a good time. I only had a mouthful, it was cold and crisp and quenched this designated driver’s thirst. I should have saved the cute glass, though; I dumped it into the trash before I realized it was a real souvenir. All drinking age tour participants were given a wooden token, ‘to hold on to.’ We sat and listened to our tour guide explain the brewing process. Interesting. I should have asked where bottling takes place. Never thought of it. (On the way home, Kim read us facts about the Busch family and the company’s history. The Busch family was large and a little nuts. None of us knew the company was victim of a hostile takeover in 2008 and is now called Anheuser Busch InBev.) The tour ended in the Biergarden; we redeemed our wooden tokens for a glass of our choice of 18 beers. I chose Lime-A-Rita and it came frozen style, ala Pina Colada. I wanted the whole glass, but was a good girl and only ordered ¼ glass. Kim had Michelob, Ginnie ordered O’Douls. We ordered salads and pretzel sticks, all yummy, all with beer enhanced dressings or dipping sauces of course. A tour of the gift shop ala Disney, everything you could ever want with a Budweiser brand logo, including $300 Yeti cooler and $5 stickers; not for me.

On to U.S. Grant’s home for our last National Park stamp in St. Louis. We were bad, we walked in, stamped the stamp, grabbed a brochure, refused the movie and tour and were back in the car in under 5 minutes; a record. I drove up the road, past the Grant’s Farm where we could see the 50 Clydesdale’s living there off in the far paddocks and pastures. Not a photo op kind of road, no place to really pull over.

Google mapped a grocery store. Schnucks. I wanted real deli cold cuts. Cahokia is an industrial area and is a food desert – no grocery stores for miles and miles. I didn’t want Walmart again, damnit, I wanted real cold cuts. Boy, I was I disappointed. Cold cuts were thickly precut in plastic tubs. There was no plain ham – smoked, apple flavored, Italian, etc. I bought a can of tuna and peanut butter and jelly for lunches.

We are starting to prepare for our flight out of here tomorrow morning, dumped holding tanks, Ginnie hooked her car to the tow bar and did laundry and I vacuumed 2 compartments that were dirty. Kim and I walked over to the on-site restaurant and ordered take out. She ordered a brisket platter with 2 sides and I ordered brisket nachos which turned out to be awesome things served on homemade potato chips, topped with baked beans, tiny slices of beef brisket topped with cheese, served with sweet bbq sauce and coleslaw. This restaurant is rated #5 place for BBQ in St. Louis, and my food was excellent. $6.79 for half order with enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Who needs deli meat? Not me. There were 3 of the oldest slot machines I have ever seen in their arcade room. I didn’t go near them, only looked.

Today was a lucky day for Kim. While walking her dog she got pooped on by a bird. It was black and nasty. I don’t think she wanted to hear that it was good luck.

So, take a look at the pictures today, there really are a lot. That’s what happens when you stay someplace 3 nights. We are happy we did; there is a lot to see here and a lot we didn’t see which we wish we could have. Who knew? Not us.

Kat out

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