Ward, Doug, and I talked for a while this morning. Ward is married to Judy (Judy was the first of the four Gray children and Bozzie Jane was the last). He is an especially neat guy, and it has been a pleasure to be around him at family get-togethers over the past 32 years. Doug was Papa’s business partner, and a sharper man you will never meet. Doug is a Pearl Harbor survivor, and he and Ruth make us look like pikers in the travel department.
I backtracked just a little ways as I needed to see the Route 66 State Park near Eureka. It is actually in what was once the town of Times Beach – wiped out by Radon as I recall. I saw the park, and I spotted the six flags over the Six Flags amusement park, but I didn’t see several of the other sights on my list (and some really good ones), but I needed some time in St. Louis before heading south to Memphis, so I pushed on.
I grabbed a couple of donuts at Casey’s General Store (convenience store at a gas station). Expectations were non-existent. Was I ever surprised. The donuts were great, especially the Carrot Cake Donut with cream cheese icing.
As I drove on Route 66 through Crestwood, I knew this was an area where Bozzie Jane lived as a child. There’s not much “old stuff” left to see, but I took photos of what I did see. I was very excited to see Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
Ted Drewes is a phenomenon – an institution in the St. Louis area. I was surprised by the relatively large crowd standing in line out front at 11 am when I arrived. I understand the crowds are so big on the weekends that they have to barricade one lane of the road and have police to handle the crowds. I had a Caramel Concrete, and it was great. A “Concrete” is a milk shake so thick that the straw is useless; they hand it to you the cup upside down to emphasize how thick it is. The custard business was started by Ted Drewes, Sr. in 1930, and the “Route 66” location was added in 1941. Ted, Jr. took over the business after his father died, and he has expanded it, though he has rejected all franchising offers as he feels it would lead to mediocrity.
I met Dan in the parking lot when he asked about the sign on my car. I really enjoyed talking to him. He told me a lot about Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. He also anticipated my patented question and told me I should go see City Museum as he feels it is the most unique thing to see in St. Louis.
I said goodbye to Dan and drove straight to the City Museum. Incredible place! The City Museum was built entirely from recycled, salvaged, and found materials. It’s spectacular to see, and there are a tremendous number of activities for kids. Caves, slides, arts and crafts areas, aquarium, tree house, circus, historical artifacts, skatepark, and more. It’s hard to describe, but it is highly cool. The City Museum is closed on Monday, but a nice cleaning lady let me in. I finally found my way to the office where I met Elizabeth. She gave me a media kit and a private tour. The place is the brainchild of owner Bob Cassily. The building used to house a shoe factory, and there’s still a shoelace machine inside, but the City Museum is essentially a three-story monument to unbridled creativity. I’ll write a lot more about it in the book; it is a really unique place and a joy to see. Be sure to check out my photos, and see www.citymuseum.org.
Downtown St. Louis provided a few photos. I tried to get back on Route 66 downtown, but the directions were very hard to follow, and I quickly became lost. The area I was driving through became rough, and I hoped it would get nicer fast, but it got rougher and rougher. I started to turn around at one point, but I was afraid to. I really started to panic when I saw boarded-up buildings with messages to and from crackheads. Where is Vincent Passarelli when you really need him. I finally saw a sign to an interstate, and I was extremely relieved.
As I gassed up nearby, I met Laurie. She didn’t want her photo taken; I don’t believe she had any makeup on – might have been a stripper or something (just a sense). Ferrell also declined to have his photo taken; I suspect he was wanted by the police. I probably should have driven a little further before getting gas, but I wanted to stop to check the map to figure out where I was and where I needed to go.
Route 66 was officially behind me as I found the highway heading south out of town. I tried the two-lane for a while, my stomach really started hurting, so I switched back to the interstate. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing St. Genevieve, a town founded in 1735 that has preserved many of its old buildings. Unfortunately, my stomach was hurting so badly that I only snapped a couple of photos and never really got out of the car. We had packed Pepto Bismol, Rolaids, and Pepcid, but I could only find the Pepcid, and that’s only good ahead of time. I stopped at a gas station and began consuming a pack of Rolaids.
Memphis was the ultimate destination for the day, but I decided to call it a day in Cape Girardeau. Barbara Jane’s parents met and fell in love at a soda fountain in Cape Girardeau, so I really wanted to get a photo of the place. I searched, but as best I can tell, the building is long gone. I met several people in Cape Girardeau, including Reede, a man from Iowa who saw the sign on the car. I took photos of the Missouri Wall of Fame and hometown hero, Rush Limbaugh. I also drove by and took a photo of his childhood home.
I crossed the Mississippi River and made Illinois the twelfth state on the trip. My stomach was feeling a little better about 8 pm so I grabbed an excellent barbeque sandwich at Dexter Bar-B-Que. I’ve never had a barbeque sandwich with cole slaw on the sandwich, and it was really good. Carrie was my server.
I put my head down for a short nap at 8:30 and opened my eyes at 2:30. I rolled over again at 6 am.
I’m not sure what I learned today. When you aren’t feeling well, get some rest. When you get tired, stop. When you find yourself in a rough part of town, lock your doors, drive faster, and don’t look back. Remember to call and cancel your guaranteed hotel reservations before 6 pm when you aren’t going to make it. And always, always ask folks what’s the most unique sight to see in their town, because you will most often be rewarded with what you would have never found.