This entry will focus on the second leg of #RoadTrip2018, which goes along the Illinois side of the Mississippi River from Cahokia to just before Cairo – and includes my dinner at Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston.
This is a double-browser picture tour entry.
Go to this link to view my Road Trip photos:
Scroll down to where you see my face in a blue shirt doing a selfie along a levee. Click on THAT picture and you’ll find arrows on the end of the pic prompting you to click left or right. Keep clicking right to see more pictures, and along the way, read the captions and read this Blog entry at alternating times.
My stay in Granite City went well. I woke up in time to meet my friend Dave at a place called Spencer’s Diner in Kirkwood, Missouri. He was going to be there when the place opened at 6 a.m., and told me that the place was going to be packed quickly. So that meant waking up at 4:30, getting all spruced up, checking out, and making the 30-minute drive along I-270 to the west end of the St. Louis area.
Dave and I have known each other since when I ran Northern Illinois Sports Beat. He used to post a lot about the area wrestling scene, especially Dixon. He travels a lot for work, and we just happened to be close enough for a meet-up. I had a great omelet, and it was great to catch up with Dave and hear what he does for work.
I cut through the middle of St. Louis to get back to Illinois, and shot a picture of the new Busch Stadium. My attempt at a good pic of the Arch was thwarted by construction and nearby traffic. Anyway, I veered off into Prairie du Pont and Cahokia, which is a place rich in French colonial history … but not the location of Cahokia Mounds (that is closer to Collinsville).
Because I don’t have an itinerary, a lot of my “visits” were merely “drive-by visits” where I simply stared at things from my car, or stepped outside for a minute and looked around.
Going south of Cahokia, I found the first stretch of Levee to drive on. It was from a small burg called East Carondelet, and went toward I-255. It sits a good 30 feet high from the main ground in most places.
Places I visited along the Levee were Merrimac and Fountain, two towns hurt by flooding in 1993. In fact, many towns I visited during this trip were hurt by the Great Flood of 1993 – especially Valmeyer.
Valmeyer was a town I visited with my grandparents a few years ago. It is unique because nearly the whole town sat on the Flood Plain, and nearly all of it was wiped out in ’93. The community rebuilt along the bluff, and it looks like a Chicago suburb out in the middle of nowhere.
After Valmeyer, I had a little bit of an uncomfortable feeling driving the car, so I didn’t feel like walking around a whole lot. So I drove through Harrisonville, and visited the Fort de Chartes historic site for a few minutes. (There is a plaque I shot describing the fort). More French scenery came after in Prairie du Rocher.
I then drove along the bluff, near Modoc Rock, and came upon the site of Fort Kaskaskia. At that time my legs were feeling better and I got around to view what was left of it – and there’s not much left of it. Just the mounds. Also, it is not the site of the REAL Kaskaskia – that is located on the other side of the Mississippi (and visited in Day 3).
Next stop was Chester, the birthplace of Segar – the creator of Popeye. There are many small statues of the various Popeye characters all throughout town. I got a map from the City Hall showing the various locations of all of the characters. I’d spend hours finding them all, but I saw Bluto, Popeye, King Blozo, and finally Wimpy. I was hungry and got a burger for lunch. I even offered it to Wimpy.
After Chester, we really get into the deep south of Illinois. Ware, Coral, Gorham, Grand Tower, and Thebes. The last three towns are in really bad shape. Gorham has a small train yard and small streets. Grand Tower has a few buildings in real rough shape. Thebes is platted on both the bluff and plain, and the plain looks like a flood just went through it.
It was sort of depressing seeing a lot of damage along the way, but these communities appear to have their moments of rebound.
The last stop on this blog entry is Olive Branch. Nothing here, just needed gas. I had worked at gas stations for 12 years, so I am very familiar with the service station environment. However, this was the first time I had ever used one of those old-style gas pumps. This one had the old rotary numbers displaying price and gallon. I had to ask the clerk how to properly use it. So consider that a generational moment.
Next stop is Cairo. This deserves its own entry, and that will come soon.
Actually, Cairo deserves TWO entries. A feature on the Twin Rivers Ball Park – temporary spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals – will come after the Cairo entry.
After Cairo, I drove down Interstate 57 to Sikeston, and a place called Lambert’s Cafe.
At Lambert’s, Waiters throw fresh, hot rolls are thrown across the large seating area to those who want them. I got one chucked at me and hit my throat. The soft drinks come in big travel mugs. In addition to the food you order, several members of the wait staff carry around bottomless pans of fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, potatoes and onions, apple butter and molasses, and black eye peas to serve spoonful on your plate – all you can eat. I don’t like any of that stuff and had to brush them off a good 7 times each. Looking back, I kind of regret it now. I wish I would have had at least a small sample of each of the pass arounds.
I ordered a large chicken fried steak with plenty of gravy. Damn good!
My hotel was in Sikeston. I had reached the southern point of my journey.
NEXT: Cairo and Fort Defiance State Park
AFTER THAT: Twin Rivers Ball Park, Day 3 (Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, Belgique, etc.), Day 4 (Route 78 back home)