2017 Road Trip – Day 3

We woke up today with another long day of driving ahead… destination Memphis, Tennessee. We scheduled several stops along the way again to break up the monotony and give us a chance to get out and stretch a bit.

Our fist stop after leaving St. Louis was Elephant Rocks State Park in Arcadia Valley, Missouri. Arcadia Valley is located in the Mark Twain National Forest and Ozarks area and has enough nature and hiking that a week trip here would be perfectly reasonable… we had about an hour. Elephant Rocks State Park was a bit out of our way, but well worth the additional drive time. An accessible, 1-mile long path winds among giant granite boulders, which can be climbed on… great fun for kids and adults alike. Part of the area has been quarried and stone-smiths would carve their names in the rock when they received their master certification, giving the appearance of heavy graffiti throughout the site. There is an additional 1/2-mile extension for those who are looking for an extended experience, but we had a bit of a late start and opted to get back to the car instead.

The drive through this part of Missouri is beautiful. It was a beautiful, sunny day and a perfect time to put the convertible top down and enjoy the amazing vistas. Our next destination, although we were enjoying the scenery and not in a hurry to arrive, was Burfordville, Missouri. There is a mill and restored covered bridge there and it was another beautiful place to get out and walk around a bit.

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It was a hop, skip and a jump (aka: a short distance) from the mill to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for supper. Before heading into town, we detoured across the cool bridge to Illinois and then right back again… ’cause bridges are fun and cool to look at! We were planning to arrive much earlier than we actually did, so we looked for somewhere to eat fairly quickly before continuing the 175 more miles of driving to Memphis.

After having a delicious and reasonable Cajun dinner at Broussard’s, we now hoped to arrive in Memphis around 9pm… significantly later than we hoped, but still in time to go check out Beale Street before hitting the hay. Unfortunately the universe had other plans for us. Just before leaving Missouri, we got stuck in stopped traffic in a single-lane construction zone. Traffic remained stopped for an hour, so we turned off the car. I had the joy of experiencing a construction port-a-potty for the first, and hopefully last, time during this extreme slow down. Once we were moving again, I was surprised to discover we were travelling through Arkansas (we’re playing this by ear remember, so I haven’t looked too closely at an overall map), and even more surprised when we drove through Memphis and into Southaven, Mississippi to find our hotel for the next 2 days. Turns out Southaven is only a 10-15 minute drive from Memphis and a convenient place to stay. We arrived at the hotel after 11pm, exhausted and thankful for somewhere to sleep, having forgotten all about our plans to see Beale street that evening. There’s always tomorrow….

 

 

2017 Road Trip – Day 1

The road trip was a lot of fun. I feel like we accomplished quite a bit in a very short amount of time. Here are the final stats:

  • Elapsed time: 5 days, 4 nights
  • States visited: 7 (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana)
  • Major Cities visited: 2 (St. Louis, Memphis)
  • Miles driven: 1430
  • Steps taken: 34,438 (we did really well the first couple days, then fizzled out)
  • Attractions/Sites visited: over 20
  • Hard Rock Shot Glasses added to collection: 2 (St. Louis & Memphis)

In addition, we stayed pretty close to our $1000 budget for the whole thing.

So you may be wondering what all we did. I’ll touch a little on the first leg, day one, here.

We left Michigan and travelled about 2 hours before getting out to stretch our legs at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. We did a short (about an hour) hike to St. Louis Canyon. It was beautiful, even though they’ve had a bit of a dry spell and the water fountain was actually more of a trickle. Starved Rock is easily a day, weekend or even week-long trip on its own, but we have both been before and the purpose of our stop was just to stretch our legs a bit.

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We continued on for about another 2 hours before stopping for lunch and a quick drive through Springfield, IL. It’s the capital of the state and worth a look if you’re driving nearby. We found the beautiful capital building… architecture geek moment.

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About 45 minutes after leaving Springfield, we arrived at Cahokia Mounds. It’s the site of a native American city that was actually larger than London in the 1200’s. Unfortunately the interpretive center had closed just before we arrived, so we didn’t get to learn as much about it as we’d hoped; but the park was still open and we were able to climb the insane amount of stairs up the top of 10-story tall Monk’s Mound.

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It was from the top of this mound that we got our first glimpse of our destination for the day… St. Louis., Missouri. Even though it was pretty cloudy at this point, the skyline was definitely visible; we knew we were close.

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Before we left the Cahokia Mounds, I hopped online quickly to book us a hotel. We only had about 15 minute left to drive, so the Cahokia site would be easily accessible to anyone on a visit to St. Louis. Our last minute hotel, Hotel Lumiere, turned out to be quite beautiful with a large indoor courtyard and attached to a casino.

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We arrived in the city, checked into our hotel and walked out into the historic Laclede’s Landing neighborhood to find some supper. There aren’t a lot of options there right now (although there is a lot of construction), but Morgan Street Brewery turned out to be a good choice… lucky for us, because not much was open.

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After a nice supper, we tucked in for the night, ready for a full day of sight-seeing in St. Louis the next day. We saw the Arch from a distance this evening, but in the morning we will be going up inside… stay tuned…