Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Great River Road

Since the holidays are upon us, my party season slows down aftet about the middle of December so I take this time to travel.  This year I decided to take a road trip and see parts of the country I hadn't seen before: Old Man River, Big Muddy, a.k.a. The Mississippi River. 

My game plan was to drive The Great River Road from Hannibal, MO down to Columbus, KY. The Great River Road is a collection of roads that run the length of the Mississippi River from Wisconsin down to New Orleans. Since I only have about a week I staying close to home, but that stretch is full of plenty to see: 
  • The world's largest catsup bottle 
  • The Cahokia Mounds 
  • Mark Twain's hometown 
  • Metropolis
  • Civil War trenches
  • And whatever else I find along the way
With my bags packed and Sadie's toys in the car, we headed west on I-64 to St. Louis. When I   travel, I only do minimal research before heading out.  I prefer the "get there and let the wind take you" method of seeing the sights and usually works for me. This time, I should have done some more research, because everything I want to see in the St. Louis area is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays, figures. So, this morning I headed north on the Great River Road to Alton, IL. I am drawn to a lot of historical places when I travel, so Alton is a perfect city for me to visit. Founded in 1837, Alton was the site of the final debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Robert Wadlow, the world's tallest man, was born and raised in Alton. Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis was born in Alton. 
My first stop was the sight of the final Lincoln-Douglas debate which is now a small park with some bronze statues of Lincoln & Douglas.  After driving around Alton, seeing more buildings (and even eating lunch in one) that Lincoln practiced law in, I continued to drive up The Great River Road, stopping at several viewing points along the way.  

 This is a mural on the side of the cliffs of the Pisa Bird.  Read the legend here.

Despite it being winter and snow everywhere, the drive was gorgeous, the road is about 100 feet from the river. Apparently this time of year there are a lot of eagles in the area, so I saw several from a distance of course.  Around Alton, there are several small town, including Elsah (I decided I want to own a house here) with lots of antique shops (I was good and did not go in any), and cute houses.  My original intent was to drive to Hannibal, MO to see Mark Twain's hometown, but it was 4:30 by the time I got there and everything was closed.  So I spent all of 20 minutes driving around before it got dark, then I headed back to St. Louis.  

I have several more days in my trip, so I'll post more later! 

Note: if you ever want to drive the Great River Road, do it in any other season, but winter! I have found that businesses are either closed for the season or only open random days of the week. 

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