Day 1: May 25, 2011
Caught a Rock, Dodged the Hail
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My normal express path to St Louis is via Indianapolis. That path, I-74 and I-70, wasn't very exciting the first time and repetition has not increased the thrill level. For this trip, I'd selected the slightly longer path through Louisville for a little change. This meant passing through Cincinnati proper and, when I left home somewhat later than planned, I thought this might get me into a rush hour traffic jam. There was plenty of traffic and things did slow down in a couple of spots but never stopped. I'm guessing it was a truck that kicked up the stone that chipped my windshield as I climbed the hill on the south side of the river. When I first saw it, a six inch crack passed horizontally through the little crater then turned and extended another inch or two vertically. Over the next several miles the vertical segment grew until it passed the horizontal segment in length. I now had a foot long crack in the windshield I'd owned for barely a month. After skirting Louisville, I did find the curves and hills of I-64 a nice change from the straight line that is I-70 but I'd have preferred an undamaged windshield.

I visited this park at the east end of the McKinley Bridge in 2008 a few months after it was dedicated and the refurbished bridge reopened. I've used the park as an entrance to Missouri but it was conceived as a big "Welcome" Illinois and the IL-3 corridor. The camera faced Illinois for today's picture of the Salute to Steel sculpture. I imagine recent heavy winds are responsible for the broken tree.

I basically followed the "Salisbury alignment" of Historic Route 66 into St Louis then turned off at Grand Avenue to visit these towers about a mile to the north. During the nineteenth century, large standpipes were often used to prevent surges and control water pressure. Of the nearly 500 that once existed in this country, only seven remain. Three of those are in St Louis.

The 1871 "Old White" tower occupies the intersection of Grand Avenue and North 20th Street. The 1886 "New Red" tower is less than a quarter mile away at Blair Avenue and Bissell Street.

In theory, the 1898 Compton Hill tower can be reached by driving just five miles straight down Grand Avenue but construction made that much longer and more complicated today. The Naked Truth statue was erected in 1913 to honor three German born newspapermen. The seated figure displays a very nice pair of torches.

Information on all three St Louis towers can be found here.

Once I was in the neighborhood, I decided to follow Chouteau Avenue (another Route 66 alignment) east to the 1940s Eat Rite Diner in sight of the Gateway Arch. A classic diner, a classic menu, a classic pinball, and a classic lunch.

I returned to the "Salisbury alignment" and followed it to Delmar Boulevard. I stuck with Delmar even after Historic Route 66 turned south. I grabbed a picture of the Moonrise Hotel and its solar powered sign. Chuck Berry will be performing at Blueberry Hill later tonight. His Walk of Fame star is in front of the restaurant and bar.

In his Route 66 guide book, Kip Welborn described the Ivy Motel, on yet another Route 66 alignment, as one of the "better maintained" older motels on the route and reported that presidential brother Billy Carter once stayed there. I decided on at least a drive by look. It looked OK from the street so I checked out a room then checked into it. It's a no-frills $35-cash-only not-for-everybody motel but it worked for me. Here's an out of sequence picture showing that the sign out front can still glow.

I had heard sirens and listened to a NOAH radio alert as I drove up Delmar. Joplin, Missouri, had been devastated by a tornado on Sunday. Another had hit El Reno, Oklahoma, on Tuesday. Tonight the St Louis area was under attack. Somehow I'd passed the main storm line without getting hit. I turned on the TV in my motel room and found a local station that was in full time weather mode. Hail as large as three inches was being seen north, south, and east of me. The eastward flow of weather was temporarily hung up at the Mississippi and both sides of the river were being pounded. A camera mounted above downtown showed heavy rain and hail at the giant arch. The Ivy is one room wide so no actual interior walls even exist. I decided that the shower stall would be my hideout if things got bad. They didn't. There was plenty of rain, a fair amount of wind, and a little lightening but the walls of the old mote weren't really tested. Things had really calmed down by the time I needed to leave for the evening.

I sat at the bar and enjoyed Blueberry Hill's signature trout almondine. The eclectic decorations include a lot of beer paraphernalia and there is even a touch of Cincinnati in the mix. Past the Moerlein sign, a fast moving line soon filled the Duck Room where Shooting With Annie, a seven piece that includes both a trombone and pedal steel guitar, opened with an impressive set. We're all ready now.

I half expected the 84 year old Father of Rock 'n' Roll to appear for a few songs -- or maybe even just parts of songs -- in the middle of a set by the backing band. But nooooo... Chuck was on stage from the get-go through the last note. That backing band, by the way, includes son Chuck, Jr., and daughter Ingrid. Chuck played just about every hit in his song book and rarely used the chair that was on stage for him. He even got in a short duck walk. Seeing Chuck Berry was a sort of "bucket list" thing for me and it would have been OK if he had only done "a few songs in the middle of a set". This was well beyond OK.

Now that the show is over, it's time to talk up the next one.

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