Roadtrip: Missouri

Day three of the roadtrip, I ran into crappy weather.  A hurricane down in the gulf was spilling out storms over the whole south, and pretty much ruined the driving view.  Also, I hadn’t packed an umbrella.  So my sightseeing largely consisted of lightning-quick sprints from cover to cover, with the occasional miserable drenching.  I should probably redo this part because it felt way more like an extended errand run than a real vacation.

Hannibal, MO is Mark Twain’s hometown, and it’s basically been converted over to a tourist shrine to him, with emphasis on Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  It’s cute in a cheesy, slightly desperate Americana way, but it does have (in better weather) some of the nicer river views I’ve seen, and hey, endless refills of homemade, deliciously herby root beer at the Mark Twain Diner.  That, I will say, was one of my more inspired pull-overs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

St. Louis.  It was pouring down by the time I got there, and too late for most of the indoor stuff to be open.  I dashed over to the outdoor sculpture garden downtown, leaned out my illegally parked car for a second to snap the Arch, and then crawled into my b&b to dry off.  The Brewer’s House is in the Soulard neighborhood, one of the oldest in the city, with a predominance of genteel, crumbly but still dignified brick architecture.  Again, somewhere I’d like to go again in nice weather.  (obligatory cat-related photos here)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Roadtrip: Iowa

Iowa consists of a lot of farmland and very few rest stations.  Very few gas stations, either, so I’m glad that I always fill up rentals once I hit the half-tank mark.  That said, the few gas stations that are out there have some interesting offerings:

Fried chicken gizzards and peanut butter crisps, some Iowa gas station

Fried chicken gizzards and peanut butter crisps, some Iowa gas station

Yes, those are fried chicken gizzards.  And they were quite tasty going down, not nearly as greasy as you’d think (although I admit to some indigestion later that night).  The peanut butter crisps appeared to be handmade and were cousin to the chocolate-covered Rice Krispie treats I used to love as a kid.

Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, was having a pretty typical Midwestern fall Saturday when I showed up–college football.  Everyone was in team colors and drunk.  I bobbed and weaved around them and strolled up and down the Iowa Literary Walk, which is a series of bronze plaques that interpret quotes from famous authors/books in interesting to creepy ways–I do wonder what the “eyes” plaque looks like to people late at night.  Also, about a ten-minute drive away is the Devonian Fossil Gorge, which is a spillway off a dam that has tons of fossil-studded rocks.  It’s not quite as good as a fossil site where I grew up, which not only had rocks but had so many loose fossils around that you were allowed to take a small quantity away with you, but it made for a peaceful afternoon climbing around and peering at history (but again with the creepy animals, Iowa).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The hotel space in Iowa City had been scarce when I’d been doing all my booking (due to the football game, I expect), so I ended up getting a room in Davenport, about an hour away.  Davenport is on the Mississippi river proper, with some lovely riverfront space.  Even the hydroelectric power plant looked kind of steampunkish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Roadtrip: St. Paul

I did run briefly over to St. Paul for a little shopping and a bite to eat.  This little French bakery, which had a completely awful boxy white outside, was lovely inside, all spartan, vaguely Nordic lines, and offered a delicious thing called a Paris Minneapolis.  Obviously, I got it.

Paris Minneapolis and mango lemonade, Chez Arnaud

Paris Minneapolis and mango lemonade, Chez Arnaud

Mostly hazelnut cream, with a bit of crunch from the nuts on top.  The mango lemonade wasn’t overly fruity and was just a nice, rich complement.

Roadtrip: Minneapolis

When I started planning a roadtrip for this fall, I had two constraints.  One, I want to visit all fifty U.S. states and most of the ones I still need to hit are west of the Mississippi, which means flying.  Two, I have a ton of unspent frequent flyer miles on Delta.  And then, once I started looking at bookings, I realized I had a third constraint–I really, really didn’t want to do a layover.  I was already going to be spending a lot of time driving; I didn’t want to waste more of my vacation time in a midway airport.  Which, since I don’t live near a Delta hub, required some creative thinking.

I ended up structuring my drive around the Mississippi River, as dictated by where Delta has direct flights.  Fly into the northern end, drive down and fly out from roughly the middle (doing the whole thing in one trip will have to wait, since I didn’t have that many vacation days left).  Northern end: Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is Midwestern with a very self-consciously arty twist, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.  On the way in from the airport, I went by (sadly, too quick for a photo) a power plant with an interesting road-facing shield made up of parallel metal strips, “shingled” like a clapboard house, that turned the spires and wires coming out of the top into abstract elements.   That worked.  The futuristic downtown skyscrapers, on the other hand, kind of jar against the older buildings.  And there are some remnants of Art Deco-type buildings that make me wish they’d kept a bit more of the early city architecture, like you see in Chicago.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I do really like the wall murals that seem to be everywhere, which finesse updating old-timey ways better.

Mural

Mural

And, upon entropyenator’s rec, I stopped by the Sculpture Garden, which had a lot of easygoing whimsy to it.  Yeah, some serious pieces, but overall it was lighthearted enough so that the locals clearly love engaging with the art (somehow I don’t think that horseman statue came with a knitted hat), and considering it was below freezing later that night, I very much appreciated the greenhouse’s warmth.  And hey, sculptural minigolf.  Can’t turn your thumbs down at that.