Thursday, June 08, 2017

Road Tripping

It;s no secret that Kevin and I like quirky things.  It's probably what has attracted us to each other all these years.  I mean, who wouldn't be attracted to a man who is incredibly smart, ridiculously talented, super cute, and is passionate about things like gardening, circus arts, and keeping himself in peak physical condition?

But enough about me.

I've mentioned on here before that Kevin and I have a personal challenge we are working towards as a couple: to visit every state in the country together.  We've been doing a fairly solid job of it in our 12 years together, and we keep track by purchasing a distinct brand of state magnet and posting it on a wall in our house to commemorate the journey.  Over Memorial Day Weekend this year, we added 5 new magnets to our wall, which now leaves only Georgia and the New England states before we've hit every state east of the Mississippi River.

Since starting this challenge, we have combined it with our love of visiting odd/random/bizarre places and things by taking road trips and following websites like Roadside America and Atlas Obscura to seek out and visit sites that have a story, be it strange, fascinating or just plain weird.  And going forward, it will help if these places are in states we have yet to visit.  And since there are not many things we like better than a good old fashioned road trip, one became the catalyst for our holiday weekend excursion to visit a few sites in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, thus adding those 5 states to our map.

Our first stop was on historic Route 66 where we visited a renovated Texaco station in Dwight, IL, followed by a rabbit farm in Staunton, IL, then on to St. Louis, MO where we visited The Arch.


We also spent about 4.5 hours in the City Museum, a constantly-evolving/"always building" 12-story building housing slides, caves, a ferris wheel on the roof, a bus solidly teetering on the edge of the building, steel tunnels and cages to climb through to get from one point to another.  There's no age limit for attending and it would seem that the only hinderance would be your size; if you can fit, you can try it out.  There are no maps and nothing explaining what anything is - you just have to discover it for yourself and try it out.  This place was Kevin's Disney World.  He lit up like a kid on Christmas when we walked in and was still excited (albeit it exhausted and sweaty) when we left.  I expect us to go back again.


The next morning, we headed to south and stopped in Chester, IL, the birthplace of the Popeye cartoon.  The artist was originally from Chester and most of the characters, including Popeye, Wimpy, and Olive Oyl, were based on people who lived in Chester.  The town had statues of just about every character in different places. Then on to the semi-abandoned town of Cairo, IL (pronounced Care-Oh), the southernmost city in IL at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and, thus, the lowest elevation in the state.  And then we passed through Arkansas, but not without first taking a glamour shot.


We finished Day 2 of the trip by visiting the Bass Pro Shop located at the Pyramid in Memphis, TN.  This place was massive and house every hunting, camping, boating and outdoor supply you could ever think of.  There were a few restaurants, a huge aquarium, a bowling alley, a hotel, and TONS of taxidermy.  We were completely out of our element but still enjoyed ourselves.


That night we stayed in Memphis (but that's a whole 'nother story.  Look for that blog posting in the coming weeks!).  We tried to visit Beale Street that night but it was impossible to get to, especially on a holiday weekend.  So we called it a night and went back to Beale the following morning.  Perhaps not as exciting as it is at night with all the lights, but still fun to be there.  A few blocks away, we stopped by Sun Records, the basis of the Tony-winning musical, Million Dollar Quartet (Mom and Kim - you saw this when you were in Chicago once).  And before leaving Memphis, we stopped by the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in 1968.  The remarkably preserved motel now houses the National Civil Rights Museum.


Back on the road, we stopped in a cemetery in Mayfield, KY to see the "The Strange Procession That Never Moves": the grave plot commissioned by Col. Henry Wooldridge and built over the course of 7 years until his death in 1899.  The plot is populated by 15 life-size sculptures of Col. Wooldridge, along with members of his family (mother, 3 sisters and several brothers), his 3 pets (his horse Fop and his dogs, Toehead and Bob), a few wild animals (a fox and a deer), and a young girl who is either his grandniece or the young love of his life who died in a horse accident (depends on who you talk to).  All the monuments are cenotaphs since the Colonel is the only one actually buried in the plot.


After that weirdness, we drove back into Illinois where our first stop was Metropolis, which has embraced the Superman lore.  Then on to a small town called Gays - that's right - Gays, IL, where we saw a 2-story outhouse, and then a quick stop in Effingham, IL where we saw America's largest cross at 198 feet.


We spent the night in Champaign, IL and hit the road back to Chicago the next morning. It was a well-spent, well-traveled 4 days.  We added 5 new states to our magnet board, which is filling in nicely.  There will probably be several more road trips this summer, and we will be sure to document our fun.  Because who doesn't want to travel along with someone who's adventurous, fun-loving, and adorable.

But enough about me.