Three states, five stops – and only one was planned. The destination for today was St. Louis, Missouri. (Originally it was Springfield, Illinois, but I decided I can get my fill of Abe Lincoln in DC.) And while it was great to see the Arch, today’s impromptu detours were even better.
The first happened by accident: I was on the phone, talking to Tina, and realized I was running out of gas. I pulled off the highway at the next exit (Aidan was not happy – he hates it when I stray from his instructions) as Tina mentioned that I should try to see some covered bridges while in Iowa, ala Bridges of Madison County. (Never saw the movie, but covered bridges would be cool to photograph.) Just then, I looked up and saw I was entering Ottumwa, The City of Bridges! Talk about perfect timing. I gassed up and set off to explore Ottumwa. While I didn’t find any covered bridges, I did see several uncovered bridges, and took a nice long walk along the river, photographing them along the way.
The second stop was just as easy – I simply saw a sign for ‘American Gothic House – 1 Mile’ and was intrigued. Figured what was a mile out of my way? I was surprised to find it was actually the house featured in the famous painting of the old farm couple with the pitchfork. Turns out it was painted by Grant Wood, who was from Iowa, and it’s actually his dentist and his sister in the painting. He sketched the house and each of the people all separately and put it together in his studio. They asked if I wanted to get dressed up (they have costumes) and have my picture taken in front of the house, but I politely declined…
The third stop of the day was my favorite: Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer!!! (I always loved Huck.) When I saw the signs for Hannibal, Missouri, home town of Mark Twain and the setting for many of his stories, I knew I had to stop and explore. I saw their homes, the fence Tom got his gang to whitewash, the bank of the Mississippi, Becky Thatcher’s house, the whole neighborhood! I can see why it’s called ‘America’s Hometown’ – it’s a very traditional American town – just like you always wish you grew up in. I’d love to go back and go on the riverboat cruise!
The fourth stop was the only one on the original itinerary: St. Louis. I arrived later than I expected due to my surprise stops, so only stayed a bit. I parked by the river front, and on the way to the Gateway Arch discovered a statue of Lewis and Clark on the bank of the Mississippi. (I swear they both look like George Bush – and based on the year the statue was made, that could’ve been the artist’s intent…) The Arch was cool, but it was harder to photograph than I expected – being further away would’ve been better, but I did get a few nice shots. Have to say the area, at least by the river, was a bit sketchier than I expected. I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable being there by myself, so left before it got really dark.
I briefly contemplated driving straight on to Tennessee from there, but after an hour more of driving I gave up and pulled off the highway – stop five. I found myself in Nashville…Illinois! Not exactly the same, but it will do for the night.