Who Let the Dogs out? – Purina Farms #131

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IMG_2600Right, so when you think of Purina Farms, what probably comes to mind is a glorious sanctuary where all day long dogs run around obstacle courses and eat dog food and generally star in dog food commercials…..it’s not just me who has this fantasy, right?

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                                                                    Cake #131 at Purina Farms

Well regardless of the image you conjure in your own mind, this Cake Monster, (along with Mercutio Krispytreats and Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban, I’m sure), pictured our trip to Purina Farms to be, well, at least a little more filled with animals than it was on the day we visited. In fact, the day we were there, we didn’t even see many other people outside of another possible cake hunter or two – not gonna lie, eeriness on top of disappointment is the beginning of the recipe for disaster.

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                                                                 Cake #131 at Purina Farms

But let’s back up a little bit: Purina has a long history, stretching all the way back to 1894 when it was founded by William H Danforth. Back then it was called the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company. The name changed in 1902 to Ralston Purina. In 1926 Purina Farms was founded to begin the process of testing both the nutrition level and taste-good-ness of the dog food the company was producing. Over the years Purina has continued to do research into the most nutritious and delicious food for all types of pets.

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                                                                      Cake #131 at Purina Farms

And now back to the story: so even though we didn’t get to check out any cool dog obstacle courses with dogs actually running on them, we did get to walk around the farm a bit and check out a few things without having to worry about dodging a crowd. Plus the cake for this location was especially cool and incorporated a pretty epic theme, so overall, I think we can count this adventure as a win – I will be back to see some dogs jumping over hurdles though!

 

The One in which Cake Monster Is Too Shaw-ked to Take a Souvenir – Shaw Nature Reserve #130

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IMG_2597After a rousing game of how close to a Ben Franklin mannequin is Cake Monster willing to get, Palmetto, Mercutio and I left the scene of the mannequin attack and headed to Gray Summit to check out Cake #130 at the Shaw Nature Reserve.

The Shaw Nature Reserve is actually an extension of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, which was founded in 1925. At the time, the Nature Reserve served as a plant life safe haven as there was a need to keep them away from the smoke pollution occurring at the time. Now the Reserve has become a place of not only natural beauty but educational value as well with numerous trails and areas to explore nature and a staff that’s equipped with all the natural knowledge you could ask for. The Reserve was even given the honor of being a National Environmental Education Landmark by the US Secretary of the Interior in 1972.

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                                                                                         Cake #130 at the Shaw Nature Reserve

As part of all this awesomeness, the Shaw Nature Reserve was given a super incredible cake with some very interesting details including little figurines of eagles and snakes and turtles which were oh so tempting to this Cake Monster who loves a good souvenir!

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                                                                                     Cake #130 at the Shaw Nature Reserve

 

 

 

 

I mean, look at that tiny turtle, how could you not want to take him home and keep him forever?

The temptation was real, but the sign near the cake, and the concern of both Palmetto and Mercutio, led me away from walking off with a new pocket turtle, which, in the end was

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                                                                                         Cake #130 at the Shaw Nature Reserve

probably the right thing to do (I guess). And now even though I don’t have a cute little bald eagle to take with me on my adventures, I do have the memory of trying to sneakily pry a super-glued-on snake from the bottom of the cake only to look up at the disapproving faces of Palmetto and Mercutio and quietly relinquishing my struggle in the spirit of solidarity with all the cake monsters that would come after me, and really it’s the thought that counts, I suppose.

 

Frankly, The Cake Hunting Mannequin Count Is Too Dang High! – Franklin County Courthouse #129

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Cake #129 at the Franklin County Courthouse

I like to think that with cake hunting there were cake locations along the way that were super interesting and were places that I’d likely never visit if it wasn’t for the opportunity to see a cake. And then…there were cake locations that just made me scratch my head and cross them off the list never really to be thought of again. Cake #129 at the Franklin County Courthouse falls into that second category.

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                                                                                           Cake #129 at the Franklin County Courthouse

Now don’t get me wrong, seeing a life size statue of Ben Franklin posed oh so sweetly on a park bench is fairly noteworthy, but other than that, the courthouse itself was unremarkable and not to mention closed when we arrived to see the cake.

Franklin County, if you couldn’t guess, was named for Benjamin Franklin and thus why his likeness sits outside the courthouse for all of eternity, just waiting to scare generations of cake hunters for the rest of time.

The county itself was founded in 1818 but the courthouse that now stands at the cake location was built in 1923 to replace the log cabin that had been used for the courthouse until then.

So, since none of the courthouse’s history seems all that different from the histories of other courthouses I’ve seen on the cake hunt, I’m assuming that the main reason for the cake placement was the statue, and despite my well documented fear of mannequins, Mercutio, Palmetto and I had a pretty good time taking some pictures with the statue version of Mr. Franklin – after lots of coaxing on their part to actually get me close to the mannequin long enough to take a picture with it.

My Bright Idea Goes Down in Flames – Meramec Caverns #128

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                                                                   Cake #128 at Meramec Caverns

Maybe it was the long drive, maybe it was the fact that we were only 2 cakes into a rather long hunt, or maybe it was something else all together, but one of the most memorable things about the first time I saw Cake #128 was giving no thought to what I was saying and blurting out, “But why does this cake have flames on the bottom?” To which Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban immediately responded, “Um, I’m pretty sure those are stalactites and stalagmites,” and Mercutio Krispytreats laughed uncontrollably.  Let’s be real though, those stalagmites at the bottom look A LOT like flames on first glance…right?? It’s also entirely possible that I had lost my mind at this point…but let’s not dwell on that possibility 😉

Fun Cake Fact: Cake #128 at Meramec Caverns happened to be the most southern as well as the western-most cake, located the farthest from downtown St. Louis. *End Fun Cake Fact*

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Cake #128 at Meramec Caverns

FB_IMG_1495062256916I’ve been to Meramec Caverns a few times over the years with family and friends since it’s not terribly far from where I grew up, but I was excited to explore at least part of the caverns with Mercutio and Palmetto, who had never been there before.

Quick history lesson: In 1720 Philipp Renault, a French dude, was taken on a excursion to the area that would become Meramec Caverns by an Osage Native American guide. At the entrance he was led to, he discovered a wealth of saltpeter which was used in gunpowder at the time. This discovery was both a blessing and a curse as it proved to be a profitable enterprise until the Civil War when Confederate troops destroyed a Union gunpowder stronghold inside the caves. As the years went on, the caves became a popular spot for locals to go dancing as there was a large naturally formed room in the caverns that was perfect for dancing especially in the hot summer months as the caverns are naturally cool year round. In 1933, Meramec Caverns was purchased by Lester Dill who turned the area into a tourist hot spot by promoting tours of the caves. Dill is credited with exploring much of the caverns and discovering such notable areas as where Jesse James and his gang supposedly hid out when they were on the run! Pretty sweet discovery! *End Quick history lesson*

Currently Meramec Caverns is the largest cave west of the Mississippi but, in my opinion, the most fun – you can take tours of the caves, zip line through different parts of the property and even camp there if you like.

We did not take a tour at the time of our cake hunt, but we did have fun exploring the open part of the cave that comes complete with fun house type mirrors which Mercutio and Palmetto particularly enjoyed.

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                                                                           Cake #128 at Meramec Caverns

Plus as we were walking back to the car, on our way to the next cake of the hunt, Palmetto and I began an impromptu tradition that would continue even into the years after the cake hunt – thinking of random song lyrics and singing them to each other thus creating a whole new mashed up song with roots in all different genres. It may not sound super exciting, but to us, it’s wonderful. And so to choruses of Purple Raiiiin and Americaaa, Mercutio, Palmetto and I left the caverns for the next part of our adventure!

 

The One in which We Generally Head in the Right Direction – Head’s General Store #127

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                                                                  Cake #127 at Head’s General Store 

Sooo West County’s a big place and despite my seeming confidence in where I was geographically and where we needed to go to see the rest of the cakes on our hunt, I was pretty lost as soon as we started traveling through St. Albans, and we lost cell phone service. In case you’ve never heard of St. Albans before this post, which I hadn’t before the hunt, it is this cute little unincorporated part of Franklin County that includes a school, golf course and apparently pretty weak cell phone towers. But through sheer will power and stubborn determination, we powered through the cell phone dead zone and drove this way and that until we found what we had been looking for: Head’s General Store and Cake #127.

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                                                                           Cake #127 at Head’s General Store 

While it may not look like much due the repairs happening at the time, Head’s General Store is on the National Register of Historic Places and has in been in continuous operation since 1892. Originally called St. Albans General Store, it was renamed after longtime owner Mae Pfeiffer Head to commemorate her family purchasing the store in 1915.

The area around St. Albans itself is pretty notable in that in 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed through it, and apparently, according to legend, our good friend Meriwether Lewis slipped and almost fell from a cliff 300 feet above the caves that members of the expedition were exploring. Lewis was only saved by – get this – thinking on his feet and digging his sweet knife into the ground to stop his fall. Are. You. Kidding. Me? Such a hardcore awesome move there, dude!

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                                                 Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban, Cake Monster and Mercutio Krispytreats 

On our trip to see the cake, Mercutio, Palmetto and I did not encounter any caves or dangerous cliffs into which we could dig our knives to save ourselves from falling, but we did get to see a little more of the St. Albans area thanks to some unplanned detours as well as admire a pretty sweet coffee cup filled cake which still ranks up there as one of my most favorite cake designs.

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Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban and Cake #127

Time to Get Our Babler On – Babler State Park #126

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IMG_2570It was the best of the cake hunting times; it was the worst of the cake hunting times…nah, not really, it had been pretty good up until this point! But with the middle milestone cake out of the way and a new cake hunting companion along for the ride, it just felt right to go with something dramatic and so here we are. 🙂

For this series of cakes, I decided to switch it up a bit and instead of heading into the city and beyond, I would plan our trip around the cakes in West County and beyond, adding some spice to the hunt but mostly keeping it in my old stomping grounds.

And so for this trip, I was once again joined by my trusty cake-venture companion Mercutio Krispytreats and his fantastic boyfriend Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban who not only comes up with amazing nicknames but also shares my love for impromptu song creation, but more on that later.

The first location on the list was Babler State Park, which is located in Chesterfield and *woah* is it beautiful.

The cake was placed near the information center which also happened to be near a cute fountain which of course we had to document. Once sufficient fountain photos had been taken, we headed into the information center to poke around.

Ok, so while there were no real human-like mannequins in this information center, there were enough animal type mannequins to render me a little uneasy of the place.

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                                                                        Really no need to go sticking your hand in a mysterious shadow box in my opinion 

Mercutio and Palmetto seemed to have much more of an adventurous spirit at this point and were even reaching their hands into dark crevices to check out “surprises” that helped them learn about nature – yeah, that’s a no thanks from me!

After we had exhausted all that the information center had to offer, we headed back out into the park to check out a large statue we had seen on the drive in. Walking all around it and reading the signs, we learned that the statue was of Dr. Edmund A Babler.

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                                                               Dr. Edmund Babler statue

Babler was a well known surgeon in the area with a deep sense of compassion and drive to help the less fortunate. Upon his death in the 1930s, the land for the state park was donated by his brother who was a huge proponent of the state park system and wanted to contribute land and resources to honor his brother. Currently the park has 13 miles of trails, numerous campsites and recreation areas and impressive natural attractions such as century old trees in some parts of the grounds. Plus all of the stone used to build the buildings and bridges were quarried locally which is just incredible.

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                                                                    Cake #126 at Babler State Park

 

And so, with some new knowledge, some exciting(?) animal mannequins and a few breaths of state park fresh air, Palmetto Joseph Ray-Ban had conquered his first cake of the hunt, and Mercutio and I could both agree that it really was the beginning of the best of our cake hunting times.

They Built This Church of Rock and Stone – Bonhomme Old Stone Church #125

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10407008_828240108525_3432729700264754289_nSome milestones happen with a lot of planning and preparation, and with so much pomp and circumstance, while other milestones, like the hunt for Cake #125, happen quietly and without much planning but are just as memorable.

At this point in the cake game, as far as I knew, there were only going to be 250 cakes placed around the St. Louis area (“St. Louis area” being a very, very loose phrase in some cases), and so Cake #125 was exactly halfway – that turning point from “I think I might be able to find all 250 cakes” to “I’m definitely going to be able to find all 250 cakes.”

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                                                    Cake #125 at Bonhomme Old Stone Church

For this cake hunt, it was just Mama Monster and myself, and if memory serves, I believe we were headed out for some other type of adventure when I suggested we try to find the cake at Bonhomme Old Stone Church since it’s located very close to Chesterfield Mall where we were planning to adventure anyway.

While the cake itself was incredible to look at, what added a little spice to this hunt was the fact that while we had the address of the cake location, the GPS kept leading us down the same dirt path which seemed to go on forever and ever with no cake in sight and which we traversed several times before listening to the cake senses we had honed over the past few months and taking a turn we hadn’t tried yet which thankfully eventually lead to our destination!

10440965_828240188365_7853852708875434188_nBonhomme Old Stone Church was built in 1841 when a meeting space was needed for the Presbyterian Church that had been established in what is now Chesterfield – the very first one in the St. Louis area. What makes this church unique, however, is the fact that it has two stories – the lower level being used for a public school and the upper for worship services.

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                                                                    Cake #125 at Bonhomme Old Stone Church

This is unusual because at the time most churches were built directly on the ground and only contained one level. Sadly the advent of the Civil War and its aftermath caused the church’s population to decline, and it eventually closed its doors. But while the church does not currently hold worship services, it is still used for historic tours (add another notch on the list of cakes placed at locations that are on the National Register for Historic Places!) and special events including weddings.

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                                                                  Cake #125 at Bonhomme Old Stone Church 

With this cake being kind of  a loner cake for the area, it seemed very fitting for it to be the middle milestone cake of the entire hunt.

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                                                       Cake #125 at Bonhomme Old Stone Church 

And, really, what better way is there to celebrate such an occasion than with a cow wearing a party hat and blowing a festive horn on the side of a giant cake? 🙂