Sunshine in My Pocket – Alton Visitor Center #120

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Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center 

And just like that, the clouds parted, the rain lifted and for a few quick cake sightings, we were engulfed in glorious, glorious sunshine.

Miles and I were determined not to miss this opportunity to bask in the break in precipitation, and so we scurried over to Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center and took turns admiring its majesty.

Pretty much like all other visitor centers in pretty much all the other places you’ve ever visited, this one boasts pamphlets and brochures galore about all the unique and wonderful things there are to do in Alton, which were mostly locations that had cakes, so I didn’t have to worry about missing anything.

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Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center

I will say that due to my many cake-ventures that took me over the river, I was a pretty frequent visitor to Alton in 2014, and it is really something to see. It was the first place I drove past every time I made my way into Illinois, and there was just something breathtaking about driving over the architecturally incredible bridge and then arriving in a place I was starting to get to know pretty well.

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Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center

Alton is also home to the Great River Road which has been named the Best Fall Drive in the Midwest and let me tell you, even on a rainy day in June, it is still pretty spectacular! But I think the part I enjoyed most about Alton was the way it felt like such a nice small town so close to home. And with how many times I traversed it in my travels, it was always a welcome sight because I knew that no matter how far into the wilds of Illinois I went, as soon as that bridge was in view, I was on my way home.

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Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center

 

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head – Robert Wadlow Statue #119

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Robert Wadlow 

Besides being an applicable title for this blog post about rainy day cake hunting and just some great lyrics to hum along to whenever it’s stormy out, this song has the perfect couple of lines for Cake #119: And just like the guy whose feet / Are too big for his bed / Nothing seems to fit…well you know how the rest goes. But the reason those lyrics are so significant for this cake is because it is in honor of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in the world!

Robert only lived to the age of 22 but when he died he was 8 feet 11.1 inches tall! He was born in Alton, IL in 1918 and by the time he was 9 years old he was already over 6 feet.

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Cake #119 at the Robert Wadlow Statue 

His impressive stature was due to a pituitary anomaly that caused his body to continually make the growth hormone, so if he had not died so young of a foot infection, there is no telling how tall he may have grown to be.

Robert had planned to become an attorney but because of his size and brittle bones, attending classes was difficult for him, and so he joined the circus at age 19 before taking to the road at age 20 with his father as a spokesperson for the International Shoe Company.

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A Replica of Robert Wadlow’s Chair

When Robert died in 1940 most businesses in Alton shut down for the day so that the whole town could honor their favorite giant. Then in 1985 a bronze statue of Robert was erected and placed across from the SIUE Dental School.

While all of this history is incredibly fascinating, I do have to say that dragging a waterlogged pup through a space that is mostly occupied by a literally giant mannequin is not an ideal situation to admire a cake! However seeing the statue/mannequin was admittedly pretty amazing and by this point we were already as drenched as we were going to get, so we carried on even amidst strange looks from passersby with umbrellas who pretty much just shook their heads as they watched us frolic, and I can’t say I blame them.

Rain on Our Parade – Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower #118

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img_2506It finally happened. On the fourth cake of the day, our luck ran out and Miles and I were treated to a sudden and heavy downpour just as we pulled into the parking lot for Cake #118 at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower. So, since the day had otherwise been mostly sunny, we did what seemed like the only plan of action – waiting in the car and bonding over our shared conclusion that Illinois was not a fan of our cake adventures.

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Entrance to the Confluence Tower

While we waited, it was practically impossible not to admire the enormous structure directly in front of us. Soaring to a staggering 180 feet, the Confluence Tower was constructed in 2010 to commemorate the location where Lewis and Clark set sail on their momentous expedition. With viewing platforms at 50, 100 and 150 feet, you can not only take in the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers but supposedly you can also see all the way to the Gateway Arch if it’s a clear enough day, which, of course, on the day of our expedition, it was anything but.

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Miles admiring Clark’s biography

So for one of the first times, but certainly not the last, this Cake Monster swallowed what was left of her pride (and let’s be honest, vanity, because there is no coming back from rain on curly hairs) and decided it was time to let Miles run wild in the rain so we could continue with our hunt.

As you walk up to the entrance to the Confluence Tower there are two little areas with concrete steps and water running over them on either side with a likeness of Lewis and his biography on one and Clark on the other. Since we were basically alone at this point in the day, and we were already soaking wet, I let Miles decide which side to check out first and because he’s a history buff, he chose Clark and jumped right into that side’s water steps without a second thought.

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Cake #118 at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower

The cake itself was a bit behind the tower just past a little water fountain that again Miles sampled as we passed by because a pug’s gotta do what a pug’s gotta do, and I was too waterlogged and soggy to stop him.

After we had walked around a bit, I saw there was a museum type place located a few feet from the cake, and so I poked my head in just to look around and of course Miles saw his opening and barged in after me as if he had been there many times before. The teenagers who were working the front desk thought seeing Miles was the best thing since sliced bread and didn’t even stop him from looking around and sniffing all the artifacts he came across. They even said that we could climb the tower if we wanted to for free, but as I realized just how many steps that would amount to with a lazy little pup, I had to pass saying we had other cakes to visit before our time in Illinois was over.

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Cake #118 at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower

So we said goodbye, and like Lewis and Clark, headed back into in the wild Illinois unknown, hoping for good weather, a strong sense of direction and hopefully no further obstacles on the way to our next destination.

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Cake #118 at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower

Welcome to Illinois Where the Street Names Are Confusing and a Pup’s Dreams Don’t Matter – Lewis and Clark State Historic Site #117

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Cake #117 at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site 

Miles James is a simple pup. He likes simple things like food, a good rawhide to chew on, his various stuffed animals and visiting cakes. And so he was absolutely devastated when we arrived at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site during our Illinois adventure, and he was told he had to wait in the car because the cake was inside the building.

Ok, quick rant: For real, I did not understand then and I do not understand now why some cakes were placed inside buildings – like business type buildings with events and people and operating hours!  Also some of these buildings were not open on the weekends, so in order to make sure I saw all the cakes, I had to plan specific days off work to check out some of the indoor cakes – not ideal, yo! I guess I can assume that a small reason why some cakes were inside was to preserve those cakes from the elements and general vandalism, but what about the other poor cakes? Are they not good enough to have an inside house and not an outside one? *sigh* End rant.

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Cake #117 at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site 

What made this inside cake even more of a frustrating find was the fact that it was incredibly difficult to locate. For some reason my GPS (aka my old school Garmin) wasn’t bringing me to the right location, and I kept driving down the same street expecting to see a turn I had missed or a big statue or even the cake, but nothing. I drove down and around this same location so many times a kindly police officer even asked me where I was headed and when I told him, he just said, “Yeah, there are a lot of Lewis and Clark things around here, but I’m sure you’ll find it eventually.”

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Cake #117 at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site 

Luckily, or unluckily as it may be for Miles, I tried a slightly different route to my new favorite road and that led us to the cake location. Once we arrived, I promised Miles that I would be quick and pretty much skip-ran to the building where I could see the cake in the window, praying the building was open. Thankfully it was!

Since I had Miles waiting in the car, I didn’t get a chance to really poke around too much in the museum part, but I learned that this historic site was home to Camp River Dubois which served as Lewis and Clark’s winter camp from December of 1803 to May of 1804. During that time the men who camped with Lewis and Clark helped prepare for the spring expedition by gathering supplies and hunting. Pretty neat actually to see another Lewis and Clark location after Miles and I had previously checked out the Boat House in St. Charles on a cake hunt that seemed so long ago.

Thankfully the sky had turned cloudy but hadn’t started to pour yet, so even though Miles wasn’t able to be with me, I still enjoyed a short walk around the cake and the front of the building where there was an interesting (and super reflective) rock? statue? commemorating the location.

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Cake #117 at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site

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Miles Gets Schooled – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville #116

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img_2492And so the Cake Monster and Miles James Illinois adventure continued with a thankfully still sunny second stop at Cake #116 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville or SIUE.

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Cake #116 at SIUE

Previously Miles James and I had visited the cake at Lindenwood University as well as the cake at Webster University, and both times I was more than a little worried about the rules governing cute little pug pups on campus. And even though both of those cake hunts occurred without incident, I still had a few butterflies in my belly about tempting the pug policy at yet another institution of higher learning.

But just as we were lucky enough to still be cake hunting in the sunshine, we were able to tramp about campus at least for a bit without even running into a solitary student, which was nice. The one person we did run into was a fellow cake hunter who was ADAMANT about taking a picture of Miles and I in front of the cake, which I suppose isn’t all bad as that photo turned out to be one of my favorites from the year-long hunt.

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Cake #116 at SIUE

However even that assertive encounter that brought me in front of the camera for a quick cake pose, didn’t deter the quiet simplicity of roaming a college campus relatively undisturbed. And the campus itself was pretty impressive. The idea for a college institution in the Alton/East St. Louis/Edwardsville area began in 1955 when locals began to realize that there were not enough opportunities in the area for those interested in attending a higher education institution that was close to home and affordable.img_2488 By 1957 two campuses were opened, one in Alton and one in East St. Louis, but as enrollment climbed, those in charge looked for a larger, more permanent home for the college and settled on Edwardsville where ground was broken for what would become SIUE in 1963.

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Cake #116 at SIUE

Apparently the campus is also famous for the Mississippi River Festival which ran from 1969 to 1980 and featured such well-known artists as Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and Elton John. While there are apparently no plans to revive this festival, this Cake Monster, for one, thinks that that sounded like a pretty sweet set up and would definitely be on board if it were brought back.

I Bless the Rains over in Illinois! – Clinton County Courthouse #115

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Cake #115 at the Clinton County Courthouse

It was always something with Illinois, I swear.🙂 First, I was visually assaulted with mannequin after mannequin after mannequin on my first trip across the border with Mama Monster, and then on this trip, it stormed so often that I eventually just realized that if you love something as much as I love cake hunting, you’re willing to go for it even at the risk of frizzy hairs and a wet puppy smell that lingers in your car for weeks.

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Cake #115 at the Clinton County Courthouse

The first cake of the day was at the Clinton County Courthouse in Carlyle, IL. And thankfully at this point in the hunt, the sky was still only rumbling and had not yet burst open, so we were able to enjoy the cake in a general state of dryness – although Miles James did make a silly pug face at having to be woken up from his car nap for a courthouse cake with sailboats on it, which, if you think about it, might have been a pretty obvious suggestion for the type of vehicle we should have been traveling in the rest of the day!

From what I can gather, what makes the Clinton County Courthouse worthy of a cake is the fact that it is the county seat of Carlyle, IL.

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Cake #115 at the Clinton County Courthouse

I did discover that Carlyle is home to Illinois’ largest man-made lake and that Clinton County is named for DeWitt Clinton, a former governor of New York, who helped build the Erie Canal. Overall not too shabby, I suppose.

As usual, Miles James was a crowd favorite and was given quite a few head scratches and compliments on our short trip from the cake to the car, and the cake itself was very well done, but even this warm reception back into Illinois was not enough to prepare us for the eventual torrents of water that were to plague the majority of our day – is it obvious that I’m still bitter?🙂🙂

 

Hot on the Trail – Grant’s Trail #114

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Cake #114 at Grant’s Trail

Oh glorious, glorious cake-redemption, you are so, so sweet. During the year of the cake hunt, there was nothing quite as satisfying as finally being able to locate a cake that had previously been a sad cake fail. And Cake #114 at Grant’s Trail was one such redemption cake.

The first attempt at finding this cake took place a few weeks prior when even though my official list of placed cakes said that the Grant’s Trail cake was out and available for everyone to enjoy, we simply could not find it. On that trip, we even went so far as to park the car on a super sketchy patch of road that I’m like 85% positive wasn’t meant for cars, and then walk several paces in either direction only to end up with heavy hearts and sadness where cake happiness should be.

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Cake #114 at Grant’s Trail 

But this trip – the trip where we actually came face to face with the cake in all its glory – was the complete opposite of our failed attempt and therefore that much more wonderful.

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The trail. Ooh. Aah.

Grant’s Trail, which, in case you hadn’t guessed, was named for former President Ulysses S Grant and is about 8 miles long. The trail is about 10 miles from the Arch, but it runs all the way to Kirkwood. Apparently the trail follows an old rail line so there’s tons of history already built into the trail itself not to mention the other hot spots you can visit if you follow the trail including Grant’s Farm and a few other of Grant’s properties.

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Cake #114 at Grant’s Trail 

Mercutio Krispytreats and I did make a little use of the trail during our time visiting the cake, walking up the trail past the cake and back down, but even better than this pause for exercise was the special feeling that one more cake could be crossed off the list, and as it was the only cake on the list for that day, our cake hunting mission had been accomplished!