You know when you’re excited to experience something? Like the been waiting for this moment for a while now and can’t wait until it arrives kind of excited? And then when you finally get there, and you’re living the dream, out of nowhere a mannequin surprise attack happens, and you’re left questioning everything? No? Just me? Well let’s go back a bit, and we’ll see if we can figure out where it all went wrong.
For our third cake of the day, Mama Monster and Cake Monster drove a little bit west of Collinsville, IL to check out the cake at Cahokia Mounds. Neither of us had ever been to this historic site, and we were both pretty excited – ever since I saw on the cake list that this location was home to a cake, I couldn’t wait to plan a trip to see it. As for why there were multiple cake in IL when we were celebrating St. Louis’ birthday…that is a question for another time!
Things started out predictably enough. We drove up to the informational building in front of the mounds, spied the cake, and took our customary pictures with it. And even though our goal for the location was accomplished, how could you arrive at such a historic site and not explore around a little bit? So we went inside, and immediately upon entering an older gentleman with an embroidered vest indicating he was an employee of the information center ambled over to us and asked us how we were doing. We told him fine out of habit and asked him how he was doing, to which he replied, no joke, “TERRIBLE!” And when I say this was how he replied what I mean to say is that he yelled this in a super loud old man yell and then laughed at/in our shocked faces. I mean, how do you recover from that? Since there is no polite way to just turn and run in the other direction, we kind of just nodded with dazed expressions on our faces and then slowly backed away clutching each other’s hand. So that’s how the day started.
And just as I was recovering from that trauma, Mama Monster says, “Hey, let’s check out this huge, poorly lit exhibit over here. There’s no way there are terrifying mannequins inside!” or something to that effect. So I followed her lead into the exhibit, which no joke I still have nightmares about. We were literally surrounded on all sides by suspicious looking mannequins going about their lives as if they weren’t going to be inhabiting my dreams for the rest of my life. And I tried to be brave, I really did, but when I raised my camera to gather evidence of the assault on my eyes that was taking place, I swear I saw one wink, and I was outta there!
Now I’m sure there was tons of useful information presented in this fun house of horrors, but I was too shaky and anxious to do anything but check over my shoulder for sudden mannequin movements.
But as Mama Monster explained to me as we emerged from the other side of the exhibit, and I made a mental note of the closest exit just in case, was that Cahokia Mounds are significant because they are the most sophisticated prehistoric remains of a native civilization north of Mexico. The area surrounding the mounds was inhabited from 700-1400 AD and during its heyday it was home to between 10,000 to 20,000 people! According to the informational website for Cahokia Mounds, there are a total of 104 mounds in the area to check out, but Mama Monster and this Cake Monster were focused on the big one – Monks Mound. And let me tell you, this one was a beast!
Monks Mound, named for the monks who lived there for a bit, is the largest man-made earthen mound north of Mexico. According to Wikipedia (I know), it is, “…100 ft high, 951 ft long, 836 ft wide and covers 13.8 acres.” And we climbed that bad boy. From the pictures, it’s a little difficult to tell, but I am not exaggerating when I say it probably took us a good 20 minutes, and all of the energy I had left after the mannequin attack, to get to the top of this mound, but it was totally worth it.
Admittedly it was a little daunting to be at the top of the mound, especially because there were no guard rails or any type of barrier preventing you from tumbling down the side of the mound, but the view was incredible. From the top you could see across the expanse of Cahokia to the other mounds, the visitor center, the car and, I swear, back into St. Louis!
Standing on top of that mound and looking out onto what the native people must have seen when they stood atop it was really a humbling experience, plus there were no nice concrete stairs back then, so a journey to the top must have been just that – a real journey.
But we could only bask in the glow of our newly conquered mound for so long before we started to hear the call of the other cakes on our list and mustered our strength for the climb back down the steps which was, not surprisingly, just as difficult as climbing up them – at least going up you weren’t always aware of just how far you could fall if you tripped!
And, I guess I can admit that the sights atop the mound and the information learned went a long way to counteract the sheer terror I felt when in the mannequin lair, but as I said before, that memory haunts me still. And to commemorate our trip, and because it was soon to be Mother’s Day, I purchased a pair of authentic turquoise earrings for Mama Monster, and in a last ditch effort to ward off any lingering mannequin shadows, a dream catcher for myself. And while I can’t say that it’s done its job perfectly, I can’t imagine the dreams I’d be having without it!