Legends of the Bird – Piasa Bird #121

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Cake #121 at the Piasa Bird

Oh man, was I stoked for this one! Although Miles and I would eventually see a record 10 cakes in total during our rainy tromp through Illinois, when I began planning this trip a few days prior, the one cake I was beyond excited to see was the one at the Piasa Bird!

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                                                   Cake #121 at the Piasa Bird

The origins of the Piasa (pronounced Pie-a-saw, which let’s be real, I had no idea this was the way you said it until I saw the pronunciation written down) Bird date back to 1673 when our good old Illinois friend Father Jacques Marquette was traveling down the Mississippi River with Louis Joliet and made note in his diary of a “birdlike monster” painted on the bluffs that are now known as Alton, IL.

In his diary, Marquette wrote that the Piasa Bird “was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs” (source). And if you take a look at the pictures I took during our cake hunting trip, you can see what he was talking about.

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                                                   Cake #121 at the Piasa Bird

The Piasa Bird itself supposedly got its name from the Illini tribe of Native Americans who named it after a bird that devours men…lovely!

Despite how cool the history of this painting is, prior to our trip, I had never heard it before and was mainly intrigued about the location because 1.) I love sketchy cave paintings 2.) The Piasa Bird is located off the Great River Road, which if you’ve never been, I highly recommend! It’s a two lane road through Illinois that has beautiful caves and green bluffs on one side and a beautiful scenic view of the river on the other. This trip marked one of the first, but certainly not the last time I would get to take the Great River Road during my cake hunting adventures, and it never disappointed!

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                                                   You know there’s sketchy stuff in there!

Plus as luck would have it, the rain held out long enough for us to really take in the area of the cake and the painting, and even get as close to the cave openings behind the painting as the cop parked at the site would allow us to…which was not very close, sadly.

img_2526I think Miles enjoyed this cake stop too as there were many interesting things for him to smell and he even got to look super majestic atop the sign for the site, which is something he never tires of getting to do.

So after spending quite a bit of time at this location admiring the cake and the Piasa Bird and reading all the signs we could, Miles and I felt satisfied that we had learned all that we could from this location and said our goodbyes until the next time our travels took us to this part of Illinois.

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

 

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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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!

The Sketchiest Square Beyond Compare – Imo’s Pizza #113

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2014-05-30-19-41-28There are just certain things about living in St. Louis that all St. Louisans can relate to – enjoying toasted ravs, being asked where you went to high school, and of course Imo’s pizza. There’s just something about that thin crust and Provel cheese that you either love or you can’t stand, but you’d definitely know that unique combination anywhere.

So after starting our trip with an ice cream parlor, and then taking a little detour into city beautification land, Mercutio Krispytreats and I were ready to end our evening with a carry-out pizza from Imo’s because who could pass up such an opportunity?

2014-05-30-19-41-18Currently there are 96 or so Imo’s stores around the St. Louis area, but it all started with Ed and Margie Imo’s first pizza shop on Thurman and Shaw, where the cake was conveniently placed. Before getting into the pizza business, Ed and Margie had no prior knowledge of how to run a pizza shop but knew that the one thing St. Louis was definitely missing was a pizza delivery service. So in 1964 the first Imo’s pizza location was born and for a long time it was only open in the evenings for delivery or carry out. But with the success of their delivery idea and their signature thin crust and Provel cheese, Ed and Margie were able to open more and more pizza shops and serve us all the delicious pizza that seems to somehow signify St. Louis even to out-of-towners.

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Cake #113 at Imo’s Pizza 

With all this glorious pizza knowledge in mind, and hungry bellies, Mercutio and I figured we’d find the cake, snap a few photos and then call in a pick-up order for our dinner. But because neither of us had ever been to the original Imo’s location, we thought finding the cake would be the difficult part, and per usual with cake hunting, we had no idea what was really in store for us.

We were feeling pretty good about things as we circled the intersection of Thurman and Shaw as we scouted out both the cake and a good place to park the car. After our customary selfies with the cake and general admiration of the artwork, we jumped back in the car to place the order for our dinner, which turned out to be such an easy task that we also had that part accomplished before we even left the cake in our rear view mirror. Now all we had to do was drive to the location, pay, and pick up our food and then be on our merry way, free to go home and enjoy the end to a great cake hunt.

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Cake #113 at Imo’s Pizza

We put the Imo’s location into the GPS and started in that direction, and things were going great until the GPS started having us make turn after turn after sketchy turn, and we started to get suspicious. We chalked our suspicions up to our rumbling bellies and patiently turned back to the GPS. But when we kept making circles and weren’t any closer to pizza heaven, we knew something was up. Finally, with thoughts of abandoning our pizza dreams dancing in our heads, Mercutio said he thought he can get us there from memory and we began again.

Thankfully the gods of Provel cheese were on our side because just a few minutes after Mercutio took over the directions, we saw the most beautiful sight: an Imo’s sign fast approaching. Once inside, we practically threw our dollars at the cash register as we hurried out the door with our pizza prize. Getting home was a snap, and once we hit the front door, only seconds stood between us and Provel cheese goodness, and it really all did seem worth the wait.