Not All Who Wander Find Great Inspiration – National Great Rivers Museum #123

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For our final Illinois cake of the day, Miles and I set out from Lincoln Douglas Square to find the National Great Rivers Museum, which should have been close by as both claim to be located in Alton, IL. However, a possible wrong turn here and a loop around there found my GPS leading us down a gravel road to a parking lot that had a sweet overlook of the river but that in no way resembled a museum.

IMG_2538The rain having mostly cleared at this point, though, Miles and I decided to make the most of our current situation, and so we climbed out of the car to look around and take in the scenery. The little parking lot actually led straight down to the river, so of course Miles and I walked as far out on the rock pathway as we dared to look down on the water rushing on either side of us.

IMG_2539From this vantage point, I could see a building that look museum-ish across the way, and the feeling that I sometimes got while cake hunting (but tried to ignore) – that I was never going to find the cake I was searching for – instantly lifted.

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Check out the 7 Word Story for this photo at sevenwordstorytelling.wordpress.com

On our way back to the car, I stopped to check out some graffiti on a pillar by the water, and snapped pictures of the more meaningful pieces of wisdom left there. And as we drove to the museum, a little idea started to form in my mind for another blog, one where I would write short stories that were only 7 words long, inspired by a picture that either myself or someone I knew had taken. As I pulled my car into the museum parking lot just across the way from the little park, the Seven Word Stories blog was born, and Cake #123 was in front of us. (PS That was a seemingly sneaky/not so sneaky way to suggest you check out my Seven Word Stories blog if you haven’t already!)

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Cake #123 at the National Great Rivers Museum 

The National Great Rivers Museum was built in 2003 to give visitors a better understanding of the importance of the Mississippi River. The museum includes several large scale models of different aspects of the river and other interactive exhibits that show the impact the river has had not only on the wild and plant life that rely on it, but the way it impacts humanity as well. The museum offers free tours 3 times a day but self-guided tours are encouraged as well.

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Cake #123 at the National Great Rivers Museum 

On the day of our cake hunt, Miles and I did not make an attempt to gain entry into the museum, but even just seeing the fountain outside the museum near the cake was enough to make the trek worthwhile. Miles particularly liked how shallow the fountain was so he could walk along the length of it if he wanted, and he most certainly did.

Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Lincoln Douglas Square #122

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img_2530.jpgSo there we were again, back in the car waiting for the rainstorm to pass. At this point, both Miles and I had succumbed to the fact that neither our hair nor our fur would ever have enough time to fully dry out on this trip, and we had embraced the hot messes that we had become. So, empowered by the knowledge that the rain was not to be feared but to be enjoyed, we ventured out in the just barely less than pouring rain to check out Cake #122 at Lincoln Douglas Square.

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Cake #122 at Lincoln Douglas Square 

In addition to feeling more alive as each raindrop pushed down my already soaked attempt at a cute hair day, I discovered that the rain was also somehow tempering my fear of mannequins! Because this cake location didn’t just feature one terrifying mannequin, but in fact two mannequins, with the cake directly in the center of their debate. And surprisingly enough, for the duration of my time spent with this cake, I only felt my heart jump in my throat once as I stared into the eyes of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas.

IMG_2531We were in the land of Lincoln, after all, as several signs around town reminded us, and I was eager to learn more about the location of this cake.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln challenged Stephen A. Douglas to a series of seven debates as they both campaigned for a seat on the US Senate. Each of these debates lasted three hours and was held across the congressional districts. Interestingly enough at the time of the first debate, Lincoln was relatively unknown in the political world, but by the time of the seventh and final debate in Alton, IL, the debates had garnered so much attention that it was attended by about 5,000 people including members of the press and other political figures.

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                     Cake #122 at                                      Lincoln Douglas Square

 

The final debate took place on October 15 in front of Alton City Hall where the memorial now stands. And although Lincoln did not win the seat in the Senate, in 1860 he beat out Douglas for the presidency, so I suppose you could say things turned out for the best.

Despite the rain and the mannequins, I’m a pretty big fan of this cake location and think on it fondly. For me, this cake location brought history a little closer to home. It may just be me, but when I think of many major historical events, I tend to think of them as having happened in a time and place very far away from my own. But this memorial was a great reminder that amazing historical things were happening just across the river, even if they were many, many years before I was born, and that’s a pretty excellent realization.

I was also pretty stoked on this spot because not only was the cake easily viewed from a far enough distance that I didn’t have to risk getting too close to the mannequins to snap a quick photo, but I also have photographic evidence that Miles shares my same hesitancy for all things mannequin:

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Cake #122 at Lincoln Douglas Square 

Note the small pup by Mr. Lincoln’s right foot, tentatively sniffing with his neck outstretched in case he has to make a quick getaway.

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Cake #122 at Lincoln Douglas Square

And so with some dramatic weather related fanfare, our time in Illinois was coming to a close. With some renewed vigor for the final few cakes of the day, we hopped back in the car without even bothering to shake off the rain and headed to our last IL cake and second to last cake of the day.

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? 🙂 🙂