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? 🙂

 

Finally We Find Ourselves at a Fort – Fort Belle Fontaine #124

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                                                                      Cake #124 at Fort Belle Fontaine

Finally, after a long day of rain, Illinois adventures and more rain, Miles and I headed back over the bridge into a familiar state, sunshine and St. Louis!

As we were making our way home, it occurred to me that we just might have enough time to visit one more cake, and so with that thought, the decision was made, and we were off to Fort Belle Fontaine.

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                                                                      Cake #124 at Fort Belle Fontaine

Interesting fact that I did not know before cake hunting: Fort Belle Fontaine, and other Forts, I’m assuming, have a curfew that is strictly enforced! Miles and I discovered this as we pulled up to the entrance to the Fort and were greeted by a nice gentleman with a clipboard who asked us what business we had going into the Fort. I was about to tell him about my cake-ventures when Miles bounded up onto my lap from the passenger seat and stuck his head out the window towards the man. And with a few licks from Miles, the man’s professionalism dissolved and he leaned over to pet him and tell us to have a good time exploring. Score one point for having a cute pup along for the ride!

 

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                                                                                      Cake #124 at Fort Belle Fontaine

Fort Belle Fontaine was established in 1805 and is the first US military installation west of the Mississippi. It has had some pretty famous visitors in its history including Lewis and Clark, who stayed at the Fort on the last night of their expedition. Over time, the Fort became a refuge for those exploring the Louisiana Territory and a gathering place for those who provided the Fort with supplies. In 1986 it was officially labeled a St. Louis County Park.

 

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                                                                                           Cake #124 at Fort Belle Fontaine

Thankfully Miles and I didn’t have to go far to find the cake at this location, which was nice since we were already waterlogged enough from our travels. We did happen to come across the Fort at the right time of day, however, because as we looked out across the barrier onto the lower levels of the Fort, the sun was just setting, and Miles and I took a deep breath and gave each other high-fives as we realized we had accomplished quite an impressive cake hunting day indeed.

 

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.