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

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.

 

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.

Put a Little Moon in Your Rise and Shine – Moonrise Hotel #109

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Cake #109 at the Moonrise Hotel 

Just like a lot of great nights out, this particular cake-venture ended with a trip to the Delmar Loop. In 2014, the year of the Great Cake Hunt, the streets of the Loop were absolutely flooded with cakes from the University City Lion Gates when you first enter the Loop to the Regional Arts Commission almost at the end of the street. Plus the first ever intentional cake hunt that Miles and I embarked upon took place on a cold winter’s night in the Loop.

But since the cake-putter-outer people decided to place the cakes in increments instead of all at once, Miles and I found ourselves once again in the Loop looking for cakes we hadn’t seen. The first of these on this excursion was at the Moonrise Hotel, which let me tell you, is a pretty stellar place.

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Cake #109 at the Moonrise Hotel 

The Moonrise Hotel was opened in 2009 by a man named Joe Edwards who wanted to revive the Delmar Loop and bring in more colorful and exciting attractions for visitors. As part of this, he decked out the Moonrise Hotel with a lunar theme and created specialty rooms that are described as “quirky,” and much like the Cheshire Hotel, revolve around a theme, which in the case of the Moonrise Hotel, is famous St. Louisans from Josephine Baker to Tennessee Williams.

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The Moonrise Hotel 

Inside the Moonrise Hotel is the modern American restaurant Eclipse and of course, the famous Rooftop Terrace Bar which seems like a great place to imbibe some liquid courage to confront your fear of heights. And you can’t miss the fantastically enormous sculpture of the moon at the top of the hotel which when seen at night rivals the actual moon itself in terms of awesomeness.

Memories at the MetroLink- Shrewsbury MetroLink Station #106

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Cake #106 at the Shrewsbury MetroLink Station

Ok, so this one was a little weird….I guess I should have known to be a little wary of this cake in the first place because it was located at a MetroLink Station, which in and of itself is not sketchy per se, but, on that day and to this day, I keep coming back to one question, “Why?”

With the majority of the other cakes on this and my other hunts, I can usually think to myself, “Surely this old building/museum/statue has some historical significance to St. Louis or the mid-west, even if I don’t know what it is yet”, but a MetroLink Station? In Shrewsbury? Still not too sure about that one. And even after searching for some fun tidbits or interesting data about the location, the best I could come up with is that this branch of the MetroLink was built in 2006 and was renamed in 2008 to the Blue Line…other than that…not so much! Granted, I will give St. Louis some props for having such a transit system in place at all, but I’m not so sure that decision warranted a cake.

So even with questions on my mind on the day of the hunt, Miles and I still went on with the show and I parked the car in the parking lot so we could walk to the cake which was under an enclosure. Now this enclosure is right where the MetroLink takes on passengers and leaves them off, so I waited for what I thought was an opportune time to examine the cake and take our customary photos with it. Should be easy peasy, right? Wrong. Because right then something strange happened: a young woman who I had never met before got off the MetroLink, made a beeline for Miles and myself and plunked an elbow down on the cake as she started talking to us.

Initially her behavior wasn’t that unique, as I had encountered other cake hunters and curious strangers who had stopped for a moment or two to talk with me along the way, but what set this encounter apart was that she just didn’t leave. At first this was fine, maybe she wanted to make a new friend, but the conversation she struck up with me was mostly one-sided. She wanted to talk about her boyfriend and the dates they went on, and she even went so far as to ask my opinion about whether or not I thought they should move in together. Now at first I was game for her conversation; I listened patiently and tried to respond as best I could, but she quickly outwore her welcome, mostly because it was pretty obvious what I was trying do: as she was resting on the cake, I was standing a few feet away from the cake with my camera in one hand and the other raised and snapping to draw Miles’ attention to it so he would look in my direction for the picture. However, despite this, or maybe in some strange way, because of it, my stance and gestures did not even give her pause and she continued right on with her thoughts as if I were an old friend, intently interested in what she had to share.

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Cake #106 at the Shrewsbury MetroLink Station

As she continued on, it quickly became apparent that, like it or not, some part of her was going to be in the picture, and if our interaction had been even an ounce less sketchy, I may have considered asking her to be in it in a more formal way, but as it was, I just zoomed in as much as I could on Miles James and thankfully only captured a part of her leg and some elbow/arm.

After the pictures were taken, the next obstacle remained how to leave this conversation that I had not wanted to participate in in the first place. I started by making some small shuffling moves away from the cake while emphatically putting my camera away and grabbing my keys, but true to character, she was undeterred. Next I tried the more overt tactic of saying, “Welp, it was nice talking with you,” and hoping she would respond in kind and I could slink away, but this only served to help her change her course of conversation to something about how nice it was to get my thoughts on things. Finally I just decided to spit out a quick, “Goodbye and good luck,” and flee as inconspicuously as I could. And without looking back, Miles and I headed straight to the car, leaving the parking lot in record time.

But, you know, from time to time in my current life, I pass the Shrewbury MetroLink Station, and each time I do, I pause for a moment to think of this unique young lady who shook up my cake hunting experience so drastically that I still associate her with that location even more so than the actual cake placed there. So, wherever you are, overly friendly lady, I hope you got home safely that day at the MetroLink Station and thanks(?) for making that event so much more memorable if a bit strange.