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

Standard

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.

IMG_2540

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!)

IMG_2543

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.

IMG_2546

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

Standard

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.

IMG_2532

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.

IMG_2533

                     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:

IMG_2535

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.

IMG_2534

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.

Sunshine in My Pocket – Alton Visitor Center #120

Standard
img_2512

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.

img_2515

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.

img_2513

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.

img_2514

Cake #120 at the Alton Visitor Center

 

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head – Robert Wadlow Statue #119

Standard
img_2509

Robert Wadlow 

Besides being an applicable title for this blog post about rainy day cake hunting and just some great lyrics to hum along to whenever it’s stormy out, this song has the perfect couple of lines for Cake #119: And just like the guy whose feet / Are too big for his bed / Nothing seems to fit…well you know how the rest goes. But the reason those lyrics are so significant for this cake is because it is in honor of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in the world!

Robert only lived to the age of 22 but when he died he was 8 feet 11.1 inches tall! He was born in Alton, IL in 1918 and by the time he was 9 years old he was already over 6 feet.

img_2507

Cake #119 at the Robert Wadlow Statue 

His impressive stature was due to a pituitary anomaly that caused his body to continually make the growth hormone, so if he had not died so young of a foot infection, there is no telling how tall he may have grown to be.

Robert had planned to become an attorney but because of his size and brittle bones, attending classes was difficult for him, and so he joined the circus at age 19 before taking to the road at age 20 with his father as a spokesperson for the International Shoe Company.

img_2510

A Replica of Robert Wadlow’s Chair

When Robert died in 1940 most businesses in Alton shut down for the day so that the whole town could honor their favorite giant. Then in 1985 a bronze statue of Robert was erected and placed across from the SIUE Dental School.

While all of this history is incredibly fascinating, I do have to say that dragging a waterlogged pup through a space that is mostly occupied by a literally giant mannequin is not an ideal situation to admire a cake! However seeing the statue/mannequin was admittedly pretty amazing and by this point we were already as drenched as we were going to get, so we carried on even amidst strange looks from passersby with umbrellas who pretty much just shook their heads as they watched us frolic, and I can’t say I blame them.

Rain on Our Parade – Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower #118

Standard

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.

img_2499

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.

img_2500

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.

img_2505

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.

img_2501

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.

img_2504

Cake #118 at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower

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

Standard

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.

2014-05-30-19-40-43

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.

2014-05-30-19-40-53

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.

Destiny Is Calling Me – Brightside St. Louis #112

Standard

2014-05-30-19-33-29Coming from an ice cream cake,

And we’re doing just fine

Gotta, gotta be quick

Because we wanna see it all.

It started out with plan

How did it end up like this?

It was only a plan. It was only a plan.

Now we’re on to our second cake,

And it’s a pretty sweet thing.

Brightside St. Louis,

Where clean-up is king.

2014-05-30-19-31-58

 Cake #112 at Brightside St. Louis 

Ok, that’s enough of that. If you haven’t caught on yet, I was attempting to employ a sweet play on words for Cake #112 at Brightside St. Louis using the lyrics to The Killer’s song Mr. Brightside, but you know, a Cake Monster can only be so creative for so long 🙂

So silly lyrics aside, Brightside St. Louis is one local not-for-profit that you’ve probably seen the efforts of without even knowing it. Located just a few blocks away from the Botanical Gardens, Brightside was founded in 1982 by former Mayer Vincent Schoemehl and G. Duncan Bauman, who was the publisher of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, in response to a survey taken of St. Louis residents who felt that the biggest problem with the city was that it was too dirty.

2014-05-30-19-30-39

 Part of Brightside St. Louis’ Demo Garden

In order to staff this initiative (originally called Operation Brightside) to clean up the city, volunteers for the project were asked to each sign up 10 additional volunteers who were then in turn asked to sign up ten more volunteers and on and on and on. Now, more than 30 years later, volunteers are still making St. Louis a cleaner place by collecting trash, removing graffiti and offering seedlings for area residents and volunteers to beautify their little part of St. Louis.

2014-05-30-19-31-51

 Cake #112 at Brightside St. Louis

So while my attempt at being witty may have failed just a little bit, the mission and efforts of this awesome not-for-profit certainly have succeeded in making St. Louis a cleaner place to live, as well as providing a fun Demo Garden for Mercutio Krispytreats and I to stomp around in before heading to our last cake of the day.

 

 

 

2014-05-30-19-32-23

 Cake #112 at Brightside St. Louis