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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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.

Destiny Is Calling Me – Brightside St. Louis #112

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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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

 

 

 

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 Cake #112 at Brightside St. Louis 

 

 

“Life Is Uncertain…Eat Dessert First” – Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream #111

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Cake #111 at Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream 

As I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing I love more than pulling up to Mercutio Krispytreats’ curb, barely stopping the car, and telling him to get in because we are headed off on an adventure. And for this cake hunt, the plan was no different.

With both of us safely in the car and ready for adventure, the first stop on our mini cake hunt was at Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream on Big Bend Road in Webster Groves. This first cake stop was both strategic and will power challenging because I knew that the cake itself was actually inside the ice cream shop, so I had to both make sure that we were planning to arrive at the location when the shop was open, as well as try and resist the temptation to sample every single flavor of ice cream they serve, which seemed next to impossible.

An award-winning ice cream shop, Serendipity opened in 2003 and since then has been serving St. Louis with delicious homemade ice cream made with local ingredients. The owner of the ice cream shop, Beckie Jacobs, also supplies ice cream and other dessert deliciousness to area restaurants, which is a pretty awesome gig for a relatively new ice cream shop.

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Cake #111 at Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream 

On the afternoon of the cake hunt though, Mercutio and I did our best to hold ourselves back from the mountains of ice cream staring at us, and fight the growing crowd of ice cream lovers for a spot next to the cake for our customary selfie – which I will admit, I was having a difficult time of, awkwardly looking off into the distance instead of at the camera! But when all was said and done (and photographed) and I learned of the ice cream shop’s motto: “Life is uncertain…eat dessert first,” I thought it was pretty serendipitous ( 😉 ) that we had stopped there for our first cake of the day.

 

The Vinyls May Be Vintage, But The Music Is Still My Jam – Vintage Vinyl #110

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Sweet Baby Miles in his Halloween costume circa 2012

Take it from this Cake Monster, the best way to end a long cake hunting trip is with a cake stop at a place that always makes you smile. And for me and Miles James, that place is Vintage Vinyl on the Delmar Loop.

Miles and I have a long history with the Loop, going back even before we were fearless cake hunters. When I lived in Maryland Heights, I would sometimes take Miles with me to the Loop dressed in his Halloween costume, even if it wasn’t Halloween time, just to see how many people would stop and pet him and smile and say how cute he was. During these trips, Miles and I were frequent visitors to the last stop on our cake hunt for the day: Vintage Vinyl. Miles, in particular, is a fan of the the free concerts they host in front of their store on Record Store Day.

With all the greatness Vintage Vinyl has to offer the Loop, I was not at all surprised that they were chosen as a cake location, and when I went to look up a little bit more about their history, I fell a little bit more in love with the location.

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Cake #110 at Vintage Vinyl

The idea for Vintage Vinyl – a place that was run by music lovers for music lovers – started in 1979 as the brainchild of Tom Ray and Lewis Prince. To kick start their idea, they decided to start used bringing records to the Soulard Farmer’s Market to sell. With the income from those sales, they bought more and more records and pretty soon they had sold enough to buy a really real store where they could sell their records. Their first store on Delmar was only 400 square feet and their inventory soon outgrew their space, so they moved to a second location, still on Delmar, that was 1000 square feet. And after a few years at this second location, they again needed to expand so they finally settled on their current location at 6610 Delmar, and with an awesome marquee out front, you can’t miss it! (PS this is just my condensed version of their history, if you need a good laugh, check out the owners’ version of their history; it’s ridiculously good).

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Cake #110 at Vintage Vinyl

And true to form, a snazzy place needs an equally snazzy cake, and the cake that was chosen for this location did not disappoint. This one was super sparkly and very fitting for its designated home.

So even though Miles and I did not go inside the store on this particular outing, I myself have been a frequent shopper at this location, including one memorable trip the day after Thanksgiving when I was at work and only had a half an hour for lunch but HAD to have all of the Incubus catalog on vinyl which had just been re-released at certain record store locations across the country. So I left the office, drove to Vintage Vinyl, snatched up everything Incubus I could find, and made it back in just enough time to thank my lucky stars that I work so close to one of the chosen few stores that was selling those records before returning to work. That was a pretty good day, and it was made entirely possible by the guys at Vintage Vinyl.