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.

 

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.