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

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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.

Cake Monster Goes to Court – St. Louis County Courthouse #48

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Cake #48 at the St. Louis County Courthouse

Cake #48 at the St. Louis County Courthouse

The next stop on our cake hunting list for the day was at the St. Louis County Courthouse and what a beast that cake was to find!

Unfortunately at the time of our cake hunt, there was some intense construction going on in Clayton specifically in front of the Courthouse.

So Miles and I walked back and forth, back and forth trying to find the cake. This part of the adventure was made even more sketchy by the fact that at one point, I was using the GPS on my phone to find the cake, and it kept yelling, “You have reached your destination!” when clearly we hadn’t because we were in the middle of a parking lot and everyone around us who heard that must have thought we were on a really lame parking lot adventure.

After what felt like forever though, I finally saw a small opening in the construction equipment and thought to myself, “Why not?” Miles was less than sure about the decision to scurry past the Do Not Enter signs, but once I pulled him through, the construction gave way to the back of the courthouse and the cake!

Cake #48 at the St. Louis County Courthouse

Cake #48 at the St. Louis County Courthouse

While the layout of the back of the courthouse was itself pretty interesting – yes, there were mannequins, no I did not get close enough to take pictures of them – the history of the county was definitely worth looking into as well.

Apparently St. Louis County is the largest county in Missouri – pretty sweet! I also learned that one of the first governing bodies of St. Louis County included Charles Gratiot, Auguste Chouteau, Jacques Clamorgan, and David Delauney – some pretty big names in St. Louis history.

So after Miles and I had a short rest on the back steps of the courthouse, we made our way to the last cake of the day, but not before stopping to take a picture of a sweet man on a horse statue we saw on the way back to the car.

So majestic!

So majestic!

Just When Miles Thought the Cake Hunt Was Over, He Found a Trail of Peanuts – #45 The Butterfly House

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Cake #45 at the Butterfly House

Cake #45 at the Butterfly House

Cake #45 – almost a fifth of the way through my cake hunting adventure. Let’s take a moment and reflect on what cake hunting was like back then. At that time, the full list of where all the cakes were going to be placed was not yet released, so I was working from a partial list of less than a hundred cakes, with, at times, super questionable addresses and sketchy notes about where the cake could be found at that location.

I appreciated this list because it was bringing me adventure, but at the same time it made me a little sad/uneasy because I knew that there were bound to be places that would eventually have a cake that I had already visited or that I wanted to visit but decided to hold off on because I wanted to wait until they were officially ‘caked.’

However sometimes in these early stages of cake hunting, I would just get a feeling that because a museum or a location was so exciting and unique, it was going to be a cake location, even if it hadn’t been announced as a cake home yet.

wpid-wp-1426812079634.jpegSo one evening after work, Miles and I took a gamble and drove over to the Butterfly House in Faust Park because I JUST KNEW it was going to have a cake. And thankfully – and I don’t get to say this often –  I was right!!  2014-03-31 19.26.46

The Butterfly House opened in 1998 with the mission of promoting education and awareness of the natural habitats and life cycles of butterflies. Currently around 80 species of butterflies can be found inside the Butterfly House at any one time, which is pretty incredible to experience.

wpid-20150329_134731.jpgRecently my Mama and I were fortunate enough to visit the Butterfly House during one of their featured events called Morpho Mania. For this event, the Butterfly House was home to literally hundreds of blue morpho butterflies like the one pictured here. There were so many of these gorgeous butterflies flying around that it kind of felt like surreal dream right out of Alice in Wonderland. 🙂 (To see a short video of the morphos in action, click here to see my video on Instagram).

wpid-20150329_134833.jpgIn addition to exhibits like Morpho Mania, the Butterfly House, which is a division of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, hosts educational events, private events, concerts and is active in several organizations dedicated to insect conservation and study.

wpid-20150329_134027.jpgIf you haven’t been to the Butterfly House, I highly recommend it! wpid-20150329_132217.jpg

Miles was also a pretty big fan of the location as well because when we went there to see the cake, someone had left a mysterious trail of peanuts from the edge of the sidewalk leading all the way to the cake. And so he was more than happy to follow his own special trail of ‘clues’ leading right to the cake. One more cake crossed off the list for this cake monster, one sketchy trail of excitement for Miles James.

Peanut hunting

Peanut hunting

Proud peanut hunter

Proud peanut hunter

Cake Hunting in the Snow…Flurries – Spirit of St. Louis Airport #35

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After thirty-four cakes, I was finally settling into a nice cake-hunting routine: pick a day to hunt cakes, pinpoint which cakes to find, lay out a plan for driving to them and more often than not, lure someone into going with me. 🙂

Cake #35 at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport

Cake #35 at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport

For number 35, I wanted to see the cake at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in West St. Louis County with my (mostly) willing accomplices: my mama and Mr. Miles James.

And as a bonus, while we were driving to the location to see the cake, we got to experience a cake hunting first – finding a cake in the snow!! Ok, so it was more like snow flurries, but I’m gonna still count it as snow.

I’ll be honest and say that even though I grew up not far from this cake, like the one at the Kemp Auto Museum, I did not even know that there was an airport just a short drive from Chesterfield Valley.

After doing some research into the location, I found out some interesting facts that made me realize just why they had chosen this location for a cake.

The first thing I discovered was that the Spirit of St. Louis Airport was celebrating it’s 50th year of operation in 2014! (Hooray small airports/businesses!) So that right away seemed to be enough reason to have a cake at this location, but when I started digging deeper into the history of the place, it seemed like a tale right up this cake monster’s alley.

The airport was founded in 1964 (50 years ago…) by a pilot who was tired of waiting in line with his small plane at Lambert Airport while all the other bigger planes got priority. So he decided to find some land to open his own airport. Pretty legit so far…

Miles says, "Did someone say there was gumbo here?"

Miles says, “Did someone say there was gumbo here?”

BUT here’s where it gets good! The stretch of land that he found to build the airport on came to be called Gumbo…no explanation, just Gumbo.

Right, so on Gumbo they needed to build a tower, and this tower was built (according to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport’s website ) from storm doors (classy) and windows (those are important) on top of four telephone poles (seems SUPER safe). And what was this magnificent catastrophe-waiting-to-happen called? Why Old Shaky, of course!

After doing this research and seeing that, despite this randomness, the airport has managed to survive and thrive for 50 years, I was filled with hope. It really seemed as though this airport’s history was tailor made for this cake monster to enjoy and learn that from sketchy beginnings can come good things. And with so many unusual names and sketchy ways of doing things – I couldn’t be prouder to have this airport in my (former) backyard!

Just focus on the faces and not my fingers in the shot...

Just focus on the faces and not my fingers in the shot…

Plus! As if this hunt wasn’t exciting enough with all the snow (flurries), the exotic names of the land and tower, and having Miles and my mama with me along for the ride, this cake marks the first of a few cakes I found that had an image of a man with a very unusual expression on his face  – truth be told, he’s a bit terrifying. For all of this, I’d say Cake #35 was definitely a win!

Come on Ride the Train…But Only If It’s Before 5 O’Clock – The Museum of Transportation #34

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The third and final stop on our mother/daughter cake hunting adventure was the Museum of Transportation in West St. Louis County.

So far on our outing, we had had one sketchy type adventure at The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos and one relatively quiet type adventure at The Maritz Corporation. So since we were one for one, it was pretty much a toss up as to what this last location would hold for us.

We should have known it would be sketchy.

Our first clue that something was a little off was the fact that when we pulled up to the entrance of the museum, which is a massive wrought-iron gate, we had to squeeze past another car that was on it’s way out. As we passed the other car, the people inside started making strange gestures at us and waving their arms. But with our eyes on the prize and more specifically, my mind on not scraping the side of their car with my car, we just figured they were being friendly, and so we waved back as we continued into the museum parking lot.

The next clue that things were a little off should have been that there were zero other cars in the parking lot. But it was late on a Sunday afternoon in early March, so, again, we didn’t think much of it.

Cake #34 at the Museum of Transportation

Cake #34 at the Museum of Transportation

Before I reveal the final clue that something was definitely not right, I want to interject a little knowledge about this cake location (and add a little suspense to the story!). The museum was founded in 1944 by several people who had gotten a hold of the rare, mule-drawn streetcar called Bellefontaine (hmm…a familiar St. Louis name…). Since then, the museum has grown to house the world’s largest collection of transportation vehicles. The Museum of Transportation’s website tells more about this saying, “With over 70 locomotives, half of them ‘one-of-a-kind’ or ‘sole survivors’ of their type, the Museum has one of the most complete collections of American railroad motive power, and its collections of automobiles, buses, streetcars, aircraft, horse-drawn vehicles, and riverboat materials are constantly expanding to reflect the ever-changing nature of transportation.” Legitimately incredible and right here in St. Louis!

*Now back to the regularly scheduled sketch.*

Right, so despite the fact that we had had a strange encounter with a couple leaving the museum and spied no other cars in the parking lot, my mama and I were not fazed and started walking towards the museum.

After trying the doors to the inside part of the museum and finding them locked (yet another sign!), we finally spotted the cake at the top of a hill next to a rather intimidating locomotive and started walking towards it.

Once at the top, I started in with the usual cake pictures when to our left came a rather loud, “Hey! What are you two still doing here?” More than a little rattled, my mama and I looked over and saw a rather burly man in a security guard outfit looking at us like he’d seen a ghost.

“We’re just here to see the cake,” my mama said calmly (the best way to handle unexpected sketchiness).

“Well we closed about 15 minutes ago. You guys gotta get out of here.” And with that, it all made sense – the couple at the gate was probably signaling that the museum was closed and if we had put that together with the lack of cars in the parking lot, we probably could have saved ourselves and the security guard an unnecessary encounter.

Cake #34 at the Museum of Transportation

Cake #34 at the Museum of Transportation

But all we could do was laugh, so we took the rest of our pictures under the watchful eye of the guard and then made our way back down the hill to our car.

Once we were safely off museum property, my mama turned to me and said, “You know, that was pretty fun. We should break the rules more often!” Ok, ok, she said something more along the lines of wanting to cake hunt again, but I mean, when else do you have a good excuse for being on museum property when they are technically closed? Cake hunting for the win!!

Miles Got a Fast Car – Kemp Auto Museum #31

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Cake #31 at the Kemp Auto Museum

Cake #31 at the Kemp Auto Museum

One of the best parts about cake hunting (I feel like I say that a lot, but this time I mean it!), aside from all the sketchy encounters/adventures, is discovering hidden gems right in my backyard.

As a West County kid, I spent a lot of time in the Chesterfield Valley – from trying all the various restaurants on the main strip, to getting my Target fix, and even the occasional (though very cherished) game of skee ball at the Galaxy Theater before seeing a flick.

However despite all this time spent in the Valley, until my cake adventures, I did not even know that the Kemp Auto Museum was hiding just around the corner, waiting to be explored.

Cake #31 at the Kemp Auto Museum

Cake #31 at the Kemp Auto Museum

Unfortunately the museum itself was closed when we arrived at this location, but I’ve since learned that it houses some pretty cool stuff. According to kempautomuseum.org, “The Kemp Auto Museum displays historically significant and artistically inspired automobiles from the very earliest to the contemporary for public enjoyment and educational enrichment..” Also, “The Kemp collection includes rare and vintage European automobiles from the turn of the century to modern day.” Definitely worth a return visit!

Besides learning about a new museum, this adventure was made even sweeter with the addition of a new cake hunting accomplice. Yes, Cake #31 marks the very first time my mama decided to join in on the cake hunting!

And while I don’t have any pictures to document her presence at the cake (or mine for that matter…), I do have the wonderful memory of us being about to leave the museum and seeing a large car replica outside the museum entrance. I immediately thought about posing myself and Miles on the car, but was put off the idea by a large and scary looking “Do Not Touch” sign to the right of the car. (Let’s be real, if it was just Miles and I, I would have been all over it, but I was trying to put on a good show for the mama.) However, as if she was reading my thoughts, without missing a beat, I hear, “You should put Miles on that car. It’s not like they have cameras, and it’ll be a really cute picture.” From that bold statement (and blatant disregard of authority…see where I get it from?), I knew my mama was more than ready for the cake adventures I was already starting to plan for us.

I have to say, the picture did come out pretty great.

I have to say, the picture did come out pretty great.