This is a slow week of mostly waiting. Because of the flooding on the Mississippi and the fact that we had a guest aboard, we decide to take another road trip for a couple of days. We leave the boat in Grafton, Illinois where we are watching the water steadily rising. The whole marina, complete with restrooms, general store and restaurant floats but the parking lot is expected to go under water which would leave us as a virtual island. We decide that wouldn’t be a fun way to entertain a 26 year-old and so St Louis and St. Charles become our destinations.
We drive along the Mississippi and over the Missouri rivers, marveling at how fast they are both moving and how much debris is galloping along in them. We see whole trees, refrigerators and even several aids to navigation tangled up in huge debris mats that are rafting up behind unmoving objects like barges, bridges and docks. We wonder: A) what happens to these islands of debris when a barge actually pulls anchor and B) does someone have the job of removing all of the wood, plastic and other assorted junk from the river at some point or does all of this eventually find its way to the Gulf?
We have a fantastic lunch/dinner at Guido’s on the Hill and decide a walk at a museum would be a great way to burn off some of the calories we have just ingested. So, we go to the St. Louis Museum of Art and are greatly impressed by the collection at this free museum. Each of us is drawn to different areas of the collection but we appreciate all of it. The museum is situated in a lovely park and we wish that we had time to really explore it, along with the zoo but we want to see the arch and find our hotel before it gets too late.
Arriving in downtown St. Louis near dinner time, we walk along the waterfront and up to the museum at the Gateway Arch. Annelise was here once when she was in single digits but doesn’t remember it. It is an impressive structure but unfortunately, we arrive too late to take the tram to the top. The museum gives a good taste of the history that has happened here and we learn a little more about the area before we find our hotel and crash.
The next day, we explore St. Charles which was the first capitol of Missouri and was also the departure point for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. The town also boasts the longest historic main street in the USA. It is absolutely adorable.
We browse the Lewis and Clark museum, admiring the grit of these people who opened the door to westward expansion and marvel at the fact that on their 2-year journey, only one person died and that was from sickness. Amazing, considering the winters they survived and the lack of food they experienced several times along the trek. If it weren’t for the tribes of First People, who helped them, their mission would surely have been less successful and the death toll would have been much higher.
We browse through shops that are unique and full of so many fun things, especially the used bookstore! We are all trying to be minimalists and so we are happy to look and not own any of the fun things but it is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. We have a great dinner at an Irish pub and return to our hotel.
The next day, we work in the morning and then use the afternoon to visit Meramac Caverns. It is a privately owned, 16-mile-long cave system which is south and west of St. Louis and is open while the other cave systems that are run by the State Park system are closed this time of year.
We wander through massive rooms of dolomite, a rock so dense that water doesn’t really filter through it into grottoes that are limestone. The water filters readily through this porous rock to form pools of crystal clear water and formations of stalactites and stalagmites that are delicate at times and massive at others. The colors range from ivory to dark green and gold to iron-produced red. The final room is called the theater room and a video tribute to America and her troops is cast against this backdrop of living stone. It has a definite Bible-Belt feel to it, which is reasonable, given where we are.
The next morning we put Annelise on a plane back to Denver. I am really sad that the weather, flooding and other issues created an experience that was very different from what I wanted her to have on her visit with us but that is the nature of being boat nomads. We are entirely at the mercy of the elements and must make mental shifts to be happy dealing with what comes at us. Her experience on the Camino de Santiago prepared her well for this and it was nice to see how easily she flexed with what was going on. I still wish it had been different.
We return our rental car and decide that we will move the boat to Alton Marina, a two hour journey from Grafton. Not a big deal but Grafton has no Verizon coverage and no viable internet at the marina and we just don’t feel comfortable having to sit incommunicado for however long it takes for us to be able to move through the lock that is just downriver.
We pass a lot of flooded areas but the trip is uneventful and we join a bunch of other Loopers in Alton (some we haven’t seen since Key West) to wait it out. Along the journey, many ATONS are missing and we joke about calling the Coast Guard and telling them that they can find most of their missing buoys in the debris mats in St. Louis!
The flooding has backed up the barge traffic and they take priority through the locks. So here we sit, expecting that conditions will be good enough sometime this weekend to begin to move down river again but in the meantime, we have great internet and cell phone coverage and so are able to research what is happening down river from us and what conditions we can expect once we start moving again!