Friday, August 18, 2006

Regional Travels

Regional Travels

Over the past week or so, my wife and I (along with her mother, and our goddaughter in town for the week most of that time, and with a friend from our high-school days who is back in town from Boston during part of that time) traveled seemingly all over the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Cemetery Day

Back on Sun. Aug. 6th, we spent several hours visiting cemeteries where some of my ancestors are buried. As I mentioned yesterday, the Goeke family plots are located in the section of SS Peter & Paul Cemetery located west of Gravois, just south of Sunshine Drive, and north of the main part of Gatewood Gardens Cemetery. But we didn't realize that at first, so we drove and walked all over the main part of Peter & Paul east of Gravois, which is huge.

Earlier, we had visited the grave of my great-grandfather Henry Kremer and other family members in Mount Olive Cemetery, nestled on the edge of Lemay along Mount Olive Road. This cemetery is one of three adjacent to each other. Mt. Olive is for Catholics. Mt. Hope, along Lemay Ferry, is for Protestants. Oakdale, in the rear with the only access route being through Mt. Olive, reputedly has the graves of numerous slaves. These cemeteries would have been quite remote from the city when founded in 1849, as a burial site for victims of the cholera epidemic that struck St. Louis that year. 1849 was also the year of the great fire that wiped out much of the riverfront.

Around the World in a Ballwin Strip Mall

Our goddaughter arrived on Monday, and Tuesday of course was election day. But Wednesday night involved a bit more travel, to North County for several hours (I rode the #274x Paddock Hills Express to get out there); and Thursday lots of car-riding, as we headed out west, to Worldways Children's Museum.

Worldways was reasonably fun, but a bit disappointing. Somehow I had hoped it to be bigger, and easier to find. It's located in a strip mall called Claymont Plaza, off Clayton Road just west of Kehrs Mill. Even with my GPS, we got a little turned around coming from lunch near Chesterfield Mall.

I also wish they had representations of more than just four countries -- China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Senegal. There's also some Russian dolls in the back room. But then, the fact the place exists at all, in such an insular place as West St. Louis County, is itself impressive. Originally, they were located in West County Mall, but had to relocate before the mall was demolished and rebuilt (using Tax Increment Financing) several years ago.

The drive back was across miles and miles of ugly, new-ish suburbia: west on Clayton, south on Clarkson, into Kiefer Creek south and east, then north on New Ballwin, east on Big Bend, south on Sulphur Springs, east on Vance, and south on MO 141 to finally reach I-44 eastbound towards home!

Airport Pickup (No Liquids, Please)

On Saturday, we really did a lot of riding around the 'burbs -- mostly North County. I think we logged over 100 miles just in St. Louis City and County! That's partly 'cause we were waiting for our friend from Boston's flight to arrive, and I felt weird about parking our suspicious-looking white cargo van at Lambert. Kelly was driving though ... I haven't done much student driving lately.

We started out in South City, on our usual Utah-Gravois-Chippewa route, then headed out Watson Road to lunch at Red Lobster in Crestwood, where we actually got really great service. Then we headed back east on Watson, and eventually north on Laclede Station/Hanley clear up to Natural Bridge.

We wound our way through the suburbs just south of Lambert Airport, eventually stopping to make some fun purchases at Unique Thrift Store on St. Charles Rock Road in Breckenridge Hills. It's a huge thrift store (a former A&P, near the recently-closed Schnucks), and they actually hang their pants sideways, so you can read the tags! Then we headed still further west, eventually discovering the gravel plant at end of the Rock Road where the MO 115 bridge into St. Charles used to be.

It's a dead-end, so we turned around and headed northeast along a course that I had not previously realized was a single continuous road: Earth City Expressway, turns into Missouri Bottom Road north of MO 370 in Bridgeton, which turns into Aubuchon Road in Hazelwood, and then into Charbonier Road, twists and winds its way up the Missouri River bluffs, and eventually that turns into Washington St in Florissant, which then becomes (at I-270) Elizabeth Ave in Ferguson.

Aubuchon/Charbonier is still a very rural two-lane road, with several sod farms and a generally country feel -- considering its located in the City of Hazelwood. I'm sure the city has development plans for that area, too, despite its being floodplain. Eventually, we ended up getting dinner at Clock Tower Plaza (I-270 and West Florissant Dierbergs) -- the same place we'd been shopping just three nights earlier! By the way, there's not really a clock tower at Clock Tower -- just a big outdoor wall clock atop the TJ Maxx store.

And, then we headed out for a circuitous route to the airport: West Florissant to New Halls Ferry to Lindbergh, through the tunnel under the new runway, to the Natural Bridge exit, got a little turned around thanks to my utter confusion about the airport approach and access roads, but eventually (after I roamed around in the baggage claim area for a few minutes) we picked up our friend. (It turned out he had arrived at East Terminal, not Main Terminal, anyway.)

We probably made it home about 11 PM Saturday, after dropping off our friend at his parents' house in Lafayette Square.

"It's Cool When It's Hot!"

The most fun day was Tuesday of this week. We headed way out to Raging Rivers Water Park near Grafton, IL. Although I am certainly very afraid of water, I actually had a great time! The only problem was the final ride we did, called the Swirlpool. It's a rapid twisting drop down into a 7-foot deep pool -- and I did have to be rescued from the water there, because I freaked out pretty badly. But I made it!

The Endless River (very relaxing) and the Breaker Beach wave pool (not so relaxing, but fun) were probably my favorites. Some of the water slides were ok, others anti-climactic.

And, since we planned ahead a little bit, we got my mother-in-law to do about half the driving (we met her at her house in North County and changed cars), and took the Grafton Ferry to get there (operating since 2002).

That was undoubtedly the best, most fun way to get to Grafton. Why mess with the construction along MO 367, and then go through Alton to the Great River Road, when this route is so much faster? It's probably about the same distance, give or take a mile.

All you do is take MO 370 west to MO 94 in St. Charles, head north about 9 miles on 94 through Boschertown and Orchard Farm, then follow the (rather small) sign to turn left onto Grafton Ferry Road. Take the road straight ahead about 4 miles. You'll be confused by passing at least two "No Outlet" road signs, but don't worry, you're going the right way. You turn left and then right onto a gravel area along the riverbank, to approach the ferry landing.

Once your car is on board and the ferry leaves, the fare is collected. It's not real cheap - $13 per car round trip - but there's a summer Internet coupon for $1 off.

After the 10 to 12 minute ride across the Mississippi, you just exit the Grafton landing, head north two blocks to IL 100, then east about two miles to Raging Rivers on the left.

Raging Rivers, of course, is not as big or impressive as Six Flags, but I still thought it was fun. It's also not quite as 'corporate' as Six Flags -- sure, it has plenty of ads and merchandise, but it's owned locally, by the same Alton-based Adams Development Co. that developed it in 1990 and has owned the property (also known as The Palisades) since the mid 1960s. Homer Adams Parkway in Alton is named for the late family patriarch.

While I realize they had their problems with environmental compliance in the early days, and the wave pool area was inundated in the flood of '93, I still thought it was a fun place -- and, especially on a Tuesday, not nearly as crowded as Six Flags, with no traffic getting there either.

We left Raging Rivers a little before closing time, took the Grafton Ferry back into Missouri, and had dinner at, yes, another Red Lobster, this one in Bridgeton. The service was ok, but not as good as the other one.

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