Day Six - Friday 31st March, 2006
We got through the night at Joplin without being blown away by a tornado.
After a brief look around Joplin we continued on the I44 to a very small town called Stotts City. The population is 250 so not sure where the city part comes from. Stotts City is a Mayberry type place, for those of you who remember the Andy Griffith Show.
Stotts City has a really good Teddy Bear shop and Rayls spent an hour or so browsing.
Then it was on the road again. There was a few holdups today - roadwork’s mainly.
We drove through Springfield and onto St Louis where we were going to meet up with Eileen and Phil.
How we know Eileen and Phil is an interesting story....... after the 2001 trip Gary got a job as a tourist bus driver and part of the job was meeting students at the airport and taking them to their accommodation. Most of the students were from Asia and Africa, some were from Europe. Americans were rare.
The first American student was a young lady called Nichole. Gary helped her out a bit as there were problems with where she was to stay. He was happy to help because the American people had been so good to him during his time in the USA and this was just a small pay back.
Gary passed on his email address and offered to take Nichole on a tour of the city. Nichole responded and Rayls and Gary spent a day with her showing her some of the sites. Over the coming months Rayls and Gary met up with Nichole a couple of times and eventually Nichole returned home to the USA.
From this came an invitation to meet Nichole's parents in the USA. Gary, not being that social these days, was a bit wary but eventually Dallas was taken from this trip and St Louis included.
So here we are on our way to St Louis to meet Eileen and Phil and looking forward to it.
Our first thoughts as we headed into outer St Louis was the traffic and the roads, this is a big city!
Luckily, Eileen and Phil live in West Alton, around 20 miles north of St Louis.
They live in a rural setting and are wonderful people with whom we got on with well.
We had a wonderful couple of days staying at their beautiful home and enjoyed some sightseeing as well.
The home is actually a small farm and there is a lovely barn. It was interesting listening to the stories about life on the farm. In 1993 they were nearly wiped out by floods.
That afternoon we went to the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers - a very interesting spot.
Then it was across the bridge over the Mississippi River and into the state of Illinois where we visited the town of Alton and more specifically a small park dedicated to Robert Pershing Wadlow, the world’s tallest man. Wadlow was 8’ 11” tall at the time of his death and there is a life size bronze statue that is weird to stand next to, this guy was TALL. There is also a replica chair – fascinating.
We returned to Eileen and Phil’s house and had a pleasant evening.
Day seven - 1st April 2006
On Saturday we were taken in to St Louis. Gary has always had an interest in the Titanic and low and behold there was a Titanic Exhibition on in town. We all went and it was most interesting. Sadly no photos allowed. The replica staircase was interesting and it was possible to touch a part of the Titanic. This exhibition was a major highlight of the trip.
Then it was into the centre of town and in particular the great St Louis arch. The arch is both 630 feet (192m) high and wide. Fascinating to look at – the arch is known as the Gateway to the West.
Across the road from the arch is the Mississippi River with Illinois across the other side. There are paddle boats on the river and the sound of jazz can constantly be heard.
After the arch we went to a park that had some sort of fair going. It was good to walk with the crowd and check out the different stalls and food items.
Just up the road there was a Lewis and Clark museum and we checked that out. Lewis and Clark was the first American overland expedition to the Pacific coast and back.
It was a very pleasant day and we then spent our last night with Eileen and Phil. It will be sad to leave, hopefully we will meet again.