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Places Visited:

Missouri: St. Charles, Augusta
Illinois: Alton, Grafton, Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton Ferry

2003 Travelogue# 10 St. Charles, MO

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Mileage: 41004 Traveled 96 miles
Sundermeier RV Park, 111 Transit St., St. Charles, MO 63301 800-929-0832 636-940-0111
Full Hookups, 50-amps, concrete pads, phone $4 per night, cable, store, $33 Good Sam

It was a beautiful morning to be heading east toward the Mississippi River and our next adventure. We chose Sundermeier RV Park in St. Charles for several reasons; it is close to a Saturn dealer, an RV repair shop, and in a region we wanted to see. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the owners, Bill & Carolyn Strong. Sundermeier was Carolyn's maiden name and the land was formerly her family's farm, which they converted to an RV Park after the floods of 1993. While visiting with them the word "history" came up and Bill told us about the many things to do and see in the immediate area.

This RV Park is located off Hwy 94 in St. Charles close to the Missouri River with the Katy Trail State Park between our campsite and the river. We mentioned this before, but the Katy Trail is the old right of way for the MK&T Railroad that runs along the River. Its starting point is here in St. Charles and it ends some150 miles across the State. This right of way is now used for biking and hiking.

A French fur trader named Louis Blanchette founded Historic St. Charles in 1769. (The City has a lovely Park next to the River named in his honor.) The area along the riverfront became a thriving trading center where travelers restocked supplies on their journey into the new western territory, and the city became known as the Gateway to the West.

The restoration of these historic riverfront buildings on South Main Street, along with the gaslights and brick streets, has added much appeal and charm to St. Charles. It has been classified as a National Historic District and is the largest designated Historic District in the State of Missouri, with over 88 restored buildings, dating from 1790 to the late 1800's.

We drove slowly down the brick street, from one end to the other, and Peggy started getting excited just looking at the wonderful shops. She was already planning her "free" Friday morning, while I took care of the car. We continued our drive past the shops and down to a riverside park, on the Katy Trail, which had a large bronze statue of Lewis and Clark as well as a museum. We'd inspect this later. For now, we've had a full day.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Excitement was in the air this morning as Peggy planned her shopping expedition. She would walk out of the RV Park, onto the Katy Trail and one and a half miles later to her first shop, a coffee house with the aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans and a buttery croissant. My destination was the Saturn dealer for some repairs. Then, we'd rendezvous somewhere for lunch.

We connected for lunch at the microbrewery at the end of South Main. Previously, the building had been a gristmill but originally it was used to make corncob-smoking pipes. We asked for a table outside to people watch and enjoy the sunny crisp day.

After lunch we found the RV repair place and inquired about our broken blinds. They said the blinds had to be custom made and it would take 10 days to receive them, so, it looks like we will be here longer than we thought. After that little chore, we were off to Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois.

We crossed the Mississippi River at Alton, IL and, as we approached this massive bridge, the suspension cables glistened in the afternoon sun, like golden strands. In Alton, we stopped at the Visitors Center and met Doug Arnold and Suzanne Lerch with the Greater Alton/Twin Rivers Convention & Visitors Bureau. They were a wealth of information and asked us to revisit them next week after we settled in the Park. To reach the Park from there we traveled along the scenic River Road to Grafton, IL, where two great rivers, the Mississippi and Illinois, converge.

Driving along this road, with the mighty Mississippi on one side and gigantic white limestone cliffs on the other, we visualized the prelude of Fall, and it would be glorious. We made one stop in Grafton for a cold custard cone and then we were off again. Stopping at the Visitors Center at the Pere Marquette, we found it already closed at 3:30. So, we drove through the park, talked with the camp host and looked for potential sites for the next week. It is a small Park with some 80 campsites and very busy on the weekends. There are walking trails in the hills and along the River that look inviting.

It was time to head back to St. Charles and Doug had suggested we take the Grafton Ferry. The ferry is located in Grafton where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers come together. Since it was after 6 pm, there was no traffic on our side because all the commuters were homebound from the other side. I stood on the ferry ramp, at the River's edge, watching a small river john boat come in with two fishermen and just absorbed the majestic beauty of the sage old River. Looking at the white bluffs and the coarse it has taken over the millennium to carve this passage, my thoughts drifted to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and their raft as they floated down this mighty River.

Soon the ferry came and we were its only passengers going back to Missouri. Peg and I got out of the car and stood at the railing to watch the Capitan navigate between two islands to the Missouri side. When he came into the docking facility, he hit it straight on… an amazing bit of piloting, with the current and all. We learned later that this Captain has been piloting for 20 years on this River.

This evening we ate at the Beef Eater Pub & Grill owned by the Strong's at the RV Park. We were seated at the bar waiting for a table, when another couple sat next to us. They were regulars and were having a conversation with the bartender when the word "ferry" came up. I mentioned to the gentleman and his wife that we had such an enjoyable ride on a ferry today in Grafton. He said, "that's wonderful, we own it". Needless to say, it was fun talking with them. They also own a winery on top of a bluff in Grafton and they've invited us to visit next week. Small world!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

There was activity in the air this morning…the first twinge of Fall…the temperature was in the low 40's and the sun was shining. We picked up the Katy Trail and started our walk along the Missouri River. We passed two very long and old three-story red brick buildings. On the ends of each building were the words "Steel Shop No. 1" and "Steel Shop No. 2" and railroad tracks led out of each one. As I studied the structures, I assumed they were used in the fabrication of some kind of rolled steel product and used overhead cranes to move whatever was being built. On our return trip later that day, we walked past the front of the buildings and I saw the name ACF Industries. Then, I knew how these buildings were used and why the railroad tracks were in them. ACF stands for American Coach Foundries; which built and customized railroad cars for the J. P. Morgan's, Jay Gould's of the world, as well as the Pullman sleeper-car. The plant has limited utilization today and they are converting part of the premises into the Foundry Arts and Culture Center, to open sometime in 2004.

About two miles down the trail, we stopped at a bronze Lewis and Clark statue on the waterfront. This is a magnificent piece of work atop a raised circular walkway and garden. The landscaping is still in its early stages but commemorative bricks are planned for the path with the contributor's name on them. At this point, we turned and headed back up Main Street as the Saturday visitors crowded the streets, peeking into the small shops.

In the next block, we spied The Visitor's Center, which is always a worthwhile stop. As we entered, an elderly gentleman who was tall, gray, with a thin gray mustache and wearing a shirt of the Lewis and Clark era greeted us. He said he had just returned from a lecture, and did we need help? We told him we were interested in any literature telling about the history of St. Charles and Main St. His eyes lighted up and he said, "You have asked the right person because I was the history professor at the local college, and I have written a book on the area. It just so happens, that I have the book here."

We spent an hour with Dan Rothwell as he described the area and pointed out things in his book, _Along The Boone's Lick Road_ " Missouri's Contribution to Our First Transcontinental Route- U.S. Highway 40". He is a storyteller; someone you could sit and listen to for hours. I asked him about the title of the book and here is a snip of what he told me.

Daniel Boone, and his extended family came to this area in 1799 at the invitation of the Spanish, to help settle the Spanish Territory known as the Upper Louisiana. The Boone name was well known in that time, as they say, "a legend in his own time". So, with the Boones settling in the area, the thought was that they would bring more settlers.

Daniel had two sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan, who had scouted the area a few years earlier. Nathan found a saline spring close to the River. In those days, salt was almost as precious as gold. They boiled the water to evaporate it, leaving the salt residue, and then sold a bushel of salt for $2. Salt was used as a preservative for their meats as well as flavoring. The rocks and ground around the spring had salt deposits on them, which the animals would come and lick. So, the spring became known as Boone's Lick.

A trail led from the spring to the west, toward the Boone settlement, which later became known, as Boone's Lick Trail. Later, as time passed and the migration to the west began, the Boone's Lick Trail became the starting point for the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails.

I find it interesting how most of our roadways began as animal and Indian trails. Later the pioneers would chip off tree bark along the trail, this became known as a "Trace". A "Trace" would only accommodate people on foot or horseback. A "Trace" became a "Road" once wagons or stagecoaches could travel them. The same with Boone's Lick Trail…it was a way back home, later evolved to a Trace, then a Road, then became a segment of U.S. Hwy 40 which became a segment of the first transcontinental route across the U.S, which later became part of today's Interstate 70.

We returned to the motor home after spending most of the day walking and visiting. Peg carries a pedometer for measuring her footsteps and we had over 10,500, which was about 4 to 5 miles. Figured I had made up for the last 3 to 4 days of limited walking.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

We awoke this morning with rain peppering down, and chose to have an easy morning doing laundry plus a few other chores. Later in the afternoon as the skies cleared, we decided to tour the new Lewis and Clark Museum down by the River.

The Museum had exhibits and dioramas of the Corp of Discovery's 8000-mile expedition into the new Louisiana Purchase. The Museum is located on the banks of the Missouri, fairly close to the spot where Clark camped waiting for Lewis to join him. They departed St. Charles on May 21,1804 for uncharted territory.

The Museum also had many pictures of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, which was a reenactment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Volunteers built keelboat replicas, dressed in period attire and traveled the route of the Expedition to the Pacific Ocean starting in August 2001.

Leaving the museum, we had a beautiful drive out Hwy 94 toward Augusta, MO, and an area known for its wineries. Carol R, who receives our Travelogues, had suggested the drive and we are so pleased we took it. We followed Hwy 94 into the countryside of rolling hills and turned onto County Road F to Boone's Home. This is the farm and home of Daniel Boone and his extended family. Daniel lived here from the time he was 65 until his death, at the age of 85. The old three-story home site is an exhibit along with other buildings of the period moved onto the grounds, and available for touring. It was a wonderful afternoon of browsing in a very quiet and peaceful little valley.

Leaving Boone's Home we followed the back roads into small, quaint and picturesque Augusta. Located high on the hillside the narrow entry road into town went between rows of grape arbors. As we drove through town, the road dropped down the side of the hill into the River valley. There, once again, we came across the Katy Trail, loaded with Sunday bikers. This little town is off the "beaten path" but a winery and bed and breakfast haven.

We were following Hwy 94 back toward St. Charles when we came to a little twist in the road and the hamlet named, Defiance. There was literally an "S" turn in the road, with a tavern on both sides of the "S" and parked in a line were all these beautiful Harley's. It looked like a major "Hog Rally". I looked for my niece, Gail and her husband, Ed or Tom Dorsey, as I slowly passed through the throng of bikers. It appeared that all were enjoying the afternoon ride and camaraderie.

I am currently reading Stephen Ambrose's, Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Some have said, for its time, the Corp of Discovery was considered to be the modern equivalent of man landing on the moon. After visiting the St, Charles area and its preparation for the 200th anniversary next year, we have touched a piece of history and walked back in time.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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