Derek Johnson Muses

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Illinois, Issues Etc., and Missouri Road Notes: Part 2

Thursday

Morning coffee at Starbucks in Edwardsville, Illinois. At separate tables are sitting two identical girls: nerd glasses like mine, brown hair pulled back, studying. One wears running gear, the other wears average dull college class clothes. Then a third girl walks in who looks exactly the same except her hair is done and she’s wear black pants & a sleeveless vest with a white shirt underneath. Then I look around and realize… all the girls around here look like that.

Wish I would have gone to the place on the Missouri side where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi. I could have gotten a good view of it. Instead, I go up a tower where you can view the convergence, and view it from across the way, at Lewis and Clark’s winter camp before their expedition up the river. Love all things Lewis and Clark.

View from the top

Meet Pastor Wilken, Jeff, and Craig, the team behind Issues, Etc. They do the show in a small section of a strip mall in Collinsville because they want to be good stewards of the funds they receive. Such a blessing to come and encourage those who labor in the gospel. Great to see the operations of an actual radio station. Most intriguing thing I observed: Pastor Wilken looks at a poster of President Obama while he’s doing the show (I’m dead serious).

Lunch at Stake and Shake, one place I always try to eat at if I go far enough east. They overcharge me for my order (or get it wrong entirely), but it’s a good sandwich, even though thin. The fries are flimsy too.

Visit the Gateway Arch, which looks impressive, but when I get close to it, I realize it’s not the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bridge is massive, and looks the part of something huge. Maybe it’s because the Arch doesn’t serve a purpose of transportation or has no foreign tourists swarming it. I go into the Jefferson Western Expansion Museum, stamp my passport, and buy some novelty snack. I don’t ride to the top because I don’t like heights.

View from the ground.

Visit the U.S. Grant Home, where I complete the stamps for the Midwest part of passport. The roads down their make no sense to me; I have to stop at walking trails.

St. Louis is the lousiest piece of junk I’ve ever seen. Rotten railroads cross the river, whose banks team with unkept brush, and cracked buildings dot the streets. Even the high-end hotels aren’t kept up.The bad neighborhoods I observe from the interstate are what I imagine Detroit looks like, but this city has to be worse in places. The suburbs have so many empty sections in their strip malls, plus empty spots in the big malls, it’s embarrassing. St. Louis is a spralling city, but it doesn’t look that much more special than Omaha.

Get off the interstate just east of Jonesburg, Missouri and do my rural photographing thing. Going through Jonesburg, I pass over a dead turtle in the middle of the road. I hate driving around on the country roads, which are paved with golf-ball sized Missouri limestone.

Exit at Columbia, deciding  to eat at Steak and Shake again, then notice that Steak and Shake is next to Bob Evans. Remembering the time I had eating at Bob Evans in Lima, Ohio two and a half year when I was this tired, I head across the street. Chicken pot pie, with a roll and broccoli. I tip a solid twenty percent, good service. I mull which hotel to choose and call the Howard Johnson on my phone to see how much they are. Then I see a new Motel 6 as I cross the interstate, and decide to take my chances. It pays off: the room is clean and very respectable, and even has a couch.

I go to bed at 9:30 but I can’t sleep. I get up and drive to campustown, where I went once with Elizabeth when she went graduate school here in Columbia. The bars and clubs are abuzz, but the only coffee place open past eleven is Starbucks. I sit and type on my IPod while I watch the festivities of the students, girls trying to walk in high heels and dresses. I gradually make my way back to my car, hoping no one notices my red Husker shorts.

Friday

When I get back to Motel 6, it’s past midnight. I send an e-mail, take two pills, and hit the hay.

Have morning coffee at Kaldi’s: spiced maple coffee which surprises me. I expected it to be typical flavored coffee, basically food coloring with no body. Instead, it’s body with an apple-cinnamon accent, and I remember why I love food. I study a devotion over an egg and bacon bagel, enjoying the hip vibe of Kaldi’s. Take a pic of the sign for my sister.

I photograph a few barns, but not many. I want to get home.

Eating lunch at one of America’s northern-most Waffle Houses (Platte City, MO). I don’t know why this chain appeals to me. The last Waffle House I went to was in Florida and was a mess. This one is clean, but the vibe from the staff is lax, and don’t know how much I want to watch of my chicken being fried and my waffle being made. I know it’s part of the charming experience, but somethings are better left unknown. The meal is adequate and way too filling, and I don’t skimp on the tip.

I take one more photo detour in furthest northwest corner of Missouri, a state that’s unbelievably diverse. I bolt when I get onto Highway Two, and am equally relieved when I hear Unsportsmanlike Conduct on the radio. I arrive home at four, and head to bed.

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