RLT: Kansas! (Rolling Again! Day 6)

RLT: Kansas! (Rolling Again! Day 6)

6 Sep 2021

Slowing getting back in the traveling groove today… Bright blue skies and lovely sunshine, just perfect! Studying the map I came to realize that Illinois drops waaaaay farther south than I realized – to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and right in line with our path. Oh look, there is a town there, Cairo, prestigious name. Has to be an interesting place right? Should find lots of history given that it is nestled between historic rivers, and it’s about the right distance — ‘one short day’ away. Cherry on the cake there is a very interesting looking B&B in Mound City just a hop skip and a jump north. Lets go! (but not until we get a late breakfast).

All Day Breakfast – Right kind of place for sure
History to Boot 🙂
Classic Right?

What a great vibe, stereotypical cafe in the heartland. Good food, great atmosphere, so glad we stopped, ok now ready to go. And go we did but… not a lot between here and there so no photos to share, although there were two clearly defined sections along the way.

Starting out in the top end of Land between the Lakes are lovely woodlands. Then the town of Grand Rivers as a transition point. I expected more I suppose? We didn’t take the time to look much, but it’s a fairly small place, then again there wasn’t anything particularly obvious either. Expected something – guess shouldn’t have. Defiantly a boundary though, as we turned west to cross that little western knob of Kentucky it was rather featureless Ohio River bottom lands. So much so that we stopped to consult the map looking for a place to cross the river, back into Illinois. After some searching it was obvious that just wouldn’t work out. Oh well, short jaunt, keep pressing on. Not bad in any way, just not fabulous riding.

Then, we arrived… US 51 over the Cairo Ohio River bridge, left turn and ride US 62 over the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge. This brackets Fort Defiance State Park, next stop. Make a U-Turn back and just get this sense of unexpected. The roads were mostly empty, and while not in terrible shape, not fresh either. The park; tired is perhaps the best word? Lovely spot, but deserted and yes, just plain tired.

River Queen…

The river boat gazebo with tiered observation decks was really quite a nice touch, just above and pointing to the confluence. We wondered down from the bow and touched the joining waters. The views back towards the bridges are interesting right? The character of the Ohio so evident, industry all the way to Pittsburgh where the river begins with the joining of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. The Mississippi on the other hand looks a bit wild and lonely despite being navigable all the way to St. Anthony’s Falls in Minneapolis.

… at the confluence
Left up the Ohio…
… right up the Mississippi

A plaque in the park inscribed with a mere 181 words recounts a sweeping history of the place beginning with its European discovery. It starts with the voyage of Marquette and Joliet in 1672 nearly 150 years before the formation of the current state, then mentioning the La Salle expedition (his biography is an incredible read BTW, highly recommend), defensive use by George Clark (older brother of William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame) who was the highest ranking Patriot officer on the northwest frontier, a reminder that the steamboat New Orleans (first to navigate western waters) sat out the 7.2-8.2 Richter scale earthquake (largest in recorded history, east of the Rocky Mountains) with epicenters nearby, establishment of the Union’s Ft. Defiance, and the start of General Grants great flanking movement which crushed the south. A lovely find.

In contrast near by, is another plaque commemorating the Lewis and Clark voyage of discovery. At the bottom a sculpture is referenced. I looked high and low for this piece of art, only to finally realize it was right there in front of the plaque – so ugly as to be unrecognizable. Not even worth the bits of a digital photo. Why is modern art so beyond bland as to be reprehensible?

In the city of Cairo, on the other hand, is a rather remarkable statute. Originally commissioned for the the Worlds Fair in 1904 it was presented to the city in memory of a certain Capt. W. P. Halliday by his widow.

Most out of place art ever
Stately …

Speaking of Capt Halliday, here is the house he built – Riverlore. Sure would be fun to take a peek inside!

… Riverlore
Across the street from Magnolia Manor…
… her big sister

The house across from Riverlore is beautiful as well. It appears to be open for visitors, but not today. Speaking of day, it’s getting late and we imagined finding a nice place to eat somewhere in town. We hadn’t seen anything to this point, and thought perhaps we hadn’t come to the commercial district yet. Nope.

I have never seen such a place. Not only is there no ‘nice’ place to eat, there was quite literally no place to eat at all. Buildings falling down, vine covered facades, broken up marquees and signs with weeds growing in parking lots, iron grates across windows and doors – just plain desolate on main street.

At this point we became a little concerned. The neighboring town we plan on staying in is so small it’s unlikely to have a cafe, it’s getting late and it’s a long way to any other sizable town. Scouring the map we finally found Huckleberry’s on an interstate exit. a simple place, food and drink, and so very welcomed at this point! That brings us to the star of the show today…

Remarkably hard to find

Given what we found this afternoon at Cairo, we were rather apprehensive about lodging tonight. Have to say this is probably one of the first times I really had concerns about an on-line booking. It looked pretty good in the web browser, but… we all know everything on the internet is true right.

There was a lone Local Cafe, but open?

Rolling through town for a ‘look see’ gave a bit of a mixed message, not really easing the concern but also not making it worse either. We did keep an eye out for a cafe and didn’t see anything – turns out we rode right past it on the main street, the photo above is from Street View, it was so nondescript we didn’t even notice it. Not totally abandoned like Cairo, but certainly not thriving either. Everything was neat and clean, as you can see in the picture above, yet at the same time a bit weathered and worn.

The B&B on the other hand was quite a looker. What a gem, inside and out. And, as you might expect I suppose, the proprietor was quite a unique individual. Let me share some of the wonderful views.

Grand old home…
… in every way
Detail in depth…
… leading to a beautiful stair
It was fun to see the shift from day to night
More perspective depth
So much detail…
… at every turn

Frederick, our host, was such a hospitable gentleman. After dropping our bags in the room we came down and visited over tea. He is an architect and had a practice in St. Louis specializing in revitalizing or expanding unique properties. He showed several of his designs, all sketched by hand, with exquisite detail. He took the view that computer generated print just couldn’t match the quality of his renderings. Have to agree. After some turmoil in the business he decided to step away from it and move here. The home was owned by an acquaintance and he subsequently arranged to purchase it, then open it to guests. So glad he did!

Almost overwhelming!
The breakfast closely matched the home

Breakfast was a perfect match to the place, elegant and delicious! Well done, we had a lovely visit. Reflecting on the day I can’t help but be reminded of the contrast. Let’s hope this area can make its way to a future more reminiscent of the past. A place in time recounted by Fredrick from visits here to his extended family as a child. A place where people walked about on Friday evenings, getting hair cuts, taking in a movie, window shopping along the streets while meeting their neighbors and friends as they went. A vibrant energized community.

As always, enjoy following along on the map. Get out there and enjoy this beautiful world…