Blood Alley

Change of season, change of scenery—we went for a drive in the country. Back in September, the paper had a travel article that detailed a drive south from Saint Louis. Directions for it were pretty easy, stay on Highway 21. It is a notorious road, known around here as Blood Alley for all of the driving fatalities that have occurred along its way. We started off safely as Tesson Ferry Road, a four-lane divided highway. It did eventually narrow though to two lanes and became quite twisty and turny. I could see how it has exacted a toll, but it was a fine day and the pavement was dry. We had a full tank of gas and an itinerary to fulfill.

Our first stop was Sandy Creek Covered Bridge. This historic site is one of only a few covered bridges in Missouri. Built in 1876, it has outlasted all uncovered bridges built back then. As a contemporary described, bridges were covered for the same reason that women wore petticoats, “to protect their underpinnings.”

Our next stop was Desoto. Main Street of this small Missouri town is unusually laid out. All of the stores are only on one side of the street. On the other side of the street are the railroad tracks and across them is Arlington House (1860), once a hotel, now an event space. Anne wanted everyone to know that while I walked across the street to photograph it, she waited patiently outside of a quilt shop.

We next traveled further back in time, when we visited the petroglyphs at Washington State Park. These are dominated by egg shaped fertility symbols. We visited a recreated early French-American village. Its restored structures were originally built when this land was part of New France. It being noon, we drove past the Starlite Drive-in, which is apparently doing a land office’s business this year. We stopped at Caledonia, but like in the newspaper article, this small town with fine homes and interesting looking stores was swarmed by unmasked tourists and like the reporter, we did not even get out of the car.  

More’s the pity, because our next stop was a super-spreader event. There is a reason that taking advantage of our retired life, we normally don’t venture out like this on the weekend. The parking lot at Elephant Rocks State Park was full. There was even an antique car show that spilled out onto the lawn. We learned that several church groups were having outings that day. Mask-up folks! Most people were not masked, but we kept away from them all.

The billion-year-old rocks themselves were not near as crowded as the lot was. It has been half-a-lifetime since last we visited this park. The boys were young then and we all enjoyed scrambling over the rocks together. It was hot then and we had the park pretty much to ourselves. Still since then, the park has seen a lot of improvements and we’ll have to revisit it again, on a weekday.

It was stick-a-fork in me time after the rocks. We bagged the rest of the itinerary and headed home. I got the night off in the kitchen, when we had Vietnamese from Mai Lee delivered. Although, Anne ordered a papaya salad, where some assembly was required. All-in-all, it was a nice outing and a fun day!

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