Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gateway Ho!

Sept. 20

After our wonderful breakfast at Panera’s (and our last blogging session) we crawled back into the van for our last leg east. Our first stop of the day was Arrow Rock State Park, an intended camping destination until we let ourselves be talked into another day in Kansas City. We stopped in today for a picnic lunch and look around and really enjoyed it. The park is peaceful, beautiful and includes the community of Arrow Rock. The girls caught a turtle at our first stop in the park, so we made that our picnic spot and entertained ourselves by watching Yertle the Speed Demon run zigzags across the porch of the old courthouse. This would certainly have been the better camping spot. Next time…

As we headed into St. Louis, I handed back the visitors guide. The girls soon spotted Grant’s Farm and within minutes we’d set our course for the “free” tour of this park. Turns out it’s free after you pay for parking. If you’re driving a car, it’s only $10, but tow in a trailer of any size, come in an RV or any other oversized vehicle and it’s $25. Bummer.

The girls enjoyed the property, though, which is basically a privately held zoo (owned by the Busch family of Anheiser-Busch fame) that is open for public tours. Visitors first take a free tram through the 160-acre deer park and up the hill to the “farm” where handlers put on various animal shows, baby goats wait to be bottle fed or brushed (they prefer the bottles, or buttons from your clothes, hair, shirt tails, camera bag straps), and several exotic animals are on display. The handlers also provide animal interaction with visitors including opportunities to touch snakes, tarantulas, ferrets (we pet Salt, Pepper was still asleep), a giant tortoise. They may rotate in other animals on other days.

While we’d been planning to camp at Horsethief Lake in Illinois just a few miles outside of town, we opted to go for the spot that was just across the river, gated and fenced with security due to our proximity to big cities. For $22 a night, it’s the most expensive campground we’ve visited, and the sites are parking spots separated by no more than 6 feet of gravel. There are no fire pits, fire rings or BBQs, no picnic tables (or any other sort of table), but there are hookups. And while it’s related to the neighboring casino, the only restaurant is inside the casino where children are absolutely forbidded. Unlike Vegas, kids can’t even walk through the casino to access the food, and they provided no outside access directly to the restaurant when they rebuilt last year. OOPS! For heavy sleepers with a fully self contained trailer or RV and no children this would be a great deal. For us, it was still a better deal price-wise than any hotel we could’ve gotten, but I wouldn’t stay here again unless I won the lottery and had one of those sound-proof, $300,000 jobbers. Then again, if I won the lottery I could afford to stay in a downtown St. Louis hotel! 

Today V, who has been making wonderful twisted braids for some time now, made her first three-strand braid. She’s very proud.

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