Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Travel plans were made to be altered

Sept. 22, 2008

OK, so we were SUPPOSED to head out today. Travel plans are supposed to be flexible though, right? We couldn’t take off without another visit to Forest Park. After all, there were things we hadn’t seen, not the least of which were the playground left to be explored, and the St. Louis Science Center which begged for our attention. Well, it would’ve been fine without our attention, but WE didn’t want to skip it all for the sake of moving on!

We rose bright and early (OK, it wasn’t sunrise yet, but you get the picture) so we could use the bathrooms before they were locked. Then we rolled camp to Forest Park where we had a picnic breakfast. (Why be normal?) We all enjoyed Wonderland Playground, including a fabulous drinking fountain that also served as a play place.

Then the hunt for parking continued. We found a place with no problem in the nearly vacant parking lot outside the Planetarium, but as we walked away, a security officer let us know in no uncertain terms that we could not park a trailer there, not even for the day while we visited the Planetarium/Science Center (they’re linked via an enclosed pedestrian overpass). We’d have to park “by the lake.” Turns out the curbside parking there was already taken, so we ended up spending 40 minutes driving up and down dead-end streets searching for the parking lot at the Science Center (on the other side of the freeway) only to discover they don’t allow trailers (or anything longer than a passenger vehicle). After I asked the attendant for some input on a parking spot and told her what we’d already done to find a spot, she took pity on us and called her supervisor. Once the supervisor saw our tiny trailer, they let us in so long as we parked WAY at the back of the lot. Done!

The St. Louis Science Center was certainly worth the parking hassle. While we’d intended to spend a couple of hours there at most, we ended up spending most of the day. There was a wide variety of exhibits which, by their nature, invited participation by all ages, and the frequent science presentations (particularly “When Science Goes Splat”) were captivating, entertaining and, yes, educational.

We couldn't leave the area without a stop at Ted Drewes for custard concrete, which reminded me a lot of the shakes I used to get with my best college friend in Salt Lake City - so thick you'd need a pump to suck it through a straw, and any combination of flavors and additions you could imagine. We also stopped at the storied White Castle to try the burgers. The verdict all around: ick!

Though we’d intended to spend the afternoon lounging about at Meramec State Park, we were tired of crowds and noise after our St. Louis “camping” experience, and we were running too late to really enjoy the park, so we carried on West, putting on some miles in the late afternoon. Our first good pitstop was at the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair, newly erected (April Fool’s Day 2008) in Fanning, MO. It’s silly, but pretty cool, and it got us to stop into the shop there and grab a thing or two that we may or may not have needed.

I was headed for an area in the Ozarks called the Devil’s Backbone, but dark fell earlier than expected, so we found ourselves camping on the shore of the Big Piney River. The fireflies are out – or are they firefly larvae? They look like lady bug larvae, but their tail ends glow. They certainly don’t fly (no wings), and look more like black, flattened pillbugs than beetles. Also spotted one of the hundreds (thousands?) of tiny tree frogs that are quite vociferous tonight. So glad to be back out with the sounds of nature!

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