As some of you may already know, I recently returned from a visit to St. Louis, where I had the wonderful experience of visiting with a fellow well known to Marriott Rewards Insiders. I am, of course, referring to Mr. jerrycoin, long-time MR member and all around good guy. His travel tips on London are unsurpassed. But, I digress.
My latest trip in my ongoing quest to visit every county (and county-equivalent) in the United States lasted just 3½ days but I added 52 more counties to my growing total, which now stands at 1,002. That means over 2,000 still to visit, leading to years of travel stories to share (for details on my hobby, please look over earlier blog posts). Notable about this journey is that I completed two more states, Indiana and Illinois bringing the total to 7 (OH, DE, AZ, SC, and KY are the others – in order of completion). In addition to the counties in IN & IL, I collected 7 counties in Missouri, plus the city of St. Louis (which is not officially a part of St. Louis county and thus stands alone as a county-equivalent).
Overnight stays at the Courtyard in Springfield, IL and the Fairfield Inn in Mount Vernon, IL were generally unremarkable except for the wonderful, welcoming staff in Springfield. My Gold Elite status was recognized with a lovely room upgrade which included a balcony. I don't have much to add about the FFI but, I did find an interesting display across the street. See what you make of it. It sort of sums up traveling the roads of this country.
The best lodging of the trip was at the Renaissance Grand in St. Louis. I arrived a few minutes past noon and had no trouble getting checked into my 18th floor room, just down the hall from the Concierge Lounge. I don't know if it was an upgrade, but since I was staying on a category 1-5 promo certificate, it didn't really matter.
As it was almost lunchtime and I had arranged to meet jerrycoin, I hastened down to the lobby and encountered him just as he arrived. We walked a couple blocks to the Dubliner, an Irish pub that, except for its spacious interior, would blend in almost anywhere in Ireland. Jerry has already done a great job of describing our get-together, so I'll let his fine words be the official record of that encounter (Re: bejacob & jerrycoin relax in STL! ).
Over the weekend, I experienced several interesting places. One was a short (5 minute) ferry ride across the Illinois River near the town of Kampsville. Though considerably shorter, it reminded me of the ferry ride on my trip to North Carolina at the end of March (read North Carolina – From the Mountains to the Sea for details).
Another fascinating place was the city of Chester, along the Mississippi River in southern Illinois, the home of Popeye (I would have expected a seaside town ). As it turns out, E.C. Seger, the man who created Popeye was born and raised in Chester. Driving into town, one can't help but notice signs such as the one below. Throughout the city are statues of the various characters from the Popeye comic strip including Wimpy, Olive Oyl, Bluto, and of course, Popeye himself.
Speaking of statues, one thing I noticed in many of the counties across Illinois were statues of Abraham Lincoln. As the state is known as the Land of Lincoln, I shouldn't have been surprised, but this is the sort of thing I would never have discovered by driving along the Interstates. Here are three examples from (L to R) Hillsboro in Montgomery County, Vandalia in Fayette County, and Marshall in Clark County.
I don't know if similar monuments exist in every county and in some ways it saddens me that I only discovered the statues as I was completing my county visits in the state. I don't intend to revisit every county just to find out if there is a bronze Lincoln statue, but if I happen to been in one of the towns for another reason, I’m sure I will make at least a cursory effort to look for one.
My next adventure is set for late June. If all goes as planned, I will drive through northern Pennsylvania and into New York. I’m hoping to cover most of the Empire state, with the exception of the area around NYC which I'll save for another time. I have no idea what I'll discover, but you can be sure I'll blog about it when I get home.