St. Louis and Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri 

Nature, free entertainment, old hippies, and cave bacon…

I was headed to Colorado and decided to make a pit stop in St. Louis and check out the city for a few hours. After a few days I realized how much I loved this city. It had all the energy I missed about Chicago but 1/10th of the people, you could find parking, and not only were activities not ridiculously expensive, but many were free!

My first day in St. Louis consisted only of damage control. Oddly the screen on both my laptop and phone went out and I spent hours upon hours in tech stores getting this worked out. To be honest, it’s still not even fully taken care of. After all this chaos it was the perfect balance to spend the next day reading and writing perched in the back of the van with Morgan watching a strong storm blow through. Between the storm, the glistening lake, the lavender flowers blooming in the trees, the smell of incense and hot tea, and a little bit of Aldous Huxley… I was in paradise.

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Day three was spent exploring. After roaming the art museum, the science center, the botanical gardens, and getting a closer look at the arch I headed to an area called the loop in university city. This is a strip of bars, restaurants, and hippie shops. After stopping in at Sunshine Daydream and a local smoke shop I set out on my mission of the night.

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On the road I always try to find two things in each state: a memorabilia to add to the van and a stolen coaster with the name of the state or a main city to send back home to my dad. By the end of my travels he will have a coaster from all 50 states and then some. (5 down, 45 to go) Short on money, I had to get that coaster with my first drink purchase, I couldn’t afford to bounce around town all night in search of the perfect one. I approached a group of kids about my age hanging out side of Fitz’s Bar and told them my predicament. They called out a hippie looking fella from inside who worked there and pleaded with him to go steal a coaster or any piece of memorabilia. He was nice enough to come back with a roll of stickers that had Fitz’s St. Louis written on them. Appreciated, but mission still not accomplished. After talking to a man playing ukelele on the street for a few minutes I was headed to The Blueberry Hill. This bar had my coaster, and it even showcased a gargoyle.. my father’s odd ongoing obsession. The bar itself was fascinating. The owner had pictures of himself with every big time star you could ever imagine. From John Lennon, to Steven Tyler, to Outkast, to the entire band of Rage Against The Machine. There were old figurines of Simpson characters, characters from The Beatle’s movies, Beavis and Butthead, and more. There were even Pacman machines. I sipped on hard cider while walking the perimeter of the bar taking it all in.

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On my last morning I visited the basilica. I am anything but religious, but if you have never visited a cathedral of this type I highly recommend you do so. The architecture and intricate design present throughout the work is truly breathtaking. From here I set out on the historic Route 66, stopping to snap a picture of the van at the legendary Wayside Motel. I tried to stop in and try the acclaimed world’s best frozen yogurt at Ted Drewe’s but was unfortunately passing through long before they opened for the day. I was later told by many locals that skipping Ted Drewes’s was a decision I’d learn to regret.

From Route 66 I took a detour out to the Lake of the Ozarks to take an hour long walking tour inside Bridal Cave. I was lucky enough to have a one on one tour allowing me to ask all sorts of questions. I was able to learn about all the different rock formations and the creative names that have been assigned to these different shapings such as cave bacon and cave popcorn. There was a bright blue lake dubbed Mystery Lake due to the remains of a boat and ladder in which no one can come close to explaining where they came from or how they got so deep in the structure. I even got to experience total darkness for about a minute deep underground. Even after just that minute my eyes were going crazy trying to adjust. We were so deep underground and far back around the twists and turns of the maze that made up this cave that zero natural light came through. I never imagined the cave would be as large or elaborate as it was. The inside looked like it was decorated for royalty, with dripping stone chandeliers everywhere and crystals growing up the walls. Only this wasn’t decorated for royalty. This was natural, caused simply by the right conditions being place near the right movement of water. It is amazing how nature works out so perfectly.

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