Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 3 (Cape Girardeau)

My brief Easter Weekend road trip focused the majority of its time on Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That consisted of a couple of hours poking around downtown on Friday evening and then the race the following morning. Nonetheless it still consumed the bulk of our waking hours in a single location. We initially rolled into town and enjoyed the vista at Cape Rock Park as described in the previous episode. Then we checked into our hotel, washed up a bit and headed out to see the old, historic section of Cape Girardeau.


Buckner's Brewing Company

We needed something to eat after the initial drive down from St. Louis and our busy day of touring. Of course I also wanted to add more breweries to my completion list as the total approached 400. There seemed to be a brewpub right in the midst of Cape Girardeau so Minglewood Brewery became a logical choice for dinner that evening. Afterwards we strolled downhill towards the Mississippi River shoreline.

Then we came upon a surprise just a couple of blocks away, a sign for Buckner’s Brewing Company. It didn’t appear on my go-to source,, that I consult before every trip I take. It dawned on my that maybe the site couldn’t keep up with the explosion of breweries in the last couple of years. New ones appeared with such regularity that no single source could ever be considered definitive anymore. I tucked that away for future reference. I will need to be more diligent as I prepare for upcoming trips. Take that as foreshadowing.

Buckner’s didn’t serve food. It couldn’t let anyone less than 21 years old onto the premises thanks to a quirk of local regulations. We had two kids in tow and I thought it might become a "brewery that got away." Fortunately my wife drove our personal car on this trip (remember I joined them a few days later after flying to St. Louis) and we always keep a spare growler tucked away for occasions such as this. We left the kids outside, filled the growler, and went on our way. I added Buckner’s Brewing to my list of visits, legitimately. Crisis averted.

Historic District

Cape Girardeau Riverfront

A small area designated the Cape Girardeau Commercial Historic District hugged the Mississippi shoreline. Both breweries resided in contributing structures inside the district. That was fairly common as I’ve discovered on my journeys. These types of businesses often clustered where revitalization efforts focused. I enjoyed walking around, taking note of architecture from the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Cape Girardeau expanded rapidly during this era, first due to riverboat traffic and later as a railroad stop. As described in its Inventory Nomination Form,

From 1880 to 1920, Cape Girardeau’s population grew from approximately 5,000 to over 10,000 residents. By 1930 the population had reached over 16,000. The downtown commercial district expanded to meet the needs of the growing community and larger brick buildings appeared along Main Street replacing earlier one- and two-story buildings. Many of these buildings were designed with Colonial Revival detailing and vernacular "Brick Front" design elements.

This district would be considered a jewel in many places. It appeared eerily quiet though, even on a Friday evening. Adjacent neighborhoods also seemed as if they’d seen better days. Meanwhile other parts of Cape Girardeau a couple of miles away near Interstate 55 thronged with activity and traffic. Hopefully people will begin to return to the urban core as they’ve done in other cities.

Flood Wall

Cape Girardeau Riverfront

I also strolled along the flood used to protected Cape Girardeau from the Mississippi River when it overflowed its banks. No such issue existed during my brief stay and the gates remained open. That let me enjoy murals painted on both sides of the wall. A barrier didn’t need to be ugly. I’d seen a similar philosophy when I visited Matewan in West Virginia last year. A concrete surface could be a great place for artwork outlining the history of the area. Here the paintings in Cape Girardeau told a story in 24 panels stretching 1,100 feet (335 metres), known collectively as the Mississippi River Tales Mural.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the wall as part of the Flood Control Act of 1950. Cape Girardeau flooded regularly before that, just a fact of life along a mighty river that drained a huge portion of the continental interior. However, the wall saved the city many times since then, including the "historic floods" in 1993 and 2011. It also held during the more recent 2016 flood.

The Race

Riverboat Marathon Series - Missouri

I guess I should get back to the whole purpose of this frenzied road trip, the race. Well, as I admitted earlier, I went along to capture counties. However we really went so my wife could run another one of her Mainly Marathons races. This one happened to be the sixth event in their Riverboat series, their stop in Missouri. The series included only five races when we participated back in 2014 so this provided an opportunity for her to pick up a new location. I did run the 5K so I didn’t feel like a total slacker, while my wife ran a half-marathon. We also enjoyed seeing friends we’d made at previous races. Then we hopped in the car and drove another 8 hours, heading back home.

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Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 2 (Short Haul)

Now I needed to execute my ambitious plan, a long weekend drive that would result in my capture of 24 previously unvisited counties. Friday, the first day, covered fewer miles than Saturday or Sunday. However, I made up for that shorter distance with plenty of sightseeing activities. I’d never traveled between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri so I wanted to enjoy this particular route following the Mississippi River downstream.

My flight touched down at St. Louis Lambert International Airport at 9:00 a.m., on time and blessedly routine. My wife picked me up at the arrivals curb and we began our ambitious road trip. I brought an awful cold with me, too. The virus passed through the family in sequence over the previous couple of weeks, from the younger son to the older, to my wife and finally to me. The cold dogged me the rest of the trip although I kept it mostly in check with antihistamines. That still improved upon my last trip to St. Louis. I got stuck there on September 11, 2001, as airlines ground to a halt after the horrific events of the day. It led directly to a long drive I called The Dreadful Road Trip. Now, I finally returned to the city however briefly after an absence of fifteen years.

Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary

Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary

I didn’t want to be completely selfish so I tried to include an activity that the kids would enjoy. It depended upon my punctual arrival — certainly not a guarantee with airlines involved — although it worked out this time. We had two hours to get from the airport to the Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary in Ste. Genevieve for the first tour of the day. We made easily, with several minutes to spare. Sometimes everything lines up just right.

This sanctuary provided a caring home for tigers (and one lion) that they rescued from unhealthy situations. Sometimes people wanted to raise tigers or other exotic animals as pets. They got tired of their pets, the animals grew too large or aggressive, or whatever. Other times, little roadside attractions featured wild animals as babies in petting zoos, and of course they matured into full-sized adults, no longer cute. Neglectful situations sometimes resulted. Sanctuaries then offered hope by serving as healthy places where animals could spend the remainder of their years in peace. Unfortunately, raised in captivity, they could not be returned to the wild.

If the photo makes it seem like the tiger lived in a small cage, take heart because this corner served as a corral to funnel the tiger into an indoor space. The larger part of the yard appeared off to the left, beyond the range of the camera.

Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling

Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling

Longtime readers of Twelve Mile Circle know that I count many things, including breweries. The kids got their tigers, now I got my beer.

The tour of the tiger sanctuary ended around noon so we headed to our next activity a few miles farther west. A brewery and a distillery? Count me in. Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling offered a convenient stop for lunch, and a chance for us to split a sampler. It seemed like a big place, much larger than the average craft brewery, although I’d not seen their products before. Their range must not extend to the East Coast. Nonetheless we enjoyed our stop and I could add it to my brewery visit map. I noticed that my brewery total began to approach 400. I wouldn’t be able to hit that landmark during this particular trip. It will happen soon enough though, I imagined.

Bollinger Mill State Historic Site

Bollinger Mill State Historic Site

I also liked to visit covered bridges. I’ve bored 12MC readers with these objects a number of times before. Remember Western Virginia and New Hampshire, as examples? The Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Cape Girardeau county offered yet another opportunity. It included a large historic mill combined with an adjacent covered bridge. That, I couldn’t miss.

First, we toured the mill. It dated to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century although the present structure rose right after the Civil War. Union forces burned the original mill because Bollinger’s descendants sympathized with the Confederacy and provided flour to help its cause. We received a nice, personalized tour of the building too. I guess very few people wanted to visit on some random Friday afternoon outside of tourist season so we used that to our benefit. The docent actually locked the front door, put up a sign telling others to come back later, and then led us through every floor of the mill from top to bottom.

The Whitewater River powered the mill, and likewise people needed a bridge to get across its 140 foot width. The Civil War halted construction of the bridge so wasn’t completed until 1867. By that time a settlement existed near the mill, named Burfordville for a local resident, John Burford. The bridge took the name of the village and it became the Burfordville Covered Bridge. It’s been restored a couple of times over the years although it’s too fragile for anything other than pedestrians today.

From there, we took the brief jog to capture Bollinger County as described earlier. Did the opportunity to cross into one more county influence the trip to the mill, or did the mill influence the jog to Bollinger? I’ll never tell.

Cape Rock

Cape Rock Park

How did Cape Girardeau get its name? Both a cape and a Girardeau existed, historically. France once owned this stretch of river as part of its vast colonial empire extending through the North American interior. In 1733, Ensign Jean Baptiste de Girardot, stationed at Kaskaskia, opened a trading post on the far extreme of the frontier. He chose a rocky promontory easily visible along the river. A town would eventually grow there, and appropriate his name as well as the geographic feature. Ironically, the actual cape, the prominent landmark rock visible from so far away no longer exists. They needed a railroad along the river so they destroyed the outcrop to make room for it. That’s how they rolled in the Nineteenth Century; blowing up the very namesake of the city in the name of "progress."

Nonetheless, the bluff where the trading post once stood still existed. The city marked the spot with Cape Rock Park. We finished the first day’s drive at the park atop the bluff, gazing upon the swiftly flowing Mississippi River.

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Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 1 (The Premise)

People following Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew something must be happening. Suddenly tweets tagged to places like Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau in Missouri began to appear on my feed just before Easter. I hadn’t announced the trip ahead of time although I’d been planning it for several weeks.

I’ve been aiding and abetting my wife’s scheme to run a race in all 50 states for quite awhile. Now she wanted to add Missouri, otherwise she’d face an alarmingly obvious Midwestern doughnut hole by the end of the summer. That seemed like a great excuse for me to do some exploring, and I hatched a crazy plan. I had to work most of the week so I’d fly to St. Louis on Friday morning to meet my wife who’d already be there, then we’d drive to Cape Girardeau to be ready for the race the following morning. After the race we’d drive as far as the middle of Ohio, stay overnight, then drive the rest of the way home to Virginia to celebrate Easter with family. A two-day road trip covering a thousand miles (1,600 km) plus a half-marathon, then dealing with dysfunctional relatives? What didn’t sound great about that?

Breaking it Down

Route from Missouri
The Route. New Counties in Dark Blue

All reservations melted away when I discovered that I could tweak the route and add 19 new counties on Saturday while driving only 20 minutes extra. I could also grab five new Missouri counties on Friday. My county counting list would jump by 24 over the course of a single weekend. I plotted a route on the special Mob Rule page that I use for experiments. Previously unvisited counties appeared on my map in dark blue while those I’d visited before appeared in light blue.

I didn’t have a lot of time to play around so the preponderance of new pickups would have to be Interstate Highway counties. That seemed a fair trade-off. I needed to capture them eventually so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity now. The basic route left Missouri, went over to Interstate 57 in Illinois, then to I-64 crossing Indiana, leading to I-71 in Kentucky and Ohio, then on to I-70 heading east out of Ohio, and finally home.

I also added a couple of new "overnight" counties; Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Muskingum County, Ohio . I considered those new members of the gold standard of county county visits. In my mind, staying overnight added a much higher level of prestige and credibility to a capture than simply crossing the border for literally a few seconds as happened with some of the others. I’ve now completed an overnight in 227 counties. I don’t think I could ever finish that odd quest though. It would take 8.6 years to spend the night in every county if I slept in a different one every night until completed. I’m not nearly that obsessive.

Jogging Not Racing

County Jogs
Jogging to Counties

The racing would take place on Saturday morning on foot. However, that still left plenty of time for jogging, and definitely not the kind on foot. Those involved little jogs that I took as we leveraged our proximity to snag a handful of additional counties. Two of those happened on Friday. With minor detours, really just a couple of miles out of the way, I captured Bollinger and Scott Counties in Missouri. The next day I took a similar short diversion and captured Hamilton County, Illinois. As I said to my son, "it would be a crime to come so close to (Bollinger/Scott/Hamilton) and not cross the border." The family collectively rolled their eyes even though I knew they’d appreciate it someday.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the kids participated in this adventure too. They were on spring break from school so mom drove out with them to St. Louis. They took a nice, leisurely route getting there and then they went sightseeing for a few days. Their friends all went to Florida or the Caribbean or Europe, while they had to go county counting in the Heartland. I’m sure their therapist somewhere in the distant future will get an earful. Whatever.

My county counting total stood at 1,390 (or 44.2% of all counties in the United States) as the trip concluded.

Uh Oh, Doughnut Hole

County Left Behind
Pulaski County, Illinois – Doughnut Hole

Solving one problem can sometimes create other problems, and that happened here too. My frenzied pace and inability to deviate much from the most efficient route created a clearly visible doughnut hole. Someday, and I don’t know when, I will need to return to this area to cross the border into Pulaski County, Illinois. However, it will have to stand alone at least for the foreseeable future. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll find myself unexpectedly near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers again. I never expected a second opportunity only three years after my original visit to the area. Lightning could strike a third time.

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