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Report 2041: Driving the Great Mississippi River Road

By BJinNM from New Mexico, Fall 2012

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Page 14 of 33: Day 14-Ste. Genevieve, MO to Edwardsville, IL

photo by BJ Firestone

Popeye Collage

We left Ste. Genevieve this morning and drove down to Chester, IL We were looking for the road across the Mississippi River bridge at Chester, but we found ourselves instead on a levee on a gravel road in the middle of a harvested corn field. Being all very well educated, we figured out that we had made a wrong turn off the Missouri side of the Mississippi River Road. Duh! After Alan executed a perfect t-turn, we went back the way we came, past the same harvested corn fields, back to the River Road and down about 1/2 mile found the right road. Crossing the River at Chester on a magnificent bridge, we immediately found our first Popeye statue, the big man himself, Popeye. The cartoon artist E.C. Segar was born and grew up in Chester and the town is in the middle of a 16-year project to erect Popeye character statues. So far eight statues have been put up and we saw six. We also stopped at the Spinach Museum and were able to see tons of Popeye memorabilia. The town is also full of Popeye murals and really made for a fun stop.

We were heading on down the Illinois Mississippi River Road now. Chery is very knowledgeable about Illinois history, so we made a few stops on the way to Cahokia Mounds. First we stopped in Dupo, Illinois to see the Boismenue home, which was built like the earliest homes in Ste. Genevieve were. Leaving Dupo we went right next door to the town of Cahokia where Chery used to live. There she took us to a Catholic Church built in 1799 and to the old Courthouse.

We wanted to have several hours at Cahokia Mounds so we didn't spend much time visiting the town of Cahokia. Cahokia Mounds is actually in Collinsville, confusing, isn't it? Chery used to work at the Cahokia Mounds and we couldn't have had a better guide. The mounds are left from a huge city of 20,000 inhabitants of the Mississippian group of peoples. The center piece is called Monks' Mound and it is the largest mound in North America. Excavation has uncovered large amounts of artifacts but has also resulted in even more questions about the Mississippian people. This is really an amazing place. The visitors' center has many of the artifacts on display and a giant diorama of what life was like. Chery and I opted out of climbing Monks' Mound but Alan climbed the 155 or so steps to the top. He said it was a spectacular view and he could see all the way to St. Louis. There is also an area known as Woodhenge which was a circle of wooden poles with a sighting pole in the middle. It was used to mark the seasons. We tried to get pictures of it but it is very large and makes the most sense when seen from the air.

On the way out of Collinsville, Chery had one more surprise for us. It is a statue of a tin man made of junk and sitting on the edge of someone's lawn. Another example of Americana folk art.

Tomorrow we are planning to go with Chery to Alton and Grafton and to see more of both the River Road and Route 66.

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