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Report 2041: Driving the Great Mississippi River Road

By BJinNM from New Mexico, Fall 2012

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Page 18 of 33: Day 18-Cape Girardeau, MO to Paducah, Kentucky

photo by BJ Firestone

Mississippi River at Thebes, Ill.

We left Cape Girardeau this morning, unfortunately not having explored any of the sights in the town. The weather turned nasty with rain and high winds and we decided to just be on our way. We recrossed the Mississippi River just outside of Cape Girardeau and were back on the Illinois side. Here there is a short, beautiful stretch of River Road running right next to the River. Just north of Thebes, IL, there is a River Road point of interest so, of course, we pulled over and walked around it. Once again our path crossed Lewis and Clark who had tried to make their way up the Mississippi here finding it, in their words, very difficult.

We continued down the Illinois Great River Road which does once more leave the River and eventually found ourselves between the Ohio River and the Mississippi River in Cairo, IL. Here we crossed back into Missouri and headed toward New Madrid, MO. At least we thought we were heading there. Even with two Missouri maps, one issued by the State of Missouri, and the GPS function in Alan's iPhone, we once again found ourselves in a "You can't get there from here" situation. I will say there probably is not much of Mississippi County, MO that we didn't see or pass through by road. Finally by taking a long, round about, back near where you were before route, we reached New Madrid. New Madrid is where the epicenter of a series of earthquakes in 1811-1812 was located. They are the strongest earthquakes ever to occur (at least so far) in North America. They were felt all over the Eastern United States, and the River even appeared to flow north for an hour or so.

After going to the New Madrid Museum and seeing the River there, we headed out toward Kentucky. In order to get to Paducah, we had to once more cross the Mississippi south of Cairo. This time we stopped in order to go to the park which marks the confluence of the Ohio River and Mississippi River. On calm days you can apparently see the difference in the colors of the waters but today was anything but calm. We could see the two different currents meeting and this was actually super cool. The Ohio drains such a large part of the Eastern US and the Misissippi is such a powerhouse river that seeing them meet is pretty special.

Crossing into Kentucky, Alan realized it is the eighth state we have been in this trip and the fourth Great River Road state. Pretty good for 18 days so far.

Once in Kentucky and on the River Road, we saw we would be passing Wickliffe Mounds State Park. Wickliffe is another Mississippian mound builder site, and so we, of course, had to stop. It consists of only four mounds and is much, much smaller than either Cahokia Mounds or Emerald Mounds, the other two we have visited. The setup is interesting with huts on top of the excavations of two of the mounds so you can see the digs in situ. There was a huge robbery of artifacts in the 1980s, so most of the artifacts are reproductions. There is also a strict "no pictures" rule there, and so, no pictures here!

We got to Paducah and drove around the same few blocks several times trying to find our B&B. Finally Alan got out and walked around until he found it and we were finally able to park near it. The restaurant which is part of it was closed today and we saw no one anywhere, but when we tried the B&B door, we found it unlocked. We went upstairs and found absolutely no one there. I had a phone number on the confirmation but when we tried it, we could hear it ringing and then a fax would pick up. Those of you who read our Venice blog might recall our "ghost train" experience. This was a "ghost B&B" experience. I kept expecting Norman Bates to jump out! There was a key in our room door so we went ahead and unpacked the car. The "place" we were renting (and this is all ours) consists of a bedroom, a kitchen, living room, billiards room and two baths! Huge! There was still no answer at the given number so we decided to go eat. On the way down the block to the only open restaurant around, Alan suggested I see if there was a message on my phone. No call but there was an email from the manager giving us the owner's cell number and telling us the key was in the door (DUH!). Alan called the owner who, for some reason, thought we were arriving at 10pm. He said we were in the right place and just to go in, that they were not expecting anyone else tonight. By the way, we wound up with one of the best meals we have had this entire trip. If anyone is ever in Paducah, try Shandies on Market Square and Broadway. Terrific. Then we went back to our loft mansion and Alan practiced violin, without the mute since there was no one else staying there, and watched the end of the Cardinals game.

Tomorrow we day trip to Metropolis and hopefully get to see some of Paducah.

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