Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sentimental Journey

One of the happy reasons that the Halls enjoy their vacations so much is because they know and anticipate each other's desires. When Mr. Hall asked Mrs. Hall to make the reservations for their stay in St. Louis, she knew instinctively he wouldn't want the one downtown or even the one near Lambert, but the one next to the old corporate airport he used to frequent.
The trip to the St. Louis area was mostly one of remembrances for Mrs. Hall, but there was no reason Mr. H. shouldn't enjoy it as well. The first stop was to the old hanger at the Spirit of St. Louis airport in Chesterfield. Neither one of them had been back to Chesterfield in quite a while and the changes in the area were startling. Mrs. Hall had remembered a quaint little smokehouse at the end of a long stretch of quiet road. What they found was a sprawling suburban landscape, spilling over out of the old flood plain surrounding the industrial park and the airport. The smokehouse was still there, but had morphed into an upscale and expensive deli, catering to the new McMansions in the 'hood. "You don't mind if we go in, do you? I mean, how can you resist a deli that boasts a giant pig in front of it?" asked Mrs. Hall. After trying all the tasty cheese and cracker samples in the store, they went to look for Mrs. Hall's old home, in the St. Peters area. Colleen and Ian were born in Illinois, but Master Christopher had been born here, so Mrs. H. thought such a meaningful spot on the map would be easy to spot. Wrong again, she realized that if it weren't for the faithful GPS telling her where to go, she would never have found the old neighborhood. Rampant growth had washed away most of the old landmarks she remembered. The house was still standing, but instead of verdant farmland across the street, a mall, a new church and a bank had filled the void facing the old picture window.
Thinking that surely the older neighborhood of Alton, Il, just over the river would have remained unscathed, they headed over in that direction. Mr. Hall stopped to ask directions but the local to whom he spoke seemed unmoved by their plight. They decided to just head northward up the river road in the direction of the national park. About halfway there, Mrs. Hall remembered a restaurant she used to frequent and making a quick check online, found that it was still around. "A mile ahead and off to the right; if the Mississippi river hasn't come over the road, we should be in business." They pulled the rental into the parking lot of the Fin Inn, a local favorite, known for its fried fish and massive dining table fish tanks. Little kids laughed and ran up and down the aisles chasing what might very well be their dinner all along the length of the restaurant. "I'd like to have the catfish, but it's very disconcerting to have them all looking at me so accusingly like that," said Mrs. H. "That's why I'm having the cheeseburger." said Mr. H.
After purchasing some little blue fish keyrings to remember their fun and waving goodbye to the loggerhead turtles in the tanks, they continued up the river. Their destination: Pere Marquette Lodge. Built by the CCC during the 30s, its massive timbers and rustic stone charm have endeared it to so many, Mrs. Hall included. Its beauty really shines in the fall, but even in the heat of an oppressive summer, the cool stone floor in the great lobby room was inviting. They played a quick game of chess with the handmade giant pieces on the floor (Mr. Hall was a gracious loser...) and bade farewell to the river road, the graceful herons and eagles flying around and the confluence of the Mighty Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Next episode: Warbirds from the past and energy for the future; stay tuned!

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