April 26, 1805, a Typical Friday Night

There is a fluidity in history that seems to go unnoticed. Unrecognized layers of time and physical space surround our lives and we tend not to see ourselves as contributors to the story.

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery marked their achievement in reaching the Pacific Ocean, albeit without uncovering that elusive northwest passage, by spending a miserably wet winter (November 1805 – March 1806) at Ft. Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon. Starting out from St. Louis in 1804, it would be two years before they would return, surprising many and hauling the tomes of their observations of North American flora, fauna, geography, and culture.

About a month ago, I started volunteering in the library at Ft. Clatsop at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Unfortunately, while the Park draws many visitors with its interpretive programs, comprehensive exhibits, and a replica of Ft. Clatsop on the exact site of that long winter, the research library is down a dark hall, behind closed doors, which is only to say that my volunteer time is usually quiet.

Each Saturday morning, I settle in with copies of famous journals of Lewis and Clark. I enjoy finding the exact date for each year the men kept journals. I can occasionally find a note for 1804, but always for 1805 on their initial trek west and, 1806, on their return. The comprehensive research library also allows access to the journals of other expedition members. Clark noted seven men kept journals on the journey and, although the identities of three are lost to time (or yet to be uncovered in a dusty attic or a government basement), Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway both published their own journals shortly after returning with the Corps.

I intend on sharing a little of each day, as the Corps recorded it, on the day about two centuries later.

(Note: In April 1804, they are yet to leave St. Louis.)

(Note: The appalling spelling and grammar in the direct journal quotes is all unchanged. <cringe>)

Thursday, April 26, 1804

Thursday 26. Mr. Hay arrived, river falls. (Clark)

Mr. Hay refers to fur trader, merchant and postmaster of Cahokia (Illinois) who hailed from Detroit. It seems he was helping with the final compilation of goods and tools in preparation for the departure.

Friday. April 26, 1805

The Corps reached the convergence of the Yellowstone (Rochejhone) and Missouri Rivers. Most of both Lewis and Clark’s journals are full of scientific observations and measurements about the rivers themselves, and the surrounding flora and fauna. It’s hard not to feel slight pangs of jealousy when reading of the abundance of animals (all mentioned on the 26th). The:

“…Antelope, Buffaloe Elk and deer…the growse, the porcupine, hare and rabbit…the bighorned animals, Magpie Goose duck and Eagle…white bears and wolves.”

It’s a safe assumption that the white bear is simply a blonde or light brown colored grizzly (in comparison to the darker black bears they would have been used to in the Eastern US), and not a wayward brother of the polar persuasion. It is noted they killed their first bear of the expedition just three days later.

While the detailed observations of Lewis and Clark were important contemporaneously and historically, I prefer the brevity of Gass, who on this day simply settles for describing the convergence area as “…the most beautiful rich plains, I ever beheld.” He is focused more on a “flock” of swimming goats. Yep.

“…this morning…Capt. Lewises dog Seamon took after them caught one in the River.”

This encampment marked a geographically important region for the journey and what is there left to do but celebrate:

“…after I had completed my observations…I walked down a joined the party…found them…much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person.” 

A little drink in the wilds of North America 200 years ago seems to have much the same effect as a little drink in the sprawl of our current situation.

“…this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils as they appeared regardless of those to come.”

Friday nights seem to have changed very little.

Saturday, April 26, 1806

At this point, the Corps is returning east and, although, there is no confirmation on the exact encampment site for this date, it’s thought they were near Plymouth, WA. Their travels took the majority of the written thoughts for the day, as they were:

“…overtaken today by several families of the natives who were traveling up river with a number of horses; they continued with us much to our annoyance as the day was worm the roads dusty and we could not prevent their horses from crouding in and breaking our order of mach without using some acts of severity which we did not want to commit.”

I imagine this is akin to an encounter with those drivers who refuse to use the left passing lane as intended, complete with a road rage threat.

While camped, “…a little Indian boy caught several chubbs with a bone in this form.”

I thought this an uninspired drawing by Clark:

until I found this one in Lewis’s:


An interesting note, as many times their journal entries are exact duplicates, as they exchanged and copied each other’s journals as a back up in case of loss. On this day Lewis notes they camped, “…about a mile below three lodges of the Wollah wollah nation…” Clark includes a nearly identical passage save a striking verb inclusion, “…the fritened band of the Wallah Wallah nation.” There is no indication of any interaction on that day or a possible reason as to why he would consider them frightened.

Tomorrow marks the end of National Park Week for 2014. If you can, visit and support your local national park.







City Museum of St. Louis is a Catacomb of Sculpted Adventure (Pictures)

Not so much a museum as a giant fun land, void of creepy clowns (for the most part) that becomes a wormhole of time. There is a certain whimsy to getting lost in the catacombs of sculpted adventure. Bob Cassilly transformed a former shoe factory into a separate time and space using only objects reclaimed within the borders of St. Louis. Read more in this 2012 Mental Floss article.
















I Accidentally Ate St. Louis

I don’t fashion myself much of a foodie beyond a willingness for adventurous eating and an obsession with Top Chef. But since so much of travelling for me is about tradition, I’m voracious in my need to nosh on the local must-eats of a destination. Beyond BBQ and Budweiser, I had little idea about the native foods of St. Louis.

Best Celebration of a Condiment

International Horseradish Festival

Bloody Mary competition, International Horseradish Festival, Collinsville, IL

Bloody Mary competition, International Horseradish Festival, Collinsville, IL

If you don’t fear the flatlanders, cross the border into Collinsville, IL. The quaintly nestled suburb throws a party for the hardy root the first weekend in June. Among the average fair…fare were a pricey but, ultimately worth it, Bloody Mary with cucumber vodka. A refreshing splash that cut through the horseradish for the spice meek like myself. A perfect sip-n’-stroll beverage.

The hidden gem was the horseradish bruschetta served by the Chamber of Commerce and benefiting the Miner’s Institute Foundation. For $3 we got enough to split and it was the a great snack before the Bloody Mary competition. Sadly, the audience didn’t get to judge the 8 competitors, but we did get to sample. Truly, small town Midwest at its finest.

They Said It Was Good and They Weren’t Lying

Crown Candy Kitchen and Bogart’s Smokehouse

A winding line out the door is usually a good indication that the food served is worthy of your time (or in the age of the celebrichefs, a segment on their latest episode).I found that I would have gladly put up a tent, unfolded my camp chair, and pulled out the bags boards, if the wait had necessitated. Luckily, we only had to wait about a 15 minutes at each (although those having to endure intoxicating smells at Bogart’s for longer were rewarded with a free rib while in line).

Gratuitous B accented with L and T. Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis, MO.

Gratuitous B accented with L and T. Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis, MO.

Crown Candy Kitchen is a 100-year-old soda fountain and, yes, candy kitchen in Old North St. Louis. Expect all of the tradition of a malt shop, but be prepared to be perplexed by the logistics of trying to eat a BLT with a pound of bacon. My sister and I split it, but still found it impossible to gracefully keep the deliciousness all together.

Remember those old cartoons where the wafting scent of a delectable meal would curl it’s self into a hand and then seductively motion for the famished character to follow the smell?

Turns out…actually possible.

Bogart’s Smokehouse, across from the Soulard Farmer’s Market, lured market goers and 9-5’ers on lunch break to join the half-block line. Our main dishes, pulled pork and beef brisket, were served with guilt-inducing pork skins, deviled egg potato salad untainted with ridiculousness like celery, baked beans, and slaw. Four sauce offerings, including their own Pineapple Express, on each table solidified Bogart’s legitimacy as a STL BBQ mecca.

Eh…and Not in the Cute Canadian Way

Molly’s in Soulard

Toasted ravioli, a St. Louis tradition. Molly's in Soulard, St. Louis, MO

Toasted ravioli, a St. Louis tradition. Molly’s in Soulard, St. Louis, MO

In a fully gentrified neighborhood, something we noticed was a work in progress throughout St. Louis, Molly’s features cabana-style booths and stand alone tables in a spacious patio space. The three outdoor bars, squeezed between neighboring brick buildings and old trees strung with bare bulbs, lend themselves to the communal charm of a backyard Midwest grill out. If only the food were as delightsome.

The menu featured expected NOLA-inspired dishes like alligator rangoon, but also included a distinctly St. Louis appetizer, toasted ravioli, which was, regrettably, the meal high. We went with a shrimp po’boy and the Bourbon Street jambalaya, both of which did the job in satiating hunger, but were short of amazing.

Molly’s also lacked prompt, friendly service. As a former waitress, I’m always willing to chalk up a sub-par performance to an off night, but it was frustrating to repeatedly be passed by our waiter without refilling water, picking up plates, or, even taking our order, long after the universal menu’s-closed signal.

A Little Piece of Portland…If You Must

2 Girls, 4 Wheels

The food truck game has reached St. Louis.

It’s like a modern-day Lewis and Clark…in reverse…with good food…and less exploitation.

We were clued in to the food trucks by a local and made a random selection based on the menu and dirty pop culture reference. I’m not one to be swayed by the inclusion of ‘gourmet’ as an insinuation of elevated taste, but swayed by my Cheesehead, I went for the grilled cheese with two kinds of the fancy stuff. A little sad and soggy by the time I got to eat it 45 minutes later, but still flavorful enough that I know straight from the truck it would’ve been stretched-out-stringy-cheese perfection.

The highlight came in veggie form with Parmesan brussel sprouts. Obscene. We finished the meal with our first taste of gooey butter cake, another STL invention. I declared it heaven on a fork, while my (over) discerning sister proselytized that it wasn’t beyond her culinary abilities. A deceleration she will now be forced to prove.

Protect Your Wit…Go With the Chicken


Among the thousands of picnickers at the Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park, we saw many-a cheese and crackers nibblers and Chinese take-out pass-rounders, but I think we found the perfect way to capitalize on a truly STL experience. After picking up our dinner, we made our way to the park. A way that included multiple wrong turns, parking frustrations, and swarms of people, so by the time settled, it had been nearly an hour since we’d gotten our food.

I fully expected to find fried chicken thoroughly wilted by grease and condensation. What I found was still crispy wings (aided by a slice of white bread included in the to-go container) with the perfect annoy-your-neighbor-but-not-the-whole-crowd crunch and in a stolen taste of the vinegar-based slaw (the right away to do it), I found picnic heaven.

Well, It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Live Here

Gus’ Pretzels and Ted Drewes

While a sit-down, scrumptious spread is appreciated for the memories it creates, cheap, quick bites are the foundation of psychosis-inducing cravings.

Gus' Pretzels. St. Louis, MO.

Gus’ Pretzels. St. Louis, MO.

Gus’ Pretzels was a quick stop before the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour, but I could have stayed all day gorging myself on the warm, salty snack and watching the pretzel twister do his thing. Awwwww yeah. (If you get the reference, you and I can be best friends…forever)

Ted Drewes, a St. Louis sundae staple, took us two tries. We drove by on a Saturday night and quickly abandoned our plans after seeing a line at least a hundred deep. We had better luck for our patience mid-day on Friday and spent 10 minutes debating our choice. Concrete or sundae? Cardinal Sin or Southern Delight? Or maybe Cratercopernicus? Thank god for a decisive sister and the s’more concrete she selected.


Tenacious Eats

Tenacious Eats at Meyer's Grove. St. Louis, MO.

Tenacious Eats at Meyer’s Grove. St. Louis, MO.

Seriously. I can’t. Our experience at Tenacious Eats was the most delicious fun we had the whole week. They are getting their very own post, so that I can laud and love them into the egotistical atmosphere.

When Your Travel Companion is a Bitch

St. Louis Courthouse and Gateway Arch

St. Louis Courthouse and Gateway Arch

I am a bitch to travel with.

I refuse to sleep. I’m picky about what I eat. And I want to see it all.

While I may apologize for how my travel-ness sometimes presents itself, I won’t change the way I traverse my trips. I will come home exhausted and disheveled, but enlightened and so learned that I will start planning my next trip before I’ve even unpacked.

Travel isn’t vacation. Travel is experience.

Leisure is for Sunday mornings back at home when you sleep until noon, move to the couch about 12:13, and spend the day watching censored movies on TBS.

When I travel, I tend to follow the simple rule: if it can be done at home, there’s no point in doing it while you travel. While exceptions are inevitable, I’ve found that the greatest experiences come when I stay closest to that rule. Especially in these three areas:

1. Sleeping

Accommodations are not for luxury and decadence. Their purpose is to provide a place for the three to four hours of sleep required each night to ensure function the following day. Hours can also be banked. Skip a nights sleep and splurge on six the following. As long as my room has a lock on the door and lacks insecta or other pests, it fulfills its necessary duty.

2. Eating

If you eat at McDonald’s when you travel, there’s a special level of hell for you and your laziness. The only time this could come, even slightly. close to acceptable is at 3am, when your judgment is already impaired. So much of experiencing a new place is eating local. Defining dishes need to be eaten in their neighborhoods, elbow to elbow with their creators.

3. Doing

Always go to the major (and minor) tourist traps in a city. Experience the postcards, but then experience life as it’s actually lived in your destination. Go to sporting events, festivals, art shows, plays. The things that a culture celebrates and how they do so will give you a deeper insight to who they truly are.

Down by the River: St. Louis (Pictures)

My first time blogging about a trip is far more difficult than I expected. As a traveller, I fill as much time with experiences that I’ve found it leaves no time to write about it. I’ve started taking notes on the backs of receipts, with my camera, and a running log of answered questions in my Google search history.

I ambitiously assumed that I would have at least 2 posts about the trip up so far, but have now decided that my purse full of illegible scraps will have to suffice as notes and I can write more when I get home.

Until then, here are 15,000 words about our trip so far:

Monk's Mound at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, IL

Monk’s Mound at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, IL


Gravestone Statue, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, MO


Storm damage in Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, MO


Playwright Tennessee Williams headstone, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, MO


St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO


St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO


St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO


Independent bookseller, Subterranean Books, St. Louis, MO


Fresh pretzel twists, Gus’s Pretzels, St. Louis, MO


One of the world-famous Clydesdale at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, St. Louis, MO


Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour, St. Louis, MO


In the depths at the City Museum, St. Louis, MO


Climbing towards the 10-story spiral slide, City Museum, St. Louis, MO


Reflection in mirrored hall, City Museum, St. Louis, MO


Sun shining through Scott Joplin composition, Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, St. Louis, MO