Sackville-West Clan Wiki/ nlvt2007/ ablog/ edwardsville

Edwardsville history and other musings

When I last left you, we had made a rough foray through the dark and rainy mountains of West Virginia. We've covered a lot of ground, seen a lot of sights and visited my past since then.

Please read on or skip over to the St. Louis photos.

I suppose any discussion of a visit to Edwardsville and St. Louis deserves a bit of an introduction. Edwardsville is the town I ended up growing up in after my parents divorced. It was such a big part of my life: middle school and high school; some college; girlfriends; old buddies; parties in the woods; road trips; all that stuff that everyone has from that time in their lives. But for me, it has been completely abandoned. I haven't been through E'ville in roughly 20 years. I have had almost no contact with anyone from there and haven't followed developments of the region. So in other words, large parts of my past have been excised from my life. This is not a complaint or even a problem, its just the way it is.

Edwardsville has changed so much but appears in many ways to be the same too. We pulled in to the Comfort Inn in the early evening. This used to be the Holidome Edwardsville with a big pool area, hot tub, bar, video games etc. It appears that either my memory greatly exaggerated things (likely, but not that much) or it was either heavily renovated or downright replaced. Anyway, we checked in, confirmed the pool was open late and headed off to dinner. Mmmmm.... Alfonso's pizza in Marysville, IL. We started going to Alfonso's not too long after it opened nearly 25 years ago. It was the place we chose for birthday pizza for years. It also had a propensity for burning down. The owners moved to a new location around the corner about 15(!) years ago. So after roughly 20 years, it tastes exactly the same as I recall and, having eaten a lot of pizza since then, it is still darn good pizza. Probably not the best in the world, but darn good and worth a stop if you roll through that area.

After dinner we took a drive through Edwardsville. I showed the family various important sites: old houses, the high-school, friends houses, make-out spots etc. It was a fun reminisce for me. E'ville, despite huge growth in the surrounding area, looks largely the same as when I lived there. And it really is a pretty little town too. I could have spent a couple days in Edwardsville itself, but the pool and points West beckoned...

We spent the first half of the next day (August 23) in St. Louis doing tourist stuff. The riverfront and its usual cadre of boats seemed a little more sparse then I remembered. The Goldenrod Show Boat was nowhere to be seen. The Robert E. Lee was downstream just a bit (below Poplar St. Bridge) for repairs. The Admiral was berthed upstream, past the Eads Bridge, and we couldn't see what was beyond her, so perhaps there was more to see. But the helicopter tours were still running. I think it was the same chopper, which is pretty scary considering its been doing many flights a day for well over 20 years now. Also, the two little tour boats (the Becky Thatcher and the Huck Finn, I think) were still running their little waterfront tours. The Arch was beautiful. It is an amazing structure in so many ways: its size, its beauty, its construction and history. We spent a ton of money in the gift shop buying t-shirts and whatnot. We had a scheduled ride to the top of the arch at 11:30. Now I love going up in the Arch and would do it anytime. Veronica is a little queasy about elevators and the little cars that run up the inside of the Arch were a challenge for her. But she is brave and did pretty well once we got underway. Now Muffy is another story. I knew that she had some fear of heights, but it never occurred to me that the Arch would be so unsettling. It is pretty solid after all. But she took about five steps into the observation area and said "I want to go down now". Poor thing. I had forgotten that you can feel the Arch swaying in the wind and it was a pretty windy day. I suppose you could actually get seasick up there if you spent enough time. It doesn't bother me, but both Muffy and Veronica (mostly from sympathy, I think) waited anxiously over by the elevators for the duration. Isabelle and Natalie and I ran back and forth enjoying the view for our all too brief 10 minutes up top before the trip back down.

Once safely back on the ground, we enjoyed a foray through the Museum of Westward Expansion. This is a great museum with lots of interesting bits in it. There are fullsize dioramas of animals, Native Teepee's and settler's sod huts. There are displays of Indian Treaties, extended quotes from the journals of Lewis and Clark, quotes and anecdotes from plains settlers and more. You could easily spend all day there. The girls enjoyed the story teller who demonstrated pioneer style toys and explained about the daily life of a pioneer walking across the Great Plains. I didn't realise that most of them actually pulled hand carts instead of Prairie Schooners. That is intense, to say the least.

We lunched at White Castle which was a mixed success. Probably we didn't need to order 20 of them, but it seemed like the thing to do :) . After lunch we safely navigated through downtown St. Louis with a trailer(!) and found our way to Fritz's Frozen Custard in Florissant. I had been anticipating this for a while. In preparation, we had sampled some softserve ice cream and custard in a couple places. Wall Drug has some decent softserve, but nothing to write home about. We had frozen custard in New Market, VA and it was pretty good, but didn't compete with the soft serve we got at the Arlington Country Fair a few days before. That was by far the best softserve ice cream I've ever had and it is a delicious thing. If you get the chance, check them out. I think it was but can't promise. So Fritz's definitely stands up. We all agreed it was delicious and better than the softserve from A and R at the fair, though maybe only by a little. I think it was mostly a texture thing. Good custard has a mouthfeel that ice cream can't compete with, in my opinion.

With bellies full, we headed west and forged our way all the way across Missouri and into Kansas before stopping in Topeka to eat. We made one major stop on the way, in Independence MO, in search of some kind of dinner that wasn't pizza or burgers. I think, in retrospect, that getting Mongolian Barbecue while on the Plains makes a little sense. If the Mongolians were picked up and dropped into the Plains, they'd surely be right at home. Now, execution of Mongolian Barbecue by a chain in the Midwest might leave a little to be desired, but it worked nonetheless and we were happy.