July 22: Missouri and Illinois
by Ron Bywaters
Allan and Carolyn left very early with locals Jason and Kerri to go for another medical update on her eye problem and we arranged to catch up with them later in the day.
The local TV crew arrived at Vernon Bruckerhoff’s property at Saint Mary, Mo., around 8:30 a.m. and conducted an interview, then 12 of the group boarded a people mover kindly supplied members of the River Hills Antique Tractor Club and headed to St. Louis.
The vehicle was driven by club member John Meier, which is great as it prevents us from getting lost! Then he collected another friend, Earl, who was a wealth of information about all things American. The relatively short trip to St. Louis was interspersed with stops at all sorts of interesting places — a look at the statue of “Popeye” at Chester, Ill., then on to Waterloo, Ill., where we spent time with Charles “Butch” Klein who has an amazing collection of not only old tractors but also magnificent vintage cars, some dating back to the early 1900s. An early lunch break was taken at the Monroe County Fair — an opportunity to see the livestock and have another photo shoot with Miss Monroe County Fair, a lovely young lass named Amanda.
Then we were in for a real treat — our new friends “pulled some strings” and received permission for us to visit a not yet complete tower being built to commemorate the expeditions of Lewis and Clark, who left from that area in May 1804 to explore the area west of the Mississippi, returning some 18 months later. Their exploits earned St. Louis the title of “Gateway to the West.” This new Confluence Tower in Hartford, Ill., is some 180 feet high, has lookouts at 50, 100 and 150 feet, and overlooks the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The lift power was turned on for us, but it failed when we reached the first level, so most of us walked up the remaining two flights to enjoy the view — good for the hips!
St. Louis is home to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which made it an obligatory stopover and the tours they run are not only free, but fantastic as well. They can package up to 1,650 cans a minute! To cap off the enjoyment, they allow two samples of their wares at the end of the tour!
Then it was off to the pride of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch. This magnificent structure was completed in 1965 to honor the people who explored the country west of the Mississippi. Tramcars take tourists (five at a time in small capsules) up to the top of the 630-foot structure, allowing sweeping views of the city and at the time of our tour, a perfect shadow of the arch. We were pleased to catch up with Allan and Carolyn at this facility and relieved that Carolyn’s eye recuperation was progressing well.
The day was completed with a meal at a small bar downtown in St. Louis called “Hot Shots” which was enjoyed by all. A very sleepy group returned to Saint Mary, Mo., at around 11 p.m. John then had a 50-mile drive to return home! Thanks, John and Earl, for the day’s events.
See photos and read more on Ron’s website, TransworldTractorTreks.com.