The final Greyhound bus ride was a very easy one. The bus seemed to be only going from Kansas City to St Louis, an early afternoon start coupled with just over four hours on the bus made it a breeze by comparison to some of the journeys I had taken. The ice and frost had all gone too, so although not warm at least it wasn’t freezing anymore. This bus journey was most definitely the only incident free journey of them all, no babies, no convicts, no teeth brushing, no people being left behind. It was almost a delight.
Arriving at the bus station in St Louis I was met by Brenda, Peggy and Jake, Peggy’s partner, and whisked off for dinner at a location near to where they live. It was just about a year since we had seen each other and there was an awful lot of family stuff to catch up on. The most important thing for me was to have some quality time with both Brenda and Peggy, because last years visit was under very sad circumstances and there was no real time to get to know the girls.
I have talked before about how important family is to me, before my trip here last year, I was in St Louis only once, and it was a very long time ago, when my cousins were quite young and I spent a most of my time with Ásgeir, the eldest of my cousins, who showed me all around St Louis and took me into the iconic Gateway Arch and water skiing. Sadly we lost him in 2006. The four younger cousins don’t even remember my visit. Last year when I was here I didn’t meet Emil, as he was working on a cruise ship and as I mentioned when in LA during the first part of my adventure, we lost him too. So it seems we were never destined to meet as adults.
So a great evening out and back home for another glass of wine or two and off to bed. But I must here mention the dogs, two boxers, very amiable, a boy and a girl. I think after all the dogs I have met on my travels both domestic and wild, I can honestly say that I have got over my fear of dogs.
The following day Peggy and Jake had to go and visit Jake’s recently widowed mother and Brenda had the day off work, so we went for a walk. We went to a park called the Cliff Cave park on the banks of the Mississippi River. We elected to do the short circuit rather than the long circuit, which would probably have been too muddy, but we did the circuit a couple of times to get 4 kms in. Once home we had a lovely dinner cooked by Peggy.
The next day Brenda was working so Peggy, Jake and I went to see the Civil War museum which is very near to where they live. It was absolutely fascinating, my knowledge of the Civil was only extends as far as ‘Gone with the Wind’, an epic book and film starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. It’s a must see movie with the famous line, ‘Quite frankly my dear I don’t give a damn’. The Museum is in one of the buildings that formed Jefferson Barracks, which was a very important U S Army installation from 1826 to 1946 during which soldiers where brough here to train and be prepared to be sent to all the major wars until the end of the Second World War. Many of the buildings have now been sold off. This building and at least one other was bought and turned into a museum. There is a great park nearby with a good walking trail. Also nearby is the JB Cemetery where every soldier who has served in the US Army is entitled to be buried. More of that later. There are a number of films on as part of the exhibition, and I watched each one of them. For the first time ever I understood how the country was split over slavery and how eventually slavery was abolished after the war and a number of changes in the law. What surprised me more than anything else was that the stories of soldiers coming from Kansas to kill the men in St Louis and steal from their houses and often burn down their houses. It got to the stage that once a rumour started that they were on their way the whole population of a village or town would simply flee leaving everything behind them. After the war was over, this practice continued, by some of the historically well known outlaws like Jesse James and Bloody Bill. A really worthwhile place to visit if you are ever in the vicinity. We all really enjoyed it.
After the museum we had lunch in a local pub, even my salad was too big a portion, and then walked it off on the trail in the park by the museum. The sun was far more prominent this day, the day before had been quite cold, there were lots of walkers out. We did a couple of circuits to get to 4Km which included a wander down to the good old Mississippi to look at some very famous gates which had been moved there from the Old Arsenal. I was really pleased with this walk because we did each KM in less than 11 minutes. That’s what happens when you have a good pacemaker with you, doesn’t it Peggy. I had been doing the odd sub 11 minute Km, but this was a consistent performance. I have come along way since I’m started walking in Utah.
Back home Peggy made us a delicious chicken curry, not just any old chicken curry, this was to a recipe that both of our Mothers used. I think I have it in my Icelandic cookbook, and I am definitely going to have to start making it. I had forgotten just how good it is.
The following day Brenda wasn’t working so we went back to the Jefferson Barracks park and did that walk again, this time we were lucky enough to see some deer, not just in the wooded area but at one point almost in the open. They are obviously used to humans being around that they are not particularly phased by them.
Brenda and I also went to visit my cousin Ásgeir’s grave in the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery. I was staggered by the size of the cemetery as we drove past it the day before. being in the area we had seen a number of funerals en route to the cemetery and whilst we were there that day there were at least two funerals happening. Anyone who served in any capacity in any war has the right to be buried there and it costs the family nothing. There is a huge deference to serving soldiers in the USA, for example when you get on a plane, they are allowed to board earlier than economy passengers. Then you see the size of this cemetery, I found it quite overwhelming. You go to a computer terminal and enter the name of the person you are looking for and it give you a print out with a map and and the location letter and number of the grave. So we did this and then set off, but the place is so big and the writing on the map so tiny that it’s a real challenge, but we got there in the end. Getting out though was a completely different matter, I think we went around in circles at least twice. It was very funny. Brenda was saying why aren’t there any exit signs? Quite right too, onlly when you start to be in the proximity of the exit do you find signs.
Brenda and I had also booked to go and have our hair done together on her day off, which was fun. It was a very old fashioned salon and her usual man wasn’t around, so we had two ladies and we had quite a laugh. They did a really good job and I felt quite glamorous once again. That night we went out for dinner to a local place and I made the mistake of having the Monday special which was grilled prawns. I almost asked are they breaded, but decided it wasn’t in the description so I was sure it would be ok. They were breaded, such a disappointment, I just don’t understand why they have to bread everything, anyway moving swiftly on.
The following day Peggy had the day off and we had a very lazy morning and in the afternoon we went to the Nail Salon for a manicure and pedicure. So now I was feeling much better about myself I have to say. We went out for dinner again that night to a place a bit further out, and we three ladies all chose a spaghetti and seafood dish, which was absolutely delicious. I think it was the only meal I had eaten in the US where I actually managed to eat the lot, it was simply too good to leave.
Then it was over, I had a very early start the following day, 5:30 the taxi driver from across the road was coming to pick me up to take me to the airport for my flight to Philadelphia. The whistle stop tour was over as the next destination was my final stop and I was going to be there for over two weeks. In retrospect I think I should have taken a month for these four stops, to do them real justice, but the timetable was the timetable, I could have easily stayed another month in Bali too, and I didn’t do the North of Australia. Maybe I should have gone for a year.... oh well it is what it is. Thanks for having me ladies and Jake, it’s been great to spend a bit of quality time together. Hope to see you in the not too distant future.