Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chapter 5 - Nashville to St Louis

Nashville to St Louis:
The weather in Nashville was perfect when we awoke on the morning of June 3rd and began to prepare ourselves and our travel trailer for our 310 mile drive up to St Louis, our official starting off point on the historic Oregon Trail.  The sun was shining and the temperature was a comfortable 62 degrees.  Even the birds were chirping in the surrounding trees obviously with the intent of wishing us a fond farewell.  We drove out of the RV park around 7:30 am. Our Garmin showed us that excluding stops we should expect to arrive at the Queen Casino RV Resort in East St Louis by 1:00 pm. Quite to our pleasant surprise, the traffic was relatively light at least compared to what we had previously been experiencing. Over the course of our drive the scenery changed considerably and most of it was quite beautiful particularly as we passed out of the forested mountains of western Tennessee and in to the rolling hills of southwestern Kentucky.  Here we viewed acres and acres of hilly farmlands covered with the early plantings of corn and wheat ("Amber fields of grain").  As we passed into Southern Illinois the land flattened and as we had been gradually heading north, the plantings were even younger or the land was in the preparation stage for seeding.  We had forgotten just how beautiful our country is especially when one escapes from the busy eastern coastal cities.  For the most part road construction was minimal for most of our drive this day. Unfortunately, about 40 miles outside of our destination we encountered major construction and for a brief time we came to a complete stop.  This day however, was just to pleasant and this half hour delay did nothing to dampen our enjoyment of this trip across our country.  The photograph above shows our small trailer in place in St Louis with a clear view of the Gateway Arch in the distance. We will be visiting the arch tomorrow morning, weather permitting. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast.

This is probably as good a time as any to explain why we are calling our trip "Our Oregon Trail." Beginning around the mid-1830s many Americans began migrating westward looking for better opportunities for themselves and their families. It is estimated that upwards of 400,000 followed a wagon trail to the west that later became known as the Oregon Trail.  The trail began in St Louis and ended up for many in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The first part of the trail actually consisted of a 200 mile river barge ride down the Missouri River which intersected with the Mississippi River just north of St Louis. The travelers once down the Missouri then disembarked in Independence, Missouri located just outside of present day Kansas City and from there they traveled overland in wagon trains another 2,000 miles to Oregon passing through the future states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho along the way. The total trip time for these settlers averaged four to six months. While obviously we cannot tow our trailer down the remains of the old Oregon Trail, the interstate highway system westward in particular Interstate 80, does roughly follow the old trail and it certainly will take us through all of the states mentioned above.  After leaving St Louis we will be stopping at Kansas City, near Independence, followed a few days later by a stay in Grand Island, Nebraska which is directly on the old section of the trail that followed the Platte River in Nebraska.  Anyway, there obviously will be more to follow on this subject as we travel westward.

Thursday morning, the 4th of June:
Last night was cool and so nice that even the sounds of the freight trains that passed by our RV park on the hour did not disturb our tranquility. As the name Casino Queen RV Resort implies, this park is part of a large gambling casino and hotel complex that sits along the eastern shoreline of the Mississippi River opposite downtown St Louis and its famous Gateway Arch. The RV park was at the most only 20% occupied as were the parking lots at the casino causing one to wonder as to the viability of their business. It is possible of course that we are just here at the wrong time.  The top photo above was taken from the top of Gateway Arch looking east across the Mississippi River. The yellow building in the photo is the casino and in the distance behind the parking lot is our RV park.  We did not take this photo as we did not take the ride to the top of the tower.  Our visit to the arch was hindered by all of the construction going on around the arch, the rain we encountered, and again by those fools who refused to allow our small and harmless dog Cabo to enter the arch. Nevertheless the view of the arch from the ground was incredible despite the horrible traffic and weather conditions we encountered in downtown St Louis. We also visited during our walking tour of the city (in my case my limping tour) the old historic Courthouse building although our tour of the building itself consisted mostly of a visit to their gift shop.  From an historical perspective this building is significant because it was built in stages between 1839 and 1862 which means that many of the originally Oregon Trail travelers would have seen the building and also because the famous Dred Scott freedom from slavery trial was heard in the building.

We returned back to our travel trailer by noon and for the rest of the afternoon we relaxed and planned our trip for the next day.  Let us hope that our drive tomorrow will be in the sunshine.


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