Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
As we made plans to travel to Dave’s brother’s house for a Saturday version of Thanksgiving dinner, Dave used a mileage calculator to determine how early in the morning we would need to leave Emporia.
I was surprised to learn that it’s only a five-hour drive to St. Peters, a western suburb of St. Louis. That’s crazy – part of Kansas and the width of Missouri stands between here and there and yet it’s only a five-hour drive. Sure, we drive through the skinniest part of Missouri, but still, St. Louis is an entire state away.
People often complain about crossing Kansas on I-70, saying there’s nothing to see. Well, I have to say that Missouri doesn’t offer all that much along the interstate either. But Missouri does have plenty of billboards, many of which advertised an abundance of “adult stores” between Kansas City and Columbia. And a few of those signs had inappropriate apostrophes. If there’s a punctuation mark that goes astray, it’s likely to be the tricky apostrophe. Personally, I never write an “it’s” without whispering “it is” for confirmation.
To entertain myself on the road, I read signs. I’ve loved words since my early days. As a kid I read the Alpha-Bits cereal box during breakfast. In the bathtub at my childhood home, I read shampoo bottles. Signs have words, and therefore I love signs.
“Got a bra problem?” asked one billboard promoting Ann’s Bra Shop. Another promised “Hot Tasty Butts” at Piggy’s BBQ. And somewhere in Missouri there is a Ballerina Swan Lake Mobile Home Park.
One highway sign tries to entice travelers to visit Hannibal, which, as we all know was Mark Twain’s boyhood hometown. I was in Hannibal once, as a little girl, and would love to go back.
This was Missouri, so there were plenty of signs for fireworks stores like Pyro City and Fireworks Supermarket.
It was a nice drive to St. Louis. We found a classic rock station to listen to along the way. The highway was busy, but not uncomfortably so on that Saturday.
After the Thanksgiving meal with Dave’s family, a nephew suggested that we drive to nearby St. Charles and take in the Christmas atmosphere in the historic business district along the Missouri River. So we walked around there, visiting some of the dozens of shops along Main Street, many of them in two-story red brick buildings.
Restaurants had outdoor seating with fire pits ablaze. The temperature was a delightful 41 degrees. There was a bit of chill in the air to accompany the Christmas mood, but it wasn’t really cold at all. The streets were lit, although not brightly, and the overall darkness made lights in the store windows glow, adding to the magical scene.
We were greeted occasionally by costumed characters, including chestnut roasters, a town crier carrying a lantern, and St. Nick wearing a kilt. One of the chestnut roasters cracked open the warm chestnuts for the buyers. With an English accent, she told the huddled crowd, “They taste like baked potatoes.” Dave and I had a few chestnuts and these were good, much better than ones we had purchased from a street vendor years ago in New York City.
Horse-drawn carriages offered rides to people, the horses’ hooves clomping on the brick streets while bells on their harnesses jingled. A mounted police officer stopped to let a young girl pet his horse.
We enjoyed our time with family, but the next morning we headed for home. Everyone else apparently had the same idea, and I-70 was packed with holiday travelers. The highway was so busy, you felt as if you had to make a reservation to get into the passing lane.
Ahead, cars moved swiftly, braiding themselves in the traffic. There was not much room for error between vehicles, but we didn’t encounter any problems. We thought ahead and avoided Arrowhead stadium where fans were gathering for Chiefs-Broncos game.
Driving solely on interstates isn’t our preferred manner of travel, but it is efficient – it only takes five hours to get to St. Louis
Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh