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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default Roadtrip #9: Eclipse of the Central East

    It is time…

    The Summer of 2017 brings another family roadtrip escapade. On Friday, August 11th, my parents and I will be jumping on a flight once more, bound for St. Louis, Missouri. From there we will rent our minivan and spend 16 days in a clockwise motion around at least 9 central eastern states (possibly more). This thread will keep the usual journals logged as our days unfold, provided we’re graced with an internet connection. There won’t be much speed-running this time around. In fact, only half of our travels will be in “roadtrip mode” while the other half will focus around visiting Dad’s extended family, concentrated in Kentucky and Alabama.

    Normally we make a point to avoid traveling during the hot summer and opt for spring or fall instead, but this is a special exception. The primary and highest-priority goal will be the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. This entire road trip has been designed around those 160 seconds of dwelling in the moon’s shadow, which none of us ever had the privilege to bear witness. Our destination for this event is the small town of Spring City, Tennessee, which sits on the eclipse centerline, and where they’re expecting up to 10,000 people. This target could change depending on weather or traffic, so we’ll need to be on alert in case contingency plans need to be executed for maximum viewing odds.

    Secondary goals will be the St. Louis Gateway Arch, visiting everything Abe Lincoln in Springfield, IL, and the Ford Museum in Detroit, MI. Tertiaries include all the state capitols as we come across them. It’s quite possible this will be our first major roadtrip without hitting a single National Park or Monument, as you can see by our proposed route on Google Maps.

    Here’s what’s in store:

    Day 0 (Aug 11) - Travel Day, fly to (STL) St. Louis - Gateway Arch - stay in Troy, IL
    Day 1 (Aug 12) - Springfield, IL (Abe Lincoln Day 1)
    Day 2 (Aug 13) - Springfield, IL (Abe Lincoln Day 2) - stay in Danville, IL
    Day 3 (Aug 14) - Indianapolis, IN - stay in Goldwater, MI
    Day 4 (Aug 15) - Lansing, MI - Jackson, MI - stay in Livonia, MI
    Day 5 (Aug 16) - Detroit, MI - Ford Museum - stay in Marion, OH
    Day 6 (Aug 17) - Columbus, OH - arrive in Whitesburg, KY (4 nights)
    Day 7-9 (Aug 18-20) - Family visits in Kentucky and Virginia
    Day 10 (Aug 21) - Spring City, TN - Solar Eclipse - arrive in Madison, AL (4 nights)
    Day 11-13 (Aug 22-24) - Family visits in Alabama
    Day 14 (Aug 25) - Nashville/Memphis, TN (??)
    Day 15 (Aug 26) - Sikeston, MO
    Day 16 (Aug 27) - Travel Day, fly home (SAN)

    I’ve been struggling to come up with a plan for Days 14-15 after leaving Madison, AL (near Huntsville). We all visited Memphis, TN some years back so we’re not itching to go there again, and no one has much interest in country music so Nashville isn’t exactly on our A-list either (although it is another capitol I could knock off the bucket list). Could there be something in the fringes of Mississippi and Arkansas to check out (any excuse to mark off more states for my folks)? There’s also a Land Between the Lakes NRA straddling western Tennessee/Kentucky, although from what I’ve researched I can’t tell if it’s a worthy highlight or just a meh place to drive through. I’m truly stuck with this one. Whatever is decided, we need to be in Sikeston, MO by the end of Day 15 in order to launch us back to St. Louis for our flight home. Any of you with ideas for this area, we’re open to hearing it!

    Ah yes, and of course where would you be without our vast collection of past roadtrips:

    RT01 - Summer 2005 - 48 States in 30 Days [Website] [Pics]
    RT02 - Fall 2006 - The Great West [Thread] [Pics]
    RT02a - Spring 2007 - Las Vegas, NV and back [Pics]
    RT03 - Spring 2007 - The National Parks of Utah [Thread] [Pics]
    RT03a - Fall 2007 - San Francisco, CA and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT03b - Spring 2008 - Cambria, CA and back [Pics]
    RT04 - Fall 2008 - New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival [Thread] [Pics]
    RT04a - Spring 2009 - Sedona, AZ and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT05 - Fall 2009 - Washington, D.C. and the New England states [Thread] [Pics]
    RT06 - Fall 2011 - Victoria, BC and the Pacific Coast [Thread] [Pics]
    RT06a - Spring 2012 - The CA Mojave Desert and back [Thread] [Pics]
    RT07 - Spring 2013 - Alaska and the Arctic Frontier [Thread] [Pics]
    RT08 - Fall 2014 - The Upper Midwest [Thread] [Pics]
    RT08a - Spring 2017 - The Hawaiian Islands and back [Thread] [Pics]

    The show will begin momentarily…

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default

    US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville AL, near the border of TN/AL?



    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville AL, near the border of TN/AL?
    Been there many a time in my younger days when visiting my grandparents in Hazel Green, AL. It's looking more like Nashville after all for our remaining time on the road this round.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default Day 0 (Travel Day)

    We begin our tale waking up at 5:00am PDT to prep for the ride to San Diego airport (SAN). Unfortunately Southwest canned their flights to St. Louis (STL) from John Wayne (SNA) starting this year, forcing us to divert south instead. Another unfortunate side effect is that no local shuttle service would come pick us up from that far away. Ultimately found a deal for long-term parking at a nearby garage, so we drove down ourselves, leaving at 6:00am and going through the airport rigamarole. (We learned from last time and did Early Bird boarding so had our pick of seats.) Wheels were up at 9:35am PDT, and back down to STL at 2:35pm CDT, exactly 3 hours. RT09 begins.

    Our minivan rental was brand spanking new, with less than 900 miles to its name. We made straight for our first hotel using I-270 east, over the river and state line to Troy, IL but didn't stick around for long. Suitcases were unloaded and we immediately headed back west along I-55 to a Walmart for 16 days worth of foodstuffs. There was just enough time remaining to dash back over the Mississippi River and to our first destination, the Gateway Arch, arriving just before 7:00pm.

    At this time the grounds of the Arch are under major renovations, with much of it closed off. The main visitor center is stationed at the Old Courthouse, just to the west. Here mom bought her own lifetime senior pass for $10 (before the price goes up to $80 at the end of this month!) and also got our souvenirs. Since my parents decided not to try braving the many steps to the Tram, I was left to run among the path (snapping pics along the way) in order to make the 7:30pm ride to the top. Each car of the tram can fit 5 people in a hollow space (not for the claustraphobic!) and it takes 4 minutes to ascend to the upper parabola. Once at the top, a few more steps will grant you entry to the viewing area. There's a set of windows on each side for looking out (or down if you please). Of course I timed my visit to coincide with the setting sun, and thus got some marvelous pics of the city underneath the hues of red and orange. Perfect!

    After descending down and out, then retrieving the van from the parking garage, navigating back out of town was rather annoying. There's a number of one way streets and of course there was a Cardinals baseball game going on a block away, bringing its own form of downtown chaos. I had to circle around a number of blocks in order to pick up my folks at Kiener Plaza. Back over I-55 we went, to a Cracker Barrel for dinner and finally back at the hotel by 10:00pm.

    Man, what a day. And there's still 16 more to go! (I'm sure the pace will slow as we settle into the groove...)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    4,545

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    As I have been in traffic caused by a Cards game, it is similar to Orange County CA traffic during rush hour. My condolences, but my congrats on getting sunset photos from the top of the Arch. I'm sure I'm not alone in my wish to see those pics!

    Have fun, and safe travels!


    Donna

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default Day 1

    Despite the 2 hour shift, we managed to wake up at 7:00am CDT and start the day in timely fashion. We left Troy, IL behind and headed north on I-55, which didn't take long to reach the Illinois capital of Springfield before 10:30am. We siphoned off to I-55 Business which turned out to be part of the Historic Route 66 leading directly into downtown. Normally it would be hot and humid this time of year but the current particular weather pattern is making for a cooler and pleasant weekend.

    We parked caddy corner from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and began there, passing by the historic Union Station. Mom is a huge Lincoln fan and has been looking forward to this part of the trip for a while. The Museum itself is probably the best of the few that I've personally seen, with exhibits focusing on Abe's early years before politics, leading up to his inauguration, heavily focusing on the civil war, the outcome of that war, and his own tragic end. The two media presentations were quite impressive, one being a hologram-type show, and the other a triple-screen feature with sound effects that rumble your seat. Of course exiting the museum they make you walk through the gift shop with many a temptation. (It's like they know my mom!)

    We left there and walked 2 blocks south for a bite, then across the street to the Old State Capitol, used as the first state house in the mid-1800s (including Lincoln's term). Inside were two floors filled with old antiques and clocks that still ran. Senate and House chambers were on the 2nd floor, where you could actually walk up to the podium (without touching anything of course). Back outside there was a flag-lowering ceremony using a mock Civil War color guard, which we caught heading out.

    It was around 3:00pm at this point, which meant time to check into our hotel a few miles away. After settling in, I wanted to head back out and see the official state capitol for another notch in that belt. Unfortunately I confused the closings of the old state house (5:00pm) with the new (3:00pm), and thus turned away by the guards upon attempting to enter. We still walked the perimeter getting decent shots where we could, so that's good enough. For dinner we tried a buffet place called the Pizza Ranch, with all kinds of pizzas to choose from, even dessert apple/cherry/cinnamon pizzas (I die for those!) to top off the evening.

    More Lincoln ahead...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kinless View Post
    Could there be something in the fringes of Mississippi and Arkansas to check out (any excuse to mark off more states for my folks)? There’s also a Land Between the Lakes NRA straddling western Tennessee/Kentucky, although from what I’ve researched I can’t tell if it’s a worthy highlight or just a meh place to drive through.
    I've always enjoyed my time at Land Between the Lakes. At the very least, the Elk and Bison range is well worth driving through. There is also the Civil War site, Fort Donalson just to the south of the park.

    You might also consider driving part of the Natchez Trace, or do a little exploration of the culturally unique Mississippi Delta which would be two very good reasons to add that state to your list.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I've always enjoyed my time at Land Between the Lakes. At the very least, the Elk and Bison range is well worth driving through. There is also the Civil War site, Fort Donalson just to the south of the park.

    You might also consider driving part of the Natchez Trace, or do a little exploration of the culturally unique Mississippi Delta which would be two very good reasons to add that state to your list.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Don't overlook Hot Springs NP. Well, not strictly a *park*, but some very interestoing historical bath houses and hot springs. Take your bathers with you!
    Unless something comes up, we're probably driving through Nashville after all (meaning Mississippi and Arkansas are out) but we could definitely drive through Land of the Lakes NRA on the way to Sikeston, MO for a look-see.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default Day 2

    With our hotel on the southern fringes of Springfield, there wasn't much need to hurry out for a Sunday morning. We checked out after a hot breakfast and made for the next establishment, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. We pulled up to the visitor center at 9:35am CDT and of course did gift shop business first, then walked back out and over to the benches for our free 10:10am tour with ranger Kellie. She took us into the house that Abe Lincoln lived in for many years prior to his political career. We spent 25 minutes traversing the various rooms, upstairs and down. A good number of the furniture and decor were authentic Lincoln family heirlooms, and the Park Service has done a commendable job keeping this place restored and in proper looking condition. After taking pics of the exterior we came back to the visitor center for one of the 20-minute presentations in their theater.

    On to the final Springfield destination, the Lincoln Tomb. A few miles north of the town is Oak Ridge Cemetery, over 150 years old, where first settlers and former governors are also interred in addition to Lincoln. The signs guided us to a parking spot near Lincoln's obelisk marker extending 117 feet up. After rubbing the nose on the bronze statue in front, we headed inside where there's a square passage, with marble hallways leading to the back of the tomb. Here is where you'll find Lincoln's illuminated marker surrounded by state flags, and also where his wife and two sons are buried. They have this place well looked after.

    This concludes Springfield! Retracting back south to downtown brought us to Madison Street (IL 97) where we turned east. That eventually led to the western terminus of I-72, beginning our trek away from the state capital and back out into the plains of Illinois. Besides a rest stop, we stayed the course (with a brief change to I-57 north to I-74 east) finally stopping for the day in Danville, IL just before 3:00pm CDT, with our hotel less than a mile from the Indiana border (and time zone change). I actually used this to our advantage to find the state line signs off nearby Hwy 136 and stop for some decent close-ups instead of attempting blurry shots on the freeway. Our dinner for the evening was Steak 'n Shake (delish!) in downtown.

    Our plans to visit some extended family in Indianapolis fell through at the last minute, so besides the capitol building we won't be dallying too long on this leg. Maybe we'll find something else interesting along the path.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tustin, California, United States
    Posts
    272

    Default Day 3

    An earlier start was necessary today, considering the impending time change waiting for us at the Indiana state line the moment we hop back on I-74. It took about 90 minutes to reach Indianapolis, but before heading downtown, since we were already passing it on the way, decided to make a pit stop (pun intended) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, billed as the largest racetrack in the world, and home to the annual Indy 500. We're not auto racing fans, but still felt like it was something for a quick peek regardless, taking a few pics of the track and grounds.

    Next up, the capitol building. It was a bit of a challenge parking with one way streets and construction, but before long we ascended up the steps, through security, and into the bowels of this historic structure. I deem it to be one of the more impressive capitols I've seen with its architecture. It was in between official tour times so had to do with walking around ourselves, gawking at the decor, taking a peek in the Senate/House chamber galleries, and posing in front of the Governor's office. An hour is all that's needed for the curious.

    Two blocks to the east of the state house is a super tall Soldiers and Sailors monument, surrounded by a ginormous roundabout. We would have been happy to stop and check this place out, but our timing was sour being the lunch hour, with no convenient parking spaces. Oh well, time to go up and out. Interstates took turns leading us out of the city, from I-65 south to I-70 east to I-465 north, and finally the start of I-69 north.

    We thought our time in Indiana was complete, but brochures at a rest area led us to reveal one more stop for the day. Apparently the famous 1950s actor James Dean grew up in the small town of Fairmount, IN. Mom was one of his biggest fans so it only seemed like common sense to drive 5 miles off the interstate. The James Dean museum and gallery was discovered here, with the guy running it to give us a map with all the highlights of the town and anything James Dean related. We only had time to check out the north side, taking pictures of the house he grew up in, the church he attended, the motorcycle shop where he used to hang, and of course his final resting place in the adjacent cemetery. Mom was thrilled to find this diamond in the rough attraction.

    OK we're REALLY done for today. Back on I-69 to continue north (finally coming across road construction, although not as inhibiting as past trips), eventually crossing into the state of Michigan and landing a hotel in Coldwater, MI minutes later, just after 5:00pm EDT.

    So far, so good!
    Last edited by Kinless; 08-15-2017 at 03:47 AM. Reason: small state correction

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