Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Final thoughts

We arrived back at my house around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it was really sweet and lovely to see my little granddaughters Ori and Yuval again, after a 3+ week absence.  Adrienne and I unpacked the car, sorted through our stuff to make laundry piles, put food/cooler stuff away, etc.

People keep asking what was our favorite part of the trip, or what places that we visited were our favorites?  For me, that's kind of a tough question.  On the one hand, some of the "detour" places we visited on a whim turned out to be really fun and fantastic.  But planned places and attractions were also as enjoyable as I had hoped they would be.

I was really thrilled to be able to visit Lakewood Church in Houston and see Joel Osteen in person.  That was not planned, so it had some extra special meaning to end up happening for us.  Our planned visit to Graceland turned out to be a lot nicer than we thought it would be.  I guess I thought it was going to be a bit more cheesy, but it wasn't at all.  It was really quite lovely and sweetly sad.  I didn't expect to be so moved when I visited my ancestors' graves in Weston, but I was.  Being able to see a night sky full of millions of stars while at the Grand Canyon and Las Cruces campgrounds was stunning and filled me with wonderment and awe.

All in all, it was a really great trip.  Adrienne and I, as usual, got along very well, especially for being in close quarters (in a car) for so many hours at a time.  We were never bored (see 7th Inning Stretch post) and there was always something to keep us amused.

Our license plate game ended up with us not being able to get all 50 states; however, we got 46 of them plus 5 Canadian province plates.  The U.S. states we missed getting were Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Hawaii.  The Canadian provinces we got were Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. We can spot a license plate hundreds of yards away now and know immediately what state it is - we consider ourselves "plate aficionados" now. Ha!

We covered 7,102 miles and were in 17 states, 5 of them twice.  We crossed the Continental Divide, Lake Pontchartrain, the mighty Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, drove over countless bridges, and reached the highest elevation in Colorado at Vail Pass (10,662 feet - 2 miles high!).

We were on the road trip for 18 days.  Our longest mileage day was day 9 from New Orleans to Savannah - 673 miles.  We crossed through 4 different time zones.  We passed through lakes, rivers, deserts, mountains.  We drove interstates, back roads, city freeways.  By and large, we escaped commuter traffic when passing through larger cities - the only exception was Friday afternoon Atlanta traffic - crazy drivers, they!!!

We ate lots of local cuisine - seafood, Creole, Cajun, BBQ, Southern.  We tapped into regional fast food popular places and read up on who they were and all about their history and corporate culture before eating there, just so we'd be "in the know."  (plus, it gave us something to do in the car....)

Trip Advisor and Yelp were very helpful in picking out campgrounds, hotels and restaurants.  Indie's navigation system was superb as was Adrienne's focused dedication to our maps and road atlas.  It was nice to have both new and heritage technology at our fingertips.  We brought CDs to listen to but really ended up listening to Spa radio on SiriusXM pretty much the whole time.  It was calming and served as a nice backdrop to our daily and ongoing chatter with one another.

We found gas prices as low as $1.89 a gallon and that sub-$2.00 price lasted through most of the states we passed through.  It wasn't until we got into Colorado and points west that the prices started to climb again.

Finally, having the chance to meet up with a few family members and friends rounded out our fun and wonderful journey across this great country of ours.  And speaking of great - our national park system is amazing and we recommend visiting these places for everyone.  It's a jewel in our American crown that is not to be missed.

So - until my next trip - (coming up October 17 - November 5 - check back here for my Boston to San Diego cruise via the Panama Canal) - I wish you all safe travels, comfy abodes, good food, and everything that life has to offer.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Homeward Bound

Well, today is our last day.  We departed Elko a little after 7 this morning and popped back on the I80 West towards California and El Dorado Hills, my home.  Adrienne will stay with us for a few days before flying back to Seattle where she lives.

We had a couple of goals today - get the last state picture - California, to finish off our state tours - and eat lunch at a Steak N Shake (there was one in Reno).  Check, and check.  The Steak N Shake can't beat In N Out as far as I'm concerned, but it was a nice lunch nonetheless.  I think I will give my vote to What A Burger for the best overall burger experience, and of course Waffle House for overall breakfast.  Neither of those places exist here in California, so I'm glad I got to try them all out!!

We've had some trouble from time to time getting good pictures in front of the various "welcome to xxx state" signs, as they are right on the highways and sometimes they exist in the middle of a bridge with no room to pull over, or sometimes they are on a very busy highway with little room on the right to safely pull over.  California's sign today was in a place not conducive to pulling over.  Our backup plan for times like these are to stop in at the Welcome Center which is usually just a few miles from the border.  But then there are other times when you don't get much at all.  Sigh.  All I will say is I did my best to get us close to signs in a safe manner.

This is the chocolate shake I had at Steak N Shake.  It looked way better than it tasted.  Not that it was not good, it just wasn't the best I've ever had.

Here we are in front of a paltry lame sign at Truckee's Welcome Center - 20 some miles past the state line  Sheesh.  My own home state had the lamest sign ever.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Goodbye Colorado, hello Utah and Nevada

We ate dinner at a great little Chinese restaurant which happened to be right next door to our campground in Fruita.  We've relied heavily on Yelp reviews for good restaurants at the various cities we've stayed at or driven through, on our road trip.  This Chinese place got high reviews, and did not disappoint.  The food was great, service perfect, and the portions were enormous.  We took half of it home, since our cabin at the park had a fridge and microwave in it.

We settled into our cabin and by dusk we were in bed, laptops alive and humming, but by dark we were yawning and ready for sleep.

At about 1 AM, I woke up, feeling the urge to empty my bladder.  Sigh.  This is what 60 looks like folks.  It just so happened that Adrienne was also awake with the same issue.  I said, "are you awake?" and she said "yep."  I said "I have to pee, do you?"  Her reply - "yep."  Okay, so let's get up and go.  The cabin does not have a bathroom, so you have to walk a little ways through the campground to the bathrooms.  At 1 AM, you need a pee-buddy.

When we got back to the cabin and into our sleeping bags, I said to Adrienne "did you hear the train awhile ago?"  She said "yep."  I said, "it was around midnight, huh?"  She said "yep."  I said "do you think maybe that midnight train was going to Georgia?"  At which point both of us started laughing hysterically.  Then we went back to sleep.  We're good like that.  We can do shit like that.  It's why we've been best friends since we were 11.

Next morning, up at 5:30. Sigh. Another thing about being 60.  We didn't get up right away - I worked on my blog and Adrienne played games on her Kindle.  A little after 6:30 we got up, got dressed, washed, etc. and then about 7:00 we finally felt up to eating leftover Chinese food for breakfast.  I heated up our meal, and we sat outside at the picnic table and chowed down.  No coffee, though.  Well, I thought, we can run through the Golden Arches at a nearby exit and pick that up.

Nope.  It wasn't for over 100 miles before any services.  And I had to settle for a Burger King coffee.  Blech.  Dirty water is more what it was.  Sigh.

But, we crossed over into Utah!

Although we were driving on direct to Elko, Nevada, we stopped off in Salt Lake City for lunch.  We were impressed with the size of the city and we decided we wanted to go check out the Mormon Temple there.  Plus, SLC is the state capitol so we wanted to see that as well.  We were not disappointed.  It's a lovely city and a picturesque area!

This is the Mormon temple.  You're not allowed inside it, but the visitor center across the street has a rendering of what it is like inside.  That's the second picture below.

These two below are the Assembly Hall and the Tabernacle, where the world renowned Tabernacle Choir performs.  You can go in and listen to them practicing, if you're lucky enough to be around when they are.

Assembly Hall


This is a cute bison across the street from the state capitol.

This is the Mormon Battalion Monument, which is under renovation at the moment.  It sits on the grounds of the capitol. It is the only religiously based military unit in the United States.  It was a volunteer unit of over 500 Mormons led by Mormon officers and commanded by U.S. Army officers.
They served in the Mexican American War during 1846-1848.

The state capitol building.

This is an amusing flagman who had to hold back traffic around the capitol.  We were first in line to wait and he entertained us with dance moves and funny facial gestures!  Waiting was never as much fun as this!

The Great Salt Lake and the Salt Flats outside of SLC on the way to the Nevada border.

 Our last state before home!

We had dinner with one of Adrienne's dear friends, who lives in Elko.  Her name is Juli and you can see her in the photo a few below this one.  Adrienne had promised another friend's young son that she would take a picture with a real cowboy, and this was the best one we could find (we never did see one in Texas.....).  This man was SOOOO nice and cooperative!!!

Here's Juli (in the middle).

This is where we ate dinner.  It was delish!  And once again, tons of food!

Sunset in Elko, Nevada, our last stopover before heading home tomorrow.


We left Limon about 7:30, after having a nice breakfast at the hotel, and topping off the gas tank at the station across the way.  Our trip to the Grand Junction area was supposed to be around a 5 hour drive.  We knew we could lollygaddle a bit, as it was going to be an easy day.

We timed our arrival into the Denver area pretty well, we didn't experience very much traffic and we were through the city and to the northwest of it pretty quickly.  We hadn't gone too far out of the city when we came upon some signs to the Saint Cabrini Shrine, just ahead up the road near the Hwy 40 exit.  I said to Adrienne "who the hell is Saint Cabrini?".  She just sighed.  "We should go see it and you'll find out about her."  Okay.  The shrine was up at the top of a mountain, just a few miles off of the interstate.

I found out that Saint Cabrini was born in 1850 and died in 1917.  She was the last of 11 children, born in Italy.  She had a tremendous fear of water, after nearly drowning while a young girl.  She also had a fierce devotion to God and to helping others.  She founded a missionary for women and began a lifelong quest of spreading the word of the Lord and helping people all over the world.  She came to America and while in the Denver area, she discovered a real need to help young children who were orphaned because of the deaths of their fathers/parents from local gold mining.  And so her summer home for girls was born, and built on the hill where this shrine is located.

It's a peaceful area, with cattle grazing on the hills above, a beautiful waterfall cascading down through a lovely grotto.  The water is said to be one that is healing - whoever drinks from it will experience healing from whatever physical ailments they might have.  Of course I leaned in and had a few swallows......

She died suddenly in 1917, while in Chicago.  She was made a saint in the mid-1900's and her good works continue to this day.

Onward towards our final destination - Fruita and the Colorado National Monument.  Also, our RV Park where we had reserved a cabin (wanted to try these out - they are a little log cabin with a couple of beds, a small fridge, microwave, lights and A/C and Heating).

We drove through some beautiful areas of the Rockies - the elevation climbed to over 10,000 feet - the mountainsides were filled with a combination of pine trees and aspens.  The aspens were turning to gold and red and the mountains were simply gorgeous!  We also drove through a number of ski resort areas, including the famous Vail.  All really pretty.

We ate lunch at a rest stop by this river.

After lunch, we kept heading west.  Around mid-afternoon we arrived at the Colorado National Monument in Fruita, which is about 15 minutes past Grand Junction.  Our campsite was just down the road about a mile from the entrance to the park.  We opted to go straight to the park.  We spent about an hour and a half there, driving up through the canyon area and into this magical and stunning valley of monuments made of our beautiful earth.  Some of these rock formations were formed over a billion years ago.  The views were stunning, everywhere we turned.  The pictures here just cannot do it justice.

Kansas City to Limon Colorado

We overnighted in Kansas City in the Country Club Plaza area.  My cousin Gary had mentioned that it was a nice place to walk around and there were lots of restaurants to choose from for dinner.  Our drive the next day to Colorado was going to be a 7 hour one, so we wanted to enjoy a nice evening and have a nice dinner and a good night's sleep.

We got an early start - I think we were on the road by 7:30-ish.  We missed most of the morning commute traffic since we were leaving the city instead of driving into it.  Thinking ahead on a road trip helps, I think, to make the drive a bit easier.  I had several options of where to stay, and the commute traffic and timing overall of our day factored into the decision.

Along the way, early in the morning, we started seeing some billboards along the highway for an Oz Museum, located in a place called Wamego, Kansas.  It looked kind of cheesy, but hey, you just never know about these things.  On a whim, we decided to make a detour and go check it out.

Wamego is actually a really nice little town.  Population is less than 5,000, but the town is spread out some and is nearby to the larger city of Manhattan.  It was established in 1866 and its primary industry is agriculture.  They grow wheat, alfalfa, sweet corn and maize.  A lot of the residents also commute to Topeka and Manhattan for other work.

It's biggest claim to fame since it was built in 2004, is the Oz Museum.  And this is the place we came to see.  The museum was the original brainchild of a student working on his master's degree based on the film The Wizard of Oz.  He had been a collector of Oz memorabilia, and rented some space to exhibit his collection, along with his thesis presentation.  The museum was born.  Later, though, he took back his collection, but Wamego was able to work out a deal with a friar Cafiero to house his collection of over 24,000 items.

The museum is small but nicely done and in the back of the museum the film is playing on a continuous loop.  You follow the yellow brick road inside on the way to Oz, and you can view short documentaries on the movie and interviews with the stars, etc.  There are also a lot of Frank Baum's original books encased in displays and photographs, newspaper articles, etc.  Here are some pictures from the museum of the cast characters.

The front of the museum from the sidewalk

 The museum didn't open until 10:00 so we were greeted with this sign.

Oh no!  Someone killed the wicked witch!


This was a beautiful quilt showing the entire journey that Dorothy took.  Really fabulous!

Tin Man

Cowardly Lion

Eek!  The wicked witch!

Ahh!  We survived the trip to Oz.

Onward towards Colorado.  The miles and miles of Kansas highway flew by pretty quickly.  We stopped off at a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  I think it was the only one anywhere near where we were driving and we were running out of places to find one on the remainder of our trip.  It was good. When you first walk in you think you are in a country store, but then the restaurant is tacked on behind the store.  Food was good and filling.  And we now could check that place off our list.  Only one left now is Steak N Shake.  That might be a problem......

I expected the Kansas plains to be flat and desolate but I was wrong.  Lots of small rolling hills, green pastures and lots and lots of big windmills and rolled up hay bales laying in fields.  Very pretty!  Until, of course, the winds picked up.  Oh my good gracious, what winds we had.  Blowing in from the south, making driving a bit difficult.  Now I know why I have callouses on the insides of my knuckles!  By the time we crossed the state line into Colorado, I had had my genteel sufficiency of Kansas winds!

Adrienne found her rocker at the Cracker Barrel!

Once again, the Welcome sign to Kansas was right on a billboard on a busy highway with no opportunity to stop, so we had to find this at a rest stop.

Many many MANY windmills along the highway in Kansas.

 And hay bales too!

We made it to Colorado!

Cute themed restaurant in Limon (pronounced Lye mun), where we overnighted.  They name their menu items after famous movies.

Sunset in Limon.  Goodnight!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Weston to Kansas City

"I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come....."

I always start humming that old song every time I hear the words spoken about Kansas City.  Don't know why, but I just do.

Kansas City was selected as a stopping point on the trip because just outside of KC is Weston, Missouri.  Weston has the distinction of being voted the best small town in America and has an interesting history -- Lewis and Clark, on their famous expedition, camped out in Weston. Weston was one of the oldest settlements the early 1830's and was also the farthest western settlement (thus, "West Town") in the United States until the Texas joined the U.S. in 1845. William Buffalo Bill Cody was at one time a resident of Weston, and the town was a major "jumping off" point for the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail and the California Gold Rush. It was also at one time the second largest port on the Missouri river, surpassing both Kansas City and St. Joseph; in 1850 over 200 steamboats a year docked at the Port of Weston.
The Weston Brewing Company was first established in 1842 by German immigrant, John Georgian, and was one of the first lager beer breweries in the U.S. Five arched, limestone cellars, dug to a depth of 55 feet below ground, were constructed to create the ideal conditions for Georgian’s lager beer which needed to be stored below 60 degrees. The brewery closed in 1919 when prohibition was signed into law. In 2005 the Weston Brewing Company reopened and one of the cellars now houses a unique bar which requires patrons to descend down through a small rock faced tunnel to get to the large, cool, cavern like bar.
Weston, during the 1800's was also home to several of my ancestors, on my father's side.  I've been building my family tree, and recently tracked my father's fathers back to the early 1700's.  They were early pioneers, traveling from Virginia in the mid to late 1700's to the Weston area.  Both my great great grandfather and his father and wives are buried in one of the cemeteries in Weston.  When I realized that our road trip was going to pass nearby to Weston, I decided it must be a stop, so I could find their graves and see the area in which they lived for several generations.
Today, Weston is located really close to Kansas City International Airport - maybe about 20 to 25 minutes northwest.  It's still a little town - less than 2,000 residents - but there are a number of large farm homes that surround the town.  The country roads out there are winding and offer you beautiful rolling green hills, red barns and white picket style fences as you drive into town.  Farmers in overalls sitting atop their big green tractors still clog the roads and slow you down if you're lucky enough to be caught behind one.  
Our drive from O'Fallon/St. Louis was uneventful and we found ourselves in the greater KC area early in the afternoon.  Early enough, in fact, to make a stopover in Independence, home of Harry S. Truman, AND a Passport place!  We visited the Visitors Center, and then wandered down the street to the Clinton Soda Shop, where young Harry worked while growing up in this cute little town.  I don't think he actually worked in the soda shop, but he worked in the same building.  The history archives are a little bit unclear on that item.  Regardless, we ventured into the soda shop for an afternoon snack to tide us over until dinner.  I had a yummy ice cream sundae and Adrienne had a grilled cheese sandwich and a Limeade.

After Independence, we got back into the car and move on to finding Weston.  About 30 minutes later there we were in downtown Weston.  Completely lost in terms of finding the cemetery.  There are actually 3 cemeteries there, and the one we wanted was outside of town about 3 miles or so.  A nice young man in the main hotel there knew where it was and gave me directions.  A few minutes later there we were -- so close to my ancestors.  The next chore was to find their graves.  I had a picture from my research so I knew there was a raised headstone with the name Cox on it.  That helped to locate it in what appeared to be about 2-3 acres of graves.  

I can't explain in words what it felt like to stand before their graves.  To see their names etched in granite - their dates of birth and death - here I was - well over 150 years later - standing there taking it all in.  The location of the cemetery is lovely too - a serene vista of the neighboring farm homes and fields from atop a knoll that is this cemetery.  A quiet breeze of warm air.  We were the only ones there.  I just thought a lot about who they were, what their days might have been like, and could instantly understand why they lived there, in this beautiful little place of America carved out just for them.  It meant a lot to me to be there.

Jacob Cox was the father of Spead (see below).  Spend was MY father's grandfather.

 Julia married Spead.

 The cemetery is beautifully maintained and looks out over rolling green hills.  My family's graves are up near the top end, in the older section, as shown below.

7th Inning Stretch

We've had some people comment on Facebook who are following my posts ask us questions like:  "Aren't you bored driving and being in the car so much?"; "Who's taking those pictures in front of the state billboards?"; "Do you tent camp every night?"; "Are you on a strict schedule?", etc.

Well now.  Inquiring minds want to know, so here are your answers.

1.  Are you on a strict schedule?

Mostly, yes.  We left on Labor Day, Monday September 7th.  We needed to get to Savannah/Lyons by 9/17, as that was the date scheduled for my Mom's interment.  We also needed to get home by Saturday 9/26, as Adrienne needs to be back in Seattle shortly thereafter.  So when I sat down to route the trip out, I needed to be cognizant of how much time it would take to get to Savannah by the date, and then sort of backtracked it to Los Angeles, where I picked up Adrienne.

I also didn't want to have to drive for long hours every single day.  But, because of the distances involved, a few days have been long ones.  The shorter days were designed to allow us time to make detours if we saw something or read about something interesting, or to allow us time on that day to do something we had preplanned.  The schedule has even allowed for some adjustments along the way.

2.  Who's taking those pictures in front of the state billboards?

Why, my selfie stick has!  I picked one up a couple of weeks before our trip and it's been fantastic.  Each time we get near a state line, we sit up and start scanning the road ahead for the "Welcome to..." sign.  Most times it's been there, and it's been easy enough to pull over to the side of the highway or interstate, put our emergency flashers on and run and set up the picture, push the shutter button on the stick and skedaddle back into the car.  But there's been a few states where we haven't seen a sign or the sign is in the middle of a bridge, so we've had to get a little creative to get a photo.  The one state we missed altogether was Illinois.  But we were there, I swear!!!  Our visit at my cousin Gary's house in O'Fallon is proof!

No road trip is complete without a photo-log of our travels, and the state Welcome signs have provided a pictorial tracking of our route and our daily progress.

3.  Do you tent camp every night?

Good gravy, NO.  I knew that every few days for sure we'd want to stay in a hotel for a soft bed, a hot breakfast and a good shower.  And in a few places I wanted a bit of a treat (Savannah for my birthday).  But we've pitched our tent several times along the way - Grand Canyon, Las Cruces, Memphis.  We were supposed to tent camp 2 nights in Texas, but the weather has been pretty hot and humid, and the mosquitos have been out in full force.  Plus Adrienne doesn't do well in the heat, so he hotel-ed it both in Austin and in Houston.

Some campgrounds also have cabins, along with RV spaces and tent spaces.  Tonight, in fact, in Grand Junction, Colorado, we're staying in a cabin.  We were curious about them and wanted to try one.  They cost more than a tent space, but less than a hotel.  You have to provide your own linens, but they offer heat/air conditioning, power and beds.  And relief from mosquitos.  I've been bitten probably over 50 times so far, and spend a few of my days with one hand on the steering wheel and the other scratching a new bite.

4.  Aren't you bored driving and being in the car so much?

Hahahahahahaha.  We haven't been bored one minute.  We've been playing the state license plate game since we left Los Angeles.  You know the one -- spotting different states' license plates on cars along the road we're on.  Adrienne has been keeping a list.  She knows which plates we spotted on which days, and she's also got a placemat sized map of the United States showing just the states and she has circled each one as we spot them.  As of now, we only need Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Hawaii and South Dakota.  We were pretty confident that we'd get all of them except Hawaii and Alaska, but we've actually seen 3 Alaska plates in the last 2 days!!

We've also been on the lookout for National Monument sites and where we've been able to, we've detoured to a site so we can get our passports stamped. No, not the passport you're thinking about, but there's a U.S. National Parks and Monuments passport book that we purchased in the Grand Canyon, where we first discovered them.  For example, the St. Louis Arch is a national monument, and we got stamped there.

Adrienne is the keeper of the maps.  Yes, we use Indie's Navigation system - I plug in the destination addresses of the places we're going to visit and the places we're staying each day, but Adrienne uses the maps to keep me informed of the upcoming towns and highways.  They are place markers in our daily drives and many times she gets on Google (we've had great cell service along the way) and regales us with the history of the various towns along the highways.

We've also been on a quest to try out some of the regional fast food or restaurant joints.  What A Burger; Cracker Barrel; Hardee's; Sonic; Waffle House, etc.  Google can tell you the entire history of these places - we've learned who started these businesses, how they expanded/grown, what they are famous for --- all sorts of interesting tidbits of mostly useless information.  But it fills our day when we're in the car.

Adrienne crochets some, (when she's not looking at maps or reading out loud about something we've seen) and we also spend a little time thinking about and answering some thought-provoking questions that Adrienne gets from a little book.  Which then leads us to yak about other stuff.

Sometimes I've just burst out with some silly statement or answer to one of her questions and we both start cackling and laugh so hard we can't speak.

So, no, we're never bored.  Not ever.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

St. Louis

We awoke very early, took down the tent, packed up the car and headed out.  Today we were on our way to St. Louis, followed by a visit/overnight with my other cousin, Gary.  (Gary and Nik are brothers).

Adrienne had never been to the St. Louis Arch before, so guess what?!  We may frequent the Golden Arches for hash browns and iced tea, but the St. Louis Arch is a once in a lifetime treat!  Adrienne braved the 4 minute ride up the side of the Arch to the top and was amazed at both how high we were and how beautiful St. Louis looked on a very clear day.

The Arch was built in the 1960's and was built as a monument to the vision of Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis' role in the westward expansion of the United States.  It is 630 feet tall, which equates to over 60 stories high.  The architect was Eero Saarinen, who won a national contest for designing the memorial back in 1947.  It took nearly 20 years after that for the Arch to be completed.  The Arch itself cost a little over $13 million to build.  Gosh, that won't hardly build 1 mile of a freeway these days.

We also visited both the "old" and the "new" Catholic Cathedrals in the city.  The older one is located right next to the Arch; the newer and larger one is further out into town.  Both churches were beautiful, inside and out.  The cathedral was given the designation of Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.  The inside contains the largest collection of mosaics in the world.  They cover 83,000 square feet.

The inside of the Old Cathedral - you can see the Arch through the windows.

Old Cathedral view from outside.

New Cathedral.  The mosaics are spectacular.

After our long drive, plus touring around St. Louis, we drove over the Mississippi River and into Illinois, towards O'Fallon, a small town about 30 minutes away.  This is where Gary lives.  We had a great dinner and lots of talk and laughter and then turned in for the night.  Next morning we were up early, as we were on our way to Weston and Kansas City.

Carlos and Riley.  Carlos is Gary's son.  Riley is the sweetest dog ever.  Carlos just completed a double master's degree at SCAD in Savannah and landed a wonderful job in St. Louis.  Congrats Carlos!

The lake behind Gary's home.

Cousin Lindsey.  Gary's daughter.  She just completed her AA and has the most beautiful smile I've ever seen.