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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LONG BEACH TO ANNAPOLIS AND BACK! Day 4 - 311 miles, 5 hrs

For the last three days we've been rocketing across the country, stopping briefly for photo opportunities and meals. Pretty much the sole exception to this was our hourlong (and very expensive) stop in Vail, Colorado.

Yesterday we decided to slow it down a bit. We were more than 1500 miles to our goal, and are ahead of schedule, so the next few days will be less intense and time-consuming.
Starting our morning in Topeka, Kansas - a charming little city which is the capital of Kansas - we

ate a pleasant breakfast featuring a waiter who needs to call Central Casting immediately. The man is perfect as the town sheriff, and likely descended from one (though we didn't ask). Lanky of build, a strong energy, and slight western drawl. Pleasant as all get out, but there was an aspect to the man that suggested he was in charge. A genuine and really good person to have met. (The hotel, a Ramada, was quite nice, but the highlight was the Sheriff. He made our morning.)

We took off, stopping for gasoline and a short side-trip to the nearby Walgreen's, we hit I-70 headed east toward St Louis.

The countryside was much greener than the previous landscapes, due partially to the intense storms which had blown through. Fortunately the weather seemed to have gone on ahead without us, and I was thankful to be driving in bright sunshine.

Before too long the skyline of Kansas City emerged fom the hilltops, and as we approached the downtown the traffic got a little more jammed. Rush hour, though - as an Angeleno - it wasn't much of a problem. The downtown slot was a bit confusing, but we managed. I am surprised at the size of the downtown district. I've been through KC before, but never to the downtown area. Much larger and dramatic than expected.

Directly east of downtown we crossed into Missouri. Not much changed in the landscaping, and the
effect was pretty much the reverse of our approach to KC. Gradually the surroundings became rural again, and green.

The drive was ineventful from that point, but the shortness of the day allowed us a wonderful little side-trip to one of the regional wineries, Le Bourgeois. What initially attracted our attention was the bistro, for lunch. Upon entering the tasting room, however, we were informed the bistro was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but something called the "A-Frame" was open for sandwiches. And, more importantly, it sported a serene view of the Missouri River. So we trundled up a mile or so to the vineyards, turned left and followed a steep road into the woods to find the "A-Frame".

It is, to be short, beautiful. The A-frame structure at the bottom of the road is itself the highest point for a series of wooden decks overlooking the forest and the Missouri River. Far off in the distance is the highway, but the sound of it is mild compared to the sounds of the forest. When we arrived we were among maybe six visitors, each having essentially their own deck for solitude. (Later arrivals swelled this considerably, and we eventually left when a group of six arrived on our deck and kept their conversation going...)

Reluctantly we returned to the road, but not without stopping briefly in the tasting room for some samples. No insult intended, but the wines produced are reasonable table wines and a little overpriced for their quality - but I'm delighted to see a vibrant member of the wine industry plying their trade in Missouri.

Given my tasting, my wife took over driving duties and saw us safely into St Louis. The drive in was much more heavily trafficked than any city since Las Vegas (despite Denver's best efforts), but we arrived safely at the hotel, a comparatively luxurious Hyatt directly adjacent the famous Gateway Arch and Mississippi River.
Following a short rest in the hotel we traipsed across -- having to divert around a major construction project -- to ride up into the Arch for a brief stay, followed by the park store and a decent movie about the construction. Warning: the movie is best viewed after visiting the top. Some of the dizzying views of the construction will make even the most solid height-tolerant person an aspiring acrophobe.

Today we head out on our first major diversion from the intended path. Tonight's original target was Lexington, Kentucky, but we're diverting up to Cincinnati instead. We'll still cross into Kentucky via Louisville and stop for lunch and maybe something interesting...but after tonight's restful night the bigger city beckons.

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