Reflections On St Louis

The hordes have gone and breakfast this morning is a civilised affair thankfully. I’m back on the road again today, heading north-east to Indianapolis. This is my mid-way stop-over on the way to Detroit. Luckily I’ve found couple of things do in Indy, not music-based, but they should be good.

As I drive I reflect again on St Louis and conclude, yet again, that I should have done more in-depth research beforehand. First, I completely underestimated the size of the place. Then, whilst it was my choice to do so, it was disappointing to stay in on the night I arrived. I think I should have found where the music was – BB’s and Beale on Broadway in downtown, Soulard has no hotels remember – and then got a hotel near them.

This however highlights one of the downsides to Priceline and Hotwire when using the blind purchase system. Namely that you don’t know the actual hotel until after the booking is made, and then it can’t be changed. So if I wanted a specific hotel I’d have to book it direct. Then unless the hotel was offering a cheap rate, I’d potentially end up paying much more than what I might get via a blind deal.

Priceline and Hotwire put hotels in zones for blind purchasing and I should have more carefully assessed the zone coverage. Some zones can be quite small, others large, it depends on the city. The Pear Tree Inn was in Priceline’s downtown zone but in looking back later I notice a couple of things. Firstly, that zone is huge in comparison to the downtown zones in some other cities. Second, the hotel is right on the zone’s inner edge. It’s about as far from the river and downtown as it’s possible to get. Plus I’d still argue a 30+ minute walk to the river means it’s not in a ‘downtown zone’ anyway.

So in some respects it was just a bit of bad luck that I got the Pear Tree Inn. But the deal I got was the cheapest room rate in the city for those two nights for that class of hotel. As for St Louis itself, it was an interesting city tour. BB’s was good and the Gateway Arch has to be seen up close and ‘in the flesh’ to be believed.

Back Out Into The Countryside

For the drive to Indianapolis I decide to take what I hope will be the scenic Highway 40 instead of I-70. Crossing the Mississippi on I-55 / I-64 / Hwy 40 via the Poplar Street Bridge takes me from Missouri into Illinois. I-64 goes off south soon after, then I-70 joins the road. A few miles later there’s an exit off the Interstate and I’m on Highway 40 alone. I see later that I-70 will in fact track Hwy 40 all the way and the two roads merge a few times along the route.

“As I was motivatin’ over the hill” *

Only there are no hills, it’s as flat as a pancake but on Highway 40 I’m now passing through towns and open country. The farming is for maize and corn rather than cotton by the look of it. The scenery is much more interesting than the Interstate would be I’m sure. The CDs I bought in Clarksdale keep me company in the car with some Blues tunes. I see more massively long trains, all again over a mile in length.

I stop for lunch in a Subway in Effingham. As I entered the outskirts, the High School band, cheerleaders and flag wavers are practising on the school’s front lawn. It’s seeing little slices of Americana like that, along with passing through the towns and countryside, that are making the trip so interesting, and not just about music. As tomorrow will show. 🙂

To Indianapolis

The weather’s fine again today, clear blue skies with just a few white clouds dotted about. I make good progress after lunch. It’s another ‘three-state day’ – after Missouri and Illinois – because I cross into Indiana during the afternoon. But what I don’t realise until later is that I’ve also changed time zone, gaining an hour on the clock. There’s more of the same scenery and as I approach Indianapolis I get on the Beltway that circles the city, designated as Interstate 465, also known as the USS Indianapolis Memorial Highway.

It has been a good and interesting drive today. I find my hotel, the Holiday Inn at Carmel, which is way to the north of the city and far away from the downtown area. As I thought, and not unexpectedly, there is nothing really around the area I’m staying in – no bars or clubs anyway. I would normally always look to stay downtown but all the hotels there were booked when I tried to make a reservation a few months ago.

There wasn’t a single room available anywhere in downtown. The only availability was miles away in the outer suburbs and towns, like where I am now. But there was a very good reason for this. Anyhow, at least I was expecting this tonight. I have a quiet dinner in the bar and go back to my room to read more of my novel before settling down for the night.

* Maybellene by St Louis native, Chuck Berry

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