Back Out Into The Countryside

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 which 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 research. I completely underestimated the size of the place and, whilst it was my choice to do so, it was disappointing to stay in the night I arrived. I think I should have found where the music was – that’s BB’s and Beale on Broadway for 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 or bidding system – 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 and 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 can be quite small, others large – it depends on the city. The Pear Tree Inn was in Priceline’s downtown zone for St Louis but in looking back later I notice (a) that zone is huge in comparison to the downtown zones in some other cities and (b) the hotel is right on the zone’s edge, about as far from the river and ‘real’ downtown area as it’s possible to get (and I’d still argue a 30+ minute walk away means it’s not downtown 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 whole 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.

For this 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, I-70 joins the road, and then a few miles later there’s an exit off the Interstate and I’m on the proper Highway 40: 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 – farming maize and corn rather than cotton by the look of it – and it is 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 humongously long trains, all again over a mile in length. I stop for lunch in a Subway in Effingham and as I enter 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 this along with passing through the towns and countryside that are making the trip so interesting, and not just about music. As tomorrow will show. 🙂

The weather’s fine again today, clear blue skies with just a few white clouds dotted about, and 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 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 and, 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 the downtown city area itself, the only availability was miles away in the outer suburbs and towns, where I am now. But there’s a very good reason for this. Anyhow, at least I was expecting this tonight so 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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