(Ed. Note: The following post has nothing to do with bicycles.)
Since I was recently gone for a week I have dedicated this week to spending time with Shauna, earlier this week I took her to see “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which was kind of like Twilight with more swords and armor. (Ed. Note: How do you know what Twilight was like?) Our big trip this week was the Missouri Botanical Garden at St. Louis. We also came up with Meramec Caverns which is near St. Louis, the plan was to camp there and check out some of their various activites.
Driving from my humble rural community to the big city of St. Louis is always a bit jarring, we only suffered one case of what around here we call “Big City Driving.” I was making a left turn into the parking lot of the Botanical Garden and a man was making a left turn out of the garden. There were cars coming towards me and turning into the garden. The man was making wild gestures and seemed to want me to go in front of the turning cars. I waited on them and the next one so he began honking his horn. When there were finally no more cars incoming I made my left turn, I looked at the man and his mouth wide open screaming at his wind shield and his fist was shaking. I stuck my tongue out at him.
The Botanical Garden is currently hosting a Chinese Lantern festival which was cool. The best part in my opinion was two huge dragons made with porcelain plates, bowls and spoons, but there were many colorful scenes and we both enjoyed them. Shauna’s favorite was the fisherman scene. She also always gets a big kick out of feeding the giant Koi fish in the Japanese garden.
Of course the Botanical Garden is all about plants, and we saw our share of them. Last time we were there several areas were closed, but everything was open this time, inlcuding the Climatron, an air conditioned greenhouse that simulates lowland rainforest climate, its probably the closest I’ll ever get to a jungle.
Our next stop was Meramec Caverns, which was interesting but compared to the 8 dollars it cost to get into the Botanical Gardens the Cave was majorly overpriced. I don’t want to harp on about the difference between public and private ventures but its obvious that the Botanical Garden is designed to share beauty and knowledge and the Meramec Caverns attraction has been designed to squeeze every possible dollar out of cave they can get.
We bought our 20 dollar tickets for the cave tour and wandered around the sparse exhibits near the cave entrance. Jesse James and other historical interests are heavily advertised by the cave owners but any actual history was just glanced over. Our 16-year-old tour guide did an excellent job reciting a memorized script, complete with cheesy jokes, that was about as interesting and informative and you would expect. I have to admit there were some stunning rock formations in the cave and it was very interesting to see them, but the whole place had the feel of a tourist trap. They had an excellent and well stocked gift shop.
I’m not sure what I expected though as Meramec Caverns may be the mother of all tourist traps. The owner Lester B Dill invented the bumper sticker and painted barn roof advertisement, back in the 30s. Sadly the current owners don’t seem too interested in keeping the cave relevent in today’s world. The tour mentioned a pair of TV shows, People are Funny, and Lassie, having an involvement with the cave, and a visit from the Governor in the 1950s, they need some new material.
At one point we are asked to climb 58 tall stairs to see a section of the cave. We climbed at a snail’s pace so I jumped the railing and went around everyone. At the top everyone on the tour was huffing and puffing, the smokers, the thin, the overweight, and surprisingly even the kids. There are a few advantages to being fit.
The cave tour ended with a spectacular rock formation that included a light show. The colored lights were neat but it was obvious they were very old. The tour guide operated a light show in conjunction with the classic song, “America the Beautiful,” and had to constantly press buzzing and clicking switches to operate the 50-year-old light show. Ultimately the tour was an hour-long, though it was advertised as an hour and 20 minutes, it was interesting but not a good value.
The campground around the cave didn’t look that inviting, it wasn’t trashy or anything, it just didn’t look that nice and it cost 18 dollars to camp. They had river with rafts and canoes, a boat ride, and the current new craze it tourist trappery, the zipline. We looked at all this stuff and the associated price tags and hit the road. We stopped at Route 66 State Park which didn’t have any camping so we just came home. Hard to go camping when you’re only a couple of hours from your comfortable bed.
Dang, we didn’t get to go to the zoo, maybe next time.