May 18 – 19
Because we had to cancel our weeklong ride along the Katy Trail, we needed to fill up the days before arriving in Kansas at my sister Bev’s place. We added a day to Nashville and one to our stay with her, which still left us with six nights to fill. We decided to camp at a KOA in Branson, MO as we’d not ever been there and then a random comment at a social gathering sent us to Sikeston, MO, near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
The drive that day would take a little over three hours, so we dawdled a bit in the morning, packed the car and drove down to Post East for one more meal. This time around we ordered a roasted red pepper, sautéed mushroom and swiss cheese omelet with a side of their roasted potatoes. When it arrived, we were generally happy with the product, except to me the potatoes were spiced oddly, not to my taste, and their home made ketchup completely missed the mark.
A minor glitch in an otherwise good experience, we hit the road for Sikeston, easy driving on the interstate until we reached our home for two nights, the Best Western Plus Sikeston. Here is the review I wrote for Trip Advisor:
We stayed for two nights in May while visiting the area. We often stay at Best Western properties so have a good idea about the different levels of quality one should expect for the price paid. Overall, for a Plus rated establishment this one didn’t meet the mark. The room was clean and spacious, but we could not get the air conditioning unit to function correctly, alternating between freezing cold and muggy hot. We couldn’t open our window as our room faced the parking lot and the table where employees and guests would gather to smoke cigarettes and talk. When we had breakfast the first morning, we were greeted with the standard fare and when we sat down to eat the scrambled eggs and sausage, found both inedible due to over-salting. They made your hair curl. The second morning we abandoned the free breakfast and drove a couple of blocks away to the fried pie shop for a much more satisfying meal.
For dinner that night we’d be following up on a recommendation from Doug in Charlotte, a visit to Lambert’s Café, known far and wide for their “throwed rolls”. Serving generous portions of simply prepared American classics, there was a line to be seated when we arrived, but it moved quickly enough, and we were placed in a booth at the corner of one of the large dining rooms.
Ordering here is simple; because they provide “pass arounds” (fried okra, fried potatoes, macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, and sorghum and honey) brought by servers roaming the facility, there are no split plates.
You can order just the Pass Arounds for $9.50, but we thought for a couple more dollars we could get a regular meal instead for both of us, so Joanna ordered the Chicken Salad and I the Chicken Pot Pie. We caught a couple of rolls thrown our way from across the room (they really do throw them) and tucked into our meals when they arrived. Roughly comparable to diner food, it was quite good, and Joanna’s portion was so large we took half of it with us for sandwiches the next day.
Sleep was uneasy that night as we struggled with the ice box temperatures our A/C unit inflicted upon us, but we arose the next morning ready for a full day of local sightseeing after a satisfying and hearty Best Western Breakfast. Neither of these objectives would pan out exactly as planned. As my review stated, the breakfast was inedible. To compensate, we hit the Original Fried Pie Shop and picked up a peach version, which we’d consume later. Our destination for the day was to be three sights in or near Cairo, Illinois; Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the U.S. Custom House, and Magnolia Manor.
Our drive to the park took just under thirty minutes; the State donated the park land to the City of Cairo many years ago and without money to maintain the property it has a feeling of having been abandoned.
No remnants of the old fort remain, but the view up both rivers and then down the joined Mississippi is quite impressive. Hungry by now, we decided to split the fried peach pie, sitting in the front seats of the Highlander. Big mistake. It was delicious, and a juicy mess, creating havoc as we tried to limit the damage created by bits of pie launching towards our clothes, seats and console.
We drove the short distance into Cairo ready for a highly recommended tour of the Custom House, only to discover that it was closed that day. If we had done more thorough research earlier, we would have known it was open the day before and could have stopped in then; yet another Jenny Manetta moment. Undaunted, we made our way a few blocks over to Magnolia House ready for a tour.
We walked through the front door into the entry hall, looking around for someone to check in with. A professional photographer and his model were setting up for shoot and we exchanged greetings. Soon thereafter a pre-occupied gentleman in a tatty looking t-shirt entered and as he passed by us the photographer stated that this was the person who’d give us the tour.
This did not appear to register on the gentleman, who we would not see again throughout the length of our stay. After waiting around, we figured he wouldn’t be returning so took our own uninformed self-guided tour of this nicely maintained and period furnished mansion. We bade farewell to the photographer and drove back to Sikeston, heading into its downtown area (our Best Western was on the outskirts of town) to park at the Sikeston Depot Museum.
Built as the Iron Mountain Railroad Train Depot in 1916, it became a museum and cultural center in 2000 when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and features permanent and rotating exhibits depicting the area’s history and art. The lone docent was excited to see us (I don’t think they get a lot of traffic) and directed us to the exhibits she thought we’d most enjoy. After perusing the bulk of the displays, we wandered into an adjacent room to chat with an older couple, the husband being a resident historian (known as The Morehousian) of the nearby town of Morehouse.
It seems he’d spent the bulk of his adult life documenting the history of Morehouse and its inhabitants and as they filled us in on various notable individuals and events we leafed through any number of binders of information he had compiled.
I think if we’d had the stamina, they would have regaled us for the entire afternoon; but we soon bade them a farewell and returned to the car to take a driving tour of Sikeston’s historic homes.
It was a fun, lazy way to check out the town and the many beautiful homes that formed the historic core of the city. Once done with our diversion, we drove back towards the Best Western, stopping at a local market to pick up a couple of items to supplement an in-room dinner of the leftover Lamberts chicken salad we made into two sandwiches.
Our day had not turned out even remotely as we thought it would, our time in Cairo a bust (except it caused us to delve into its convoluted history, one that has left it a living ghost town) redeemed by our stop at the Depot Museum.
Sometimes that’s the way it goes on the road, your intended destination or activity not all you’d thought it would be but leading you on towards an undiscovered gem. What we experienced wasn’t earth shattering, no Louvre or Ludwig’s Castle, but satisfying none-the-less, bringing us a little closer to an understanding of the heartland of America and how it shapes our political dialogue. I’m pretty sure we’ll not return to this area but I’m quite glad we stopped by this time around.
Post East: http://www.theposteast.com/
Lambert’s Café: https://throwedrolls.com/
Original Fried Pie Shop: http://theoriginalfriedpieshop.com/
Fort Defiance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Defiance_(Illinois)
U.S. Custom House: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Custom_House_(Cairo,_Illinois)
Magnolia Manor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_Manor_(Cairo,_Illinois)
Sikeston Depot Museum: http://www.sikestondepotmuseum.com/
The Morehousian: http://pillowstone0.tripod.com/
Historical Sikeston: http://www.downtownsikeston.org/Revitalization/HistoricalHomes.asp