Saturday morning dawn broke over Monument, Colorado to crystal blue skies and temperatures in the low teens. Our hosts woke us up to the smell of fresh coffee, bacon and eggs, and hot pancakes. We had had a good night's sleep and were well rested, ready to begin the final leg of our journey.
We tooled around the local farmlands, taking in the sights while on our way East to connect with Interstate 70 in Limon. On the way east, we passed a school zone: "50 MPH when flashing". Now that's the kind of school zone I could get used to. A couple of dirt roads and a state highway or two later, we connected with the interstate for the long haul East.
Rolling hills gave way to vast expanses of flat farm land as Eastern Colorado ranch land became Western Kansas farms. I have never understood until now just what was meant by "America's Bread Basket". Now I do. For the next 400 miles, all you could see in any direction, horizon-to-horizon, were farms. Vast expanses of board-flat, freshly harvested fields of wheat and corn, with an outbuilding or farmhouse every couple of miles, or so. I was in jaw-dropping awe at the vastness of the farmlands in Kansas. For the next 7+ hours, the view was an ever-changing variation on the same theme.
As we neared Topeka, the farms began to gain the occasional oil pump, and a few more cows, too. It was time for more fuel, for the car as well as our bodies. Steak 'N Shake was good, the gas was ethanol free, and we were ready to head to St. Louis. We fired up the car as the sun set in the west and re-joined the procession of people traveling into Missouri. The Kansas City turnpike runs you through an interesting set of twists, turns, and transitions until you are across the river and into Missouri. Royals Stadium is lit like an empty crown this wintry city night as we blast through town.
The road is still crowded this Saturday night as we continue on arrow-straight to the east to our next driver change in St. Louis, 3 hours away. I had never seen the Gateway Arch in person and intended to stop there and take it in. The trip to St. Louis was uneventful, and a bit uninspiring in the dark. Just tail lights and troopers to keep you on your toes.
We arrived at the Gateway Arch right at 11:00 PM local time. The park was officially closed for the evening, but we parked in the lot next to the historic church and walked over to see the arch up close. It was beginning to get a bit cold out, high 20's, but was still clear with no breeze. My bride and I held hands as we strolled through the park to take some pictures up close.
When we got back to the car, I had to get my hard case out for my XDm-45. We were about to drive across a firearms "no-man's land" as we were to continue on through Illinois. I popped the trunk and got my keys, case, and my vitamins and pills out and brought them up to the cab of the car. Immediately after (rapidly) securing the gun, spare magazines, holsters, etc. into the case and closing it in the trunk, a police car drives up to the front of my car. The park police cops get out on either side of me, flashlights drawn, and start asking questions...
Actually, nothing bad came of it. They wanted to know if we were OK. I kept smiling as I told them we were changing drivers, and I was just taking my vitamins and prepping to go to sleep while my wife drove. Flashlight #2 asked where I was going...I told him home to Virginia, at which point Flashlight #1 noticed the plates on the car and told his partner (who was closely examining my Gadsden Flag sticker in the back window) that we were OK and then they left. An interesting encounter. Even though at that instant I was no longer armed, it still felt like an official "contact". And, while Missouri states you have no duty to inform the officer about any weapons, I was not absolutely sure that I wasn't on Federal lands at the time. I kept my mouth shut about any guns, and this meeting was quick and professional.
Once we cleared the park, we crossed the "Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge" into East St. Louis, IL to get a cuppa and some go juice. I am not sure what should be said about East St. Louis, except that it felt like I disarmed too soon for my own good. Ah, well. As a law-abiding citizen, I do what I have to do. Even when it feels wrong...
I would tell you about southern Indiana, except that I was asleep through most of it.
More in Part 4