Wanting to do something out of the ordinary on Thursday, because Steve and I had two consecutive days off together, I thought of day trips we could take. My first inclination was to drive up to Springfield, IL for the state fair, but Steve wasn't terribly excited about that. He doesn't have the enthusiasm for peering endlessly at goats and sheep that I do. Plus, all the poultry showings were over and I do love the chickens.
Next on the list was a trip along the Great River Road past Alton, IL and Grafton, IL to a place that Roy Kasten has opined has the most delicious fresh peach drinks ever. Now this appealed to Steve.
We got a somewhat late start on Thursday morning, not leaving until around 11:00am. The weather was gorgeous, overcast and just barely 80 degrees. Seriously, this is August in St. Louis? We got on the road and headed northeast. It seemed that neither of us felt particularly chatty and we settled into a comfortable quiet, just listening to the radio. The drive, through Baden in north St. Louis, Alton, and Grafton was easy -- little traffic, and only a few idiot drivers.
Starving by the time we got to Grafton, we decided to forego the antique and junk stores and head right for the Brussels Ferry to get to our restaurant destination, Kinder's, at the Golden Eagle Ferry landing in Calhoun County. I've never been on a ferry, ever, so I was excited about crossing a particularly wide part of the Mississippi on the ferry in my car. And since this one is owned by the Illinois DOT, it was free. I don't have a particular problem with motion sickness, though I do have some vertigo issues, but the movement of the ferry while sitting inside my still car made me feel drunk and disoriented. Not in a terribly bad way, but it was a weird feeling, like my head was swiveling loosely on my neck. As soon as I hit land again, I was fine, though the narrow, curvy and hilly roads of Calhoun County were rather challenging. Even after looking at the map, I'm still not quite sure where we were. It's odd that, according to the maps, the part of the river we crossed to get to Calhoun was not exactly the Mississippi, but a tributary. The county, though, was gorgeous. Lots of rolling hills covered with corn and soybeans; little shacky houses, next to trailer homes, next to McMansions, next to working farms and orchards. I could live there, happily.
We drove and drove and drove and finally made it to the Golden Eagle Ferry crossing and Kinder's. The place was kind of deserted but we were starving and thirsty and headed out to the deck to sit and ponder the river flowing past. We immediately ordered those frozen peach daquiris and were not disappointed. Sweet, icy, thick and beautifully orange with fresh peaches. Yum.
Fried green beans (how wonderful to take something healthy, coat it in batter, deep fry it and serve with ranch dressing!) and gigantic catfish filet sandwiches later and we were peaceful and relaxed. See?
We ate and ate and drank and drank and watched the ferry take and retrieve countless vehicles to and from the Missouri side of the river. At one point we noticed that when the ferry docked, sometimes big fish leapt out of the water, showing us their shining white bellies. Startling and funny. We were practically alone on the deck (our only compatriots left less than halfway through our visit) and we again settled into a peaceful, comfortable silence. Even my brain was still and contented. No racing thoughts, no worries, nothing. I suggest watching a ferry for relaxation anytime.
After probably a couple hours we decided to hit the road for home, with a stop or two planned to get some fresh vegetables at one of the many stands and orchards in the area. Three or four pounds of tomatoes, one odd zucchini, some sweet corn and a bag of peaches later, we were homeward bound. Even though it was was rush hour, we were heading in the opposite direction of most other cars so it was easy and fast. Since we were on "vacation" we stopped at the Wonder Bread outlet store to relive our childhood and buy our favorite treats -- Hostess Cupcakes for me and HoHos for Steve.
For dinner I tried to recreate the peach daquiris and I was somewhat less than successful, though they tasted okay. I overdid the lemonade aspect and the peachiness was way too far in the background. The main dish was going to have to contain some of those fresh vegetables, so I sauteed onion, garlic, that zucchini and a big, fresh tomato in olive oil and tossed the result with rigatoni and parmesan cheese. Delicious.
Wish I had more of it right now.
Later on I turned around and saw Lydia sprawled on the back of the couch, sound asleep. She looked so sweet and happy I had to take a picture.