President Taft and I Both Visit Cape Girardeau

I stopped by Port Cape Girardeau to see an artist about having some business cards designed for this site and to see if anything was happening along the Mississippi River.

Port Cape Girardeau and Common Pleas Courthouse

Port Cape Girardeau with Common Pleas Courthouse in backgroundSomeone in the bar mentioned that the local paper had a story that today was the 100th anniversary of the day President Taft and a flotilla of boats visited Cape Girardeau.

In fact, if I’d step outside that very occasion was depicted in a mural on the floodwall right in front of us.

Indeed, there was President Taft

Cape Girardeau floodwall mural showing President Taft's visit 100 years agoIf you go to the historical pictures in The Southeast Missourian story, you’ll see that the townsfolk built an arch over the street that looks a lot like the one in the mural.

I apologize for the quality of the mural photo. It was taken at night under marginal lighting.

I visit Cape Girardeau more than Taft

I’m miffed. Taft shows up once in 100 years and it’s a big deal with a special painting on the floodwall. I show up at least once every year and nobody even throws me a parade.

Coast Guard buoy tender keeps boaters safe

Coast Guard buoy tender moored at Cape GirardeauA Coast Guard buoy tender was moored at the waterfront on the other side of President Taft. They’re the guys who maintain the red and green buoys that tell barge pilots where the shifting Mississippi River channel is safe to run.

Captains have a lot more toys than in the Mark Twain days, but the Mississippi River, which is rising rapidly with all the recent rains, is still an unpredictable place.

Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail Rings Cash Registers

[Editor’s note: I wrote this in 2008, but not much has changed.]

I’m visiting my mother in Cape Girardeau, MO, a Mississippi River town halfway between St. Louis and Memphis.

I get back here at least once a year to recharge my psychic batteries in an area that has real hills, real trees and real people, all of which are sometimes in short supply in SFL.

Cape LaCroix Creek in Cape Girardeau, Mo.Way back in the last century when I was a kid, Cape LaCroix Creek – known to locals as Three-Mile Creek – would overflow and flood homes and businesses every few years.

Got fed up with it

The Local Fathers got fed up with complaints from the wet folks and managed to scrape up enough money to make the creek run more efficiently and drain off the water before it spilled over its banks.

A side effect of that was the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail, a 4.2-mile paved multiuse path, that was created next to the creek.

Cape Lacroix MapThe trail starts (or ends, depending on your perspective) just down the hill from the old homestead, so I ride it several times when I visit. It’s fun meeting folks and it’s a great way to get from the north end of town to the south end without climbing a bunch of hills.

Arguably the most-used park in town

I’ve never been on it without meeting tens of bikers, roller bladers, joggers, walkers, families with strollers and dog walkers. I’ve often thought that it’s the most-used park in town, particularly if you define “use” as “actively participate” and not just “spectate.” It attracts all ages and demographic groups.

Other paths I’ve ridden seem to attract mostly local users: elderly folks who do short exercise rides in the evening, kids going to their friends’ houses or (on the Withlacoochee) an old guy who would walk to the convenience store with a small shopping cart to pick up the week’s supply of beer. I assumed this trail would be the same, especially since it’s so short.

Trail draws users for miles around

Families from Farmington ride Cape LaCroix TrailThis afternoon I ran into a category of rider that local governments should take into consideration when people gripe about building public facilities like this one.

The first person I encountered was pulling a child’s trailer with a huge cooler and other stuff it in. When I got closer, I saw he had a toddler in a bike seat behind him. Up ahead was his wife with another toddler, a young girl and another adult couple.

They explained that they had driven to Cape from the Farmington, MO, area to ride the trail and have a picnic alongside it. Farmington is about an hour’s drive from Cape. Let’s review that: two families had loaded two cars with bicycles, snacks, toddlers as young as 18 months and driven close to 100 miles round trip so they could do a sub-10-mile bike ride because there weren’t any good facilities close at hand.

Kendra was afraid she'd lose weight if she rode her bike all the timeCash registers were going to ring

Oh, yeah, and while they were in Cape primarily to ride their bikes, they were also going to do some shopping.

[Editor’s note: I am horribly embarrassed to admit that I stuck a digital recorder under their noses and very carefully recorded every name so I could mention them. Unfortunately, Murphy was riding along with me and ate the info. The only name I can remember was 8-year-old Kendra who thought riding was “good excercise and a lot of fun, but I think it might make me lose too much weight.”]

The Cearneys drove 30 miles to ride the Cape LaCroix trail and shop in Cape GirardeauNot the only one

I would have thought they were an anomaly until I found the Cerneys who drove 30 miles from Illinois to ride the trail. The said that they had often seen riders on the trail when they came into Cape for shopping and they decided to bring their bikes along for a ride.

After giving their names, Mr. Cerney asked, “Don’t you want our ages?”

“Sure,” I replied. “I just didn’t think it was polite to ask.”

“I’m 72 and Jane is 71,” he said. (I should be drinking what they’re drinking.)

The Schroeders were riding their bikes to watch flag footballFinally, local riders

On the way back home, I ran into the Schroeders just as they were entering the Cape Woods Conservation Area on their way to the Osage Center to watch her brother play flag football. They thought they’d take their bikes since it was such a nice afternoon.

Well maintained

The Cape area has had several flash floods this year that put the trail under some raging waters. I was curious to see if there would still be debris, rocks and gravel across it. It was spotless. Part of the credit goes to the local bicycle club which conducts periodic cleanup sessions.

High water sign on Cape LaCroix TrailThis just goes to show that parks don’t have to have expensive lights and facilities to attract a large number of users, some from out of town with money to spend to bolster the local economy.

The only negative I can see is the local Letters to the Editor Yahoos who gripe, “Why are people riding their bikes in the street when we built them that nice bike path.”