Veteran’s Memorial Drive

Veterans's Memorial Drive construction 04-15-2016There has been a lot of clearing going on alongside the east side of I-55 south of Hwy 61. It’s an expansion of Veteran’s Memorial Drive from the intersection of Scenic Drive to Hopper Road. The plan is for it to eventually go from Hwy 61 to Route K.

This stage will take it from Scenic Drive to Hopper Road, which will be closed for several months, beginning May 9.

The smell of spring

I’ll never forget the sights, smells and sounds when Dad was starting a new job in the spring. There was the throaty roar of a bulldozer coming to life, belching black diesel smoke out of its stacks. Then, the “cat skinner” would drop the blade, goose the throttle, and you’d hear the clankity-clankity-clank of the tracks pushing up little squares of dirt that looked like Mother’s brownies. That mingling of grease, diesel fuel, exhaust and freshly-turned earth are spring to me.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

I-55’s Big Rock Cut

I-55 between Cape Girardeau and St. Louis 02-25-2013If you are in a family where the Dad builds roads and bridges for a living, going for a ride is a whole lot different than it is for most families.

For one, Dad would slow to a crawl anytime he passed another contractor’s job so he could see what techniques the guy was using. If his competitor had some kind of new, spiffy piece of equipment, he’s say, “I wish I had his and he had a better one.”

We couldn’t make a trip from Cape to St. Louis without him pointing this area out as “one of the biggest rock cuts on I-55 in Missouri.”

By the time I got to St. Louis on February 25, those clouds were dropping snow from the sky. After I finished my exhibit in Ohio and drove back to Cape from St. Louis on March 1, more clouds were causing snow to swirl across the road.

What IS it with snow this year? It seems like everyplace I’ve gone lately has had snow. I’m afraid to go back to Florida next week for fear I’m going to cause it to snow on Wife Lila’s new vegetable gardens.


Old Jackson Road

These pictures were taken at the intersection of County Roads 618, 620 and 306. Let me tell you how we got there.

When we moved out on Kingsway Drive, we – like most folks – called it Old Jackson Road. If you didn’t take Highway 61 through the 10-Mile Rose Garden to get from Cape to Jackson, you’d go by way of Old Jackson Road. You’d coast down from our house near Kurre Lane, make a sweeping right-hand curve past the Cape La Croix Creek concrete marker (it’s been moved) and keep on going. There was no such thing as Lexington in those days.

Girls sure were careless.

Just before you got to where Route W turns to the right, you’d cross an old steel bridge over 3-Mile Creek (where there was a deep swimming hole). It’s concrete these days and the water’s too shallow to swim.Thinking back on it, that area might have been used for more than swimming. We boys were mystified about how so many girls lost their underwear there.

After you passed the Seabaugh farm on the left, you’d curve around to go through the Houck Railroad Cut that features prominently in Steinhoff family lore. (Dynamite was involved.)

618 is closed for construction

Finally, you’d come to a place where you had to turn left to go over I-55. That’s the intersection of 618, 620 and 306. That’s where the first picture with the Road Closed sign was taken. If you went straight, you’d climb a short hill, then plunge down a steep hill with a sharp curve at the bottom. That’s significant because the last time I did that ride on my bike, I didn’t realize I could go that fast. When I hit the curve I became very aware of how tiny, tiny my bike tires were and how much it was going to hurt if I misjudged the curve and painted the blacktop with skin crayon.

If you survived the curve, soon you’ve find yourself staring at – and being stared BACK at – by the exotic animals that inhabited 5H Ranch. BUT, we couldn’t go that way Saturday because of the Road Closed sign.

Abandoned quarry

If you made the left turn and crossed I-55, you’d enter a curve that swept to the right and downhill. On the left was where Bill Hampton lived. His family owned Hampton’s Bakery on Broadway across from Houck Stadium. Bill shot our wedding in 1969. Just before you crossed a bridge at the bottom of the hill, there was a hill with an abandoned quarry cut into it.

You can tell from this cut why they hadn’t bothered to work it much. There’s some limestone, but it’s not of very good quality. The quarry would have been off to the left behind the trees in this photo. The road to it has been overgrown for years. About a half mile down the road was the turnoff to Old McKendree Chapel.

Hill has been taken down

Looks like the hill has been taken down enough that the ride down 618 isn’t going to be as exciting as it was.

 View back to Cape

You can see how much the grade has been flattened in this photo looking back toward Cape. It’ll be easier to climb on icy days (and on my bike).

It’s not just concrete

You’re driving on more than concrete when you go down the road” there’s an awful lot of steel in that slab. I hate to think how much of that rebar I humped one hot summer.

Let’s Save Bloomfield Road Spring

I checked out the middle section of Bloomfield Road yesterday. It’s a nice road if you don’t like trees. So, what can we do to save the last piece, the part from Benton Hill Road to Hwy 74? The answer is, probably not much.

A worker pointed out that the property across from what used to be Mount Tabor Park had been sold and the owners brought in the loggers to clear cut the land. Looks like the really nice trees are gone before the road crews got a crack at them.

Selective cutting

Even where the trees weren’t cut en masse, trees of any size were selectively harvested. It might be that the owner knew the road builders were going to cut them anyway, but it definitely gives you an idea of how tree loss is going to be “minimized” along the stretch.

Days are numbered

This tree probably saw travelers in wagons pulled by horses pass by to shop in Cape. Considering how close it is to the road, I’d say its days are numbered. Just beyond that tree, before the white wooden fence IS something worth preserving.

The Bloomfield Road Spring

I’ve written several times about how my mother and her grandmother used to stop at the spring in the curve of Bloomfield Road just north of Elmwood for water on shopping trips to Cape from Advance. Advance resident and historian Paul Corbin talked about his family camping alongside their wagon on trips to and from Cape.

The spring is still there, crystal clear and running enough to keep ice from forming on it when the nearby ditches were glazed over.

I guess the road folks could put up a tiny marker to remind us of what we’ve lost, not that anybody doing 55 in a 35 could see it or stop to read it.

Wooded homesites; non-wooded roads

A combination of governmental agencies, private logging and people too impatient to drive the speed limit have killed an historic scenic route into Cape Girardeau.

I’d love to save the spring, but I’m not sure that’s practical. If they don’t get it now, they’ll get it when the road is Mount Auburnized to four lanes in the next decade. The clearing of that land signals more development, which means more cars, which means more “need” for speed and “improvements.”

Other road “improvements”

Gallery of Bloomfield Road Photos

These photos show the next and final section of Bloomfield Road that is to be widened. Some are of private property that is adjacent to the road that has been logged. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.