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Tom Ballard Photography
River Road Drive...... August 2, 2013
2013-08-02, I been out exploring again, and had a fun time doing it!!! Some of my readers will be familiar with the
area I explored this day, but I expect few, if any, have seen the building and met the man involved in the Cotton
Belt Mural Project!!! I'll share that story with you here.. But, first, the story behind the story.

Being a member of a local photo club, I have access to several members who have flexible schedules and can go
on photo shoots during the week, etc.. And, this is the case this time. One of my photo friends in the club, Lucy,
contacted me with a suggestion to drive up the River Road, and do a photo shoot along the way! I agreed! And, off
we went! I am not fully informed about the River Road, but it is famous with the locals for day drives along the
Mississippi River, north of St. Louis. Most people start early, drive from St Louis to Hannibal, MO, cross over the
river and come back down the opposite side. I think most go north on the Missouri side and return on the Illinois
side. This is a very popular trip with motorcycle riders. There are a lot of small settlements along the way, which
offers day trippers a chance to stop and fuel up their ride, get refreshments, chow down on some eats, and take
some photos at unique places along the way.

Our plans for this trip were conservative, because, the weather was iffy!! We would head up the Illinois side of the
river, take photos along the way, stop at mid afternoon, and head back.. We would like to have made the whole
loop, but we would have had to start early, and move faster!! For this trip, we will just go exploring and get home
before it is late. We started at 10 AM.

Our trip takes us across one of the bridges downtown, then we get on highway 3 and go north. To be honest,
driving in East St Louis is an adventure in itself. It took two of us, along with a GPS to navigate our way through the
mess of roads there! WE survived it, but barely! Once in a open area, we were off and moving. Not having a plan,
anything was fair game! And, the wild game was found soon, meaning that the shooting started fairly early in the
trip. Actually, I missed the first photo-op, but Lucy knew of it and pointed it out. It would be my first cell phone
tower dressed up to look like an evergreen tree!! You are gonna love it!!!

Then, we found a tower, which we stopped and took a tour of. The cost per person is 4 dollars. A volunteer will go
with you, if you like, and show you how to operate the elevator, tell you a few facts about the tower, then point in
the direction of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. But, just about as exciting to me was the
interior of the tower. I chose to take the stairs down. Why the interest? Not sure, but was surprised at how crude
the work was on the inside! You will see this in the photos.. Also, I cannot think of a reason for this tower to exist,
except that someone must have had a lot of money to burn on something. To me, it is like the bridge to nowhere!
Strange tower, strange location, etc. Maybe they are expecting a big town to build up around it!!! For more info on
this tower, use this link:

After all that excitement, and our arrival in Alton, Lucy announced her hungry pains and suggested we dine at a
place called "My Just Desserts". Odd name, but.... And, per Lucy, this business used to be in Elsah, Illinois, but
was moved to Alton, not so long ago! She had not been to the new location, but now she has!! We went in, were
seated, got our order in, ate, paid and moved on.. The food was good, for a dessert place. I had a Beef Melt.
This, plus an ice tea and a tip came to 15 dollars! Lucy ordered desert of some kind, which I did not get a photo of,
but took a bite of. It was very good and very rich!!! More info at:
From lunch, we were back on the road. We stopped at a local attraction called the Piasa Bird!!! I know little about
it. And, we stopped off in a little settlement called Elsah. I had been here before, but was many years ago. It is
one of those cute places you just have to stop and see. And, next to Elsah is a small college, which goes by the
name of Principia College. Lucy tells me it has a neat campus, but we could not get in on this day, due to road
construction!   In this town, we also found a neat "automobile".. I will not say much about it, so as not to give away
the surprise!

From Elsah, we move on to the northern point of our trip, Pere Marquette State Park. Here we visited the lodge,
took a few memory photos and headed back south. The park and the lodge are quite famous in this part of the
world!! The lodge is awesome and the hiking trails are many!!! For more info, check out the site for the lodge at
http://www.pmlodge.net/, and the park itself: http://dnr.state.il.us/Lands/landmgt/parks/R4/Peremarq.htm.

On the way back, we stopped for an ice cream treat!! Was gooood.. You will see the photos for this place. Then
we were back on the road, and this is where some of the best fun takes places. Lucy is a massage therapist by
profession, and works for the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. Working in the area gave her knowledge of some
neat older buildings in the area along the river front, and she offered to share them with me. So, off we go.

Tis not long until we are parking the car near one of the buildings she is talking about. Once parked, we start doing
our photo thing. Turns out, I have been here before. There is a building near my car that I call the Green Building,
because I do not know what else to call it, but I was there a few years ago for a dinner and a tour. It is unique.
Whoever owns it is experimenting with it in a green sort of way. The roof is covered with plants, etc.. Is supposed
to be a green way to do things! There were other features, but this is the only one I remember. Also, we saw
some of the art work along the bike trail and flood wall. I know little about this art, but it was neat.

Then, as we were about to leave, Lucy pointed out the fact that the TED-X (?) team was there with their logo sign!!
I know nothing about that, but it did get our attention, and caused us to go closer and explore the HUGE building
that was of some interest to these people. Was not long before we too were up close and personal with this
building, taking photos and talking to the people who there checking the place out.. Was not sure what was going
on until we met one of the guys whose introduced himself as Tom Nagel.

After a short chat with Tom, it became clear what was going on here. Tom was friends to the people who own this
building, and Tom, being an artist, had come up with a plan to paint a mural on the front of this building that would
cover the entire building, and would be visible to people driving across the new bridge that is going in nearby. Not
sure how much money is needed to do this, but he raising money for it. So far, I think he has raised 23,000 dollars,
but, this is not enough!!! If you are interested, you can help.

As it turns out the building was a cotton warehouse in its early life, now, it is just called the Cotton Belt Building. I
found the project very interesting and found Tom to be equally as interesting, given his passion for this project. He
shared some of the temp ideas for the mural. It will be awesome!!! If by chance you are bitten by the interest bug,
after you see the images, check out the facebook page that shares more info on this project. Find it

Now for the share images from this trip, which was great fun.. Use this link: River Road