It’s almost been a year since then, but in January of 2015, we were eagerly waiting on news of Manuel’s US work visa and looking forward to his return to South Carolina when we found out that he had an opportunity to take a project in Missouri. After spending a few months apart, we weren’t thrilled at the idea of living in different cities once he returned to the States. But with my seasonal tax work eating up the majority of the time for the contract, the opportunity to see each other on alternate weekends, and the career momentum it would give Manuel, we decided to go for it. From February to April, Manuel came back to visit Greenville some weekends, but also took advantage of the opportunity to take trips to St. Louis, Memphis, and Chicago. Once the April 15 tax deadline passed by, I hopped on a plane and flew to Missouri.
The Show Me State is surprisingly wide. With 4 hours’ drive separating St. Louis and Kansas City, we decided to focus the trip on the St. Louis area and some state parks in the area. The Friday night that I arrived, we had a fantastic vegan dinner at Tree House Vegetarian Restaurant on South Grand in St. Louis. Manuel and I enjoyed a selection of tea and local beers, split some of the smaller plates, and finished the meal with a scrumptious vegan “cheesecake”.
Although Saturday called for rain and temperatures in the mid 60’s (20 degrees C), we headed out to explore nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks State Park. We found out about both parks from a National Geographic article on state parks of the Midwest. Johnson’s Shut-Ins is named for the type of rocks that cause a river narrowing (a shut-in). Neither of us had seen this particular type of rock formation, but evidently it’s common along the Black River in Missouri where the sandstone rocks have eroded but igneous rocks remained.
Due to the forecast of rain and overcast skies, the park was nearly empty. Manuel and I enjoyed having the trails and much of the water nearly to ourselves. By mid-afternoon, more people had arrived, and we headed on to Elephant Rocks State Park.
Elephant Rocks was named after the pink marble rock formations that someone could argue resemble elephants. It was a much smaller park than Johnson’s Shut-Ins, aimed more towards picnics and fishing. We didn’t pack a picnic, so we stopped at a diner (Desi’s Diner in Arcadia, MO), where we were served heaping plates of hot food, told local stories by our kind waitress and Aunt Mary (of Aunt Mary’s Bakery), treated to a delicious slice of pie (by Aunt Mary), and given further suggestions of places to explore along the local creeks and lakes.
With just one day remaining in my Missouri vacation, we headed to explore St. Louis along with Manuel’s coworker Rick and his fiancée Kelly.
As native Missourians, they made sure we went to the best museum (St. Louis Science Center), tried out a slice of St. Louis-style pizza, and made it to the arch. We managed a lot of sightseeing in just one weekend, but as it goes with all trips to see Manuel, it felt much too short as I got on the plane to go back to South Carolina.