Monks Mound

Chasing Clouds Through Parks

I bike to find the extraordinary that is all around us. The world may seem mundane as we speed past everything in our automobiles. Biking for me is about the act of exploring seemingly normal surroundings and find something about the that is surprising, beautiful, educational and sometimes emotionally moving.

I haven’t biked at all this weekend since the weather has been sort of bad. On this first day of Spring it snowed. Not much but it’s enough to keep me inside and watch Netflix curled up under a warm blanket eating cereal and drinking coffee.

I did go on a bike ride on Tuesday evening because it was really nice out AND because of Daylight Savings it doesn’t get dark so early. I can stay out till around 7:30. It’s awesome. Normally I like to ride in St Louis and explore places but I stayed closer to home. I was just going to get on the MCT Schoolhouse Trail and head toward Horseshoe Lake and ride around the lake and come back. However, in mid-ride and decided on a lark to go down some roads I wasn’t too familiar with. With a brisk headwind, I headed south to another road that took me over I-255 and further south. I had a feeling I may end up in State Park. It was going to be a struggle in the headwinds. It’s very flat so no worries of hills to add to the difficulty. The idea really was to just relax and enjoy the warm weather.

grandpas-enterI passed by some farms and some marshland with ponds. I saw a few turtles and wanted to stop to look at them basking in the sun, they somehow knew I was around even though I wasn’t that close. They scurried into the water. I did hope to get some pictures but that was dashed. So onward. I head over another bridge that goes over I-55 and I can see Fairmount Park (a horse racing track) isn’t too far away and I’m heading into State Park. I see some horses in a small pasture and want to take a look at them. They see me and walk away. They seem to have an eye on me and seem very suspicious about my presence. I snap some photos and just look at them. They get bored of me and I guess think I’m not a threat and go back to eating and ignore me. The horses are not that big. I don’t know much about horses but my guess was they were pretty young. They are also close to the horse track so they are probably used there. I don’t know. It’s a guess.

State Park Place, if you’re not familiar, is a small unincorporated community where it’s western border is Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. It is a rough and tumble looking community – hardscrabble and possibly doesn’t have a great reputation. It’s a community without regulations or zoning and all that stuff incorporated towns and cities do. Some houses look horrible, mixed with trailers, trash and rubbish in yards – this includes cars and boats on cinder blocks, dogs running around (I was chased at one point), chickens running around. It’s not picturesque. Anyway it’s not wealthy and there is a large community of Mexican immigrants. You can see the stores from western wear to Mexican Markets, restaurants and such.

moundpaintingsI find myself being judgmental and have to fight myself from being that way. I know many that say it’s just a trashy place full of “white trash” and Mexicans and whatever. It isn’t well kept and isn’t a beautiful place but it is home. Home is home. Some people prefer to live in places like this to not have to pay for city services and taxes. Though there are many reasons why people live in places and it isn’t that they are bad people. I realize my thoughts have bias and what I am thinking speaks of classist thoughts. It’s the thinking that I am better than them. I am being judgmental and snobbish. Calling someone “white trash” is saying a person has no worth cause of their social economic class – being poor and white is worthless. I bike and I’m aware that I’m making judgements but what I see and interpret may not be the whole picture or may be entirely wrong. Essentially it is best that I not deem a whole population of people as worthless. I’m sure many work hard and ALL people have value in some way. That may sound hippie-ish but everyone, even criminals, can love and have worth.

I head through the deserted old parking lot of Grandpa Pidgeons (an old St. Louis discount store that went out of business decades ago). I remember going there as a child with my parents sometimes. This stretch of Collinsville Rd used to be part of Highway 40 before the interstate highways so it was a main road to get to St. Louis and 40 was highway many people traveled. There were stores such as Kroger, a K-Mart, motels, a Venture and some restaurants. Today most of that is all gone due to I-55 running almost parallel. Travelers no longer had to take 40. The commerce mostly dried up. However it goes right through Cahokia Mounds – a World Heritage site and the site of Cahokia – the largest city in North America at one point. They built huge earth mounds all around. There were some in St. Louis. Their people are all gone but the mounds and artifacts remain. People take side trips to climb the biggest mound, Monks Mound to get a great view of the St. Louis skyline and the surrounding area. Before Cahokia Mounds was deemed a state site, many of the mounds were destroyed. I was told to build the structure for Grandpa Pidgeons, they had to tear down mounds. People just didn’t see the value in them. Grandpa Pidgeons is closed today and is in bad shape with trees growing on the roof. It gets hit by taggers and graffiti. Those painting over the graffiti got clever in painting silhouettes of mounds over the spray paint.

Monks MoundBy the time I get here I am close to magic hour. Plus there are some great cloud formations. The light is just great. People are climbing the mounds, running up the stairs. I have to get some pictures of the sky. I don’t have too much to say about the park other than it was the first time I had ever biked there and it’s didn’t take too long.

What was even better was riding my bike back to my car. The wind was at my back and it probably took half the time to get back. It was like I was flying. The clouds were getting darker as the sun was going down. I make it back to my car and I see a flash. It is lightning. Those puffy clouds I was looking at and taking pictures of turned in the storm clouds and I made it back just before it started raining.

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