Collinsville, IL/St. Louis August 13th, 2017

On the way to the hotel Saturday afternoon, I noticed a sign for the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois. Years before, I’d read about the mounds in the book 1491, which described a thriving community in the region 1000 years ago. Since we had time before the 100 pm game in St Louis, this seemed like a great opportunity to learn about the mounds and their ancient inhabitants.

1. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Monks Mound, Collinsville, IL. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, located in Collinsville, Illinois, was about 15 minutes from the hotel. We arrived shortly after the site opened. After walking around the grounds for a bit, we entered the Cahokia Mounds Museum.

Almost immediately, we became immersed in this pre-Columbian civilization. Generally considered the northern extent of the Mexican and Central American societies, during its peak, the city in this location had the largest population in North America until Philadelphia in the 1780s. The museum had many excellent displays depicted daily life, showing an advanced culture in place long before the arrival of Europeans centuries later.

A depiction of the Mississippian society near its peak between 1000 and 1200 CE. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The decline of the society began in the 13th century, as they fell prey to some of the issues associated with areas with dense population centers. Overhunting, deforestation, difficulty securing food supplies, and flooding began to make the site increasingly untenable. As the problems mounted, the site was abandoned sometime before 1350.

One of the displays in the museum showing what daily life might have been like. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We spent more than an hour in the museum, and could have spent another examining all of the displays. In that time, I felt was though we got a glimpse of what life must have been like at the height of the civilization. While I was vaguely aware of the place and the people, I had no idea just how robust and successful this society had become.

Monk Mound, the largest of the mounds on this site. My brother climbed the steps, and can be seen on the right with the blue shirt. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Upon leaving the museum, we decided to investigate Monks Mound, the largest of the mounds here. At 100 feet, it is the largest largest manmade earthen mound north of Mexico. Its 10 story height precluded me from scaling it, but my brother climbed the steps to the top. The view afforded a glimpse of downtown St Louis, less than 10 miles away.

The view from the top of Monks Mound. Note the skyline of St Louis in the distance. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Having stayed longer than anticipated, we needed to leave this place to get to Busch Stadium in advance of the 100 pm game start. This was yet another pleasant surprise on the trip, finding a museum and grounds dedicated to a people of who I knew very little. If you find yourself near Collinsville, Illinois, do yourself a favor and visit the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site; I’m certainly glad we did.

2. Busch Stadium, St Louis.

Welcome to Busch Stadium! (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Unlike Saturday, when we were coming into St Louis from Indianapolis, we left ourselves sufficient time to explore the “new” Busch Stadium early Sunday afternoon. We arrived early enough to find parking in the lot directly across the the same. Of course, parking this close to a ballpark can cause headaches, especially for a well-attended game.

Cardinals Nation at Busch Stadium. From a distance, it appears to be part of the stadium. However, upon closer inspection, it is across the way. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

As part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the 1987 Cardinals, today featured another giveaway. Typically, the items given away are not something I would necessarily keep. When I received the giveaway, drink coasters featuring four different Cardinals logos, I thought the same thing. However, I quickly discovered this was no ordinary giveaway. The coasters were solid, encased in a wooden coaster holder. Not only did I keep them, I still use them today.

One of the four coasters received at a Busch Stadium.

Once inside, we wandered about the ballpark. We noticed things that were not obvious when seeing the ballpark on TV. For example, Cardinal Nation, a collection of shops, pubs and restaurants in left field, is not attached to the stadium. Instead, it is beyond the left field seats, across a pedestrian path. We walked around for about 30 minutes, taking pictures and taking in the beautiful “new” ballpark.

View of the Busch Stadium scoreboard, with the Arch in the background. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

In my opinion, the best park of the ballpark is the view. The Cardinals hit a home run designing the stadium to take advantage of the Arch and buildings as a backdrop. In fact, it was this view on TV that sparked our interest in visiting. Of course, the view is far better in person, and alone was worth the trip to see this beautiful ballpark.

The view from our seats. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Eventually, we found our way to our seats, after visiting the concession stand of course. Our seats for the matinee were an upgrade from our seats last night, and thankfully, we were just out of the reach of the sun. Even though the warmth and humidity were tolerable, the sun can make or break viewing a ballgame, and today it wasn’t an issue.

Starting for the Atlanta Braves was knuckleballer was RA Dickey, a veteran right hander who won the 2012 Cy Young Award for the Mets. Though he was past his prime, Dickey was dominant this afternoon, allowing one run on seven hits in seven inning. Being Mets fans, we had a special interest in seeing Dickey. We did learn that he is NOT a fan of the hot weather, expending only as much energy as necessary.

RA Dickey delivers at pitch at Busch Stadium. Dickey pitched a gem, giving up one run on seven hits in seven innings of work. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Despite the strong start by Dickey, the Cardinals chipped away at the Braves’ lead. In the bottom of the 8th, the Cards loaded the bases with two outs. With the pitcher’s spot in the lineup due up, Yadier Molina, who had the day off, was tapped to pinch hit. An extra base hit could have tied the contest, so Molina prepared for the at bat.

Yadier Molina preparing himself for a pinch hitting appearance. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The dramatic at bat ended as Molina grounded out, third to first, to end the inning and the Cardinals threat. The Cardinals went down meekly in the ninth, allowing the Braves to claim the 6-3 victory. We were treated to a good ballgame on a sunny and warm afternoon in one of the best new ballparks we’ve seen. Busch Stadium is much better than its predecessor with respect to environment and fan experience. Should I find myself in this part of the world in baseball season, I’ll be sure to come back to a great ballpark, run by a great baseball operation.

Hope to see you again soon, Busch Stadium! (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes).

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