Witness the splendor of autumn as we meander through golden landscapes and riverside beauty. A visual feast!

We moved to New Athens because it was time for a change. Retirement was a prime reason. We wanted to be closer to our son and his family in O’Fallon. We feel that it was all meant to be because the home we purchased is perfect. We are meant to be here.

Yet, even though we have said we’re retired we have gotten involved in several things. I’m working on developing this website, eastofstlouis.com, (OK it’s a shameless plug). Karen continues to develop her wellness business. And of course, we now have TranzactCard. Go ahead and click on the link and check it out, it’s a cool way to save money and get rewarded for doing it.

So we’re retired

So we’re retired, meaning we can take a day and just go and do whatever we want. Today was one of those days. It all started last night when Karen asked what the weather would be like tomorrow. A quick look showed a warm day in the mid-70s and sunny most of the day. A nice fall day. So road trip was quickly decided.

We had heard from neighbors that the road north of Alton to Grafton was very scenic, especially in the fall. That would be our destination. We got up and I did my morning workout. Showered and we got ready to go. The Corolla was getting a slow leak on the driver’s front tire so we dropped it off in Freeburg and headed towards Grafton.

Since we weren’t in a hurry we took the side roads and stayed off the Interstate routes. We drove up IL 15 to East St. Louis and picked up IL 3. I find it interesting driving through the towns on state routes. We spend so much time on the Interstate roads. We miss so much of the communities of the US. To drive by homes and businesses. To see the economics of small towns.

This is one of the reasons for this blog series. To report on the towns and communities of the Metro East area. I might even write about other road trips we have planned in the near future. As we worked our way through East St. Louis and up IL 3 we saw an economically depressed area. We continued our way toward Alton the scene changed to an older area.

The Great River Road

As we headed to Alton we worked our way over to the IL 143. As we turned onto IL 143 we saw a sign telling us we were on the “Great River Road.” Alton gave a sense of a town that was remembering its history. Alton is on the Mississippi and you can feel the influence of the shipping that has gone up and down the river for many years.

We left Alton and continued north on IL 100. To the left was the Mississippi River and high limestone formations to the right. I couldn’t help but think of an old-time steam paddle boat going down the river. Today we only saw several barges going up and down the river. We might have been a little early for the color change of the trees. The leaves were beginning to change. We saw mostly green turning to a golden color. There were some orange and a few red-colored trees. I’m guessing they were maples.

Continuing to the north, the sun shone into the car and the warm temperatures helped to create a no need to worry about anything. We were able to think just about the drive and all our other cares were put out of mind. It’s a good feeling. Maybe this is what retirement is about. Work on the things you want to do. If needed, take a day off and just enjoy it.

As we rolled on, I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to live this close to the Mississippi River. I could remember in years past seeing news stories about the flooding of the river as winter melted away and the snow and ice raising the level of the river. How many of those homes we drove by had been floored? We did see several structures on stilts. At one place someone had painted a line with a date on a bolder when the river reached that point.

Knotty by Nature

When we reached Grafton, it was clear this is a tourist-based town. Places to stay, boat launches, restaurants and bars. One place that caught my eye was a place called Knotty by Nature. It was a hardwood store. We didn’t stop, and it’s probably a good thing. I looked them up after getting home and they have all kinds of wood, domestic and exotic woods. A lot of the pieces were live-edged. I could have a lot of fun there.

As we left Grafton, the road took us into a farming area and away from the river. We saw many fields being harvested. One had the feeling this land was an area that was an old riverbed. The road snaked through the fields of corn and beans. We drove along with no thought of where to go. Just enjoying the drive. It was mid-afternoon when we crossed over the Illinois River and into Hardin.

We could have gone north, but since it was getting later in the afternoon we decided to head south. The area became somewhat of a rolling hill area. I couldn’t help thinking this may be an area in Illinois few people ever visited. We soon realized that we would have to retrace our route or cross over the Mississippi on a ferry to work our way back home.

In the end, we decided on the ferry. The Google map took us on roads that progressively got smaller and less traveled. As we came to the top of one hill, we couldn’t see what was on the other side. It was that quick of a drop-off. Like being in the first car on a roller coaster at the top of a climb. When we reached the Mississippi River, the ferry was on the other side and just leaving to come to the Illinois side.

It took about 5 minutes for the ferry to reach our side and unload the vehicles. We were the only vehicle going to the other side. The fare was $9.00. As we left the ferry we headed back towards St. Louis. The world changed from remote farming to a city environment. I’m happy to say we negotiated the Interstate highways without missing or making an incorrect turn.

Back home

We crossed back into Illinois and found a familiar route back home. The car was ready in Freeburg. The plug in the tire went bad and had to be placed. They put a patch in place of a new plug so it should be a good fix. I highly recommend Green Mill Service in Freeburg for your auto repairs. It was a good day. We could just relax and enjoy.

We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we share our adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, This is an exciting area and we are so happy to be part of this area. Our lives are being fulfilled by the people we are meeting. Bruce & Karen.

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We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. This area is east of St. Louis from the Mississippi River north to Alton, east to Carlyle, back south to Waterloo and the Mississippi River, finally north to Columbia. The center is Fairview Heights, Swansea, Belleville, Shiloh, and O'Fallon. Not to be forgotten is Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Edwardsville. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.

We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.