As many of you know, much of my family lives in St. Louis, Missouri. As always, I took along my camera, however given my still-recovering knee I brought it with no intentions of photographing anything in particular; my plan was to sit and let it heal, and that's largely what I did. I did, however, shoot some photos as I saw them, so I'm including some highlights of my trip here.
Before I could leave town, however, I had to find someone to care for the bonsai Alyssa gave me. I may have decorated it beforehand though...
Roadtripping there led to I-70 to visit with Bernie and Natalie in Indianapolis while there was clear weather along the Northern route. First though was a stop at a West Virginia rest area with an overlook of the carved-through mountain. This mountain pass is usually completely coated in shimmering ice by December, so it was a new sight to see its bare rock in direct sunlight.
Next stop was seeing Bernie and Natalie at a Steak N Shake not far from their home in Indianapolis. Interestingly, we've done this enough times that some of the wait staff recognize us now, and gave us free coffee for the road. Can you say *you're* a regular at a restaurant 600 miles away?
Upon arrival in St. Louis I may have decorated my hotel room...
I've developed somewhat of a tradition of taking my cousin Carrie's kids out each year to see the latest Star Wars. This year, however, I had been doing a bit of punking and when they asked me when we were going to see The Last Jedi I told Ryan and Alex I'd already seen it a few days earlier (true). "But we always go!" Sarcastically feigning pain, "Ow, my knee *really* hurts... I don't think I can see it..."
And then I started in on the mix of spoilers: Han Solo dies! Luke drinks green milk fresh from a teat... then he tickles Rey's hand with a leaf! It's just like Battlestar Galactica except there's no whiteboard! Kylo Ren kills Han Solo, and boy oh boy do I have some bad news for you about Carrie Fisher... BOOM!!! *feigns gasping for air*
Obviously you wouldn't know what of that is true or false unless you've seen the movie; little did they know it's all true... but with a 2 ton asterisk on the end, and none of it is central to the plot. Also little did they know I'd already bought the tickets. So, Christmas morning came and I'd given them a Christmas card simply signed "Han Solo dies!!!" inside, with the tickets to Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in 3D for the next day. The reaction of them realizing what it was was pretty worth it.
Fast forward a few days to my mom's birthday, and we're all sitting around my grandpa's kitchen table visiting with him. He's 98, and last year I gave him prints of some aerial photos I've taken, and pictures of me taking some of them; he's always been intrigued by flight, and is always asking what kind of aviation stuff I'm taking pictures of, so it was a fitting gift - I think he lives vicariously through me a little since I've been on some flights he didn't even get to experience in the Army. This year I accidentally left this year's new prints at the hotel on Christmas, so I instead gave him the prints a few days later; it was for the best - he was more awake and focused than on Christmas with all the tiring activity.
This part really made my day - this is my 98 year old grandfather reading an article on AirlineGeeks.com profiling me and my marketing photography work in the aviation industry. Here is my only remaining grandparent soaking in every word of an article about me. His only question was "what is a Plane Pull?" I showed him pictures and explained the charity event.
This was almost a two week trip, but it flew right by, and as you've seen I don't have too terribly many photos to share from it due to my own preference of rehabbing my knee (12-weeks post MPFL Reconstruction surgery as of that week), and extreme caution to avoid ice and any slippery footing; St. Louis always harsher, more annoying Winters than DC - almost every day it is in the teens or single digits, accompanied by freezing rain, snow, or sleet. There were only ~2 days of the entire stay that didn't have some kind of Winter precipitation - not a welcome sight for post-op knee safety, even if at 12 weeks my gracilis tendon has *in theory* fused with my bones and become a new ligament.
That same Winter weather was tracking North, so the I-64 Southern route was the obvious choice to return to DC. St. Louis has a lot of decay in certain areas; I find it beautiful, although those aren't areas I would recommend going on a touristy photo-walk unless you're an experienced urban explorer (I am not). The highway out of town takes you straight past some of these spots, so I always love seeing the decaying abandoned industrial buildings leaving St. Louis and into Illinois.
Later, in Kentucky, one of the rest areas just a few miles from the Woodford Reserve Distillery had a display of Kentucky Whiskey memorabilia and selections from local vineyards. I'm much more of a scotch person, but I think I'd really enjoy visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery.
Finally, some sights heading into Louisville, Kentucky; it's always seemed like it would be a really cool city to explore and perhaps even live in, but I've never understood why a city most famous for its baseball bats only has a AAA team which feeds into an Ohio team.
I've seen a few sitting in parking lots, but I've mostly only seen these when I visit the Infiniti dealer for service; this is the first time I've spotted a CV37 generation Infiniti Q60 driving on the road. I do kinda like it, but it still just seems like a mashup of BMW 4 Series / Mazda 6 / Honda Accord to me; in other words, as a whole, unoriginal. There is also the glaring omission of a manual transmission option. I'll spare you the full car review, but I have quite a few complaints about the interior as well. That all said, it's still a really sharp looking car.
Hands down my favorite sight along I-64 is this oil refinery; the steam is always distinctive and visible for miles, and between the steam clouds and thousands of sodium lamps, it's roadside industrial Christmas. This is the first time I've ever seen them burning off excess gas; the industrial candle lit the lumbering overhead plumes even brighter, adding depth with its flicker.
That night, while editing some photos, I again felt compelled to decorate my hotel room; these AA powered Christmas lights are the best $7 I spent all of 2017! They served as the perfect nightlight while editing that evening (the room lamps were all just too bright), and the perfect warmup in my groggy, pre-coffee state the next morning.
By morning the band of snow in the North had swirled down and reached an arm down to the I-64 corridor; the <1" of accumulation was welcome in comparison to the >36" the same storm had dropped in a matter of hours North in Pennsylvania overnight.
West Virginia's capital building has always drawn me to visit, but I still haven't had the chance. It looks very beautiful, from the quick glimpses you spot it passing through Charleston.