Often during the past few months, when I would exclaim over some little town far from home that appealed to me, David would say, “Well it isn’t exactly Paris!” So when I saw Paris, Missouri, on the map, he agreed that we couldn’t pass it by. It isn’t a big place, and it’s a mile off the pretty little two-lane highway (U.S. 40) between Columbia and Hannibal (not far from the birthplace of Mark Twain), but we took that side road off the two-lane, and at left you see David clearly asking the camera, “This is Paris? You call this Paris?” (Note: Still in shirtsleeves.)
The Paris Hardware had a display of flowering plants out on the sidewalk. Flowers displayed on the sidewalk? Parisian in my book!
But in Jac’s Restaurant, David’s efforts to speak French didn’t get him very far. Jac’s is a Mexican restaurant, housed in a building that dates from 1873, when it was Jackson Bros. Grocery & Meat Market, specializing in local home-killed and home-cured meat. Judging from the quality of the ham and chicken in my big chef salad, I’d say the present owners are upholding original standards very well. Definitely a cut above average! Pero se habla español, non françesa.
There are at least two other eateries in Paris, Missouri, plus old gravestones in the historic Founders’ Cemetery, an old iron railroad bridge over the middle fork of the Salt River, and a gorgeous courthouse that we hadn’t expected. (We saw many beautiful old courthouses across the country.) And David could not deny that it was, after all, Paris ( -- Missouri).
Crossing the Mississippi River at Hannibal, we continued toward Springfield, Illinois, and a reunion with my sister, short (the reunion, not my sister) but sweet (sister and reunion). Another Route 66 restaurant was the scene of our rendez-vous. Get off the expressways, and nostalgia overfloweth!
Not sure what that Route 31 sign is doing behind our heads, and wherever all my Route 66 pix from this stop are, they're not where I can get at them this minute....
After Springfield, on the way to visit my mother and the third sister in Joliet, we took time for a short side trip off I-55 to the town of Pontiac. I lived in Illinois from before I was three years to the age of 18 but had never been to Pontiac before. My mother said she doesn’t think she’s ever been to Pontiac.
Well, it’s another county seat town, on the banks of the Vermilion River, and the downtown was lively on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Like so many other towns on our travels this year, it leans on the Route 66 theme, but it doesn’t forget Chief Pontiac, who gave the town its name. If I’d been on foot rather than shooting from a car window, I’d have evidence of that to offer, along with much more in the way of public murals, blooming trees, pretty houses, 1950s cars, and more.
But we were on a mission, Joliet our destination, and getting there by late afternoon kept us right on our admittedly loose “schedule.” The next day, Sunday, driving back to my mother’s house after church, I noticed I was once again (sans camera) on old Route 66. It wasn’t a planned theme for this year’s travel: things just worked out that way.
That was then.
On Monday, at the state line, Michigan greeted us with rain, and some of that rain was freezing on the car windshield by Tuesday afternoon as we worked our way north. Tuesday night we were snug in our old farmhouse as the temperature went down below freezing. Wednesday the snow flurries were at times quite thick.
This winter weather reprise serves one purpose for us, taking away any doubt our minds might hold that we were anywhere but home.