Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alton, IL: Fast Eddie's, the Golden Bridge, and the Great Mississippi River

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

Carol and I took an overnight trip to Alton, Illinois last week.

To get there, we took I-70, then got off the highway in St. Charles so we could ride through the river bottom lands on Highway 94. We saw a vast field of yellow flowers beneath giant electrical constructs.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

The Clark Bridge into Alton gleams like high-karat gold. It is simple and graceful; beautiful. 

Matt told me that Nova did a show on the building of this bridge.

Fast Eddie's, Alton, IL

First, we went to Fast Eddie's for lunch. My mother, Carol, remembers going to Fast Eddie's some 50 years ago. It serves pretty much the same menu: burgers, kebobs, shrimp, and brats. Plus fries. The food is pretty good, and it's ridiculously cheap. Carol's burger was only a buck, and it was a big damn burger. The business recoups with its drinks. It is common for there to be a line of people out into the street, waiting to get into Fast Eddie's. If I were to visit again, I'd like to go when there's music; otherwise, it's a rather tame place.

The Melvin Price Locks and Dam is the penultimate locks-and-dam going down the Mississippi River.

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

I took a walking tour of same and saw American pelicans there, taking a break from their migration.

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

There were interesting shapes and shadows and angles in the locks and dam.


A turtle floated down the river on a dead log. The tour guide said that a barge regularly pushes accumulated debris downriver from the locks and dam.


There's a cool museum by the locks and dam - the National Great Rivers Museum.  The coolest thing is the simulator that lets you try to guide a barge through the locks.

National Great Rivers Museum, Alton, Illinois

Both the locks and dam and the museum are alongside the Great Rivers Scenic Byway.

We had dinner at the Riviera Maya restaurant out on Homer Adams Parkway. Surprisingly good Mexican restaurant. It offered the standard Americanized, "authentic," Mexican menu, but the restaurant did it well, taking the trouble to raise the usual rice and beans sides above the plate-filler level of quality. Good service.

The next day, we lunched at Just Desserts in downtown Alton. Loved being able to watch the river rolling by outside the windows. The place had received a heartfelt reference from a local, who waxed poetic on the pies. Neither Carol nor I tried the pie. I had a so-so salad. Carol had a quiche that was good, but not as good as what she makes herself. The potato soup, however, prompted a big thumbs-up.

We poked into a used book store in downtown Alton.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

On the way home, we saw a family fishing on the Missouri side of the Clark Bridge. They said they'd be happy with anything, but were especially hopeful for catfish.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

The bridge looks just as pretty underneath as it does on top.

I sure like Alton. It's got the elements I like in a small town --> strong and interesting city core; lots of trees in old neighborhoods; diverse architectural styles in the well-cared-for historic housing stock;  a vibrant artistic community; a nearby body of water. Best of all, you get the best of two worlds in Alton - you're really close to a large city (St. Louis), with all of its attractions, but far enough way to get the advantage of a quieter, more serene space. Alton's got the bonus of having a scenic byway running through it.

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