We never did make it to the Gateway Arch yesterday. By mid-afternoon, St. Louis traffic got the better of us, and we turned aside to find a lonelier road west through the Missouri River Valley. At any rate, we had already found our symbolic “crossing the threshold” moment when we stumbled across a shoestring car ferry operation to take us to the west bank of the Missisippi.
Note the rusty and mangled metal apron allowing you to drive on to the car barge. Clearly, no one has wasted any money on maintenance for this operation.
Following a wholly unexpected sign for the “Modoc Ferry,” we found ourselves hopping over the levee on a tertiary road, one that ended in a silt-covered and seemingly abandoned parking lot right at the river’s edge. But sure enough, there was the ferry over on the far bank, and a few minutes’ watching assured us that it was indeed moving over to fetch us. How this ferry has remained in operation is an open mystery, particularly since there is a good bridge over the river only a few miles downstream. Nonetheless, to cross the Big Muddy only a few feet from the surface, to feel the powerful muscle in all that water sliding past—this is vastly more interesting than soaring over on a highway bridge (or peering down from 30,000 feet).
Will’s comment in his journal: “We weren’t sure if we trusted it, but it got us across.”
Over the past two days Will has asked “Can we camp here?” at nearly every stop, so tonight we plan to give him what he wants at Niobara State Park in Nebraska. We’ll probably be camping the next couple of nights, so it may be a while before I can put up the next post. And yes, so far we are following (more-or-less) the same route as we did two years ago, aiming for a few days in Yellowstone before moving on northward. But it’s firmly decided that we’ll take a pass on Mount Rushmore.