Fugitive Motel Travel Diaries: Coming To America, Part 2: Chicago and St Louis

Chicago, Illinois

Martina: We only had a six-hour stop off in Chicago, so we took advantage of the modern age by phoning Papa Booth to see if he could use his own world-wide-web prowess to locate us the nearest internet café in the Windy City.

Catherine: Yes, the café he scored us was substantially out of Chicago and we got so cosy there that it nearly resulted in us missing our connecting train. Lovely food though.

St Louis, Missouri

Catherine: So, from Chicago we took the “Texas Eagle” Amtrak train south to St Louis.

Martina: We got off the train and realised we were in the middle of...not much at all. So, we ambled vaguely towards some buildings, asking a man if he knew the way to a taxi rank. This man was, in a word, odd.

A middle-aged college professor, he kept giving us was seemed like final directions, prompting us to say thank you and bye-bye to him, before scurrying off down the road and then turning on his heel and coming back to ‘help’ us more. It mutated into a Benny Hill sketch. His intentions were undoubtedly good, but he definitely breeded a little sense of unnerve within us…

Catherine: …Which was compounded when the next man who walked down the street tried his luck on with Martina.

Martina: Indeed. Worried that St. Louis subjects were ultimately sinister, we sought refuge in the nearest plush hotel (not ours, I might add), where a valiant valet phoned for us a cab.
Anyway, arriving at our motel…

Catherine: …The dubiously named Econolodge…

Martina: …Linda, our lovely little taxi lady, tentatively approached the subject that we might not want to be wondering this area at night. Naturally, being sensible girls, we took Linda's pearls of wisdom to heart and decided to stay in in the safe haven of our room for the evening.

Unfortunately, our room could not have felt less of a good place to be barricaded. Looking out onto nothing, with no security to protect us from these potentially creepy St. Louis. residents, we flung our rucksacks against the feebly locking door, phoning for Dominos takeaway and settling down to Singing Bee with that old hearthrob of yesteryear, Joey Fatone of N-Sync. I slept with one eye open.

We woke up intact, so on our first real day in St. Louis, we decided to get out and explore. We were guided to the local ‘museum’ (by our guidebooks, strangely enough). Somewhat confused by the big junkyard outside, and a mecca of slides within (with lots of excitable children running around), we asked the museum attendant if we, as young twenty-somethings, were part of the target audience.

After the attendant reassured us in an indirect fashion that we would enjoy ourselves, we paid up our twelve bucks and headed in. Well, my, oh my. It was not a good day to be wearing a dress. The museum was essentially a big chldren's playground, and with its plethora of slides, climbing frames and the like, provided lashings of opportunities to unwittingly flash at any unsuspecting pre-pubescent.

Catherine: We then headed to a beer place called Schlafly’s thanks to our friend India (a St. Louis native) and met some lovely people.

Martina: We chatted to two men by the names of Vinny and Danny; Vinny owned a napkin company, which briefly formed part of our conversation but thankfully didn't dominate proceedings.

Catherine: They bought us a beer then headed off into the night, leaving us to go and 'shoot some pool.' Evidently our English nature must serve as some form of magnet in America, because before we knew it we had attracted another pair of gentleman, called Brian and Michael.

Martina: We largely chatted about American politics with them (with Catherine having to swallow her own political understanding derived from studying politics at university while conversing with “you're-English-so-must-know-nothing-about-our-politics” Brian, whilst Martina was performing the reverse trick and trying to appear uber-knowledgeable while having a parallel conversation with a “somewhat assumptious-about-an-English-person's-knowledge-of-American-politics” Michael).

Anyway, the pair were husbands and artists. These tidbits, I feel, that provide the most important facts about them. Before we knew it they had invited themselves along to dinner with us.

Catherine: They drove us to a Mexican restaurant, where a suspicious Martina ‘Columbo’ Booth here kept querying them about their wives, in a seeming attempt to gauge their authenticity.

Martina: And I thought I was being covert! By all accounts, they passed with flying colours. Anyway, after having some lovely burritos, the pair drove us back to our Econolodge and waved ta-raa.

Catherine: The next day, we headed to the highly recommended Forest Park (it’s waaaaayy bigger than Central Park dontcha know?) where Martina was sick against a tree in the park. After that little interlude, we had a snooze on the grass and we went to the zoo. The animals were somewhat sweaty as we managed to be there on the hottest day of the year since 1936.

Martina: It was my maiden voyage to a zoo so I'm not ashamed to say I was initially very, very, scared - particularly by those naughty looking bears. I got into the swing of things though, and was especially taken by the monkeys. Bought some cute little t-shirts which were clearly aimed at children (indeed, one which I wanted Catherine to buy for herself actually transpired to be a baby-gro).

words and pictures: Catherine Bolsover and Martina Booth