Meramec Caverns has been in my conscious basically my whole life. I may have been when I was a kid, but I don’t think that is true. Meramec Caverns is a Roadside attraction that I have been advertised at my whole life. Like Ruby Falls or Rock City or Ozarkland or House on the Rock or Corn Palace.
Unimaginable wonders that we could convince our parents to stop at on the way to somewhere more important. Neil Gaiman uses these places in his novel American Gods. I loved these places before I ever heard of Neil Gaiman, but I love them more as a background scenes for the American Gods story.
Mrs. Jon Bruce Entertainment and I were headed back from Eminence. I had actually stopped by Fugitive Beach near Rolla. I wanted to do a speed run through the biggest slides and things you can jump off. Turns out the highest jump is like 30 feet. It was $18 and you have to wear a lifejacket. It wasn’t a good fit for the time I had available. It is probably awesome. It wasn’t going to add to my resume. So I skipped it.
Running up 44, the perfect place to visit on a 90 degree day was on EVERY OTHER BILLBOARD for 1000 miles in every direction. Meramec Caverns. https://www.americascave.com/
60 degrees year around. Frank and Jesse James used it as a hideout. You exit through the gift shop.
This time of year they have tours every 30 minutes. You can book online. AND Thanks to GPS you can get in there a minute early and go with the group heading out at that moment.
I love all of it. This place has been around since Route 66. So there is some kitsch. I think the tour was 1 hour 20 minutes. Our guide did a fine job. but left a lot of great jokes and bits on the table for the dad who thinks he shoulda been one of them joke people on the Saturday Night Lives. (If you ask me). If we lived closer this would be my job. How fun would it be to say…
I have been in at least five caves. Squire Boone, Blue Springs, Marengo, Mammoth, Crystal Lake, Maquoketa Caves State Park. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t been. There are things on the ceiling and floor that form because of water, rich with minerals, dripping.
Remember Ripley’s Believe It or Not?
I like to read. Ripley’s Believe It or Not was a newspaper column. I think it was in the Monticello Daily Herald. It captured the news of the weird, strange, mysterious, some of it true. There were paperback books cataloging all this trivia. Roadside attractions have been essential to Ripley’s for 100 years. I read them all. I have a brain full of useless trivia that wouldn’t even help me win a question on Jeopardy.
So my favorite part of any cave tour is where the guide ask us his tour group to imagine that a blob of rock looks like something. Meramec has them. Our guide was a young man and lacked the conviction to really sell the blob pareidolia (the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness.).
Time marches on.
Time takes it’s toll on Meramec Caverns. The cave was used to film Tom Sawyer in the 70’s. Yes, that Tom Sawyer with Johnny Whitaker & Jodie Foster.
So, I remember this movie fondly. I was born in the late 60s. As a young man, I preffered Kristy McNichol over Tatum O’neal or Jodie Foster, but still. Tom Sawer(1973) is burned into my brain. It was also a location for an episode of Lassie from 1955. https://youtu.be/L6N9yxTpORQ <=== You have to watch it on Youtube. I only know this show from reruns. A lot of the young people on the tour had no idea what these shows were. They refused to stay off my lawn and were playing their rock and roll records in the parking lot on the way out. Back in my day, I tell ya…
Keeping up with the times.
Since it is 2021, There is also a zip-line. I don’t like ziplines. I probably wouldn’t mind a single zipline, but these zipline outfits want you to go on a series of zipline all hither and thither. Check out South Park’s “I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining” Season 16, Episode 6 for more thoughts on the subject.
Did I just switch from travelogue to a monologue on river safety?
Meramec Caverns is right on the Meramec River. They have a canoe livery. I might check it out sometime. Unfortunately, the river is in the news a lot. It attracts a lot of recreation. Allow me to quote from the National Park Service.
I think the Meramec River needs more sober adults telling good stories about it. It is an awesome resource. It’s close to St. Louis.