Nothing major, but I went down to the Jordan Creek Tunnel last night to take some new pictures. I got a new propane lantern a while back, so I wanted to see how well it lit up the massive tunnel for photography. It did pretty good.
I know some of you tend to worry when I don't post (probably with good reason), so rest assured I'm still among the living. I'm not dead.
I know that I haven't posted in an obscenely long time. It's been over a year. And it's been over two since I updated the main part of the site. There's a lot of reasons for that. I had held off updating the site because I had planned and begun a complete overhaul of the site. That overhaul was disrupted by real life issues, including a move away from the Springfield area. Eventually, I just more or less gave up.
That's going to change.
Granted, I'm a horrible procrastinator. Always have been, always will be. So, don't expect the resurrection of Underground Ozarks to happen overnight.
But it's coming. Underground Ozarks will be back and updated with new content. It might just be the blog for a while and it might not be as often as it should be, but we're going to get things rolling here again.
I never stopped exploring, and I never will. I couldn't turn off my curiosity about the hidden places around me even if I wanted to.
But I did stop sharing it with the rest of you, and that's something that's going to change starting right now.
So, I'm not dead. And believe it or not, I've been exploring more than ever lately. It's just that most of the stuff I've explored recently is either stuff that's too huge to risk talking about, or it's just stuff that would get me sued into oblivion for even mentioning it. I wish I could, since some of it is incredibly awesome, but the statute of limitations can't last forever, right? In the meantime, here's a little St. Louis trip report that I never got around to posting.
I'm not sure of the month, but it was last winter sometime. I'd been obsessing over some historical St. Louis locations, and I decided I needed to do some research at the library on the subject. So, at the crack of dawn, I drove up to St. Louis from Springfield and headed to the downtown library.
Now, I mean no offense to my St. Louisan readers, but uh... The library left a lot to be desired. I hadn't realized it until then, but our library center in Springfield had me spoiled rotten. Everything in Springfield was computerized, right down to the old newspaper clippings. This was not the case in St. Louis. Plus, just about every chair in the place was taken by dozens of homeless men trying to get out of the cold (which I don't blame them for one bit, but it made it the most crowded library I've ever seen).
I was wandering about the library looking up a few things when someone started walking behind me uncomfortably close. I kept walking and made a few deliberate turns around bookshelfs to let the person get around me, but they were still there. I started to think I had some nutjob following me and turned to look, and I was right! Fortunately, it was just memory_machine and silverstreak.
We started going through some old books and maps for an hour or so, but it was slow-going and we weren't having much luck. We found a few interesting things, which we wrote down, but we had intended to do other things that day as well.
After the library we headed to the house of someone I'd spoken to on the phone. He believed he had a cave under his place. There was a strange story about a pipe in his backyard and how something they'd dropped into it had taken four seconds to hit bottom. We broke out the fishing line and some sinkers and fished around in the hole with them. If there was a cave there, we couldn't get our line to drop into it. It kept hitting bottom around 6 or 7 feet. We talked a bit about digging it up, but we weren't prepared for that at the time.
From there, we headed over to the banks of the Mississippi River to check out the wreckage of the WWII mine sweeper, the U.S.S. Inaugural. Chris showed up and met us there as well, if I remember right. It had been shipwrecked along the bank for over a decade and it looked like it had been there even longer. The hull was rusted and dented, and it was half-buried in the river muck.
The edge of the river was still half-frozen, but the ice wasn't solid enough for us to walk out to the shipwreck. Silverstreak and I began picking up boulders off the shore and throwing them in the water between, trying to make some kind of bridge. It might've worked, but we were running out of good rocks nearby and it looked like it was going to take forever.
So, I took my shoes and socks off, rolled up my pant legs, and waded out into the icy water. My feet went numb so fast that it really wasn't that bad. The rocks underneath were pretty slippery, though. And when I neared the actual shipwreck, there was mud and silt piled around it. I ended up sinking into it up to my knees before I was able to climb aboard.
I spent a little while walking barefoot around the rusty hull checking out what little areas of the ship were still accessible and trying to recall when I'd had my last tetanus shot. There were still a few portions of the boat you could get into, but most of it was filled with sand.
One thing I had to check out, though, was the big gun on the front of ship. It took some minor acrobatics to get down to it without falling into the water, but I managed to climb down. I straddled the barrel and sat there and waited so the guys could get some good pictures.
On the way back off of the ship, I must've allowed my feet get dried off enough to not be numb anymore, because just walking on the hull of the thing hurt like hell. And wading back through the water the second time hurt as well. I sat on the shore after I got out of the water and dried my feet off with my socks and I had to let everyone wait on me a minute. Something about the cold makes your flesh really tender. After a bit, I changed pants and socks at my vehicle and we were off again.
We went to the Eads Bridge next. We'd known forever that there were hidden areas inside of the bridge, but we'd been a little reluctant to check them out. Today, we just decided to do it, and memory_machine and I ran down to inspect it while the other guys stayed behind. We managed to look down inside of the bridge, but there was no way down into the interior of it, so we ended up just taking a few pictures and going back the way we'd come.
After that, we headed across the river into East St. Louis to check out the abandoned Gateway Community Hospital. Memory_machine got a pretty good kick out of it, as you can see on his blog, but I was a little nervous to go in there. Anybody that's read very many of my entries knows I'm not scared of doing most crazy things. However, wandering into a big abandoned building in East St. Louis seemed scarier than all that other stuff. Realistically, East St. Louis probably isn't that dangerous in the daytime. But the place literally looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie--trash flying around all over the place, burned out and crumbling buildings and houses everywhere, street lights don't work, etc. Whether it's true or not, the place just screams, "This isn't a safe place to hang out."
As it turned out, there wasn't much to see in the hospital. The place was gutted like crazy. Copper thieves had apparently ripped out nearly every wall in the place in search of copper to scrap. There wasn't really any hospital equipment to speak of, either. If it weren't for the occasional sign inside the place, it wouldn't even have been evident that it was a hospital. There were also huge mounds of pigeon crap inside the place and trash bags full of it where someone had apparently tried to clean it up.
Inside the hospital, though, I did find one thing that made me decide to break the urban explorer's "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints" rule. There were two already-shot rolls of film lying on the ground in one of the upper floors of the hospital. I debated for a moment about taking them, but I decided if I didn't they would just lay there, deteriorating until there was no chance of developing them any more. I half-figured they had passed that point already. And since the hospital had been closed for a decade and a half, I didn't expect the owner was going to come looking for them.
After the hospital, we called it a day and I headed back to Springfield.
A week or so later, I did have the film developed. It appeared to be some meeting or speaking event to do with East St. Louis city business. There were men speaking a podium with the East St. Louis city seal behind them. The other roll contained pictures of a basketball game in one of the arenas in St. Louis.
This winter, before the infamous ice storm, when the ground was covered with sleet and snow, several of us spent three nights sledding at the abandoned Hydra-Slide waterslide.
The first night, when several inches of sleet had fallen, I spent the afternoon frantically looking for sleds. I finally found several at an Ace Hardware across town and bought up four, including two steel Clark Griswold-type discs. Then when it got dark, Hiccup and I picked up Underdog and headed over to the slide.
For any non-Springfieldians reading, the Hydra-Slide was a concrete waterslide with four lanes that operated for many years. Kids would ride foam discs or large foam mats down the lanes. It was infamous for being somewhat of a death trap, since kids were able to gain speed and literally bounce over the barriers between lanes. In fact, I spent quite a few days there as a child honing my lane-jumping technique.
When we got there, there were actually probably half a dozen teenagers already there and sledding. Some of them even had snowboards and were doing a pretty good job of riding all the way down the slide. All but a few of them left shortly after we got there, though.
As for us, we found that our sleds didn't do too well on most of the waterslide. The steel discs were just a hair too wide for the lanes and the angles just weren't steep enough. However, an elongated plastic sled I had bought worked pretty good. You could fly down most of the of the tracks pretty well.
We found, though, that the best sledding was the last 50 yards or so of the lanes. When the waterslide was in operation, that stretch was where most of the lane-jumping occurred. It was no different with the sleet. There was a raised area above that stretch where we could drop in on our sleds, almost like a skateboarder's half-pipe. As our bruised tailbones could attest, we were getting a lot more air while jumping the lanes on sleds than we ever did while watersliding.
The next night, I returned alone. I hadn't gotten all the sledding out of my system and I was hoping I'd catch some people from Underground Ozarks there. Luckily, Punctual and his friend were there and had a nice inner tube that was working much better than our sleds had. Thanks to the snow that had piled up on top of the sleet, the sledding was better all around as well.
I sledded for a little while, but I ended up spending most of my time taking pictures of Punctual and his friend getting some serious air while jumping the barrier between lanes. They also managed to knock me down a few times while I stood in front of their path to get good shots.
The third night, when the roads were clearer, we decided to give it one more go, since this was something we'd talked about doing for years. Underdog, Undercat, Sertile, Hiccup, Punctual and two of his friends, and myself all met up at the library across from the Hydra-Slide. We spent a little while sledding on a hill there before driving over to the nearby abandoned driving range, where a few dozen people were already sledding. We sledded there for well over an hour and got to try out a few of the wackier sleds that some of the people there had.
After that, we all headed over the Hydra-Slide. The sledding that night was the best of all, probably due to some partial melting and re-freezing. We spent a good long while jumping the lanes on the last stretch, using mostly Punctual's sleds since they worked a lot better. I got some great pictures of almost everyone busting their ass at least once.
After that, the great Hydra-Slide sledding adventure came to an end.
Last summer, we held our second annual Underground Barbecue in the Jordan Creek Tunnel. And yes, I'm WAY behind on my blogging.
That afternoon, a few hours before dark, Hiccup and I met up with several of the group down at the tunnel entrance, as well as several out-of-towners from Kansas City, to start setting things up for the barbecue. Just like last year, it ended up being a huge ordeal to get everything hauled back there, but we eventually did. Also like last year, we were having the barbecue in a large, ventilated section of the tunnel almost half a mile deep.
Once we got everything inside, I quickly went to the surface and ran power down into the tunnel. When that was done, we hooked up a nice pair of 500 watt halogen lights I'd brought and lit the place up. Someone else started firing up the two grills we'd brought, and I started hooking up the projector so we could show some movies on one of the bare tunnel walls.
I also had some of the guys take paper bags and put lit tea candles in them every so often down the length of the tunnel, since the barbecue location was so far from the entrance. Last year, we'd had people come who hadn't known the barbecue was that deep inside and they'd given up and turned around. This time, I wanted them to be able to follow a trail of glowing paper bags.
Right around dark, everyone started showing up. I wasn't sure how many people we were going to end up with. Last time, three times as many people had showed up as said they were coming. This time, we had almost a hundred people saying they were coming, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Less or more, I had no idea. All in all, we had about fifty people show up through the night. Since I bought enough food for a hundred people (which I thought was conservative at the time), we ended up consuming a little less than half of it.
The night went pretty well, and I think everyone had a pretty good time. We had people from both the St. Louis and Kansas City area drive down to attend. Thanks to Brouser doing the vast majority of the grilling, everyone got fed. We also showed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on one of the walls with the movie projector, as well as the explorer classic The Goonies. It was pretty awesome kicking back and watching a movie about sewer mutants in a sewer tunnel. Youthsonic and some of the guys from Kansas City also gave a rappelling lesson down in a tall stretch of the tunnel. We also got to meet a bunch of people from the forum that we'd never met in real life.
After the Goonies was finished, we started packing up to leave. Getting out with all the stuff ended up being an even bigger ordeal than getting it down there, but we managed to get it out and into our vehicles without getting busted.
With that, we said our goodbyes, and we went back to Hiccup's with several of the out-of-towners to crash for the night. All in all, another successful Underground Barbecue.
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