Zebulon Montgomery Pike Trail to the sources of the Mississippi 1805 — 1806

Day 20: August 30th, 2002 Dubuque — Cassville

I have breakfast at the Dubuque Family Restaurant again. They also serve today a small appetizer before breakfast arrives. Just past nine I pay and drive over to the next gas station. Then I head up north. According to my map there should be a road on top of the next dam, called the Zebulon Pike Dam.

But there is no road. Therefore I can only take pictures of the dam and the Mississippi River and have to drive back to Dubuque.

There I take Highway 61 over the Mississippi and across the Iowa Wisconsin state line. At Sandy Hook I leave the highway which looks more like an interstate. Now I am on a small back road in direction of the river. Finally I reach Bluff Road, which would be the road I originally planned to be on after passing the dam. The road is small but paved. After a couple of miles I am back on Highway 61.

Just past Dickeyville the Indian Creek Road leaves to the west which is the next road to follow. Now I am able to follow the river banks pretty good with some nice views of the river. At Highway 133 I take a small side trip to the St. John Mine in the middle of Potosi.

When I arrive I see only one car in the parking lot. This looks promising. I walk over to the entrance but it is closed. A sign shows that someone should be there. So I decide to wait a little bit.

After half an hour I hear the guide coming down the hill with a family. Looks like it will be my turn soon. He asks me, if he can help me. I answer that I would like to visit the mine. This makes him really uncomfortable. He is alone today and he has to guide this family down to the river, because they also booked his canoes. He will be back within an hour if I really want to wait this long.

I promise to be back and drive back to a nice place at the river banks which I have seen on my way before. This place offers a nice view of the river. I have lunch there and eat some of my fruits. Just before the hour is finished I start to drive back.

Unfortunately he is not yet back. Therefore I use the opportunity to take some outside pictures. After a little bit of waiting the guide returns. He apologizes and thanks for my patience. And I still have the luck to be the only visitor right now. This gives me the chance for an exclusive tour by the owner of this mine, Harry Henderson. I ask him, if it is ok if I video tape him and he is more than happy to be on tape. Now I have an exclusive tour on my video tapes for the first time. I am really anxious to see how this works out!

The tour starts with some general but very interesting information about lead. You have to know that this mine was an old lead mine. Then he explains how life is in the mine and also how this landscape shaped. This mine is something very exceptional compared to other mines: It is a real cave which was later converted to a mine!

After this general introduction we walk up to the mine entrance. There Harry remembers that we forgot the helmets. He asks me to be now very careful in the mine. I follow him through his mine and he tells a lot of interesting details about work and life in the mine and the cave itself. And his cat Gilbert follows us all the way.

His tour is really awesome, not like these typical tourist caves in the area — and definitely not like Crystal Lake Cave, where they even forbid videotaping to sell their own movies…

At the end of the tour Harry invites me into his house. He needs something to eat now, because he had no chance for a lunch break yet. Usually a niece of him should do the cave tours today. But she was not able to come today and now he has to do the cave and canoe tours all by himself.

He also tells me that he taught agriculture in the past, even in South Africa. Then he returned to the US and bought this house and mine. The preowner was a catholic priest, who married and had to leave this area because of this reason. From then on Harry took care of the mine. He is also the tourist manager for the whole Potosi area.

We talk for almost an hour before he has to leave again to pick up his customers with the canoes. But before he gives me a souvenir from his shop, a little stone, and his email address. He would like to see how this movie ends up once being finished. I promise to burn a CD for him. Then he also asks me to take some of his brochures to the motel where I plan to stay tonight. My destination is the Catalina Motel, where he only heard the best of.

I am happy to take his brochures with me and start the last leg of my today’s journey. But it still takes a while until I arrive at the Catalina Motel in Cassville. It had looked much bigger on the Internet. Hopefully I am able to get a room for tonight, because today starts the Labor Day Weekend where usually half of the US starts traveling.

I enter the office and have the luck to get the last room — only because they just finished the air condition repair in this room! Then I ask if I may give them the St. John Mine brochures.

They take the whole stack and free up a spot for them. Then I gather my stuff together and carry everything into my room. This is the advantage of this small motels. They are just one story tall and you can park directly in front of your room. The rooms are nice and clean, but not as new as the stuff in the Super 8 motels. But I am also here to sleep and for this the room is more than sufficient.

First I look through my video tapes. This takes a while because the tour was very comprehensive. Then I walk over to the restaurant, which is close to my motel. The waitress is an old grandma who really has trouble to understand me. But eventually I receive their small menu.

Unfortunately there is no mid–size steak, either big or small. I decide to take the smaller one. When it arrives I have to cut away a big chunk because it was only fat and flax. This restaurant is not very convincing. But at least I have something in my stomach to work on. I also pay with cash instead of credit today. Otherwise it might have taken another eternity until I can leave. Just past nine I walk back the short distance to my motel.

  • Sights
  • Zebulon Pike Dam
  • St. John Mine (Fee $5)
  • General
  • Breakfast: Dubuque Family Restaurant, Dubuque
  • Dinner: Family Restaurant, Cassville
  • Motel: Catalina Motel, Cassville
  • Distance: 62 miles