We said goodbye to Lyle and Tammy Woodrum at the Davie School Inn and drove back to Ware IL to continue our journey along The Great River Road. It’s Monday morning, traffic is heavy (including trucks) and there’s no shoulder—we are “in the lane” on Illinois Highway 3.

On the bright side, we’re seeing our first armadillos. The south can’t be far away . . .

As we approached Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the towers of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge were visible from miles away.

It’s a beautiful cable-stayed bridge over the Mississippi River, but also full of high-speed traffic. Victoria ran up to the east approach and headed over the bridge as Lieutenant Brad Smith pulled his squad car in behind her—lights flashing, protecting her from traffic. A police escort! What a nice welcome to Missouri.

Even nicer was the welcoming team waiting on the east side. Sara Steffens and Alyssa Phares were there to join Victoria for her last mile into town and Brenda Newbern was there to document the event all the way to our finishing spot on Broadway at the floodwall gate.

Jenny and Kate were there to greet us as well.

We took a short walk up to Minglewood Brewery for lunch. Met the owner/brewmaster Stuart Matthews. He talked about a Podcast he’s doing. Alyssa was once an owner of this place. We enjoyed the goat cheese and sausage pizza (recommended) and talked with Sarah and Allysa about their lives.

We checked into the Marriott and walked across the street to The Marq to met our first local voices, Jerry Ford and Don Greenwood. Jerry had a lot to say! He’s not only a big band trumpet player who got off a riverboat stage last night at 2:30am, but he’s a former state legislator turned lobbyist for people with disabilities, as well as an author with several satirical books about Cape. He’s passionate about what’s happening in the “boot heel” of Missouri, the history and the present of farming there, and the Little River Drainage District that enables that land to be so fertile all the way down to Helena, Arkansas.

Now Don and Jerry know each other, in fact they are friends, and Don has illustrated the cover of several of Jerry’s books, but these two men are two very different communicators. Don is also a musician. He plays mostly guitar and originates from New Orleans, finding his way to Cape Girardeau many years ago through a job with Hallmark and American Greetings. He quickly went out on his own, though, running his own business doing engravings and artwork for such major companies as Versace. He fell in love with Cape—a community of artists with an amazing history and the river. He and his wife love to kayak, and they are just involved deeply with the community on so many levels.

We left the Marq and walked a few blocks further down and over in the historic part of Cape to an Antique store where a man named Charlie waved us in, knowing we were headed upstairs to meet with Malcolm McCrae, artist and entrepreneur from all accounts so far.

We met his father upstairs in a wide open room decked out as a gallery, full of Malcolm’s paintings—color, light, imagery, bold. Malcolm grew up on the north side of Milwaukee where he started painting tennis shoes when he was 12. He saw the trend to customize clothes simultaneous with graffiti art, and he fell in love with the motif of the Fresh Prince. House rules were that that Malcolm could only paint on clothes, though, not on walls, and when he got caught tagging the basement wall, his mom sent him to Columbus, Ohio to live with his dad. This move was instrumental though, because Malcolm’s dad truly taught him his entrepreneurial spirit. It was then that he started selling incense, shoveling snow, raking leaves, doing anything to earn a living and make his way. He learned early that hearing “no” in response to a sales pitch was ok. He could deal with rejection.

Malcolm did all this inside a system that wanted to keep down young men like him—through hard work and good luck, a lot of it, he didn’t end up in jail, or under ground, he’s instead making a difference in the lives of a lot of young people today through the work he does in education. He found his way to Cape and has like others fell in love with the people there, the energy. And he’s now found a passion to recover the African American history of this community and make it more a part of the conversation. This is a young man with a lot on his plate and a lot to give.

Such a full day, and somehow it had more to go. Alyssa (and kids in tow!), Sara, Zack and Jenny joined us for dinner at the Top of the Marq compliments of Jerry—his son owns the restaurant! What an amazing feast of delectable small plates and a few large ones too. Many thanks to Jerry on this one and everyone involved in this awesome day.