"Three Indians Come to day to take Christmas with us, I gave them a bottle of whiskey and they went off after informing me that a great talk had been held and that all the nations were going to war against the Ozous in 3 months, one informed me that a English man 16 ms. from here told him that the Americans had the Countrey and no one was allowed to trade &c. I explained the Intention of Govmt to him, and the Caus of the possession . . . .
• William Clark, Camp Dubois, IL - December 25, 1803 (taken from his journal)
In doing research for this article, I ran across a comparison of the Lewis and Clark Expedition vs. the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. I don't remember the exact details, but I'm sure it referenced the challenges, the distances, the teamwork, the unknown, and the presidential leadership. The one thing I do remember was the fact that Lewis and Clark conducted their two and half year expedition without the benefit of Mission Control. The day they left Camp Dubois on May 14, 1804, the only people they could count on were themselves.
Camp Dubois in what is now Hartford, IL was founded on Dec 12, 1803, as the "original base camp" for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It's located on the east side of the Mississippi River across from St, Louis at the confluence of the Rivière du Bois (Wood River) and the Mississippi. It was built on the western edge of the then-United States because the Spanish authorities prevented the Corps of Discovery from staying in the then-Spanish territory until the United States took ownership of the Louisiana Purchase on March 10, 1803.
The Corps Of Discovery was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and was a specially established unit of the United States Army that formed the nucleus¹ of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that took place between May of 1804 and September of 1806. The Corps was led jointly by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark². Their objectives were scientific and commercial – to study the Lousisanian Purchases' plants, animal life, and geography, and to learn how it could be exploited economically.
On Christmas Day, 1803, Clark met with some Native Americans to get some intel about the region, and share some news, whiskey, and gossip. The incident was subsequently interpreted by artist Michael Haynes.
Camp Dubois, Christmas 2023 & Aug 04, 2023
While touring Camp Dubois (which is part of the National Park Service), I came across Philip Deutschle who was drawing a sketch of a facsimile of the expedition's keelboat. He was noticeable as he was wearing a yellow reflective vest and homemade orange reflective hat. Why the unique get-up? Well, he was undertaking his own Clarkian quest, by "crossing the USA on Foot." He had started in NYC and was currently halfway to California.
Why is he doing it? I think he's partially doing it for the same reason any of us would, the personal challenge of it all. Though I know from our conversation (and his business card), one reason is to highlight the need for us all to "Protect your mental health . . ." And considering the mental health issues that subsequently befell Merriweather Clark, Camp Dubous was the perfect place for him to make a pit stop.
When you look up Camp Dubois on Google Maps, it is located in an incorrect location (about a mile North of its actual location). When I alerted the ranger who was on duty, he confirmed he knew about its incorrect location. I had thought to ask if maybe he could get it corrected, but was just thankful that he wasn't a part of the Corps of Discovery. I subsequently reported it myself, though if I were you I double check Maps if you are en route.
The Facsimile Keelboat
Where would William Clark have a late lunch? Well since the nearby Teri's Route 66 Diner was closed, I think he would dine about 10 minutes away at Marko's Fish House in Madison, IL.
Madison is located adjacent to Granite City which is home to a US Steel plant that has seen better days and more numerous employees, so the entire neighborhood is filled with vacant storefronts and forlorn streets. In the middle of it all, is located this unassuming pescetarian oasis. Though the inside is just as unassuming as the outside, the product created within is superb.
One thing that most great restaurants have in common is a limited menu, allowing the chef to focus their talents, energy, and imagination. Well, Marko's is no different offering a "FISH SAND," "CATFISH NUG." "SHRIMP", and incongruously a "CHICKEN STRIP". Now normally I'm wary of the unspecificity that is the "Fish Sandwich", but since the place was eponymously named, I went with it. Though I did take the precaution of verifying its genus ("cod"). A side of "SLAW" was also ordered. This place is dry, so instead of my normal pairing of 1996 Hospices de Beaune Pouilly-Fuissé Cuvée Françoise Poisard, I went with a glass of tap water and ice.
This piece of culinary heaven was delivered to me at the bar, in a wax paper-lined plastic basket. The lightly fried cod was nestled with a couple of pickles and a piece of lettuce, all resting between two slices of fresh cream bread. And just when you think it can't get any better there is a delicious side of vinegar slaw. All for $11.50 (tax inc.)³.
We chatted with our server Tabitha who mentioned the owner, Mr. Branko Ostrec who was working the fryer, was Croatian. Well on our Grand Tour of Europe a few years back we just happened to conduct a Croatian road trip and this fact needed to be immediately shared. Photos were then also shared and Mr. Ostrec appeared to be genuinely touched by our genuine affection for Croatia (and its wine). We had stayed in Zagreb, Croatia for the first week during our road trip, which happened to be his hometown, which sealed this Croatian Connection. It all was quite special, so special that Mr. Ostrec is now a Subscriber.
Marko's Fish House is the "#1 of 3 Restaurants in Madison" on TripAdvisor, which is the first time I ever agreed with its ranking (it also gets a rating of 5.0). Most websites about St. Louis mention either BBQ or Gioa's when it comes to gastronomy, but when you visit the STL you need to stop by this place before it's all gone.
A customer and Marko's owner discussing the finer points of Croatian cuisine (while Tabitha covers for the boss)
Markos Fish House
¹ The Corps of Discovery consisted of only the military members of the expedition. The balance of personnel, like Sacagawea, while members of the expedition were not members of the Corps of Discovery.
² Most accounts of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, list William Clark as a Captain. While that is what he was called by members of the expedition, he was actually a second lieutenant, as his promotion to captain was held up by politics. You know some things never change.
Irrespective of his actual rank, I find it fascinating that this expedition was led by two Army captains with the third in command being a sergeant. If it were conducted today, no doubt it would be led by two full generals, with a lieutenant general as executive officer and at least one colonel, major, captain, second lieutenant, and first lieutenant (not to mention liaison officers from the Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard and, Marine Corps.
³ Tax included. A few 'Mericans who I have come across during my travels truly believe that the U.S. is truly the greatest country on earth and that nothing can be learned from other countries. Coincidentally most of them have never traveled outside of 'Merica (excluding of course Tijuana and Cancun). After my recent South America sojourn, I have come to realize the one thing that 'Merica might learn from other countries is to list "tax included" prices on the menu. It's only a small thing that could help make menu pricing a little more transparent (and the world a little smaller), but hey, it's a start.
The menu prices in France include tax and tip, which may even be a better idea, though I think we all can agree that learnin' something from France just may be a little too much for most 'Mericans (sometimes there's such a thing as too much learnin').
"I could have been relaxing at Mar-a-Lago or the south of France, which I would prefer being in this country frankly."
• Donald J. Trump (08/08/2023)