Monday, August 11, 2014

Cakeway to the West - Confessions of a Cakeaholic

butterfly at Cardinal Glennon Hospital
When I took my first photograph of one of the stl250 cakes back in March, I had no intention of trying to visit all 250 of them. I figured I would snap pictures as I came across the cakes, as I did with the "Wings in the City" butterflies back in 2011, and the cat and dog sculptures of "The Harry and Hanley Project" in 2013. Little did I know that the call of the cakes would pull me in like the smell of hot, buttered popcorn at a movie theater. And like that box of popcorn, I would not be able to stop until they were all gone. Soon I was planning my days around cake hunting. And at night I dreamed of cakes. I even made a t-shirt showcasing a few of my favorite cakes. I am not alone in this obsession. There are over 1,700 of us in just one of the Facebook groups, sharing tips, trials and support in addition to photos. Through the group I have attended picnics, a group photo op, a wine and canvas party, discussions of possible books, and the camaraderie of folks just as excited about the hunt as me.

my t-shirt front

my t-shirt back


They are the ones who understand that we could adopt "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as our theme song. "Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough..." to keep us from our cakes. From as far west as Warrenton, Missouri to the eastern reaches of Carlyle, Illinois; from the northern point of Hardin, Illinois to the southern point of Sullivan, Missouri, the 250 cakes were a challenge for even the most sophisticated GPS system or smart phone. But help was always just one Facebook post away. Can't find a cake? Post the question on the Facebook page. Want to know if there are other cakes in the area? Where to park? Or how about a good place to eat while you are there? One of the cakers would always reply, usually within minutes of the post.

Mainly I traveled alone on my treks, though my husband did accompany me a couple of times and a friend and I planned several excursion together. My niece accompanied me on one of the Illinois adventures. I don't even want to know how many miles I put on my car, though a fellow caker said she had documented 5,000 miles! Is that possible? Perhaps...But here is what I do know. Through the Cakeway to the West cake hunt I have experienced more of the greater St. Louis area in six months than in the 36 years I have lived here. I have pushed my comfort level on multiple occasions. I have been to sites that I did not know even existed, and re-visited places I had not been to in years. I have met some incredible people both in the caker group and at the cake locations, and have been privileged to meet several of the cake artists.

Facebook caking friends
Last Sunday, over 50 of us from the Facebook group, and one of the artists, met at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis for a group photo and breakfast. After that I headed north in Illinois to find my last five cakes. By 4:30 that afternoon I had accomplished what had initially seemed impossible. I had visited and photographed all 250 cakes. Like some of the others in the 250 Club, I have mixed emotions about the journey being over. (Though as of right now 251 cakes have been placed, and rumor has it that there will be 254 before it is all said and done. I haven't decided if I will get any of the rest, because to me it takes away from the whole 250 theme.) There are still a few frame of reference shots that I want to take, and I think getting some fall and winter photos of the cakes would be fun as well.

my 250th cake in Hardin, Illinois
As I have been doing research in preparation for putting together a book about my cake walk, I have come to understand what a truly remarkable area we live in. The history of the city, the buildings and the people who once called St. Louis home are inspiring. And I think that was the goal of the Cakeway to the West project. I would call it a success!