Last weekend was the 34th Annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL.

I’ve been doing the 3-3.5hr drive to Metropolis since 1999. First as a day trip with friends, then as an artist guest in 2005. I became an honorary citizen in 2010! I really love the town, and have made a lot of friends there.

Wednesday morning we loaded up my buddy Tim Brown‘s van “The Mynock“. We then grabbed some breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and headed across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (or “the new bridge” as we Memphians know it) and crossed the Mississippi River for the first time that day. We left one M-town and headed to another!

We were amazed to see just how low the river was compared to the last two summers where it was over flood stage levels. Last year Metropolis got hit hard by it and the Ohio River flooding, and Memphis and Nashville got hit hard two years before that. My wife Nicki and I were in Cape Girardeau, MO for Cape Con when while watching The Weather Channel for any tornado warnings that area might get, and the next thing we know there’s a reporter standing in water in Tim and his family’s neighborhood! We immediately called them and they were preparing to evacuate. Scary weekend!

Once we got over the river and past West Memphis, AR we left I-40 and merged onto I-55 and headed north. We soon had a crop duster plane buzzing the interstate in front of us! After that excitement it was pretty much bad drivers on the road we had to keep an eye on.

After a couple hours of driving with pastures on either side of us we got to Sikeston, MO and stopped for lunch at Lambert’s Cafehome of the throwed rolls!

While waiting for our lunch to arrive I got a roll, smothered it in butter, put applebuter on one half- molasses on the other half, and washed it down with some sweet tea! After our food arrived, more food just kept coming- they bring “pass-arounds” like fried okra, fried potatoes, macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, and more for you to try. I’ve never left Lambert’s hungry! Oh, be sure to bring cash- they don’t take plastic.

Once we were back out on the interstate it was just back south one exit to Hwy-57 and our next stop Boomland to gas up for the rest of the trip. Gas is always a lot cheaper here than in Illinois so we filled up up the tank, emptied our bladders, bought a few souvenirs, and got back out on the road. (Boomland has a restaurant, convenient store, gift shop, fireworks shop, gas station, cigarette counter, lottery ticket vending machines, jams & jellies, pork rinds and more!)

We passed Cairo, IL and crossed the Mississippi again. While talking and joking we missed our exit to Mounds Rd.- which took us to 37, 169 through Karnak, and 45 into Metropolis. So I pulled out my iPhone (thanks, Nicki!) and found us a route back to 45 through Vienna, IL. It only added about 20 minutes travel time to our trip, but it was a change of scenery and we liked some of the old architecture in Vienna. Would love to go back and look around the town. Reminded me a bit of Chester, IL (home of Popeye) and parts of Metropolis.

We could have taken 24 into Metropolis, but taking 45 in would get us closer to the side of town the Superman Celebration was being held. I’m glad we did. Lots to see, including this old barn with a “See Rock City” advertisement on the roof. I haven’t seen one of these this side of Nashville before.

Not too long after passing our usual turn off 169 from Karnak onto 45 we arrived at the outskirts of Metropolis and saw the old welcome sign. There’s a much larger one on the other side of town coming in from I-24, but I still dig this one. It’s just so much more “Smallville” looking.

We drove into town, passed the community center, and then hung a right onto Market Street. This is where most of the Superman Celebration activities are held and where the Supermuseum and Metropolis Chamber of Commerce are located.

At one end of Market there is the giant Superman statue, and at the other end (at 8th Street) is where the new Noel Neill/Lois Lane statue now stands.

This is also the end of the street where the new home of Artists Alley & Writers Way was- in the carpenters union hall. This would be my headquarters for the next few days. Nice space with great A/C!

Our first stop in town was the chamber to check in with the celebration staff and pick up the keys to AA&WW and Planet Krypton (the fan film theater space where Tim would be set up and former artists alley space.) The chamber is the headquarters for the celebration staff, and is also an information center and a gift shop. Since the crowds hadn’t hit town yet we did some shopping, which included some items with this year’s celebration design I did. Picked up a t-shirt, coffee mug, button, and free program- as well as a copy of the Metropolis Planet newspaper.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening unloading the van, hanging lights and movie screen in Planet Krypton, and setting up tables and art panels in AA&WW. The panels would be used for the art contest and art show. One of the pieces on display was my latest George Reeves paintings I finished just before heading to Metropolis. Thankfully airbrushed acrylics dry really fast!

We finally called it a night and headed back across town to check into our hotel- the Super 8 of course!

Pics and more from day 2 of my 2012 Metropolis trip up next.