Friday, July 6, 2012

St. Louis

When we started planning this trip a couple of years ago and were looking at places we wanted to visit St. Louis wasn't even on our radar. This city was picked by the boys as they had learned in school that St. Louis is “The Gateway to the West” and they decided that our journey really should begin here. They were right, it was an excellent place to start. Driving through the cornfields of Indiana and Illinois the land is flat and you can see for miles. The boys spotted the Gateway Arch when we were still several miles away on the highway and were thrilled to find that it really does lead you right into the city of St. Louis.

We had reservations at the Casino QueenRV Park in East St. Louis Illinois, directly across the Mississippi River from the Gateway Arch. While the park itself was not much more than a giant asphalt parking lot with a small playground, the view of the arch from almost every spot was spectacular. This park was also located within a short walk to a Metro Link station and the arch was just one stop away, which allowed us to leave the King parked and use public transportation to get around.

The Jefferson National ExpansionMemorial is home not only to the Gateway Arch, but also to the Museum of Westward Expansion which contains artifacts from the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition, through the Dred Scott Case. There are also a number of Native American artifacts including a life sized tipi. It's a nice museum, but the boys went through it fairly quickly.

After the museum we headed into one of the theaters to watch “Monument to the Dream,” a short film about how the monument was made. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the same architect who designed Kleinhans Music Hall in our hometown, it is the tallest man made monument (at 630 feet) in the country. Construction took 2 ½ years to complete and the arch opened to the public June 10, 1967.

Next, we headed for the tram to take a ride to the top! Luckily, each tram car holds 5 people, so we were all able to ride up together. The cars are pretty small, kinda noisy, and clank from side to side as you ascend through the legs of the arch. There are several observation windows at the top and the view is spectacular! On a clear day you can see for miles in any direction and the boys loved picking out the various buildings and trying to find the King in the RV park across the river. We took our time, looking out all the windows in each direction, taking tons of pictures.

The tram ride down from the top of the arch seemed to go much faster. We had time for a quick snack before heading into another movie, this one about Lewis and Clark and their expedition into the new territory acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. A very well made movie, it's hard to imagine such a journey across the Rocky Mountains and all the way to the Pacific Ocean without maps or roads to help guide you there.

Finally, some thoughts on the city of St. Louis itself. It was totally not what I expected, but did remind me in many ways of home. I was surprised to find a waterfront city, in it's heyday a boom town, with no recreational boating and very little public waterfront access. When asked, we were told that this section of the Mississippi is too narrow for recreational watercraft and is also a commercially busy shipping lane. All day long we noticed one barge after another being pushed up or down the river. Apparently, recreational boating is available several miles north, in a wider section of the river that has been dammed up. Also, as you can see from the pictures, while the city of St. Louis is prominent on one side of the river, with it's shops, museums, restaurants and attractions, the Illinois side of the river is devoid of things to do, save for the one casino where we were staying. It's filled with open fields and heavy industry and brought to mind the US and Canada, separated by Niagara Falls and the Niagara River.  While Buffalo's waterfront does offer several recreational opportunities, there's still room for so much more improvement, and St. Louis seems to be in the same boat.


  1. The bit about Lewis & Clark reminded me of the time I got us lost in the If It's Paper parking lot. :-) Seriously, though, this is a great travelogue. I feel like I'm there with you...feeling more aged by the day by the boys all looking so grown up!

  2. Thanks Julie, Watching that movie made this old motorhome seem very luxurious!!