Browsing "MIssouri"
Apr 26, 2012 -

The St Louis Gateway Arch

The St Louis Gateway Arch was built in the early 1960s to symbolize America’s westward expansion. In the 19th century, St Louis was the last big city before the unexplored western frontier and was soon established as a railway hub. The Arch is a weighted or flattened catenary arch that measures 630ft.

My first reaction upon seen it was vertigo. I thought, “There’s no way in hell I’m going up that thing!”

As it turns out, the tram to the top is completely enclosed, so the ride up and down in a cramped car is not terrifying in the least. At the top, there are narrow windows through which you can view the Mississippi River and the city, but it’s almost impossible to look straight down. So folks with a fear of heights shouldn’t be worried about going to the top of the Arch.

To tour the Arch, you have to enter below it. There is an airport-style security checkpoint (I got through without incident). You then buy your ticket ($7 today even though it says $10 on the website) and are told when to line up. They are very strict about being at the gate on time and not a second before. You are assigned at tram car, then hustled up to the tram doors.

The trams sit five and are very small. It’s a four minute climb to the top and you can spend as long up there as you want. When you are ready to come down, you are assigned a tram number. The ride down takes three minutes. I somehow managed to reveal myself as a full-time RVer on both trips and was even asked my blog address. If any of my fellow tram car passengers are reading this, please let me know in the comments! 🙂

The Arch tours are well organized, but the Arch was not constructed for the amount of visitors today. I was on the 9:25 tram and the ones after that had way too many people.

There was one more stop to make in the base of the Arch, but first I decided to take a coffee break. I’d run out of milk this morning, so I hadn’t had coffee. I decided to check out the general store that promised hot beverages. $2 got me a cup of truly excellent coffee made of beans roasted 19th century style. It made me glad I’d run out of milk or I wouldn’t have tried it. It tasted almost like what comes out of my French press and most definitely not like typical brewed coffee. So I’d recommend coming to the Arch first thing to avoid the crowds and then enjoy a coffee before continuing with your day.

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MIssouri, Travel, USA    6 Comments
Apr 26, 2012 -

St Louis Almost Charms the Pants Off Me

I just got in from a full day spent touring St Louis, Mo.

Before I get into the good stuff, I have to get something off my chest. Missourians, why do you hate tourists so much? Driving in St Louis was horrible! I have driven in much bigger cities and never been honked at once. Just about every time I stopped at a red light, I was honked at if I didn’t hit the gas the second the light went green. I earned multiple honks for being cautious when turning left with tons of oncoming traffic bearing down on me. But my absolute favourite nasty habit was that every single time I would signal to change lanes, and I mean every single time, if there was a car behind me in the next lane, it would speed up when my turn signal came on, making it impossible for me to make the lane change and causing me to miss exits and turns. What a way to cause accidents, folks, by getting tourists really frazzled! The other thing that irked me was inconsistent signage to tourist-related things. For example, there is an inexpensive parking lot for visitors of the Arch. You get a few signs indicating which way to go, then good luck, you’re on your own! Even though there is a nice big RV lot, I would not go there without having first plotted out the route and having a navigator.

Okay, enough of that! When I wasn’t hopelessly lost with an equally confused GPS, I was having an amazing day! St Louis was on my bucket list because of its place in American expansion history, but I never really read up much on it. I had no idea that its touristy part would feel so quaint and old worldly. I love walkable cities and appreciated St Louis’ acres and acres of green spaces, walking paths, and easy to navigate city streets. If someone had told me that I would one day visit St Louis while traveling east in a modern day covered wagon, I would have laughed. It just goes to show that you need to leave room in your life plans for surprises.

This post is just generally about my day and I will shortly follow up with individual posts about each attraction, with most of the information given in the photo gallery for each post.

The first thing on the agenda was to find the right parking lot that is just $6 for the day. I’m not sure I found it, but I did find a lot that said $5 for the day that was reasonably close to the Arch, so that was good enough for me. I put a $5 bill in the machine and that got me two gold coins back. Once I was parked, I looked at them and realised they were US $1 coins, which I have only seen once, back in 2007, and which I had a dickens of a time getting people to accept. So, I had put $5 in and got $2 back in change. Why? I went back to the entrance and read the fine print on the sign. Early bird discount! I’d left early to be one of the first up the Arch before the throngs came and it paid off. 🙂

It took a bit of guesswork to find the Arch, but I finally did and was on the last uncrowded tour. I came down and went to the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is in the base of the Arch. It was still really early at that point, so I decided to do the City Museum. The gal at the information kiosk under the Arch said that the City Museum wasn’t walking distance, but it was only about 17 blocks, of which I’d have to walk three just to get back to my car.

By the time I was five blocks or so from the City Museum, it was just past 11:00 and I was hungry. Since the City Museum is interactive and promotes physical activity, I decided it would be a good idea to have lunch first. I was walking down Washington Avenue, a major thoroughfare, so I figured I’d come across a few restaurants. I did, and one of them was a sushi bar, Mizu. It was hot out, so I didn’t want anything too heavy, so this was perfect! The sushi was excellent; I was very impressed! $18 including the tip got me a miso soup that was included in my lunch combo of a tuna roll with four pieces of nigiri, and I added one piece octopus. The salmon sashimi was particularly memorable as it literally melted in my mouth, the way good sashimi should. Mizi Sushi Bar was definitely an expected surprise and I am so glad I gave it a try!

I then spent a couple of hours at the City Museum until the chaos of the children variety drove me out of there.

It was only about 2:00, so I ambled back to the car, and, after much trouble, made it to the Forest Park section of town to visit the Missouri Museum of History. I got out of there in about an hour and decided that I was done for the day. So, I set the GPS for home, was promptly squeezed out of the lane I needed to merge into, and found myself detouring through a section of St Louis I’m pretty sure tourists aren’t supposed to see. I would have taken pictures, but I was afraid to stop the car. 😀

More below:

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Apr 25, 2012 -

Down and Eastbound

It was a fairly mellow morning in Council Bluffs with a 10AM departure because I was out late with reader P.J. and her husband who treated me to pie. It was so nice to have a social engagement in a place I never pictured myself visiting!

Just before leaving Iowa, I saw something I wish I could have photographed. It was a billboard advertisement for a nearby pharmacy called… Stoner Drug. I kid you not. Thankfully, someone else caught a picture of the storefront.

The first milestone of the day was crossing the Missouri state line:

I was due for fuel and my GPS told me there was a truck stop in Rock Port, so I decided to head for there. Fueling is one of the nastiest RVing chores; I’m always concerned about getting stuck at an RV unfriendly gas station and not being able to get turned around so I try to only go to ‘truck stops’ when coming off a major highway. Anyway, the Phillips 66 station was visible from the off ramp including its “RV lane that way” sign and a nice clear area where I could park after fueling to use the bathroom. I pulled in beside the pump, put in my credit card, and started fueling. A few gallons in, I noticed a man circling around the rig taking notes.

“Excuse me, sir, is there a problem?”

“No, ma’am, just getting your information.”

“Uh, for what purpose?”

“In case you drive off without paying. You RVers do that a lot.”

Let me pause here to have a word with ‘you RVers who [drive off without paying for gas and otherwise do bad things]’: QUIT MAKING US LOOK BAD. PEOPLE DISLIKE RVERS ENOUGH AS IT IS!!! You keep doing that and there will come a day there won’t be room for naughty men like us to slip about at all!!!

Little did I know that this exchange would set the tone for the day.

I stopped for lunch shortly thereafter.

pastoral Missouri, as seen from the first rest area on I29 southbound out of Iowa

Like the day before, no ‘camping’ at rest areas:

I took about 40 minutes for lunch. When I came out of the rig to do one final check before driving off, a guy doing clean up on the site came to remind me that there is no camping allowed at the rest area. “I just stopped for lunch.” “Well, you’ve been here a long time!” SERIOUSLY?!

Nice rest area, though:

I pushed on south, not realising just how far south I had gone:

next exit for Amazonia

Getting around Kansas City had concerned me, but it was very easy, following I435 to meet up with I70 eastbound. It required my undivided attention, but was not harrowing in the least.

I crossed the Missouri River and passed yet another fireworks place, making me wonder what the heck is up with Missourians and fireworks?!

I pulled into another rest area and got a picture of something on which I need my readers’ opinion. What would you think of my painting Miranda my favourite colour?

Lovely rest area, by the way, right about at Higginsville:

Love the architecture of the building:

And the snazzy handwashing station:

Much as I love the prairies, I have to confess to missing rolling hills of green trees (pardon the state of my windshield):

The plan was to stop sometime after Kansas City. As it turns out Missouri is an RV unfriendly state and everywhere states no overnight RV parking! By the time I got to Columbia, I’d had enough of being honked at for going 65 in a 70 zone, being cut off by folks merging onto the highway and immediately slamming on the brakes so that I would have to slam on mine (and be honked at by the guy behind me driving way too close), driving to a Walmart where I’d been told over the phone that parking was okay only to be turned down in person. The ‘No overnight RV parking, as per Columbia ordinance bla bla bla, violators will be prosecuted’ sign just about sent me over the edge. Prosecuted? Oh, lordy, what a miserable state! Do you honestly think you’re bringing more money into the economy that way? I would have probably spent $100 at Walmart tonight in Columbia on things I needed, but I would not pay $40 for hookups I did not need!

It was just past 4PM when I rolled out of Columbia and by this point I decided that another 200km wouldn’t kill me. So I drove all the way to Maryland Heights, within St. Louis proper, to stay at the Harrah’s Casino, where they were very happy to let me stay for a few nights. Not at all the day I’d planned, but this gives me extra time to do touristy stuff here and to possibly hit a few spots of interest in Kentucky. So hurray for Harrah’s. 🙂

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Boondocking/Dry camping, MIssouri, Travel, USA    19 Comments