Seven Surprises in St. Louis

Bottom UpIf you wanted to tour the world famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri and you could see the monument from miles away and your GPS continued sending encouraging instructions via “the voice” singing at you from your dashboard, it should be simple to find that destination – right? Au Contraire.

If you decide to visit, here are seven surprising “road hazards” to avoid:

  • Surprise #1: Gateway Arch isn’t the name of the National Park located under, around, and through the Gateway Arch structure. But if you simply instruct your GPS to find the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial you will get where you want to go (who knew?)
  • Surprise #2: If, instead, you ask to go to Gateway Arch, you will be guided to the Historic Old Courthouse. Unfortunately, even getting to that structure isn’t easy. The narrow, almost colonial vintage streets are cobblestoned, slippery, and bumpy. Much road construction is in progress and if you take a wrong turn (following the GPS voice’s best efforts) you take a five-mile detour across the mighty Mississippi, then pull the famous “legal U-turn” and start all over back where you were marooned fifteen minutes ago.
  • Surprise #3: After about an hour of circling your target, you find the parking garage. Now a five block hike is in order but, after sitting for hours in your vehicle, you can use a little invigorating exercise. And the view of the Mississippi under the towering forest of trees in the 90 acre park is spectacular.
  • Surprise #4: So here you are at last at the entrance, sending your personal belongings through the same darned x-ray machines TSA used at the airport. You pass inspection and are at last free to roam the expansive Museum of Western Expansion. It is an impressive collection of historical artifacts.
  • Surprise #5: Now you cannot resist the challenge to “Journey to the Top” of the arch in “a short tram ride 630 feet in the air via barrel-shaped capsules.” You know you will kick yourself forever if you chicken out, so decide it is best to purchase your ticket and get in the queue to the top. Thinking you will see a spectacular view on the ride up, all you see through the miniscule porthole window of your space capsule are clanking mechanical arms, and twisting levers, and other mysterious gizmos, all painted gun metal grey with a narrow staircase twisting upward (or downward – depending on whether you are arriving or departing.) You avoid thinking those stairs are the only way out, if you need rescue, because this precise moment is the one chosen by the terrorists to blow up the Gateway to the West.
  • Surprise #6: You arrive at the top and step onto gun metal grey carpet with about a hundred sets of tennis-shoed visitors like you peering out, blue-jeaned fannies all in row, bending over cantilevered windows, peering at the ground, river, and city hundreds of feet below. It is a bit stuffy so you elbow your way into position to see and snap a quick pic and then agree with your traveling partners “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

    Top Down
    Top Down
  • Back on level ground, you meander through shops and displays and view a very interesting movie about Lewis and Clark. As you “please exit to the left” the movie moderator poses a question for the departing crowd: “Why do you suppose the movie director put an Irish jig in for the closing credits?” No one knows so he offers “They must have needed a lively tune in spite of the fact no one in the Corps of Discovery was Irish.” Once again, who knew?

So its day’s end as you bid the park farewell and head out to merge into the evening rush hour traffic following “the voice” to get you to your next exciting destination.


3 thoughts on “Seven Surprises in St. Louis

  1. I’m a big Eero Saarinen fan. My uncle was an architect and had some kind of connection to Knoll, so he got us a womb chair and ottoman (designed by Saarinen) at cost. I grew up with that chair, and it still sits in my parents’ retirement apartment. So I’m a bit biased when it comes to the arch, because to me it’s this amazing giant sculpture by one of my favorite designers of all time, and I could never tire of looking at it (my husband literally had to drag me away, I wanted to see the light reflect off it at different times of day.) I’m glad I went up into it, but that was a struggle because I’m somewhat claustrophobic.

  2. It is an engineering feat. I too had to resist the urge to lose my composure on the ride up and down. I should have known when I saw the “model tram car” available by the ticket booth for the faint hearted – like me. I don’t do well in small spaces such as airplane seats and am terrified of thrill rides so this was a challenge for me – but worth it.

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