John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

Gateway Arch on St. Louis' Mississippi waterfront

Statue of Lewis and Clark with the Arch in the background

July 25

Brenda was delighted that our La Quinta had an exercise room and was happy to get in a workout while I surfed the continental breakfast. It was very hot 28°C and I was glad we were on the first floor as we packed up for our drive to St. Louis. The 530 km trip was a rolling trip through cornfield after cornfield and not much else.

True to form, we arrived at the bridge over the Mississippi into St. Louis precisely at the height of rush hour. To our right as we crossed the bridge was the Gateway Arch, the famous symbol most publicly associated with St. Louis. Of course, the most famous symbol for me is that it is home to Budweiser and Bud Light. The city is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, making it an historical transportation hub as well as the jumping off point for pioneers heading to the Oregon territory.

Brenda had picked out a great coupon deal at the Best Western near the airport for $45 a night. It was perfectly situated for us and we decided to stay 2 nights so that we could visit the Arch and waterfront areas. We ate in our room and had an excellent restful night.

July 26

Despite a rather disappointing start to the morning when Brenda found most of the equipment in the exercise room broken, the day looked promising with nice sunshine and continuing heat. I went looking for a car wash to get a bath for Big Blue and found a good shop where they did an excellent job getting the bugs off. I realized that this was the first wash Blue had since Washington, DC.

Back at the hotel Brenda was ready to go and we sought out a nail shop we had sighted the night before. Walk-ins were welcomed and she sat herself down in the pedicure chair while I got a manicure. Manicures take way less time and I was delighted that some brilliant person situated a pub right next door so that husbands didn't have to sit reading Cosmo in the shop while waiting for their wives; in honour of the city I had a Bud.

It was a short 20-minute drive downtown to the Gateway Arch and we found parking nearby that was right beside a funky pub called the Feisty Bulldog. We were surprised to see they had something called Tavern Eggs on their menu, which we knew to be Scotch eggs (an old favourite of ours from away back.) With a side salad and fries, they made a great snack lunch.

The Gateway Arch is part of a larger park called The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which commemorates St. Louis' position in the U.S. westward expansion between 1803 and 1890. The Arch is cleanly encased in stainless steel and appears to grow out of the ground to a height of 630 feet. However, the rest of the story is completely underground where there is a museum, shops, theatres and entrances to the unique tram ride inside the Arch from one side to the other.

The tram ride over top was overbooked due to one station being shut down because of a breakdown the Saturday before that had stranded a tour of young people for 3 hours. Rather than wait for 2 ½ hours for the ride, we elected to buy tickets for a documentary on the building of the Arch. We were amazed by the revelations in the 35-minute film where we learned that in addition to being a major architectural creation, it was an even more amazing engineering and construction feat. Begun in 1962, construction was completed in 1965, amazingly without a single loss of life in spite of the great heights and working with massive structural elements.

We left the Arch complex to walk along the Mississippi waterfront where we came upon a statue honouring Lewis and Clark on their return to St. Louis in 1806, after a 3-year expedition to the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River. Once again, to honour Kurt and Heather, we visited the nearby floating casino where I donated the customary $20 bill. Brenda was luckier in stretching out her $20 for 30 minutes longer than mine lasted.

Having survived the 36°C heat and high humidity we returned to the Best Western to stretch out and take it easy. Well, at least that was me; Brenda found that the exercise equipment had been repaired in our absence so she had a workout.

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