We get up this morning, get ourselves packed, eat a HI Express breakfast, and head out for St Louis. It’s a four hour trip, and not very exciting. At this point in the journey, we are not very excited by driving anywhere, and this is no exception. We get to St Louis, and try to visit the Campbell house in town. It turns out to be a parade day (Memorial Day parade??), and we (our navigation systems as well as our dead reckoning) are just unable to find a route that gets us past the parade where the Campbell House is. So, giving that up, we come back to the hotel, register, and go looking for the Missouri Civil War Museum in the Jefferson Barracks historical site. This one we find without hindrance. The museum presents its artifacts well and uses them to tell related aspects of Civil War history effectively, but unhappily doesn’t do a good job of helping one see the role Missouri played other than superficially. I am disappointed as my knowledge of the Civil War primarily concerns the battles in the eastern part of the country and the political turmoil centered in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. I was hoping for some broader enlightenment concerning the war midwestern states, not only the battles but the political and social aspects as they were before, during and immediately after the war. They do present a video listing some 500 battles that took place in Missouri, but there is no indication (other than number of casualties) of the impact any of these battles had on the people who lived there, or on the broader strife. The best presented material is to be found in the large central room on the main floor. The artifacts there are well presented, grouped to show their use during the Civil War. In general, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. We retreat back to the hotel, and then go out to dinner. Tomorrow we’ll go see the Arch, and then it’s time to start for Michigan!
As advertised, today is the day of the Arch! The only problems are the traffic into town and the parking once there.
Once we find parking, we walk to the Arch, and I make my way up to the capsule line. Capsules run up the inside of each of the two legs of the Arch taking those who don’t mind the height to the room at the top. As it turns out, the room is well closed in, the views to the outside world are through windows in the Arch’s side panels, so there is no feeling of looking over the edge. It is high up, however. Gwen opted out, and well she should – the capsules hold chairs for five people each, with a four foot door closing you in for a four minute ride to the top.
Coming back, they say, takes three minutes, but the capsule does not feel like it is going any faster. The view from the top is spectacular, with St Louis, its old Courthouse (home of the Dred Scott decision) and Busch Stadium on one side and the mighty Mississippi on the other.
There was a great video they provided in the visitor center which showed the construction of the Arch. As an acrophobic, the movie made me just a bit queasy, with views from the 630 foot top as they worked to fit the last triangle in place. A tremendous engineering feat, however! We then walked to the paddleboat Becky Thatcher on the Mississippi just below the Arch, and spend the next hour moving up and then down the Mississippi. We go up-river under three bridges and back and then under two more down the river. The bridges make for some intriguing pictures, with lines everywhere overlapping and crossing adding geometry, ambiguity and interest. The Arch can be photographed from different angles as well. There are a number of barges lining the river, unloading or loading dry cement, grain, or oil. We are told the river tugboats push up to 12 barges at a time up stream (toward the upper Mississippi) and over 36 at a time downriver (toward the lower Mississippi). We walked back to the car, after visiting the Basilica on the way, and revisiting the visitor center in the old Courthouse. Much to my chagrin, the parking lot near the old Courthouse where we found a parking spot charges a lot more than they advertised on their signs, even after making us climb to the sixth floor to find a non-reserved parking space. We pay it, and get on the road. St Louis is, in summary, a disappointment. We have now seen the Arch, the one thing that we feel is worth the visit, so it is unlikely we will be back. A little after 6:00, we arrive at the Holiday Inn Express just outside Indianapolis, a nice half way point to our MI home.
Our trip from Indianapolis to Clarkston is uneventful, happily, and we are happy to get home. The house has not fared as well as we would have liked, and it takes us time to get it back in shape, but we will take advantage of our lessons learned for next year and beyond. This brings this trip and its blog postings to an end.