To the Top of the Arch
After visiting with friends in Indiana and reminiscing Betsy’s college days at IWU, it was time to move onto some good old-fashioned sight seeing in St. Louis. We departed the Indianapolis KOA and headed West on I-70 from one great midwestern city to another great midwestern city. It was a little longer drive for us (about 5 hours), but was almost entirely highway driving on I-70 so Betsy didn’t complain too much! We arrived at the St Louis West/Historic Route 66 KOA Campground in Eureka, MO mid-afternoon on Thursday and settled into our site. The site wasn’t quite big enough for Charlie, the Big Tow’er and our Honda Pilot, so the Big Tow’er got relegated to parking behind a pavilion on the other side of the campground. But don’t worry, he didn’t mind, it was right next to a really nice basketball court! A quiet evening at home was on the agenda as we made touristy plans for the next couple of days.
We headed out Friday morning with our primary destination being The Gateway Arch, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Downtown St. Louis. Now I had visited The Gateway Arch with my family when I was a young child, but Betsy had never seen this monument to westward expansion during the early years of the United States. As we traversed the highways around St. Louis during our 25 minute ride, St. Louis appears to be like most American cities. That is until you get turned in the right direction and the sun glistens off The Gateway Arch as it comes into view. Now we had driven past the Arch the day before as we passed through the city on our way to the campground (to give Charlie a view too), but today we would be headed to, and UP to the top of, the Arch!
After parking the car, it was a short walk to the 90-acre Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park, which was designated as a national historic site in 1935. As we approached the Arch on foot, the height and size of the 630-foot tall structure became more apparent. The magnificent Gateway Arch remains, to this day, the tallest man-made national monument in the United States. Just standing under the Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River was impressive enough, but we had already decided a ride to the top of the Gateway Arch would be a worthwhile splurge during our visit. Betsy had been talking for a while about how much she was looking forward to going to the top of the structure, so to the top it would be. We purchased our tickets and saved some money using our National Parks Pass. (Thanks again Mom and Dad!) Without much of a wait, we headed underground, through security, and on to the enclosed tram which would transport us to the top of the structure. The tram cars were tight, more like small pods that hold five riders (picture on right), and were just as I had remembered them when I was a kid.
Four minutes later and we were 630 feet above ground with views up to 30 miles away. The windows are small (7 inches by 27 inches) and there are 16 windows on each side of the Arch. However, if you lay on the side under the windows, they are quite easy to look out of and take photographs. We even caught a photo that shows the shadow of the Arch. Betsy was trying to figure out why their was a shadow in her camera viewfinder and then got excited when she realized it was actually the shadow of the Arch. Pretty cool! The observation area at the top holds a maximum of 160 people, however, the day of our visit there were less than 50 people in this area. With photos and memories complete, we headed back to our pod and back to earth.
After all of that excitement we were ready for some grub. Now we don’t always talk about our meals, but todays destination was unique enough I would like to briefly mention it. Thanks to the Find Me Gluten Free app and Betsy’s advanced research skills, we had located the New Day Gluten Free Cafe and Bakery. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t come across many totally GF establishments, but when we do a visit is usually a must. The Cafe and Bakery was located in Clayton, MO, just outside the St. Louis city limits, but definitely serving the St. Louis market. Inside was a bright and cheery decor with a large selection of baked goods and sweet treats on display. Since we try not to eat dessert first, we looked over the Cafe portion of the menu. I decided on the French Toast, which included six cinnamon-sweet triangles made from original recipe bread and a side of hash browns, while Betsy opted for the Italian Melt, a bold duo of Italian salami and pepperoni served on garlic bread with melted provolone, American cheese, and onions. The food was fantastic, GF or not. We didn’t leave the establishment until we had gathered a couple of sweet items to go. Chalk up another point for the Find Me Gluten Free app!
We had one more stop planned for the day, and we had to move quickly. The St. Louis Zoo was only open until 6:00 PM and we were already approaching late afternoon. The St. Louis Zoo was voted America's top free attraction and is located on 90 acres in beautiful Forest Park. It is home to more than 588 species of animals, many of them rare and endangered and is one of the few free zoos in the nation. Yep, we enjoy zoos and you saw that all-important word in there . . . FREE! We even scored a free parking space on the road directly outside the entrance and were able to avoid the $10 parking fee. We really only ended up with about two hours in the zoo before closing time but I feel like we saw a lot. (We walked pretty fast!) We could have spent a lot more time here, but we got a good sense of the place and saw some great animals. I think we spent the most time at the lion exhibit, closely followed by a great time at the gorilla habitat. Much like the Gateway Arch, I had also visited the St. Louis Zoo during my visit as a kid. I can’t say for sure, but the gorillas we were watching may, or may not, have been related to the gorillas I watched many years ago. I bring this up since there was an incident with a certain gorilla dipping his doo doo in the water and throwing it at us through the cage. Ceil? Rick? Dad? Anyone have that memory? Our quick zoo tour was followed by a peaceful evening at home relaxing. Man, what a day!
Saturday had quite a bit less on the agenda than the day before. The only thing we planned was a trip to Purina Farms, located in Gray Summitt, MO, just outside of St. Louis. Ok, we don’t have any pets, but we do appreciate a cute dog and the need for them to be provided with the proper nutrition. Purina Farms had both, so we headed out to look around. It was definitely a sprawling, manicured farm that greeted us after passing through the gate. We breezed through the visitors center and gift shop before heading out for the next show at the Incredible Dog Arena, where the Purina Incredible Dog Team demonstrates their amazing skills. This was a fast-paced, entertaining show that lasted about 45 minutes. Next up was the animal barn where we visited horses, cows (Always Betsy’s favorites!) and pigs. Overall, a fun family attraction which we enjoyed. We had originally planned on using Saturday to see the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses, but unfortunately the ability to see them had already closed for the season. Well, yes, I’m sure they were somewhere, but not available to be viewed by people like us.
Next stop, Southeast Kansas. No, really!