Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gateway to the West

Ned and Joe at the Top of the Arch

It was so much easier finding our way to St. Louis from the campground this morning then it was finding the campground that even after a late start we were soon downtown. The evening before we had seen the arch from afar and as we drove into the city it was unavoidable.

The Arch Towers Over the Skyline

The Gateway Arch towered over the city’s waterfront and shone in the bright morning sun. The boys were very excited to go up, especially Joe. Gateway Arch is the most visible part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Museum of Westward Expansion and entrance to the arch are below ground under the arch. I had been worried that flooding on the Mississippi would close it but, "yeah!", it was open.

After a nation-wide competition in 1947-48, architect Eero Saarinen's inspired design for a 630-foot stainless steel arch was chosen as a perfect monument to the spirit of the western pioneers and as a symbol of St. Louis’s role as the gateway to our country’s westward expansion. Construction began in 1963, and was completed in 1965.

The Arch's foundations are 60 feet into the ground, and it is built to withstand earthquakes and high winds; it sways up to 1 inch in a 20 mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches. A Grand Staircase, underwater because of the flooding, leads from the St. Louis levee up to the base of the Gateway Arch.

After clearing security we purchased a National Parks Pass and tickets to ride up Arch then we got on line for the tram. It has been thirty years since I last visited the arch and it really hasn’t changed much. The ride to the top is a combination elevator, tram car, and amusement park ride. If you are claustrophobic or too wide you might want to pass. If you sit near the windows in the car you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the inside of the Arch's stairs and the drop to the bottom. Once at the top there is a curved observation deck with small windows looking out to the east and the west.

The Arch from Below

Joe and Ned Taking Pictures Out of the Arch Windows

The Old Courthouse

After we descended we watched a movie on Lewis and Clark's trip and attended a ranger talk on how the Native Americans used every part of the buffalo.

Another part of the park we did not visit is the Old Courthouse. It is one of the oldest standing buildings in St. Louis, begun in 1839. It was here that the first two trials of the Dred Scott case were held in 1847 and 1850.

Joe and Ned in the Shadow of the Arch

Hopping back in the car and back onto Route 66 we made one more stop in St. Louis. On the way out of town Route 66 passes a must stop, especially for ice cream fans, Ted Drewes a Route 66 tradition. Since 1941 Ted Drewes has been selling frozen custard to generations of St. Louis residents and millions of travellers on Route 66. One of their specialties is the Concrete, custard mixed with different toppings. Definitely worth a stop back.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Since 1941

Ned and Joe Sample the Wares at Ted Drewes

We didn't get very far after leaving St. Louis and stayed the night at Meramac State Park. Along the way we stopped at the Route 66 State Park. It is on the site of the former resort community of Times Beach. It has displays on Route 66 and Times Beach. Times Beach was removed from the face of the earth after the discovery of dioxin contamination. It is now a pleasant spot for walking and picnicking.

A Great Blue Heron By a Pond in Former Times Beach

Pere Marquette State Park, IL to Meramac State Park, MO, 140 miles 3 hrs 52 min

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