Friday, June 10, 2016

Way Up High: Road Trip, Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Read part 1 here.
So, after that amazing race in Indy, we headed west again. Before we got home, before we stopped to do what the kids wanted to do, we stopped to check one off my bucket list: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

We've driven by it I don't even know how many times. Every time we drove to Wisconsin our trip took us past the arch and we'd ooh and aah like good Americans we tried in vain to remember where that damn turn off we needed to take was.

This process was made ever more easy by navigating through GPS on our smartphones.

We aren't bypass people, we are drive through the city people. This is probably ingrained in us after living for years inside the DC beltway, our affinity for big highways and city landscapes is soothing to us. Even the traffic is preferable. The bypass is usually homogenous. But you drive through the city, you learn things about that city. About that state, that country. And about yourself.

Is that a stretch? I don't think so. If we didn't drive through St. Louis, we'd have missed the arch, after all. There was a lot of construction so we had to go a little out of the way, but St Louis helped us out with signs on the pavement. It was a pretty remarkable sight close up, construction or not.

The flag was at half-mast as it was Memorial Day.

We went into the Old Courthouse to get tickets and were treated to a gorgeous piece of architecture (and air conditioning). The Gateway Arch website steered us to the Courthouse, though there was a temporary building down near the arch that sold tickets as well.

I can see lawmakers of the last 100 years walking up these steps to do their lawyery tasks.

The old courthouse is wonderfully preserved and offers unique views inside and also an amazing view down to the river and the Gateway Arch.

We enjoyed the walk (thought it was damn hot outside) and took way too many selfies (Put your arms up like you're holding the arch!) and drank a lot of water (like I said—damn hot) and talked about ice cream and went into the tunnel under the arch where there is a huge souvenir shop, a wall-sized carving that highlighted the history of the Gateway Arch and a promise of things to come when the construction was completed.

We queued up to wait our turn and wondered: how is there an elevator inside? Well, *spoiler alert* it's more like a series of cable cars that ride up to the top and then back down again. There is a tiny window in the car that looks out to the inner workings of the arch, and you can see the stairwells which made this mildly claustrophobic but super acrophobic old lady happy and freaked out in turn.

When we got to the top, a series of small windows along each side rewarded us with spectacular views looking east and west.

To the east, the mighty Mississippi, looking all ethereal and sandy from the clouds passing overhead.

To the west, a view of the city's sprawl, with the Old Courthouse in the center.

I was done in about 10 minutes and ready to head back to terra firma. We did it, though! Visited a national landmark and went inside. I mean, as much as we loved DC and for as long as we lived there, we never went up into the Washington Monument. I guess we'll save that for when we take the kids.

A view of the arch, before and after our visit to the top: blue skies versus gray clouds.

We hung around the steep steps leading down to the river and to the almost-completed park that was all around. This is an incredibly beautiful location and everyone enjoyed the trip and the scenery. And I can't believe that I was too busy just soaking it in and looking around that I didn't take any pictures of it. Sigh. Bad blogger.

Our visit took all of about 2 hours, from finding parking to getting back to the car. I highly recommend stopping to get a little history next time you find yourself in St. Louis. 

One more stop on our road trip! Hint: this stop was for the kids.

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