Saturday, September 10, 2011

St. Louis Rocks Again

Last time we were here, St. Louis was merely a turnaround point. I had done NO research on the city, so was surprised to discover it had so much to offer. (You can read about that visit here.) The girls asked to return to the city, and we all agreed we’d need more than a day here. And so it shall be.

After so many miles on the road, and so many days this month waking at dawn (or earlier) it was really nice to sleep in. I think we would have managed to lounge later, but it never really cooled in the wee hours, and the sun quickly warmed the trailer. Still, by the time we were finished shuffling things in the van and trailer to make them ready for daily camp use, ate breakfast and cleaned up, it was 10:40 a.m. A leisurely start to the day to be sure.

We took the Metrolink across the Mississippi River to our first stop – Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, aka Gateway Arch, aka St. Louis Arch. The girls have talked about their trip up the arch ever since our last visit, so up we went. We also took in the large-screen movies about the Corps of Discovery’s trek west (1804-6) which was a great refresher on Lewis & Clark.

When we were here in 2008, the Mississippi River was at flood levels in St. Louis, so the riverboats weren’t running. This year, all’s quiet, so hit the river we did. We boarded “Tom Sawyer” for an hour-long jaunt up and down the river. The pilot and a national parks ranger took turns at the microphone and offered a historic view of the city. It was nice to hear the history and to get a different view, plus the boat ride was relaxing, but the girls and I agreed it would be fantastic to have a real paddle boat running on the river. While the boat we took had a paddle wheel that slowly rotated as the water forced it out of the way, propellers or jets were doing the heavy lifting.

Just as we were getting off the boat, a lightning storm blew over St. Louis. I wish we could have recorded, somehow, the brief storm as the lightning bolts streaked the sky above and around the Arch. I tried to grab some photos, But unlike the storm in Nebraska, these bolts were further apart and much more difficult to predict. We were thankful, though, that the related wind and brief showers cooled the city remarkably.

We headed through the Old Courthouse where we talked about Dred Scott. (“So. Mom? How could he lose? If the Declaration of Independence says ‘all men are created equal,’ then were they saying that he wasn’t a man or that he wasn’t equal? That doesn’t make any sense at all.”) I see some further reading and research in our very near future.

Then we hit the cascades in Kiener Plaza. During our last visit, I was playing too well the part of an adult and opted to stay dry (OK, except my feet). This time I was all in. Though the temperature had dropped considerably thanks to the summer storm cell, it was still plenty hot and certainly humid. The rushing water felt fantastic, and the girls particularly enjoyed their splash about. Here we also met a couple of American Idol golden ticket holders (they’re headed to Hollywood soon, so very exciting for them – congratulations!) doing their about-the-town shoots.

Then it was on to Citygarden, a sculpture park in downtown St. Louis. What a fantastic find! The sculptures represent an array of styles and work in a beautiful park setting with thousands of various trees and plants which attract, even in this urban setting, a remarkable number of beneficial insects and birds. The girls and I enjoyed the sculptures before turning finally to the key attraction this park offers families – more play water! A wide plaza features dozens of holes from which choreographed water squirts the day (and night) away. There’s also a small pool of water featuring a bronze sculpted boat with passenger, and plenty of live children. A second, larger fountain is treated as a wading pool (complete with lifeguards) by young and old alike. While we’d planned to carry on to other sights today, this one held our attention until just before sunset when we hit the Metrolink for a quick jaunt back to the park.

Note to eastbound St. Louis Metrolink riders: Riding the train east from St. Louis with hundreds of Cardinals fans feels vastly more secure than riding on an off night. While hitting Metrolink after a game might seem counter intuitive, it’s remarkably enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

We enjoyed walking tacos at camp with a lovely view of sunset through The Arch. The breeze comes up now and again, which blows away the mosquitoes. Thank HEAVENS, because these little suckers are chewing on my backside THROUGH the camp chair!

Journals and to bed.

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