After a short night’s sleep, the gang got up, cleaned up, packed up, and was ready to indulge in a healthy breakfast. The motel we stayed at offered us a complimentary breakfast and the kids scarfed down a selection of waffles, donuts and fruit loops. On the road by 7:45. A good start!
Our quest? To be at the St. Louis Gateway Arch by 9:00. We purchased advanced tickets for the 9:10am tram ride to the top. There was really no traffic to speak of, and we made it to downtown St. Louis and found our parking area with no problems. We were unloaded out of the car and walking to the Arch by 8:45.
We joined a line of like-minded tourists waiting in line for the Arch to open. You have to go through airport-style security to get into the underground museum area and tram loading stations. Wouldn’t you know it, PK’s artificial joints and KK’s medicine (in foil packets) caused the alarm to go off. Just one of the many hazards of aging!
The line for tram tickets was already sizable by the time we arrived. But good fortune shines on those who plan ahead. Our online purchase allowed us to walk right up to the ticket man and load the tram. Suckers!! HA HA! Not only that, but only one of the trams (the north side) was operational so the lines were going to get longer and longer throughout the day.
The St. Louis Gateway Arch. I have always thought of it as a symbol of St. Louis. Really nothing more or nothing less. But did you know the Arch is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, and specifically to his contribution of America’s westward expansion. At 630 feet, it is the tallest man-made monument in the United States.
The ride to the top of the Arch is a neat experience in and of itself. It is a combination elevator and ferris wheel ride. Each tram contains 8 pods, and each pod can had 5 seats. And believe me, these pods are original equipment. They have a few layers of paint on them (sky blue is the current color of choice).
At the top, you can spend as much time as you like and check out the views from each side of the Arch. We were there on a clear day and we could see quite a distance. We stuck around for maybe 15 minutes and we had seen enough.
After exiting the tram, we had about an hour until our next appointment – a documentary about the construction of the Arch. So, we spent some quality time in the Arch Gift Shop. If there is one thing the Traveling Kings like to do, it is to commemorate our trips with cheap trinkets made in China. This visit is no exception. I did learn something, though. I happened to overhear a Mom steer her kids toward the economical options. “Boys, pick yourself out a bookmark!” Price: 2 for $1. Score 1 for Moms.
We also spent a few minutes in their “mercantile” store and bought a bag of cheese curds. Our friend from Wisconsin tells us that cheese curds are one of life’s simple pleasures, but we had never tried them. Well, our friend is right (thanks Mimi!) and I highly recommend the “dill-flavored” ones if you are at the Arch.
We fit in 20 minutes at the attached Westward Expansion Museum. I spent my entire time reading about the Presidential Medals the U.S. government used to create and provide to the Native Americans as a gesture of cooperation and friendship. And I thought that it was just my kids that were distracted by shiny objects. Turned out this has been a government practice for over 200 years!
Next was our Arch documentary. Even though this was a video made in the 70’s (which made it entertaining to watch, in some respects), it turned out to be very interesting and we were all glad we checked it out. Things that stuck out to us – not a single safety harness was evidently used during the construction of the Arch, and even more miraculously, not a single man was killed even though the initial projections were that 13 men would die.
By the time we got out of our movie at 11:30, the tram rides to the top of the Arch had sold out for the day. Miles, KK and I were standing next to the Information Booth where the Park Rangers answered questions, and we listened to at least one irate visitor complain that they stood in the security line for half an hour only to find out the tram was sold out. Yes, that is unfortunate, but he didn’t need to ream out the Park Rangers because he didn’t have the foresight to buy his tickets in advance.
We decided to walk the long way back to our vehicles, around a reflecting pool at the base of the Arch. With the redbuds blooming, it was worth the walk for the views. We also had the opportunity to get chased by a deranged Canadian Goose as we wandered a little too near it in the pool.
Lunch was a picnic on the Park grounds. It was a “Chamber of Commerce” afternoon. Sunny skies and temps around 70. We were not the only group picnicking. There was a large group of school kids, as well as a group of 3 Moms and their toddlers.
Next stop: The City Museum. It was a quick drive right down Washington Street from the Arch to the City Museum. This is not a place I would have picked out on my own, but all the people we talked to that live in St. Louis had this on their list of must-see attractions. We had a problem finding it off of Washington, so we circled around and parked on a side street, right next to the Museum.
When you walk up to the City Museum, you see what I would call a “jungle gym on steroids” coming right out of the wall of the building. It is an elaborate maze of tunnels featuring things like a real firetruck, a real airplane, and slides. The admission is $12 a head, ages 3 and up. What kind of a museum charges the same fee for a 3 year old as someone who is 10 or 40? It only took about 2 minutes inside to figure out why.
For starters, you cannot get a map to guide you on your tour of the museum. I know because I asked. The lady just smiled at me and said, “No maps. Go have fun!” She had a daisy on her hat and was enjoying herself way too much.
The museum is about 3 floors of “exhibits” that you can walk around. Everything in the building is recycled. The originator found everything you see just lying around the city of St. Louis. Gargoyles, bank vault doors, chandeliers, pop bottles, you name it and it was being used as a decoration in this museum. But as you walk around, from floor to floor, or within one floor, there are hidey holes, secret passages and trapdoors that kids can fit into that adults cannot. It is really a shock to your system as a parent, because it is impossible to keep track of your kids while you are touring this museum.
The museum offered a “circus” act three times a day, so we went to the 2:00 show. It turned out it was not a circus, but a magician. Much to our delight, Marissa was asked to be an assistant on his very first magic trick. She hopped right up and helped out, and she did great! The magician put on a pretty good show, and he even showed us how he performed one of his tricks.
Next, we took in one of the main attractions of the museum, which is the 10 Story Slide. We climbed the stairs all the way to the top of the building (the building used to be a shoe factory) and then rode the slide down. At this point, you might ask, “what is a person that is about to run their first marathon or half marathon doing going down a slide two days before the race?”. That would be a good question. I managed to bang my shoulder and my knee and was not in a good mood by the time I got the bottom!
We wrapped up our stay by letting the kids roam free on all of the jungle gym activities outside. This museum sells beer, so we sat in the beer garden while the parents all around us were enjoying some frosty beverages.
By 4:00, we had had enough fun, and left the museum. Mom & Dad had left about 15 minutes before we did. We walked down the sidewalk toward our car and I noticed that some of our stuff was laying on the sidewalk by our car. I thought that was odd and figured Mom & Dad must have left it for us, but I was shocked they would leave it on the sidewalk. However, as we got closer, I could see that the window was missing and our stuff on the sidewalk was covered in glass.
We were the victim of a break-in. This has the same impact as getting hit in the stomach. We stood there for a few seconds trying to comprehend what had happened. I called 9-1-1 and was told that if there was no suspect, that they would just take my police report over the phone, and would be called back.
We began the process of unloading what remained of our belongings out of the van, when two cars pulled up behind us. The guys got out and told us, “We tried. We saw what happened and drove over and tried to stop them. We chased them down the street but finally lost them at the interstate.” It turns out a few guys that worked at an auto shop on the corner had been watching a suspicious car for a while, but didn’t catch them breaking into our car. They did see them parked alongside our car unloading so they drove over and tried to block them in. It didn’t work and the punks drove off, with our good Samaritans in hot pursuit.
Now that we did have a description of the car and the thieves, we called the police back and they sent out several units. They even sent out a crime lab van, and the CSI tried to get some fingerprints.
We lost our laptop and Miles and Mallory’s bags. There is no doubt they would have cleaned us out, except they got interrupted. Thank God they did not take our suitcase, which had all of our running gear in it. That would have turned this trip into a disaster!
Dad was making calls on our behalf to find a company that could replace our broken window. He identified a guy that would come to our hotel and fix it for under $200. Sold! He will take care of the window in the morning.
We drove over to our hotel and checked in and got settled. Our routine for the day was totally shot. We had planned to go pick up our registration materials for the Races this afternoon, but that didn’t happen. Mom & Dad’s friends, Dan & Jean, met us at the hotel, and we were ready to eat by 6:00. We drove to “The Hill” section of St. Louis, which features a lot of Italian restaurants. We had some pretty good food at Guido’s. The highlight being an appetizer of fried ravioli, which is considered a St. Louis staple.
After dinner, Stephanie and I took the kids to Target to shop for clothes for the remainder of the trip. All they had was what they were wearing. Mom & Dad took Marissa back to the hotel with them. Clothes shopping for a 10 year old girl is such a joy. Especially at 10:00 at night, after a very long day. But we got it done, and got back to our hotel around 10:30.
Considering this was the night we wanted to get our good night’s sleep, it is disturbing that our schedule has been thrown off like it has. As we were getting ready for bed, I told Miles, “Your eyes are really red.” He told me, “Well, I have been up for like 16 hours!”. Yes, we’re all making sacrifices.