Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 106: St. Louis, MO: Land of the Arch and the Coolest Place on Earth

From Indiana, it's just a hop, skip, a jump, and a drive across Illinois to St Louis.
We stayed on the Illinois side at the Casino Queen which has a hotel and RV park.
After some relaxing and a dip in the pool...

We rode across the Eads Bridge to see the Gateway Arch...The Gateway to the West. 

The Arch was built to commemorate Western Expansion and is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, who bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, who was raising money for his own expansion. (Fun side note: Jefferson's detractors claimed that a new territory purchase was unconstitutional and that he had been conned into buying a gigantic desert. And all Jefferson really wanted was New Orleans, but he ended up getting a whole lot more).

Finished in 1965, the Arch doesn't seem to have been updated since it was built. Going to the top is like a trip into outer space!

The "elevator" has eight of these little pods that hold 5 passengers each and there's a set in both sides of the arch. Very 60's. Very mod.

All aboard!

It's really cozy.  Luckily, one of our pod mates was a little girl, I don't think 5 adults would have fit.

A few minutes and you're at the top. Note the teeny windows.

It's pretty cozy up here too!

One interesting thing about the Arch is that it used to be a local symbol of the Civil Rights Movement and African-Americans' struggle for respect and equality in the workplace. The National Parks Service built the Arch during the early 60's, during the Civil Rights Movement. There were protests surrounding the discriminatory hiring policies, which spurred the first federal action to enforce equal employment opportunity laws.  To try to remedy the situation, the NPS hired E. Smith Plumbing Company, an African-American firm.

The view of the Mississippi is incredible... was the sunset over downtown.

This was taken in near darkness but the stainless steel shines even at night. And there's a very extensive museum at the bottom of the Arch, dedicated to Western Expansion and Louis & Clark and the decimation of the Native American cultures and 3,200,000 buffalo. 

It's funny...out west, it was all about Louis & Clark. We've come full circle back to them!

The next morning, we went to City Museum, which was suggested in our copy of
"Off the Beaten Path"
That book has really come in handy.

We were kind of at a loss for words when we got there.
City Museum is a 9-story building that used to be a shoe factory.  Then an artist named Bob Cassilly bought the building and opened this crazy place in 1997. Now it looks like Dr Seuss built the place... or a tornado blew thru... or both.

Up on the roof, there's an old ferris wheel which was a blast because it spins really fast and the operator hangs you at the top.

Angie loved the ferris wheel! (Angie's note: uhhh, "love" might be an overstatement...)

Giant preying mantis, slides, a school bus hanging over the side of the building, and cages to climb in and around.  The place is like a huge jungle gym!

Everything in the place had a previous life elsewhere, was discarded, and found its way here to have a second life.  This dome was from a planetarium but now has a swing inside.  Take note of the kids up in the top.

This is looking up after having just gone down a 8-story slide that had been a shoot for sending shoes downstairs!

The dinosaur cave room.  Stare at this for awhile and you'll see faces and teeth and all sorts of stuff. There are secret passageways and tunnels all over the place. And you can climb on everything. We actually got lost in this room for a while! Couldn't find our way out...

Life-sized whales and underwater mosaics...this is the largest continuous mosaic piece in the U.S.

Slides, staircases, dinosaurs, slinkys to climb in...

The Museum of Mirth, Mystery, and Mayhem...just to the left of this picture is a train. 

Giant pencil...and around the corner is a circus school! They weren't performing the day we visited, just stretching and practicing.

The Shrine of Shameless Hucksterism! Robots and sarcastic signs like "Don't Question Authority." 

Vintage pin-ball, arcade games, and giant... briefs?

Several rooms were dedicated to salvaged architectural detailing and stonework. There were also bug and glassware exhibits.

Kids (and adults) can climb all over the place...

What is this place!?!

Outside, there's a giant playscape made of wrecked planes, cranes, fire trucks, and all kinds of crazy stuff!

Is this even safe?

Whew, she made it!

If you go to St Louis, and you like climbing around on stuff and swinging and sliding and exploring, this is a must see!

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