The drive from Savannah to St. Louis was brutal.
15 hours,98 degrees, humidity out the wazoo and not a single lick of air conditioning in our old car. Brian and I spoke of AC and ice water with the same impassioned longing that starving people must speak of food. We spoke of it until it was too hot to speak at all and then we just grunted like cavemen.
We arrived in St. Louis and were greeted warmly by our old friends Caitlin and Grant who ushered us into their air conditioned apartment, marched us to the nearest cold shower, and then fed us the best homemade chocolate chip cookies to ever touch human lips (the secret is pudding).
The following morning we caught the light rail and made our way to the iconic St. Louis gateway arch. The arch is the nation’s tallest monument (630 feet) and commemorates Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the U.S. The arch receives 4 million visitors a year which I would later note is about 3 million more visitors than Grand Teton National Park receives annually.
The St. Louis arch
The arch is a stunning sight to see. It’s so tall that it is hard to comprehend its enormity while standing at it’s base. Many visitors ride to the top of the arch for a view of all of St. Louis.
The base of the arch is home to the Museum of Westward Expansion. Though the name isn’t exactly enticing the museum provides an impressive glimpse backwards into the world of American Indians and pioneers.
But the highlight of the day was a trip to the City Museum. The City Museum is an eclectic mix of funhouse and playground- a 600,000 square-foot warehouse filled with whimsical artwork, slides, tunnels, rope swings and so much more. The roof of the building is home to a ferris wheel and a number of airplanes that can be climbed and explored.
To top it all off there is a 10-story corkscrew slide that drops through the center of the building and did not break any of my bones despite my pre-slide premonition of doom.
One of many dark caves and corners in the City Museum
The climb up to the 10-story corkscrew slide. Looking down through City Museum
Structures you can climb through on the roof of City Museum
The ferris wheel on the rooftop of City Museum
We wrapped up our time in the city with a (free!) tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale stables
Here’s a tip: If you are looking for admission to the tasting room but aren’t willing to stick out a 1.5 hour tour of the brewing facility, follow the tour to the Clydesdale stables and then raise your hand when the tour guides ask if anyone has come for the “stables only” tour. You’ll be whisked away to the tasting room in no time flat.
Brian and Caitlin drink Stella, the “fancy” Anheuser-Busch beer
St. Louis was the last stop on the “visit friends” portion of our road trip. We are now back west and happily exploring the National Parks.
The three weeks that we spent visiting our east-coast friends were so special to me. I frequently recall a line from a spoken-word poem that played on the radio years ago: “The older you get the more you need the people you knew when you were young.” The older I get the more I see the truth in that statement.
There is such a joy in telling old stories, in reminiscing, and in spending a few hours in that space where no explanation is needed at all. With old friends there’s no precursor. That person has been there with you.
When I first met the people that I visited in Cleveland, Asheville and Savannah we were young and the whole world lay before us. We had no idea that in thirteen years we would be librarians and mountain bike riders and home owners and travelers. We didn’t know we would scatter across the country. We didn’t know that in the coming years we would form a bond that would keep us connected.
It has been so fun to step back into the daily lives of the people I love to see how they live today. Thanks to all of you for taking Brian and I in with wide open arms.
And Kel, Glee, Jessy, Amanda, Caitlin, Jess and J-Lew thank you for loving me all of these years. It’s hard to imagine what my life might be like if you weren’t in it. I only know it is richer and fuller and filled with more fun and laughter because you are. I love you ladies.
Before we left St. Louis Caitlin gave me a little laminated card filled with pictures of our girlfriends over the years. I carry it with me now, an addition to my collection of talismans, as a reminder of how lucky I am to be in the orbit of such amazing women.