I have driven past the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, about a dozen times. This time, it was early afternoon, and the Arch was as accessible as it would ever be. So, going around the downtown area, heading ever so slightly north, and doubling back along the Mississippi River, I made my way to the Arch’s parking garage and saw the symbol of Manifest Destiny, in its best light.
The park grounds, and the river itself, are as vital to the ambiance of this midsection wonder, as the structure itself. Add to these, the revitalized downtown of St. Louis, and there is a destination of which all Americans can be proud.
The Arch may be seen from 20 miles out. From the top, via an elevator, one may view nearly twice that distance. I forewent the latter view that afternoon of July 25. Here, however, is the real deal, from the outside.
As I rounded the corner, towards the historic Old Courthouse, one member of a group of young men gathered on the lawn called out “Hey, buddy, can you spare a …smile?” Perfect, for such an amazingly lovely day. Here is the Old Courthouse, a worthy venue for families and history buffs, alike.
My last stop was the concourse, on the first floor of the Arch, where I had to undergo an emptying of the pockets and remove my belt, TSA-style, in order to use the restroom. There is a worthwhile Heritage Museum and a couple of chain restaurants there, as well.
I left St. Louis ahead of rush hour traffic, zipping westward on I-70. By dinner time, I was in central Missouri, and sustenance presented itself handsomely, at Panhead Billy’s Barbecue, in Kingdom City.
As with most such places, the outward appearance of Panhead’s belied the quality of both food and service. The young man and woman who shared serving honours bent over backwards to make me feel special, and the catfish had been caught in the Missouri, earlier that day.
After dinner, I drove through the rain, past Kansas City and eastern Kansas, stopping for the night in Ottawa, and the southeast Kansas swelter.
The next two days would take me through more familiar turf: northwest Oklahoma and southeast Colorado.