Gateway Arch

38 years ago, when we moved from Michigan to Texas, I first encountered the Gateway Arch as we drove though St. Louis and recall with a young mind of 12 how awe-inspiring this structure was.  Ten years later I found my self at the top of the arch for the first time and was again captivated by its architecture and innovative engineering.

This trip I again marveled at this structure with a new perspective and 30 years of engineering under my belt.

Visitors Center
Visitors Center

They are renovating the entire riverfront around the Arch which made buying tickets and getting to the Arch a little complicated.   Having purchased our tickets we made our way through a maze of streets and construction barriers to the Visitors Center located underground beneath the 630-foot, stainless steel monument.

Tram Cars
Tram Cars

We were ushered into 5 seat pods that are part of a 8 car tram that would take us to the top.  These claustrophobia inducing pods then make a 4 minute journey to the top along the interior of the Arch and shifting every few moments to stay horizontal.  The pods basically swing like Ferris-wheel cars as they ascend and descend the arch.  Luckily, they have small windows so you can see the structure and the 1,076-step emergency stairs which included many landings and sets of spiral stairs.

Inside the top of the Arch
Inside the top of the Arch

At the top there is a narrow room with a floor that curves and 16 small windows on each side.  The windows are such that not only can you look straight down, you can also see to the other-side.

The views are incredible from the top and the good news is the ride down is only 3 minutes….

Hannibal, Missouri

As a child, I always remember one of my favorite movies being Tom Sawyer and I recall Injun Joe scaring the tar out of me, having a crush on Becky Thatcher, the mighty Mississippi. This led to a later interest in Samuel Langhorne Clemens or Mark Twain and how he was born and then died on the tail of Hailey’s Comet.

The Town of St Petersburg where Tom Sawyer lived was based on the boyhood home of Mr. Clemens’, Hannibal, Missouri. The character Tom was based on recollections from his own childhood growing up in Hannibal. Samuel Clemens did whitewall fences in his youth however he never did talk other boys into paying him to do his work as in the book. Huckleberry Finn was young Sam’s friend Tom Blakenship while Becky Thatcher’s inspiration came from Laurie Hawkins who lived across the street.

Hannibal today is a quaint river town with non-subtle hints of Mark Twain everywhere. Part of Hill Street is blocked off where you will find Samuel Clemens boyhood home while across the street is the home of Laurie Hawkins (Becky Thatcher). A few buildings over is his father’s, Judge Clemens, office, and next door is Grant’s Drug Store where the family lived upstairs for a brief period of time.

Main Street is full of shops and restaurants and even a Hotel with Mark Twain in the name. The Mark Twain Museum is there and I even found an old mechanical horse you could ride for a quarter. And of course we had dinner at the Mark Twain Brewery.

As I sat on a bench on Hill Street my thoughts went to events in a book written a long time ago and gazed around at what Mark Twain recalled as he wrote The Adventure of Tom Sawyer.

Dana-Thomas Home by Frank Lloyd Wright

The Dana-Thomas Home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is located in Springfield, Illinois.

From the homes website:

The Dana-Thomas House (DTH) was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Susan Lawrence Dana, a forward-thinking socialite living in Springfield, Illinois. The home, the 72nd building designed by Wright, contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. Wright’s first “blank check” commission, the home has 35 rooms in the 12,000 square feet of living space which includes 3 main levels and 16 varying levels in all.

Due to budget cuts we were unable to tour the inside however a groundskeeper let us in the courtyard to take pictures and peak in windows.  It is truly amazing as this was technically a remodel and is a great example of his early Prairie Style homes and organic architecture.

Padukah, Kentucky

We made a short stop in this quaint River Town heading towards Illinois which was just across the river.  We were hoping to find a nice restaurant downtown for dinner with a view of the river.  Unfortunately, as with many river towns we came across, flood walls deflected any view and actually gave an imprisoned feeling.  They did have interesting murals on their flood walls.  Downtown Paducah was a pretty area although, as other small towns across America, there were a lot of vacant buildings.


Elk & Bison Prairie-Land Between the Lakes

Land Between the Lakes is located in Kentucky and Tennessee between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake and is a National Recreation Area.  Here we found the Elk & Bison Prairie, a 700 acre enclosure where visitors travel by vehicle via a 3.5-mile paved loop road to view elk and bison that have been re-introduced.

We have seen elk in the wild so were more interested in the Bison and they were spectacular.  We did have a close encounter with one who did not want to get out of the road and as we drove about four feet from him he gave us the “eye”!  It was a very beautiful place…

Photos and more…..every picture has a story….

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