Day 34 – St. Louis

The day began foggy and humid with temps already in the 70’s. By the time we got moving, however, the fog was mostly gone and the sun was shinning brightly. We gassed up our little Prius (9.2 gallons!) and headed toward Missouri and the Grant Family Farm.

Ulysses Grant was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, MO right after he graduated from West Point. (We passed Jefferson Barracks – which is now a state park – but did not stop.) It was while he was at Jefferson Barracks that Grant met his West Point roommate’s sister, Julia, who lived in St. Louis. She later became his wife and for a time after they were married, they lived on her family’s farm there named “White Haven.”

Interestingly, “White Haven” is now “Paris Green,” restored to the color it historically was when the Grants lived there. It was a large house for it’s day, and Julia’s father had made it into a working plantation. Since Grant always wanted to farm, the couple loved the place and always thought of it as “home.”

Some of the out buildings remain and the horse stables that Grant designed and built now houses a beautiful, informative museum dedicated to the memory of this amazingly brilliant soldier and leader. We ended up spending almost three hours there. It was a wonderful experience to be in this place I had read so much about and it was easy to understand why the Grants loved it so much.

From there we set out for downtown St. Louis and the Westward Expansion Memorial, or more popularly known as the St. Louis Arch. But, first, we stopped at a Texas Roadhouse for a Sunday dinner. It was delicious, as always.

There seemed to be little traffic on the way downtown and we found our way easily. We parked on 4th Avenue and walked to the Old Courthouse where I had seen a sign saying tickets to the Arch were available there.

The courthouse itself was filled with history. It was in a courtroom there that Dred Scott first won and later lost his freedom.  And another courtroom was where Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, argued his first cases.

While standing in the ticket line to see about tickets to go up the Arch, we made the decision we didn’t necessarily need to go UP the Arch, we’d just like to go IN and see it from the ground. Good thing, as the little cars that take up five people at a time would have hardly accommodated my driver! We took our pictures from the steps of the courthouse and then walked over to the Arch. On the way we passed the St. Louis Cathedral. Forty years ago last spring we had gone to St. Louis Cathedral – just to visit –  and never in a hundred years thought we would be right back at the very same place 40 years later!

There were hundreds of people lining up to go up the Arch, but we walked ahead of them, interested only in the informative film available for free for holders of a National Park’s Pass. Unfortunately, as with so many places today, we all had to go through an “airport-like security.” It just takes something away from the grandeur of the place when such a security check becomes a requirement. Necessary, maybe, but so unfortunate.

We watched the National Parks film describing the history and construction techniques used in creating such a massive arch to give memorial to the Westward expansion of our country. The film was actual documentation of the workers at their jobs as the arch was being built. Afterward, we knew for CERTAIN we did not want to go UP in the arch. We would admire it from the ground and marvel at all the work it took to make it.

I stopped to take a picture of the line of visitors getting ready to wedge themselves into one of those tiny cars to travel up the Arch and two of the hosts who were helping called out to me. “Oh, did you want to take our picture?” I laughed and said, “Sure. You’ll go home to Seattle along with our travel memories of this fantastic 6000 mile trip so far.” They laughed and posed and were happy to hear we were having such a good time visiting St. Louis on our trip.

The sun was beginning to set as we came out of the Arch and we could see it’s shadow in the Mississippi River. It was a gorgeous Fall afternoon and people were out with their friends, lovers, and children walking the paths along the river. We had some fun with cameras and then found our way to the car.

It was only a ten minute drive back to our motel and we were grateful for the air conditioning upon our arrival. We are just relaxing this evening and preparing for the next few stops with family.

I may not be able to reflect for the next three nights as we will be staying with relatives and I don’t want to appear unsociable because I need to go and do my writing. I’ll be sure and catch up when I can.