July 30, 2005 – Saturday – Day 35

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 276 – Total Miles: 8899 – Average:254.3 (travel days)
HANNIBAL, MO to Sikeston, MO
(-staying at the Country Hearth Inn) MO (33/48)

A lot of the names of these little towns along the way have been familiar to me from my 20-year-ago Gulf-of-Mexico-to-Canada ride. But one of my favorite stories comes from when I met Nikki, Bub, and Little Bub. I had rolled into town on a July 4th and my recollection has been that Nikki and Bub just let me, a total stranger, take care of Little Bub while they went to see the fireworks. (This was not substantiated by my journal notes. However, that’s sure the way I remember it!)

We got on the road mid-morning and headed into the town that has been my favorite since childhood. Who knows why? But anyone who knows me, knows that the city of St. Louis is one that I’ve had a love affair with ever since I was about 8 years old. The city, the sports teams, anything about the place… (Oh, and when I rolled through there in 1980, the series of interesting and amazing circumstances found me at the Cardinal’s ball park, Busch Stadium, watching a night game. On the scoreboard (and I got a great picture of it) they flashed the words, “Joel Perlish, who is Bicycling Across the Country, is Attending Tonight’s Game!!” — THAT was quite a thrill for me.) So, twice before I triumphantly entered St. Louis. Once from the west on the cross-country trip, and once from the south on my Gulf-of-Mexico-to-Canada-Along-the Whole-Mississippi ride, and NOW from the north!

It was about 100 miles to the big city from Hannibal to St. Louis, and it was a thrill to see the huge stainless steel arch spiking up from the riverfront as it came into view. We navigated the city roads well and found a parking space in the nearby underground parking garage.

A big family, the Tuzaks, had just parked beside us, and I quipped that they were our welcoming committee. We got pictures with the folks, Jim and Michele, and with their three cute kids, Ashley, Samantha, and Zach. From Joliet, IL, the family was in town for the day. Jim said he hadn’t been to the Arch since he was a kid.

Then, with all our gear, we trudged up the steps out of the parking garage and then down the long thoroughfare of tall-tree lined grass area to the base of the 630-foot tall Gateway Arch. It positively gleamed in the sun of this brilliant day!

We found a long line for the security check (which, of course took longer for us because of all our bags and gear). After about a half-hour in that security line around mid-afternoon, we faced a ticket line that snaked around and was an hour long!

At the base of the Arch inside, there is the ticket area, two big theaters, a few gift-type shops and a wonderful museum. We got tickets for the ride to the top, and tickets for the two shows there. One, a National Geographic IMAX presentation about Lewis and Clark, and the other, a film about the building of the Arch. Our ride to the top tickets were for 2:40pm, so we had time to see the two movies before the ride.

The Lewis and Clark IMAX flick was first. It was slick and wonderfully done. The huge big screen popped with gorgeous colors and brought the audience right into the scenes of the two explorers as they crossed the newly purchased virgin territory part of the United States in 1804. It made Karen and I both want to learn more of their exploits. We enjoyed the movie from the last top-most row, munching on some trail mix we had brought in.

After that 45-minute presentation we were even more exhausted than we had been before. We sat near the museum entrance for a bit and munched on an apple and a couple soft pretzels. We ventured a bit into the museum, but shortly it was time for the building-of-the-arch movie. We sat in the darkened theater way beyond the start time, and that was concerning to us since the end of the film bumped into the start of the tram ride. Well, the film never did start – seems a bulb burned out or something.

Others stayed, we got up and left, and explored more of the museum, and then a little before 2:40pm went to the queue for the tram. We were led to a loading area, and then another loading area, and finally down a series of steps. Eventually, a little bubble-shaped car appeared behind a door that opened. It was small and held only five people. The others with us were a very tall motorcycle policeman and his two daughters. When the door closed it was very claustrophobic in there and the car began a series of somewhat nerve-provoking shuffling bumps and grinds. In that way the little cylinder made it’s way to the top of the Arch. Finally, the pod stopped, the door opened, and we made our way up a short series of steep steps to the little hallway at the top. Others were milling around there already, and leaning against the carpeted somewhat-slanted window sills to peer out one of the eight or so windows looking down from America’s tallest man-made monument.

The Arch, in the area of the St. Louis riverfront that is known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was completed in 1965. The visionary designer was a guy named Eero Saarinen, but he died before seeing it completed.

People looked like ants below. I enjoyed the St.Louis city side of view the most. There were views of the Old Courthouse (where the first Dred Scott case was heard), and Busch Stadium, and the beginnings of the new stadium to be completed next year. Looking out the other side one could see the magnificent Mississippi still huge even from so high up, the little play boats on the river, and views westward.

After about half an hour we reversed our ride up. The pod went down much faster, it seemed, and plummeted down in three minutes (as opposed to the four it takes to get up the side of the archway).

We then went back to the theater to see the film we had missed. It was made in the late ‘60’s shortly after the Arch was completed. It was good, but dated. And the theater was a regular one, so after the 4-story tall IMAX show, this screen seemed pretty puny. Our heads bobbed a couple of times during the show.

Then we left the complex taking pictures and video along the way. Two couples, the guys mostly toothless and tattooed, were from Britain, but they lived in the area. One was a truck driver. I asked the one if I could take a photo of one of the babe tattoos he had. He obliged eagerly. I asked him the same question I ask a lot of folks with tattoos, and that is, did he ever regret getting it. (He had at least 20 all over him.) He volunteered that he had designed-over several women’s names, and he listed them for me, at the base of the one of the tattoos. “Gail” was the final name on the list, and that one still was there!

Leaving the foursome with smiles, we made our way back along the sunny field and back to the mc underground. We left the parking area around 4:30pm and headed south.

At one gas up today we had our cheapest gas ever – $2.09. Also, went the most miles without tanking up – 113! Still haven’t had to turn on the reserve for the whole trip. Pumped in 3.17 gallons. I think the tank hold 3.5 gallons.

Beginning last night and working itself through today, I had some kind of stomach cramps. Whether caused by some kind of viral thing, or caused by not eating right, or even a more serious appendix thing, we didn’t know. But by the time we arrived in Sikeston I was pretty much doubled over and more exhausted than ever on the trip. I fell into a deep sleep without even showering, and apologized to Karen for all my moaning.

It was a grand day in St. Louis, and I was feeling a little down when we motored out.

Author: Joel Perlish

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