I have been fortunate enough to visit many of our country’s major monuments, and I rate the Gateway Arch at St. Louis as my hands-down favorite. I have been there several times, the first as a wide-eyed youth in 1968, not too long after the structure had been completed. It is visually captivating, and its 630 feet of height and breadth awe inspiring. I’m equally impressed with the skill and daring it took to dream, design, and build this monument dedicated to an ideal. When the design by Saarinen (a Finnish immigrant, by the way) was chosen over the hundreds of others submitted, the board of approving architects were unanimous in their agreement that it probably couldn’t be built. The thirty minute documentary showing that it was, in fact, doable is one of the most significant parts of the visit to the very popular site. This being the first visit by the kids was special in its own way, especially sharing their reactions to the ride to the top and the stunning views available there. The mechanics involved in the “trolley system” taking passengers to the top totally mesmerized Colin and monopolized the conversation for most of the .visit. 😉 As a person who has helped in various types of construction in my life, the skills and guts employed by the crews turning this design of art into reality have my utmost admiration, and more than a little jealousy. Mr. Saarinen didn’t live to see his dream completed, a victim of disease at the young age of 51.
From the premier location of the Arch along the Father of Waters, we traveled along its flood-stage banks down river. Our destination was another man-made marvel of an earlier age, The Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi carried Route 66 traffic across its more-than-a-mile length for over 50 years, until the size and speed of modern traffic made it obsolete, and thus dangerous. Its main claim to fame was the built-in 22 degree curve near the center of its span crossing the river. The engineering necessity putting the curve there was the need to have that support piling sunk all the way to limestone bedrock. One of our most oft used sayings is “Timing is Everything”. That was certainly the case here as we discovered the much looked forward to bike ride across this structure was not going to be, due to some construction on the approach roads.
The bottom of the poster below has a fairly good picture of the bridge from above.
We consoled ourselves with a visit to the longest running restaurant along the entire Mother Road, the Ariston. We had assumed it would be on of the “workaday” type establishments that we had become accustomed to; Ah Contrare!! We were met literally at the door by a tie-wearing hostess and escorted to a white tablecloth covered table. Yes, we did feel a bit out of place with the better-dressed-than-us crowd, but our waitress made us feel very welcome. As with a few of the other eating establishments along this Way, the restaurant had acknowledged its existence was inextricably tied to Route 66, and had moved at least once to stay tied to the road. Operating continuously since 1924, it has claimed the title of longest running restaurant for the entire Route 66.
I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction to viewing the quickly appearing flat and fertile fields of Illinois as we left the River Valley. It felt very much like Home calling.
Thanks for coming along. It’s been a great trip so far.