Monday, October 04, 2010
Gateway Arch, St. Louis
So after grabbing a little lunch the rain had stopped, so we headed over to the Gateway Arch.
We left our car in the parking structure, then walked through a pleasant little park to the base of the arch, where we took lots of photos. We queued up to pass through security and enter the arch. We found ourselves in an underground area with ticket windows, a gift shop and the Expansion Museum. We got on another line to purchase tickets to go up to the top of the arch, and were assigned a time about an hour away, which we spent in the museum, which told about the Lewis & Clark expedition and the pioneers' experiences, and included displays like replica teepees and canoes.
Next we headed to the gift shop. I had told the kids that I would buy each of them a St. Louis t-shirt, and after learning how much they had squirreled away in their piggy banks, I asked them each to bring $20 of their own cash which they could spend on the souvenirs of their choice. This worked out well, because they were able to buy things they wanted that I would NEVER have agreed to. So now my son has an old fashioned looking key that says Gateway Arch on one side and Old Courthouse on the other, and my daughter has a little Gateway Arch replica.
Our time came and we went to stand in line to go up into the arch. The line wound past some displays of antiques, and a swing that the kids could play on. At last it was our turn to board the "cars."
It instantly became clear to me why the ticket seller had asked if I was claustrophobic. The car was a tiny and round, with six seats packed closely together. A little uncomfortable when riding with strangers, you know?
It would ride up a little ways, start to tilt, then adjust so that it was straight up and down again. We could look out a little window in the door and see a network of beams and staircases leading up to the top.
We've been in several observation decks. The Sears Tower, the Hancock Building. So we had a picture in our minds of what an observation deck looks like. The Gateway Arch's looks nothing like that. Imagine a narrow hallway, overfilled with people, all trying to look out the roughly six inch high windows lining each wall. Imagine both sides of the hall dip down, so you're walking up hill as you head to the middle. That's the arch.
But it was cool, of course it was. We looked out, and could see the stadium where the Cardinals play. Apparently it was a game day, because there was a sea of red shirted baseball lovers milling about outside. We could see the Mississippi River on the other side, with barges floating past and picturesque bridges. There was the Old Courthouse.
Later I met a woman who lived in St. Louis as a child and remembered when the Arch was built. She said they built the two sides, then lowered the top on with a helicopter. She said it took precise measurements, and in this pre-computer age they weren't absolutely sure whether it would all fit until it was time to put it together. But it did.