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August 10th 2011
Published: September 10th 2011
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DAYS 29-30

Saint Louis

The next morning I got up and after grabbing some breakfast at the motel, doughnuts and orange juice, I walked to downtown. I had planned the day quite well this time, I was going to the City’s museum first, then downtown, then the Arch and finally I had a ticket for my first baseball game ever, St Louis Cardinals vs Minnesota Brewers.

I caught a bus to the city’s museum and that was a mistake. Not catching a bus, the temperature in St Louis was quite high not as bad as in Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi, but still in the high 80s and quite humid. The mistake was going to the City’s museum because as cool as it is, it’s basically a museum for kids. It’s got some kind of rides, funny sculptures, a ferris wheel in the roof and various colletions of artefacts and insects. So, this time my lonely planet guide got it wrong or I didn’t read it properly. Anyway, I spent about an hour in the museum and them decided to walk to downtown. Downtown St Louis is quite nice, very tidy, very clean. That’s something I noticed nearly everywhere in the US. The downtowns of the cities are always very clean and very similar. Government buildings, high scrapers, lots of homeless people and some areas with bars and restaurants. Downtowns in Europe tend to be the oldest parts of the cities but obviously some of the American cities are much more modern than the American ones and that probably explains the difference between the city centres in Europe and in the US.

From downtown and after visiting St Louis Cathedral, I made my way to the Getaway Arch. It is a very impressive structure. A 630ft tall it was created by Eero Saarinen. I got myself a ticket to the tram that takes you all the way to the top of the tower and then a ticket the an IMAX film that explains the expedition to the west along the Mississippi that Thomas Jefferson led and that expanded the United States westward.
The views from the top of the Arch were amazing, 360 degrees views of the whole city from nearly 700ft high it’s going to be something to remember. The movie was also very good and allowed me to rest and chill a bit instead of walking and visiting places all time as I had been doing for most of the time.

After my visit to the Arch and yet again the Mississippi river next to it I went to the Old Courthouse which is directly opposite to the Arch and after wetting my feet in the fountain behind the courthouse, where some teens were actually swimming, I went towards the Busch stadium, the home of the Cardinals. I had booked my ticket online so I had to pick it up from the ticket office which I did with no problems. Then I went into the shop and got myself a baseball cap for $20. One of the things that I found more amazing about the game was the fact that everybody, and I mean everybody, were wearing something to do with the team. Most people were wearing red t-shirts and red caps, but everybody, including the older people were wearing something to support the team.

Before the game, as I still had a couple of hours to spare, I went to the Hilton which is just a few hundred yards west of the stadium and I had frozen yoghurt. It’s quite a cool place, you just pick your cup, fill it with whatever flavour of frozen yoghurt you want and then you add the toppings, which range from smarties to nuts, syrups, fruit etc etc. Then they weight it and you pay according to the total weight. I didn’t put many things on mine and I paid $5. Another good thing about the US is that you get wifi in many places. Didn’t find many unsecured networks out on the street but the bars, restaurants or shops tend to have open networks, so you can check your emails or update your facebook status.

Anyway, I made my way to the game with one hour to go, just to enjoy the pre-game atmosphere. I got myself good tickets, I wasn’t sure where was the best place to watch the game so I thought I’d spend a bit more and secure some good location ticket. I was basically behind the first base on the top stand with direct access to an air conditioned area where all the bars and restaurants were. So you could actually watch the whole game without going out to the stands, although in my opinion that is not fun at all. With my ticket I also got $12 cash value that you can exchange for food or drinks for that given value. So I was quite hungry and got myself the super supreme Nachos which I couldn’t actually finish. They were nice but a bit too salty for my taste.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed in the US, the use lots of salt in their cooking, especially in fast food. I think I’m going off salt. I haven’t cooked for a long time but I’m determined not to use salt again when I cook. Anyway back to my story, the game was crap. The atmosphere good, the entertainment good but it was a bad game of baseball and extremely long. I, more or less, understand the rules of the game now but I still think it is pretty boring if it’s not a good game. The game kicked off at 7:15. I left at 11 thinking that the game was over. I went straight to the hotel, put ESPN on to watch the highlights and the game was STILL on! Haha, I had actually left convinced that the game was over when it wasn’t as it was a draw and they had to keep playing until someone actually wins. By the way, the Brewers won, putting end to a good strike of wins for the Cardinals, who have one of the actual best players in the league, Albert Pujols.

After another good sleep I woke up not really knowing what to do, whether to stay another day in St Louis or start making my way towards Chicago. I decided that I’d seen everything I wanted to see in St Louis and that I needed a bit of a relaxing day so I planned to drive towards Chicago but stop at a golf course, have a round of golf and then spend the night close to Chicago.

I drove through Illinois until I found a little golf club in Atlanta, IL. It was a good choice, it was only a 9 hole course but I played 18 holes for only $12 including cart and club hire. The course was quite demanding, very easy to go out of bounds and very easy to lose the ball even in the fairway. There were lots of ducks around and they left lots of feather all over the place which at times got confused with the golf ball. Anyway, I had a pretty decent front 9 with 7 over par and a not that good back 9 or second 9 in this case with 11 over. I ended up 18 over which in my case is good as I played below my handicap again. I’ve played my last 3 rounds at 18 over par which I hope I’ll be able to keep when I go back to Qatar. Will see.

I met some locals on my way out who were very surprised to see a car with Texas plate in their local. They asked me if I’d driven all the way from Texas to play in their golf course in Atlanta, Illinois. I explained my story and they said it was a shame I wasn’t there a day later as I could have played their tournament, which I thought it was quite nice from them.
I got in the car and drove about an hour to a place called Joliet, quite a big town only 40 minutes away from Chicago. Got a room in motel6 for $48 and it was a good choice. I first checked the comfort inn just a few hundred yards from the motel 6 but they wanted $95 for the room. Well, the motel 6 in Joliet is brand new and without a doubt the best motel6 I’ve been to since I started my trip, and I think I’ve been to 5 or 6. After having a shower I went to grab something to eat. There are plenty of places to eat in Joliet but in the end I went to a local supermarket Food4less and got myself a salad, sushi, a cheesecake and some water and went back to my room to have my dinner, which was very nice. Then I watch some ESPN and went to sleep.

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