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Published: January 8th 2012
From the ARch
Three days spent in the Litchfield and Nokomis region of Illinois. Restful days spent on a farm, fishing for catfish in the lake, wandering the meadows full of Hereford Cattle . It almost felt like home. However after the three days it was time to move on and head southwards into our next state - Missouri.
The home of Old Man River, that old man river from the song just keeps on rolling along. The Mississippi is the largest of all the river systems in the United States of America. The river flows entirely through the United States rising in Western Minnesota and meandering slowly for over 2500 miles until it reaches the sea. It was wider than I expected and was much more muddy too, it seemed to flow sluggishly and the water took on the grey leaden colour of the sky and full of mud it had brought down in its wake..
St Louis was like Chicago clean, tidy full of pristine buildings in its heart but dig deeper and the graffiti appeared on the derelict buildings of the poorer parts of the city. Parking lots empty and rather sad. The city is dominated by old man
The Gateway ARch
river with its paddle steamers waiting for passing trade. We started our day on the river itself.
The Mississippi River has long beckoned adventurers to ride its mighty currents. Here you can board a paddle steamer either the Tom Sawyer or the Becky Thatcher. We steamed on the Tom Sawyer and took our step back in time to the era of Mark Twain. The slow-moving vessels offer perfect vantage points for sightseeing, while the riverboat captain narrates the tour and points out attractions and historic sights as they steam past. The city looked lovely from the river and the sight that stood out most was the fantastic Gateway ARch.
It poured with rain as we left the paddle steamer and ran across the park to the Arch complex. The Gateway ARch or the Gateway to the West is a metal gleaming arch that is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial . Built as a monument to western expansion it is 630 feet high and the tallest man made monument in the USA. It is a weighted flattened catenary arch apparently although I have no idea exactly what that means. All I know is that it is fantastic,highly
unusual and changes colour depending on the light and the sun.
The underground visitor centre encourages visitors to look at the displays which show aspects of westward expansion and see films showing the same experience and films on the building of the arch itself . It is also the waiting area for the trams which take you to the top of the arch to its observation platforms. The little trams hold only five people crammed together. If you are claustrophobic give this a miss and just enjoy the Arch from outside. The journey to the top takes some time as the tram chugs upwards slowly, stopping often to change direction before setting off again. It feels like the oddest lift I have ever been on. Because of the shape of the arch it has to chug up in this way up the gradient rather than go straight up.
The observation area has 32 windows, six on each side rather on the small side but through them it is possible to see the river below and southern Illinois as well as the city itself. Again if you have no head for heights keep away from this treat. We loved the ARch and hold wonderful memories of our trip to the top.
Lunch was at Thank God its Fridays before we headed for the County Hall. Another lovely courthouse where we spent an hour trying to understand the mechanics of American government.
Tomorrow heading for another state and more relatives - the Bible belt of Indiana.
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