St. Louis was not on our list of places to go. But we were close by, and we figured we might as well stop and see the iconic Arch and eat some St. Louis barbecue. Besides, Meet Me in St. Louis is one of my favorite all-time movies, That’s a perfectly sensible reason for taking a slight detour to St. Louis, right?
After Nashville, we decided to head North. We spent a few very long days at the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in central Illinois. This had to be our least favorite stop on the trip so far. The campground was nearly deserted. It felt like we were the only survivors of an apocalypse. The lake was shallow and mucky. The best part was that Bella did not have to be leashed while we were there, because there wasn’t anybody else around.
We spent our quiet time in Illinois considering where to go next. Since we were just a couple hours away from St. Louis, it seemed silly not to stop for a few days. Nick made a reservation at an urban campground in the city and we hit the road.
It was a typical urban campground. No shade. Not a lot of space. But it had a pool, and the laundry rooms and bathrooms were clean. Best of all, it was a cheap Uber ride to downtown St. Louis. It was overcast and threatening rain, but we jumped in an Uber and headed for the Gateway Arch.
The Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall and clad in stainless steel. Completed in 1965, it’s the world’s tallest arch. But you can’t really appreciate it until you see it up close. With the beautiful city on one side and the Mississippi River on the other the Arch dominates the landscape.
Rain started to fall but we were hungry so we set out on foot to find the Broadway Oyster Bar. The Broadway Oyster Bar is a quirky restaurant with delicious food and a great beer list. I ordered the Po’Boy and Nick got one of the specials.
The next morning, we Ubered downtown to explore some more. As we walked down the street, we were approached by an elderly gentleman. He explained that he was in town working at a religious convention. The person who had transported him and his girlfriend to the convention had gotten booted out of the hotel and left them stranded St. Louis. We’ were pretty sure it was a scam, but he put quite a bit of effort into the presentation. Either way, he probably needed that $20 bucks more than we did.
Next, we happened upon the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Being CNBC junkies, we knew that the Fed had a bank in St. Louis, but we were still surprised to see it. We were perhaps a little overexcited to learn that there was a Fed museum and we could go in! We showed our ID to enter the facility and found ourselves the cool darkness, learning about the history and role of the Federal Reserve.
Later that evening, we went to Pappy’s for some barbecue. We had done our research and determine that this was the best St. Louis had to offer. As we stood in line we noticed that the people behind us were speaking Italian! They were having trouble figuring out the menu. We were so excited to hear native Italian speakers again, and they were happy to have someone explain what “sides” were. So far on this trip, Pappy’s is the best barbecue that we’ve had!
I am a HUGE fan fold musicals and “Meet Me In St. Louis” is one of my favorites. Clang, clang, clang went the trolley? Tootie? Catsup too sweet or too much vinegar? The Fairground Park wasn’t far from our campground. First thing the next morning, we climbed on our bikes and headed out.
The neighborhood quickly changed from rough to rougher. Everyone we encountered was very nice, but it was clear that the neighbors were not used to seeing a couple of white, middle-aged, tourists bicycling through their neighborhood. When we arrived at the park, I was horrified. How could this tiny, run down park be the setting for one of my favorite movies?
Back at the RV park, we decided to try out the campground pool. There was only one other person at the pool, and she seemed to be in her own world. Soon enough, we struck up a conversation with her. Her name was Davina and she was 65 years old. She was a long-term resident at the RV park. Her husband had a number of health issues including leukemia. They had come to St. Louis 5 months ago so he could be treated at the Barnes Medical Center. They had already sold a treasured truck and were putting their house on the market so they could continue his treatment. It was clear that they had been through a rough time. We could feel how scared and sad she was. It was hard for her to talk about it, but seemed cathartic.
It was our last night in St. Louis and a beautiful one. We headed back to the Gateway Arch. It was hot. Nick did not want to go up to the top of the Arch, but I decided to do it. There wasn’t a line at the ticket counter. Because they were sold out for the night. Oh well. I would have to admire it from the ground. We sat on the lawn, mesmerized by the beauty of the Arch and this wonderful city. St Louis was an unexpected pleasure. I’m very glad we saw it.
It turns out, we had one more stop to make. On our last morning in St. Louis, instead of getting an early start, we stopped at Forest Park. This is the park where the 1904 World’s Fair was held. We found a parking space for our 32 foot RV along the side of the road, and hoped that the people who parked in backend in front of us would leave enough space for us to get out.
What a gorgeous park and a wonderful resource for the people who live in St. Louis. The centerpiece of the park is a zoo. And it’s FREE. No admission charge. But the park has more to offer than just a zoo, At over 1,300 acres, it’s almost 500 acres bigger than New York City’s Central Park. The park is the home to several museums, a planetarium, restaurants and much more. If you are ever in St. Louis, plan to spend at least a day here. I wish we had.
Next stop, The Badlands of South Dakota.
Lynne, Nick and Bella