An American Journal: Day 16 (St. Louis, Missouri)

Today we took a road trip down to St. Louis, a city built on the banks of the Mississippi river where Missouri borders Illinois. It’s about an hour and 30 minutes Southwest of Springfield, and Mari’s dad Bill was kind enough to offer to drive us down for the day.

We’d had all the intentions to wake up for an early run around the park but when the alarm kicked off at 7:00am, all our healthy plans were quickly abandoned. We instead took a late breakfast before setting off on the journey.

About an hour in, Mari asked if we could stop off at an antique store that her and the family have stopped at in the past called the ‘Pink Elephant Antique Store’. Not one for antique shows, antiques or shopping in general, I had to put faith in Mari that the stop would yield some sort of interesting experience.

It didn’t take long after pulling off the main highway and down onto the Historic Route 66, that I realised I should never have doubted Mari at all. The Antique store was in an old gymnasium and the word “Antique”, which was plastered at the top of the building, had letters peeling off the brick. Directly outside the building stood a giant statue of a man in bulging white shorts and a tight pink top eating an ice-cream. A woman in a dress and apron in the same colour scheme stood to his left. On the surrounding grounds there was a huge pink elephant and behind that a green alien spacecraft, all meant to capture the eye and welcome you to the store.

Inside, the building had been filled with numerous rows of shelves packed to brim with all sorts of antique items and collectibles. From old guns, to comic books, to silverware, matchbooks and old unopened toys, each shelf was stacked to the brim with fascinating items. It was easy to get lost among the rows, with every corner catching your eye with some other relic from a previous decade. Outside the shop, an old diner had been redone in a classic 50’s style with pink tiling and plastic coated turquoise seating, and an old jukebox sat across the floor with artists like Buddy Holly and Ray Charles ready to go.


Back on the road we followed Historic Route 66 for a while as it wound it’s way through several small towns which sit next to the main highway. The little pubs and restaurants all show the Route 66 sign next to their buildings, eager for passersby to link them to the Route made famous by music and television. As we got closer to St. Louis we found our way back to the Interstate Highway that had taken over as the main Route to the city in the mid 80’s. As the road rose up we caught our first glimpses of the famous Gateway Arch standing proudly in front of the city. We followed the road and wound our way down across a triangular white cabled bridge into the city.

Our first stop was Schlafly’s Tap Room, a notable brewery in the heart of the city, for a lunch of classic American sandwiches and beer. We picked out a Cuban (pulled pork, ham, pickle, mustard and swiss cheese) and a Shaved Prime Rib sandwich with horseradish cream and white cheddar. Mari coupled the sandwiches with an Oatmeal Stout while I opted for the $11 beer taster option which gave me a chance to try two different IPAs, a pumpkin ale, a Indian Brown Ale and a white lager. The meal was a definite highlight of our trip so far and I left the restaurant a few pounds heavier but with a soundly satisfied belly.

Bill and Wendy then dropped Mari and I off at the St. Louis City Museum. I’m not normally excited by the prospect of museums but this one was unlike any other I can remember visiting before. The museum is constructed in a old shoe factory and warehouse and is described as a ‘play house museum’. The whole thing is a creation of an eclectic artist Bob Cassilly. There are levels of caves filled with slides winding their way down to the bottom, aquariums full of exotic fish, and tunnels and passageways which wind themselves up and around the other displays. There are rooms filled with insect collections, others filled with art galleries and even some which educate on the old shoe making factory that the building used to be. Each room contains secret passageways and staircases which make it fascinating as an adult and absolutely captivating as a child. Outside wire structures stretch their way up to old aircrafts which you can climb in to, and further up on the roof of the building there is another giant slide and a ferris wheel. It’s definitely the most interesting museum I can ever remember being inside and three hours inside the building went by in a flash.

After exploring as much as we could and ending off with a beer on the roof of the museum, Bill and Wendy picked us up to visit the St. Louis Arch. The sun was making it’s way down for the day and added an orange glint to the world’s largest stainless steel structure.  It was built as a monument to the western expansion of the United States on the banks of the Mississippi and is proudly dedicated to ‘the American people’. Big river boats sat idly in the river next to the Arch, parked up for the day.  We walked around the Arch, periodically gazing dizzily upwards towards the top where if you’re willing to pay the $15 or so dollars you can take an elevator to get the best view of the city.

With the sun beginning to disappear behind the St. Louis  skyline we wandered back to our car and begun the drive across Illinois back to Springfield. With all the beer, sandwiches and clambering around the museum, we were thankful to Mari’s dad for another long day of driving.

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