I made my official and triumphant return to the United States on July 20th, and a little over a week later I found myself packing and boarding yet another airplane. Why would I do this you might ask. I had just gotten home! My travel lust had been effectively quelled! So what could possibly make me want to sit on yet another airplane when I had just endured the most hellish cross continental episode of airline travel? A boy. Of course.
Currently my boyfriend, (that still feels super weird to say) Justin is in the Army, stationed at Ft Leonard
I didn’t even bother going to sleep the night before I left since I had to be at the airport around 3 am. Thankfully my friend Ian had volunteered to take me to the airport so my family didn’t have to. My flights were all on time and I arrived in St Louis tired, but in one piece around 8 am. Once on the ground I had all day to rest and explore since Justin wouldn’t get off work until around 5pm and then it would be another two hours for him to drive from Ft. Leonard Wood to St Louis. We planned on spending the weekend exploring the city, and hanging out with his college roommate whose family lived in Chesterfield, a suburb about 30 minutes from downtown St Louis. I waited around all day until Justin showed up and then we went out to dinner, but having gotten up at 5 am, worked all day, and then driven two hours he wasn’t good for much else, so we went to bed early so we could start early the next day and explore St. Louis.
In talking to my friend Becky who makes frequent trips to St Louis to visit her boyfriend, and Justin’s sister in law Laura, who had also spent some time there, we had compiled a list of locations we wanted to visit. Becky had suggested the museum under the arch, the historic downtown courthouse, the City Museum, and some restaurants around town. Laura had made some restaurant suggestions as well, but strongly encouraged us to visit the City Museum as well. Neither Becky nor Laura had gone into great detail about what we could expect at the City Museum, but they both strongly advocated for it, saying that while it was really for kids during the day, after hours they served alcoholic beverages and it became an adult playground. We were sold on this idea after the two vehement endorsements we received, but we first had to fill the daylight hours.
It was a gloomy rainy day when we set out into the city on Saturday morning, but we were determined not to let this dampen our spirits. We first headed to the most famous St. Louis landmark- the Arch.
We had no real intention of spending any money to go up inside of it, but we did want to check out the free museum underneath it which was all about Lewis, Clark, and Westward Expansion.
Justin and I are both history nerds and can easily spend hours in a single room of a museum, so walking into this one we were very excited, only to be incredibly disappointed. When you walked past the giant stuffed bear at the entrance, you found yourself in a circle, and as you moved away from it in any direction, numbers on the ceiling denoted a different year in history. We couldn’t figure out if you were supposed to walk around the room in half circles back and forth, or if you were supposed to go straight back. We tried a little of each method, but neither made much sense. We tried to stay open minded, but then we ran into this befuddling piece of history.
It’s a giant picture of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Japan, and a quote about it from Albert Einstein. What does this have to do with Lewis and Clark? None of the dates on the ceiling went past the 1800s so we couldn’t conceive how they might have thought the atom bomb belonged in this museum. Justin and I speculated endlessly on this, but couldn’t come to any logical conclusion. We were willing to forgive this one misplaced historical oddity, but we kept finding them.
We puttered around the museum for a bit longer before finally becoming more frustrated than interested. We took a quick trip to the gift shop where we found all sorts of odd items with the image of the arch printed on them. There were coffee mugs, water bottles, sweatshirts, 3D puzzles, back packs and even DOG CLOTHES. I know there isn’t a whole lot to be proud of in the midwest, but really? This seemed a bit overzealous. It’s an arch people. As far as architectural marvels go its not really that exciting. One of my Australian program friends Andy, who I teased endlessly about being from Iowa and I were talking one night, and when I told him that I might be going to visit Justin in Missouri he said, “UGH! Missouri is AWFUL! Why would you EVER want to go there?!” Coming from someone from IOWA that meant something, and I was beginning to understand what.
Across the street from the Arch is the across the street from the historic courthouse, so we headed there.
The architectural details of this building were incredible, and it was all decked out in red white and blue so I felt like I had stepped into a set for The Music Man. The court house was not only beautiful, but it featured many great exhibits on the Dred Scott case, Missouri’s history, and the civil rights movement.
By the time we finished up at the courthouse it was closing time, and time to eat. Chuck’s parents had invited us to join them at a St Louis landmark for dinner, Blueberry Hill, a historic location near the St Louis Walk of Fame where Chuck Berry makes monthly appearances to perform and eat. After dinner Mr and Mrs. Long left Chuck in our care as we headed to a bar first, and then to the city museum.
We arrived at the city museum around 10 pm and with our purchase of an admission ticket we were given a miniature flashlight key chain. Chuck had been before, but Justin and I hadn’t and we were stoked that we would need a flashlight for this venture. The city museum bills itself as a “museum consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building. It is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” Visitors are encouraged to feel, touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits both indoors and out.
A description and a bit of history from the museums wikipedia page: The first floor is home of the museum is home to a life-size Bowhead Whale that guests can walk through and view a large fish tank from the mezzanine. Also on the first floor, are a number of tunnels that run across the ceiling, hiding above a sea of fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles. To get into these one can climb up a Slinky, aka old refrigerating coil(donated by Anhueser-Busch), or through a tree house which leads into a giant hollowed out tree that leads to a cabin on the other side of the floor. The floor itself is covered with the LARGEST continuous mosaic piece in the US, which then morph their way up columns, consuming every section of this floor. In one area you will find a tunnel known as the “Underground Whaleway” which runs beneath the floor and into the “Original Caves.”
The Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor. In the Enchanted Caves, guests will find an elaborate cave system that was hand-sculpted. Everywhere you turn you see a different creature staring back at you. The Shoe Shafts were left over from when the building was the International Shoe distribution building. To get the shoes from floor to floor, staff would place the shoes on the spiral shafts that would lead down to the loading dock. When the caves originally opened up in 2003, there was only one spiral shoe slide that was three stories tall, but in 2008 a second one was opened, becoming the daddy of them all. A ten story spiral slide, that starts at the roof and takes you down to caves’ entrance.
The roof houses the bar and a small old fashioned Ferris Wheel that you can ride on. It also has a slide that goes under a small pond. The pond has stepping stones that go from one side to the other. The roof also has a school bus that had actually worked once, extending past the edge of the building. You can walk in the school bus, and open the door from the driver’s seat. Also found on the roof are a giant rope swing contained in a free-standing aluminum dome underneath the roof’s centerpiece; a giant metal praying mantis. You can climb a series of enclosed metal ladders inside the dome to an exit at the top.
The three of us spent upwards of three hours running around the museum like little kids on sugar highs. We had a glorious time, staying till they closed their doors at one am.
The next day we had breakfast with Chuck and then headed back down to Ft. Leonard Wood, so I could begin my trial run as a military housewife for the week.