Friday, May 9, 2014

At the Arches

We gathered early for the first leg of our trip. Seventeen teenagers, seven adults, three vans, and one storage trailer filled with various and sundry tents, equipment, and food. Supplies were crammed into every empty space beneath and between the seats of each vehicle. The first part of the camping trip began in Acme, Pennsylvania with the target of St. Louis, as the destination, 650 miles away.
It was a long way. They continuous driving was broken up only by a midday meal, restroom breaks, and fuel fill-ups. We arrived in St. Louis at the worst time. It was rush hour. We had plans to ride up to the top of the Gateway Arch. Traffic was at a standstill. While we were stopped in traffic, we could see the Arch across a small, raised grassy area. We wanted to eat before our ride to the top of the Arch. Everyone piled out and headed across the lawn, except the drivers. The drivers kept going, ever so slowly, while the passengers made their way to the restaurant.
The restaurant floated on the Mississippi River. It was a barge that had been reconstructed to resemble a paddlewheel steamboat. Arches rose over the restaurant as well. It was a McDonald’s. Finally, the drivers found a place to park after escaping the vehicular nightmare and. Hurried to eat before meeting everyone at the base of the Gateway Arch. We toured the several museums, shops, and exhibits at the building at the bottom.
When it was time for our tour, a guide led us through some doors and down a series of stairs. In groups of five, we stood outside of several narrow doors that reminded me of the door for hens in a chicken coop. It wasn’t long before we heard a series of clicks and then light that escaped through the cracks around the doors. The light grew stronger and the clicking louder, finally coming to a stop. The doors opened and passengers escaped.
Peering inside, it looked like an egg shape from the inside. Once inside, it did nothing to dissuade that thought. There were five seats, cheek to cheek, one seat opposite from the door and two on each side of the door.
The ride up was a bit disconcerting. The egg would slowly tilt to one side until there was a fifteen degree list. Then it would ratchet to vertical, edging its way to the top. Getting out of the egg, we were met with a curved floor arching to the top, lined with windows. The view of the capital building for ST. Louis was on one side and on the other, a panoramic view of the Mississippi River and the river traffic 670 feet below.
After spending time there, we descended to drive to a nearby church where we expected to sleep on the church floor, however, when we got there, many of the church members were there with snacks. They took campers by twos and threes to their homes for the night, providing showers, beds to sleep, and a breakfast before returning us to the church for our next leg of our journey West.

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