I never knew my Uncle Stewart. He gave his life fighting for his country in World War II. He’s buried in a single grave with the remains of 25 other servicemen at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, and Tuesday morning I paid my respects. As happened with many deaths during the war, the circumstances of his death were never fully recorded.
The morning brought something I had yet to see on the trip – overcast weather. Until, I’ve seen only a few clouds, which is pretty amazing for this time of year. The weather seemed to match the mood of the city this morning, after both the Cardinals and the Rams both lost critical games last night. Everyone from the morning TV anchors to the folks as the hotel front desk seemed just a little bummed.
Although I didn’t really have a plan of all of the things I wanted to see on this trip, there were a few things that I did want to do. That list included the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I didn’t have any idea what to expect, and I was surprised at the sheer scale of the monument. I’ve seen it from the air, but that doesn’t come close to the view from its base. The visitors’ center and access to the elevators are located underground, between the ends of the arch.
You ride to the top in these little white pod-like elevators. Each seats 5 and takes 4 minutes to get to the top. It would not be a happy ride for those with claustrophobia, and there’s no escape once you get moving. The “elevators” kind of tilt and shimmy their way to the small observation area. The arch was built in the 1960’s, and the elevators look like they came straight from a science-fiction movie of that era.
The view from the top is fantastic, through little rectangular slit windows with downtown St. Louis to the west, and the Mississippi River and Illinois to the east.
By the time I descended to the park below, the rain had started. Fortunately, the next activity was mostly inside. The Budweiser brand started in St. Louis, and its largest brewery is still there. I’ve seen macro-breweries before, and really had no desire to see another beer mega-factory. What I did want to see were the Budweiser Clydesdales, and their historic stable on the brewery grounds. Add Clydesdales to the list of things that I think are just cool.
Budweiser ends the tour in the tasting room, but I was driving, so I didn’t inhale. Plus, it was Budweiser, and being from Oregon I’m really supposed to be a beer snob. (I’m really not, and I don’t drink coffee either.)
Then the slog east began, as it has on nearly every day this trip. I’ll admit I didn’t plan enough time for this journey. You could triple the time and not even have enough to brush all the highlights.
The drive today was challenging, as after leaving St. Louis the rain began in earnest and the freeway corridors in this part of the country have truck traffic like we never seen in the northwest.
Then the trip’s perfect luck ran out. Fortunately, all new cars come equipped with a mandated piece of safety technology called a “Tire Pressure Monitoring System.” I’m cruising down the freeway at 70 mph and a low tire pressure warning light came on. Fortunately I was only a couple of miles to a rest area, where it was safe to work on the car. Without the TPMS, I would not have known about the tire issue until the tire was nearly flat, and I would have been stuck on the side of the 70 mph freeway.
A couple of the lug nuts were too tight to remove with the included wrench, so a call to AAA was made and 30 minutes later a tow truck came along to switch me to the spare. While many new cars don’t come with spares anymore, the 2014 Sorento does. The tow driver, a proud NASCAR dirt track champion, led me to the small town tire shop where they found not a nail or screw, but a small animal bone had punctured the tire.
Here’s where it got a bit bizzare. These five crew cut Midwestern boys were working in the back of the shop loudly singing along to Ricky Martin’s Living la Vida Loca. Badly. I think what they were actually singing was Giving la Viva Local. Not kidding. It got worse when Adele came on. Much, much worse.
After a two-hour delay got moving again. In the rain, and the fog, and then the dark. Southern Illinois is a very flat place.
And tomorrow I do it again. But probably no Clydesdales. And hopefully no flat tire.
Start: St. Louis, Missouri
End: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Total miles: 353
States: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky
Tomorrow: Somewhere East of here.