Last weekend, Jordan and I went to St. Louis, Missouri for the first time together. We aspire to see every state and we were able to see four new ones on this trip: Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas! We had a pretty perfect southern road trip on our hands: going up through Nashville, looping around St. Louis and coming down through Memphis and Tupelo. Here are a few things I learned (or didn’t) in a short 48 hours.
Kentucky has a lot of corn. There was corn in every direction! I couldn’t believe the crazy amount of corn I was looking at. Among the corn there were really old silos and barns that clearly were only standing for aesthetic now. As an avid Stephen King fan, I continued to make sure that the cars around us were driven by adults. Kentucky was able to give us a nice sunset, though. Thanks Kentucky.
We were able to make it all the way to Paducah before having to get gas! Pro: thank you Mazda for making such fuel efficient cars. Con: Paducah, Kentucky. Just saying the name costs me brain cells. Right? Well, no, actually! Jordan and I have another aspiration to visit as many Best Buy stores as possible (we worked for them for 7 and 6 years, respectively) and wouldn’t you know it, their cash registers were touch screen and their card readers were equipped for chips and NFC!!! A kid in Mobile lied to me about the quality of an Insignia product but I can’t blame him (that’s where the margin is yall) but I told him that his store made me feel like our stores were backwater and hillbilly. HA. Paducah, Kentucky made me feel technologically slighted. HA. HA.
Anyway. It was dark now and we crossed into Illinois. I couldn’t see anything but I was assured that there was nothing but corn. Corn this way. Corn that way. Dark and eerie corn. The stars were superbly visible, however, and I don’t care what Jordan tells you, I saw a UFO. We passed a federal prison soon after and I realized that I had never seen one in real life. Ok. I can scratch that one off my list. Who places a federal prison near an interstate? I don’t know. Illinois smelled really bad all the way through. It was probably Chicago (even 302 miles away).
(Traveling home was a little less interesting. Arkansas was very flat, we saw a hooker in Memphis and Mississippi gave us oversized ice cream cones (who knew) and tarot card readings out of a trailer.)
Hi St. Louis! (Pic near midnight, excited hales, fast driving Jordan) First and foremost, our reason for this trip was the NTDC (National Truck Driving Championship). It’s a bunch of truck drivers gathered in one place to celebrate highway safety and their personal contributions to it! My father in law so happened to be Alabama’s Grand Champion for 2015! We had obligations from the start: an early awards ceremony, a parade, and a closing winner’s dinner but we were able to squeeze in a lot of the city like we wanted to. I truly surprised myself with our planning and efficiency (go us!) Early Saturday morning, we crowded into the St. Louis dome (go rams?) and got to see off the competition trucks. That night we got to get snazzy and drink a lot of free alcohol. (Side note: the lady doling out the booze had no idea what Pinot Grigio and Sauvingnon Blanc were…she also had no knowledge of drink-to-alcohol ratios.)
Our number one priority was going up the arch. Easily achieved. Overwhelmingly informational and surprisingly cramped. Unquestionably a once in a lifetime experience. Even with pre purchased tickets, it still took an hour to get to the weird gyro-pod that took us the the top! It was not an hour wasted though, similar to our Vulcan Museum, the architectural feat and it’s achievements are littered on the walls. However, one thing that threw me off was a large screen printing of an unfinished arch, presumably before the keystone was placed to connect the ends, that they had mirrored into another print that was hanging on the opposite wall. I suppose the aim was to make you feel like you were floating between them. The strangest thing about it was that they photoshopped out the details of the Mississippi River as though to present a different photo regardless of the fact that the men present were identical. Did people buy this? Did people notice this? I noticed this. I found it sloppy.
Fancy tidbit: The construction of the arch was met with protests from the African American community due to unequal representation in the workforce. Thus began the road to the Equal Opportunity laws that all of us are protected by today.
It takes 4 minutes to get to the top, it’s super crowded and there are very tiny windows and it’s hard to see anything initially. We finally weaseled in and saw the coolest view. The photo is of the Cardinal’s stadium from this POV. This experience left me in awe. This structure. This dream come true. Wow.
Did You Know: at 630 feet, the arch is the tallest national monument in the country!
City Garden was another place I really wanted to visit. It’s an urban greenspace that I had originally thought was only a sculpture garden. I was pleased to see the watering hole it actually was and we rested here for a while. In addition to weird statues like people in pink suits with no heads, an oversized Pinocchio hugging the sky and circles that were too obviously not perfectly aligned, there was a natural pool, dancing fountains and permanent ice cream trucks. While plopped under a tree and casually people watching, we heard a weird tune: Oh Come All Ye Faithful in all of its mobile frozen treat glory. Followed by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and then Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Not sure what it was about but nobody else seemed to question it. We were questioning it.
On Sunday we visited the zoo. It was large and I underestimated the time it would take to see it all. It was 4x as big as our zoo in Birmingham but the difference in animals was slight. The most impressionable thing was a rare False Gharial (I love alligators and large reptiles so I had to catch my breath at that beauty). Also worth noting was the new Polar Bear exhibit, home to a big sleepy boy and the insect house, home to very cool but very large bugs!!!! The biggest difference was the foliage. It felt like another land. I found myself paying more attention to plants, sometimes. This zoo is big on conservation and that’s an admirable trait to us.
Cool Thing: the scratchiness of a cat’s tongue is keratin growth and when they lick you you are being scratched by a million little fingernails.
Some strange things that took place here included the pee curse. No, not my personal pee– I seem to have a knack of coming to an exhibit at the right time to catch animals relieving themselves. It’s almost hilarious but also it’s just a bunch of what? Another bunch of what? was listening to the people around me being offended by animal butts. That was seriously something I got tired of getting tired of. Kids were like ew butts and parents were like put some pants on you have company and here I am butts are okay everybody has butts you have a butt you will always have a butt your butts do the same thing!!! Jordan made some A+ dad jokes and we enjoyed probably the best icees of our lives. It’s free and heavily shaded. Take your walking shoes.
The whole time in the city, a serious question was buzzing in my brain. A simple question but a necessary one. Where the hell am I? The architecture surrounding us was dated in the lush and showy details of the past whereas the establishments were all very modern. The juxtaposition was fun and interesting and subtly disorienting. Not to mention… We got up early and we got up before everybody. The city was a ghost town until 10:30. Seven hours from Birmingham, we were pretty far north in my eyes. When we got to our hotel room I was pleased to find no Bibles or traveler’s prayers! The tea was unsweet! The only person constantly saying thank you was me! There was a shortage of frontbutts! They only offered Pepsi products! I knew I had made it to the north. Well I was wrong. 42 years after row vs wade: 55,000,000 babies murdered wrong. Missouri is not southern. Missouri is grossly conservative. The confusion is so aggressive that I don’t even know if Missouri, itself, knows what it is! No sugar and no manners, Jesus signs about saving babies and yet the arch boasts “Gateway to the West!” What!?
Sensory overload and all, we loved cramming as much of weird St. Louis as we could into our little weekend. Blood, sweat, sore feet, sunburns and a multitude of cheesy souviners later, it was productive and adventurous and we most definitely will return.