Friday, September 24, 2010Last night was sort of rough, lol. I slept in my car in Hawn State Park, about 90 minutes south of Saint Louis. The sign read "Picnicking Only," but I felt this was just a suggestion, lol, so I parked there in the huge empty lot for the night. There wasn't a stray light to be found, and with the campground out of sight, it was just me and the trees. Wonderful right? Well I don't know why, but there's just something about staying in a car versus staying in a tent, that sends my mind reeling with scenarios of terror. Why oh why did I have to watch all of those horror films?! I think I'm a pretty level-headed guy, and I knew the odds of me getting my face hacked off by some escaped mental patient were low, however, even with the security system armed and my deep love for nature, it was difficult getting to sleep. Yet, when I'm in my tent [without any security], I feel safe, cocooned within its walls. Go figure.
My first stop in Saint Louis was the headquarters of the world's largest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch. It's 5 o' clock somewhere, right? The complimentary factory tour took us through the historic Budweiser Clydesdale Stable (the horses were right on cue standing right in front of the mural of Clydesdales on the truck in the background, lol), Beechwood Lager Cellars, and Bevo Packaging Facility. The Brew House was closed for the day due to regular maintenance. Did I mention the Budweiser takes you to the hospitality room for free beer and pretzels at the end of the tour? And they don't skimp. I was expecting sample cups. No, no, no. They give you a full glass, and provide seconds, and probably thirds if you wanted. I opted for Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale (brewed with golden delicious pumpkins and select seasonal spices, including nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and clove). The taste of pumpkin, if any, was very subtle. I chased it with a glass of Bud Light Lime (the splash of lime makes all the difference). It smelled and tasted just like Fruit Loops, which was perfect considering it was 11 in the morning!
Afterward, I went to the Saint Louis Gateway Arch, where for $10 (only $7 with my America The Beautiful National Park Annual Pass) I was able to hop into a space-like, 5-person tram pod that takes you up to a little observation room at the top. At 630 feet, The Arch is the tallest national monument in the United States, trumping even the Washington Monument in DC by 75 feet! The span of the Arch legs at ground level is 630 feet, the same as its height. One a clear day, the thirty-two windows in the viewing station allow visibility of up to 30 miles, providing stunning views across the Mississippi River, southern Illinois, and Saint Louis County. Great photo opportunities! The entrance to each leg of the Arch contains a different informational exhibit. The north leg display includes photographs and information about the construction of the Arch. The south leg display shows life along the St. Louis riverfront in the 1800s.
What would follow is a visit to the most wacky, whimsical wonderment I've ever been to: City Museum - "Where the imagination runs wild!" "Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum is an eclectic mixture of playground, fun-house, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects, requiring even the most jaded adult to experience it through as freshly as a four year old. Twenty welders, masons, sculptors, and painters work full-time to re-assemble architectural relics salvaged from local buildings slated for destruction and other "leftovers" into a delightful and disorienting collection of pits, tans, slides, tubes, tunnels, chutes, caves, ponds, and mazes. This continually changing work of art has outgrown three floors of the old factory and has spilled over onto the parking lot and up the side of the ten-story building to the ferris-wheel on the roof. It's interesting to note that founder Bob Cassilly actually created the museum for adults (hence the 1 AM closing time of Fridays and Saturdays)!"
Tonight was the first time I slept at a rest stop. Up until recently I was hesitant about it for two reasons. 1: All the rest stops I checked out when I began my trip like Michigan for example, had signs warning "No Overnight Parking," and "Patrolled by Police." So much for Mid-Western hospitality. 2: My dad told me it was unsafe, and he went so far as to say that there are wackos that will specifically target overnight cars at rest stops to mess with. That's a much different account than the one my friends Matt & Clarissa had, who told me they encountered no trouble whatsoever when they stayed overnight at them. Well, there were no signs against overnight parking, so I decided to give it a try, and my experience was a positive one. That's not to say I slept like a baby, no way. It was a little nerve-racking after remembering what my dad said, and being in new surroundings. Every noise would make me prop up and look out my windows to see if anyone was "coming for me," lol. So between sleeping last night in the state park away from the campground, and sleeping at the rest stop, I think I'm currently operating on 8 hours of intermittent sleep.
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