We Arrived at the Gateway to the West

We arrived in St. Louis, MO, also known as the Gateway to the West around Memorial Day weekend.  We stayed in East St. Louis at the Casino Queen Campground, which is probably the only safe place be in East St. Louis.  It was actually a very nice park, with 24 hour security constantly driving around the parking lot and we felt very safe although just to be sure, we did not leave anything outside and for what it was worth, kept the RV locked at all times.  Security also provided transportation to and from the Metro and to the Casino, which was next door to the campground, in the event we felt lucky.  You can actually see the Arch from the campground.  Unfortunately, it was mostly overcast while we were in St. Louis but had the sun wanted to make an appearance, the sunset behind the Arch would have been pretty to see.  Maybe next time.

We had a delicious dinner sponsored by the St. Louis Local at Prime Steakhouse, the Casino Queen restaurant.

We have been sending postcards to our respective mothers so they too can travel vicariously along with us, as neither have access to the internet.  I really needed to go to the post office and didn’t want to drive across the river to downtown St. Louis so we decided to go just down the street to the nearest post office located in East St. Louis.  Upon entering I immediately realized this was not your typical post office.  It had 2″ thick bullet proof glass on the counter separating the customers from the postal workers with small openings similar to those of some banks for small transactions with a voice and listening amplifier.  It also had an interesting passthrough access for large parcels.  Since I also had a box to mail to Ashley, I had to use the large passthrough.  I had to lift the thick bullet proof hatch and once the package was placed inside it, shut the hatch close and lock it.  Only then would the postal worker unlock his hatch and open it to access the package.  He then retrieved the package and locked his hatch back up.  To provide me with a receipt, he then again unlocked the hatch, lifted the glass door, placed the receipt inside and proceeded to again relock his hatch.  Only then, was I able to unlock the outside door hatch and gain access to the receipt.  There was no possibility of ever having both panels opened simultaneously at any given moment.  Flashback – it reminded me of tv episodes where attorneys and detectives move throughout jails whereby only one door opens and the door behind shuts with a very loud clang.  Once I completed my transaction, we left quickly and uneventfully, but with a serious thoughts on our minds of how dangerous East St. Louis must be.  It’s the first post office I have ever visited with this type of security feature.

On one of the many rainy days, we opted to take the train to visit the Gateway Arch and walked from the station to the Arch following clearly marked painted directions on the sidewalks.  Now those are truly moron instructions, but so appreciated!

The Arch is the nation’s tallest monument standing at 630 feet in the air and made completely from stainless steel.  We took a journey to the top of the Arch and experienced unforgettable views of St. Louis and of the Mississippi River.

As we were walking toward the Arch, we wondered how many lives it had taken, only to learn that 0 lives were lost during the two years it took to build this project and it made us feel proud of the fact that it was built completely union.

How the tram works:

A view of an actual tram used to climb the Arch

Going up feels like an elevator until it begins its curved ascent and descent, then it just feels like a ferris wheel without the wobbling.

View of the entrance to the top of the Arch

5 seats to a tram

View of RV park we stayed in – ours is fourth from the top (or third from the bottom) on the left.

View of the city from the top of the Arch

While downtown, we stopped at the Old Courthouse which serves as the centerpiece of downtown St. Louis.  This was the courthouse where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom from slavery and where Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote.

The detail of the architecture is magnificent.

Courtroom where the Dred decision was made (freedom from slavery)

Courtroom where the Minor decision was made  (Women’s right to vote)

Later in the week we visited Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play with Pat and Mary Kellett.  We were treated like royalty and sat in club seats at the Champions Club, where we were fed endless amounts of food and drink.

We also visited the Vine, a Middle Eastern Restaurant in St. Louis which is owned by our friends, Tina and Isaam El-Khatib.  It was wonderful seeing Tina and “Sam” as he is referred to by his friends, and their three lovely children.  I had the best hummus ever (I even learned to make it myself), labna with bread, which is akin to  yogurt, kibbeh, veggie grape leaves, fallafel and lamb chops. 



Veggie grape leaves

We also visited the City Museum, which is a hands on jungle gym/play area constructed primarily with repurposed architectural and industrial material.  Kids and kids at heart (albeit they better be nimble and not quite as round if you follow my thoughts) climb in and crawl through a maze of tunnels making for a really fun experience.

Several days later we again met up with Pat and Mary Kelley at a really cool bar called Fast Eddie’s for lunch.  Fast Eddie’s claim to fame is to have really cheap food and really cold beer and both claims were true.  The bar was huge and it was packed.  Not an empty seat was available when we arrived and it stayed packed for the duration of time were there.   Live bands play all time, people dance and of course, it’s extremely loud.  No one under 21 is allowed (chronologically of course).

Looking for John, can you find him?

The following day we drove to St. Charles.  St. Charles is an adorable little town north of St. Louis with old style homes and cobblestone roads.  It was there that we were introduced to Michelob Golden Light.  The most delicious light beer ever!  Hard to find as it is only sold in a select market in the midwest.

I absolutely loved St. Charles and would return on a dime (but sorry, not in the Springtime).

Next on our horizon – Indiana.

Kansas City – Nascar, Golf and Baseball and Yes Even a Little of History Too!

We have left Arkansas on our way to Missouri.  We got tickets to the Spongebob Squarepants 400 Nascar race.  When we arrived, we were guided to our RV site.  We had a corner spot in one of several campground areas and thank goodness the spot in front of us was not purchased and we were able to pull right in.

There we met up with Ken and Renee Diaz, her cousin Rachel and husband, Curt.  We originally met Ken and Renee in Key West last October during our stay in the Keys.  They are Nascar fans and so it made the experience much for fun for us.

As you could see from the clouds, the sky was pretty ominous.  It rained quite a bit and because we were parked on grass, it got really muddy.  The area was so muddy that we had to bathe Jackson several times when he would return from his walks.   However, the races were actually fun.  We had tickets to go to the infield via the underground tunnel.   Now that was something I had never done before.

Below is a rooftop shot from RV parking spot.  Ken and Renee’s Motorhome was the brown one right next to the blue tent with the two cars parked in front, so we were actually pretty close to them. 

John, me, Curt, Rachel, Renee and Ken in the Infield

Infield tunnel 



The day after the race everyone was trying to get out, but there were more RVs stuck in the mud, than those who successfully got out.  I was incredibly surprised that considering our weight, we were able to get out without any mud or tire spinning.  We had no mud in the fenders either.  Yeaaa!!!! 

Afterwards we decided to stay in Peculiar, a small nearby town, so we could tour the area. 

We were aware that the area was under tornado watches, so when we arrived at the campground I asked the attendant what we should do in the event of a warning.  He just laughed and said they did not have a shelter in the campground.  So when I inquired further and told him that we were obviously not from the area and really wanted to know what to do, he hesitated and told me that tornados were actually fun.  Huh?  He then pointed to the south side of the campground and informed me that there was a ravine behind the trees and that we would see a rock wall as it used to be a quarry.  He said that if we needed to go somewhere that we could go into the ravine, stand against the rocks and that we would not feel any wind there, or perhaps if we preferred we could drive to the nearest shelter which was about 1 mile away.  REALLY?  Fortunately, we had no warnings, and all was well.  I would imagine you get used to living with watches

Last year, while wintering at Torrey Oaks in Florida, John bought me a rather gently used set of ladies’ golf clubs and since our friends, Cindy and Steve’s driving range was within a mile of the Peculiar campground, literally on the same road, we both took golf lessons and decided to hit balls as often as we could.  I apparently got so excited that on one of my swings the club left my hands and just flew backward only to get stuck above the garage door on the front of the building.  Oops, fortunately, no one was behind me or they would have gotten seriously injured.  I think in the future I might have to install a small lanyard to each of my clubs, “just in case”.   Darn, I just can’t seem to find the picture.  Oh well.

While in Peculiar we also connected with our friends, Gary and Sherry Davis, who also live nearby.  We went out to dinner and had fabulous bar-b-que meals in various establishments.  Since they had never been to the Harry Truman Presidential Library, we all decided to visit together. 

President Harry S. Truman

The different angles of The Oval Office during Harry Truman’s years in office.   Remember the cabinet tv’s?

If you look carefully, you might be able to see the US emblem embossed onto the carpet.  My how things have changed!

Truman’s saying:

Our friends Gary and Sherry had the good fortune of securing tickets to the Royals v. Yankees baseball game.   The seats were incredible.  We had a lot of fun watching the game, especially since the Royals won (sorry Yankees fans).  We even got to watch fireworks after the game.

Ugly sky but no rain!

We really enjoyed our stay in Kansas City but it was time to continue our journey so on to St. Louis we went.