While visiting the area near St Louis, Missouri, we
saw an ad for an RV park that was located in East St. Louis which
is in Illinois. We had our misgivings since we had previously
been warned about even setting foot in East St. Louis without
wearing riot gear. We had some friends who had stayed in the park
(the park being a part of the Casino Queen Gambling Boat Casino)
and they said it was fine. So, we decided to stay there. The
security was high. There was a chain link fence around the park,
and there was a shuttle service to and from the casino and to the
Metro-Link, which is an electric train that goes from East St.
Louis to St. Louis. The campground was a typical inner city
campground in that it was a large parking lot with
a few puny little trees. However it was in full view of the St.
Louis Gateway Arch.
Of course no trip to St. Louis would be complete without a visit to the famous Gateway Arch. It is the centerpiece of the "Jefferson National Expansion Memorial" which is a 91 acre park administered by the National Park Service. The most well known landmark of St. Louis, this stainless steel monument was the idea of Eero Saarinen, who submitted the idea to the national competition of 1947 to honor Thomas Jefferson. After winning, the idea hung around, stalled by funding and architectural problems, until it was started in 1963, and completed in 1965. It is an absolute marvel of engineering. There are two passenger trams; one in each leg of the arch, that carry visitors to the top of the Arch. Each tram has eight capsules, which hold five persons each. Passengers board the trams in the base of each leg for the 4 minute ride to the top. Electric motors keep the capsules level as they ascend and descend. After getting Bob inside one of these delightful trams several years ago, he felt that it wasn't necessary for him to undergo.....ah undertake this journey again. So instead we decided to investigate the underground area between the two base points which is a national museum filled with the most delightful things. In the entrance is a beautiful 3-D brick mural detailing many aspects of the arch. Inside the museum are included three fascinating animatronic characters, so life-like that they actually frightened one woman when one of them bent forward. This first character represents William Clark (of Lewis and Clark). In our travels we have visited many museums that featured either moving figures or (as in the case of the Heritage Museum in New Hampshire) figures that had hologram faces which actually aged as they spoke. However, these were among the most impressive and I am sure the most expensive due to the many moving parts. I would anticipate this type of animatonic figure as a model for wondrous presentations to come everywhere. The museum covered a wide variety of information about the westward movement of America towards St. Louis and beyond.
There is also an arch Odyssey Theater. The movies in here are shown on a giant four-story-high screen that actually makes you feel like your in the movie. While we were there they were showing "The Great American West" and "Wolves". In addition at their Tucker Theater they show "Monument to the Dream" which examines the ingenuity and complexity of the Arch design and provides a visual journey through each phase of construction.
Of course, no trip to the Arch would be complete without a stop at the Museum Store. They have lots of souvenirs to take home to friends and family.
Visiting the top of the Arch is truly awesome but the Museum, Theaters and Grounds provide a full day's entertainment for anyone who likes to learn the why's and wherefore's of our nation's landmarks.