Thursday, September 10, 2015

St. Louis - Gateway To The West

Sep 10, 2015

Writing this post in Ellis, Kansas. That's about two-thirds of the way across the very flat, very wide open state. At the eastern end of Kansas is Missouri. Ahead of us, Colorado. (And that's where I finished writing this post, lying in bed in a La Quinta Inn in the pretty town of Loveland, Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains).

We left Duba and drove another long day. Poor Little Biggie, he just lies on the back seat, a collection of white fur, sleeping the day away, with an occasional break for gas, lunch or stretching at an Interstate rest stop. Having said that, he's a wonderful traveler and companion. At one Kansas rest stop there was an open field and, like back home in Prospect Park, we played fetch the ball. Was he thrilled! A model of ectatic exuberance.

But I digress. Here's my one-word impressions of the states we've traveled through thus far:

Ohio. Corn.

Indiana. Corn.

Illinois. Corn.

Missouri. Corn.

We did see a lot of soy beans too. But, like our last car trip to the west coast, it did show us that corn is king as it used for so much more than feed. And certainly not in healthy ways for us or the planet.

This is our country's bread basket and the highway, Interstate 70, traverses endless miles of corn fields with a great big sky all around us. Besides corn, as I noted, there's lots and lots of soy beans and wheat (didn't see that) and grain sorgum. Oh yes, sunflowers - sometimes miles of sunflowers. What a sight when the sun hits those yellow flowers.

Our route as of today...NYC to Ellis, Kansas.

We arrived (finally) in Missouri on Tuesday night and checked in to our hotel, just north of the downtown section with its famous arch, the Gateway To The West. But driving there through Missouri, a big, black storm loomed ahead. From the distance it looked very much like a twister and when we finally drove into it, vicious winds whipped tumble weeds across the highway and buffeted our car. And then rain. Lots of it. A bit scary but we survived and arrived.

A scary storm ahead on Interstate 70 in Missouri.
You never appreciate just how big something is until you can see it in person, in perspective to its surroundings. The St. Louis Arch is such an object. I've seen photos; I've heard people talk about it. But until you see it, well, it's big. Very big. And visible from miles away, towering over the city as you approach from the Illinois side of the Mississippi.

The view from our hotel hall window: St. Louis!
 The broad Market Street on right runs downtown to the Arch which is several
miles away on the waterfront. On the right is historic Union Station.
The building framed by the arch is the old courthouse.
We wanted to see the landmarked Union Station, seen in the photo above. When it was completed in the late 1800's it was the largest and busiest railroad station in the world. St. Louis was indeed, the gateway to the west and a genuine crossroads of commerce and an important port on the mighty Mississippi. Now the rail age beckoned after the west had been "settled" and the war against the indigenous people of our land settled in favor of the European immigrants and their armies of conquest:
"At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world. At its opening, it was the world's largest and busiest railroad station and its trainshed was the largest roof span in the world. In 1903, the station was expanded to accommodate visitors to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair." - Wikipedia article on Union Station.
We walked from our hotel to the station, a few blocks down Market Street. Union Station is a breathtaking and magnificent work of art and an architectural masterpiece. When airplanes became the preferred mode of travel (and probably automobile use had a great impact as well) the great railroads of the United States and the grand stations that were built to serve them, faded from the scene. Today, this beautiful building is a fancy hotel and shopping and dining arcade and only three interurban commuter trains call it home. Amtrak serves its passengers at a very much less elegant station several blocks away. But how wonderful that it has been preserved to be enjoyed and marvelled at today. We know what happened to so many others, New York's Pennsylvania station being a prime example.

Occupying a full block of Market Street, Union Station is a magnificent
architectural gem of a bygone era.

Intricate iron work on these elegant lamps in front of Union Station.

This was the waiting room of Union Station.
It just blew us away with the design and detail of its workmanship.
Today the lobby of a Double Tree hotel. But we're glad it was not demolished!

Look at the women statuary holding lamps and then see the women in the bas relief holding aloft globes of illuminated cut glass as well!

Stained glass window.

Need a bathroom anyone? Elegance pervades.

These windows face the train shed (no longer used).
It is 11 acres in size and was
once the largest enclosed space on the planet.

A long view of the waiting room.

Signage shows the history of Union Station.

Lots of history in this place, pre air travel.
Here a skycap carries Eleanor Roosevelt's bags.

Awesome architecture. Brilliantly preserved!

On a previous road trip with my friend Lonnie to Cinncinatti we saw another example of these grand railroad stations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. You can see that here.

We had to keep to our driving schedule. So after our walk to Union Station we made our way back to the hotel and drove downtown to see the arch close up. But that wasn't to be because of construction which prohibited easy access. Friends had told us we had to go to the top to really appreciate it. But Biggie wasn't interested and us, not too much either. Besides, we had a date in Ellis, Kansas. Well, a motel reservation anyway and it was hundreds of miles away. That story is for another day.

Good night from Colorado....and that's for yet another day too.

 -- Matt

The St. Louis Arch - unapproachable because
of construction, no easy parking, a packed-up
car, etc. But it's enormous and a photo can't
really indicate just how big it is.

Good bye St. Louis. We're off to Kansas
and then to Colorado and the Rockies!



  1. Fabulous....wish I could meet you in St. Louis. I'd even do some of the driving....lots...or hold Little Biggie on my lap!!!! Have fun, fun, fun!!!!

  2. I've heard of the beauty of Union Station and the photos prove it

  3. I've heard of the beauty of Union Station and the photos prove it