St. Louis Day

Day 4 — Thursday, September 20

A full day in St. Louis, dubbed “Gateway to the West”.  Room service brought piping hot oatmeal with apple slices on trays, complete with flowers, a nice start for our busy day.

We three ladies headed to Collinsville in East St. Louis to see the Cahokia Mounds and Woodhenge, where Native Americans lived and built a sophisticated trading city 900-1400 AD.  No one knows what happened to them — famine, plague or predators — but they left a physically beautiful and historically fascinating site.  Its striking visitor/interpretive center is free.  That morning it was flooded with two school groups having a ball, but they were pin quiet during a 15-minute film tracing the civilization’s evolution, the 2,200 acre site and its 65 tribal mounds.  You can walk through its re-created lifesized village, climb the mounds, and a few minutes nearby, puzzle over Woodhenge, a vast circle of aged wooden poles, probably for ceremonies.

Next up, still in East St. Louis, the Chain of Rocks Bridge.  This bridge used to bring Route 66 traffic across the Mississippi River, but newer highways serve that function now.  Today the Chain of Rocks Bridge is billed as “the world’s largest pedestrian and bicycle bridge.”  We walked to its center for a photo, and once you step on the bridge, the city and rest of the world fall away.  Peaceful, beautiful, windy.

Back into the city, straight to its famous arch and along the river we went, primed for a paddlewheel boat ride on the Mississippi River.  Its horn blasted and we chugged off.  It felt pretty cool to be on the Mississippi looking at the city and land from the water.  During our hour ride, we passed numerous freight barges, some as long as 2-3 football fields.  A nice experience, but I was disappointed the paddlewheels didn’t move;  the boat was powered by engines.

We finished the day with a ride to the top of the famous Gateway Arch.  The shining stainless steel arch is simple but stunning.  Designed by Finnish architect, Eero Saarinen, it soars to 630 feet.  The trip up is by a tram that operates like a cog train; you ride in egg-shaped pods which seat five people.  It takes only 4 minutes to the top where you can walk a long corridor with narrow windows that give a nearly 360 degree view.  The trip down is even faster, 3 minutes.

At dusk, we dropped Dee at the Amtrak Station for her train back to Ft. Worth, and we returned to the beautiful Union Station Marriott for our last night in this historical hotel.

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