We rolled out of bed at 0400 this morning to head to LAX to catch the great silver bird to St. Louis via Phoenix. The trip went as well as could be expected while traveling in coach.
This is a photo of a map of the St. Louis area. The airport is in the upper center of the map, The convention center is in the old downtown, near the Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River. The St. Louis Metro Red line goes almost directly from the airport to our hotel.
At Lambert Field, we caught the St. Louis Metro train ($3.75/head) to downtown St. Louis. The two closest train stops are each about 2 blocks from our hotel, the Wyndham Mayfare Hotel. The hotel is one block from the entrance to the convention center and about 8 blocks inland from the Gateway Arch.
We registered at the convention center for the SAA 75th Anniversary convention. Sandy is a fully registered attendee, I am a guest. So she will be in meetings most of the few days. I need to fend for myself.
One thing I am going to do is catch a Cardinals baseball game at Busch Stadium which is about 8 blocks away. Tomorrow afternoon is a day game, I will probably go to that one as it is more likely that I can get a reasonable ticket during a day game and tomorrow afternoon is absolutely packed on Sandy's schedule. She is not particularly interested in baseball anyway. I haven't been to a major league baseball game for many years. I'm STILL pissed off about the baseball strike and have personally boycotted MLB but I will suspend the boycott to got to a game at a stadium that I've never visited before.
We're going to hang out in the hotel recovering from the trip for the rest of the evening except for a foray out to get dinner. The hotel itself is pretty nice, it's old but has been renovated. Our room is actually a suite. It is quite comfortable however, there is a lingering scent of cigarette smoke in our "non-smoking" room. We can't argue about the price either, it is $129/night and it's smack in the right place.
I located a market a couple of blocks away. It was a big store that also sold prepared foods. I got some bread, a couple of bananas, some sodas for Sandy, some juice for me and a salad for dinner. Sandy had already crashed for the night.
Sandy left to start her long day in meetings and I walked over to Busch Stadium to see about getting some tickets. There was a line at the ticket booth when I got there a little before 0900. Apparently, a local radio station at 550 AM sponsors a promotion where they sell 550 tickets for $5.50 each (in pairs). The tickets are random and are handed out at the gate in exchange for a voucher. I bought two tickets although I will only use one because a regular game day ticket runs more than $30. I have no clue where my seat will be, but the day game is not likely to be a sell out so I will probably be able to move around. The Cardinals must be a big deal here because everyone I talked to on the street knew the game schedule.
From the stadium, I wandered down to the riverfront to the Gateway Arch. The arch is run by the National Park Service. There is no charge to enter, but there are charges for the tram ride to the top and to the movies. The tram ride was $10 and I went up. The movies were $14 each for a half hour or so each so I passed.
630 ft is a long way up so that there is a tram ride to the top. The tram is a string of eight little pods that ride on a cable system. There are five seats in there and it is pretty cramped with 5 adults in a car. I had to sit in the center set just to have enough headroom. It takes about 5 minutes to ride to the top.
The arch is 630 feet to the top and there is a row of observation windows along the east and west faces. This is a view of the convention center area. Our hotel is not visible, it's behind the building with the angle braces at the upper left. The convention center is to the right.
This is Busch Stadium as seen from the arch. This is a new stadium, completed in 2006, that replaces the old one that was in essentially the same place. The south half of the new one was built right next to the old one. Then the old one was torn down and the north half of the new one was completed. The other side is the river and a sparsely populated area.
On the way back to the hotel, I grabbed a sandwich and returned to the hotel for lunch. Just after I finished it, Sandy showed up and wanted to go to lunch. I needed to leave at noon to get back to the ball park so we left together and I showed Sandy the store I found last night. She went there and I continued to the stadium.
My random tickets were in the loge area right behind the right field foul pole. While it was kind of far out, I was in the shade and I could see plenty well enough. Later in the game, I moved around in the area a couple of times to stay in the shade. Most of the seats in this part of the stadium were empty.
The Astros did not play like an 0 for 8 team and they won 5 to 1 in a game that lasted less than 2.5 hours. The weather was virtually perfect for a day game, about 80°F with a light breeze. Food in the stadium was priced way high, a hot dog and a beer would cost more than $14. My sandwich was sitting on me pretty heavily and I didn't feel like eating anything. I got water for my water bottle from a nearby drinking fountain so that the game cost me a total of $11.
After the game, I walked back to the hotel and settled down to wait for Sandy. We'll get dinner somewhere and then she goes back for more meetings.
Today, Sandy attended more sessions at the SAA and I got on the Metro light rail for a trip to Forest Park. Forest Park is a VERY large park west of downtown St. Louis with a zoo in one corner, but I didn't know which corner. It seems that most of the other people that I ran into in the park didn't know either because each had a different idea of where it was. I did a lot of walking before I actually found a sign that pointed me in the right direction.
Once in the zoo, I started following the zoo map (which I picked up on the way in) around the various areas of the zoo. There was an outdoor penguin exhibit and I got there at feeding time. These are Humboldt penguins that are normally found along the coasts of Chile and Peru. The must tolerate heat well to be in an outdoor environment.
Behind the outdoor exhibit was an indoor penguin exhibit which the zoo keeps at 45°F. In it they had rockhopper penguins (pictured), king penguins, gentoo penguins and puffins.
After wandering around for a while I was in the grasslands area and found this obviously male Somalian Ass. There were also the standard grassland animals, but in the associated big cat area, they had two enclosures for Snow Leopards. I could see some fur behind some bushes in one of them.
There was a reptile house with the standard assortment of lizards and snakes, but I had never seen a Komodo Dragon close up. There was also a display of insects including all manner of beetles and spiders.
About noon, my feet were getting pretty tired so I decided to take a break and rode the park train all the way around back to near the penguin exhibit to get lunch at a stand where they were grilling some nice looking hamburgers. They were half pound Angus beef burgers and I was surprised to find that they cost $5.56, a pretty normal meal price. Then I rode the train back to the last exhibit area, a river environment exhibit where the elephants and hippos were, and then made my way out.
On the long walk back to the Metro station, I got rained on, but I had an umbrella so I didn't get very wet. By the time I got back to the hotel, my feet were killing me and I just crashed for a nap until Sandy returned.
Today is the last day of the SAA convention, but our flight does not leave until tomorrow evening. Sandy is at meetings until noon. I will check us out at 1100 and either wait for her in the lobby of the hotel or the lobby of the convention center. Then we get on the Metro to ride back to the airport where we have reserved a rental car. From there, we drive back through St. Louis to visit the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park area just across the river in Illinois. After seeing that, we drive back through St. Louis into central Missouri for about 60 miles to the Meramec Caverns where we find a motel for the night. Sunday, we drive back toward St. Louis to stop at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation for the afternoon until it closes then we drive the last 15 or 20 miles back to the airport to catch our flight home. We'll see how this all works out.
So far, the plan is working. We got back to the airport about 1300 and found our rental car. Then we drove east along I-70 into Illinois to the Cahokia Mounds State Park.
This is a mural of what the mounds may have looked like in about
1250 AD. This city as bigger than London or Rome in it's day, both
in area and population. The mounds are built from dirt scooped up
in baskets and carried by hand and dumped, millions of them. The
largest mound is believed to be the chief's house and ceremonial
site. The lesser mounds probably had similar functions for lesser
elites. Most were square, but there are circular ones that are
burial mounds. The city was there for about 500 years overall and
was abandoned before 1400 AD.
This is what the biggest mound looks likes now. It has eroded down some and obviously the concrete steps weren't there. There were wooden steps there then. This is the only mound that the public can climb, it's about 150 ft high now.
After we left the mounds, we drove west in I-55 and I-44 to the city of St. Clair in east central Missouri and found a nice room at a Super 8 motel. The Meramec Caverns are about 10 miles further down the road. We'll be there when it opens at 0900 tomorrow.
Yesterday was a busy day so no posting. I was preparing this page on the airplane ride home, but the guy in front kicked his seat back and jammed my computer into my gut so I elected to wait until it was more comfortable to work.
The trip went pretty much according to plan. I took lots of pictures from the Meramec Caverns and about 150 pictures at the Museum of Transportation, this is just a sampling.
We stayed at a motel about 10 miles east of the caverns and got there just after they opened on Sunday. Meramec Caverns one of the few privately owned caverns left in the country. They charge $19 a head to get in for about an hour tour. The cavern is well "improved with good floors, walkways, stairs and lighting. At one time, the caverns were used by the James gang to hide their loot. It was also used by both the North and South during the Civil War as a phosphate (bat guano) mine for the manufacture of gunpowder. At various times it was also a dance hall and TV and movie set.
This is one of the larger formations in the cave. It is all lit in various colors for use in a light show at the end of the tour. Some of the ceilings were a little low for me so I spent a lot of time hunched over watching the ceiling and I missed some of the stuff as I was walking by, but that is life when one is tall. My back felt it by the time we left.
We left the caverns sometime before 1100 and headed back east up I-44 (old Route 66) nearly all the way to St. Louis and then headed north on I-270 to the Museum of Transportation. When we got there we found a mixed collection. Some of the exhibits are stored such that photography is easy, some of it is packed into carbarns so tightly that there is hardly room to walk much less get any kind of a good photo angle. I picked four interesting pieces where I could get a good angle and lighting to put on this page. There were MANY more pieces in the collection.
The Burlington Zephyr is a famous piece. There weren't many to begin with but most of them have survived. This was the engine/baggage car from the first type of streamlined trains ever made. The cars were not in the collection, they were articulated sets of about 4 or 5 cars.
Another interesting and absolutely massive piece is the bipolar electric loco run by the Milwaukee Road for use in the Cascade tunnels. It gets it name from the unusual motors. The stators have two poles formed as flat plates that are mounted on the locomotive frame. The armatures are wrapped right around the axles without gearing. They can ride up and down between the stator field pieces. These locos did their jobs until replaced by newer electrics and eventually diesel locomotives.
SP 4460 is a GS4 4-8-4 type steam locomotive. These were famous for pulling the top of the line Southern Pacific passenger trains. These are among the handsomest steam locomotives ever made.
Every museum worth it's salt has to have a Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy. These monsters were used to haul both passengers and freight up the Sherman Grade in southern Wyoming. On the flat, one of these puppies could pull a 5 mile train. These were the longest, but not the heaviest, steam locos ever made. They were certainly the most successful of the large articulated locos though.
After we left the museum in mid-afternoon, we drove further north and a little east to reach the airport where we gassed up, got an early dinner, turned in the rental car and returned to the airport to await our flight to San Francisco and then connect to a flight home. We got in at 0100 this morning.
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© 2009-2010 George Schreyer
Created April 14, 2010
Last Updated April 19, 2010