Monday, July 04, 2016

Epic Motorcycle Ride Day 2: Dale, In to St. Louis, MO

We woke up super early to get a head start on St. Louis traffic. The first step was to clean off the helmet, which I had failed to do the night before. This is a learning experience, and I learned. I won't soon do that again. Seeing this entymological carnage, I honestly had to question how people ride without helmets.

Step 2 was to grab my RBICI t-shirt...

...and then we were off to grab an early morning cup of coffee. 

We stopped at the Chuckles, hoping to get our first cup of decent joe on the whole trip. And, failed. At least they know how to make gas, so I filled up the Multistrada... 

While Brad filled up his Connie...

...and off we went. The approach to St. Louis is cool in that you come around a highway bend and see the Arch a long way off, a sort of amuse bouche, as you approach the city. We went across the Martin Luther King, Jr. bridge, and the roads were surprisingly empty. Not unclogged. Not light. Empty. It was a little spooky at that point, almost like something had happened and we were uninformed because of a lack of attachment to news outlets. Weird. First stop? The Arch, of course!

There is a boatload of construction around the Arch these days as they refurbish the grounds of the monument. As such, parking is at a premium, and we were not really sure where to park. Brad pulled into a church parking lot, but we were not sure if it was legal and permissable to park there. As we pulled up, we saw two women who we thought could answer our question. 

After a short and friendly conversation, they said it was okay for us to park there. Friends in high places. Sweet. 

I knew the Arch was big, but standing under it gave me a new appreciation for just what an undertaking it must have been. 

With zero wait, we got in the queue to board the pod and take a four minute ride to the top. 

The entrance is a four-foot tall door, entering into a claustrophobic pod.  "Four minutes to the top. I can do this," I told myself. "Just breathe." I hate tight spaces, perhaps even more because it had been so long since I was i n one, and quite the opposite, having been on the bike so much. Still, I had a feeling the trip would be worth it, and this is something I definitely wanted to cross off my bucket list. "Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

The view did NOT disappoint. There were three things of note. First, Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals. They were not in town, but the stadium still had some activity in it. It must be a pretty place to see a ballgame, and I'd love to do it sometime (Bucket List, with Wrigley and Fenway). Brad was talking about how he grew up listening to Jack Buck, and never realizing just what an incredible game-caller he was, because he was just the hometown guy, and you take those things for granted, especially as a kid and young man. I had the exact same experience, growing up listening to Harry Kalas, voice of the Phillies, and it was his voice with Richie Ashburn, that formed the soundtrack of my Summers for many, many years. They don't make them like that, anymore. 

Second, the Mighty Mississippi. I don't think it's wider than the Susquehanna at home; it's just bigger. What lies bbenath that muddy surface is unmistakeably powerful, and not to be trifled with. 

Third, you can see everything! This is a shot of the construction below. In the center, you can see the church, and to the left, our bikes parked. 

When Brad and I went down to get back on, there was a woman, decidedly unfriendly, stuffing leaflets in our bikes. I thought she was a fan of Italian machinery. I was wrong.
Her: Are these your bikes?
Us: Yes
Her: You can't park here.
Us: Actually, we talked to someone in the church who said we could.
Her: I'm the only one who works here.
Us: Oh no. They most Definitely worked here.

Then Brad showed her the picture, and while she did not get any friendlier, she did relent and told us to move along. Weird that our first unfriendly person should be encountered in the Midwest, where kindness and hospitality are an important part of their way of life. Off to visit Brad's friend, Keith. 

Keith was a GREAT host, his hospitality washing away the rudeness of the parking attendant. He showed us the town of St. Louis (it really does feel more like a town than a city). We saw beautiful architecture, tree-lined streets, and incredible homes right in the city. At one point, we snuck into a PRIVATE community, and I picked out a house I wanted. Keith stopped, and I jumped out so Brad could snap a pic. There goes the neighborhood.  
We went for drinks, poolside at a local hotel and a steak dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club (Nice, but no sign of Joe Buck).

Then we headed for Keith'ss home for a deep, deep night's sleep. 

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