On our roadtrip at the end of December, we had a brief stop in St. Louis, Missouri, and got to see see the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch. I have been to the arch once before, but never to the top of the Arch. You can ride a tram in the little egg shaped compartments that roll on a fully encased track to the viewing area at the top. I still haven’t ridden to the top.
The trip on the tram takes about an hour and a half. We were in a rush to get to Ohio to see my dad in the hospital, so we didn’t have time to ride up. Alex sat in the display car at the visitors center under the Arch, which contained an interesting mixture of a gift shop, a display on westward expansion, and an old-timey mercantile store.
It was freezing the day we were there, with a cold, gusty wind blowing all around, and the chance of snow mounting every second we stayed in St. Louis. The main attraction for us in going into the underground visitor’s center was the fact that it was warm in there. We three California weather wimps were not prepared for exactly how cold it would be.
Like many of our national monuments, the Gateway Arch is guarded by metal detectors and somewhat hostile security guards who take their jobs very seriously. The young woman ahead of me in line had a small vial of pepper spray in her purse, which they made a huge deal about, as though she had a bomb strapped to her belt to go along with the keychain full of pepper spray. She told them to keep it, but they insisted on interrogating her about the reason she decided to COME TO A NATIONAL MONUMENT fully ARMED when there were KIDS AROUND. I felt sorry for her, since she clearly didn’t even know she had it in the bottom of her purse. The guards seemed to be enjoying making the woman squirm, while most people just filed on in without as much as a sideward glance from them.
So, a word to the wise: check your purse for unruly keychains before entering national monuments. For some reason, this reminded me of a trip I took with my girlfriends when I was still single and oh-so-carefree. My friends and I were on a roadtrip through the Pacific Northwest, when we were stopped at the Canadian border for a routine customs check. The very earnest customs official asked my friend who was driving if we were “carrying any protection.” She looked at him and said, “Protection? You mean like condoms? Never leave home without them.”
The guard turned the color of a mai tai and said, “Uh, no, ma’am…I mean…firearms.”
She replied, “No, no firearms. Do we need some?”
He waved us through, and we high-fived each other all the way to Vancouver. This was, of course, before 9/11. Now, customs officials are way more serious and we would likely be strip-searched for remarks like that.
Anyway, the Gateway Arch is somewhat of an architectural marvel, and a must-see for any visit to St. Louis. Maybe next time, I’ll actually take that ride to the top. I’ve always wanted to ride in a metal egg.