We really needed the 3 weeks in order to accomplish our goal: a huge driving vacation from New England to the west. Specifically, we wanted to hit Colorado and New Mexico. Both places hold precious memories for my husband and I, and we have loads of precious friends we wanted to catch up on!
Even with three weeks, we had to make some hard decisions:
What do we see between here and there?
As much as I love exploring every state and historic site, I (as the vacation planner) had to focus on the goal: Colorado and New Mexico. That meant that a swing by my hometown was out of the question, as were the Creation Museum, Graceland, Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads, the world's largest ball of twine in Iowa, and a zillion other worthy sites between here and there.
But a man (and his wife and children) have gotta eat and sleep, too, so we decided to make a purposeful stop for the day in St. Louis to see the arch. This coincided with Ben's 13th birthday!
Waking up and serenading Ben in some Smalltown on I-70, Illinois:
We drove about an hour from our hotel to St. Louis where we had booked tickets (via the Core of Discovery website) for the tram up to the top of the arch as well as a river boat ride on the Mighty Mississippi.
Experimenting with my new camera, I put my back on the arch and shot straight up:
We arrived several hours before our reserved tram time, but since it wasn't too busy for a Sunday morning, we asked if we could take an earlier tram. Thankfully, they said yes!
Ready for the trip (Ben has put his brave face on -- he doesn't like heights):
After the arch, we decided to head over to the riverfront and eat a quick lunch. We asked again if we could take an earlier boat tour -- and they said yes!
Boarding the Tom Sawyer:
The River boat ride wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped, and the St. Louis riverfront isn't as beautiful as one might like. We did enjoy trying to capture the perfect "Stars and Stripes and Arch" picture:
After our boat ride (it was super muggy!) we happily went indoors to the Museum of Westward Expansion. This museum is under the arch, sharing the same lobby as the arch and gift shop. You cannot miss the big bear:
We did not watch any of the movies they show in the two theaters that flank the museum. One is about the construction of the arch (no men died while it was being built!) and the other was about Lewis and Clark. This is something I had to just breathe deep and agree to......a lesson learned on this trip. (Blogging about lessons I learned soon!)
Unfortunately, we entered the museum displays backwards, veering to our right instead of the left. I suggest you take a look at this map from the National Park Service's website and steer your children better than I did!
Because of the way we entered the museum, the whole display seemed a little disjointed (it wasn't until writing this blog post that I figured out our mistake).
As much as I wanted to walk over to the historic Old Courthouse to hear about it's role in the Dred Scot Decision, I decided to let it slide as we were all feeling toured out. Instead we hopped back into the car (a few of us napped, but I'm not naming names) and drove to Columbia MO in search of some good barbecue.
And that was leg #1 of our trip!