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St. Louis

October 22, 2007

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Shown here is a view of the famous St. Louis arch, aka the Gateway Arch located on the Jefferson Expansion Memorial Park, seen from the ramp getting on to the equally infamous Poplar Street Bridge from I-70. The dilapidated warehouse on the right may or may not be one of the original structures of the early St. Louis settlement. I have no idea who is in the oversized SUV taking up so much room on the road in front of me. The overpass between the building and arch is part of the complex of very confusing interchanges that crams four highways into one chaotic bridge to Illinois.

<> I-70, I-40, I-44 and I-55 (sounds like a bingo game, I know) all join in to cross over the mighty Mississippi in a rollicking jumble of lane changes and criss -crossing informational signage; all designed by the state of Illinois to discourage Missouri drivers from getting on to their roads.

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A view taken while zipping across the bridge at the customary high speeds while everyone merges wildly from one lane to another to get to where they’re going.

The Arch was built back in the 60’s as a monument to St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the early United States. History tells us that the city, founded by French fur traders and their lady friends (bon jour, Madame Soulard), was a popular launching point for settlers crazy enough to roll their wagons west into uncharted territory.

My own family moved to St. Louis around 1966, while the monument was still being constructed. I grew up in the suburbs of the city and then lived in the city proper (not me proper, the city) for many years before running away for a while.

Should you be brave enough to go up in the Arch inside one of the little capsule elevators, you should have an amazing view. I wouldn’t know; I have never mustered the nerve to get in one of these elevator balls for the long trip up. In the museum underground beneath the Arch you can learn all about the city’s history as well as the building of the Arch itself.

As natives we tend to take it for granted. It’s part of our landscape and usually we pay as much attention to it as any large building, though it is a handy landmark for giving directions and figuring out which way is the river. When I worked for a company near Laclede’s Landing (all that remains of the original settlement – the rest was torn down to build the memorial park to the original settlement… you figure it out) I would take a shortcut along the river to lunch and back. I would often see tourists – in one case two Asian gentlemen in business suits standing outside a cab – craning their necks to gawk at the Arch.

Now that I’ve returned to my home town I’ve started noticing it more. Perhaps since I’m living over in Illinois and almost daily cross over the Mississippi to St. Louis. It’s kind of hard to miss. You can see it several miles from the bridge while approaching St. Louis. Sometimes it’s the first thing you see as you come around a bend.

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