Thursday, June 9, 2011

St. Louis Missouri

When you think of visiting St. Louis as a tourist (something I NEVER would have done if not for traveling for Bill's job!) many people think of two places : the Arch and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. So of course when we were there in May we had to visit both locations. The neat thing was that both activities were very wallet friendly.

First, we visited the Anheuser-Busch Brewery located near downtown. Both the Arch and the Brewery were located near some not so pretty areas of the city. St. Louis has had the ugliest downtown areas that I believe we have seen since we hit the road in 2009. Granted other cities we have visited no doubt have ugly areas just like the area near the Arch and the river, we just haven't come across them like we did here.

We decided to do the free tour which is mainly an overview of the facility and the brewing process. There is also a Beermaster Tour available for $25 and Beer School for $10. We had actually done Beer School about 8 years ago at Busch Gardens in Tampa and it was free then....inflation inflation. The part that Bill and Jr liked best, of course, was the two free samples that everyone over 21 gets at the end of the tour. Anheuser-Busch has that freebie at all their facilities except for Cold Springs Ranch which will be described in my next post. (Hint: Lots and lots of Clydes!)

The grounds and buildings of the brewery were immaculate as they are at all of the Anheuser-Busch facilities we have visited. Lyon's School is now a National Historic Landmark as are several of the other buildings. The school was attended by all of the Busch children but was sold to the company in 1907 as having a school on a brewery grounds was not thought to be a good idea for obvious reasons!

We found some facts extremely interesting especially the lager tanks where the beer is beechwood aged. There were three stories of tanks stacked four wide with each tank holding 200,000 six packs. The tour guide said that if production would stop that day for the plant which primarily distributes to the midwest, beer drinkers would run out of Budweiser products in somewhere around 31 days. You do the math. Gotta love the Midwesteners and their love of their brewski!

Another day we decided to go to the St. Louis Arch, or the Gateway Arch as it is properly named. Here is the perfect example for checking online and signing up for emails and tweets or liking something on Facebook before going to an attraction or restaurant or what have you. I looked up the Arch webpage and there I found a link to a coupon for a free riverboat cruise just for signing up for emails.

Also by purchasing tickets ahead of time online we got free parking in the parking garage next to the Arch. Because the tickets to go up one of the legs normally cost $10 and the riverboat cruises are $14 it was a very nice savings.

The Arch can be ascended in either leg normally but due to the recent flooding of the Mississippi River the north leg was closed. The south leg has displays of life in St. Louis in the 1800s when the westward expansion of the United States was booming. After going through a security checkpoint which includes an x ray machine and baggage scans you get in line to get into a little (and I mean little!) five seat pod that will take you up the 630 feet to the observation level. What is amazing to me about the structure is that it was built in the early 1960s before the age of computers and the most "engineering tolerance" or room for error was 1/64 of an inch or the two legs would not meet in the middle and all work was done at night to avoid the distortion from the sun's incredible with crude instruments.

I had pictured an observation deck that would be something like at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas..... ahhh nope! Upon arriving at the top you get out on a set of stairs and enter a small, cramped little room that curves forward and has small little windows on each side.

Depending on the temperature that day the room can be very confining and not so fresh smelling. The Arch is also built to sway 9 inches in either direction in an 150 mile an hour wind so on a windy day like the day we visited you can definitely feel it move. The view is interesting as on one side you can see westward and quite a bit of the city.
While on the other side you have a view of the Mississippi River and Western Illinois.

After descending the Arch we crossed over to where the riverboat, the Tom Sawyer, was docked.

The cruise took us up river to the Eads Bridge which was the longest arch bridge in the world upon it's completion in 1874.

Just to imagine how high the water was that day, 27 feet over flood stage, you only have to look at this picture. There is a statue in the middle right of the picture that commemorates Lewis and Clark's Journey of Discovery.

Although St. Louis appears to be attempting to clean up the downtown and riverfront areas, there are other sites that are not so nice. There appeared to be a settlement of homeless people living in tents on the riverbank.

And ugly, barren buildings abound. Hopefully economic recovery will spread to St. Louis and we will soon see a return to work and prosperity for both the buildings as well as the people living in shacks and tents along the banks of the Mississippi.

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