Missouri, Kansas, and The Gateway Arch

Missouri to Kansas

(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign—and yes there’s a lot of ‘em today!)

The day began in St. Louis, Missouri, with a visit to the Gateway Arch. We saw it the evening before on the way into the city, and I’ve been to St. Louis many many times (my mom was from here), and yet I’ve never been in the Arch! So this was a must-do on our little cross-country journey.

We rode the impressive tram to the top of the 630 foot (192 meter) Arch, which offers a window into it’s mostly unlit innards; four minutes up and three minutes down, with as much time as you like on the observation deck. The tram is a fascinating system of round “barrels” that stay upright as the system moves them from under the Arch, past a tighter-than-90˚ curve, then up her long, slender legs. It was designed in just two weeks by Dick Bowser, a clever inventor and elevator designer with no college degree who happened into the opportunity. If you visit the Arch, ask for a copy of the article about Mr. Bowser’s creation from the Museum Gazette and a park ranger will be happy to get one for you.

Once topside, you’re greeted by disappointingly small observation windows to peer through, but even still the view is fantastic. Looking west towards the Old Courthouse building or east over the Mississippi, or even straight down onto the lawn or to the river below if you stretch your neck, the vista is gorgeous.

From St. Louis we drove towards Kansas City for dinner with a cousin and his family. There wasn’t much to see along the way except for a bridge or two, a long desolate road and the finally-found ultimate road-trip snack (there’d been a shortage in the last several states—the horror!).

As the sun went down, we jumped off the freeway one more time to see Truckhenge, a listing from the fantastic iPhone app Roadside America that my buddy Chris Fenwick recommended before my last cross-country jaunt. Definitely worth downloading before your next road-trip!

St. Louis Gateway Arch

As with any major monument, photographing it in a unique and unseen way is virtually impossible, so all you can do is take it as a personal challenge to capture a distinctly interesting view of this oft-viewed structure.

St. Louis Gateway ArchSt. Louis Gateway Arch @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 160, ƒ/4.5, 1/3200

We were fortunate; while nearly 100˚F and humid as a steam bath, there were clouds in the sky that reflected beautifully in the metal facade of the Gateway Arch. I suppose I should have come at sunrise, but frankly after the gorgeous Italian dinner we had the night before, an early rise was not in the cards.

St. Louis Gateway ArchSt. Louis Gateway Arch @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/800

As regular readers know by now, I absolutely love using the Silver Efex Pro II plug-in. The Ilford Delta 400 Pro film stock simulation used in the photo above, plus a bit more tweaking, renders reflective metal gorgeously.

As mentioned earlier, if you stretch your neck, crawl to the top of the sloped viewing platform, smash your camera up against the glass and hope to not get yelled at by a Ranger, you can catch a fantastic view of the ground that looks like you’re mysteriously outside of the Arch. Reflections are a bear on the thick glass, but a warm body positioned appropriately makes for a good light block!

In the photo below, you can see the base of the Arch, and also her shadow cast on the lawn below. I love this view, and it’s certainly not commonly seen. Even most visitors to the top of the Arch won’t see this; you really have to work at it to get this view!

St. Louis Gateway ArchSt. Louis Gateway Arch @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 160, ƒ/6.3, 1/200

I shot another one in portrait (vertical), which includes the Old Courthouse, but it wasn’t wide enough to get the full shadow of the Arch, so it’s not as telling. I’d love to shoot this again with a wider lens, in better light, and with the shadow creating a perfect Arch across the lawn. It’d be an amazing photo.

Tennessee to Missouri… Water Wheel, Big Wheel, Big Arch

Tennessee to Kentucky to Illinois to Missouri

(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign)

The journey continues. We left Tennessee, passing through Kentucky and Illinois before resting in St. Louis, Missouri for the night. Along the way we stopped at what appeared to be an interesting roadside destination, Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. A quick google showed it to be one of the top eateries in the state, and I figured if it’s a settlement built in the 1880’s, there should be some cool old buildings to photograph!

Truth be told, it’s a pretty disappointing place. Other than an old water wheel and a creepy restaurant that was so quiet we were afraid to talk, there wasn’t much to see or do. You’re walking around a perfectly manicured path and fake waterfalls, from gift shop to gift shop, on a scavenger hunt for anything more than 30 years old. The food was good, but you know, we could have stuck to a roadside diner and been happier.

Wheel… of… water!!!

Back on the road we saw the biggest wheel ever on the back of a truck (and then ran across a convoy of them), and eventually made our way across the great Mississippi River and were welcomed to St. Louis by the Gateway Arch (where we’re going this morning for a proper tour).

Mahsura… you left the gate open #sc2or

For dinner, we were treated by family in St. Louis to an amazing Italian meal at Mama Campisi’s in an area of town called The Hill. The antipasti was amazing, and the main dishes were all fabulous. Alenka picked the best I think, with a seafood pasta that was to die for. The pasta primavera with a creamy pesto was beautiful as well.

No visit to St. Louis would be complete without a trip to Ted Drewes for frozen custard, where even at 10 o’clock at night, the place is packed.

Today we’ll go up the Arch, drive to Kansas City and stop to see a cousin, then spend the night somewhere in Kansas!