Thursday, October 27, 2016

State #32 GO! St. Louis Halloween Race Half Marathon, St. Louis, MO 10.23.16: Part Two

I woke up tired, as I had a very fitful sleep. Maybe it was all the excitement of seeing an old friend, maybe it was the wine I had before bed, or maybe it was just being in an unfamiliar place. I was tired. 
I got up and made my way to breakfast in the lower level of the hotel and then decided to take a walk around. I was hoping to go up in to the Gateway Arch in the morning, but a thick blanket of fog draped the city in the morning, so I instead decided to purchase a late afternoon ticket to do that. 
The front steps of the Old Courthouse.
I crossed the street from my hotel and headed to the Old Courthouse to check it out. The exterior of the building is beautiful. It is a white building with a green dome. When I entered in to the rotunda, it was decorated with red, white and blue buntings and flags and was absolutely gorgeous to look at from below. 
Looking up in to the dome.
Old Courthouse rotunda decorations.
I took a look at an exhibit room that had the early history of the St. Louis settlement. St. Louis was explored and settled by the French and belonged to the country of France until the Louisiana Purchase took place. It was interesting to read this part of the early history. 
Dred Scott trial room in courthouse.
Next, I found the courtroom where the Dred Scott slavery trial took place. What a sad chapter in the history of our country. The courtroom had exhibits about Dred and his wife Harriet telling their story of how they tried to sue in court for their freedom. Videos played detailing the trial and various parties involved. It is just so sad that these people had to go to trial twice to be told they were not considered citizens of the country. They were only property. Their story is truly heartbreaking. I went outside to head to the arch for a walk and passed by a statue of Dred & Harriet Scott. I was glad the courthouse had this history available for visitors.
Dred and Harriet Scott Statue outside Old Courthouse.
View of Gateway Arch as I walked toward it.
The Gateway Arch is just a short walk from the courthouse, and the fog had lifted, so it was a gorgeous view the whole way. I also passed the earliest Catholic Cathedral along the way. It is no longer a cathedral, but is considered a basilica now and it is still actively used. It is called the Basilica of St. Louis, King St. Louis.
Basilica of St. Louis, King St. Louis exterior.
The Gateway Arch is such an amazing work of engineering! It stands right alongside the mighty Mississippi River and is really just a marvel! It is a pretty special feeling to be standing with the arch on one side of you and the river on the other…two icons side by side. I snapped a bunch of pictures including one where you can see the moon underneath the arch. 
Archway views.
Archway views.

Archway selfie.
Mississippi River and riverboat dock.
Gateway Arch with (tiny) moon.
Next I made my way out to Washington Avenue where Will and Zak had driven me the day before. It is considered the entertainment/restaurant district, and I figured I’d take a walk there to see what kinds of restaurants were around. There were several eateries, but many of them weren’t open yet. I just strolled around and took in the sights. 
I headed back to my hotel around 10 am, as I needed to go to pick up my race bib and packet. The pickup location was pretty far away, so I was either going to take a cab or see if Zak could bring me (if he was up for it). I heard from Zak when I got back to the hotel and he didn’t mind bringing me. Yay! He was going to meet me around 12:30 pm. We would get my number and then go to have some fun at City Museum. 
We met up and went to the running store which was a good distance away. I was so grateful that he could bring me, as there was no way I could’ve walked there, and a cab would have been expensive. Thank you, Zak, for doing this for me! You are the best!
Exterior view of the City Museum.
Side view of exterior. The fence is a giant serpent!
Once my number was claimed, we were off to the museum. And what a museum it was! Before you even enter this place, you realize how cool it is. There are all kinds of weird cages outside the building for climbing that connect to one another, seemingly in mid air. There are connections between old airplanes that you can climb out of and through a cage to a slide that brings you to an old fire truck. There is a school bus sticking halfway off the roof that you can get inside of. And the surprises just keep coming and coming as you explore. 
Zak told me that the man who created this wonderful place basically collected a bunch of stuff from junk yards and demolition sites that he turned in to these amazing welded creations. But it isn't just a bunch of cage-like ladders that you climb through outside the building. Inside this old (former shoe factory) warehouse are rooms like nothing I'd ever seen before. 

First Floor "underwater" scenes.
Oceanic views...
Sea creatures galore!
Giant white whale!
The first floor looks like an underwater scene, with a ceiling dressed in silver fabric that sways and moves as the people climbing within it move. There are cages all through the ceiling, walls, and tree-house like for you to explore. You can go under things, climb over and through, and chances are where you come out, you'll find a slide to slide down. There is a big whale that you walk inside where you can enter in to a cave-like area made of concrete. However it isn't concrete block; it is smooth cave walls with stalactites and stalagmites that morph into dinosaur mouths and other sculptures along the way. There are crystals and more climbing tunnels followed by slides. 
Crystal formation in cave area.
Eventually you come out to the main open climbing and sliding space that looks like something Tim Burton would put in his amusement park if he had one. It is all spiral staircases that lead up to the 5-story spiral slide or the huge 10-story spiral slide from the roof of the building. Zak and I did the 5-story slide. What fun! As he said, it is a great place for kids and adults and is like a day of playing chutes and ladders in person. 
Open climbing/sliding to the 10th floor of factory space. 

Looks like a Tim Burton set, doesn't it?
Not to be ignored is the amount of detail that was put in to every nook and cranny of this place. Everywhere you look there are small displays of oddities, like an entire entryway made of printing press molds. Or all throughout the ocean area, caves and upper floors there are stunning mosaics. The staircase leading from the foyer to the second floor food court was made with large bobbins that have been painted in bright colors with various designs on them. In the bar area there were displays of vintage candy, vintage Star Wars toys in dioramas, old pieces of robots, and other items in homage to the Beat Poets, especially Jack Kerouac. 
Robot pieces.
Star Wars diorama.
Star Wars ships near ceiling.
It is a virtual feast for the eyes. I was so visually stimulated by all of it that I almost couldn't focus on any of it. I just kept saying over and over that I couldn't believe how amazing it all was. 
Gooey butter cake. Yum.
Zak and I took a break in the bar area to grab a drink and some gooey butter cake. Apparently this cake is a Missouri thing. It was delicious. We were treated to the sounds of a three piece jazz ensemble while we had our snack. How about that?! Live music in this place, too! He told me that the museum is open late and becomes adults only after a certain hour. So really, this is a playground for kids and adults both. He also shared with me that he and Will attended a wedding reception in the museum. How cool is that?! He said that the only drawback was being dressed up while trying to climb around and do all the fun stuff. 
Live music.
World's largest underpants...
After our break, we headed to the outdoor portion of the museum. This was the stuff I could see from outside. It basically is a bunch of welded cages that connect with each other for you to climb all around. So that's what we did. It was so fun. Up on the roof there is a ferris wheel and the school bus which boasts an amazing view of the entire surrounding area. We climbed and slid some more and then I made my way in to a wire basket that hangs inside a dome and looks down on these funny "rubber stopper" shaped chairs that teeter-totter. I had to try those, of course, after we made our way down another big slide from the top of the dome to the lower level. The fun just kept coming and coming!
Slides with dome behind and praying mantis at top of dome.
School bus hanging off the roof.
Climbing cage and elephant. 
Ferris wheel and more climbing stuff. 
Panoramic view from top of the dome.
Airplane you can climb through and out on to wing.
Alternate view of bus.
Me, in the cage that hangs from the ceiling inside the dome. It is like being in a big basket.
Me on the wing of the plane. The climbing was no joke.

Climbing high!
Finally, it was getting close to my ticket time to visit the arch, so we had to leave. This museum was seriously the most fun I've ever had at any museum anywhere. ever. If you are ever in St. Louis, you must go visit and play. Thank you, Zak, for bringing me here. The memory of this fun will stay with me forever. 
Looking straight up the Arch near the entrance.
Selfie with Arch.
Zak drove me over near the arch, and I jumped out to run and get in line for my viewing time. He was heading home for a bit, but we were going to meet up again for dinner later. When you go to visit the Gateway Arch and plan to take the elevator up in to the arch, you actually begin by going down in to a lower level under the arch. Much renovation is happening right now with the monument and surrounding area, so a lot was under construction. The museum that is usually below the arch was closed, so we just heard a few remarks from one of the employees about how the elevators worked and some of the statistics (height 630 ft. etc.). Also on the way in to the elevator waiting area, the staff make you pose for a of those ones you have to purchase on your way out that has the background of the Arch on it. I really didn't want to do it, being there alone. How lame would it look for me to have a picture by myself in front of the fake Arch background??? So a fine young employee there offered to pose with me. Thank you Dwayne for making my photo so much more fun to look at!
Dwayne and I in front of the faux Arch.
Before too long, we were ready to head to the top. The elevators aren't actual elevators, rather they are more like ferris wheel cars that are cylindrical and somewhat podlike. They are tiny inside and hold 5 passengers each. I felt like I was climbing in to Major Tom's capsule. It was a four minute ride to the top, clicking and clacking along the way. Once up there, the space is fairly narrow and the windows are narrow horizontal slits looking out on either side. One side overlooks the Mississippi River over in to Illinois and the other side overlooks the city of St. Louis. The day was clear and beautiful and the views were great! I have to say though that the space is a bit confining and would not be great if you suffer from claustrophobia. I'm so happy I was able to get to the top.
At the top. 
Height sign. 
View of Old Courthouse and my hotel from atop the Arch. 
View of downtown St. Louis from atop the Arch. 
View of Mississippi over to Illinois from atop Arch.
Once back down on the ground, I perused the Gateway Arch gift shop and stopped to snap a few shots of this beautiful carved mural in the lower level. Not much else was down there because of the renovation construction. I look forward to visiting again someday (hopefully) to view all the new areas and info they will add.
Centerpiece of mural. The engineers of the Gateway Arch.
Right side of mural...Mt. Rushmore, Washington Monument.
Left side of mural...Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Bridge.
Once back on the ground, I walked back to my hotel for a quick change and to meet Zak for dinner. He was taking me out to the neighborhood called The Hill which is the St. Louis neighborhood known for its Italian restaurants. He suggested a restaurant called Zia's. The restaurant was bustling and there was about a 45 minute wait, so we grabbed a drink in the bar area and had a nice time chatting. Zak is such a terrific person! I felt like we had been friends for years. Once seated we continued our wonderful "date" ordering yummy authentic Italian goodness. I had my usual spaghetti and meatballs, and Zak ordered an amazing looking pasta with fish. YUM! Bellies full, we headed back toward the hotel.
Zak thoughtfully drove us back a different way than the way we came so that I could see some other areas of the city. We drove through the Grove neighborhood which is the "gay" area of the city, passed through the St. Louis University area and the theater district where we saw the gorgeously restored Fox Theater. I really appreciated that Zak took the time to help me see as much of the city as possible. Thank you again, Zak! Once back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes, and I was off to organize my things for the morning and get some much needed sleep. What a fun and wonderful day it was in St. Louis!

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