Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rain Rain

It would be hard to top the distance I drove yesterday. I had started the day on the west part of South Dakota and ended the day east of Kansas City. I woke up early in what was a dull empty motel off of I-70. My plan from this point was to see more of "real" America. I can slow down and ride the older routes and avoid the interstates. I figured I would be surprised at what America would offer on the side roads. Well, America disappointed me. I rode route 50 and it was not any different from routes in New Jersey and Washington. A Wal-Mart here and a 7-Eleven there. I was hoping to see things that you don't see on the coasts, but I guess I took the wrong route.

Missouri is dull and yet familiar. It reminds me of any route I took in the duller parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The weather was typically humid in August. The only thing I noted was the disaster that was the corn crop that summer. I noticed that I was traversing old Route 66. There wasn't much on the road that would remind me of route 66. Most of the buildings were built after the 70's. Thankfully the road wasn't filled with faux symbols of the old highway. I was looking for a fast food restaurant that wasn't around in New Jersey. I came across a Hardees. I remember Hardees from when I was a kid. We didn't go much, but it had bought out Roy Rogers. Since I liked Roy Rogers chicken, I went in hoping it was like the ones I ate as a kid. I was disappointed that they didn't sell it and even more disappointed that the burger I had was not up to par.

Anyway, A stranger approaches me to chat. He asked if I was from California because the minivan had California license plates. You know those people who take it upon themselves to chat up strangers for no reason? He was one, and yes he was a little creepy. I didn't want to be rude for that reason. I listened to him talk and responded in kind. It slowed down my eating. Like I said I was disappointed with my food and I wanted out of there quickly so I can make it in time to see Busch Stadium II. It would take me the better part of an hour to get out of there which made me have to go back on the interstate. I was racing time to make it time for the stadium tour. The weather was gloomy but it wasn't raining yet. As I was approaching the city, I of course try to look for the most familiar icon of the city. When you approach Manhattan, you spot the Empire State Building pretty quickly, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge greets you into the city approaching from the north. Seattle's Space Needle becomes visible after being in the city for a few miles. So I was of course looking for the Gateway Arch.

The Gateway Arch is on the east side of the city on the banks of the Mississippi. The river I called the Mississippi yesterday was the Missouri. It was the mistake I made two years ago, not two days ago. When the Gateway Arch was visible, I was able to see Busch Stadium II and the soon to be opened Busch Stadium III. Downtown St. Louis reminds me of many east coast cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore. It's real and has character, not the fakeness of an Los Angeles or even worse, Las Vegas.

The downtown area had easy parking, so easy I found a shaded area, so my cat Spookie would be okay. I left the crack open, and walked to Busch Stadium. The tour of the Stadium came with a pass into the Bowling Museum Hall of Fame. I toured Busch Stadium, saddened that they were tearing it down. The Stadium was by far the best of the cookie cutter stadiums and a well preserved piece of 60's architecture. Clean, nothing like the dump that is Shea.

Sorry, but Shea Stadium is a dump. I'm glad it will soon be gone.

Anyway, the rain was starting to fall. It was just in time too. I went into the Bowling Hall of Fame which doubled as the St. Louis Baseball Hall of Fame. They were a gas. Worth the money, but then again I like museums. They had wonderful artifacts of bowling history and artifacts of St. Louis baseball including the old St. Louis Browns and the Negro League Stars. St. Louis is often considered the best baseball fans and the museum seems to show why.

When I left the building I walked over to the Gateway Arch. It was trickling down rain. When I reached the middle of a large green open space reminiscent of the National Mall in Washington DC, it rained a torrent of water. Ironic, how much rain fell in Missouri when I was there when the summer of 2005 had experienced a drought. I was soaked head to toe when I entered the Gateway Arch. As per usual, when it's summer time east and south of the Rockies the air condition was on full blast. I toured around the ground floor for an hour or so before I went up the weird elevator to the top of the arch. It was expensive but almost worth it. When I got to the top the rain and clouds kinda ruined the view, but the elevator was cool.

It was still raining hard when I ran to the van, it would continue to rain constantly as I drove east on I-70. It wouldn't be necessary to take a scenic route because of the rain. I was in Illinois, nowhere near Chicago, so there wasn't much to write home about. I kept going until late in the evening when I spotted a Sonic restaurant off the highway. Sonic is one of those places you see commercials for but there are not any close to either of the coasts. Nothing remarkable about the food but the atmosphere reminded me of being a kid. It was still raining hard but the canopy kept me sheltered. I called home and talked about how excited at how close I was getting. It's Thursday and I was going to be in New Jersey on Saturday. I took off with the goal of getting into Indiana before I stopped at a hotel. I got to Indiana, but didn't see any motel before I got too tire. I stopped at a rest stop.

The rest stops along the trip with the exception of Wyoming were inviting places. I felt safe and secure sleeping the night. I wish the van wasn't filled to the ceiling, so I could stretch out. Oh, well. The rain kept falling and I can barely see outside the window.

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