May Part 2 – St. Louis in a Day

In the last post we left off at us arriving in St Louis, Missouri. The following morning we planned to meet Natalie’s friend, Keren, who agreed to show us around town. Natalie had one destination that she really wanted to go to and that was the Gateway Arch. For anyone who doesn’t know, the St. Louis Arch is a 630-foot arch built in 1965 and it remains the tallest arch in the world.IMG_20160504_123343536

Keren graciously offered to drive us around town for the day, considering we honestly have no idea where we were going or how to get there. We arrived at the ticket purchasing location for the arch and from there we went on foot to the monument. Before purchasing the tickets, the lady behind the counter asked how we felt in small spaces, a rather odd question I thought at the time until I glanced at a model of the elevator apparatus. They still use the same apparatus that they used in 1965. I’m sure they’ve done maintenance on it a time or two, but the lady behind the counter wasn’t kidding when she said small spaces. I know people that were alive in the sixties and I’m pretty sure that all of them weren’t little people, but the pod appears to have been built for a hobbit out of The Lord of the Rings movie.

The mechanics of the elevator are quite intriguing. Engineers at the time mixed a traditional elevator with a ferris wheel, basically. As you head up 630 feet in the air, the pod sways back and forth; you can hear it clicking as it goes up. If you are claustrophobic in the least, this will certainly be a thrilling ride to the top of the structure. Fortunately, they only put 3 of us in the pod even though I think it fits 5. It would be a tight ride if there were six people in it.

The view at the top of the arch was amazing! On one side you have an entire view of St. Louis that you can see for miles. The other side is a great view of the Mississippi River and the beginning of Illinois. There doesn’t appear to be a time limit that you can enjoy the view. We got our photos and eye-fulls before getting into our Mork and Mindy capsule and trusting Tim Burton’s version of a ferris wheel to lower us safely to the ground. Considering I am now writing this (and my legs still work) you can be assured we made it down without a hitch.

Happy Trails and the Chocolate Factory

We had finished our tourist attraction for the day. As far as I was concerned, it was time to eat at a restaurant while Natalie and Keren reminisced about old times over a beer or two. But Keren is more of the Well, I have one day to show you everything…Challenge accepted! kind of person. No sooner were we on the ground, Keren had made a reservation for a chocolate factory tour with the St. Louis Original Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company!

What do you do on a chocolate factory tour? You watch people make chocolate, of course. You smell the chocolate; you dream of the chocolate; you try real hard to listen to the tour guide while forcing yourself not to dip your hand in a vat of chocolate Agustas from Willy Wonka style. Then, at the end of the tour, they give you a piece of chocolate. At this point it is the most amazing chocolate you have ever had. Then they send you out to the chocolate store. At this point you just want more chocolate! You grab the largest bag you can find and hand them your wallet as you smile all the way out. What I am getting at is we had fun and we bought chocolate.

This Bud’s For You

Filled with chocolate, Keren took us for a drive around town. She showed us the parks and the neighborhoods that she frequents. There is so much to see and do in St. Louis that I wished we had longer to explore. Alas, we were on a schedule and a budget. The day was slipping away at this point, and I was really wanting a cold drink. Fortunately, the Budweiser brewery is in St. Louis and they give free tours!

The tour is quite extensive! First the guide took us and a group of other beer enthusiasts out to see the Clydesdale horses. Then we were ushered into a room where they gave each of us a free glass of Budweiser and talked about the brewing process.

I had no idea that rice is used in the recipe as well as beach wood ageing. According to the guide, Budweiser is one of the few large breweries that still achieve natural carbonation via secondary ageing. After the primary fermentation, the liquid is stored in large mettle vats with beach wood strips at the bottom. The beach wood has been cleaned and boiled to remove any taste. They were careful to say that it is a tool, not an ingredient. The wood strips give the yeast something to bind to at the bottom of the vat and the beer continues to ferment, eventually releasing enough carbon dioxide to naturally carbonate the beverage.

After making it through the brewery, we stepped outside to see the iconic fenced-in building. It was this very facility that survived the prohibition with the company selling yeast among other things. Budweiser’s yeast is rather special in the fact that it is still the same yeast they started with back in 1876, at least the same strain. The fact that Budweiser uses 140-year-old yeast is pretty fascinating to me. At the end of the tour, they let us try a full glass of our choosing, one of Anheusar-Busch’s many select beers.

Did You Say Karaoke?

After we had our afternoon beer, it was time to head back to the RV to treat our tour guide Keren to dinner. She dropped us off and headed to a yoga class while we barbecued some chicken and made my rice pilaf. Rice pilaf is a dish I learned to make from my grandmother… I may share it sometime in our camping recipes. Until then, it remains my grandma’s, mother’s, and now my secret.

After dinner we were told it was time to karaoke. Natalie and I both love to karaoke, and St. Louis does not lack in bars that feature this past time. We ended up at Rehab Bar and Grill which happened to have $1 beer specials that night. Beer pairs nicely with singing. It always seems like the more I drink, the more I sound like Pavarotti. We partied until we could not anymore. Keren dropped us off and to sleep we went.

The next day it was time to continue our journey north to Mackinaw City, Michigan. Tune in next week for Part 3 of our journey. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog or like us on Facebook for updates.

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