I posted this story on www.bucketlistpublications.com a few weeks ago. Enjoy!
“Your tram will be at door number six” the lady said. I stood in front of “the door” wondering just where the opening was. I’m familiar with how theme parks masquerade entryways, but this one looked way too small.
Besides, I wasn’t at a theme park. I was at the St. Louis arch preparing to ride to the top. I have driven by this famous monument 3 times previously and never stopped. This time I was going to the top!
After a short movie played and the previous riders disembarked, I stood face to face with something that looked really surreal. Here was a small, round capsule with five small seats, entirely painted in white. The walls, the floor, the seats…
The soft glow of florescent lights, highlighted the bright white interior in such a way that looked like something you’d see in a movie that transported people to heaven. Hmmm….I was in the final few days of my road trip and had a few more things on the itinerary. Visiting the Pearly Gates was not one of them!!
I was the only person in my tram, not sure why. I did shower that day, but that was earlier. Considering, I get claustrophobic at times and can be afraid of heights, I almost walked out. I decided to just go; at the very worst, I’d just close my eyes.
Soon the two glass doors closed and I wasn’t going anywhere but up. The lady said it takes a minute to get the top. I’m calculating the height divided by the speed, etc. Hmmm……there aren’t any seat belts or warning signs of motion sickness.
With a groan, the tram began its slow (fortunately!) ascent. Looking out the glass doors, I could see the emergency stairs right alongside which was comforting. As I ascended higher the stairs disappeared and the internal structure of the arch was visible. The grey steel supports formed their familiar X pattern and tons of large rivets dotted the inside of the walls. I just kept trying to not think of how high I was.
Periodically, the tram makes some noises as it levels itself and it appeared to work similar to a Ferris wheel. As it ascended, it would begin to tilt, but at a certain point it’d level itself out. The ride turned out to be extremely mild and no surprises. It’s just the usual fear of the unknown and memories of people at theme parks telling me those famous last words “c’mon, it’s not that bad”
The doors opened, I bounded up the stairs to the top and Wow!! I could see everything from here. Supposedly you can see 30 miles in all directions. On one side, the river flows and the famous Eads bridge is visible. At the time of completion, in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world.
On the over side, the city of St. Louis stretches before you. You can easily see Busch stadium were the St. Louis Cardinals play. The capital building is at the forefront of the skyline, as well the normal skyscrapers and hotels. If you lean up to the window and look straight down, you can see the lawn in front of the arch. This is a fun reminder of just how high you are; 630 feet. It sure looks a lot higher than that!
Speaking of being high up, the St. Louis arch is the tallest man made structure in the U.S and the tallest arch in the world. The arch symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States and is part the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
After peeking out every window and snagging a few photos, it was time to head down. At the bottom, there is a museum that highlights the westward movement. My favorite picture covered wagon in front of the photo of the space capsule. We’ve come a long way!
The trip up was only $10 and around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, the wait was only about 10 minutes.
The arch is literally just off the main highway so it’s easy to just swing on in. When you’re in the area, be sure to come by and enjoy an iconic piece of American history.
For more information: www.nps.gov/jeff/planyourvisit/gateway-arch.htm