History is in the Arches in St. Louis

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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

Ducky in Palm Beach

“Again?”….I mused as the big, blue, bus size amphibious vehicle drove by. It seemed every time I was at lunch downtown, the vehicle named Diva Duck would drive by. Not only that, it was always completely full of camera toting tourists.

Curiosity won out and a friend and I finally took the plunge and booked a tour on the Diva Duck. As we waited to board the big blue vehicle, I really wanted to crawl underneath and see how it all worked. Fortunately, our onboard guide gave us a quick overview of the vehicle.

While the name on the side may say Diva Duck, the real name is the Hydra-Terra and sports dimensions of 39’ long, 8’ wide, and 13’ feet high. To keep all of that moving along, it is powered by a 300 hp 7.2L Cat diesel engine, via an Allison heavy-duty transmission, Velvet drive, electronic rudder control, and 100% combined power on land and water for beaching operations. On land it can hit 70mph and on sea 6 knots.

We loaded up, headed out and were treated to a plethora of duck stories and puns. Admittedly, some of them did “quack us up”.

Riding in the open air was fun, but the highlight of the tour began with a right turn onto a boat ramp located on North Flagler drive. As we waited for the boat ramp to clear, a curious crowd of onlookers gathered. Everyone wanted to see this big vehicle make the transition from wheels to water.

Soon, we eased down the boat ramp and within seconds this behemoth of a vehicle was casually floating along. The guide noted that the vessel is said to be unsinkable and for you history buffs, they said the same about the Titanic. Thankfully there aren’t icebergs in the Lakeworth Lagoon.

Interestingly factoid though: the vessel is manufactured with buoyancy foam filled compartments and will remain afloat with all the drain plugs removed and full engine room flooding. Wouldn’t it be fun to be the people who conduct those kinds of tests!!

We floated across to the shores of Palm Beach and heard stories of famous people and their homes. Does the name Marjorie Merriweather Post sound familiar? I’ll give you a hint; cereal. More specifically, Post Cereal.

Speaking of elegant homes on Palm Beach; most all of them have towering hedges that are beautifully groomed and of course provide ultimate privacy. I thought it was just being artistic, but it’s a little more than that. Zoning rules only allow a six foot privacy fence, however, there are no rules on hedge height. I like the hedges better anyway; they add a natural and artistic touch.


As we turned and headed back, the afternoon overcast and light breeze turned to black and windy. Soon, we could see that 30% chance of precipitation heading straight for us. However, I remember the forecast said 30% chance of rain, not 30% chance of monsoon!!

The wind blew and rain came down in buckets; 10 gallon buckets at that!! The nose of the Duck confidently bobbed in the waves as we headed toward land.

The vehicle has open sides for better views so you know what that means when it rains. Yep, we were like ducks in a hurricane. However ducks have oil on their feathers so their body stays dry. We don’t and didn’t!! The cheery crew was more than accommodating with towels and wiped off our seats numerous times. It wasn’t a big deal as most of were laughing and taking pictures of each other totally drenched. It’s only rain…..

As we disembarked, drenched and a bit windblown, I must confess, I felt a little bit ducky. My friend and I laughed about being soaked and said; “We’ll never forget this trip!!” It’s those unexpected oddities that always lead to those great stories that begin with “Remember when…..”

If you’re looking for something unusual that combines a little bit of land, sea and history, then you might enjoy taking a tour. For more information: http://www.divaduck.com/

Disclaimer: I’m not paid by or affiliated with the company; I just took a fun ride and wrote about it

Rich history and Golden views in Animas Forks

What a view! I said to myself standing on the porch of the house. Several fourteen thousand foot peaks lay at the end of large grassy meadow; the house was situated perfectly to take in the view.

It’s always interesting that no matter the culture, or time in history, people always enjoy great views from home. The home I was in was famous because it was the “first” in the area to have indoor plumbing. Back in the 1800s that was something to brag about.

It was called indoor plumbing because the path to the outhouse was enclosed. Can you imagine having an outhouse down the hall from your living room? If you’ve used a pit toilet in the National Forest, you know what I mean. And I thought my cat’s litter boxes were bad…

History:
Animas Forks was initially known as Three Forks of the Animas in 1873. The name was changed in 1875 to Animas Forks to accommodate the post office. In the summer time, the population swelled to 450 people. As a side note, the town of Ouray Colorado today only has around 896 people.

The town survived the boom/bust cycles of mining from 1873 all the way to 1920. Another fun fact; at 11,200 feet the Animas Forks Pioneer was the only newspaper published and printed at so high an elevation in the United States. Other interesting facts are on the picture of the sign, just enlarge it to read it.

Walking around:
The historic site has several old buildings that you can actually go in and walk around. I enjoy going into historic places and imagining what it must’ve been like to live back then. There’s just something about being in the same room and walking on the same floor as the people who lived there in the 1800s.

Oh, and if you have to use the restroom during your visit, there are modern day outhouses just down the road about a block.

Looking away from town toward the mountains you can see Cinnamon Pass snake up the side of the mountain which goes to Lake City. To the left is the main road that eventually goes over Engineer Pass which will also take you to Lake City. One fellow explorer said it was about two hours over the pass which requires four wheel drive.

One of the most intriguing parts of Animas Forks is down the road and behind the old town. Following the dirt road through town and to the left, you’ll embark on a very rocky road. Just around the bend, you’ll see a giant old building looming ahead.

It’s sheer size and state of ruin is irresistable; you have to go see it. Again, you are allowed to walk inside the building and see the history first hand. (See the below video) Most mining ruins are dwarfed by the Rocky Mountains; this one holds its own. I believe it was the Gold Prince mine which was constructed for $500,000 in 1904 making it the costliest mine built in Colorado at that time.

Getting there:
Animas Forks is located SE of Silverton Colorado. From downtown Silverton follow the road past the museum and head toward the signs for a mining tour and Engineer Pass. The road will change to a wide dirt road and stay that way for a while. After a bridge,the road narrows and will be a little rougher.

When the road is dry, you should be able to reach Animas Forks by car; it’ll just be bumpy in spots. Or you can rent a Jeep in town and head out. Either way, give yourself some time to enjoy the history and scenic views. If you leave early enough and have a 4wheel drive, you can explore Animas Forks and then head over Cinnamon or Engineer Pass for more breath taking views.

Either way, take the time to enjoy the history and spectacular views; you’ll be glad you did.

This video starts with a pan of the surrounding area and then I walk inside, enjoy!