Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stabbing Westward...

  • Mt. Rushmore.
  • Washington Monument.
  • Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial.
  • D-Day Memorial.
  • Vietnam Wall.
  • Statue of Liberty.
  • And now, the St. Louis Arch.

Well, it took me 28 years, but I have managed to cross another national monument off my list. My recent trip to St. Louis was brief, and I was afraid I was going to miss an opportunity. But as luck would have it, I finished work a bit early and was able to have a few hours to myself.

First off, let me just say that this thing is HUGE. In the following pictures, anywhere you see the Arch from the outside was at LEAST three blocks away to even fit it in the frame. Massive. This shot was about 5-6 blocks away in the park surrounding the Arch.

The Arch is covered with stainless steel panels and structured with composite steel and parts of concrete in the base for support. At 630 feet tall, it is the tallest U.S. man-made national monument and the 2nd tallest national monument in the world after the Eiffel Tower.

By the way, that^, was about 3 blocks and I'm cutting off 1/4 of the bottom. For ten dollars one can hitch a pod ride to the top. And I do mean "pod". You literally ride to top in a train of 5 pod cars. As you increase the elevation, the pod train levels itself out incrementally.

At the top, tourists are presented with about 16 windows to look out over the city. It's a very uneasy feeling on windy days. And naturally, the wind was blowing like crazy on my trip. Standing still in the Arch, you could feel it sway back and forth in the wind. The park ranger informed me that it was nothing and that I should see it on "really" windy days. He also told me that the Arch is built to sway 6 inches east and west and to withstand 150 mph winds. I looked out over the city and fixed my eyes on a point directly below me. I watched as the Arch leaned over that point and back. Talk about your "holy shit" moments.

The view was quite amazing, but after a few minutes you're ready to descend. Back into the pods you go. And no one bothers to tell you that you drop descend about twice as fast as you ascend.

I took some time to walk through the museum, gift shop, theaters, and displays which are all located underground at the base of the Arch. And then I left with a great feeling of accomplishment. I could now cross off another one of those "places to see" from my list.

What's next, you may ask? I've got several more things on my list, such as the Alamo, the Space Needle and the Grand Canyon. But in reality it could possibly be the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in March. I'll keep you posted.