Monday, February 18, 2013

Dreaming Big: The Gateway Arch

A shot from the banks of the Mississippi River
From the sidewalk, I looked at the scrap of silver in a big blue sky. It defies logic that this slender silver arch remains aloft on a day when winter blows a frigid north wind and the cold takes your breath away.
 Gateway Arch architect and designer Eero Saarinen did dream big:
It (the arch) was conceived as one of the three or four great symbols of our country. In other words, that it would take its place with the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the  Statue of Liberty, in reminding adults and children of the historic events of westward expansion.
Eero Saarinen, Arch Designer & Architect
In planning our trip to Morehead, Kentucky, to see Brent, we built in several stops along the way. After Randy's back surgery in November, we wanted to include opportunities to get out of the car and stretch. 

The Gateway Arch was one of our stops. We had visited the Arch years ago. We'd seen it from the highway several times in recent years - when we moved Jill from Nashville to Omaha and when we moved Brent from Manhattan to Columbia, S.C. But this time, we saw it up close again instead of at 65 MPH.

When we first arrived in St. Louis, the sky was crystal clear. By the time we traveled to the top of the arch and returned to earth, clouds had drifted into the bright blue scenery.
Few architectural visions have been so powerful and pure. Yet to imagine an arch was very different from constructing a real monument as high as a 60-story building, subject to extreme temperatures, heavy winds, earthquakes and complex stresses within the gigantic frame.
From the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial brochure
When you buy your ticket to ride to the top of the arch, they ask if you are claustrophobic. Hmmm - Maybe just a little. On our ride up, Randy and I were crammed into a little car with a mom, dad and elementary-aged little boy. The little boy was a good distraction. It takes four minutes for the trams to reach the top of the arch, but only three minutes to ride down. Isn't gravity grand?
The observation room is 6 feet, 9 inches high, 7 feet, 2 inches wide, and 65 feet long - when it's open. But on the day we visited, half of the observation deck was closed as maintenance staff worked on the other tram. It was probably best I didn't know they were working on it before I stepped into a tram.
But, then again, as a farm wife, I know that machinery requires tinkering. Still, our farm machinery isn't 630 feet off solid ground.
It didn't take long for the views to help me forget about that open trap door.
Looking in one direction, we saw the city, the old St. Louis courthouse and the St. Louis Cardinals stadium.

But it was the other side of the observation deck that caught my Kansas farm guy's attention.
He watched as a Matchbox-sized truck moved into position at the Cargill elevator across the Mississippi River. From our birds'-eye view, we watched as barges were filled with grain.
Because it was so cold, we didn't walk over to the old St. Louis courthouse or view the Arch from the park. But the cold winter wind wasn't the only thing taking our breath away: It's a breathtakingly beautiful place.
We again traveled through St. Louis on our way home. Thankfully, we avoided rush-hour traffic. But we didn't avoid seeing the Arch from a different perspective - at 65 miles per hour.
 At any speed - standing still or keeping up with traffic - it's pretty spectacular.


  1. We went to the arch when I was younger and It was really cool! We rode in the little car with a guy from Germany which was interesting in itself. I love your pictures.

    Have a great day!

    1. Thanks, Erin! It was a fun stretch-your-legs stop. I'd like to go back when the surrounding park is in bloom (and my fingers aren't in danger of frostbite)!