The Saint Louis Arch: a travel experience


I had grew up in a small town in Western, Kentucky. I never traveled anywhere until I was 19. It was 1997, and I had met a girl online, and her and I began emailing back and forth. She lived in Saint Louis, Missouri.

My parents were the protective types: You know, the ones who shelter their kids from all forms of evil influence until one day the kid decides to rebel and take life on his or her own terms.

This is exactly what happened to me. My email friend invited me to visit Saint Louis, and promised to take me around the city and show me around.

I had my driver’s license, but had no car. I checked around for a rental, and eventually found a car rental agency who would rent to a nineteen year old. They also offered a special weekend rate. Mind you, I had never driven on an interstate before, and only occasionally did my dad let me drive his car in town (usually to pick up groceries or something for my mother).

So, anyway, I did all this on my own. I even borrowed my father’s road atlas and charted out a route. I was supposed to meet Becky (my friend), in Florissant, Missouri.

Driving on the Interstate for the first time was a trip (no pun intended). I nearly got ran off the highway, and just my luck it started down pouring when I reached Interstate 64, and I had to pull off onto the median and wait for about an hour.

It was 264 miles later when I was greeted by the most awesome structure I had ever seen in my life: The Saint Louis Arch. When I saw the arch I think I stopped breathing. I was awestruck by its beauty.

I was tired as I drove from the east-side of Saint Louis through to the west-side—toward Florissant.

When I finally reached Florissant, I found the hotel off an exit, which Becky had reserved for me. I dragged myself up to the office of the Motel and checked myself in. When I got myself settled into my room I received a knock on my door. It was my tour guide Becky; there to show me the city. Becky was a perfect stranger, but I felt like I knew her as well as a best friend. That evening I drove us to a nearby Indian Restaurant. It was the first time I had ever eaten Indian food. I loved it, even though the look of the food seemed not so appealing.

The next day, having slept well, I called Becky, and she came back by the motel and from there she took me around Saint Louis. We visited the Zoo, Six-Flags, and lastly the Saint Louis Arch.

arch-st-louis

The arch, I learned, was the largest arch ever constructed anywhere, and the largest man-made structure in the United States. It was made of stainless steal and for the purpose of being the ‘Gateway to the Expansion of the West’ in America.

First Becky took me down to the visitor’s center located in the basement of the Arch’s foundation. There was a museum, and a lot of historical facts about the Arch. There were attractions, travel, tour, tourism and more going on while we visited the most spectacular place I had ever been to before. Tourism buses were plentiful outside the Arch, circling around the downtown blocks on the west-side of the Arch, opposite the Mighty Mississippi River. One tour consisted of nothing by international visitors. There were many people speaking foreign languages. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

For being the perfect tour guide, I bought Becky a small keepsake, which was a snow globe in which there was a replica of the Saint Louis Arch. She smiled.

Then I asked her about going to the top of the Arch, and she replied, “You have to buy a ticket to take the tram car to the top.” I didn’t have much money, had spent more during those two days than ever before in my life, and, yet, I felt I had to see the top. I bought a ticket for her and one for myself. She smiled at me again, and gave me this look.

The tram was a cable car her and I crammed into. Inside, the door was closed, and we had to wait for the other passengers to board their tram cars. While we waited we talked candidly one to another about all sorts of things interesting to an eighteen year old and nineteen year old.

Eventually the tram began rising, headed to the top. When we reached and our door was opened we exited onto the platform which encompassed the peak of the Arch. Their were tiny windows and a carpeted edge that you had to lean on to get a good look. The windows were cloudy and somewhat challenging to get a good look through. Becky said, “Hey, Bryan, this is a perfect window, come!” I met her at the window she was peering through, and face touching face we turned an looked into each others’ eyes and in that moment I kissed her. It was the first time I had ever kissed a girl. Becky was right, it was a perfect window.

The attractions, travel, tour, and tourism I endured and have endured throughout my life cannot compare to the experience of that first trip where I had my first kiss. The Saint Louis Arch was truly a place where I stopped breathing for a moment and let go of the shackles my parents had locked on me from the time I was born. I guess you could say: I was reborn in Saint Louis, there at the Saint Louis Arch.


July 8, 2014

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