Little do people know that if it weren’t for a single bridge between Madison, IL and St. Louis, MO, the expansion to the West would have been impossible. What brought the East to the West together was the vision of one man, James B. Eads, who built the longest arched bridge in the world at that time (1874) using steel as the main structural point. This was something that had never been tried, deemed completely impossible and also excruciatingly expensive. Though it was because of this one bridge, this one man’s dream, that the East and the West was united and the infinite ideas of what was possible became wide open. Did you know that if it weren’t for the Ead’s bridge that the concept of a skyscraper would never have been born? It paved the pathway across the the great Mississippi and built a road into our future.
This is the place where a nation reached the great river and halted, staring across the water into wide, wild lands. In St. Louis, the United States ended and the wild began. So it was here that the citizens of the young United States streamed across and into the western territories, first with Lewis and Clark and then with countless others. It all began from a wide bend on the continent’s mightiest river. This is where the United States discovered America. This is the Core of Discovery. – Gateway Arch History
The Gateway Arch should mean something to all of us, not just the people that live here in St. Louis. It is the Nations tallest man-made monument and the symbol of St. Louis’s role in the Westward Expansion.
I had never been inside the Gateway Arch before and this past weekend while wandering outside of it, playing with my tot, we just got the rush to actually go inside of the Arch. My husband hadn’t been since he was a child and remembered very little, so needless to say I had no idea what was coming next. Those of you that have been inside of it are probably laughing at me right now.
|Looking up from the bottom.|
First of all, we got our door card numbers and they were all 6’s and there were 3 of us. That was a little disconcerting considering I was about to be rushed to the top of a giant structure. Then we started going down (not up), down and down more steps. I was a little confused as to why I had to go way down to get all the way up.
The doors did not make me feel any better. For one, they were small. They came up about a half a foot off the ground and ended before a person’s normal height; this meant I was going to have to duck into the elevator? I had never ducked into an elevator, I thought. Then it opened up…
What in the….. ? Was what I was thinking while staring at this Pod and so were the two strangers standing next to us that were supposed to fit in there too. We all got in, a little hunched over and very uncomfortable inside of the Tram (it is actually a T) I was getting a little bit unsure about this entire adventure, but before I could freak out and run away the doors closed. They were see through and at first I thought this was neat, but let me explain how the ride up to the top of the Arch feels.
Imagine that you are going up a rollercoaster, except you aren’t wearing a seat belt and you are a little hunched over. You have that feeling that at any moment you are going to reach the summit, so your nerves are on edge. Slowly… slowly… you are going up, but not straight up, it is more a leaning. You move up, stop, go sideways, move up, stop, go sideways and all the while hear the wrestling of the wheels and see hundreds and hundreds of steps moving outside the window. There is no outside, you have no idea how far you have gone up or how far you have to go, just the rocking motion of up, stop, sideways and then all the sudden you start to speed up in your leanto, faster and faster and faster and then slow… up… stop…. and before the concept can make you go mad the window to the inside slides against another wall with your number and opens up into a cramped staircase.
The idea of getting back into that Pod was not at all appealing.
The magnificent thing, though, is that you do reach the top. In many ways I felt that making that journey in the crazy future Pod was symbolic to making the frightening journey into the unknown across the Mississippi. Did the builders realize that? You have no idea what is on the other side, no idea how long it will be until you get there and all the while you have this flight or fight response that cannot be accessed in a tiny scary Pod and then it opens up and gives you the vision of something miraculous.
|St. Louis, MO|
I had a feeling of seasickness at the top. The wind was so strong that day and I hadn’t a clue why I was feeling so off. It wasn’t until we got to the bottom that my husband told me it was because the wind was moving the Arch, it was designed to sway with the wind and it was a very windy day. It moves an inch in 20mph winds and can bend up to 18in if the winds hit 150mph. That was why I didn’t feel so well. Thankfully he had the decency to tell me this once we were on the ground.
My tot had the most splendid time though! He loved everything about it. He is very brave.
The Gateway Arch has something else to it that I had no idea, a Museum. Underneath the Arch, in the middle, there is a shop with all sorts of interesting toys from the time before, homemade foods and old writing tools. Then there is the Museum of Westward Expansion! It was incredibly beautiful. They had a huge steer, a real Teepee and different artifacts dating from 1800 onward. It was wonderful.
Except for the talking, moving wax people.
I was enjoying the splendor of the artifacts, taking photos and reading fascinating history about the expansion to the West when all the sudden I turned a corner and there was a wax person talking to me. I’ll be honest. I about screamed and/or peed my pants. I’m sorry, they are just creepy and they start talking whenever you get near them. Their mouths move, they have realistic looking sweat and they even blink! I had never walked so fast in my life and no I did not stop to take a picture!
When we got outside my husband said to my tot, “I am glad you had such a great time because that is the last time I ever go up in that thing.” I think we’ll just enjoy it for it’s magnificent beauty…. outside.
I will say to those of you visiting our historical city, you should give it a shot. It is an experience you will take with you for the rest of you life. I’m actually happy that I took the trip, saw the sights from the windows at 630 feet in the air and have a great deal more respect for the men who created it and the reason why it is so important to our Nation. It may sway in the wind, but it holds strong as our country has.
“To bend but not to break… to yield but not capitulate… to have pride but also humility.” – The Trouble With Angels