St. Louis, Missouri, June 2010

Another city, another pile of pictures. Well, that's sometimes how it feels as a tourist, no? Well... maybe it was just this particular summer. After returning from Colombia in April, it seemed like the motion only increased upon my return. I'd roam about Oregon and Washington states, then there'd be a cross-country trip across the northern U.S. A Connecticut-Maryland-D.C. swing followed, then there was... St. Louis.

Actually, I had been to St. Louis before. That had been in 1994, when I was making my first cross-country trip. I didn't stay long, just for the majority of the day, but I'd have a few memories stick around.

One was getting strafed by a murder-minded crow near The Arch. Surviving that - the bagel in my hand was the likely culprit - there was... The Arch. I did a sufficient job of staring at it, then I entered its gleaming steel for a ride to the top. Quite a view, too, with the Mississississippi flowing out to infinity and the grand city below.

The other thing I did was ride out to Forest Park, a place which I'd forget the name of... until this trip. I WOULD remember lots of brick architecture along the way, and that there was a more-than-sufficient quantity and quality both to the pile of roasted clay blocks. Now I was back.

In theory, I was back to visit my old college roommate. Okay, that was true. But the idea of poking my head about the town with a little more time was appealing, too. I knew that St. Louis was one of the great cities of a day gone by in the U.S., one of manufacturing might. With Detroit cold-cocked and dropped to its knees, but Chicago and Pittsburgh reborn and ascendant, I guessed that St. Louis was somewhere in between in 2010.

And that's about where things stood. Not all bad, not all good, but overall promising I would say. With my friend's apartment as a base, I took several days to go walkabout in ol' St. Louis. I'd see more than a smattering of quality architecture in numerous places about town, but chiefly in the broad downtown. One of the chief Olmsted parks would welcome me, too, a fine set of grounds hosting some museums of more-than-respectable quality (an art museum and one for the state of Missouri and the city in particular).

My buddy would take me about, too, sampling the best 'Q in town and a park which held concert amidst a large sculpture garden. A water tower afforded expansive views of the city, and a brewery held perhaps the largest collection of ornate brickworks I'd seen in a while. Another park took the gazebo concept to the extreme; a bike ride for miles along the Mississippi would give a glimpse of another side and time to city.

Now, then, and without further ado, some pics of that Anheuser-Busch Brewery:

Next up, a horde of pictures shot while strolling around downtown. Beyond the Arch were the capitol building and an anti-shortage of ornate architecture from the Orpheum Theater to the train station to gargoyles and more:

Next come a few scenes from Olmsted's gem, Forest Park. These grounds hold numerous events, such as the massive Boy Scouts jamboree that was setting up a tent city that I repeatedly walked through. Concerts, too, on the sloping lawn dropping to a fountained pond under the the Museum of Art. The art deco Glass House is a standout, as are numerous sculptures and gardens sprinkled throughout.

One can rent a bike near The Arch, and I did. It's about 13 miles to the Chain Of Rocks bridge to the north, an old link in Route 66 that is now closed to traffic beyond the odd pedestrian and bike. I had both covered - and then some. Scenes varied on this ride, from industrial wastelands and a homeless tent community to a working river. A gambling boat twin to Seattle's old Kalakala ferry was a surprise, as were the numerous people whiling away the day fishing with shore-anchored poles. The longest coal train I'd ever seen rolled by for something like on forever; art projects on exposed walls seemed a worthwhile - and growing - tradition.

As is often found in cities willing to preserve them, old water towers are often fonts of respectable architecture. This one near the city center was no exception, but its views - attained by climbing within - made it exceptional.

Gazebos galore, only lacking Alice in Wonderland - might I present Tower Grove Park?

Last but not least, the scene of a ghastly atrocity committed by a mother. Mother Nature that is, who in her fury sent a raging swarm of mosquitoes so thick that we had to take to running to outrun them. When the car pulled up to park, and the windshield immediately clouded with them... well, we shoulda known better. My friend did, anyway, but here I was all set to check out the beautiful Missouri River bluffs and... the rest is a twice-bitten, thrice-bitten, quite sore tale.

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