Archive for July 5, 2010

Day 36: Getting chills on a warm Fourth of July

July 5, 2010 6 comments

Location: Somewhere east of Tulsa, OK

Miles Driven: Oh man, lost count here

Total Miles: A lot. 7,000+

It wasn’t a far drive from the rest stop to Springfield, and once in town I followed the signs towards Lincoln’s home.  Parked the car and walked the short distance past the closed visitor center (too early) and soon recognized the house I saw in several pictures before.

Lincoln's home as it looked in 1860

Definitely was an interesting feeling walking around the house in which lived, arguably, the greatest President in the history of the country.  They kept the feeling of the immediate neighborhood like it was the 19th Century, complete with cobblestone streets, picket fences, and more old-fashioned homes.

Lincoln's front door

Springfield was conveniently located right on my route, so it was simple to get back on the interstate and continue heading southwest.  Just a little over an hour more and I found myself in St. Louis.  Ironically, I filled up the tank on the Illinois-side of the border, and then found gas about 20 cents cheaper on the Missouri side.

Holy cheapness

My sole reason for going to St. Louis was to see the Gateway Arch, part of the larger Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.  For so many years I wanted to see the arch, and I failed to check it out on my last cross-country trip.  The wait was definitely worthwhile.

One of my first glimpses of the Arch

I made my way towards the Arch/Riverfront area, found cheap parking, and walked towards the Memorial grounds.  I was initially worried things might be a little crazy since it was the Fourth of July, but it actually proved to be a boon.  There was a lot of excitement in the air as people already staked claims to plots of grass to catch the fireworks in the evening, there were a lot of good smells in the air from all the tent areas, and there was an airshow (made up of civilian pilots and civilian-owned planes), to boot.  Once again, I found myself the beneficiary of lucky timing.  There was no charge to go visit the Arch, or check out the airshow.

I don’t think any monument I saw in the past gave me chills before, but the Gateway Arch certainly did, even in the humid 90+ degree air. Not only is the Gateway Arch an amazing piece of engineering, but what it represents is pretty powerful – “The Gateway to the West”, the whole concept of Manifest Destiny, the fact that so many people used St. Louis as their jumping-off point to find a new life in the West, etc.  And add to that it was Independence Day…I think even the most hardened individual couldn’t ignore the pride swelling up in their heart.  Last year, I was fortunate to enjoy the Fourth on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and how fortunate I am to visit another historic place on this year’s holiday.

I stood in awe looking at the Arch for a long time, getting different views.  I used to live near Washington, D.C., and I toured the National Mall several times.  Although the monuments there are outstanding, in my opinion this tops all of them.

The airshow was pretty spectacular, too.  Lots of old-fashioned planes flying, including biplanes.

Note the person walking on the wings

I took some video of the various flight routines.  Here’s one of the biplane (in the pics above) that featured a “wing-walker”:

Knowing this was a civilian airshow, I was surprised to find out the last act of the airshow was a former Marine flying a Harriet jet.  Very cool.

Several times the announcer mentioned the vertical hovering capabilities of the Harrier, but I never though we’d actually get to see it.  I was wrong.  On the pilot’s last pass through, he stopped above the river near the Arch and showed off one of the coolest capabilities you’ll find in modern fighter jets.  It’s incredibly loud.  My ears were still pounding a bit 10 minutes after the jet left.  Here’s a video (sorry for the poor focusing, but you get the idea):

Great finish to an amazing air show.  Pretty damn cool.

The Gateway Arch was all I really wanted to see in St. Louis, but before I left the city I headed towards Ted Drewes ice cream shop which my friend John recommended.  He suggested I order a “concrete” (like a DQ Blizzard), and it was well worth the detour.

A mini brownie concrete.  Fantastic

After the ice cream, I began my route out of the city and headed southwest.  My goal was to arrive near Oklahoma City, OK, but it was an agressive goal – 500 miles (on top of the driving I did in the morning).  I didn’t make it that far before needing to call it quits for the night, but I did cross into the Oklahoma border.  Here I noticed Oklahoma has it’s own unique name for the devices that help you quickly pass through toll booths (a la EZ Pass).  I should’ve noted this before, but here are some of the different names I’ve seen:

  • Oklahoma – PikePass
  • Chicago – IZoom
  • NYC/NJ – EZ Pass
  • Florida – SunPass

There are probably some other ones I’ve missed, but I’m glad I didn’t invest in an EZ Pass before this trip, as it seems many areas have their own location-specific systems.

I didn’t get to see any big fireworks show that night; however, at a Flying J truckstop, a lot of truckers were setting off their own fireworks.  I guess that’s what you do when you’re on the road all the time.  Still fun.

Monday will be another big day of driving as I plan to get to Houston by mid to late afternoon.  I am excited to meet my oldest of two nephews, Nico, and see my brother and sister-in-law as it’s been a couple years.

Happy Fourth!