Kansas City – 2012 Road Trip – Day 4 – Meeting the Mayor

Monday morning, we set out for a Kansas City morning. Directly across the freeway, in front of the stadiums was the Missouri welcome center, and after a stop there I headed down into the parking lots for the stadiums for a closer look.

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The All Star game was to be held at Kaufman Stadium the following week, and there was a lot of activity. Given their heightened awareness there was also lots of security, as I quickly found out by being stopped by one. I guess my excuse (like to check out stadiums), the Mercedes with Ohio plates, or us giving him a lost look; whatever it was he allowed me to drive around once as long as I promised to head out as soon as possible, which we did.

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From here we continued into town to Country Club Plaza, is an upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood, and designed architecturally after Seville, Spain

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It was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. The neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza consist of upscale apartment buildings and mansions.

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The Plaza, and all of Kansas City, is known for it’s fountains. There are more than 30 statues, murals, and tile mosaics on display in the area, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville

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After touring the neighborhood, we continued downtown. The City Hall is a 29-story skyscraper located in downtown Kansas City, and has an observation deck on the top of it. It is the fourth-tallest city hall in the world, and the seventh-tallest building in Kansas City.

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The building is considered a “Beaux-Arts” style building, but has Art Deco elements on the interior. The interior of the city hall is full of Italian gray, red, white, and green marble which lines the halls and the floors of the building

I had read the observation deck was free so we had to check it out. Despite being a weekday, we were able to park on the street nearby and walk over to the building, heading into the main entrance. The security there told us we had to go to the lower level, which seemed strange since we wanted to go up, not down. But following his directions we headed to the lower level.

 

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In the lower level we found the security station, and informed the guard we would like to see the observation deck. ‘No problem’ he says, we will just have to wait for a security guard to take us up. He then explained that it isn’t just open, you go up with a guard to the top floor, and they open the door to the observation deck. Even better, an adventure.

As we sat there waiting on the guard a well-dressed large man comes rolling in, followed by a bunch of people. He comes sailing over to the bench where we are sitting on and says ‘Good Morning’ and shakes my hand, then asks me for my name. When I told him, he says ‘glad to meet you’. When I asked who he was he said ‘the Mayor’, which I responded to ‘of what?’ We were standing in the presence of the Honorable (not so much according to many) Mayor Sly James. After asking about us (where are we from, what brought us to Kansas City, how do we like it), he headed off.

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Shortly thereafter the guard arrived and we headed up. The views were spectacular, a 360-degree view of Kansas City. The building reminded me of Carew Tower in Cincinnati, with a brick wall that is chest high.

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The guard was very nice, she showed us around and let us wander around the 4 sides at our leisure. After seeing all there is to see of Kansas City we headed down, still amused with our meeting with the mayor.

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We spent another hour in Kansas City, then continued the westward path through the other Kansas City, and off through the prairies. Fully expecting this to be the worst part of the entire road trip, 425 miles of Kansas, it turned out to be ok.

We made a few stops along the way, including in Lawrence to buy a new camera since our trusty Canon Eos was having serious problems.

I was surprised that Kansas wasn’t as flat as expected, as we encountered rolling hills much of the way.

 

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We did see more windmills than anywhere I had seen before, but after a short 425 miles west of Kansas City we reached the Colorado line.

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For those expecting to see mountains once you reach Colorado you are in for a disappointment since it is another 200 miles to the mountains. But we covered those 200 miles fairly quickly and found our home for the next 2 nights in Morrison, Colorado. And thus ended our longest day.

St Louis – 2012 Road Trip – Day 3 – Cardinals baseball and BBQ

Sunday morning we were first in line for the Gateway Arch, the landmark structure of St Louis. The Arch is a 630-foot monument, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of an inverted, weighted catenary arch, it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest structure that you can go up in.

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The ride to the top is completed in small pods that can pivot to keep the rider level despite the curve. From the top, 600’ above downtown St Louis, is a commanding view of the city, the stadiums, river and nearby neighborhoods.

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Just to the north is the Eads Bridge, The bridge is named for its designer and builder, James Eads. When completed in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world, with an overall length of 6,442 feet. The ribbed steel arch spans were considered daring, as was the use of steel as a primary structural material: it was the first such use of true steel in a major bridge project.

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On June 14, 1874, John Robinson led a “test elephant” on a stroll across the new Eads Bridge to prove it was safe. Two weeks later, Eads sent 14 locomotives back and forth across the bridge at one time.

From there we headed to the edge of downtown to the St Louis Union Station. The station. another National Historic Landmark, was the primary passenger intercity train terminal for St Louis. Once the world’s largest and busiest train station, it was converted into a hotel, shopping center, and entertainment complex.

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Not often do we go to the same place twice for a meal during a road trip, but our dinner on Saturday was so good we went back Sunday for lunch to BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soup. It is a great atmosphere, fantastic ribs and the best mac and cheese ever. And to make it better it is caddy corner from Busch Stadium, and we were there for a game

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Good luck gave me not only the chance to go to a baseball game in what is generally thought of as America’s best baseball city, but they were playing Pittsburgh on this very hot Sunday.

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While our seats were nearly at the top of the stadium behind home, that worked in our favor because of the view, the lack of a crowd, and in the 100+ degree heat, it gave us shade and a slight breeze.

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The stadium atmosphere inside and out was good, they even had a St Louis Fire Department truck running a hose as a mister for the crowd in the street outside. On top of that I was wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt and nobody gave me a hard time, likely because they had had a 20 year losing streak.

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We stayed for most of the game, but given the heat and the fact that we had a long drive we decided to head out after the 8th inning. It was a long drive out of town, and eventually out of all of the suburbs west of St Louis. It was this drive to Kansas City that I decided Missouri was even worse than Indiana for left lane drivers. But we eventually made it to Columbia, and exited I-70 to take a break by checking out the University of Missouri campus.

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One of my Roadside America stops was in Columbia, a statue of Beetle Bailey sitting at a table. After a couple of photographs of Beetle, and a few of the campus and stadium, we continued west.

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It was another 100 miles to Kansas City, and since it was Sunday evening the left lane drivers had all gone off to church or something, so it went by fast.

I booked our motel near the twin stadiums outside of Kansas City in the city of Independence. I was expecting a built up area, but there was nothing there except the motel, a Denny’s and the stadiums across the freeway. So it was Denny’s for dinner.

Southern Illinois & Missouri – 2012 Road Trip – Day 2 – Drive to St Louis

Our morning started out cruising around downtown Indianapolis, and the surrounding neighborhoods. The highlight is Monument Circle, the center of the city

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After a brief tour of downtown Indianapolis Saturday morning we continued west. I had researched enough to find something to do every couple of hours throughout the trip, and our first stop of the day was in Terre Haute, at a ‘midget racing’ museum called World of Wheels. It was however, closed. Good news was the entire place had large windows across the front so we could see all of the cars.

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A short time later we were crossing into Illinois. The best thing I could say about Indiana was I was glad to be past, as they must lead the nation in left lane drivers getting in the way (at least I thought at that point).

Next up – Effingham, Illinois and the MY Garage Museum at the Mid America Motorworks’ facilitiy. The center houses literally thousands of pieces of automotive collectibles and memorabilia.

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The facility also showcases an actual 1910 gas station that was moved and restored on site as well as a brick wall from the Corvette Factory in St Louis. In addition they had a Herbie Beetle and a couple of giant fiberglass cows painted in automotive motif.

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A couple more hours brought us to the St Louis area and the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

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The bridge was used by Route 66 to cross over the Mississippi River. Its most notable feature is a 22-degree bend occurring at the middle of the crossing. Originally a motor route, the bridge now carries walking and biking trails over the river. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

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The bridge’s name comes from a large shoal, or rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks, which made that stretch of the Mississippi extremely dangerous to navigate

The day we were there a motorcycle club was permitted to cross, doing so as we were walking across. I could just imagine old Model A’s on their way to California chugging across.

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From here we headed down the Illinois side of the river to go to St Louis, being careful to avoid East St Louis. Once in town we stopped at our hotel, a Drury in downtown St Louis, to drop off the bags and take a break from the 109-degree heat before heading to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

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Founded in 1859 it is one of the oldest botanical gardens in America, and a center for research and education. The day we were there they were having a Chinese Lantern display, only the lanterns were massive (and beautiful).

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We spent hours in the oppressive heat walking the grounds. It was easily one the best, if not the best botanical gardens we have ever seen.

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Located nearb

Located nearby in the Delmar Loop neighborhood is Blueberry Hill, a landmark St Louis restaurant and music club which Chuck Berry performed every third Wednesday of the month from 1996 until 2014.

Outside the restaurant is the St Louis Walk of Fame. The Walk lines the sidewalks on both sides of Delmar, and is made up of bronze stars and informative biographical plaques honoring individuals from the St. Louis area who have made major national contributions to US cultural heritage.

Across the street is a statue of the man himself, Chuck!

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Nearby in the Central West End neighborhood we found old mansions very near sketchy neighborhoods, but they were in areas surrounded by gates, or large pots blocking the through streets to create a gated neighborhood.

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Forest Park is public park in the western park of St Louis. The park, which opened in 1876, more than a decade after its proposal, has hosted several significant events, including the Louisiana Purchase and the 1904 Summer Olympics. The park is known as the “heart of St. Louis” and features a variety of attractions, including the St Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, and the Missouri History Center.

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While in the park we visited the World’s Fair Pavilion.  Located on Government Hill, the Pavilion opened in 1910 as a gift from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Committee; it helped fulfill their promise to restore the park after the 1904 World’s Fair.

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Taking the Lindell Boulevard back downtown we passed numerous mansions, followed shortly by St Louis University.